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Photography by Gaz Williams

The Installation Process

The long wait is finally over – after seven, almost eight, modules and a number of years my first exhibition is hanging on a wall and the first visitors have been in to see it. OK, some of those were friends who were coerced into it or bribed with the offer of a drink at the bar but those are actually my images on the wall of an exhibition site!

The hanging of the images was, as I expected, very fiddly and frustrating but not as bad as I’d expected. Because of the method of hanging that was mandated by the Centre it was difficult to get the images level but a spirit level app on the ubiquitous smartphone was surprisingly effective. The biggest problem was the vertical hanging cable method. These cables were made of a fairly stiff plastic material with a sliding clip to take the crocodile mounts. These clips were slightly stiff to move so trying to move them a millimetre ended up in a movement ten times that so I’d need to go back and try again to get them level.

More annoying was the surplus cable which had to be rolled up so that they wouldn’t be visible hanging beneath the images. Because of the stiffness of the cable these coils of surplus material had a mind of their own and instead of lying parallel to the wall would rotate and push one side of the image away from the wall. Lots of insulating tape tended to fix that problem but over the past week since I hung the images two or three of these coils have worked lose so I need to go in regularly to maintain the correct hanging of the images.

It’s no worse than I expected so I can’t really complain though I would still have preferred to be able to mount directly to the wall. Having said that, I totally understand the Centre’s reluctance to allow it. One aspect that did work well were the polystyrene floaters as I called them – those small tubes of polystyrene that I’d placed at the four corners of the Foamex mount so that all four corners would stay at the same distance from the wall even on the vertical hangers. Apart from the aforementioned issue with the surplus cables this was a success and created the floating effect that I wanted.

The “Opening Night” was fun even if it was on the second evening. It simply consisted of a group of coerced invited friends and family for drinks and canapes in the bar area. This contained three images which can be seen being hung in the second image above. The arch to the right in that image lead to the main area where most of the images were displayed. some of which can be see in the bottom left image.

We didn’t have exclusive access to the bar area so other casual visitors were present and it was interesting to watch their reactions as well. Not surprisingly the general comments from friends was complementary but some interesting comments were made. Most of them totally understood the theme once they’d read the information board and some were coming out with observations that I hadn’t thought about, particularly about the consistent use of light.

Another thing that was successful according to these early comments was the way the images floated just off the wall creating a portal-like effect. A number of the guess commented on its effectiveness in giving the impression that the viewer could step through the boundary into the other area, something that I’d envisioned when I thought about the hanging and mounting of the images.

All in all I’m happy and pleasantly surprised with the installation and its effectiveness but we’ll see if I still feel that way in four weeks time when I come to dismantle the exhibition.

One final note – I have to say again the the staff at the Old Court were fantastic. It was my responsibility to do the actual hanging but they were so helpful with everything that I needed.

Publication Draft – Assignment 4

I’ve placed my fourth assignment, Publication Draft, on my website and it can be accessed here. It was all pretty straightforward with much of the information already in the blog, just a matter of pulling it together in a semi-coherent fashion and adding a few bits.

David, my tutor, seems happy enough with it and everything now seems on track for the exhibition. Some of the minor elements that we discussed follow.

The 3 images to be shown in the annex/bar area should work together, not just the three strongest or most picturesque and I should think of placing the background information on the wall, possibly as A2. This would allow more people to read it and there would be less chance of maintenance staff removing the information by mistake. It would allow me to place the flyers on the table for people to take them away.

I should think about the height of the frame, there is an algorithm relating to the average height of a person. However, the main thing is that it should look “right”.  Also, look out for the ceiling lights which are slightly low and might distract the viewer’s view. Think about lowering the images from the standard in this case.

We’d previously mentioned Peter Davies, University of Wales landscape photographer, with respect to the subject matter. Davies has a PhD dissertation which includes a presentation with similar subject material. The paper discusses the reasons for not using a frame, issues of scale etc. This is relevant to my exhibition so would be interesting – though David is not convinced 😊 There was a brief discussion which quickly stepped back from environmental aesthetics!

The idea of enabling the floating effect should work with the polystyrene cylinders that I’m proposing. In my budgeting I’ve included my time and costs even though it’s “free” to demonstrate that I would be able to apply for funding. I also need to include the time of others such as the Laura Noble fee or even the time spent by my “coterie” (group of friends) who I enlisted to solicit their opinion on the final portfolio.

I need to rephrase the last paragraph of my Artist’s Statement as it’s is slightly confusing, creating a mental loop that is misleading.

On a slight digression David checked that I’d used Taylor’s “A Dream of England” as a key test in my CS work. This was a tome that I’d found very interesting, to be honest I found it more interesting than useful to my CS work but it’s become more useful as I look to exhibit Virtual Boundaries.

The most important comment from David was to look out for problems or issues on the day of hanging – something is very likely to go wrong so “be prepared”

References

Taylor, J. (1994) A Dream of England. Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Draft Publication – Other Bits

Things are getting close and I’m happy with the prints (actually, very happy with the printing and mounting by PrintSpace) and I know where I want to hang which image but there are still some bits that I need to finish or decide upon.

