Well I finally got to the [(6)] exhibition and want to take a little time to review the activity and its outcomes, but before I do that here is my photo of the day.
This couple had no connection to BSA or the OCA and came in to view the exhibition after seeing a tweet about it last night. (How great is that!)
The exhibition was instigated by Rob (link) a fellow OCA final year student via an email to the CEO of the Open College of Arts. He had already got a group of seven students together to submit to Source Magazine (link) and once costs, purpose, likely timing and other details were arranged, six of us decided to proceed with the idea to produce a physical exhibition. So that’s how the name [(6)] came about, because there were six of us, and the reason was to showcase our work (just as many other final year students do in other universities.)
The timing of the initiative suited me perfectly. I had completed all the substantive work for my formal final year assessment, and was not committed to anything for the summer, but so the exhibition offered more than a simple opportunity to showcase some of my work. It offered development because it moved the production values I was used to from one aimed at assessment panels to the gallery context. This process required careful consideration of issues around production, originality and replication and offered the chance for some collaboration. However I did not initiate the activity and would not have. Yet by participating in it I now have a rudimentary view of the mechanics of what is needed to put on an exhibition and think I could now do it.
I did not activity participate in generating any publicity for the event and relied on the support of OCA and their contractors as well as the others in this regard. This was due to ignorance rather than laziness.
In addition, the reason for my creating imagery around the subject of my impairment is because I find it hard to articulate about this subject in other ways. For example, I don’t particularly like talking about it. Accordingly I need to find a way of promoting this work without putting myself in uncomfortable positions.
The outputs for the exhibition were the physical photos used and replications of them via secondary sources such as the book of the exhibits, our blogs, website and other websites like Source online. This meant that I produced several versions of the works all with different production values suited to each media; some worked better than others.
1) The exhibition images
Hanging: I used simple transparent hangers glued to the back of the foamboard. This looked amateur and clumsy compared to the others where the hanging mechanism was hidden. Next time rather rely on the good will of colleagues I will arrange for the images to be professionally hung.
Viewing height: It was Keith, one of the other participants, who was hanging my work, who contacted me to discuss what height to place the images. That is whether to follow established convention or lower them a little to make a statement about conventions, diversity and accessibility. We decided to lower them more from his idea than mine but I will almost always do this in future as the feedback from people seemed to be that the difference in hanging height it was noticeable and thought provoking without being disruptive to viewing. However unbeknown to us and following the Private Viewing, staff re-hung the images at the conventional height. Accordingly, if I depart from established hanging conventions in future I will be sure to tell the staff and ask them not to alter it.
Mixing work: one room held Nigel’s Shattered Coast and Tanya’s work. This influenced the viewing experience and was queried by one visitor when I was present. I think where at all possible its best to have dedicated rooms to show ones work as this helps orientate with and communicate to people.
Scale: In terms of scale I think Ramps needed to be much larger for the wall space, Landscape of Disability was okay and I was right to keep Paralysis small. I think I need to be much bolder with scaling up images as Keith’s Portraits were very very large and benefited from it. Those images of mine like Landscape could work at such a scale and others like ramps needed the individual image sections to stay the same size but I should have had more of them so the totality of the image was about AO size rather than A1.
2) Supporting material
Tanya had included little clipboards and paper placed under individual images in her Untitled series and this created a wholly different viewing dynamic. Rob included tiny cards with Quick Response codes on them. Both of these ideas were innovative and interesting so I need to think about the total viewer experience.
3) The book
Partway through the process of developing the exhibition Rob suggested we produce a book to accompany it. This was a great idea and Rob, as editor in chief, produced a book of the exhibition showing all the photos we exhibited. Keith secured a forward from Sharon Boothroyd and it is a wonderful artefact. Yet I made some mistakes with my contribution.
Paralysis was shown without boarders – that is the images were shown rather than photos of the physical images. The latter would have been better because they included the large boarders that helped inject compression into the series.
