VL 3 : Exposition and Context (i)

The third video lecture sees Caroline come in for in for a change, talking about the context for our work. She asks a number of questions, which I will try to address below, before going on to talk about places to see work, from the gallery to site specific work (part ii of this post).

The questions were as follows:

Why do I want to make this (being an artist) a career?
Well, a career might actually be a little on the strong side. I personally doubt that it would become my career as I seem to be doing alright as an engineer. However, I don't get a huge amount of creative satisfaction from that line of work (more on this later), but it pays the bills, which means I can do what I want to do with my photography without having to worry about pleasing a client or producing something to fill a market need.

Having said all that, if it were to become something that could fulfil that role, then great!! How it would do that, I've no idea really.

What are my reasons for doing it?
Well, creative satisfaction is the main reason. Working outside of the strict rules and procedures of engineering is hugely liberating, it allows me to think differently, not having to worry about whether a particular option is "safe", or whether something might be provable, whether evidence can be found to support a particular route of action. There is something to be said for having an idea about something and working through it, seeing if it works or not, using the camera to ask questions of myself and of others. Admittedly, it doesn't always come off, but sometimes I do produce things I'm happy with.

What are my needs?
As might be gathered from the above, on the first level I want to produce something that gives me satisfaction, that helps me work out things in my head in a visual way. It might be argued then that photography is a form of tool for me, a visual "calculator".

It's also feeding my desire to make images. Long ago I decided in my own mind I wasn't really good enough to create images using paint or pencils ("decidedly average" comes to mind), so photography provides the means that I can use to explore things visually. Yes, it's a different language that is used, but that 's ok... I've liked photography for a long time anyway, even if the style of what I have liked has changed over the years (once, it had to be black and white...)

In terms of fame and fortune (part of the original question), it's not a huge driver for me. I'd be foolish to say that I would not like either, who wouldn't like an extra source of income and some level of recognition? However, it's not what I specifically do it for - aside from a few hundred quid here and there, I've never really made anything, and it certainly doesn't cover my costs! And as for the recognition, I tend to do everything under a pseudonym anyway... The limelight makes me feel uncomfortable, although that's not to say I don't have an ego that needs feeding occasionally. What will come, will come, but essentially I would see that as a bonus.

What does my practice constitute?
Photography... although not what the layman might identify with in that I don't look to do portraits, or chocolate box landscapes, etc. Mostly I suppose the work will be in series, that the images juxtapose with each other (or something else in some cases) to create something "extra".

Where am I currently positioned?
Hmmm... aside from on a sofa in France... seriously though, I'm not sure I really know. I'm a photographer, and I photograph what I want. Part of the reason for doing this MA (and not a photography MA) is to se if I can find out where I'm positioned in the wider art context.

What would I like to be in a few years time?
Still doing what I want to be doing, and if other people like that too it will be a bonus. I'd also like to be more aware of what I'm doing, where I'm going with my work (and why). I do sometimes wonder why all my work varies so much, so I'd either like to be in a position that I'm relaxed with that, or I've sorted myself out so that I'm more consistent.

What is a "professional context" for an artist?
The professional artist works in some way. If you look at the so-called art photographer, as opposed to the more commercial types, then in addition to print sales, there will be books, residencies, working with communities and teaching. Even some of the bigger names teach and take on other jobs - I'm thinking those like Stephen Shore here too, who is a director of photography at Bard College. There are many who supplement their direct art income in this way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's whatever "fits".

I said earlier that I don't have to work at being an artist in order to survive, so does that take me away from being a "professional"? In terms of money flow, everything seems to be an outwards flow - I pay to exhibit, pay to have my work seen, pay to receive feedback. Not many people are paying me for my art (one or two only).

What is success?
A wide ranging question, with answers ranging from being recognised by peers, to a wider audience, to making sales of existing work of one type or another, to having people wanting to commission the work or the worker for something.

Or it could simply be making the work. For me, this is where I am I suppose as not many people really see my work. The next step would be to widen my audience.

What it the right setting for my work
The main setting for my work is currently the Internet. Whether this is the "right" setting is another matter, but I suppose in some ways it does play to the sort of work I'm currently producing (the appropriation work that is
Some Unholy War). I do like to think it will move on from there though, and I'll see more of my work seen in a more physical form, whether on a gallery wall or in a book. A gallery would not really need to be some national institution such as the Tate Modern or MoMA, a smaller local gallery would be more than acceptable. The same with books; I'd be perfectly happy to see work on a small scale such as those produced by Cafe Royal Books or The Velvet Cell, or even a bespoke personally produced piece (which I've already done) rather than a mass produced one by Steidl or Dewis Lewis.

References
Exposition and Context: Professional Context, Video Lecture 1. Unknown. [Video Streaming] Caroline Wright. Open College of the Arts. (MA1)
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