Week 9 – Curating an Exhibition

I had the opportunity to curate the hanging of the exhibition of the East Sutherland Camera Club (ESCC) at the Grace of Dornoch Café and Deli.  The photo collection was comprised of the regular contest winners in the three categories of colour, monochrome, and creative (altered reality), along with the club’s selected entries for the Highland Challenge, an annual interclub competition among a half dozen or so camera clubs in the Highland’s.

While in the past ESCC has only shown their work in the Brora Library during the month of August, the committee (of which I am part) was convinced to exhibit in other communities to promote the club and showcase the excellent work of local photographers.  As I had done an exhibition of my own work last August at the Grace Café I was able to secure the space again this year for the ESCC show.  In the past, the exhibition was always hung in the 4 categories in conventionally oriented fashion without necessarily considered visual or topical continuity. For the Grace exhibit I was given free rein to organise the show as I saw fit, so I chose to group the work differently and to arrange it with an eye to visual continuities and transitions.

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At the extreme right are a group of portraits.  At the center is a puffin, while surrounding are 4 portraits of people arranged such that their gaze is directed a the puffin.  To the left of that grouping are the landscapes with the upper row arranged such that there is a gradual transition through the colour palette and the horizons are roughly aligned.  The lower row is slightly more eclectic mix of photos in the landscape category that include colour, monochrome and some altered reality photos.

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One next wall to the left are a grouping that are based around a theme of circular forms and next that grouping another of more linear geometric forms.

The two photos that did not fit into any of these other groupings, an owl and a highly manipulated image of a boy gazing at the sea each got their own space on a smaller section of wall.

 

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I am pleased to say the exhibit was generating a good bit of interest and discussion among café customers on the opening day and hopefully will continue to generate footfall as the word of mouth and the social media advertising take hold.

I believe these opportunities to think critically about how work should be exhibited and viewed to develop a hang plan as well as the logistics involved with securing locations, planning the use of space and the actual logistics and process of getting work on the wall are valuable bits of education and experience that will continue to serve me well in future.

 

FMP Research – Week 4

I travelled to the Netherlands and Belgium to visit museums and galleries in Rotterdam and Antwerp to further research how work was being exhibited and how those techniques might be applied to my work for FMP.  I also looked at many photobooks and had the benefit of the principal exhibition in the Fotomuseum Antwerp be about the history of Belgian Photobooks.

My first stop was Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. The main exhibit was a retrospective of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elksen titled “Lust for Life.”  It was quite differently curated and hung than the Cas Oorthuis, “Dit is Cas” exhibition I saw last September, and I appreciated how the museum’s curatorial staff adapted their techniques to the suit the artist’s work so effectively. Several aspects stood out in the “Lust for Life” exhibition: 1) Simplicity of the photographic installation – edge to edge printing, no mounting except very thin backing board (Fig 1);

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Figure 1- Minimal mounting

2) How effective both solid white and solid black walls were in making the colour photos stand out with neither being more or less effective or detracting (Fig 2);

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Figure 2- Black and White Walls

3) The use of simply constructed temporary modules to augment fixed wall space and to direct flow (Figs 3-5). Simple, relatively inexpensive, but effective construction that served multiple purposes as display space and traffic director.  Being exposed also provided a contemporary and almost casual feel that suited Ed van der Elksen’s style and subject matter;

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Figure 3- Temporary Walls

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Figure 4 – Temporary Wall construction

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Figure 5 -Temporary construction

4) How effective projected images with either some narration or music were (Fig 6);

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Figure 6 – Projected Images with Temporary Construction

and 5) Perhaps my favourite part of the exhibition was a multi-screen projected  series of images set to music and introduced with text slides at the major transition points presented in a ‘living room’ setting with a mix of sofas and chairs randomly arranged (Fig 7).  Viewers were provided with headsets to listen to the music that accompanied the images and it made the viewing very intimate and personal.

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Figure 7 – Multi-Screen projected display

This images projected were in many cases the same as those shown in the main gallery upstairs as individual images on the walls, but I found this to be very engaging and dynamic as the images changed at different times on each of the screens and required the viewers eyes to move quickly between images in contrast to upstairs where one could linger with an image and study it in detail.  While upstairs didn’t promote a narrative and the photos were somewhat randomly arranged in terms of location and time frame, the downstairs projected version was far more narrative and organised in logical segments, topically or chronologically.

I can see this as a very viable approach to exhibiting my work if I can find the appropriate space and solve the technological aspects as it would allow a fast paced, coherent narrative approach while the still image prints in another section would allow the viewer to engage with specific images more fully.

Antwerp was the next stop and I took in several venues while there.  Fotomuseum Antwerp was largely between major exhibitions and was a flurry of activity preparing for 3 openings the following week.  However, the exhibit that was open was on the history of the photobook in Belgium. Figure 8 is an except from the exhibition introduction. It describes the significance of the photobook as a media form as well as the history of the place the photobook has held in Belgian history.

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Figure 8 – Photobook Belge Exhibition Introduction

Many of the books were understandably behind glass cases, but the curators used tablet computers with video of the books being turned page by page which I found a clever way of allowing the public to see inside these rare books.  There we also a number of books located throughout the exhibition that were available to the visitor to sit and look through selected books.  A large number of the books on exhibit were created during the colonial period and dealt with the African colonies and their inhabitants.  Many were propaganda and the curators addressed the notion of “colonial gaze” head on in the introduction to that section of the exhibit.

Mounted on one wall were pages from a 1911 book that chronicled a vegetation survey in the various districts of Belgium (Fig 9-10).  I found this interesting and relevant in its similarity to work I have been undertaking, but also in something that I have perhaps been remiss in recording in my work; latitude and longitude information.  That is an omission I intend to correct, particularly since the camera can be set to record that information in the metadata automatically.

