Week Five – Surfaces and Strategies: ‘Surfaces’

The task this week has been to choose curators and designers from our (now) cohort of 27 students. Interestingly, given that this was open for anyone to apply to, only 10 or so put themselves forward. I feel this may be in part to do with personal capacity – it definitely is in my case and I offered my time in an understudy role only.

The process of selecting the people to take on these roles, which are all about producing an interim ‘global’ exhibition for the international cohort in August, is that I have discovered I prefer to lead. But as I do this in my work life away from my studies I felt it would be good to be ‘on the other side’ as a part of the process not the director – as the project progresses I will be interested to see how I feel about being ‘curated’ and part of a design I have had no huge input into.

Our aims for the remainder of this module is to create:

  • a group exhibition
  • a publication
  • a workshop

I already have four workshops arranged in August, which I may be able to curtail to this project but I now have other ideas relating to my work’s latest direction – images created by sand.

From the start of this MA I have known that my final major project will be created outside. The form it takes is another matter. Making my work outside and using nature as my darkroom it would feel odd for it to be any other way. Therefore I am now looking at ways I can produce an interactive exhibition as part of this project that will enable me to gain insight into how people will respond to my work.

As the images I am creating with sand do not have show an upfront obvious environmental story (see Edward Burtynsky’s work for examples of more ‘in your face’ environmental images), it will be essential to spark curiosity and questions through their aesthetic. They are not just ‘pretty pictures’ or marks on a page but will enable those who query them to begin to see how sand, time, geology and human population/impact is intertwined within them.

I am also researching other means of how my work can be shown, and if it even needs to be in ways I am used to. This week in a one-to-one chat with my tutor Stella she pointed out the works of Richard Long, while the course leader Gary told me about Simon Starling. Both use other means to express their ideas and yet photography plays an important part of how its shared. Could I make work that is not initially ‘photographic’ but becomes so as part of my investigation into the ‘sands of time’?

Initially when I begin to make work I do not consciously do so with a specific audience in mind. I need to feel the freedom of my surroundings rather than make something that I feel will fit a predetermined viewer.

This need to feel ‘free’ from outside control also applies to how much I would allow a curator to influence the reading of my work. I would have to have huge confidence in said curator to allow a carte blanche approach, but I would be more than willing to work in collaboration to guide and support curatorial decisions relating to my work. How much use a curator will be be to my practice in future is something I have yet to discover. I am so used to creating my own workshops, shows etc. that I think this project will be a great means of trialling my own reactions to external control.

As long as the avenues of communication are open and clear I think we will, as a cohort, be able to produce an invigorating and inspiring international exhibition.