Exhibition: Dematerial – Private View
by Beauchamp Art
Documentation of the Dematerial Private View at the Fabric Warehouse on the 24th of March, 2014
Elizabeth Aubury walks across her plaster sculptures as part of her installation performance, inviting members of the audience and fellow artists, such as Bryony Goose here, to participate.
For the Dematerial exhibition, we hosted a private view/opening event on the Monday at the start of the exhibiting week, from 12.30 onwards. In preparation for this, we had set up all of our work on the previous Friday, giving ourselves the weekend and Monday morning time enough to make any further adjustments in time for the opening. Although the Fabric Warehouse was open to the public, we did anticipate that the majority of the audience would be fellow NUA students.
Given that the majority of the audience an exhibition such as this, and similar student events, will be in attendance at the private view, then it important to promote the event thoroughly beforehand, by distributing posters around the university and local establishments that students and related persons may come upon naturally – the usual selection of notice-boards, studio walls, and bar doors all receiving a poster featuring the details of the event, the artists, and the title. A digital copy of the poster was also sent around the university online forums, and distributed by email via our course leader, Carl Row. Copies of the poster were also placed at the entrance to the Fabric Warehouse, and on the stairwell leading up the gallery space. In addition to this, I suggested to everyone involved in the exhibition to spread the word, inviting people face to face, mentioning the time, location, and the provision of refreshments, as asking people directly seems the most effective was of ensuring people will come along.
Inevitable, people tend to accumulate around the refreshments table, as we had all contributed to the purchasing of food and drinks, we also made use of these (all of which were purchased by Elizabeth, with some home made items also included). It was also necessary to position them so that the audience would be interacting with the work throughout the event, so the refreshments table was placed at the back of the gallery, so the audience would walk through the full space, seeing all of the work, rather than placing it nearer the entrance (as I had seen at a previous exhibit here; and from more general experience, it always worth having such things away from the main walk ways, or they tend to become cluttered, and people see the work less).
As the success of an exhibition is often measured by the response of the audience at the private view, rather than the inert quality of the work or display, then providing a welcoming atmosphere, and a range of refreshments; food stuffs and drinks; helps to ensure people stay for longer and enjoy the discussion stimulated by the surrounding work; providing an engaging platform for discourse in a social environment, allowing the featuring artists, including myself, to receive direct feedback about their work, and how effective the pieces worked in conjunction with everyone else’s work within the exhibition.
Refreshments for the audience and exhibiting artists [a range of snacks; sweets, crackers, flap-jack made by Elizabeth, along with fresh juice and fizzy drinks – no wine for a Monday lunchtime]
As acting photographer for the exhibition, there was as sense of needing to be invisible to capture people interacting with the work naturalistically, though realistically this is impossible, I attempted to make myself discreet (however, running around in yellow trousers, pointing a camera in people’s faces, and sleuthing away to take more pictures every time a group of people look inquisitively at a piece does tend to draw attention to oneself).
Moreover, as Elizabeth’s performance was auto-destructive and especially ephemeral, it was necessary to prioritise the happenings of this piece over the other static works, thought I still manage to take a number of pictures of everyone’s work surrounded by an eager audience. However, as I was not the only one taking pictures, and there was a collective documentary effort by all those involved, and Elizabeth was filming and recording her piece for her own use. The private view also provides a larger audience for her performance, and allows a greater level of interaction and direct involvement of the artist with the viewer. Unsurprisingly, the enthusiasm of some of the interactions did result in a small amount of mess and debris being distributed around the gallery space, and evidence of the performance spread from its original location. Though initially everyone was tentative about crushing the plaster spheres, by the end it had descended into a mournful mania, destroying the products of another’s efforts through joyful jigging and play – which did keep the even lively for a reasonable period.
Audience members watching my Drive video composition.
All of the photographs were shared so that anyone within the exhibition could have access to the pictures. However, as I was also in role of the curator, I felt a responsibility to ensure a professional level of documentation of the private view, for my and everyone else’s benefit (much as I had documented setting up and people’s works in the exhibition). This meant I took a large number of pictures of the private view, and then selected the best examples, trying to ensure a balance of audience and works; editing each picture individually to ensure the most detail of each picture was available to the viewer. (This mostly involved adjusting the contrast of the images, lightening the shadow, removing noise, and decreasing the saturation of the light sources, as the inside lights were considerably warmer than the bluish light coming through the windows; which was not noticeable or negative for the exhibition itself, but could prove to reflect negatively if not corrected.) The others that exhibited seemed to respond positive to how their work was shown in my images. Although I suspect that Bethany’s sculptures could have been shown in better light, with evidence of the audience examining her work directly, rather than falling into the background, though I shall make note to include a more balanced distribution of images in the future – though as there was such a crowd around her were, they were undoubtedly seen by a fair number of people, though it is representing this photographically that proved problematic.)
Nevertheless, one of the other works that I found difficult to document with an audience was my own, given the darkened space, and the positioning of the works, a sizable crowd was unable to gather without obstructing the projector, and the harsh, abrasive flashing images were deliberately difficult to watch for an extended period, giving the moving images no resolve or narrative; an existentialism I approve of, but it still would have been appreciated if more people had looked at my work for an extended period. Nevertheless, some of the individuals that did view the video for longer seem to receive it positively (especially those individuals whom were also participating Video Art workshops with Mark Waller, whom I was displaying related work with on the Friday of the same week, using the same equipment, set up with a different video). Furthermore, my photographic works were slightly difficult to see in the darkened area, though there was still a light on overhead, my section was the only area without natural light; which was necessary for the video work.
A crowd investigating Charlie Barkus’ thread and nail drawings along side Aaron Taylor’s Damage documentation images.
The number of people in attendance was surprisingly positive, with the gallery being relatively full for the length of the private view; which opened at 12.30, most people arrived around 12.45, and by 1.00 it was full, and people kept coming, with a few going for another half an hour, before it began to die down around 1.30, and by 2.00 most people were gone, though some other who could not make it to the main event came along after, being able to examine the works at their own leisure, and the traces of plaster lingering throughout the gallery.
This is definatly one of the best private view experiences I have hosted, I am thankful for the enthusiasm of my fellow exhibiting artists, and those that took the time to come along. I think have students from each year help with the publicity, as everyone spread word amongst their peers, not just limited to Fine Art (I also put up posters in some of the other departments of the university, which I am hoping helped contribute to the turn out). From talking with those in attendance, people seemed to be mostly positive, appreciating the use of the gallery space, which was useful to know given my role as shared curator, in that we managed to present the majority of people’s work in a way that was beneficial to them.
It was also good to see some of the tutors in attendance at the private view, including Krysztof (who is my tutor and will be assessing this unit – though I will be providing extensive documentation, having one’s tutor in attendance to an actual event can be useful, and one can gauge their experience and reaction directly) and Catherine (and I was informed that others came along later in the week).
Overall, I believe the private view went well, and the sizable audience appreciated the works on display as well as the use of the space.