Sunday, 31 July 2016

How to Survive a Juried Show- a short guide for artists

The first question you should ask yourself is:  What is the focus or goal of the exhibition?  In other words, do I fit in?  Will it serve my interests as an artist?

Not surprisingly, different shows attempt to do different things.  Study the call for entry.  Does it have a mandate?  Check: location of venue, size, time and duration of show: are they appropriate for you?  Think about traffic to the area; high traffic areas and locations and times are necessary to shows geared for visibility and sales, while a prestigious location is useful in promoting legitimacy.

One of the reasons you should study or assess the show is that it hopefully clarifies two things: the organizers expectations and your own motivation for entering or applying to the show.  Notice they are not necessarily the same thing!

Identifying and if possible coordinating motivations avoids compromise, conflict and disappointment.  It is worth your while.

So, what do you want?  To be discovered by the public, collectors, dealers and the press?  Is it simply wider exposure or do you require the company of the best of your peers?  Do you need to beef up your resume or are cash and awards the real motive?

How does this dovetail with the organizers' objectives?  Try thinking about objectives such as: to spotlight quality work to stimulate informed discussion, to enliven the association and its image, to fulfill its membership obligations.

Meanwhile the jurors are praying that good work will be submitted, that they will pick the best pieces to form a consistent show within the mandate.  Jurors do not set the mandate.

If you didn't get in (it can feel personal when your work is turned down), check to see how well your work fit the theme of the show.  Ask yourself the hard question about quality of the work, how it was represented in terms of photography.  Look at your written support material. Were your application complete and your ideas clear?  Even a title can make a difference.  Was the technique or materials a significant departure from your previous work. 

Be philosophical and submit the piece someplace else.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The tattoo trail takes me to Toronto

Silicone body parts were giving to tattoo artists to "embellish" for the show.

You know you are obsessed with tattoos when it shapes your vacation.  I spent last week in Toronto to visit the tattoo exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.  This is a traveling exhibition from France, the Musée du Quai Branly to be exact.  It has had various titles in its tour.  It is a relatively modest show in physical metres or feet but it feels big.  The research is deep and spans antiquity to modernity, from religion to art, from circus to tattoo studio.  Oh, and the globe!  Japan, Thailand, and U.S.A., continental Europe– you name it.  Sadly, not Canada.  They do list Yann Black from Montreal in their Acknowledgements page but perhaps people will participate in the #ROM ink and that would be a whole other dimension.  And I will give the ROM full points for its day of lectures that did include Canadian scholars working in tattoo culture.

This from the circus component of the show.  It is a tattooist's travel case.
The biggest treats for me in the show were the videos.  Nearly each component or thematic area was complemented with touch screens featuring videos.  So, for example, you could see the pandemonium of a Yantra ceremony in Thailand.  One woman commented over my shoulder "what the heck is going on there?"  And so, I found myself explaining how yantra tattoos are forms of protection, sacred texts and the wearers go once a year to this spot to get them blessed, recharged if you will.  Their energy builds up and then the wearers go into rapture, exhibiting the animal spirits tattooed over their heart chakras.  Saffron robed monks are spraying them down with hoses.  Think of it as a combination of crowd control crossed with holy water.  The two teenagers my co-visitor was with thanked me and asked if I could give them a tour of the exhibit.  I was tempted.

After spending hours in this exhibit and a lunch break, I camped out in the bookstore.  The ROM has put together some pretty good reads on the topic of tattoo culture.  My favourite was a book about traditional tattooing among aboriginal peoples of North America.  But I didn't buy it because my meagre budget was going on the hard copy version of the exhibition catalogue - at $85.  I will admit that I spent the afternoon reading the books I didn't buy.  That's why there are benches in the gift shop, right?

The experience that I found most amusing on this trip, which had many delights, was a completely random event.  I was striding crossing a park the next day in TO.  I was going to read in Allan Gardens under the palm trees in the greenhouse.  I had the catalogue riding on my hip (it is 303 pages) and someone sings out to me, "Do you like tattoos?" Long story short:  I end up looking at "warrior ink", this man was inked in a penitentiary (he named two of them but frankly I am not up on my prisons) as a member of the "Indian Brotherhood"; he was Cree and born on nearby Regent Street. We talked for several minutes before I excused myself.  I got the feeling that the man had been able to turn his life around for the better.  Brian seemed disappointed that I didn't have a tattoo of my own to show him.  I explained that I studied tattoos.  I laughed when he said that I should take his photograph at no charge.  I really never know what my day will be filled with on the tattoo trail.  And no, I didn't take his photograph.
The catalogue is worth the $85.