Tanya included some detailed copy in relation to individual images whereas I only included the overall statement. The book would have been better if I had included each series statement at the beginning of each set as without that some of the images such as Ramps are too open in their purely visual meaning.
The consumption of the exhibition
Visitor numbers: apparently the venue does not keep a record of visitors. This is something I would absolutely want in order to asses the value of presenting work. I also think that a collaboration with other groups or organisations to increase visitors to venues or careful timing could improve the footfall. For example, I was told that BSA often have a band in the venue and numbers increase because of this. So next time I would make sure I exhibit when a band is booked.
The Private Viewing: The private viewing was attended by 40 people which, given the remoteness of OCA’s student body, was very good. I was devastated not to get to that and fully expected my visit yesterday to be limited to enjoying seeing the group’s work and getting some feedback from the PV from Rob. This was not the case.
Yesterday’s visit: I was absolutely chuffed to find that because Rob had previously published the fact he would be attending the venue on the 19th July I decided come up as did quite a few others. Apologies to those not mentioned but I can recall Stan, Tim, Anne, and Rachel (along with associated family members) came as well as Gareth and a few unknown visitors so that the morning rushed by and before I knew it the time was 2pm.
[(6)] website hits: the website had 195 hits on July 9th – the day of the PV. My personal site traffic increased a little following the launch getting between 49 and 23 visitors per day.
Most, but not all, of the qualitative comments about the work and exhibition I have read are positive without being banal.
- Website – free
- Two Blurb Books £42.10
- Printing: (the cost of Ramps was already covered for my degree assessment); £155.81
- Exhibition space: £126.67
- 100 Postcards: £36.51
- Sundries eg hangers, etc £21.85
So the total cost of production was: £382.94.
The process was initiated by Rob and sustained by all of us though email and via our website. This worked well and overcame any time issues because of each of our locations. We negotiated the use of the space between us as Rob, Keith and Nigel hung my Dewald’s and Tanya’s work.
Was the activity worth it? Yes: my work reached a number of people it would not have; the endeavour provided a useful developmental activity in between completing my degree and beginning my Masters; I learned a lot about originality and replication, production values, the process of putting on an exhibition and contexts that should be invaluable in the future.
So a special thanks goes to the following: Rob for initiating it; Keith for his practical help and Tanya, Dewald, and Nigel for their general – emotional and energetic – encouragement. Here is one image just for them.
And of course, thanks to all those people who have taken the time to visit and consider the images, either on site or via the other media. Do leave a message – good or bad – about your view of the event.
And thanks for your time yesterday. It is so helpful to hear people talk about their own work. You raised some points that I hadn’t considered and have given me some “food for thought” which I much needed. So glad you had some people there to share it with you…. A mini second PV!
Thanks for coming Rachel. It was great meeting people I know online and I was indeed chuffed that enough came to make the time fly by.
Great to meet you, yesterday; and it was good to spend some time talking with you & others about the work – an ‘artists talk’, always a good learning process. We have all learned a lot from the efforts of the ‘6’, so ‘thanks’ for that, too. Good luck with the MA.
Thanks Stan, I studied for four years with the OCA without meeting one other student on person and in the past month I’ve met lots. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the time whooshed past.
Wish I could have been there Pete but at least I did get to see the Exhibition. You certainly seem to have learned so much from the process and I’ve learned from your analysis above as well. I was very struck by your ‘Photo of the Day’ – Strangers looking at your photos. How did that feel?
I’m just so chuffed so many people have taken the trouble to visit it Catherine. “Engaged and energised” is the answer to your question. It was great that two people with no connection had read a tweet and decided to come along. They clearly understood my intention of documenting the hidden without pity and articulating about it and it was a pleasure to talk to them.
I bet you can’t wait to move and get on with C&N 🙂
Glad you and Karen had a great day, love the photo of mine and Nigel’s walls too 🙂 Thanks.
I’ve read your review, very thorough! Having of course not seen the exhibition or talked to anyone in situ I can only talk about what I think via images I’ve seen!
