Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Emily Speed
Rather than talk about my work on here (I have tried it and it seems to make me quite despondent) I have decided it will be far more helpful for me to explore some of the issues facing artists trying to make a living out of this business...
# 241 [30 January 2011]
New Yoik blog.
I am back. It was incredibly snowy - they've had something like 50 inches this month. I really had the most amazing time and met some great people.
Tha reason I was invited was to take part in a panel for a seminar on artists' books. This was because my book 'Unfolding Architecture' is in an exhibition by Women's Studio Workshop (the publishers) at the Grolier Club in New York. http://www.grolierclub.org/
This was the most bizarre pairing in many ways - a DIY space set up in 1974 by four women showing in a stuffy (but beautiful) private club for fine book binding. It was also very pink inside. But I felt like this was WSW getting appreciated for the incredible work they've been doing over the years. Judging by all the people that came to the seminar, they have many fans.
So I was on the panel, and I managed not to blush or stutter too much. When asked what I had taken with me from my residency at WSW, I replied that their generous funding, support and proper provision for artists during the residency I did had made me really question the conditons that artist often accept. I went on to mention this blog and the fact that I hope to advocate better conditions. This kind of dominated the questions afterwards, further proof for me of how much people want to engage in the discussion around money and value. There were jokes after too, oh careful, she'll want paying. They were just jokes too, but I always want to stress that it is not just about money, it is about value. They may be linked, but to make sure I get paid is not the point - it is about getting better across the board. It is about how artist are valued in society. The current government couldn't be doing much more to make the arts appear disposable. Galleries and institutions are used to paying in 'exposure' and CV fodder. It is much more than money.
In that vein, on Friday morning I met with the group WAGE in one of their apartments in Brooklyn. Aside from the adorable 'pocket', a teeny lap dog, I really enjoyed meeting this incredibly intelligent and active group. I am profiling them in the March issue of a-n so will say more there, but please look at their website. http://www.wageforwork.com/wage.html
I have still to listen back to the transcript as my tax return took precedence today, but I am looking forward to that tomorrow.
The trip has led to several other aquaintences, some have emailed, purchased my book, invited me on visits and one of the artists in the panel interviewed me for her artist' book website on Thursday. It astounds me how much can happen in a few days and how many connections spring from an event like this. I started a diagram some time ago about how work has led to more work, but it got into a mess beacuse so much crossed over. Maybe I shall try on a smaller scale and see how that looks!
p.s. I've just read a great entry about artists from Rosalind Davis (see VALUE above). She says "Use your influence to create change. Dont isolate yourselves. Give back.....be part of something more than yourselves."
# 240 [20 January 2011]
Back from YSP after a few elating, sunny days. Now I am mainly avoiding my tax return, but I have to do it today, otherwise I shall go to New York on Saturday and it will plague my dreams. Pretty sure I don't owe any tax, it's just the paper mess I have to contend with. As I started the schools bursary in September 09, I just lost my handle on everything like that as I was barely keeping up with day to day work. Since the bursary I have sorted it out, but there is a massive black spot in my accounts. BOO.
It was probably the sun, but I was on a complete high at the park. It is such an incredible place and I feel very privileged to be able to wander freely round the whole place, including the nature reserve, which is off-limits. I also finally got access to the old student halls that are there, after I have been pestering for a while; see pictures. The halls used to be part of Bretton College - a teachers college and exciting hub for experimental theatre and dance in the 70s. They also had fantastic art facilities and the sculpture studios remain intact up by Longside Gallery. Anyway, I am going back in a couple of weeks to make some site-specific pieces in the halls and have a costume work photographed, so this was groundwork for that. They are damp and stink, but I am drawn to them, despite the grand hall, probably because they are marked for demolition.
William Wentworth, who lived at the Hall, was by reputation, a bit of a cad. He had a ship, Aurora, that he held lavish parties on the lake in, some of which lasted for days. There was also a cluster of islands that he built in the lake, with follies like the temple of Venus (which may really have been a temple of lurve) and another with a menagerie on. Unfortunately, when the lake was dredged later, these islands were filled in with mud from the bottom, but their forms are still slightly visible. I cannot explain to you how these stories set me alight and inspire all kinds of ambitious and preposterous work (I am seeing that this may be my best kind). So now I have plans for a work set in the landscape, and I NEVER saw myself leaving the gallery, as well as a performance work on the lake. I feel light and skippy and generally excited to the point where I can't sleep. It is wonderful.
Now, where was I?? Oh, shit. The bloody tax return.
# 239 [4 January 2011]
Happy New Year everyone!
Mine officially began on Sunday as I couldn't restrain myself any longer and had to do some work! Felt good and I am bursting with ideas. This is a major relief as before Christmas I felt like I may never have a new idea ever again. That is the power of mince pies, and a good rest. Dan managed to find me an amazing out-of-print 80s book on follies too, my best present since the last out-of-print book he found for me!
Unfortunately, Christmas week was full of water. Two pipe bursts at my sister's shop meant she had to close down, a sad day but I'm sure she will find a way of making it happen again. The studio also had a massive burst, and I mean massive. I wonder if the water had been flowing for more than a day as it was 2 inches deep in places. I didn't get there till most had been brushed out, but Dan and I mopped up as much as we could, especially in people's spaces where things had already been damaged. I can't say it was surprising in a building with no heating, but it's a reminder to use good storage (drawings in plastic and so on) as well as documentation (and back up of files!).
By chance, at the same time I read a short story in Uppercase magazine (beautiful publication from Canada) by a girl who lost all her belongings in a storage space flood while travelling. She said it was liberating. I suspect she is right, but I still can't quite liberate myself! I also saw an online project where I guy had cleared his life out until he owned only 100 objects. If this didn't include books it might just be possible. Accordingly, one of my resolutions for the new year is to be less beholden to stuff. I am emotionally attched to everything I own pretty much, and feel like I have to guard it. Fact is, I need a clear out.
'Word for the Year' was doing the rounds on twitter; a way of summing up a feeling or attitude about your intentions for 2011 rather then saying 'I won't drink too much wine', which is clearly bollocks. This idea came from @kirstymhall and I chose 'savour'. This is not only to do with wine, but generally about enjoying things more, choosing more carefully and putting more energy into fewer projects and adventures. It is the life/art equivalent of swapping 20 items from Primark for a Vivianne Westwood dress. Oh alright, 40 Primark items for a Vivianne Westwood dress in the sale - you know what I mean.
The week between Christmas and NY was also a surprising one, with some very nice and whoop-making invitations arriving in my inbox. Seems travel is on the cards this year and Milan and Rotterdam just got added to the list. A little worryingly, some months in 2011 are just crammed already. It is exciting, but a bit of a headwreck how quickly this happens. I am trying to remember the advice of the curator from YSP who reminded me that projects do not only take the time they are programmed for, but you have a build-up and come-down too that needs factoring in. DOH.
It is Dan's birthday on Wednesday so we are having a weekend in York. Then on the 22nd I am off to NYC for a week, mainly to speak on a panel at a seminar at the Grolier Club. Hopefully there will also be time to catch up with friends there and see plenty of exhbitions. Oh, did I mention shopping? The paper and letterpress inks you can get in the states are amazing... *sigh*. But of course, I won't be buying loads of tat..right?
Just finishing up a piece for Feb's issue about alternative funding sources today - very exciting stuff that opens my eyes to a lot of new possibilities. Through research I have been in touch with an artist in NYC who I hope to meet for cwaffee and a bagel or something. I love the ridiculous simplicity of the online world.
# 238 [22 December 2010]
Over the last year I have become increasingly disillusioned with spin: over-blown, uber-awesome events or works dripping with positive press and lip-service that don't live up to the hype. This applies to other spheres of life too, most obviously is the massive u-turn by the Lib-Dem's since they coalitioned. What can you believe?
It's hard to find the balance right? Because you need to get the word out, and you want to convince an audience to make the trip, but go on too much and you just seem arrogant and self-aggrandising.
I still get stuck in the trap of being overly impressed with the sound of exhibitions/events/commissions/CV's, but am slowly coming to realise that there (mostly) is no secret ingredient that I am not seeing - it just is what it is. For this reason, I absolutely do not read blurbs before I have looked at the work - because I am utterly seduced by words and the imagery they evoke.
