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: