Coleg Menai, Bangor
20 September 2010 - 7 July 2011
Reviewed by: Antonia Dewhurst
What’s Blogging Ever Done For Us? – Antonia Dewhurst
To say that at the beginning of September 2010 I didn’t know what a blog was would be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one; I had never read one, let alone written one.
Our tutors had first mentioned a-n during our second year of the BA Fine Art at Coleg Menai, during our professional development module. I became a full member, attracted by the regular opportunities updates and the great value insurance. It was Degrees unedited’s own powers of persuasion that finally swayed me to blog. It seemed the right time to get my work out there, setting out on the final year of study which felt like a ‘real’ project with a fixed outcome and deadline – the degree show.
I had no real expectations of the process, no clear idea of why I was starting and, as no student from the college had blogged via a-n before, I had no one to compare notes with. I made a tentative start, the Degrees unedited blog interface can seem, on first acquaintance, a bit clunky but it isn’t difficult once you find your way around, and there’s help and advice available on the site so it’s worth persevering. I published my first effort, still not clear why, then, when I returned to the Degrees unedited home page, there was my post, my images too later, when I’d mastered that dark art. And I was hooked.
It never became a compulsion but I became a regular, got used to the discipline of regularly photographing my work in progress. I had always had a dialogue with my work; I tend to keep notebooks rather than a sketchbook, testing ideas on paper, reviewing processes, the blog became an extension of that self-assessment process. I began to put video experiments on Youtube so that I could link them back to a-n. I realised that once I had made the time investment in processing image and video for a-n, I could put them onto Facebook and Culture Colony in the same session and they were also appearing, with no extra effort, in Artists Talking and a-n’s image library.
I’m sure the critical dialogue with my work would have matured steadily via blogging; however, the process shifted a gear when Richard Taylor, online editor, took an interest in what I was trying to do and interviewed me by e-mail for the blogger profiles. For the first time I was engaged in a critical debate about my work with someone outside of college and Richard’s insightful questioning about the nature of image opened a new way of thinking about documentary/record/imagination/memory which had a very real and positive impact on my practice.
It seemed natural then to embrace the whole degrees unedited experience by posting our degree show and only a small step, persuaded again by Degrees unedited’s own editorial material, to try to have the show reviewed.
Anders Pleass, Head of Exhibitions at Mostyn, Wales’s leading contemporary gallery, had talked to us during our second year as part of our professional development module. He spoke of lead times, insurance, contracts, politics, philosophy and how to build a relationship with a gallery. When the time came, I plucked up courage to ask Anders if he would be willing to help me with my dissertation. Two of my featured artists – Heather and Ivan Morison, had featured in the show that re-launched Mostyn after its rebuild. Anders was generous with his time and made it clear he would be happy to continue the dialogue; loved to talk art, politics and ideas. So, when it came to choosing someone to review the degree show, he seemed a natural first choice and, to my delight, agreed.
It was a high-risk stratagem; he was going to be judging our work, not against our student peers, but against the world of contemporary art. He was also, it became clear, a busy man; I would have to walk the tightrope between harassing someone who was doing us a favour, and actually getting the review completed by the publishing deadline. Which we did, just.
So what has blogging on Degrees unedited achieved? In short, it has brought a rigour to my own critical dialogue and editorial process and the way I document my work. It has also brought about a fundamental change in the way I think about my practice, about what I am trying to achieve as an artist.
Directly, my words and images have appeared, to a wide readership, online and in print. Indirectly, this has led to my work being featured elsewhere online, which has, in turn, led to a forthcoming solo show. I recommend it.
Antonia Dewhurst graduated BA (Hons) Fine Art from Coleg Menai in 2011. Her first solo show opens at The Last Gallery, Llangadog on Friday 30th September and her work will feature in Artsisterium 4, Tbilisi, Georgia 1-10 November 2011.
A review of the blogging experience with Degrees unedited 2010/11.
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