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Walking to the Grouse Inn, north of Scotland

“Prior to a recent BBC interview, curator Mary Jane Jacob and I were asked to reflect on a series of ‘warm-up’ questions before going on air. This later led us into a series of debates on the internationalism and institutionalisation of the arts, which has been a constant focus over the last few decades in the larger urban centres of Scotland, and is now starting to gain importance in more remote parts of the country. This is an extract from our conversation.

Our peripheries are always someone else’s centre.

NS: As our position changes, in this case from city to rural environment, we are forced to adapt to a newset of values. We look for isolation, for time to think, for the basics of life. We encounter all of these things. Nevertheless we soon realise that it was not about what we left behind or about what we came to find, but about the journey itself. After all, our centre is someone else’s periphery.

Mary Jane Jacob: As an observer from the outside, the conversations ignited are not only occasions to present ideas and learn about a new place, but for those in this locale to hear themselves, reflecting sometimes for the first time, on home.

The institutionalisation of art can, ironically, be at odds with the making and experiencing of art.

NS: The running of a small arts organisation depends on a combination of poetic production and of integrated administrative implementation. Each director brings to the institution a new set of the ideas that shape the vision, or visions, meaning something irrefutable to words, even hallucinogenic, shamanic.

MJJ: I came back into the institution, reluctantly, having enjoyed an independent curator status: being invited to intervene and work with artists on projects that disrupted the norm, making an opening in the critical space of those other institutions. To go back ‘in’, was hard, at first feeling like all functions of creativity might shut down [I call this my ‘rejecting the organ’ phase]. So I had to make the organ/organisation healthy, which inevitably led to working with artists—working with and around rules.”

Mary Jane Jacob is currently in residence as ‘Shadow Curator’ at Deveron Arts, Huntly. Nuno Sacramento has been developing the ‘shadow curator’ concept since 2003