Skip navigation

Building a new common gaze: Lessons from the new English Roma/Gypsy/Traveller art

Building a new common gaze: Lessons from the new English Roma/Gypsy/Traveller art

Acton, Thomas (2009) Building a new common gaze: Lessons from the new English Roma/Gypsy/Traveller art. In: Lecture Series in connection the exhibition ‘Living Together: Estrategias para la convivencia’, 22 April 2009, Montehermoso Cultural Centre in Vitoria, Spain.

PDF (Author's Accepted Manuscript)
5479_Acton_Building a common gaze (AAM) 2009.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (145kB) | Preview


Thomas Acton (born 1948) switched his academic ambition from the philosophy of religion at Oxford to Gypsy politics when he was recruited as a student to run the first Gypsy Council caravan summer school for children on an illegal encampment on a disused airfield in 1967. He was an administrative assistant at the first World Romani Congress in 1971, finished a doctorate on Romani Studies, and became a university sociology teacher by default. He was appointed the first professor of Romani Studies at the University of Greenwich in 1997. He has been secretary of the UK Gypsy Council 3 times, is currently secretary of the international Gypsy Lore Society, and of the Brentwood Gypsy Support Group where he lives, and is patron of the London Roma Support Group.

His lecture will draw the lessons of his experience of curating the "Second Site" exhibition at the University of Greenwich in 2006, taking that on tour, working with Daniel Baker, Delaine LeBas and other artists, and seeing how that work helped lead both to the expansion of popular art with the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller community, and to statements on a broader front, such as the Romani Art pavilion at the Venice Biennale. He writes "I come as a visually naïve sociologist and community activist, fallen only by accident into the world of artists over the past 4 years (and acknowledging an immense debt both to Baker and LeBas, and my daughter Grace Acton, an arts administrator) commenting on the stories the art I have worked with tells.

These are stories of human equality despite all structures of social control, of the irrepressibility of individual autonomy, of the existential self-assertion of ethnic and sexual minorities, of the unregulatability of migration and the functional necessity for contemporary nomadism. They tell how survival is a neurosis of the rich and the last thing the poor should worry about. They speak of the ephemerality of consumption and the monumentality of production and the ever- present possibility of simply rejecting the alienation of one's labour power. I will speak of art which seems to make a community of wherever we hang our hats, and recognises that all life is, inescapably, one long experiment. I will praise people traffickers, and point out how the ills for which they are blamed are an inevitable concomitant of the nation-state; and I will denounce intellectual property as the preoccupation of those irrationally scared they will somehow run out of ideas."

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Lecture)
Uncontrolled Keywords: the new Romani art, co-existence
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Social, Political & Cultural Studies
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:14

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics