We wanted to give you a bit more information about our process....
The selection process for the artists we wanted to be involved in the Guest Room project wasn’t difficult: we know lots of great artists, we go and see shows by emerging artists all the time and often like what we see. So we looked at shows, plenty of shows, and saw no end of good work. So after lakes of coffee and complex negotiations between the three of us we arrived at a small short list of people whose work interested us and who we hoped might like to be involved. Easy? Sort of…
Actually, it wasn’t really easy at all: if it had simply been a matter of exhibition then it would have been simple, however this was about initiating a collaborative process between individuals who had not worked together before and, as such, was much more about the intricate alchemy of personalities and working practices than it was about comparatively straightforward conceptual and aesthetic concerns.
In addition, in inviting the shortlisted artists to talk to us, we happened upon certain fundamental questions about our own roles within the project: we agreed that we didn’t want to set ourselves up as arbiters of taste, and felt that our roles in the emergent process were much more heavily weighted towards the facilitatory rather than the curatorial.
By the same token then, in putting the emphasis in this undertaking towards the idea that we would invite people to take part based on trying to set up pairings of artists who would work well together and get the most out of the experience, we were also wary that it sounded like we were either conducting a popularity contest or sinister Big Brotheresque social experiment.
This was an uncomfortable part of the project for us. A key part of our motivation to start Place Projects was our own experiences as recent graduates. Art school is an immersive experience; it is an encouraging space that allows the individual to make mistakes and take risks in a supportive environment, graduating into the competitive outside world with a head full of questions can feel like being thrown off a cliff. We wanted to be a trampoline at the bottom if that isn’t too idiosyncratic a way of describing what we’d like to do in our more earnest moments.
So, all that being the case, there was real discomfort to us in talking to people we hoped might be involved about the project in a way that allowed them to recognise that even if we didn’t invite them to participate in the end, this was not to be taken as rejection.
The art world is not always at ease with sincerity and earnestness, and arguably the sooner after graduation you get tough and equip yourself to deal with rejection effectively the better, but there has to a be a happy medium, we feel. Especially as we were not entering into this process to pass judgement on the work of others, only to try a set up a rewarding experience for both ourselves and the artists.
This part of the process really opened our eyes to how much there is for us to learn from this project and how we may formulate and implement more effective strategies in the future.