Late last fall I began my fixation with disseminating my work. I tried to think of some strategies for presenting my work given my knowledge of the venues in Saskatoon and my potential for access to them. Simply put, I didn’t feel that there was a venue that would host my work in the short term. I figured that I needed a garage gallery.
For a long time I’ve assumed that my work falls in the cracks between the interests of the local artist-run centres: AKA Gallery and Paved Arts. Whether or not I was correct in this assumption, I’ve found recently that there is a convergence in our interests. But regardless of recent developments, the lead times for exhibitions at these spaces is longer than my drive for instant gratification can handle.
Similarly, the Mendel Art Gallery appears to have fairly long lead times for exhibitions. And this institution—despite all of the attention I’ve paid it recently—is a bit of an enigma to me. I sort of know a few people there, but none of them are the people who call the shots when it comes to exhibitions. Yes, it’s in my plan to approach the curators but I’ve had a few too many irons in the fire recently.
There are other venues, some of which pay artist fees, and some of which don’t. I hadn’t held out much hope for commercial representation locally because I haven’t seen work like mine for sale anywhere. What I mean here is that my work is different in two respects. On the one hand is the fact that I’m working digitally. My assumption was that it would be a more difficult sell in a market where few—if any—artists are marketing digital work. On the other hand my work doesn’t really look like anyone else’s. One would assume that this uniqueness would be a selling point, but I’ve found that “unique” it is often a harder sell than the familiar. The marketing adage “make it creative, but not too creative; make it different, but not too different” applies. In a conservative market such as Saskatoon, art buyers seem to have a tendency towards the familiar, but a familiar that has evidence of the unique voice of the individual artist. I could go on about this, but it’s a digression from my main topic.
I didn’t relish the prospect of showing my work at a coffee shop or restaurant. While I’ll admit that a venue is a venue, to a certain extent my ego was telling me “Ed, you’ve done café shows before. You’re better than that now.” Plus then I’d have to spend time finding a café venue. My inner careerist convinced me that a better long-term strategy would be to go after shows that would give me more art-world cred.
So here I was, with new work that I wanted to show, but nowhere acceptable to show it. I thought about doing a hotel-room show, à la some of the satellite art fairs in orbit around Art Basel Miami Beach. Then it occurred to me that once the weather improved I could simply find, borrow, or rent a garage or a shed, and have a series of mini-exhibitions. It seemed like a great plan for intimately viewing some new work. Titles like “Ed’s Art Shed” or “Ed’s Art Garage” popped into my head.
Of course, this brilliant idea started to lose some of its shine once the cold set in around November. I filed the idea for future reference, with vague plans to revisit it in the spring. Then last week an email informed me that my insanely great new idea was not so new after all. There’s been an organized series of garage-situated art shows in Toronto for the past four years. Summer 2007 will be the fifth anniversary of Alley Jaunt:
ALLEYJAUNT is Toronto’s alternative, urban, community arts event. Through the transformation of garages and alleys into exhibition spaces, ALLEYJAUNT gives exposure to local artists, encourages public interaction with art, integrates contemporary art into public space, and reaches out to a diverse community of all ages within the Trinity Bellwoods Park neighbourhood setting.
The event takes place 11-12 August 2007. If you’re interested in participating, the submission deadline is 1 May 2007.
And yes, I’m still thinking about doing my own garage art show here in Saskatoon. If anyone else is interested in this idea—or has a space available—let me know.
I agree with you that Sakatoon doesn’t really have so much to offer for artists working in digital media that want to exhibit their work without a 1+ year turnaround. The time frames needed for working with instititions is definitely prohibitive to a lot of artists, especially younger artists (who may find the whole process intimidating and overly bureaucratic) and more established artists whose new work falls outside the norms of what the local galleries are exhibiting. This “turnaround period” als makes it difficult to show new work that is responding to current political situations.
That said, I think that your idea could really fly. I think that there are other artists out there that would be interested in working with the kind of space you described, if the space was inviting, diverse, had a good location (absolutely essential!!!), and showed work of a consistent quality in a consistent fashion.
I’m actually looking for a place that I can run a series of workshops this summer. A space like that might be perfect (location, location, location!).
Keep me “posted”!
Carrie, I don’t know how other institutions are addressing this issue of the compressed timescale of some digital practices. I know that a lot of artist-run centres have project spaces, but I don’t know what their lead times are. I think part of the problem is that so-called “open” spaces—in any media—are filled up with programming really quickly simply because there is such a glut of artwork and artists. The perpetual traffic jam that we recognize as the state of exhibition space today is a symptom of this imbalance in the ratio of venues to artists.
I don’t think there are any easy solutions, but something like what the Perpetual Art Machine has done for video art could go a long way towards making screenings more modular. But a video jukebox is probably a nightmare from a licensing and artist fees perspective.
I think that the CARFAC fee schedule can get in the way of new developments in the industry. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against paying artist fees. How does one develop a business model for a device that holds the potentiality of screening 1000 works? An exhibition space would certainly not want to pay the minimum license fee for all of the works. I should note here that I’m not bashing the CARFAC fee schedule. I am, after all, on the board of CARFAC Saskatchewan. And my other disclaimer is that the opinions I’m expressing here are my own opinions as an individual artist, and don’t necessarly toe the CARFAC party line.
Regardless of the licensing issues involved with a video jukebox, with contemporary digital media one the big stumbling blocks is the sheer diversity of technology. How does one plan for the many possible delivery platforms and methods? In my case it’s pretty simple to deal with the fact that as a digital artist I work with the computer as a tool for creating limited-edition prints on paper. But there are so many artists doing so many other things that the umbrella of “digital practices” is too broad.
I don’t have any answers, but I agree that Saskatoon is ready for some sort of easily-accessible project space. And the thing is, what I saw in Japan was that such spaces were sometimes integrated into the major civic institutions.
In terms of garage art, however, I’d much rather see ad hoc spaces than the development of a new artist-run centre. But that may be because I don’t want to become an administrator.
You can borrow my house anytime for a garage art show, and Carrie, you’re always welcome as well.