The Art/Law Network is a gathering of artists, lawyers, agitators, coming together to work and collaborate for change. Never before has there been such a call for social transformation, where individuals, practitioners, artists and activists of all backgrounds are seeking new and alternative ways of fostering fresh thinking, fresh politics, and fresh law. Creative and legal projects up and down the UK and beyond are filling the gap left by ideological strategy and austerity-starved state provisions, such as Brighton-based Hummingbird Project who took art therapy to the Calais jungle and are pursuing the protection of the rights of young migrants in the UK, or clinical legal projects across Law School campuses providing free legal advice where government funded legal aid no longer exists.
The Art/Law Network seeks to bring these two creative and legal responses together, where lawyers can connect with artists and vice versa, to accomplish social and legal transformation, connected through innovative law-led art, and art-led law.
What does this mean exactly? Law-led art involves artists engaging in juridical themes, such as the consistently incisive work of Carey Young on the distinct spatial and temporal reality of law, bringing rights, responsibilities, power, to the fore through her commanding deployment of legal relations (Carey Young’s work is her own and the Art/Law Network has not been involved in her art, but is used as an example of law-led arts). Or similarly, the important work of artist, agitator and member of the network Adelita-Husni-Bey questioning the role of democratic law-making processes and property in housing and protest through her art/law intervention ‘Convention on the Use of Space’.
Artists hold a unique place within culture where they can transmit and transmute the political, their art providing a space of advocacy and learning, orchestrating a performative meeting point for the happening of law and politics. Members of the Art/Law Network sound and visual arts collective ‘Distant Animals’ undertook this motif through UNION, a participatory exhibition of real world responses to the EU referendum. It sought an impartial exploration of the issues surrounding the referendum by presenting the law, devoid of media and rhetoric, in a hanging space in the Synergy Centre, Brighton. Here artists and academics worked together to create a law-led arts piece that interrogated and challenged politics through art and law; it is an example of the work of the Art/Law Network in its task of promoting collaboration between lawyers, artists, activists and agitators of all kinds.
Similarly, lawyers occupy a similarly unique position within culture and society, where their work is not confined to wealthy city commerce but are the original privy for advice, counsel, rights protection, advocacy – they are the voice for the subaltern. In this guise, the Art/Law Network seeks to alter traditional forms of legal pedagogy through inviting art into law in a critical art-led law practice where a culture of empathy for the Other can be fostered in the class room by critically demonstrating the divisive and often violent role of law in forces of social exclusion. An example of this is using the ‘cut-up’ literary technique on the Law of Property Act 1925 where an alternate understanding of property can be created for the student by literally cutting up pieces of the legislation and forms of estates and interests to create new ones.
Lucy Finchett-Maddock is a Lecturer in Law at the Law School, University of Sussex. She is a Founding Member of the Art/Law Network, and an aspiring artist. Her work looks to broader questions around the critical intersection of art and law, resistance, legal and illegal understandings of art, property, aesthetics and politics. She has written in depth on the intersection of property within law and resistance, interrogating the spatio-temporality and aesthetics law, property (squatting and housing), commons and protest. She is author of monograph ‘Protest, Property and the Commons: Performances of Law and Resistance’ (Routledge, 2016). Lucy is also fascinated by the thermodynamic property ‘entropy’ as a philosophical and methodological framework, in relation to law, resistance, aesthetics, nonlinear and linear relations of time through understandings of complexity theory (see ‘Seeing Red: Entropy, Property and Resistance in the Summer Riots’, Law and Critique, 2012). She is a keen advocator of clinical legal approaches to legal pedagogy, having run a number of StreetLaw projects and worked closely on housing clinical law with Brighton Housing Trust. She is currently working on research and writing advocating the import of art/law approaches to legal education and access to justice.