Dr Mel Jordan
School of Arts & Humanities
Head of Programme
- Contemporary Art Practice
Reader in Art and the Public Sphere
Dr Mel Jordan is an artist and academic; from 2000–2018 she was a member of the now disbanded Freee art collective. She is now a member of the Partisan Social Club.
At the Royal College of Art, she is Head of Programme for Contemporary Art Practice and Reader in Art and the Public Sphere. Her research and subsequent artworks present a critical examination into the degree to which public sphere theory can contribute to an expanded understanding of art and its publics.
Prior to her current role at the Royal College of Art, as Head of Contemporary Art Practice, Jordan was Senior Tutor in Sculpture. From 2007–2013, she was Senior Lecture in Fine Art at Loughborough University and Research Co-ordinator for the School of Arts. In 2009 she was made Reader in Fine Art where she initiated the Politicised Practice Research Group. Jordan has also held academic positions at Sheffield Hallam University, University of Wolverhampton and Goldsmiths College of Art. She is currently external examiner for the BA Fine Art, Reading University and MFA Goldsmiths College of Art. She has previously been external examiner for PhD students at Goldsmiths College of Art, Leeds University, Anglia Ruskin University and Falmouth University.Show more
Jordan studied Fine Art at Leicester Polytechnic (1984–87) and Visual Communication at Birmingham City Polytechnic (1988–1990). She recently completed her PhD by publication at Loughborough University (2015).
In 2012 Jordan was selected for the Loughborough University EPSRC, LEADer Award for her project on interdisciplinary methods for Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences. She has received research funding from the EPSRC and the AHRC.
Recent exhibitions include Part of the Game nGbK, Berlin, 2014, Critical Machines, AUB Art Gallery, Beirut, 2013, Agoraphobia, the prologue exhibition to the 13th Istanbul Biennial; TANAS, Berlin 2013. Site, Rant, Choir, workshop and new work commissioned by ON, Bologna, Italy, April 2012. Mom, Am I Barbarian?, 13th Istanbul Biennial, 2013. The Narrative Show, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, 2011. ‘We are Grammar’, Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, 2011, ‘Touched’ Liverpool Biennial 2010;‘When Guests Become Hosts’, Culturgest, Porto, Portugal, 2010.
Forthcoming exhibition: Social Kiosk, NN Contemporary, 5 November–21 Dec 2016, (solo exhibition Freee art collective).
Jordan’s research proposes that the notion of ‘public’ in the idiom ‘public art’ should be understood as a discursive construct as opposed to a physical, spatial understanding as in the term public realm. This revision considers the act of being public as a process, a series of inter-subjective experiences, rather than a spatial condition. This helps expand art’s role from an autonomous field of exhibition making into a position of publishing, thereby recognising art as a contributor to collective opinion formation.
Commissioned Exhibitor, Public Kiosk, AHRC Common Ground June 2016
RCA RKE Grant, entitled ‘Trans-action’
AHRC, PI, Travel Support Fund: ‘Manifesto on Art and Social Inclusion in Urban Communities’. Interdisciplinary, international project that includes geographers (UK, NL), sociologists (Italy, Belgium) and artists (UK).
EPSRC, Bridging the Gaps Fund: ‘Public Communications: Art, Technology and the Public Sphere’. Co-Investigator in collaboration with Ian Bruff, Politics, History and International Relations, Manchester University and Loughborough University Design School.
HERA Joint Research Programme Matchmaking Event. Selected participant, ‘Cultural Encounters and the Public Sphere: A Study of Democratic Processes in Participatory Art Practice’, HERA Joint Research Programme Matchmaking Event, Berlin.
