Case study: conceptual art with a political slant

What is the Goveshy?

In 2013, Karen created the Goveshy, her unique take on a traditional fairground coconut shy. Conceived and created for the Art Party Conference held on 23rd November, 2013, the Goveshy featured ceramic busts of Michael Gove made from an in-kind donation of Wedgwood Jasperware clay.

Wedgwood is a well-respected name in the world of ceramics! Wedgewood Jasperware has a long history, gaining popularity during the 18th century and becoming especially fashionable during the neoclassical period.

During the conference, these busts were smashed by delegates to reinforce the destruction that marginalising art subjects would have on the longstanding history and heritage of craft in the UK.

The education landscape in 2013

Michael Gove served as the Secretary of State for Education from 2010 to 2014. During his tenure, he implemented several changes to the education system which many people felt were damaging arts education.

In the process of placing a greater emphasis on core subjects such as English, maths, and science, intended to raise academic standards, were arts subjects, like music, drama, and art, being marginalised? Gove’s emphasis on academic subjects led to concerns that the arts were being perceived as less valuable.

Gove also oversaw budget cuts to education which continue to impact arts programmes and limit resourcing.

You’ve probably realised that at MakeMore Arts we place a very high value on the arts! We love to see people making their own art as a form of self-expression, but we also enjoy conceptual projects that make us think – like the Goveshy.

What is conceptual art?

Conceptual art emerged from the 1960s, placing emphasis on the idea or concept behind the artwork rather than just the traditional focus on an art aesthetic. The movement expanded the definition of what could be considered art.

We like conceptual art that challenges those who engage with it, by making us think and question. The Goveshy is a great example of participatory and conceptual art – the destructive process is the artwork!

Sometimes it’s good to be provocative

Normally, at MakeMore Arts we are encouraging the creation of artwork, not its destruction. But the process of destroying very beautiful, high-quality porcelain constructions was highly-symbolic for Karen and the participants. It was also reflective of the depth of hurt seen to be done to young people by changes to the curriculum.

Understandably, some of the delegates felt contempt for the changes to education made by Michael Gove and were able to take out their frustrations through the shy. For many of the participants, the process was deeply cathartic. Because of this, it’s likely that the project resonated deeply and may have had lasting impact for those participants, since we are more likely to remember experiences that trigger emotions.