Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Trouble At Mill, Part 6: Postscript

Here is the shortest and, I hope, the last of these. The trouble has been discussed at length and solutions, such as they are, proposed. The exhibition is now MUCH better labelled and contextualised. Those basic questions that any viewer would surely want to know are now mostly answered. We have some explanation as to why Shattered is showing in this space, some indication of how the stories in the work connect to the history of the Castle and I have been promised high quality professional photographs. It continues to look gorgeous and I still think that, in this respect at least, it exceeds my expectations.

I did a talk and workshop there on June 3rd which was immensely successful but the sense of loss as one or two people, as always, expressed the wish that they could see the pots better, reappeared like a restless ghost. This problem will remain and is, potentially, a difficulty that attends all museum interventions. To this extent, it suggests that Shattered was not the right work for that space or that that space was not the right work for Shattered - but I'm still reluctant to accept that fully, just because it so right aesthetically. I guess my lingering wish would be to find a way of making all sides of the pots visible but in that space, it's not obvious how one would do that. I remember when I first went and had a look at the venue, I was trying to establish which places would work and it was possible but in two places the viewer would have to be quite far from the pots. At least, as they are, Traffic and Princess Hymen can easily be seen from one side - the viewer is standing quite close - even if the other side is wholly obscured.

How this all came to pass is a longer story and one which I have no wish to rehearse in full now. The shortened story is as follows: The proposal I submitted was sound and was accepted as it was but was then passed on and, to some extent rewritten - in effect rewritten anyway. About this I knew nothing until that first email on February 23rd, a month before opening by which time, 'making the best of it,' was the only available option.

So what artists can learn from this? Unfortunately it's a 'learn to live with it' situation. This is one of those occasions where the artist could not have changed the course of events. I guess that is the lesson - keeping a small place in the back of your mind somewhere that says, 'some things you can't control and some things you can't change - be prepared for the occasional situation about which you can do nothing.' That said, I / we have changed the labelling and absurdly small though that may seem, it makes quite a big difference in practice.

A possible suggestion: When submitting a proposal for the first time, it may be a good idea to say something like: 'This proposal can be modified or changed to some degree but this must be done in consultation with the artist and agreed.' Having checked my original proposal, I did say I was happy to discuss possible changes. It's not quite the same as 'must be done in consultation and agreed,' but even so, it's there in black and white. Ultimately, my assessment of this situation is that even had I done that, it wouldn't have made any difference. This is one of those cases that you file under 'e' for experience and add, 'be happy anyway because it's still a good show!'