AHRC Project development funding, 2011: ‘The Resilience & Regeneration potential of Creative Arts communities in an Age of Austerity’. Co-Investigator with Professor Loretta Lees, Geography, Kings College London; Professor Malcolm Miles, Cultural Theory, University of Plymouth and Professor Andy Pratt Culture, Media and Economy, Kings College London.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Selected Exhibitions and ArtworksShow more
Jordan, M., Hewitt, A. and Beech, D., National Museum of Gallery Visitors and Museum Workers, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough, UK, 2017
Jordan, Mel, Hewitt, Andrew and Beech, Dave, He hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, 19th March–18th September 2016
Jordan, M. & Hewitt, A., Public Kiosk, TATE, London, UK, 2016
Jordan, M., Beech, D. & Hewitt, A. Freee-Carracci-Institute, Contemporary Art Northamton, UK, 5 November–24 December 2016
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Taking Sides for the project Part of the Game, nGbK (Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst) Berlin, 23 August–27 September 2014
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Protest Continues to Drive History, KunstPavillon Innsbruck, Austria, June 2014
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Twice Political, for the exhibition Critical Machines, AUB Art Gallery, Beirut, Nov 2013
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Agoraphobia, The prologue exhibition to the 13th Istanbul Biennial, TANAS, Berlin May–July 2013
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Mom, Am I Barbarian?, 13th Istanbul Biennial, September, 2013
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., The Manifesto for a New Public, for Towards a Common Ground, Clapham Bandstand, London, April 2012
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A., Site, Rant, Choir, workshop and new work commissioned by ON, Bologna, Italy, April 2012
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., The Whistleblowers guide to the public Sphere, The Narrative Show, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, 14 July–10 September 2011
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Advertising wants to Convert Our Desire for a Better Life into a Desire to Buy Something, for the exhibition JUST DO IT. BIOPOLITICAL BRANDING curated by Simina Neagu for Pavilion Unicredit, Centre for Art & Culture, Bucharest, 10 March–22 May 2011; originally commissioned by DOT for the Arena Festival of Contemporary Art, Leicester, UK, 3–16 November 2008. Media of output: one artwork.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Petition to ban all advertising! (No more renting out of the public sphere), curated by Paul O’Neill and Dave Beech for the exhibition We are Grammar for the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, The Pratt Institute, New York, USA, 25 February–7 May 2011
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Protest Drives History for the exhibition, Vectors of the Possible, curated by Simon Sheikh for BAK, Utrecht, NL, 12 September–28 November 2010. Also shown at the exhibition Coalesce: Happenstance, curated by Paul O’Neill, SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, NL, 10–22 February 2009. Protest Drives History originally commissioned by Institute of Contemporary Art, London, for the Nought to Sixty Exhibition, 5 May–2 November 2008. Media of output: four artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Every Shop Window is a Soap Box, for the exhibition Touched, curated by Lorenzo Fusi for the Liverpool Biennial, International Festival of Contemporary Art, Liverpool, UK. 18 September–28 November 2010. Originally commissioned for the exhibition, When Guests Become Host, curated by Danielle van Zuijlen for the Culturgest Porto, Portugal, 25 July–15 October 2010. Media of output: ten artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., FUCK GLOBALIZATION II, for the exhibition, DORM, curated by Seamus Kealy for The Model, Sligo, Ireland. 02 May–04 July 2010. FUCK GLOBALIZATION, originally developed during the artist-in-residence commission, Dartington College of Art, Totnes, UK; a solo exhibition was held at Dartington College of Art, Totnes, UK. 25 March–24 April 2010. Media of output: four artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., The Peckham Pledge for Commission 6 – Peckham Space Opening Exhibition, curated by Emily Druiff for Peckham Space, London, UK.12 June–30 June 2010. Media of output: one artwork.