Assignment one: Asking for Feedback

For this assignment I dovetailed SYP with my work in progress for BoW. As I was in the process of leaving Liverpool I took the opportunity to accumulate work that I could process once I arrived in KL. While I was undertaking A4 for BoW, I initiated two interviews with professionals in the public arts sector. Firstly I met with Jenny Porter, who is senior project manager at Metal. I also interviewed Sarah Fisher, director of Open Eye Gallery.

The purpose of this feedback was for me to see what potential avenues my BoW could be directed towards and also to troubleshoot the kind of practical challenges I might encounter by collaborating in the future with an institution. I shared roughly the same presentation that is available in the link below and asked specifically five questions which are outlined in the final page of the document. What I have presented to them has been revised to include a new artist statement, biography and extracts from my credentials which have been reconsidered during the exercises throughout part one of the module. I also sent this document to them to see if there is any follow-up on their original feedback.

I have written-up and edited the feedback to the five questions on the final page of the assignment document. The introduction and artist statement I shared in the original interview with Sarah and Jenny was the commentary in BoW for A3.

What potential interest would my major project garner in the public arts sector?

SF - Most of the cultural sector is very much concerned and interested in the public, because we are funded by the government, and to talk to people in the world. My job, and my interest is in the world, and how people interact with art, which came through in the work but absolutely not in the text. So my first feedback if you are interested in working with the cultural sector I would not use those references. The Tate and here (at Open Eye) we talk about art bollocks and what we mean by that is try really hard not to use the jargon that sits within a very particular world.

JP - Well I definitely think it has a relationship to architecture. Commissions in the public space I could see in places like waiting rooms and atriums of an office building where you want to create a point of contemplation that would lend itself well to. The public sector is so broad. It has a place in the contemporary art cannon because of some of the references you are talking about. It feels that in the public sector it could have a place in a space like this (Metal, Edge Hill station), which isn’t so much an exhibition space, but a place where people come for different reasons. There’s lots of different ways you could take it. It’s quite interesting just the interventions within the street. If you weren't looking to profit in any way they are a unique take on street art coming across these fragments of time. 

What format/medium would my major project best take within a gallery space? (i.e. Residency, performance, demonstration, etc)

SF - We have moved away from self-referential art, art about aesthetics and the medium because that is not how it operates in the world. I am being quite hard here but your work in the real world would be real, so it would require a quite a broad context which would include the history of the space, peoples relationship to that space and so on. I am saying these things because if you wanted to work with the cultural sector you would need to embrace those other broader contexts, as you do in the commercial world, the only difference is you have much more influence because people would come to you because of your work as opposed to competing for a brief.

JP - Residencies are an interesting one. Because the typical nature of them are about responding to new surroundings. Depending on the inviting organisation there’s either a lot of restrictions or no restriction. You would agree what you would do for the institution such as workshops or artist talks as well. It would work in a biennial if it fit the theme. Or as I said about the interventions by no invitation but by your own agency installing for yourself. It would also be interesting to approach institutions with the idea of collaborating with another discipline like sculpture.

Do you have any suggestions for income streams, sustainability of development to realise this work?

SF - Many photographers in the cultural sector have a second income, doing commercial work, workshops, teaching etc. There’s definitely potential there. The question I would ask is who would want to do a workshop? Who are the people who would want to? What is the market for your idea? Workshops are a saturated market and most participants either are interested in photography or people going off to study in college. There is market but it is a particular one, there are people who would be interested but you need to know who they are. It could be via a cultural organisation if they had an established focus on workshops. You may need to wash your face and try some things first. You could look at funding that is connected to the public realm.

JP - That’s the elephant in the room with conceptual ideas. I think you’ve semi answered it yourself. You could demonstrate your own way of working that markets yourself. Like I said about the waiting rooms it has a commercial potential but it is how specific you want to stick to your idea. Does the work evolve because of the space? You could be commissioned to make art to provide interest on walls. Or to fulfil your own motivations as an artist you can say I really like this space, do something in it and document it. Then you could produce a nice publication of all the work you made that boosts your profile as an original thinker etc. I like the idea you’ve shown the hotel room that’s like a documentation of time passing (and presence). Going back to architecture, have you spoken to any architects about their response? The play of light on buildings, they are always striving to achieve that in the ideas stage and maybe you could get in with an architect firm and once it is realised you could conceive a piece that shows off your skills as a designer as well.

What kind of logistical problems would I potentially encounter bringing this work to a formal setting?

SF - Some private spaces like the atrium outside, the residents have an opportunity to use it subject to risk assessment. People from outside can hire the space. It is hard to work in the cultural sector without a track record of delivering on something. If you are prepared to commit to your work for a period of time and have a more substantial portfolio there is a greater assurance for an organisation to commit to investing in your work. From that the organisation can assist in the logistical sides of making a work into a formal setting. Again it is all down to track record. It may not change your interests but it may change the way in which your interests manifest.

JP - Those things are very site-specific. With art projects that exist like this there is a pre-risk assessment, so the installing of it, and then the public element of how it exists. So if you were to do a collage piece in the subway here (Edge Hill train station) then it would be subject to the rail network, whose risk assessment is really stringent. We would have to submit a risk assessment, method statement about how you were going to photograph the piece. Then about installing the work, do you need scaffolding, areas cordoned off, how long for and so on. There is an art in itself to writing this kind of risk assessments. Most artists now are getting on to the fact that you need public liability insurance that would cover this kind of work. Do you employ someone as an assistant and are they covered?

Further ambitions include installations and large scale site-specific displays/mosaics, what kind of risk assessments, permits, compromises to an artwork would I need to consider?

SF - Again it comes back to track record. If you were working in the same way as graffiti artists, which is not a bad idea in the first instance actually, to do that intervention and look at how that operates. Film it! See what kind of reaction you get. It is sort of following through on ideas before looking too far ahead. And then trying to make them more and more engaging in a way that satisfies you but also the public. Building up a body of work that people can then know about will help. It is about developing a name. I think you’ve got something, it is something that could work. It is probably going to be a painful process trying it out and getting feedback.

JP - Again you have to get permission. There are things that are unexpected which you will come across with experience. You’ll find that sometimes its just not going to work or it is the wrong space for it. If you were applying to do it here, anything that exists in the public domain there is someone you need to ask permission. It can be a buildings manager who can say yes or no. It might be the owner who wants you to do the work so after that it is easy.  It is so dependant on where, sometimes it is like, 5% of the work is the idea and the achievement can be that you actually get to deliver something so you need to be prepared to compromise.

After revising the text for this assignment I followed-up again with Sarah and Jenny via email to share the finalised document. 

SF - Looks very professional. Like the images of images in situ. Strong body of work. Also think the text works well. So thumbs up from me!