31 Proposals'

James & Jones

31 Proposals' is an online collaborative project comprising of James & Jones proposing 31 projects and exhibitions. From the 1st June to the 1st July, James and Jones will take it in turns to propose a different idea for an exhibition every day. There are no stipulations upon the proposals and no boundaries on what can be achieved or imagined.

The project intends to act as catalyst to investigate the creative process of how exhibition ideas are formed. Through this process J&J aim to question the curatorial process and the curators role in the creation of an exhibition.

31 Proposals can be viewed at


Email conversation between James & Jones

BJ: The project '31 Proposals' stemmed from conversations we were having concerning the various directions James & Jones could go in terms of curatorial practice. We saw it as an attempt to understand our own practice as well as each others and to try and find a common ground between the two. Do you still see this being the main purpose of '31 Proposals' and has anything else been added to this?

MJ: I think that for me the purpose of the project has maybe changed. It now feels like a way of challenging the processes of coming up with ideas. What is a good idea? How do we come about these ideas? Can it hold up Curatorially? Maybe a week into the project I was struggling to come up with what I deemed a 'good idea' and i was trying to think back through all the things i had worked on. But for the Jonathan Monk Proposal, I sat with a small piece of paper and wrote the name of an artist, and then started from there. Do you think that this process has changed how you conceive ideas?

BJ: It has changed I feel from a project about proposals (in other words completed projects) to one of ideas, whether finished or not, where the spark of an idea is more important. As you say where do these ideas come from and are they interlinked or standalone. I was also struggling after a few but they began to come easier the less I tried to think them through to a completed project. It has allowed me to be freer in terms of ideas and not get to hung up on the finer points, which if they were to be followed through to a conclusion they would need to be. I find it interesting how as you say you started with Jonathan Monk and worked from there. In a similar way I worked from the idea of Robert Barry's 'Telepathic Piece' to try and develop an idea whilst with the Jan Svankmayer project I started of with the artist and worked from there. I suppose there are dangers of working both ways in trying to fit an artist into a project or a project round an artist, which can fail due to being forced.

MJ: Do you think then that either as individuals or as James and Jones we will take any of these ideas further?

BJ: I think all of these proposals have the potential to be initiated to a finished project. Whether they would be successful is a different matter. That is where it changes from a proposal, i.e. an idea, to a project, something tangible beyond just being an idea. I kind of find the idea aspect a lot more interesting than if we turned any of them into a project at this moment in time. Maybe the idea of completing the proposal would take away from the initial idea. A number of these projects could be seen as artists proposals and not just curatorial ideas. The whole artist/curator argument has been written about so I won't go into it here but it is something that always in the back of the mind and relevant, in particular, to Proposal No. 2.

How do you see them developing?

MJ: I think the development of the proposals is an interesting juncture to explore. Very rarely do you have the opportunity to submit a proposal, which will be then allowed to develop. Commissioning bodies, funders, galleries and other institutions involved are able to commission projects where the idea will develop, so in a sense a 'proposal' is perhaps the wrong word to use, as it must be almost ready to go. Perhaps this is to do with the way artistic practice is based, on a trial and error, and a building of an idea. But it would be great to try and find a way or means to initiate every proposal!

BJ: I also, feel that, especially with my latest proposals, that they are not meant to be developed beyond their initial stage (see Proposal No's 18 and 22) or at least shouldn't be. I think this could possibly be said for maybe a number of others. For me they are meant to question the role of the artist and curator within society, which as we know may not always be a positive thing. As a result these proposals act as a place of conflict or of reflection with no real development beyond their own conception. Should all proposals be initiated? There have been exhibitions curated where artists have presented ideas (proposals) that have been "unsuccessful". These are ideas that did not get past the drawing board. This does not mean they are bad or wrong but maybe were a point to get to another place. Is this really what ideas are? Not everything is worth realising

MJ: Yes, but nothing ventured nothing gained right?

BJ: I am also interested in the fact we are using a blog as a medium to present the proposals. Bringing in questions of dissemination of knowledge as well as the possibility of open source. Visitors to the blog can easily take the proposals for themselves and refine, edit and improve if they so wish. This is something that I think is important and an interest of mine.

**MJ: I hadn't thought of it like that. The blog as an instant way of communicating and allowing a place for this project to exist, was primarily what I saw it as, but the issues of who owns a idea/proposal, are we as you say disseminating an idea for the greater good, or do we hold the proposals as out own intellectual property? Perhaps what might have been an even more interesting project would be for us to edit and change each others proposals?

BJ: Maybe that's the next step.


16–29 June 2009

James & Jones are an independent curatorial partnership established in 2008. Based in the North East and the South West of England.