I was not sure how many visitors would come specifically for the exhibition. Despite various methods of distributing the publicity and inviting people to contact me directly or to register for the open evening and the Artist’s talk on Eventbrite, I did not have a clear number of confirmed attendees. The location of The Clay Factory is slightly outside the nearest small town of Ivybridge, well set back from the main road and transport would be required to get there. I understand that some events have been very well supported but there have been occasions with fewer numbers attending than expected.
Starting slowly with only half a dozen on the first day the numbers built through the week. The last three days saw returns of people who had been previously bringing with them partners, children or friends. What was special to witness were these returners explaining my project and what the images were to their companions and inviting me into the conversations to explain further and answer questions. It did feel as if a momentum had been created and that it could have run for longer especially as more people arrived as I was starting to take the exhibition down.
I had suggested to a colleague (A) some time before that I could do a virtual tour with my phone or laptop as he was not able to attend in person. This would also present an opportunity for a recording, something that could be added to our course assignments. We trialled Zoom with a third colleague (L) before the exhibition. Belatedly we found out that you can only record if using a computer but not a phone when using the free version. On the day of A’s tour we ran it with my phone, his computer and he kindly recorded it using Camtasia. A then rendered the film and forwarded it to me for my use. Following this experience I gave a guided tour of the exhibition to six others (three were relatives) using my phone with WhatsApp and my laptop for appear.in. Unfortunately I missed a further request as it came too late when the exhibition had been taken down.
This experience was something I had not foreseen but was a welcome discovery. With each tour I was able to develop and improve my verbal accompaniment as well as feeling more confident in answering questions. Although none of these were recorded, there is the potential to do so at future events. I felt this was good use of technology to open up events to people who could not attend them. I plan to visit A’s exhibition this way.
Another welcome development were visits by groups of school children some of whom were studying GCSE Photography and Undergraduate Photography and Film students. I found that I could talk spontaneously about the problem of plastics, the five gyres in the oceans and the challenges faced in finding solutions as well as explain the project and exhibition tailoring my language and content to the needs of the different age groups attending. It was good to hear that some had been involved in running a fashion show where garments were made from recycled materials. I was thanked by a teacher on a repeated visit with another group of pupils as those who had been before were apparently inspired by my images and my methods. They had returned to school and tried out scanning. Had the exhibition run for longer I would have taken up their invitation to see what they had made and advise on methodology.
Among the adult visitors there were several photographers and resident artists as well as people who used The Clay Factory for classes, events and a lunch venue. Learning about their responses to what they saw in my images was instructive. For example several people noticed a theme or motif appearing in the form of open fish mouths across several beach debris images. Perhaps the shape was something I engineered subconsciously when scanning. Having the small wooden crate of finds was praised as being helpful in understanding the message behind the images. I also had suggestions for the future of the project. I had some time ago thought about exhibiting on a beach, perhaps during a beach clean and this was suggested. In addition, continuing with the theme of a container, one person suggested a travelling exhibition in a long wheel based vehicle that could visit beach car parks in the holiday season and open up to visitors.
I have since been invited to take images on a Plymouth beach clean by the organiser. Depending on the location I will have to go prepared for all sorts of surfaces to display the images on as well as fixings to secure and protect them with inclement weather. As a backstop the nearest car park and my car boot may have to suffice as I do not possess a lorry.
Across the two collections, beach debris and recycling facilities repeated comments were made about the images seeming to be depictions of strange objects floating in space and of other worlds. Interestingly this was my original feeling about them and despite a little persuasion to move away from an connection with looking beyond planet earth, I feel that my project is justified in continuing in this vein. In this way the two strands of the work have a strengthened shared narrative when exhibited together.
In contrast to Exhibition 1 at the Incinerator visitors centre exhibiting in a metal box and on a wooden wall presented challenges in terms of printing and hanging images. Inside the shipping container it was clear that magnets would be best and with no sticky surfaces applied to the surfaces. Nails were favoured for the slatted wooden wall. Both surfaces were uneven; the metal walls corrugated so sizing images to be hung on prominent corrugations was important, the wooden wall comprised overlapping slats in a downward flow and meant that the surface undulated repeatedly from top to bottom thus making ‘flat’ hanging a challenge.
Outside and inside surfaces of the shipping container
I experimented with some of the images I had used in the first exhibition, discarding some and introducing different ones from the pool I had created to draw from for the FMP. Initially done by moving images around on a large noticeboard I then moved to a folded cardboard made from a box before discovering a wooden wine box had almost the same dimensions as the container, thus a 3D model was formed. I also took photographs of the empty container and the blank wooden wall and superimposed scaled images onto both to get a feel for looked right on the actual walls. I decided to have images of recycling on parts of the outside mimicking looking into recycling banks and because these images had been used in the initial publicity and would therefore be identifiable and recognisable by visitors drawing them in a flow from back to front of the container (this being the approach they would take on entering a large factory space with two levels of containers with windows all being used as offices and studios). The container I was using had no windows but it did have power points, two tungsten lightbulbs and wifi.
