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"All artists are alike. They dream of doing something that's more social, more collaborative, and more real than art." Dan Graham

'Buying Time' is a project initiated by independent curator Nathalie Levi. It asks how artists can offer a truly alternative approach when the nature of today's workplace has adapted and adopted 'creative' principles. It also asks how artists can intervene in what has been described by Robert Peston as the "real economy" when the structures of employment and production are undergoing massive change. Forty years ago, the Artists' Placement Group (APG) sent artists to work in industry, to organisations like British Rail and BP, to see how their creativity could improve working life and productivity. Forty years later, almost none of the state-run organisations exist, and many of the private enterprises have changed beyond recognition. 'Buying Time' suggests that the questions the APG asked are more relevant and pressing than ever. After forty years of de-industrialisation, privatization, and globalization, how can artists offer a truly alternative approach when the nature of today's workplace has adapted and adopted creative principles?

'Buying Time' has partnered three artists with three entirely different types of businesses. David Lisser, Graham Dolphin, and Neil Bromwich & Zoe Walker have spent the early part of 2013 working as 'embedded artists' in the commercial world. Each of the three outcomes will be presented in the NGCA's Project Space throughout the year.

Artist David Lisser has spent two months collaborating with an almost unique business. Ray Bland is a freelance engineer who specialises in the bespoke and creative use of robots normally used in heavy industry. Bland specialises in working with computer-controlled robots usually employed by corporations to create thousands of precision-engineered components. Lisser and Bland have created unique sculptures, carved by machines, in an unprecedented use of such technologies. Lisser is an artist whose sculptures come out of his interest in "the hope that we invest the promise technology offers us". His works to date have included the creation of a midge-subsisting nomadic tribe in post-apocalyptic Northumberland, and a series of archaic 'wishing machines' that people can offer up their hopes and dreams to. His body of work explores how we imagine both traditional craft skills and modern high-tech modes of production. For this exhibition he has created alluring carved mahogany sculptures whose minutely detailed contours seem to challenge our understanding.

Ray Bland's work as an engineer has led him to discover parallels between these sophisticated industrial robots and the creative arts. Through their "lightness of touch and subtle discrimination of line" Bland amalgamates these two spheres under the working title ArtintheMachine. See ArtintheMachine.

'Buying Time' is originated and curated by Nathalie Levi. Realised with assistance by Hannah Marsden and Louise Cooling.


David Lisser, Robot Taster