Home page story
Degree show tours
Develop a series of tours for your degree show. Widen the capacity and type of visitors, attach yourselves to tour-group audiences, develop more room for understanding and set in place increased sales of work.
In 2008 I recall visiting the Fine Art degree show at Leeds Metropolitan University, for a second time after the preview night. The place (now not in use as the Fine Art department have moved across the road) was empty of people, full of art and you could breathe, think and take in what you wanted.
Tucked away at the back of the hall a girl sat on a plinth-cum-gymnasium apparatus. Dressed in lycra she avoided your gaze and listened to the haze of an out of tune FM radio. The purpose of the work at the time was unclear to me (I later learned that she got up and danced as the radio shifted in and out of tune) but my thoughts were entrenched with how the artist’s presence, in the context of a degree show, is pertinent in delivering more about what the work is about. In this case the artist of the work was there but silent in terms of her performative guise: but what if she could have spoken out, let us in, made us learn.
Recent posts on the Degrees unedited blogs set this in context. A plethora of information, language and access to process, levels itself on the platform for people to read, look, watch and learn. How can this be transferred to the final arena of the degree show so message and purpose is not lost?
Any well developed art institution has invigilators or information assistants for exhibition programmes, and most likely the staff are encouraged to develop a live dialogue with visitors: to enhance the message of the artwork and to create room for discussion. What's more is that for some of you, these jobs are a step in to life as an artist (supported by part-time work) after graduation: skills in talking about and translating work are important.
I am arguing a case here! Many degree shows will be manned by invigilators who are indeed the very artists of the work on show – yet many will fall silent when it comes to speaking to visitors. After the opening night of the show, the invigilatory slog can be passed as time to read your much loved fiction after so much research and theory... but fiction can wait.
My argument is, why not take the opportunity and produce a series of tours around your degree shows, embellishing the reception of the work with layers of better understanding, making use of the presence of invigilators (i.e. you the artists) during opening times. If there is an agenda set in place for this, in advance of the show's opening, larger groups of visitors out-with the normal 'art lyrical' crowd would feel they can access the work better. It will also encourage reviews of your show as a better level of access in terms of a tour (or even a brief ten minute introduction to the show) beats handing out a piece of paper: they'll simply have more to respond to. This sort of engagement could well boost catalogue sales and indeed sales of work too.
You have spent the last three to four years studying together, critiquing one another and learning about each other’s practice. Who is better to deliver a short vocal introduction to the work? A loose script can be pulled together and a set 'walk-in' strategy can be arranged - or you can advertise set times and dates for when tours are to happen.
Build a programme for this and experiment. Such educational agendas for presenting work are pre-requisite in acquiring certain types funding and are sometimes necessary for gaining opportunities to show work in galleries after you graduate. Your degree show is there for your use as a professional tool: use it, wield it (dance to it), present it as something you're proud of.
Is this already happening where you are?
If your course already employs this idea, why not use the comments feature below to tell us about it. Just login and get commenting - lets generate some discussion.
Other help and advice
First published: a-n.co.uk April 2012
Comments on this article
Post your comment
To post a comment you need to login
© the artist(s), writer(s), photographer(s) and a-n The Artists Information Company
All rights reserved.
Artists who are current subscribers to a-n may download or print this text for the limited purpose of use in their business or professional practice as artists.
Parts of this text may be reproduced either in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (updated) or with written permission of the publishers.