I did not sign up for this.
Well, actually I did, in my exhibiting-artist contract with the Richmond Art Gallery for the current City as Site public-art survey show, but that's not my point. I believed that steering away from my career as a manager and devoting my working hours to the independent business of building a visual art practice would be chiefly about making stuff — not so much with the talking and the writing about the making. But if that maker wants to actually be a part of what they call in art school "the discourse", she must talk about the work. In front of people. Sometimes a lot of people, many of whom are not here to listen to me. I mean her.
Engaging an audience is not my forte. I usually start with a pre-emptive apology of some sort because I know how this is going to go down. I tend towards the tangential when I'm nervous, often resorting to wild hand gestures to make my point. My pace quickens as I go until I'm hyperventilating at which point I cut it short, usually with an unprofessional, "That's it" or, for variety, "That's pretty much it" (arms raised in resignation for emphasis).
You've got to stop apologizing, a friend said in a phone call the day after my five-excruciating-minute Artist Talk last Friday. It shows a lack of confidence. (Guess who just read The Confidence Code?)
Haven't you heard of self-deprecating humour?, I said.
It's not if you're not being funny, she said.
She had a point.
Then there is the dreaded video interview (at bottom). I believe the only reason that the artist interview is listed as a condition of the contract is that otherwise most artists would high-tail it in the opposite direction. The single-shot monologue creates the perfect condition for sudden eye twitches and facial tics. I spend so much time, um, trying, um, not to, um, say 'um' that my train of thought often jumps the rails and I end up serving up such pearls of wisdom as, "I also do re-upholstery."
Even just being at one's own opening is akin to feeling naked on the street. After all, a lot of this making stuff originates in the privacy of the studio, involving private ideas. Sorry for making you all look at my privates.
But the smiles in this picture don't lie. Tough as it is, the talking is the audio part of the sharing that sheds more light on the subject, in this case, the behind-the-scenes look at Richmond's Public Art collection.
City as Site continues at Richmond Art Gallery (five minutes' walk from Canada Line's Brighouse Station) to Oct. 26. Artist workshop: How to Apply for Public Art Calls, Sept. 13, 1-4 pm with Elisa Yon, public art project coordinator with the City of Richmond. Public Art Bus Tour: Sept. 27, 1:15-3:30 pm, with public art specialist Dr. Cameron Cartiere and special guest artist Andrea Sirois. RSVP required: email@example.com or 604-247-8313.
Now that we're all carrying around the equivalent of movie cameras and photo-editing studios in our pockets and purses we are each potential blockbuster or documentary filmmakers, iMovie-ing and uploading all of life's activities that have become performative acts.
What will remain is a new way of seeing, understanding and playing with moving images of the everyday. It's why the plastic-bag-in-the-wind scene from American Beauty still sticks in the head. It's why Mark Lewis' real-time videos of landmarks and laundromats resonated with the public when they were screened over the winter at the Vancouver Art Gallery's Offsite (top).
For me, it's a new kind of sketching (see above) that is not made for public viewing but for my own reference. For what remains to be seen. (YouTube vid, above)
Below, some other inspiring videos of the everyday seen with a fresh and critical eye:
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