Reflections on an exhibition

Some days ago, I went to the opening of a summer textile exhibition. The gallery in question has, since it's opening, made a point of mixing amateurs and professionals. All exhibitions have been "thematical". (In quotes, because I don't quite agree that, for instance, "textile" is, hm, narrow? specified? enough to constitute a "theme".)

Anyway. The contributors were told to write a short "narrative" about their relationship with textile(s). These narratives would be placed near the artefacts, the idea being that the whole exhibition should "tell a tale" about the relations between mankind (womankind?) and textile.

There would be (nearly) no judging - (you know: diversity, blah blah, personal expression, blah blah, connexion with foremothers, blah blah...)

In the hall(s), there were many textiles on the walls - embroideries, tapestries, rugs, tablecloths... Here and there, there were boards with quotes (generally only one sentence, maybe two). The quotes had the writer's name, and a number. The artefacts were not numbered.
In the biggest hall there was a big podium, on which many items of clothing were placed, together with several other items. In one corner, there was a sketch of the podium, with numbers. The quotes were placed beside the sketch.
There was also a big "divan" with a selection of cushions (20 or so), all very different. The result was a mish-mash of unrelated cushions, impossible to "see" (as there was another cushion half on top, an embroidered beside a printed and so on. No numbers, no quotes (that I could see).

So what did I learn?
- I learned that, probably, it is easier to build an exhibition if the theme is narrowed. (I remember one called "blue textiles" from several years ago, in a different hall. It consisted of everything from antique Asian textiles (blue, of course) to the latest (blue) jeans.)
- I learned that a "good idea" ("a mountain of cushions", for example) can turn out not ot be - and that it probably is a better idea to re-think the concept. (In this case, a wall of shelving with all cushions beside each other would have a) allowed many more cushions and b) allowed visitors to see them one at a time. It would still communicate "a plethora of cushions".)
- I learned that, if you ask contributors to write "about half a page", then either show that whole half-a-page or not. Cutting out one sentence will not necessarily be enough to convey the thoughts. The quotes could have been presented as a catalogue instead?
- It is also impolite to make identification impossible (ie having numbers on the quotes, but not on the artefacts). What if I had wanted to buy, or contact, the maker of that fantastic (say) tapestry?
- I also learned not to let myself be talked into something that I instinctively would not be part of. I will not enter any exhibition at that gallery again.

This nice little dragon adorned the park where we were having picnic on our way home:


Pat said...

Your 'mountain of cushions' strikes a chord. I am helping to organise an exhibition of weaving in autumn and thought we should have a 'pile of cushions' woven from handspun and dyed with natural dyes. I thought maybe 6 or 7 people in the Guild would be interested. Instead we have 32!!! Which would result in something wonderful for a toddler to bounce in but not for the weavers whose work would get lost. So all the cushions will be propped up on shelves each with a number and a list pinned up beside each shelf giving details.

And yes I agree about pruning an entrant words. I have been very specific. 'Not more than an A4 page and we will use it as you send it to us'

Certainly your description has helped me as it confirms what I saw as possible defects.

Pat Foster

Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

I must admit that I *have* made that mistake myself - to be seen here.
In my/our defense: that was a guild exhibition, in a facility with *no* existing props (a library), and we had *no* budget and only "amateur" experience in building exhibitions.
The gallery above is a well established art gallery, and had hired professionals for producing the exhibition...