This week was our curation group’s exhibition install. I think it was quite a wake up call for everyone that communication is most definitely key when it comes to artists, as we encountered many issues during both days of installation.
One of the main challenges was knowing how much/little influence we were allowed to have over an artist’s work, and whether or not the artist should have control in which specific pieces to exhibit out of the work they presented initially. With Siris’ work, as mentioned in my last entry, we ended up relinquishing this control of choice for the sake of argument and because we wanted him to feel comfortable with the work that was exhibited and happy with the presentation of his personal practice. However, upon arriving in the exhibition space, I think the general feeling was that the works were quite unfinished looking, and the printing process had left errors – there were small marks on the surface and the canvas paper had not adhered to the mdf board properly, leaving untidy edges. Siris was aware of the issues and quite happy to exhibit the works without editing them, however again, this is where communication was an issue – mentally I think we’d imagined the works larger and in a universal, quality printed format, but what we were given was sort of unrefined and challenging to integrate into the space. The same went for a few other artists – Naomi’s work, again, we imagined multiple, large format prints, but last minute she’d had to downsize the so that the photos maintained their quality, meaning that for the sake of filling the space, we had to ask for more work. Another issue was in preparing for works that were not necessarily finished and had to be ‘made’ in-situ. Jo’s work, a piece that was still evolving, required liquid to be poured on the floor and a teacup to be smashed in the project space, something that didn’t sit well with us as curators or with health and safety! We hadn’t prepared for the work to cause any problems or require permission from the estates team and so in hindsight, it would have been good to know about this and be able to set the space up for that purpose or discuss with Jo beforehand to be able to find a solution/compromise.
Another issue that we found was the actual logistics/technicalities of the space, and the way that planning was not adequate enough when it came to deciding where the works went. It was really interesting – once we placed all of these works in one space, they actually did converse with each other. In some ways, this conversation was not necessarily appropriate. Initially, we planned to have Shona’s work and Siris’ opposite each other for aesthetic purposes, however once in the space, it was clear that Shona’s piece would alter the meaning of Siris’ so that it would be further misread. Here you can see in Shona’s work about trust in sexual relationships; the pose is very similar to Siris’, which is about mental illness. Obviously, not a connection we wanted people to make.
Another issue we encountered, purely from a technical perspective, was our lack of knowledge in hanging larger works according to health and safety guidelines. We didn’t really have access to a drill at the time, and so we used nails instead of screws hanging up Both Robyn and Tom’s larger work. Robyn’s went up fine using this method, however Tom’s was not very secure and so we decided to try and come up with an alternate solution on the following day. By this point, staff from the 3D workshop had told us that we could not attach things to the wall using nails because the chipboard supports were too thin, and so we had to starrt from scratch with hanging and use mirror plates. I think ultimately this was a lesson in preparation, but also in using initiative for us. Although we had not been asked to talk to the 3D workshop staff prior to the install, we probably should have taken upon ourselves to go down there and talk to them so that we were prepared to hang these larger pieces safely.
Overall, I think we, perhaps more than any other group, had lots of problems on a personal and technical level, although I think that some of these problems were just due to bad luck on our part. We all communicated with each other and were all as involved as we could be with the project, however this did not stop problems arising. I think that throughout we remained professional and stayed very focused on our ideas – from the start, the name DIALECTICAL, and the notion of all these sometimes similar and sometimes radically different pieces of work conversing and interacting on a visual and intellectual level, has remained clear. Now that the install is finished, It’s quite easy to make connections and enjoy how the works react to each other and to the space. I’ve found the exercise very trying at times, because I think ultimately, a lot of things that we had very little control over were blamed on us and as a group we’ve received some criticism over the way we approached artists. However, I think by challenging the people we were working with to step out of their comfort zone and relinquish control, some amazing work was produced.