LOSERS AND KEEPERS
My show at Hartlepool is now finished – bits and pieces transported back to Newcastle and deposited in my office/studio. The good news is I will now be showing it in the Toffee Factory for three days – Nov 7th – 9th (where my office actually is) so that will be somewhat easier to sort out. It won’t be set out the same, and it will be interesting to present it in a new format. I will be in attendance as well for most of that time so I can surreptitiously take note of reactions.
The biggest consideration, and one I am looking forward to charting, is how it is perceived by an audience that has a less partisan demographic. I was so aware of the closeness of this piece to the heart of Hartlepool, and the fact that the gallery was literally only a few hundred metres away from my actual subject, that it was bound to have a unique atmosphere. That’s great, but now I want it to live outside in the big bad world, and I need it to hold its own.
In fact, it has always been a piece about ‘anywhere Hartlepool’. It has wider overtones. It’s really a piece that explores more fundamental concerns than a particular Ballroom in a particular place, so hopefully it takes itself off and dances into the ‘real’ world without too many tears.
Before the show came down, I travelled to the gallery for one last time, and typed up some more narratives I had received. Whilst I was putting these on the wall with the others, a couple came over. I had noticed they had been watching the video which features my father (and which has me waving to the camera in it) and I think they had a bit of a double-take when they saw me. We had a lovely chat; it seems that was her third visit and she was planning another one with a friend the next week. She really loved the show and therein lies an interesting take. She was too young to go to the Rink when it was standing. A featureless, bland building from the outside she would watch the crowds as she went past on the bus and could sense the magic that emanated from within.
For her my show was a window back into world of her imagination. The crucial fact here I think is that she never actually did go in, so she was much more open to my re- interpretation; my own take on the magic of recall. It didn’t matter to her that this wasn’t a ‘trip down memory lane’ because her own memory of it required creative imagining anyway. She had her own construct, had formed her own theatre of illusion. I think that is why she was able to connect with the piece so well.
In the visitor book there are telling comments like (I paraphrase) ; ‘this is the best artwork ever shown in Hartlepool – it should be in the Tate gallery’ …of course I can only agree ha ha! and another ‘I expected to see pictures of the Rink and costumes of the time – it should have been researched better’ hmm missed the point methinks. It’s what I expected, and it’s what I got.
Dwelling on the positives… I had John B on the phone; he features as one of my cameos. I had invited him to the opening but not heard from him. Given the age of many of the participants, including him, I did wonder what might have happened. Turns out he has been to see the show a couple of times and wonders if there is any way he could get a copy of the videos to show his cousin Nancy (who also contributed by writing and doing a telephone interview). She finds getting about too difficult these days and he would love for her to see it. John B was pleased that I had included pictures of Pat, his wife, from their Rink days. It keeps her alive in his world even though, as he says, she has ‘passed over’.