© The Critical Fish, Design by Joseph Cox

Fishbowl Conversations, The Critical Fish

Fishbowl Conversations is part of a series of activities made by local artists and commissioned by Absolutely Cultured in response to an open call out.

An inclusive and experimental forum for critical creative thinking and debate, The Critical Fish believes that art – and thinking meaningfully about art – is for everyone. A friendly artist-led project and collective of freelance artists, writers and researchers, they promote critical yet accessible writing about art and visual culture.

When we spend time with art, and take the time to think about it, we tend to appreciate and enjoy it so much more. So why not think a little deeper about the artwork you encounter? Through a series of workshops and guided questions, The Critical Fish asks you to respond to the Creative Hull programme by firing off a quick tweet, emailing a creative response or writing a short essay.

“Excited for the weekend? We deffo are. Why not join us and challenge yourself to think a little deeper about the creative works you encounter? Share your responses with us and participate in a big fishbowl conversation about local art! #HullFishbowl” – The Critical Fish

Open to all, Fishbowl Conversations helps you to approach and critically think about the work in a way that is most meaningful for you and who knows, you might one day see your response in print!

Related workshops:

The stories artists tell: Art as critical history with Dr Barnaby Haran

We often look to art as a reflection of our times, but artists have always told stories of the past, whether through epic historical paintings of battle scenes or haunting images of radioactive Soviet cities.

In recent years there have been many controversies and debates about the relationship of art and history, particularly concerning memories of empire, colonialism, and slavery. Statues of Confederate generals or slaver city fathers are defaced or removed by protestors, whilst conservative critics deride Fourth Plinth plans as ‘woke monstrosities’. There are mutually antagonistic accusations of ‘rewriting history’ as historical facts are contested.

Yet history is not just a written mode, and many of the arguments concern visual art. Why is art so often the focus of these arguments? What then do artists bring to the debates on historical memory?

This workshop discusses art’s engagement with conflicts of the past, exemplifying with works by contemporary African American artists. Participants will be asked to respond to these works, to propose other stories to tell (local or global, recent or longer ago, social or biographical), and to explore, from a personal perspective, how art can be (and whether it should be) a form of critical history. What and whose stories have been told, or should be told, by artists about Hull’s past?

“You call that art?!” with Dom Heffer

At the Guggenheim in New York in 2015, there was a show by Colombian artist, Doris Salcedo, whose work is often made-up of re-claimed objects. I was looking at a work entitled ‘Tabula Rasa’, which, from a distance, looked like a battered old table, but upon closer inspection, one notices that threaded into the table were literally thousands and thousands of strands of fabric. A gentleman walked into the gallery space, glanced around, and then – in a fit of rage – shouted at the gallery attendant; ‘What is this?! You call this art? A bunch of old tables!’ – and with that, he stormed out of the room – leaving the bemused attendant thinking that was beyond his pay grade.

We often proclaim, ‘That’s not art!’, when we come up against a work that we find challenging. Does that help us affirm, what therefore, is? In this workshop for Critical Fish, we will address notions of pre-judging artworks, encouraging participants to stop, think and un-pack difficult artworks.

Reference will be given to basic ideas in the history of ‘popular’ critical engagement – from John Berger to Brian Sewell. Participants will work through a basic ‘tool kit’ for analysis and discussion of specific works, focusing upon how they evaluate what they see, what they feel, and using this to assimilate what they think.

Fish ‘n’ Crits > A nourishment session with Michael Barnes-Wynters

Whether you consider yourself to be more ‘artist’ or ‘audience’ (or both!), all are welcome to join mentor, artist and radical arts advisor Michael Barnes-Wynters for a collaborative, open online ‘crit’.

Michael will support participants to critique the artwork of five presenting local artists (20 minutes each) within this friendly creative sharing event. Learn something new, ask questions and be inspired as we explore local creative practice in more depth.

Would you like to be one of these five art-sharing artists? If you would like to present/screen share your work (or have it shared by Michael on your behalf), email redcontemporaryarts@gmail.com by 16 July.

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This activity will be visible online.


Friday 16 – Sunday 18 July


Online – Website

Workshops (Booking required)

The stories artists tell: Art as critical history with Dr Barnaby Haran
Friday 16 July

“You call that art?!” with Dom Heffer
Saturday 17 July

Fish ‘n’ Crits > A nourishment session with Michael Barnes-Wynters
Sunday 18 July