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Revolution Road: Rename the Streets, for the exhibition, Generosity is the new political, curated by Lotte Juul Petersen for Wysing Arts, Bourn, Cambridge, UK. 5 September–1 November 2009. Also selected for the ‘Solo Works’ section at Zoo Art Fair, in conjunction with Wysing Arts, Zoo Art Enterprises, London, UK. 16–19 October 2009. Media of output: five artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Changing Things with Words, for the exhibition, Abstract Cabinet Show, curated by Gavin Wade, Eastside Projects, Birmingham, UK. 26 September–8 November 2009. Media of output: three artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Revolution is Sublime, for the exhibition, The Peckham Experiment, curated by Jo David and Rachael House, Space Station Sixty- Five, Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Arts, Peckham Road, London UK. 28 September–7 November 2009. Media of output: three artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Spin[Freee]oza, for the exhibition, Joy, Sadness and Desire, curated by Hilde de Bruijn, SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, NL, 9 May–28 June 2009. Media of output: eleven artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., All the public spaces ripe for dissent have been colonized by advertising, Advertising wants you to think that detergent is revolutionary, We demand TV ads at prime time for all striking workers, Art Fairs: fan the embers of the avant-garde; take over the role of the state; protect arts autonomy; spurn commodification for the benefit of the art market, for the exhibition We Collaborate Better Than You, with G.A.S, The Good Children Gallery, New Orleans, USA. 10 January–1 February 2009. Media of output: four artworks
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Protest is Beautiful (letters) for the exhibition V22 PRESENTS The Sculpture Show curated by Shahin Afrassiabi, Sam Basu, Simon Bill, Cedric Christie, Fergal Stapleton. The Almond Building, The Biscuit Factory, Bermondsey, London, 26 April–31 May 2009. Also shown at the exhibition Rotate, curated by The International 3 for the Contemporary Art Society, London UK. 13–30 May 2008. Also shown at the exhibition Coalesce: Happenstance, curated by Paul O’Neill, SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, NL, 10–22 February 2009. Also shown at Protest is Beautiful, a solo exhibition, curated by Esther Windsor at 1000000mph Gallery, London. Artwork also used on the cover of Radical Philosophy 145 (Sept/Oct 2007). Media of output: two artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., How to be Hospitable, a solo exhibition, commissioned by Kate Gray for the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh. 4 April–17 May 2008. Media of output: five artworks.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., The First Condition Of An Ecological Politics Is That It Halts The Commodification Of The Planet By Putting All Landowners, Exploiters, Entrepreneurs And Bureaucrats Out Of Business, curated by JJ Charlesworth, for the exhibition, Fusion Now! More Light, More Power, More People, Rokeby Gallery, London, 21 November–2 December 2007. Media of output: one artwork.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., How to Make a Difference, a solo exhibition, curated by Andrew Hunt for International Project Space, Bourneville Centre for Visual Arts, Birmingham UK, 27 September–3 November 2007. Media of output: four artworks. Also, How to Make a Difference (poster), commissioned by Andy Hunt for Slimvolume, Poster Publication, Neue Alte Bruke, Frankfurt, Germany & HOTEL, London, November 2007. Media of output: one artwork.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. and Hewitt, A., Have You Heard the One About the Public Sphere?, commissioned by Hull Time Based Arts, Exhibited at 1000000mph Gallery, International Project Space, October 2006. Media of output: one artwork.
Jordan, M. and Hewitt, A. (2009) Futurology, Walsall: New Art Gallery Walsall, 1–126
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2007) Manifesto for a Counter-Hegemonic Art, Sheffield: Freee Publishing, 1–32
Jordan, M. and Miles, M. (eds) (2008) Art and Theory After Socialism, Bristol: Intellect Books
Chapters in Books
Jordan, M. (2017) 'Dominic from Luton is Impossible' in Dominic From Luton. Sunridge Avenue Projects, Luton, pp. 10–15.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. & Hewitt, A. (2017) 'The Carracci Institute Year Book' in, The Carracci Institute Year Book. NN Contemporary, Northampton, pp. 1–63.
Jordan, M. (2017) 'Towards Critical Practices: Art and Design as Socially Productive Practices' in Transdisciplinary Practice. Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin, Ireland, pp. 14–19.
Jordan, M. & Hewitt, A. (2016) 'Politicizing Publics: A social framework for public artworks' in The Everyday Practice of Public Art: Art, Space, and Social Inclusion. Routledge, Oxford, UK, pp. 27–44.
