Updated: Feb 10
FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR CURATING POP CULTURE
Mat Bancroft is an art director and curator with a popular culture focus. Mat has been Johnny Marr's art director since 2012. He was part of the curatorial team that organized and realized True Faith, an exhibition exploring the artistic legacy and influence of Joy Division and New Order at Manchester Art Gallery as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2017. He has helped organize various pop culture archives, including the archives of Factory Records directors Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. His current work documents Derek Jarman's archive at Prospect Cottage for Art Fund U.K.. Mat's approach to the creative process is to fight for the artistic vision against the tensions that counter it by curating and detailing the movements he is inspired by and involved with, assembling, cataloging, managing, and presenting their artistic and cultural importance.
The five principles for creativity in pop culture curation are:
Johnny Marr, Natasha Kay-Sportelli, and Mat Bancroft. Crazy Face Factory, Manchester.
Photo credit: Ben Thornley @ Sitcom Soldiers
The five principles for pop culture curation are:
1 SEE AROUND THE CORNERS
Assemble, catalog, manage, and present the artistic and cultural importance of media, publications, and other expression venues to see around the corner, embrace and expose unusual and unexpected themes and sources, and make bold statements about their passions and beliefs.
"It starts with the purpose and why we are doing this. How are we going to document that period? How far are we going to go into the catalog to define where we start and stop? What do we want the narrative and experience to be?"
"This involves going through a thorough process of being able to see around the corners by knowing where to search for and find the right information, understanding and identifying new and unexpected themes and sources, and discovering gems that separate the signal from the noise, then bringing order to the chaos by presenting the final curated output in a unified, consumable, insightful and logical frame."
True Faith - during installation shot, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester. Photo credit: Mat Bancroft.
2 BE PRINCIPLE-LED
Define your purpose and mission. Having constraints, barriers, principles, and standards are critical in defining yourself by what you are and what you are not. Appreciate the differences. Being principle-led helps drive clarity on what is important to you. It will align you to what matters, reflecting your values and tastes, which will ultimately lead you to create a unique artistic identity that is aesthetically pleasing to you, acting as a moral compass on what you do and how. Creativity is a process that infuses imagination, taste, style, even a little mess, and in which desperation, sacrifice, adversity, struggle, experimentation, failure, persistence, and the acquisition of skill and practical know-how are more valuable than receiving instant fame.
"I've been intentionally selective and disciplined on the projects that I've prioritized and committed to working on, so that they reflect my values and taste. which has involved making sacrifices and taking a long term approach to building a portfolio that I can stand behind with integrity and conviction."
Fred Perry exhibit, Camden Town, London. Photo credit: Mat Bancroft
3 Immerse yourself in the culture and aesthetics of your work
Research, understand and synthesize the essential facts and themes that connect to emotions and the imagination to craft accurate and mindful installations and exhibitions that do justice in bringing the story to life. Be aware of your taste and emotions, and be clear about yourself as it will guide you where to go next and attract the right people into your life and creative circle.
"My role as a curator and art director is to fight for the art against the tensions that counter it.”
True Faith exhibit, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester. Photo credit: Mat Bancroft
Be excellent at your craft – what you dream, make, and do has substance and integrity. Blend art and science with excellence in craftsmanship by creating elegantly composed and brand-positioned artistic solutions. Be minimal in the spirit of less is more by concentrating on the essentials only. Let your craftsmanship be laser-focused to the last detail because care and accuracy show your audience's mindfulness and respect.
"I'm deeply committed to and passionate about my craft, and I'm continuously seeking inspiration and opportunities to hone it. The learning never stops!”
"Creativity in the Digital Age" shoot. Left to Right: Johnny Marr, Ben Thornley, Mat Bancroft, and James Fisher. Crazy Face Factory, Manchester. Photo credit: Roy Sharples
Seek inspiration by unifying multiple fields and joining efforts to collaborate with experts across disparate domains when exploring new ideas, finding innovative solutions, and learning about new practices, tools, techniques, and methods that can force multiply your progress.
"I enjoy the collaborative process because you learn by doing in a social environment by sharing ideas, skills, and resources, by pollinating across multiple disciplines with a diversity of specialist input that opens you up to new ideas and conversations with interesting people that broaden your perspective and network."
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Music composed and performed by Iain Mutch
Thank you: Johnny Marr, Ben Thornley, James Fisher, Malcolm Smith, Natasha Kay-Sportelli, and Sitcom Soldiers.
About the Author
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Unknown Origins on a mission to unlock everyone's creative potential. An entrepreneur at the nexus of creativity and commerciality, Roy has eclectic experience in building beloved brands, bringing new products and services to market, and creating growth businesses at scale and start-ups from the ground up.
Photo credit: Brian Smale
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