ArtWorks Open 2014
ArtWorks Project Space
114 Blackhorse Lane
|Open: Sat-Sun&Wed-Thu 12pm-6pm, 1st Fri 6.30pm-9pm, 2nd Fri 12pm-6pm
This venue has level access.
The following is Reece Jone's essay for the ArtWorks Open 2013 catalogue.
Open submission competitions have been increasingly spotlighted of late. Nobody has any money. This makes artist’s opportunities rare, exhibition support non-existent and the whole debate about ‘pay to play’ rears its head. Funding, selecting and showing a competition is tricky, but more importantly applying is a pain
too. It’s a standard process. We make our work, document it as well as we can, second guess the mood of this year’s selectors, choose the pieces which best represent us, dip down the back of the sofa for the application fee and wave our pics goodbye. This is followed almost immediately by cynicism and probably doubt. We’ve already decided that we won’t get in and within microseconds of pressing send on the online form or putting the package in the post we’ve decided that the system is awed, that it won’t be a reasonable cross section of current practices, that the judges will just go for the usual dull batch of cronies and crowd pleasers and that these things are a rip o to be avoided at all costs... Until the next one comes along and the whole process begins again.
Increasingly I think it’s important to decide what the motives are for someone hosting a competition of this sort. I also think that it’s important that we reect on why we might agree to be on the panel for an art open and how we navigate the inevitable issues.
Open competitions vary. Some are an extension of the original salon. They have run for years and oer a city or museum the opportunity to cross section the taste and activity of thousands of artists under the watchful gaze of the society’s ‘elders’, they are a tradition and it is deemed to be prestigious to
Some are high prole, career-dening projects, curated by a tight panel of movers, shakers and culture brokers. Inclusion is cool, exclusion alienating, zeitgeist compressed and reected by the work presented and hopefully a notion that this might be the future... “where we’re going and who will be at
Some have grown out of the energetic early support networks created by students and young artists. They are community based and are designed to give a forum to the activities of those involved. They may once have been incredibly inclusive and are increasingly prestigious but if you are represented therein then bon voyage to you for this might be your lucky year.
There are of course the rip-offs. The years where the judges may not take their responsibility to your submission as seriously as they should. The ones that seem to give a leg up to the people who least need it. The ones with a whi of commercial intervention... zeitgeist perhaps - but it’s an agreed zeitgeist, a
predictable outcome. These piss the regular contributor o. Not being selected is a lot more common than getting in, but this can be seriously tainted if we are led to question whether it was ever worth applying in the rst place.
So why apply at all? Some folks apply for every damn thing! And credit to them. That’s serious commitment. You’ve got to nd a proper stack of cash across the year, you have to keep your eye on all the deadlines and tailor your applications accordingly and the obvious statistical logic is that you are going to have to open a lot of rejection letters. It’s a tenacious approach. I’m not sure it’s the best, but it’s tenacious. More sage - I believe is to have a broad view, to decide which are most relevant to one’s individual practice, to think about who the judges are and what the location of the selected show will be and of course whether you fancy the prize on oer should you be lucky enough to scoop it (no point entering a competition to be resident at an Alaskan slaughter house if you’re a vegan who’s no fan of the cold).
It’s amazing how many people think that the work stops there. Sending in a poorly cropped, yellow image of a framed artwork, shot while evidently still resident on a relative’s dining room wall, thunder ies trapped between glass and mount board is guaranteed not to pay o. If the applicant can’t take a few minutes to consider their application why would anyone else? In the digital age it is refreshing to see people take more knowledge don’t come for free. Some competitions will require context too. The applicant will have to write something to frame their practice and enliven their work conceptually. This is no mean feat and many nd it unnatural or awkward. It’s a mineeld! All of this was on our minds when David Keord and I sat down at the offices of the Barbican Arts Group Trust to make this years selection for their Artworks Open. We felt responsible.
This open is less complicated than most. Relatively speaking, although it’s growing, it’s small. The prize money is modest as a result, but would go a long way to help funding the winner’s practice for quite some time. Artworks are submitted individually. This means that they are not necessarily seen in series and are viewed at face value. All we see are the images, the names of the artist and the titling info. There are size restrictions but there is no demand for statements or artist biographies. In theory we are just looking at the work and making a short list of the pieces that we would most like to see again... the things, which we nd most interesting. There’s no denying that this is aected by our individual tastes or theoretical sympathies. It makes sense that this year’s selection would not be the same as someone else’s. That said I’d like to think that we approached every single submission with an open mind. We argued too, which was great. Taking the time to explain why we thought something should be looked at for the exhibition. All of the pieces in the show - as a result of this approach are agreed by both David and I and we are proud to be able to say we had a hand in them being showcased.
The applications represented a very real cross section as far as we could see. Some were from mid-career artists who have exhibited widely, some from people who have perhaps not shown at all, some from recent graduates or current undergrads. Not seeing info I’m making guesses of course but I am condent that the
ArtWorks Open represents artists from many various corners of the art-making world.
Inevitably we know some of them. If we don’t know them personally we are aware of their work. We were painfully aware of this and wanted to avoid it being a factor as best we could. Short of having a brain wipe prior to embarking we came up with the next best solution. If one of us recognised a submission we simply
seemed to fall silent, waiting for the other’s feedback before explaining our relationship with the work. As a result a tiny number of our peers who submitted are included in the show... the vast majority are not.
Another weight o our mind was that of curating. This is pretty much a salon hang as a rule. The Barbican Arts Group Trust have an excellent ‘white cube’ space which hosts the show this year, but the Trust’s ideal is that the applicants have a very real opportunity to be included and that there be a broad cross section of work... Thusly we edged away from being super editorial and the rule of thumb was that if we loved it and wanted to see it again - it was in. The nal thirty or so artists are people whose work fascinated us, amused us, challenged us, made us curious, impressed us technically or in terms of the wit of it’s presentation.
Signicantly the judges do not ‘hang’ the show, they merely select it. We had no curatorial agenda and as selection wore on we saw less thematic associations.
Selectors volunteer for two years. Each year, the outgoing selector nominates the incoming. Thusly the baton is passed on and the selector prole evolves naturally rather than being dened by the competition director. It’s a nice way to do it as it gives the selectors a more involved role in the trajectory of the show. It also meant that I got to sit and look with David Keord, who is an artist I have long admired and a serious critical eye. He has a real sense of community too, which I think was important to us. I want to thank David for this. Thanks of course to Mark Wainwright who directs the project with love and a real concern for the work. This is a non-prot competition and is run because there are people at the helm who want to share their facility and the opportunities it can provide. Primarily I want to thank the many applicants. We enjoyed the depth and breadth of what we saw and appreciate you trusting us with your work... a big ask what with one thing and another!
Reece Jones 2013
020 7253 2542
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