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2015) ‘The Impossible Participant’, in: Kathryn Brown, ed., New Interactive Practices in Contemporary Art, (ed), London: I.B.Tauris
Jordan, M., Beech, D. & Hewitt, A. (2014) 'Economists Are Wrong! The Warsaw Manifesto 2011' in Joy Forever: The Political Economy of Social Creativity, Kozłowski, Kurant, Sowa, Szadkowski, Szreder (eds), MayFlyBooks
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2013) ‘Twenty-First Century Political Art: the Freee Manifesto for Art & Twenty-First Century Socialism’, in Laura Cull & Will Daddario, eds, Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics, Bristol: Intellect Books
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2011) ‘Post Studio Production, Publishing and the Public Sphere’, in Angela Harutyuayan, ed., Intersections: Practices of Curating, Education and Theory, AICA-Armenia, 63–79
Jordan, M., and Hewitt, A. (2009) ‘Exploring the function of art in culture-led regeneration: reflections on Futurology’, in M. Degan and M. Miles, eds, Culture & Agency Contemporary Culture and Urban Change, Plymouth: University of Plymouth Press, 48–60
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2007) ‘Functions, Functionality and Functionlessness’, in V. Azatyan, ed., Public Sphere: Between Contestation and Reconciliation, National Association of Art Critics Armenian and Plymouth University, 167–188
Jordan, M., and Hewitt, A. (2006) ‘Hewitt and Jordan’, in S. Kivland, J. Joseph-Lester, E. Cocker (eds)Transmission: Speaking and Listening Daily Encounters, Sheffield: Site Gallery and Sheffield Hallam University, 126–135
Jordan, M., and Hewitt, A. (2005) ‘I Fail to Agree’, in Miles, M. & Hall, T. (eds), Interventions: Advance in Urban Futures Volume 4, Bristol: Intellect (2005), 107–120
Journal Articles – Academic Journals
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2012) ‘The Freee Collective Don’t Want You!’, Public Journal, 45
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2009) ‘The New Futurist Manifesto, (revised, expanded and updated)’, in: Third Text. Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, special issue: Art: A Vision of the Future 100, 23:5
Journal Articles – Professional Journals
Jordan, M. (2017) 'Art and the Public Sphere: From controversy to opinion formation in the making of contemporary art' Art & the Public Sphere, 6 (1&2). pp. 7–18.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. & Hewitt, A. (2015) 'To Hell with Herbert Read' Anarchist Studies, 23 (2). pp. 38-46. ISSN 0967-3393
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2012) ‘The Manifesto for a new Public’, in: ...ment – Journal for Contemporary Culture, Art and Politics, 3, 54–58
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2009/10) ‘Changing Spaces. Freee interview Vito Acconci’, Art Monthly, 332, 1–3
Books – Short Works
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2009) Spin[Freee]oza (Shop Windows and Balloons), Amsterdam, 1–16, 25–29
Jordan, M., Beech, D and Hewitt, A. (2006) How to make a difference, Birmingham, 4–24
Jordan, M., and Hewitt, A. (2004) The Functions of Public Art, 1–3, 6–8
Conferences and Workshops
Jordan, M. & Hewitt, A. (2017) 'The kiosks of the Freee art collective: Understanding social art practice and opinion formation for new models of collaboration' at ETHNOARTS - Ethnographic Explorations of the Arts and Education, Porto, Portugal, 21–23 June 2017.
Jordan, M. (2017) 'The Very Small Public of Public Art' at Public Art Thinking, Birmingham, UK, 22 Nov 2017.
Jordan, M., Hewitt, A. & Beech, D. (2016) 'Open Letter to Engage: New Social Kiosk' at Engage international conference: Whose Art? Our Art! Access and Activism in Gallery Education, Liverpool, UK, 13–14 October 2016.
Jordan, M., Hewitt, A. & Beech, D. (2016) 'Public Kiosk (Citizenship)' at 50th Anniversary International Conference: Museums in the Global Contemporary: Debating the Museum of Now, Leicester, UK, 20–22 April 2016.
Jordan, M., Hewitt, A. & Beech, D. (2016) 'Manifesto for Art: The Public Sphere and the work of the Freee art collective' at Beyond Art Activism: Rewriting Arts Neoliberal Value System, Dublin, Ireland, 26 October 2016.
Jordan, M., Hewitt, A. & Beech, D. (2015) 'How to change the world' at 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies: Is there an Alternative? Management after Critique, University of Leicester, UK, 8–10 July 2015.
