Artist in Residence: Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker is the Gallery's Artists in Residence for 2016-17. Baker will produce new sound and performance works inspired by connections between William Morris’s political poetry and the lyrics of Grime artists such as Skepta and Stormzy. Read about Daniel's residency below:

February 2017: Midpoint Reflections

My residency began in November 2016 with several visits to the archive at the William Morris Gallery: reading Morris' letters, his socialist pamphlets and poetry, and an excellent biography by Fiona MacCarthy, A Life For Our Time.  I have been thinking about how it is perhaps easy now to see Morris' work as traditional and uncontroversial, but he was actually driven by a rebellious energy: a powerful and relentless quest to find something profound and spiritual beyond Victorian aesthetics and society.  This eventually led him to want to completely dismantle the existing political system, and inspire others, particularly working people, to rise up in a real revolutionary rebellion against the capitalist ruling class.

Whilst researching Morris’ life and writings, I have also been connecting with people thinking and writing about Grime, particularly its creative and rebellious spirit.  Monique Charles has just finished her PhD in Grime and I invited her in to talk about Morris and Grime at the Gallery as part of a WMG Late on the 1st of December. During the conversation we talked about the relationships between Grime and policing, and particularly the impact of the 696 form, that the London Metropolitan police have used to close down events playing Grime.  The 696 form has been criticised as racist and oppressive to social life amongst young people of colour in the capital and Monique has explored how the 696 form may have led to Grime to spread to other cities and also to a boom in instrumental Grime: both of which are creative and rebellious ways of circumventing the restrictions of 696. 

In the last few weeks I have been reflecting on how these areas impact my own practice.  Particularly on how the aesthetic and the political are interconnected: for Morris, and also within Grime, making music, poetry, visual art are deeply political forms that have a strong capacity to resist oppression.  In March I will be working with MC Lemzi to explore some of these themes with local young people, whilst also developing my own skills in music production.  

Past Posts

November 2016 - March 2017

Lyrical Revolutions: William Morris meets Skepta?

Daniel Baker has been selected from 120 applications to become the William Morris Gallery's fourth artist in residence, 2016-17. 

Baker will produce new sound and performance works inspired by connections between William Morris’s political poetry and the lyrics of Grime artists such as Skepta and Stormzy. Throughout the residency, titled Lyrical Revolutions, Baker will explore the power and potential of the human voice.

There are fascinating parallels between Morris's work and Grime. Morris’s poetry often expresses a commitment to social change, as he imagines a new society that will free the ‘working man’ from misery and poverty. Grime emerged from London’s housing estates: particularly in Waltham Forest, but is now a global phenomenon with Skepta recently winning the Mercury Music Prize. Like Morris, many Grime artists use songwriting as a way of expressing their anger about poverty and racism and articulating visions for social change.

(Daniel Baker, 2016)

The public will have the opportunity to explore the themes of the residency through a series of events, including an artist’s talk and practical masterclasses for local young people.

The residency, which is funded by Arts Council England, is open to practising artists from Waltham Forest and the surrounding boroughs and whose work gives a new perspective on Morris’s legacy.

About Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker is an artist, writer and education professional. Between 2008 and 2016 he was Education Director at Cubitt in London where he set up a large-scale programme of activities led by artists at local schools and community centres.  As an artist Baker has worked within different contexts, particularly museums and collections, to develop projects that explore the power of narrative, subjectivity, and the formation of identity. His output includes a series of comics alongside animations, drawings, paintings and installations. He has been commissioned by the Science Museum, National Maritime Museum and the Wellcome Collection, and spoken at conferences and seminars in Egypt, Margate, London and Milwaukee.

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