Friday, April 16, 2010


At last I'm at home, taking a breath after a busy, busy week.

First stop was Mackay, staying with Dinamow overnight so that I could attend the opening of the Libris Awards. I've spent a week thinking what to say about my experience up there because it really wasn't what I had expected. Perhaps it's because I've spent a lot of time not being an artist and working in business that I get really frustrated with arts administration... but before anyone jumps down my throat I should say that I am trying to deal with my sense of frustration and generally calm down, and also that I'm not pointing at anyone specific here! However, it was deeply disappointing to arrive at the opening to find my book relegated to the shadowy lower back corner of a locked glass cabinet.

Yes, I really do know how difficult it is to please participating artists about the way in which their work is displayed (I have curated several group shows) and yes, I also appreciate that there aren't enough open shelves to go around. But what was the point of asking for display instructions to be included with the work and enquiring whether or not it could be handled only to lock it away in a box where no-one could see it? I'm not just imagining that no-one looked at it: I spent quite a lot of time observing how visitors to the exhibition approached the cabinet and the truth is that they had a brief look at the works that were clearly lit on the upper shelf and I didn't catch a single person looking below at my piece. Not one.

Things weren't helped by the complete lack of any printed information about the show, the participating artists or the work apart from the labels: no catalogue, not even a scrappy piece of photocopied A4 with a list of exhibited works, despite the fact that everything was numbered. I don't know what other people do but I make a point of picking up the catalogue (or scrappy A4 sheet for that matter!) and I use it to make notes about pieces or artists I particularly like, I use it to navigate my way around the show, and I also look up particular artists to see where their work is displayed. Nothing like that here, unfortunately. I thought the choice of winners was, for once, spot-on but I found my overall experience of the show disappointing. I wasn't able to stay for the forum on artists' books which I imagine was very interesting.

It is possible that my overall mood was affected by the significant amount of pain I experienced due to the infection in my jaw after the tooth extraction a few days previously, I don't deny it! I was on whopping antibiotic tablets and mega-pain killers and I felt LOUSY. Luckily for me what made the whole thing worthwhile was the chance to meet people. Diane was absolutely lovely: she picked me up from the airport, gave me a whistle-stop tour of the beachside scenery around Mackay, put me up in a very comfortable bed, and after the opening she and her husband Peter took me out to dinner with their friends! It was absolutely lovely, and so kind. And in addition to being spoiled rotten by Diane and Peter I also got to meet up again with Sue Anderson, Gwen Harrison, Christina Cordeiro, Julie Barratt, dear Duck and was introduced again to Noreen Graham of Graham Galleries and Editions in Brisbane. Wonderful!

I came back from Mackay feeling absolutely flattened but had great fun last Sunday at the annual Rotary Club book sale in Coffs Harbour. Now at first glance you wouldn't say the local population hides a sophisticated readership but apparently the book sale raises about $40,000 a year so perhaps I'm being a little unfair! I came away with a bag of books destined to be experimented upon, remade and possibly even read, for the grand sum of $35. Marvellous. And once I'd got through that I was able to come home and pack up ready to go to Sydney on Monday.

Not brilliant photos of the new arrival, but he is SO CUTE! Couldn't get any closer because of the throng which is why these are slightly out of focus, but you get the idea...

The reason for our trip was that dearest husband had to go and see clients in Sydney but at such short notice that the available flights were around $600 return! So we decided that as we haven't been away at all since our big European trip last year we were entitled to take a few days to drive down, have some fun and drive back - all for much less than the cost of a single plane ticket and we had free hotel accommodation at the Crowne Plaza on Darling Harbour. So darling daughter and I whiled away the time shopping and sightseeing while the other half worked, and in between times we managed to catch up with friends and sample Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. OK, perhaps it is more accurate to say that we spent more money than we would have done if DH had flown down on his own, but I swear I needed a jacket and a new pair of shoes, and darling daughter certainly needed new shoes and there are no children's shoe shops in Coffs Harbour! That's my excuse, anyway.


Amanda said...

Hi Sara,
I've been waiting to hear about your trip to Mackay - and I do sympathize with your disappointment about the display of your book. I often think that these large scale exhibitions would be much better if they selected fewer works, more in keeping with the space they have for display. If you can't see the work properly, what is the point of including it?
Dare I ask whether you noticed my book, or was it also stuck in the back of a darkened cabinet too?

No children's shoe shops in Coffs? Do all the local children go barefoot?

Hope your work for your show is going well!?
Best, Amanda

SCB said...

Hello Amanda, yes I did see your book: also in the same glass display case... but yours was on the side that was better lit and, I think, up one shelf so I am hopeful people will have been able to see it!

As for kids and shoes in Coffs the truth is that they do go barefoot! Darling daughter's previous school had a special hardship fund to buy school shoes for children who had no shoes at all... Coming over from the UK where virtually everyone wears shoes all the time I find it unfathomable. Do people WANT to tread in unspeakable things? Yuk!

ronnie said...

what no catalogue? that seems strange.... I'm with you sara... the first thing I pick up when visiting a show (any show) is a catalogue - I don't mind if its a scrappy photocopy with just the bare details... to which I'll add any pertinent notes and then I file the whole lot for future reference.... I'd be mighty upset if I had something chosen for the event and no one bothered to create the simplest of catalogues/works list....

in fact that would bug me even more than poor display (so sorry to hear that you didn't have the best experience - I think we've all been in that boat and it does make you scratch your head every time wondering 'what ARE they thinking?').... as I rarely get to any shows that my stuff goes to I RELY on a catalogue (if prove of my work being there if nothing else!) I'll gnash my teeth for you

ps my feral kiddies run barefoot most of the time (in all seasons...) but not to school - to their disgust footwear is required - including (shock horror) for their sports events.... this, they proclaim, is just WRONG!

dinahmow said...

Your saw the new heffalump! Well, that should take away some of the bad taste from last week.
Sara, you are not the only one who commented/complained/criticised the lack of a catalogue. Or A4 photocopy!
It was a very black mark against Artspace, I think.
Ali and I went to Deanna Hitti's floor talk on the Monday and I mentioned this to Michael. At first he said it was very difficult, with all the work arriving...having to wrappings...then he conceded that they goofed and said they were collecting a list of names of people who wanted a catalogue. My name is on the list!
That aside, it is a lovely collection and I'm glad you were able to see it.

SCB said...

Crazy, isn't it? After all, calling for entries to any exhibition clearly don't usually involve unpacking, sorting out packing materials, creating lists of artists and works, processing entry forms and fees, making labels (involving a numbering system that implies someone does actually know which works came from which artist), etc, etc etc... It's not the first time he's run it, surely? Aargh! Why not just admit he goofed up, apologise and then do something about it?

Breath... breath... I'm calming down now... And in fact I'm going to breath out and let it all go... there. Much better.

It's much more fun to think about ideas I've been having all afternoon about new work! Hooray!

Fiona Dempster said...

Hi Sara

I also travelled to Mackay and am sooooo glad to hear your thoughts; I haven't been game to mention mine out loud too much. Funnily, my book was in the same cabinet as yours; next to yours I think, and they even had my label upside down to the way my book was presented; so I figured they didn't like it or understand it or want to give it any breathing space at all. I was pretty disappointed.

the lack of a catalogue was seriously annoying - we were only there for the night (travelled about 12 hours drive) and at least knew we could photograph things; so I ended up photographing all the labels of works I liked so I could follow the artists up later. Intriguing.

Go well - enjoy the new ideas


Snippety Gibbet said...

How disappointing that the show was not well laid out. What an honor to be chosen to participate, though. So sad the followup was less than satisfying. I'd be disappointed too.

Ida said...

hi sara
glad the baby elephant was cute...hope it makes up for the negative exhibition experience. Your next exhibition must be coming up soon? all the best.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin