Supporting Artists with Amber Bardell
Hey Amber! You’re the director of !GWAK, an international arts collective. Could you tell me about the project and your role in it? Where does it get it’s name?
Hi Alex! The main aims of !GWAK are supporting emerging artists with resources and creating a worldwide community of collaborators. We encourage and facilitate collaboration in all of our projects. My Directing position covers pretty much everything that we do, I oversee what goes on with the mag, blog, and social media as well as planning events and conversing directly with our community members.
Since I took over as Director in August 2020, I hired a lot more volunteers and it’s been great to expand what we can do by involving more like-minded creatives in the process. What we do is expansive, so it’s important for me to be able to delegate tasks! I’ve also really been advocating for our series of !GWAK Guides and Industry Insights on the blog, which are really educational resources that share knowledge from our community members. They’re the perfect testament to learning outside of prestigious organizations that can really exclude people of colour, working-class, disabled and other underrepresented creatives. We’re always doing more to support those groups and keep our community diverse!
It’s kind of a funny story: our founder Dom came up with it whilst eating avocado and thinking about guacamole (guac-!GWAK). He thought it sounded cool and so it stuck, but we do get asked all the time if it’s an acronym, so I came up with: Growing Worldwide Arts Kommunity which sort-of works, but community with a K!
How about your own background as an artist and filmmaker – was !GWAK borne from its founder’s own frustrations with the art world? What are some of the obstacles you are aiming to remove?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, so !GWAK was instantly something I was interested in as I really didn’t have creative connections to work with on larger projects. Dom, the founder, also lacked like-minded creative connections and created !GWAK in response. He never saw it becoming as big as I did when I joined (very early on in its fruition) but !GWAK has become an amazing community with lots to offer. Key obstacles are the general inaccessibility of the art world for emerging artists, and of course, finding people to work with or engage with and share your art with.
In a way, I’m a testament to the fact that it has helped me find collaborators when I previously had no idea how to find them. It has also impacted the way that I work, as my projects have taken on a much more multifaceted collaborative approach since I’ve become aware of what’s possible. My debut half-hour film Art as Catharsis follows me exploring the topic of art for healing with lots of other artists, I don’t think it would have been possible without my foundations with !GWAK. You can watch that film here: https://ambergwak.wixsite.com/artascatharsisfilm
Could you tell me about something that !GWAK has facilitated that makes you proud for having started it? What sort of things do you hope to achieve with it in the future?
I think that exhibitions and events are my proudest achievement, I definitely love bringing people together and showcasing their work in physical spaces. It’s also given me some of my first exhibition opportunities as part of group exhibitions and film screenings, as I didn’t have any other opportunities. Oftentimes exhibition for any kind of creative work is offered more readily to those with exhibition experience, yet you need to start somewhere and we definitely want to do that for our artists.
I had never run events before !GWAK, and unfortunately COVID has restricted us a lot, but we’ve been thinking up some exciting new ways of exhibiting work and bringing people together. We also hosted a live film event with Future First Pictures in 2019 and will continue to do these annually, we really hope the next one can be in person again although you can check out all the online talks via the !GWAK instagram from our 2020 edition!
In the future, I’d really love to run more physical workshops and events across the globe – by enabling members of our community to host and share their skills with others. Just because most of our team is based in the UK, doesn’t mean we can only run physical events here. I plan to form a guide and process to support other people to run events in their local communities.
What would you like to offer up as your WFTP hidden gem?
There are a lot of people and things that need more recognition! I’ll quickfire a few off the top of my head:
Hannah Beachler (production designer), Searching For Sugar Man (film), Dubble (zine, https://www.thedubble.com/), Millie Norman (poet and !GWAK colleague https://www.instagram.com/twnipeaks/?hl=en), Matthew Jamal (musical artist)
Thanks Amber, it’s been cool to learn more about what you do. Please give us your links and social media channels so we can follow what you do – solo and with !GWAK!
I’m at @amberbardell and @amberbardell.studio
And !GWAK is at www.gwak.site, @gwak.co and @gwak.change
Interview by Alex Wilson