For several weeks I have been thinking about exhibiting. Although I have visited various galleries hoping to envisage how my images might be shown I have not been fully comfortable with framing and encapsulating my photographs on white walls. Locally the galleries tend to host collections of arts and craft works which on the whole are not immediately obvious as complimentary exhibition material.
A little seedling of a thought has now taken hold. I am exhibiting rubbish and recycling locations so exhibiting in related settings would perhaps be interesting. There are advantages and disadvantages of course. Advantages include having contacts already who may be able to help having visited recycling centres and the incinerator in Plymouth in the early stages of this project. A major consideration is limiting the audience for the project. Not all the locations I have visited have open access to the public so I would have to make special arrangements for an opening and any subsequent viewings. Those who might visit the locations may not include people who would have an affinity with both rubbish and abstract art.
I acknowledge there may be costs involved and a recent visit to explore possibilities indicated £125 for a month’s rent on a shipping container measuring 8 feet by 20 feet. This would be without electricity or heating and costs would be higher for one that is more modern with attention paid to condensation minimisation. Business units at the same location would require a minimum contract of three months and be more costly. Although the manager was very helpful he did point out there were only three car parking spaces so virtually no parking for visitors to the exhibition and no nearby street parking. And as the site is industrial without fully maintained tarmac walkways get very waterlogged and muddy in poor weather. He generously referred me to two other locations, his competitors, who may be able to offer more conducive settings.
I have also written to my contact at the incinerator as they have a visitors centre with displays of rubbish collection systems (https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/MVVFacilityLeaflet.pdf). This would be a warm, dry venue although lit with strip lighting and only open when visiting parties are booked in. Hopefully my contact may be able to come up with suggestions and contacts for me to pursue.
In terms of costs, hiring a shipping container seems a small price to pay out compared to paying a gallery in rent or commission, although if I have to bring in lighting and heating these costs will mount up.
An alternative might be to partner up with a supermarket where the recycling containers are often found. In doing so they would get publicity for supporting recycling and I would possibly be hosted in a warm and dry location that is easily accessible and open to the public. I recently came a cross an exhibition next to the cafe area of a local garden centre. Mounted on one wall the images had clear notices politely asking people not to touch the exhibits. The advantages here would again be a warm, dry and accessible facility. Presumably I would also not be required to be present for the duration of the exhibition and location opening hours. Disadvantages include a limited area with little scope for creative mounting and display of the images and poor lighting and the companies might charge rental or commission if any photographs are sold.
Many businesses have now signed up to the UK Plastics Pact (wrap.org.uk) and are committed to fundamental changes in the production and disposal of plastics (http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/plastics-pact-members?page=1). Perhaps I should target WRAP to pitch my ideas, thereby gaining a wider reach across these organisations in a travelling pop-up exhibition. Mmm… food for thought.
These initial enquiries are demonstrating how challenging finding a way to show your work to others can be. My work with a strong message about beach debris and the need to act suits like minded campaigners (e.g. Surfers Against Sewage, Marine Conservation Society) while the more recent abstracts maybe considered more akin to contemporary or fine art audiences and could, without a clear accompanying narrative in the ‘right’ context, lose the awareness raising intention. Mindful assimilation, reflection and story creation are high priorities for now. Continuing to be undecided and pinned down rubs against my natural tendency to need a planned and organised future, especially now there is not much time left to complete the project for this course. Unless of course I am assuming there is an end point when in fact this may be the start of a journey!