21 December 2013

Developing practice course - session 4

The tutor for this session was Kate Stoddart, who has been involved in developing contemporary art projects for the National Trust. The focus was on audiences, and after a slide show about some of Kate's projects (see below) the first small-group exercise was to consider the role of the museum in the eyes of possible audiences -
That was followed by discussion to "what is an audience" (the museum's, and yours as an artist), enlightened also by seeing the outcome of a sophisticated audience research exercise: a graph with axes "followers ... explorers" and "social ... personal" (motivation). The groups fit into the spectrum "social - intellectual - emotional - spiritual" and were: site-seers, families, urban cool, self-improvers, social spacers, researchers, sensualists, actualisers, and afficionados. Site-seers and afficionados, at opposite corners of the graph, fit in with other research I've read (somewhere on this blog...) which finds audiences composed of "tourists" who visit once, locals who visit infrequently, and a small group who visit regularly - which sounds obvious, but needs confirming as it won't apply in all museums. (Elsewhere I found these top tips on "defining your work and defining your audience".)

A local project Kate was involved in (local to her in Nottingham) was a neglected wall, part of a Victorian bakery that had good memories for lots of the residents. Artist John Newling (also local, as it happened) was successful with his proposal, and collected texts on what people valued, to put up these words -
"It is the pleasures of life that are the only important value and such pleasure
can be found through communities and friends"
In time the K went missing, and then the D went askew (as though it were purposely being removed to reveal a slightly different message), so the installation was moved higher up, onto the wall of the building itself; opposite a park, it has become a focus for the community, to the extent that wedding photos are taken there. 

Other projects Kate mentioned are Nottingham Castle Museum's Wedgwood collection, opened to a different audience by the installation made by paper artist Peter Callesen, who cut the door and the shards out of one huge sheet of paper. "Asked to respond to the property’s extensive Wedgwood collection, the artist took an unusual approach. Not convinced that Wedgwood was for him, he began with an old door left in the grounds of the castle and used it as a starting point for the work. This particular example demonstrates the way in which artists are able to respond to any project, regardless of how interesting they find the stimulus." -
Callesen's response (via)
 Hear Heres at Keddleston Hall focused visitors on aspects of the grounds and the hall within them -
House of Beasts at Attingham Hall included work by 20 artists, inside and outside -
"The Interlopers" by Tessa Farmer
This brochure, passed around as part of a case study, intrigued me with the simple fold of the front of the leaflet, and its zipper edging -
This "high point event" brought hundreds of bikers to a historic castle that thought it was a forgotten property in Lincolnshire, and was predicated on (a) having staff interested in motorcyles; (b) knowing that the site was on a biking route; (c) research into biking culture and contact with bikers. The event was billed as an Alternative Village Fete - incorporating a procession of motorbikes, for instance - events that would pull different groups in and not alienate the traditional audience. Inside the castle were artworks, such as this installation by Tod Hanson, combining the architectural and the mechanical, schema of engine parts and floorplans of the six-storey building -
In the afternoon, an exercise to sharpen our thinking on getting project proposals off the ground -
The results -

Idea leads to visit leads to research into the site, a project brief, phone call followed by another visit perhaps, or face-to-face conversation, along with research into the project, then a sharpened brief and a written proposal; is funding in place? if so, it's time for a letter of agreement or contract - and making the work - after which it needs promotion.  (Kate reports elsewhere: " the first stage of application, the ‘expression of interest’, is crucial to applicants and judges - the more you can give the better. Many  properties need a little extra convincing; it may not be the curators you’re trying to win over but the gardener, or builder, or property manager. In a non-conventional art space other factors count. It’s important, therefore, to be completely sure you want the project and visit the place and talk to the staff – can you work with them, is this somewhere you can contribute to?")

We went "round the table" to find out about what people were thinking in terms of spaces, projects, ways forward. Thanks to everyone for giving me such good feedback on what seems to be an obvious project - taking my some of my Travel Lines to the Transport Museum.

The day went too quickly and the next session is some weeks away - hopefully there will be online discussion between times...  There was hardly time to look at the reading materials Kate had brought along, but I did flip through a book on the work of Dierdre Nelson, which planted some new thoughts -
Homework for next time-
And a handout -
Not sure if everyone is ready to identify a project space, or write the draft brief - some people may be using the course more as a way of regularly getting to museums to use them as springboards; getting into the habit of going to draw or research. As for my obvious project - if I'd be doing that anyway, should (or could) I do something "different" as a project for the course?

No comments: