Last week, I submitted my Assignment Five essay, a reflective account of the publication of my New Photographic Chemistry in the exhibition at Bank Street Arts; and yesterday I had a tutorial where the feedback, apart from a couple of suggested extensions, was that it is ‘there’. Not much more to say on that particular issue except to add a link to the essay, here: SYP Assignment Five Essay Stan Dickinson.
There is a second part to Assignment Five, which is to describe how one intends to submit for assessment. Some aspects of such a submission e.g. copies of assignment submissions, tutor reports etc, are obvious; but one is also conscious that this is the final submission for a visual arts based degree. So I have had in mind to produce a more extended version of something that I did for my Body of Work submission. I produced an A4 size Assessor’s Booklet, a sort of guide through my submission, which I hand-stitched as a small bound object, to give it a little extra character. I mentioned that in the second part of my Ass 5 submission and am being encouraged to follow it through – maybe even to do a small hand-made bound book. In fact, my tutor’s suggestions for reference points went a step further, referring to Duchamp’s ‘La Boîte-en-Valise’ . I’m not sure about going that far, but it does occur to me that I might reproduce the scale model of the exhibition (having donated the original to the gallery). Well, it’s either that or a fold-out, pop-up version in the hand-made book (and submission in 2018!).
(Assignment Three was also discussed in the tutorial and is coming together as a project, of which more to come.)
All done! The exhibition was installed on Thursday, open Friday & Saturday, with a social/private-view Friday evening and a student event Saturday; all taken down by 4pm Saturday afternoon (in time for the gallery’s comedy evening in that same space Saturday night!). Earlier in the week I had remarked that I had everything planned to the nth degree, so something was bound to go wrong. Nothing really did, apart from the middle one of those five frames in the foreground falling off the wall shortly after hanging (my fault) and breaking at the top right corner. We managed to fix it with some glue and a piece of ‘invisible’ tape – and no one noticed (or rather no one mentioned it!).
A formal reflection on this culmination of the publication of my work needs to form the core of Assignment Five, but here a a few informal and initial reflections:
- At a purely personal level, I’m very pleased with the way that I managed to present the work. Some details could have been better, inevitably, but I think I achieved the touch of spectacle, the variety, the use of space, and the visual interest that I was hoping for.
- That outcome was, I think, the result of good ‘research’ (I’ve learned a lot from contemporary art shows that I’ve seen in the last year or two) and meticulous planning. Fair to say, I think, this is something I take to more naturally than some artists.
- Which might be one of the reasons that I got a good response from the gallery, who have offered me the chance to do another micro-exhibition sometime next year; and encouraged me to consider some of their other opportunities, too.
- Response to the work and discussion about it with others is hugely beneficial and has, on the whole, gone really well. The audience has been a varied one – family/friends; gallery staff; fellow students; even the occasional walk-in visitor – though not large (whatever might define ‘large’, of course). I’m fairly sure that their engagement with the images/installation has been more than just ‘polite’ – testament to its visual appeal, I suspect. I enjoyed the anonymous comment in my ‘Comments’ book that said “It took me a while to realise it was a photography exhibition”. Good! One such casual visitor (not the same one) thought I’d painted the big mural on the far wall. Perhaps I’ll try that another time!
- I would observe that most such response has been on an aesthetic/formal/process basis, rather than a reading of significance in the images. I have to say that I don’t mind that in the least – whilst recognising that not everyone would feel that way. In many respects, I have begun to read it that way myself. Hopefully, for those who wish to find significance, there are enough opportunities to look and respond – and I’m pleased with that, too. But I’m also reminded of responses to Thomas Demand’s work, where one could argue that the only significance is that he made it. It’s a complex area of thinking – but there is, I think, genuinely a ‘new formalism’ in contemporary photographic art. It doesn’t appeal to everyone – but I’m quite happy to engage.
- The numbers for the Student Event on Saturday were disappointingly small. Huge thanks to those who did attend, of course – for making the effort to be there and for your contributions to the very useful discussion. I think it happened to clash with some other OCA Study Visits – and I must stress that I don’t feel any personal disappointment about it. I got what I needed from the day. But it seems a pity that more students at all levels couldn’t have seen the work. I am absolutely not blowing my own trumpet here, but I think it’s fair to say that this exhibition had much about it from which other OCA students could have gained. Anyway, “c’est la vie”.
- And finally, I have an exhibition here that could be transported and repeated elsewhere – so just need more locations!
So, overall, I’m satisfied and pleased; and I have the basis for preparing an Assignment Five submission in the next few weeks. Still need to do Assignment Three as well, of course.