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.