The beach debris images were destined for the inside walls of the container. Some time before I had decided this was the right place as debris should be deposited in appropriate places but this plan also symbolically alludes to the containers spilled by ships at sea and with damage and deterioration their significant contribution to the materials floating in the gyres, onto our beaches and resting on the sea bed (Morris 2017). In retrospect, I could perhaps have laid all these images on the floor or the ceiling of the container to make this point stronger.
I ordered and experimented with silver and black magnets of different strengths and sizes (10mm, 15mm and 20mm). I settled for some of each size, each to relate to the different sizes the images were printed at. I also chose black. Although they came with an adhesive backing I chose not to use that because it would have made keeping the printed images difficult to roll and store for future use and I could not leave sticky marks possibly with magnets still attached on the surface of the metal walls. In addition since my images were on a black background I thought the black magnets would blend and not be noticed on the beach debris images, and when visible on the recycling images would not detract from the impact they conveyed. Three sets of 9 7.5 x 7.5cms magnetised images of both the beach debris and recycling images proved helpful in preparing hanging plans and having available on the container doors at the exhibition for visitors to rearrange to their liking. Having experimented with the magnets and test images on the side of my fridge freezer and central heating radiators I visited the container and tried this method of hanging out with test prints of different sizes. This also allowed me to assess whether the strength of magnets I proposed were correct for the weight of the images and they were.
My choice of surface for printing the beach debris and recycling images that were to be used with the container was 250gsm Fujifilm. Having looked at several options as reported previously (https://sarahnewtonphotoblog.com/2019/03/20/fmp-weeks-18-23-test-strips-on-paper-and-fabric/) good quality unframed posters were appropriate for lightness and the context. Mounted and framed images would have looked out of place, albeit an interesting contrast with the industrial setting, and would have been difficult to hang given that drilling and attaching sticky items to the walls were not options. The only concern I had when ordering was the limited sizes available through this online service. I would have liked the option to request specific sizes that suited both the image and the space available for hanging. This was particularly important given that I wanted the images flat against the metal walls and not being bent around the corrugations. So careful measuring of the corrugations and matching to the available sizes for posters was essential. Even then I managed to miss some variation in the spacing of the corrugations by assuming all the walls were the same! This lead to an adjustment to my hanging plan at the last moment. In addition, I had assumed the container was level on the factory floor which itself undulated in parts! I had to accept that in setting up my images with a spirit level the lines of the corrugations would not exactly match the straight edges of the images. Thankfully it all worked out!
Slatted wooden wall
Hanging on the wooden wall went smoothly. I ordered nails with a prominent head for hanging pictures as well as standard picture hooks to have a backup system in case the first one failed. The latter made the images stick out at an angle from the slatted board. However the nails could be embedded at different depths to accommodate any adverse effects of the overlapping slats in order for the images to hang flat and not at an angle. There were no adjustments to the hanging plan needed thanks to my learning from preparations for Exhibition 1 and more recent experimentation with magnetised images on the fridge and radiators at home.
Having printed on posters and magnetised squares the third surface for the recycling images was UV printed directly on 5mm PVC panels for hanging on the wooden slatted wall. I had used this method before for the Beauty and the Beach exhibition in August 2018. My thinking was to be able to reuse the printed images in other locations, such as the beach and in school settings. Thus their claim to be water-resistant and scratch-resistant was appealing. They also come ready to hang with fixings attached to the back.
Outside the container and on the wooden wall lighting was provided with industrial strip lights and limited natural sunlight through windows and a large factory door when it was open. Inside the container two overhead light bulbs produced a bright light which would have done if I had wanted a clinical stark and empty feeling when viewing images inside it. My instinct was to create something of an atmosphere. I took advice from a theatrical producer who loaned equipment for me to experiment with at home and when ‘rehearsing’ in the container. He offered up to 5 floor up lighters used in stage shows and a range of coloured rolls of plastic from which I could make filters. Downlighter spots as one might see in some galleries were not an option with limitations on being able to attach fixings to the ceiling and the positioning of electrical sockets such that wires would be trailing and hanging above visitors heads.
The additional equipment offered was a dimming board which would give me control of individual lights. I also looked into mood lamps available online and at large DIY stores as these can be set to particular colours or to scroll through a set of colours, some with projected patterns. I worked out that I would need more than one and the costs would have mounted. So following experimentation I selected three lights and remained until setting up day undecided between blue and red filters or a combination of both.
The blue created a cold mystical feel and the light seemed more prominent than the content of the images. The red created a glow with some warmth inviting visitors in and most importantly seemed to illuminate the images to best advantage. I decided not to use the dimmer board as the extra trailing wires presented an additional hazard and I would have had to stay close to the equipment to safeguard it. I could also adjust the lighting by switching one or two lights off to create an effect and also to allow them to cool. I placed warnings about the lamps possibly being warm and not to get close to them at the entrance to the container. An additional health and safety element was to lay carpet (which happened to be sand coloured) on the central aisle in the middle of the floor and away from the lights. This was particularly important as potential visitors included children. The carpet also served the purpose of dampening sound when walking in the container.