The first thing that I’m having trouble deciding upon the best solution is the feedback method. The traditional method of a feedback or comment book does not work for me – at least I never bother to fill it in if I can avoid it. I could leave a tablet or laptop in place with a custom designed input screen but it’s a public place so I’m not sure that I want to do that, though it would be the most effective if I designed the screen in a fun but useful manner.

The high tech versions such as an iPad Kiosk would be great but ……

countertop

More realistically, I’ll definitely have a link to a form on my website so that people can comment or, preferably, discuss aspects of the exhibition but that takes effort on the part of the visitor so I’d prefer to also have something that was fun, quick and easy.

I’ve always liked the simplicity of those brightly coloured buttons that you get in places like airports or big exhibition sites that the visitor just hits on the way out but a) they don’t gather much information and b) I’ve no idea how to do it.

A simple method would be to have pre-printed comment forms that could be placed in a box or similar container but, again, that doesn’t appeal to me. I certainly don’t like doing that at exhibitions.

Interactive installation, swapping services via chalk speech bubbles, Collaborative consumption

https://collabcubed.com/2012/06/07/i-havei-need-sarah-crowley-charlotte-fliegner/amp/

One method I like was to place small, shaped blackboards on a wall and invite comments with some nearby chalk as seen above but I woudn’t be able to place the boards on the wall in my chosen location – at least I can’t think of a method now.

A Stirling University student, Anne Frank, came up with the great solution seen below.

stirling university's Anne Frank exhibition feedback wall will be turned in to an artwork after the exhibition. Great idea.
Pinterest link

But again it involves sticking pins in the wall in this format. I could place a large cork board for visitors to place the comments on, it would have to hang from the vertical cords in the same way as the images but it could work. More simply I could use the same method with brightly-coloured post-its. Anyway, it’s something that I need to decide upon.

Almost forgot, the most important thing is that I’ll be there a lot of time and will be soliciting feedback, either just by listening in or by asking directly.

Anyway, another issue is what to do about invites and an opening night or event. I’ve got a list of people that I’d like to attend, probably about 20 people excluding friends and family. These include:

  • Tourist Information people
  • Hotel guest managers
  • Tourist guides
  • The managers or heads of other galleries
  • Crown Estate marketing
  • The local newspapers

I’m very hesitant about inviting these people to a formal event since, if I’m not careful, it becomes a chore for all concerned. My inclination at this stage is to host a drinks and canapes evening to which I’d invite friends, family and (to be honest) any acquaintances that I think that I could get to come along. Since the exhibition is basically in a bar with an anteroom it would be very easy to set up. I’d then email the above people, the “important” ones :-), about the exhibition and suggest that they might like to attend but mention the evening as an occasion when they’d be able to meet myself and other people who were interested in the subject.

Another subject that I’ve been debating is a complementary book to go with the exhibition. I’ve already got the bulk of it designed but, as ever, it’s the fine detail at the end that takes the most time. I had a chat with my tutor about this after Assignment 2 and he was very doubtful as to the benefits of doing this. He felt, and I tend to agree, that producing a quality book would dilute my efforts when I needed to concentrate on the exhibition. We’ll see how it goes over the next week or so, if I have the time and energy I’ll see about progressing the book but, at the moment, I think that it’s something that I’ll leave till later, after the exhibition, for my own enjoyment. I’ve mentioned before that David suggested stab binding and it’s something that I think that I’d like to do in my own time, with no rush or pressure to deliver it to a deadline.

Finally, I need to decide what I want to do with this website. I’ve taken on board and introduced all of the changes that Laura Noble suggested during Assignment 1 but it’s an iterative process. My long term aim is to create a more complete website around the subject much like Ken Harrison’s Land Photography but that’s a long term project, possibly for a Master’s course. In the meantime I need to decide when to stop with the changes and leave it in a static form for the exhibition. I think that I’m already at that stage, I’ve stripped it down so that it’s basically the exhibition images and background together with some other portfolios and this blog so I think that I’ll leave it there but, again, that might change.

Anyway, those are the questions that I’m still debating as the exhibition date hurtles closer.

Draft Publication – The Images

Right, I’ve now moved forward with the images. I’ve selected the final twelve that I will be showing as Virtual Boundaries.

Each of these shows a barrier or boundary that can easily be passed for access to another area and shows a glimpse of that area. This selection was heavily influenced by an answer that David Campany gave when asked how he curates an exhibition (Fruchtnis, 2018).

“An exhibition is not a catalogue. An exhibition needs to work as an embodied experience. I think that very often curators of photography exhibitions forget this, and shows end up feeling like catalogues on the wall.”

I had a number of test strips printed covering a range of papers. The first choice was between Giclée and C-Type. In many ways C-Type would have been preferable because of the range of dark tones in many of the images but for the few with very bright colours the Giclée format was more suitable. In addition, the C-Type would have been more rugged given that I do not intend to have the images behind glass (see below for the reasoning).

