Folky, Folkie lecture at Cecil Sharp House


Yesterday I gave a talk as part of a series of lectures at Cecil Sharp House called 'What the Folk?', as the artist in residence. I chose to talk about my work in terms of the insider/outsider poles that seem to define the folk world and making art that deals with folk.

I guess the definitions I am working with are:

FOLKIE: a person who defines themselves as a lover of folk music and culture. In particular they are likely to attend folk festivals and events, and have a rigourous definition of what 'folk' means to them, and what it should mean to others.

FOLKY: contemporary artwork of the kind that references folk motifs, folkore, folk tradations and costumes, but is definitely not Folk Art itself.

It was a talk to an audience richly knowledgable on folk topics but not so much on contemporary art and artists. I got asked questions like

'why do you feel the need to change traditions as part of your work'


'is folk art?'.

These are pretty big questions that an artist could spend a whole career trying to answer. My instinctive answers though didn't take that long, and I feel like perhaps because I am coming from an insider's perspective (as a folk practicioner) I have a bit more licence to alter certain aspects of folk traditions or imagery for the purposes of making an artistic statement. The answer to the second question would really depend on context, and in answering it I retreated to the contextual corner. As more and more artists work with folk thematically and directly in their work it seems less like a question about whether or not it is art, but why there is such a move to re-examine it in artworks.