The Clay Factory (http://theclayfactory.co.uk/) rents out space for businesses and artists studios. Run by a social enterprise, Redpod Enterprises, in conjunction with the Eddystone Trust. Subsidiaries include RedPod Arts and RedPod Food. Out-Sight-In exhibition was located near the pop up lunches cafe RedPod Food and close to the studios of two artists, Anita Reynolds and Sarah Gilbert. My images and their work as shown on the outside of their studios at the time of the exhibition worked well in so far as their focus on land and seascapes and mine on debris blighting both meant that we were complementary and not conflicting. In addition, the large room we were all accommodated in had a series of huts decorated as beach huts (each was a fully equipped office inside) and was being developed and decorated with an overarching beach theme. Again it felt as if the images I was presenting fitted in well.
The Clay Factory requested that all the stage lighting I would be using should be PAT tested. Having checked all the lights, adapters and extensions I arranged for an electrician to ensure this was done (some items were due to run out shortly after the time of the exhibition so they were included too).
Public & Products Liability and Professional Indemnity (PPL and PI) insurance
The Clay Factory requested that I have public liability insurance. There are a number of organisations available to cover artists and photographers. I researched options and costs and took out a policy which will cover me for events over the coming year.
Accepting the invitation to present your work is easy. Then the reality hits. Thankfully I was given parameters in which to work; 10minutes Pecha Kucha style. Further clarification confirmed that slides should not be auto timed. Having researched Pecha Kucha for the presentation last October (a film of 20 slides for 20 seconds each with a recorded commentary for assignment purposes: https://sarahnewtonphotoblog.com/2018/10/03/fmp-week-1-pecha-kucha/) I was aware this time was different. Speaking live without reading meant rehearsal with memory retention prompted by the images I had created on the slides accompanied by 4 small cards with quotations I was to use to ensure what I said was accurate.
Deciding on the story I wanted to convey was interesting. The intention of this section of the symposium was for students in the process of completing or who had completed their Final Major Project to talk about their work. The audience in the room were prospective and current students and tutors and unknown others attending the symposium or in some way linked with the university. A remote audience were also able to view the proceedings via the university’s in house system and one presenter Alexandra presented in this way; an experience in its own right presenting without being able to see the audience. In addition, the presentations were live streamed on Instagram. For me this meant family and friends were also able to watch as well as a potentially huge unknown audience.
I could have presented my final project images speaking about the found locations and their identification and subsequent digital processing. I could have spoken about the issues of beach debris and waste management including the horrific statistics relating to marine wildlife and the limitations of our disparate recycling systems. I could have focussed on one area, the beach debris or the recycling and gone into depth about the ways of conveying messages and what we know from public health and other campaigns as to what works and what does not, anaesthetising rather than changing behaviours (Williams, 2009). I could have presented my reflections on the place of my images as visual and contemporary ‘art’ with reference to my choices in selection of equipment, lighting, perspectives for shots, manipulations in the digital darkroom of colour, orientation etc. So many options for fulfilling this remit, each of which has merit and would have been possible and permissible.
What emerged touched upon many of my initial thoughts. It became a summary of the development of the project since starting the course with personal reflections about my qualities and characteristics and how these are evident in the ways I have approached and completed the work. I was conscious of the need to engage the mixed audiences and so it became a mutli-faceted presentation that not only served a function for me in summarising my work at a significant stage before assignments are handed in but also had appeal for people embarking on the same journey as well as having content that evidenced my research and learning for the tutors who have nurtured my development.
I have received some great feedback and one student who has just started the course and intends to pursue an ecological/environmental project but is still at the thinking/planning stage, was particularly interested in what I had done. What I do not know is what was thought of the content and quality of my presentation; how I might have chosen a different direction as mentioned earlier or how I might have focussed more on the work and left out contextualising references. My tutor did give one piece of advice when I asked for feedback in the subsequent tutorial; let slides of my images stay on the screen longer. This I have duly noted for future presentations. Family also fed back (perhaps easier to be a little more critical than colleagues?) that I waved my hands around while talking and that I said “higgledy-piggledy” (reduplicative rhyming words) much to their amusement and concern that it might not be familiar to those whose first language was not english. Miriam Webster definition seems to fit with my project about rubbish:
tiny hovels piled higgledy-piggledy against each other
— Edward Behr”
Thank you to colleagues who screen shot images of me presenting (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100027122110829). I have edited a film of the slides and my speaking (as I repeatedly said ‘ummm’ and to shorten the recording as I ran over the 10 minutes) and present it here. By the way this is my first attempt at learning and using Adobe’s Premier Pro. Constructive feedback on the project and the presentation itself is welcome and will be noted for future developments and presentations!