Take Laura Belem's work at Liverpool Biennial - it photographed beautifully, I mean so beautifully that it looked like an airy glass dream in the press shots. The description was a bit melty and lovely too as the work is based on an ancient legend. On seeing the work, I was completely underwhelmed - big black speakers filling my eyes and there was a teeny step all round that I kept stubbing my toe on or falling off a bit. The space was fairly small so it involved neck-cricking to look up above at the work and I couldn't help wondering why the bells didn't make a noise. Infact, they weren't actually bells, they were just the cup of a bell without a clapper to make a noise. It's like the difference between a book and a tablet - fundamental. Anyway, it was just a bit ruined by the oohing and ahhing going on in the press. Instead I was completly blown away by Danika Dakic's film in the Cathedral. Dark, dank and claustrophobic, it felt ten times more powerful than Belem's work and I couldn't help wondering if this was to do with my own expectation rather than the work itself.
Things to remember for 2011 #1 Just spend the time getting on with making the work and leave the advertising and prmoting as a firm second (or third, or fourth).
It is also for this reason that I always include all my crap jobs (including a stint in a chicken factory) since graduating when I am talking to students. Best that they know the truth and expect some graft and hardship - after all, my CV could be read as a pain-free semi-glossy career if you don't read between the lines and int the omissions. So many omissions!
# 237 [17 December 2010]
Time now for a bit of a break from politics... otherwise my head may explode!
So, instead, it is time for a yearly round up - just to get everything in perspective, take a deep breath, and remember that I have been working hard! It's always easy to feel like there hasn't been much achieved, so it's good to put it into words.
What happened in 2010:
N.B. I have been nudged by my neice (very advanced and tweeting already at 7 months) to point out that her birth in May has made 2010 a stupendously happy and gurgling year. You can follow her here:
I finished the YSP bursary (finally!) and published a book for the end of the residency.
I wasn't entirely happy with the book if I'm honest, but it was a good lesson - books need a LOT of time, a bit better knowledge of Indesign and book design oh, and a better printer.
A Curriculum residency at A Foundation
Met some great great people. Didn't make great work, but it kind of set me up for future work, which may be as important.
Being shortlisted for the Liverpool Art Prize. I didn't win, but I got to exhibit in Metal (love the building) alongside some really great artists.
Exhibiting in Milan with a very creative and supportive curator. Being invited to a group show in Lausanne as a direct result from this show. Loved doing the email interview with L.A. based curator Ciara Ennis too.
Cardboard Folly - I have wanted to publish an artists book with other artists' work for a few years now, so it was great to get issue 1 done and exhibtited at the Bluecoat. I also got to know Emma Gregory better through this, always a good thing.
CUBE open - sold some work for the first time ever.
Applying for less things and getting offered more work without solicitation. LOVE this.
Spreading out into two studio space at The Royal Standard - this feels like a real work space and it works.
Lots of travel.
Too much travel, too much driving.
Still not even making minimum wage, yet working most days.
Falling out with my usual printer and now I still need to find a new one. This was very upsetting and makes future book works a bit tricky. But perhaps I will find someone better, someone who really understands the difference between MATT and SATIN. It's not the same ok?
CUBEopen - having work thrown away.
Not blogging as much.
Not getting to my studio enough.
Cardboard Folly - just wasn't able to make this as gloriously as I pictured. Not enough money or time.
Not getting a couple of residencies I really wanted. There were other things I didn't get, but for these I got very almost to the end of the application process, so it felt like a blimmin tease. I was almost booking plane tickets, let's put it that way.
Doing Artists' Book Fairs. Apart from meeting other artists, these have started to feel like a drain on both finances, confidence and energy.
Two car crashes.
The new government.
Family bereavements, ensuing probate paperwork nightmares and the incredibly sad loss of a 33 year old friend to cancer. These things are massive levellers and a much-needed reminder to appreciate every moment with loved ones.
To look forward to in 2011:
Going back to Japan (it's 7 years now since I left my job there). Words cannot express how insanely excited I am about this.
The next Cardboard Folly.
My first solo show at YSP (I know, I do go on about this, but my head is saturated with it) next July.
Not to look forward to in 2011:
Being a walking art bomb/stress monkey in the lead-up to my first solo show, possibly resulting in divorce.
Yup, I think that's it. Good and bad sides to everything pretty much, but I totally think the good outweighs the bad. Forgive the self-indulgence, but you should try a list too.
