Helen Mandley knows the importance of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group as both the subject matter of a socially engaged artist and a former customer of the now scheduled for closure Kilburn Jobcentre. Becoming an artist requires years of dedication and for Helen2 of Kwug it has meant additionally the kind of empowerment that comes with knowing more of one's rights than Department for Work & Pensions officials like customers to know they have.
Then, she received threats from staff to toe the line set by them and those who give them their orders. Those orders basically said that as a Fine Art & Design Foundation student at Working Men's College she lacked talent and her tutors were conning her when they said otherwise. They threatened her with sanctions for 'not making herself available' for the kind of alienation that she would get through surrendering her sense of social engagement as being herself and being an enabling neighbour. The placards she saw as the backdrop to Kwuggies' appearance at that place showed her that there was a valid alternative source of Information, Advice & Guidance to what Jobcentre staff told her was the only way for her to go.
Kwug could not guide her artistic expression as her course teachers and leaders could and have done, but the knowledge of her rights obtained from attendance at Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meetings helped keep her on the path to becoming not just an artist, but also a socially engaged artist.
|An installation by socially engaged artist Helen Mandley, aka Helen2 of Kwug|
She texted the Kwug Blog editor on 14 June:
"I'm installing work over the next day and today.The kind of 'Private View' that will happen this Saturday is very different from the kind of 'private view' that goes on in a Jobseekers Allowance claimant's 'interviews' at the jobcentre!
"The Exhibition is open to public Daily from Friday 15 June to Tuesday 20 June, 11am to 6pm. Private view is Saturday 17 June at 6pm.
"The venue is Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL."
Social engagement vs patronage of and by the wealthyOf course, social engagement is very different from the kind of sponsorship that has gone on previously between the wealthy and artists as people needing to be paid for their output. Social engagement works both ways, and Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group does not sponsor artists in the way that royalty traditionally has.
Conservative Government promotes 'Universal Credit' saying that it is to 'incentivise' people to work. The reality as authoritatively stated recently by benefits adviser and Basic Income UK representative Barb Jacobson, that in order to obtain and maintain paid employment, a person needs capital.
Kwug in association with youtube has given a platform for youtube video content by Helen for presenting 'studies' that have gone into her work that is to be exhibited.
Helen has written of her subject matter in a Middlesex Uni publication 'May Grey June Gloom':
"Socially engaged art is my main focus, mainly working in the last year with film and photography, yet also sculpture and installation. I aim to understand, to see and capture people's movements, conversations, resistance and their need that is a result of government policies in the UK today.
"Most of my work is driven by a constant duel of working to survive and striving to garner more understanding of the political and social inequality I see in my life and around me.
"I use film and photography as an embedded artist within a community group that campaigns against austerity cuts. Campaigning could be a conversation and sharing of information, but the challenge is that many of the group members wish to remain anonymous."
"Ths new challenge has created many layers and a deeper understanding of the moving image. Capturing the esence and role of the group whils staying within an art framework has been my main focus and challenge."
helenmandley@icloud. com helenmandley.wordpress.com
Helen has also told the Kwug Blog editor in one-to-one conversation that she likes to think of her work as an antidote to the social poison of such 'reality tv' output as 'Benefits Street' and the like.