Jordan, M. and Bruff, I. (2015) 'Rethinking the artistic imagination: from formalistic ‘innovation’ to productive potential for social and political change' at 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association : ESA 2015, Prague, CZ, 25–28 August 2015.
Jordan, M., Beech, D. & Hewitt, A. (2014) 'To Hell with Herbert Read' at To Hell with Culture? Re-examining the commodification of culture in contemporary capitalism, Manchester, UK, 30 October 2014.
Freee art collective utilise the ‘slogan-as-artwork’ as a method of publishing ideas through different formats and in various sites. The practice-based research attempts to:
- Advance the debate around the concept of ‘public’ beyond the conventional spatial understanding of inside and outside.
- Address the concept of protest and opinion formation through written argumentation (i.e. the content of the slogan itself as well as artwork as texts).
- Apply the logic of public sphere theory (Habermas: 1989, Fraser: 1993 and Warner: 2002) as a methodological framework for decision making in the project.
The research process demonstrates that what is typically deemed the public space of the street is not necessarily so, and that the notion of making things public operates beyond a spatial placing of an object in the public realm. The way the work is designed tests the notion of primary and secondary audience, and asks what constitutes private and public.
Art and Participation
The research question, ‘How can participatory artworks address the difference between a passer-by and a public?’, is addressed by the method of introducing an ‘impossible participant’ into the artwork, which is then tested out in the public realm in order to demonstrate that the public has agency. The ‘impossible participant’ has been developed as a strategy to understand a person that stands outside of the conventional grammar of participation and its ethical consensus: one that would be said to be not participatory enough.
The rationale for this research concept is that publics are not reducible to the individuals found in the marketplace or the political and cultural encounters of the spectacle (consumers, fans, viewers and customers).
Art and Politics (Manifestos)
The research departs from an historical account of the manifesto and, instead, aims to reinvigorate manifesto writing as a practical tool for political engagement. The research addresses:
- The methods of manifesto writing and the history of the original Futurist Manifesto.
- The potential of the manifesto as a method for the exchange of opinion.
The New Futurist Manifesto (Revised, Expanded and Updated) (Third Text journal article) is one of a series of interconnected works, which includes a series of manifesto readings/ spoken choirs, a manifesto pamphlet and a book chapter. The technique of publishing the inquiry in a number of ‘sites’ constitutes part of the method of the research.
A number of ‘spoken choirs’ have been initiated in order to transform the notion of an explanatory text into a performative action (Austin: 1975). And while the journal article is a form of publishing opinion, it limits immediate engagement and exchange. Therefore a variety of presentation techniques have been developed as a method for sharing opinion.
The conclusion is that a manifesto is akin to a ‘speech act’ (Austin: 1975) and, thus, is not a descriptive account of an existing event but a method of enabling collective opinion formation.
Supervised Postgraduate Student Research – Completions:
2013, Vlad Victor Morariu, Institutional Critique: A Philosophical Investigation of Its Conditions and Possibilities (theory), Loughborough University
2015, Kuba Szreder, Politicizing 'independent' curatorial practice under neoliberalism: critical responses to the apparatus of project-making (practice-based), Loughborough University
2015, Lee Campbell, Tactics of Interruption: An Exploration of Participation and Power Relations in Art Performance (practice-based), Loughborough University
2011 Rory Haron, Exodus: Towards a Non-Identity Art (practice-based), Glasgow School of Art
Current Supervised Postgraduate Student Research:
Janet Betts: Art as a political object or a politicising force? Overcoming elitist paradigms through a transformed conception of the viewer. (Writing up year)
Anja Borowicz: Art-work in seams of space: gender and labour as a response to spatial inequality of the subject. (Anja is currently taking a leave of absence)
Marina Hadjilouca: ENHANCING ‘ACTIVE CO-EXISTENCE’, IN CONTESTED PUBLIC SPACES
Scot Kaplan: An investigation into the modes of interpretation utilized by art institutions when presenting artworks. (In-conjunction with Humanities co-supervised with Chantal Faust)
Carol Mancke: The intersection of artistic practice and the city, Appearing in Public: The affordances of hopeless spaces