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Category: P2: research & preparation

Siting and Audience engagement: further reading

My tutor recommended (A2: Tutorial and re-Feedback (new tutor)) materials that might generate ideas for expressing the concepts of siting and audience engagement in my publication proposal. The post contains notes from my readings:

Discourse Analysis II – institutions and ways of seeing. Rose, GD 2001, Visual Methodologies : An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials, SAGE Publications, London (p164-186)

  • General theme of images/photography being diffuse in meaning, with meanings conferred through the communication/power of the institutions that show them / their methods of showing. The apparatus of display (or ‘technologies of the gallery and museum’) are considered at length, along with the messages they might confer (eg enclosed untouchable in a glass case, suggests value/preciousness).
  • As prisons are to the enforcement of the rule of law, museums/galleries are to the enforcement of culture – inaccessible to some sections of society without the education that provides cultural capital.
  • Idea – in situ exhibition liberates art from the traditional confines and cultural power of the gallery and places it in an accessible public place. The mobile phone as a display technique, is as personal and everyday as the landscape of the canal itself. A stark contrast to a glass case or white wall in a gallery.

Wald Raad – artist’s talk and exhibition catalogue

AF Notes

Thoughts:

  • A highly designed, immersive catalogue of the making of work and the work itself. Written by Eva Respini (curator) with text contributions from Walid Raad. Highly produced / designed catalogue.
  • INSPIRATION FOR A4? Pull everything together in a catalogue? Include publicity materials? Quotes from guest book / comments on blog? First go with Affinity Publisher? Already dismissed idea of Photo Book as takes away from video work, but catalogue could work. No need to print at this stage as digital only assessment but could later be adapted for print use if opportunity arises.

Simon Roberts (website)

https://www.simoncroberts.com/news/ – Simon Roberts describes his interest as people in landscape (see video interview on news page); so similar to my interest during the Drifting project – the marks that people leave on the landscape. I feel his news page is more compelling than many artist websites I’ve seen – it has a columnar layout (echoing the reading habit of a newspaper) as a front page, inviting the reader to divide into the details of areas of interest. Importantly, it does not overwhelm with details as a first impression. Much like the front page of a newspaper it provides a map of what can be seen beyond and offers the choice of where to stop off.

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Project self-evaluation (16/9/21)

My tutor suggested using the project self-evaluation form from Natasha Caruana (Behind The Image, Caruana & Fox, 2012: p101) as a platform for generating further ideas for my artist’s statement. I note thoughts below:

  • Project Title: Drifting by the Leeds & Liverpool. Originally (at BoW) called simply Leeds & Liverpool. This seemed dry and lacked a sense of movement or action. Some have commented that my project reminds them of Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi, which I thought about when renaming my own project. The title includes an action and a place. Drifting also hints at the ideas of psychogeography and how a boat might drift on water. I decided not to include the word ‘canal’ as the title then sounded long-winded and could be understood to be purely about boating.
  • Subject: my dissertation reflects at length on the pastural representation of post-industrial space in popular imagery and how the project aims to reflect the everyday condition of the waterway. Photography laying bare the actuality of place (currently reading André Bazin’s essay). This is something the Yorkshire Post journalist who interviewed me enjoyed in the work but I suspect many others do not enjoy – I was once asked ‘why are you photographing that mate’, and it is note the aesthetic promoted by the CRT. Bazin also observed an obsession in creating an idealised world in painting, which has also become popular in photography, with Photoshop providing ready access to altered realities. Perhaps my artist statement needs to play more on photography’s capacity to clearly render the everyday condition of landscape without embellishment. But why should people want to look at that is a pressing question?
  • Aims / objectives / concepts: I wanted to convey my own take on the atmosphere of a walk along this specific canal and its sometimes bleak route across the deinstrialised North. Sound and narrative have been added to create what someone suggested was a eulogy to past industry that wasn’t necessary something to miss. However, it is perhaps the promise of ‘new industry’ and its near absence that is missed (the impact of deindustrialisation is referenced in my dissertation). I’m reminded on the current governments talk of ‘levelling-up’ as an acknowledgement of decades of failed policy. I’ve avoided politicising the work on the basis that I’d probably loose half the audience whatever stance I took. But should the artist’s statement be explicit on a political view / does this create a more meaningful outcome?
  • Audience: I think of the work as addressing those who would walk the canal, rather than those who would boat it (I feature few images of boats and that is necessarily their obsession). But it is perhaps more specific than that – the work isn’t necessarily going to appeal to the same walkers that the CRT hope to attract with their bucolic imagery. Should I specifically focus on a psychogeography oriented audience?
  • Context: the current plan for the context of my work is online viewing (video, images etc), plus an in situ exhibition that links to the online content through QR codes. It could also work as a video installation. I don’t think of it as being purely about the photographs that contribute to the overall work.
  • Form/medium/presentation: final form is in situ photo-posters that link to online media via QR codes. However, it seems unlikely that these will be realised with the lack of response to requests for display sites to date. Ultimately, I may need to seek alternatives but perhaps not within the timescale of this course module.
  • Research methods: I realise that the extensive research completed for my dissertation is not much reflected in my artist statement; perhaps overly concerned about creating a simple narrative that focuses on the visual. There may be an opportunity to include some alongside a more politically overt statement?
  • References: in retrospect, my work sits somewhere between film and photography, without falling firmly in either camp. This is perhaps a problem when it comes to categorising it – for example it is often excluded from photography competitions and it doesn’t contain the moving images that are generally expected in film. Because of the duration of an OCA course, it makes sense for me to refresh my memory on references I’ve explored already – in the lead up to A5 makes sense.