22.12.10 - p.s. My Husband has just threatened my wall chart with magenta crayon, so I would like to also say what an awesome, supportive and positive force he is in my life. I mean that, regardless of his childish behaviour ;D
# 236 [17 December 2010]
I know Liverpool was rated #1 most deprived council in 2007, but I do wonder whether massive investment and capital of culture have made any difference to its current rating. I'm not sure it will reach out to places like Anfield where a lot of kids don't even go into the centre.
Anyway, this is an interesting talk, with an article reveiwing it:
Thomas Sevcik: Why Art and the Creative Class will Never Save Cities
# 235 [16 December 2010]
I am struggling at the moment to concentrate on my work when there is so much to be thought about politically.
It's the same when I come to write about art - lots of things feel a bit trivial next to the state of the country. Bad times are ahead (or here?) and daily there are news stories and facts to be read, which make me feel angry, sad and utterly helpless. I am also stunned by the reaction of a couple of my peers to the protests and the cuts in general, but this is likely because they are recently monied and have lost touch with their previously skint selves.
Whatever happened to empathy?
This blog in the guardian today
has really upset me. Given the state of Liverpool in the 80s - complicated, but lots to do with Hatton and his defiance to the Tory government by going over budget - it feels like complete deja-vu. Again there is a mixed Labour/Lib Dem council, although there are no militants like Hatton I don't think? But anyway, can we not learn from the past? All the cuts just seem incredibly reactionary, rather than strategic, and I feel like a big bad-decision tsunami is sweeping over us with no warning and with nothing that can be done to stop it. Except protest that is.
I realise that statistics can be presented in very creative ways, but there is no getting round the facts gathered here:
Impact of CSR cuts on selected councils
In brackets = 2007 Indices of Multiple Deprivation Rank, where 1= most deprived and 354= least deprived.
South Cambridgeshire DC (350); West Oxfordshire DC (349); Tunbridge Wells DC (273); Uttlesford DC (347); Reigate & Banstead DC (322); Dartford DC (186);Harborough DC (344)
Burnley BC (21); Bolsover DC (55); South Tyneside MBC (38); Hartlepool BC (23); Blackburn with Darwen BC (17); Copeland BC (78); Liverpool City Council (1); Sefton MBC (83); Doncaster MBC (41); North East Lincolnshire Council (49); Sunderland City Council (35); Hull City Council (11);Blackpool BC (12); Wolverhampton City Council (28)
Barrow-in-Furness BC (29); Lancaster City Council (117); Hastings BC (31); Great Yarmouth BC (58); Pendle BC (44); Hyndburn BC (40)
Source: DCLG figures seen by LGC
# 234 [7 December 2010]
Loved watching the Turner Prize announcement on C4 last night while also keeping up with the plethora of tweets on the student protests at the Tate.This is how social media should be! News from those on the inside, and tweeting back what we were seeing on TV, so everyone felt they knew both sides.
I thought this protest was a really smart move, not only because it was strategically placed at the best known art institution in the UK, but also at the most media friendly event. Not to mention the fact that it was peaceful.
The way the protestors had the education issue acknowleged live on C4, first by Nick Serota, then by Susan Philipsz in her acceptance speech wouldn't have happened without the protest. Who knows if they had been planning to say those things - maybe Phillipsz, but the protest forced the issue, after all, what would we have thought of those people if they had ignored the chants from outside? That they were philistines of course. That they were complacent people made rich who were out of touch. Perhaps that they were now voting Conservative because it suited their newly lined pockets better *cough, Tracey Emin, cough cough* I don't know about you, but I expect my company in the art world to be pretty liberal, open minded, and able to empathise with others less off - to see the bigger picture. Humanists basically. Luckily, they did support the protests, so hopefully we will see their support continue. One of the Otolith Group gave a speech outside too, but apparently she couldn't get back into the party after doing this.
During a visit from the Urban Interventions project to Liverpool, I overheard the bar bill after we'd been to see a film screening together. My little head suddenly starting adding up entertainment - just for one organisation - and I felt like it might explode trying to fathom just what their budget might be. Massive. The Turner Prize was far far more swanky, and may be sponsored, but it all just seems in very bad taste given the current austerity. The contrast between the protest and those inside seems like a bit of a 'them' and 'us' situation in many ways.