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Figure 9 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

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Figure 10 – 1911 Vegetation Survey Plate

The exhibition also touched on the inter-relationship between words and images.  I thought the introduction to this section displayed in Figures 11 and 12 summarised the issue well.

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Figure 11 – Photobook Belge exhibit section

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Figure 12 – Detail of above

So while the prints in the Nederlands Fotomuseum exhibition were unframed and uniform in size and placement, the Saul Lieter exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE and the exhibits in the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) were decidedly different.  While the Lieter photos were all mounted and framed in a similar way, they were not all the same size and they were hung quite differently on different walls.  Some were evenly spaced and set at uniform height, while others were arranged in patterns nearly symmetrical, but not quite (Fig 13).

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Figure 13- Lieter Exhibition at Gallery FIFTY ONE

I was unable to discern a reason for the arrangement and order in which these photos were hung, but it shows that it is not essential to have symmetry in a hanging plan.  Similarly at M HKA there were exhibits that demonstrated asymmetry, but also there were others that were more traditionally arranged (Figs 14-16).

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Figure 14 – M HKA asymmetry example 1

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Figure 15 – M HKA asymmetry example 2

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Figure 16 – M HKA symmetry example 1

As is evident in Figures 14-16 all the photos were mounted and framed in a similar way, however, in other areas, simple thin backing with edge to edge prints were used (Fig 17), and in another area bordered prints were pinned to the wall with no mounting at all (Fig 18).

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Figure 17 – M HKA thin backing, edge to edge print

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Figure 18 – M HKA pinned print

The final point from M HKA was an installation of newspaper clippings that occupied 4 walls in a large section of the gallery.  The clippings were seemingly each randomly mounted on coloured backing paper and then arranged according to the colour together on one wall (Fig 19).

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Figure 19 – M HKA Newspaper clippings

As I am considering using references to on-line and print media as part of my exhibition, this was informative.  I don’t believe I would choose to replicate this format, but it was interesting to see how current news was gathered and collated to create an art installation.

In summary, this research provided some valuable insights into the ways exhibitions can be staged and proof that there is no one correct way to stage a successful exhibition.  It also offered some stimulating ideas that I plan to explore further in coming weeks.

Research – Exhibitions

Over the next week I will be visiting museums and galleries in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Liege and Brussels with an eye toward seeing different ways of exhibiting work that will help to inform the way that I will chose to exhibit my FMP.  I will be looking specifically for effective exhibition strategies, particularly with a series of work that includes a narrative sequence.  I want to see how artists and curators create a visual narrative and to see how much it depends on explanatory or accompanying text, or whether it can also be done without.

As I refine the theme of my FMP and begin to collect the work that will be required, I am also considering how it will be edited, curated and displayed. Among the ideas for my exhibition is a concept published in my FMP proposal and repeated below.

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I look forward to reporting on what I will have seen next week.

Exhibitions – Closing out Surfaces & Strategies and transitioning into Sustainable Prospects

As part of Surfaces and Strategies we were meant to put on a physical exhibition.  Due to timing issues with the exhibition space, I was unable to do my exhibition until the week after assignments were submitted.  Nonetheless, I did hold a physical exhibition at a local cafe where the owner was very pleased to have my work and asked that it stay on beyond the original week that was planned, and has asked to have some of my work permanently available for display and sale.

I selected work in three categories and organised the work accordingly.  I chose the groupings because I wanted to not only show some of the project work on Coul Links which is a topic of interest locally, but also to show work that I suspected would appeal to the people who might view the exhibition.  The section on the left showed elements of my repeat photography work and how noticeably the landscape changed with the seasons, while the section on the right introduced elements of how Coul Links is used today.  The centre section was devoted primarily to macro and super macro work because I thought it would capture the interest of the viewers.

Organising how the the pieces of work were to be displayed was accomplished on the floor of a spare bedroom where I laid out and kept shifting the work until I thought it was thematically and visually cohesive and coherent.  In order to facilitate the hanging, as we had a fairly small time window to get everything on the wall, I made spacing templates out of mounting board that would allow consistent spacing between the photos in each group.  I also made caption placards and descriptive placards for the the sections that explained in more detail what was being shown.  We used a string and a level to get the top line established and from there used the spacing templates to efficiently and quickly mount the photos on the wall.

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Additionally, on the evening of the opening reception I had a video set to music of aerial drone footage running on loop and that drew a great deal of interest.  The video provided views of Coul Links that even those who were familiar with the land had never seen.  The opening reception on 27 September 2018 was a great success.  It was attended by about 30 people before the evening was out. I sold two copies of my 19 Sutherland Bridges book and had several expressions of interest in purchasing photos that were being displayed.

I found it interesting how different images resonated with different people.  Some people really liked the landscapes, while others loved the sheep, but the greatest share of strong positive reactions were for various images in the super macro work.  I had initially resisted the idea of doing the physical exhibition, but in the end was very glad that I did even if it didn’t happen until the assessment period.  I am indebted to Donald Goldsmith, the owner of Grace of Dornoch Cafe and Deli for making his establishment available and catering the opening reception all at no cost to me.

On 24 September I was invited by the Dornoch Chapter of the Scottish Women’s Institute to give a 45 minute talk and exhibition of my landscape and wildlife work.  While I brought some of the photos used in the prior exhibition, this event was primarily and slideshow of 90 pieces of work and accompanying commentary.  This evening also went exceptionally well and the attendees were interested and engaged throughout. I received a large number of positive comments and lovely letter after the event.

I am looking forward to the next opportunity to display my work and hope to be able to have even larger prints than the A3 and A4 sizes I used in these events.  I do need to sort out how to properly value my work so I can set prices prior to beginning an exhibit.