Having looked at these test strips I settled on the Hahnemüle Pearl as it held the muted tones of the woodland whilst reproducing the bright colours in the relevant images. In addition, the slight texture conveyed the texture of the tree trunks and branches much better than the C-Type papers managed. Finally, this paper is one of the more suitable Giclée papers for mounting as many others are likely to fray at the edges.

In terms of mounting I decided that I did not want to have any glass in front of the images, partly because the lighting in the display area is not ideal and can cause reflections, even with “non-reflective” glass, but also because the glass would introduce a boundary, exactly what I wanted to avoid. After all, the theme is about passing through boundaries. By simply mounting on black 3mm Foamex I can allow the viewer to see the images and, hopefully, allow them to sense the opportunity to “enter” the image and explore.

In this way the images are the sole object of interest and attention with no distraction, not even the wall as they will be “floating” an inch away. As Balzer describes in Curationism (Balzer, 2014), the object should be the sole focus, not the curator, the gallery or even frame.

In the display area I’m constrained as to my choice of hanging methods since the centre will only allow vertical hanging from the rails near the ceiling. As a result, I’m using self-adhesive sawtooth fitting to place on the back of the mount. Each fitting can take 1kg of weight so two fitting should take the weight and allow me to ensure a level hanging.

An issue with this form of hanging is that the images tend to hang unevenly, i.e. not parallel to the wall. I’m rectifying this by placing a ½ inch polystyrene cylinder near each corner, topped by a small rubber furniture bumper. This should allow the image to “float” parallel to the wall and the 3mm black Foamex should enhance this impression.

I’ve tested the hanging at home and is seems to work, the images floating parallel to the wall, almost creating a portal effect which works well with the theme.

At the same time as getting these prints made I had an information board created with my bio, background information and Artist’s Statement. I’ve shown an image of this board in the relevant blog entry. This will hang in the same way as these images thus, I hope, creating a consistent effect.

References


Balzer, D., 2014. Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else. London: Pluto Press.

BJP, 2018, A guide to exhibiting your work, Available online at https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/03/exhibiting-your-work-three-curators/ Accessed 16th July 2018

Edwards, E.C., 2007. The Future for Curators. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 18(S1), pp.98–114. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pia.290

Fruchtnis, K., 2018. David Campany – Photography is a Passport, Available online at http://www.urbanautica.com/interview/david-campany-photography-is-a-passport/221. Accessed 12th December 2018

Draft Publication – The Exhibition Area

As I mentioned earlier in Section 2 I’ve decided on The Old Court for my exhibition. The Old Court in Windsor is a converted fire station which is the hub for Art in the community. It holds classes in dance and painting, has a local cinema and theatre as well as a well-populated friendly bar that acts a focus for community gossip. It is also central to the Windsor Festival, an Arts festival held every year in the Autumn which includes painting, sculpture, poetry reading, photography etc. As a result, it provides the local focus that I’m interested in for this exhibition.

The local photographic society meets in the building every week and includes a number of professional photographers in its ranks. I’m hoping for some interest from the attendees as they must walk past the exhibition to their meeting area thereby increasing my networking opportunities.

The location is shown in the images below which show another exhibition in the space though the furniture would not be there.

The main room is shown in the upper three images which is a room of the bar area. The last image show a wall in the bar area which can also be used. This last image shows the hanging method which isn’t ideal but is mandated by the Centre.

The display area with The Old Court is adjacent to the bar area with overflow possibilities in the bar area itself. I will be taking advantage of that space as a way of enticing the visitors to the bar into the main space. In addition, the display area is used as a possible to the to the cinema and to the area where classes such as dance classes are held, thus encouraging a greater footfall even it consists of casual viewers.

The layout is as shown below

Added Note – I’ve since discovered RoomSketcher, a free online tool for doing room plans etc. It’s a much better alternative to PowerPoint as above.

Three images will be placed in the bar area. I haven’t made a final decision on which images to place here but, at the moment, I’m leaning towards a couple that have the most picturesque impact to encourage people to come through to the main area. The other images will be in the main area and grouped, if I can, to emphasise similarities or complementary aspects of the images. I’m pretty certain now that I have my final images so I’ve started planning where each image should go but I think that things will change right up to the moment of hanging as I see what works in the actual location.

I’m still not sure how to frame and mount the images given the restrictions on hanging but I’m leaning towards a simple Foamex mount with no border or frame, allowing the images to “float” of the wall.

There are two books that I’m reading at the moment which provide interesting ideas for this exercise. The first is Shirley Read’s, Exhibiting Photograpy, which covers far more than I need but provides useful information on the installation.

The second is David Balzer’s, Curationism, which gives some interesting insights on curating an exhibition, even one’s own.

References

Balzer, D., 2014. Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World and Everything Else. London: Pluto Press.

Read, S., 2008. Exhibiting Photography: A Practical Guide to Choosing a Space, Displaying your Work, and Everything in Between.. Oxford: Elsevier.