Some blog posts on the protests here:
Excellent quote from Ed Vaizey in this one -
"They have every democratic right to protest. I just wish they'd do some work." Awesome.
It is time we stopped the schmoozing? That's what people expect somehow isn't it? Those being schmoozed to buy work that is. An opening has been the stalwart feature of exhibitions for as long as I've been studying or doing art. As a student in Edinburgh and London, they were amazing places to see art, talk to artists and also, get free booze. I never considered how much it all cost as it was so normal. But recently there have been far fewer free bars and instead of openings, there seem to be more closing events and events that mix viewing and talking - perhaps it's already been changing. I made me think about my own show at YSP. We've talked about an opening event, but as their big exhibition is in Jaume Plensa in April, that will also be the one big event of the year; we're talking helicopters an all. They need collectors to travel internationally and to do that, it needs to be glitzy.
After my recent experience in Milan, where there was no booze and just lots of targeted curators and artists, I have been converted. I loved actually talking about my work to people who were interested, not feeling that sinking feeling as I watched people raid the bar, stand directly infront of the work chatting about last night's Corrie, dump plastic cups everywhere and then bugger off. I'm exaggerating, but you've all seen similar. Anyway, I plan to go Italian-style, but I might need a little glass of something alcoholic!
p.s. I sold my first ever piece of work from a gallery! The eggs (pictures) don't need picking up at the end of the CUBE open! Amazing.
# 233 [2 December 2010]
Geneva airport has been closed for a couple of days, so my flight was cancelled yesterday. Rather than take a replacement flight Friday, Dan and I thought we would save the money (and his holidays from work) and forget it. There was also a line of very sad-looking skiers and we thought they needed to get there more than we did! I hope my installation instructions will translate ok for the exhibition on Saturday.
Would have been nice to go, but perhaps there will another chance some day. Having 5 unplanned days actually feels like magical time conjured from nowhere. I haven't done much useful with it so far though.
I have been pretending to do my accounts today and as a result am feeling the rising panic in my guts. I have a little bit of income to come as an artists' fee from YSP, but I have to live on that until July - not likely! I have some lecturing coming up, but only 3 days, although I think I can stretch that for about 6 weeks. I am thrift Queen.
I am also still chasing a load of invoices from as far back as August - nearly £2,000 worth! I have sent some polite emails (again), but my next blog post will be all about naming names if they don't pay up!. Lots of them are from artist types so they really should know better and have a bit of empathy. Grrr. My van insurance is due on 22nd December so that will see me get progressively more frantic and assertive.
There is an article in this month's a-n about ways to save money, which I shall be taking heed of!
My only problem with this article is the presumption that artists are able to apply for a 0% credit card.
As I said, I'm at home doing my accounts today. That would be my 09/10 accounts (oops!). One thing I wish, I wish I could change to a more ethical bank, i.e. The Cooperative, but I feel properly stuck with HSBC. I started with Midland when I was very wee, and then when I went to Uni, they were HSBC already and were offering a four year railcard and an amazing overdraft with student accounts. Going to Edinburgh and having a boyfriend still at home in Cheshire, this saved me hundreds of pounds and was a complete no-brainer. But now, as a self employed artist earning very little (between £7,000 - 12,000), I find myself stuck with this bank. If I could get a new account now (I've tried), I wouldn't even be eligible for a solo-card, never mind switch, or an overdraft or credit card. Even in the credit happy times when I was at Wimbledon, I was turned down for a graduate loan 7 times as well as bank accounts and credit cards.
As it is, my loyalty to HSBC means that my overdraft limit from 1997 still continues to be £1500 and I live in this for half the year at least. I also feel like they might notice one day and take it away from me! Shhhh, don't tell them!
I can see why people get really stuck on low incomes and crap cash flow, when they have no leeway. Pure misery. I try not to use my credit card, as I would quickly get in a mess (especially when they constantly hike my limit up, think I have about £7,000 at the moment - that's about the same as I earn - ridiculous!) but I am glad it exists just in case. Ugh, anyway, enough money chat. Perhaps one day I will graduate to choosing which bank I use; I hope so.
# 232 [1 December 2010]
I AM NOT IN SWITZERLAND.
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