1- I would’ve been mad at the gallery rehanging my pictures! I love the fact that they were at a lower level- I think it is important that people see difficult work and physically feel it – lowering the images was a subtle and effective way to do that.
2- re sizes, I am not bothered so much about size. I am bored by giant sized pictures everywhere, yes they are great if it is a really detailed interesting piece of work, but I like to get up close and personal. I just went to the Aperture opening where they had pics pinned to the wall in clusters and lots of 5x7s and you could see them perfectly well. I can’t comment on whether yours would be better bigger or smaller because i didn’t see them properly in the space.
With regard to mine (Walking the Gamut) I purposely made them fit the wall and be squashed together to make them more chaotic. A photographer I work with here said they should have been spaced apart but i didn’t want them to be seen as individuals but as a connected run on from one to the other. It worked for me but I don’t really know how it went down in the gallery.
3- Thanks for saying the clipboards were innovative and interesting (or was that to Rob!!?) I was worried that it would look tacky and ridiculous but I really wanted some participation. I guess i have spent too long in museums here with kids- they get much more invested when they have something physical to do rather than just waltzing through a room and not really connecting with the work. Of course the point of this work (Untitled) was to seek input from the viewer so it would have been useless without the notecards/clipboards. Even though I really wanted people to write (did you do one???) i also thought it enough that people read what others had written as a way into the work. I was really pleased to see a photo of someone reading the cards!
4 Sharing, obviously 6 into 5 rooms doesn’t go so someone had to share. I think that Nigel’s images with their strong colors worked best with my images I can’t imagine that they (or mine for that matter) would’ve sat better with any of the other works so I think it worked in that regard. Obviously if we had each had our own room it would’ve been better but it wasn’t an option. Did you say anything to the person querying the shared room? I thought that actually the room was small enough and shaped in such a way with the doorway, window and cubby hole that you could see a whole body of work on a wall without interference from the other walls.
I am really glad that you got up to Bank Street and congrats once again on your first show!
Hi Tanya, Thanks for commenting. Yesterday was a really enjoyable experience. The person who queried the sharing just wondered why so as the others were all in dedicated rooms. Rob explained the rationale -that we could have had a downstairs room but felt it better to keep all on one level. I also think that in an ideal context it would have been best to have all of us having dedicated rooms.
By the way your Walking the Gamut images are beautifully sickly and look great (no fantastical) in real life – they reminded me of Kebabs and nights before/mornings after.
Great review Pete and really glad you had your own PV….thanks to everyone who turned up also!!
Just a thought about hanging. I think the plastic hangers you used worked well, especially for the smaller lighter prints – I would use them in the future if the circumstances were right. I would have been tempted to place them lower on the reverse side of the board so that the hangers were not visible from the front. It might be necessary to place some small pads at the base of each print to help them to sit properly. Also the small foam core prints are very light and can blow around. We placed some masking tape on the back folded over so that it stuck to both the print and the wall – this stops them moving around.
As regards size of prints, I think it’s important to think about this in the context of the message you want to convey rather than to generalise. My prints were large because since the outset of that work I wanted the figures to be close to life size to engage a pseudo-psychological connection between the viewer and the person portrayed. This would not always be the case.
Thanks for your comment Keith. That’s a great idea re the pads to stop the images tilting and allowing me to hide the hanger – I will try that – thanks.
I agree re scale – I wasn’t aiming to generalise but rather make the point about context. My Ramps image looked massive at home and much smaller in situ – that’s all.
I will be seeking one last favour from you though Keith: will you be able to take my images back with you when the exhibition ends. (Not to worry if you can’t).
Yes no problem Pete. Will have Tanya’s too.
Good to get the chance to hear your talking about your work albeit only briefly. Like Keith I am not sure I agree about the hanging of your work. Rather than seeing the approach as amateur, I thought it fitting. The images in Paralysis in particular benefited from the approach – the hanging emphasised that these were images that were not ‘comfortable’ within the confines of an art gallery. This may have been fortuitous rather than planned, but I think there is room for serendipity.
Thanks for taking the time to come along (again) Gareth 🙂
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