Why you should leave your comfort zone and put your work out there.
A massive learning curve in this semester was the exhibition that I and a group of fellow artists held in March. Because it was my idea I was appointed the unofficial organiser of the event. It was a totally new experience for me – although I had experience of organising an exhibition last September there were only two of us and Tin Roof was quite an informal setting. You only have to send them a short statement of what the exhibition would generally be about and that is it until the actual installation.
Unfortunately Tin Roof was fully booked so we decided to have the exhibition someplace in Duncan of Jordanstone. This was a whole new experience for me as I had never had to go through this process so formally before. It included writing a proper exhibition proposal which we sat through and wrote as a group. I also took charge of the communication aspect – I was the one who made all the arrangements with Cicely, the DJCAD exhibitions curator.
Once all the dates were arranged, posters made and space organised we hit a massive wall. The exhibition had been double booked by accident. Now we only had one choice: to change the date to only a few weeks away – a significantly less amount of time to finish our work and prepare. This is when 5 people dropped out of the exhibition.
Now at this point, I won’t lie, I was super stressed. The situation as a whole wasn’t very fair, it left several people unhappy and they didn’t feel they could show their work. They felt it wasn’t developed enough and they wouldn’t be happy displaying it. It also meant that we couldn’t as a whole name the exhibition after our studio and there weren’t enough of us to fill the space anyway.
This revelation induced a kind of fight or flight response in me. On one hand I could just tell everyone to forget the whole thing. We’d had experience of writing a proposal etc, and that is beneficial. But on the other hand I didn’t want to give up. We had put so much organising and effort into the space that I felt it was a ‘now or never’ situation.
Ultimately I thought about the degree show when I made this decision. If something drastic happens then – like we have to change spaces unexpectedly – then giving up would simply not be an option.
We re-booted the whole exhibition, calling it RE-C.A.P after our course name: Contemporary Art Practice. I didn’t feel at that time my work was fully finished or developed but this is what showing your work is about. Being able to show it then get a critique on what you have done and change it or rework it accordingly.
Needless to say, I shouldn’t have been worried because the opening night and the exhibition was a massive success. Even though I was printing leaflets at the very last second it all worked out fine, plus all of our pieces worked really well together despite all of us having very different approaches to work.
I had a really great response to my three far more polished pieces of photography which I was happy about because that is where I had spent most of my time on. The other fern pieces were less developed and didn’t work as well with the main three pieces so I learned I needed to change this. I learned a great deal on how I like to present and should change with my presentation and also what I could add to my work. Even little things like realising I needed to change the paper, I probably wouldn’t have discovered until assessment week so I am so glad I took the plunge and exhibited them.
Ultimately I feel it is important to leave your comfort zone and exhibit your work. Even if you feel you don’t want to show it I would take the chance anyway because feedback on your work is critical. I never thought i’d be able to organise an exhibition and feel capable of doing so, but things have a funny way of surprising you.