Highlighted in red are ideas to take forward in developing the final artist’s statement. Also noted in Padlet.

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Prints for outdoors

I’m intending to release my project in part through a site-based installation and have been researching print options. https://www.printed.com customer services were helpful through online chat and also offer a 15% student discount (I’ve applied for that). I will also think about applying to them to sponsor the installation by providing print materials for free / at a deeper discount, in return for their logo on the prints.

There are a couple of print options of interest – 450gsm pvc poster with eyelets and 3mm foamex. The cost of the poster is considerable less (£25 for a single unit, but unit costs quickly decrease with the number ordered), vs £45 for foamex. There are options for both in A0 size – I could do test prints in smaller sizes. Another cost consideration is the more different designs, the greater the cost. This has a bearing on including different sponsors’ logos for different locations. For example 3 posters with different images and different with a sponsor’s logo would attract the full unit cost.

I’m attracted to the idea of posters as I can envisage them tied to the railings that are often near canals in urban areas. I saw a similar format many years ago in Warsaw.

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Audience / community engagement

There is an arts language around communicating the ‘reach’ of work when applying for funding. The OCA course material points at an article that is long out of date (2013) and event the update of the article in the same year has been amended to redirect to more recent information on the subject. Interestingly none of the articles deal in general or specific terms ways of measuring online engagement. Here, I make brief notes on the area, including the measurement of online engagement.

The OCA recommended article (and its follow on) are at: https://www.artsjournal.com/engage/2013/01/outreach-and-audience-engagement/ and https://www.artsjournal.com/engage/2013/01/new-thought/, both by USA based Doug Borwick on his own blog. Points of note:

  • ‘Outreach’ was a term used when referring to audience engagement and it can have ‘paternalistic’ overtones by othering the audience / implying they somehow need to be saved. I reminds me of the dreadful expression ‘just reach out to me’ [if you need anything], which makes me think of an elevated messiah before the crowds. It is a term, therefore that I will avoid using.
  • Borwick uses the terms audience and community engagement, pointing out that in essence they are about relationship building, whether through artist talks, or taking art to new population centres or venues. He also discusses the importance of using familiar cultural idioms to talk about work with audiences, rather than using jargon that will be unfamiliar to many. A point sadly lost or ignored by many artists who insist on the use of obscure language.
  • In his follow up article, Borwick discusses the ideas of ‘community engagement’, differentiating it from the traditional focus on individual relationship to building a relationship with communities (of individuals) – suggesting that the well-being of communities is important. This idea has current currency and is the type of language used by the UK Arts Council now.

A more recent article (https://www.artsengaged.com/engagement-essentials#Definitions) by Borwick is entitled, ‘Community Engagement is Not Giving Them What We Think They Want.’ (s.d). In this, he observes that ‘community engagement’ has been used as a platitude over the past decade and that communities can immediate detect when it is insincere (ie going through the motions to attract funding). Berwick describes detailed steps for effective community engagement, emphasising that it needs to be a genuine value for arts organisation to be effective. He usefully suggests that the acid question is ‘who is doing what for whom and why?’.

