The Judges Task…and the winner is …every one involved:
Firstly it was a great honour to be one of the three judges of this exhibition and to be asked to speak to the Applied Art section of the works displayed.
The other two judges and I were asked to choose a first, second and third place in the drawing and painting sections and then when it came to the Applied Art section, we realised that this collective work was far too difficult to single out any such places. We quickly realised that the purpose of this Applied Art Installation was for it to work as a collective, and consequently in my presentation I made it a point to announce, that all the women involved in this work were winners; collectively.
Involvement – fun, unity, community and shared message:
Involvement is the key for a collaborative and the viewer/judge can only guess at the more intimate messages/meaning of each individual’s work. As judges we stood for a long while taking in all the intricate and delicate works of this collective, as well as the more robust strong and assertive pieces that were on display. What we took away from this encounter was an overwhelming sense of fun, unity, community and a strong belief in the key message of ‘hope and fear’.
The process is as important as the end product:
The process of making art from found objects, bits and pieces and sometimes even junk, is often overlooked and misunderstood. As I said on the night of my presentation, it is often a process of collecting, rejecting and selecting and then assembling. The process of constructing is often accompanied by many other processes. I mentioned in my presentation the importance of conversations that may have come with the workshops and how these can assist us to make sense of our work, our symbolism and our decision making. This sharing of ideas is a critical part of collaboratives in life as well, and can emerge as someone holds something for someone else to glue, or offers a piece of ‘stuff’ from their pile, that just might work better on someone else’s work. These moments of sharing, critiquing, reflecting, adjusting and receiving valuable feedback is in fact a critical process for learning and is often, and dare I say, sometimes more important than the finished items themselves.
The process of installing the works so that they can work as one:
To enable a collection of works to be understood as a collective, there is the final step of installing or exhibiting of the collection so that it comes together as ‘one’. This involves another set of skills and another process of positioning, placing and bringing the works together to work in unity. It often means presenting your point of view about where something should be placed and being willing to allow someone else’s idea as one that works better than yours; working together for the best solution. The strong emphasis on the square as a repeated shape or visual element that linked the back, floor and ceiling was highly successful in the final installation of the works. For example, the square shape was repeated as a shape for the backdrop, the shape for layout of the items on the floor and then the shape for the netting on the ceiling and worked well with the strong red vertical ribbons that cut through the internal space to connect all the suspended and floor pieces together as one.
In summary – the aim of my brief presentation last night:
The artistic and collaborative processes outlined above are not always understood by an audience and sometimes not necessarily valued or understood by the artist themselves until they have a moment to reflect. However, they are processes of creating and making that can be very powerful in our communications of self and our very being, and as such they can represent what Art is about: expression, experiential, sometimes intensely personal and sometimes quite extraordinarily communicative. In my presentation I said that there were many individual pieces that for some reason grabbed our attention. For example the beautifully crafted stuffed hearts in reds and pinks and connected with springs so simple yet so powerful; the amazing house which contrasted the dark and lighter side of life in our domestic situations; the complex intricate netted work that had small suspended images featuring collages and drawings like a beautiful cow with simple beaded jewels; the treasure boxes perhaps symbolic of our lives – some closed to the outside world, some allowing us peer inside just a wee bit and others open and free spirited and singing out loud the message of hope and many, many more fine individual works.
I conclude by adding how amazed I was hear the story of the net that was used to suspend the works. It goes without saying that the team that was assigned the task of bringing the works together did so very well, but what remains significant to me was the origin of the netting used to suspend many of the pieces from the ceiling. What I learned later in the evening was that it was found and shared with the group by the Manager of your centre. To me, this Manger’s contribution and drive, as well as the work of those whose task was to present the collection, symbolises the value and respect that all these woman have for their fellow women of the centre and the contribution art can make to the centre’s mission.
Extraordinary work everyone, and I congratulate each and everyone involve.
Dr Gladys Martoo
24 June 2008