Strategies and Presentation
Arles OCA Study Visit, 2014
Sunshine, red wine, photographs, meeting new students from other countries, discussing exhibits, our work, assignments, assessment, ideas, your tutors… A lot of fun and learning was had on our recent holiday, I mean, study visit to Arles.
We had a full schedule which was too packed to unpick so I thought it might be helpful if I summarised two of the themes we returned to over our two days and something which is relevant to everyone.
Strategies and Presentation.
The two go hand in hand really but I suppose Strategies refers more to the concept of the project in mind and how you plan to execute it. Presentation comes in more towards the end, after your strategy has taken shape – how will the work best be realised and shown off? The work isn’t over when you have finished taking the pictures.
I am picking out two exhibitions from our time in Arles that really made me think about these two things and ones I believe produced very enjoyable outcomes as a result. We didn’t all agree so I’m happy to be questioned on my choices but to my mind both these examples show excellence in having both a strong conceptual strategy and outstanding presentation.
(Apologies for the low quality iPhone pics)
The strategy Favrod employed when approaching his photographic series Hikari was to build a series of images based on a conversation he had with his Grandparents about their experiences of war in Japan. Many of their stories, which they only spoke of that night and never again, stayed in his mind and he wanted to create a response to that. So his strategy was to build his personal interpretation of those memories into his imagery. He did this by all sorts of methods; painting onto glass and holding it in front of a picture before rephotographing it, painting directly onto a photograph, constructing scenes, using street view, but they were all held together by his bottom line strategy. Having a strategy which you fall back upon when making finer decisions about the work is instrumental in helping you find the direction and purpose of the work you are making. It directs you and keeps you on track. The sooner you can pinpoint it in the research stages the more you can develop and evolve your ideas without going too off piste.
Favrod also has an interesting take on presentation. Not all the pictures are the same size or are printed in the same way. The work still fits together though and it doesn’t become repetitive. It encourages you to look at each picture for it’s own purpose as well as seeing the wider narrative. I would encourage you to look further at Favrod’s work and see the other strategies he has used. You can also see more installation shots on his website because apparently the work has never been shown the same twice. Each gallery space is given unique attention. I interviewed him here.
These young artists were last years winners of the BMW residency award. They have a very humorous and clever strategy of looking at our relationship with nature. The thing that struck me first about their work was the presentation. The walls were painted in blocks of colours such as yellow and pink. It instantly stood out and got me excited. I wanted to know what was going on and to understand where they were coming from. The work was sometimes displayed on a shelf or like a wall-hanging in a domestic environment which paid tribute to the conceptual ideas the couple intended to portray; our relationship with nature in the everyday.
Upstairs, installed from floor to ceiling, hung what looked like huge sheets of kitchen or toilet paper with photoshopped pictures of nudes. It was hilarious, hard hitting, even offensive, but it was a very considered presentation decision and perfectly (and seemingly simply) delivered a punch to the viewer.
Please make sure your presentation decisions are decisions and carefully considered ones at that. When presentation starts to work with strategy the art becomes alive and your work there is done.
I hope when you are thinking about your assignments and your longer term bodies of work these two notions, strategy and presentation, come up frequently for you even if you hadn’t put a name to them. It’ll do your work the world of good. So remember to add to your tool box – a strategy to help you know what to hang your ideas on and a presentation decision that makes the work sing.