Communication an relationships have increasingly moved online (the Pandemic has only served to further accelerate this), so I briefly consider the measurement of that kind of engagement through ‘analytics’.

I’ve hosted my video on Vimeo and the paid version gives access to analytics on engagement with the video. Vimeo’s guide on use of analytics is here https://vimeo.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/224820247-Analytics-overview, with a more detailed description and definitions here – https://vimeo.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115004386887-Video-Manager-analytics-panel. There is a distinction between ‘impressions’ and ‘views’, with the former measuring how many times a video was loaded to a page/device but not necessarily played, and the latter, how many times it was viewed. In turn views are analysed in terms of percentage complete and so on. I intend to share my own statistics as part of the measurement of audience engagement.

Google Analytics provides a way of measuring engagement with websites – including those hosted on Adobe Portfolio, like my www.leedsandliverpool.co.uk microsite. It requires some setting up and registration with Google – it doesn’t just happen automatically and the tracking history only begins from when analytics is set up. That is, it doesn’t just happen as it does for paid Vimeo accounts and requires administrative time and effort. Google provide a free online course for anyone wanting to understand its analytics capabilities – https://analytics.google.com/analytics/academy/course/6. I plan to take this after muddling my way through for a while, then loosing my analytics account when having a clear out of old gmail accounts!

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Support in kind

The OCA course materials discuss budgeting for projects. While, as an accountant, budgeting is more than familiar to me, the idea of ‘support in kind’ in the context of match funding in grant applications is less familiar. I make a few research notes here.

The concept is straightforward – the cash value of ‘support in kind’ is the difference between the market value of the materials / service on one hand and the amount paid for their use in the project. So, if they are introduced to the project at no cost, the value of support in kind would be the full market value. However, there are apparently specific conditions, depending the grant application. For example, The Arts Council have a specific policy that defines support in kind (https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funded-activities/finance) – importantly, it excludes from support in kind any costs incurred prior to the making of a grant.

Therefore, the timing of grant applications is critical, particularly when an artist is including their own time and other resources in the project.

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Funding research

The OCA course material suggests some potential sources of funding for artists.  I’ve compiled a collection of book marks in my browser and followed the funders on social media / email updates. Here I make some short notes.

The Arts Council – offer grants between £2000 and £10000, with application windows open at various times during the year. Only 1 successful or 2 rejected applications possible in each funding year. Noted that they have received 10 times the normal level of applications during the pandemic.

The Photographer’s Gallery is noted as a ‘regional development agency’ of the Arts Council – there doesn’t seem to be any mention of this connection on the TPG website, though they clearly fund some projects. Suggest they approach artists, rather than artists apply to them. London-centric organisation.

‘Partnership funding’ is funding through an organisation (charitable or commercial) that may see a mutual benefit through supporting a project. On the face of it, The Canal & River Trust are a candidate, but the aesthetic in my work doesn’t fit well with the CRT’s ‘life’s better by the water’ mantra. However, there are other waterway festivals/organisations with more of an arts focus, such as ‘superslowway.org’ that is based on the Lancashire Pennines. This could be a route to the funding of site-specific outdoor prints / access to an exhibition space. I have personal experience of working within a large multinational that funded arts projects, so am very familiar with the thinking and decision-making processes.

‘Foundations, awards and grants’ is a broad source of opportunities – often with specific outcomes in mind. For example, I’m currently looking to an RPS bursary for a new ‘environmentally’ focus project, which I’ll write about separately. I’m a member of Curator Space, which advertises opportunities and exhibitions. Though, ultimately to be successful for funding there needs to be a ‘what’s in it for the funder’ consideration – this was not something I had in mind when making my body of work; if it was, it would have needed to have represented a sanitised, up-beat version of life on the water!

‘Crowd funding’ is another popular option. I’ve seen a few students crowd funding their projects through fellow students and friends, with some success. The OCA material points to Peter Cox’s self-published landscape photography book – his website gives an interesting insight into the process of publishing what is essentially a ‘coffee table’ book of Irish landscape photographs. A product that many would be interested in (and apparently were). I suspect the OCA criteria would assess Peter Cox’s work as derivative and of little artistic interest. I also suspect the general public would not be interested in owning a coffee table book of a warts and all deindustrialised canal!

There is lots to think about here and to follow up with ongoing monitoring of opportunities. However, it is apparent that some routes of funding require a more commercial approach to making photographic work that has a broader appeal.

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