BALLOT is a printmaking portfolio collaboration between staff, alumni and students from Norwich University of the Arts, Norwich UK and Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork Ireland with invited partners Print to the People in Norwich, Cork Printmakers and Limerick School of Art & Design.
The embryo of the idea was in response to a portfolio of works devised in 1924 by László Moholy-Nagy. Moholy-Nagy invited artists and students from the Bauhaus to produce artworks in celebration of Walter Gropius’ birthday. He asked everyone to make a work in response to a press photograph that had been published in the weekly supplement “Zeitbilder” in which a loudspeaker sits on a stage pronouncing the outcome of the German general election in Potsdamer Platz 1924.
Almost a century later, elections held across Europe clearly indicate a level of change and uncertainty not experienced in the post-war era. The June 23rd referendum in the UK, which resulted in its decision to leave the European Union, has sent shock waves through the remaining 27 states of the union and has far reaching implications, none more so than between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Paralleling Moholy-Nagy’s format, the collaborative portfolio project BALLOT invites artists, academics and students from institutions and organisations situated within the east of UK and Ireland to make editioned prints in response to the process of elections and referenda. It encourages connections between historic and contemporary political affairs and aims to raise an awareness of the volatility of democratic processes. It elicits response to a global perspective but also to the unique relationship between the UK and The Republic of Ireland, the UK’s only land border with another European country.
In his written introduction to the portfolio, Professor Neil Powell of NUA comments: “BALLOT reinvigorates the idea of uniting a transnational community of practice at a moment when self-ostracism is seen by some as the inevitable political conclusion for post-industrial society and culture”. On a grand scale, if this project contributes as a counter-argument to European fragmentation and protectionism, it will have been hugely successful. At the very least it represents an opportunity for shared dialogue between artists, academics and students.
The print portfolio project was started at Norwich University of the Arts in 2002. Since the first initial studio-based project in 2002, NUA has produced 12 portfolios, including collaborations with California State University USA, Asagaya College of Art and Design Japan, Boston University USA and Falmouth University UK. The collaboration this year with CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork Printmakers, Limerick Printmakers and Print to the People in Norwich is an ambitious task. The enthusiastic response to the project is an indication of the enduring efficacy of print in a digital age and a reassurance that ideas and opinions can be shared through materiality. BALLOT is an activity operating within and part-funded by the Created and Contested Territories research group at NUA.
BALLOT was shown at FIRST EDITION print symposium, part of the Cork Midsummer Festival, June 23rd and 24th 2017.