Before I get to the crux of what I have to say I want to make it perfectly clear that I think Shape Arts do some amazing work in the areas of Disability and Equality. However I was a little dismayed to read a call for submissions with a £10 fee.
As a fulltime self-employed artist I have witnessed an increase in Pay to Display opportunities. In a similar way the number of unpaid/or very poorly paid internships has increased and thankfully we are moving to limit and legislate these.
In which other areas would you pay to do what you do – as it is we have seen opportunities decrease and fees shrinking in tandem for freelance artists.
Bodies funded and sponsored then requiring submission fees wether selected to exhibit or not– what does this cover? Is that not already covered by Arts Council England or other partnerships and sponsorships? If not then why not, why should the artist bare the cost? Shape does fantastic work but what I am surprised at is that, and if I may use a Twitter hash tag – The Hardest Hit – are being asked to pay again. All I am asking is if you are going to the lengths of having an art exhibition then please – put the artist first.
Then again artists are responsible for the cost of getting their work to and from the collection points – again expenses to be met by the artist – and then have the luxury of a 40% commission on sales. Are we not trying to be professional artists and support them – surely some of that support must be in curating and showing work that can be supported practically and financially or we merely contribute to maintaining the status quo. Pallant House and their Outside In Biennial of Outsider Art is a shining example of putting the artist first. I wonder why this model cannot be replicated elsewhere – or in this case particularly.
I wonder about the motivation in general for submission fees, what does that say about where we place artists in the art world and society as a whole?
This is the beginning of a dialogue for me. I have not mentioned things such as wanting to show my work in context, being proactive about who I show with and where, how does showing in a particular exhibition develop not just my career but my practice?
I would be interested to hear your views on ‘Pay to Display’
In the first six months of 2011 i could count the number of 'paid' days work on my toes. This lead to an impact on my pocket and my health. The pressure was immense, the sense of failure even bigger - self doubt - self esteem - you name it - the rollercoaster of being a freelancer. I had no idea where my next project was coming from. So when things slowly turned around - at first a few days turning a bridge into a formal garden, then an exhibition in leeds and wakefield, a residency in Dundee and so it continued.
I felt compelled to say yes to everyone and everything for fear of everything drying up again. This has been a massive learning curve. My health started to slide. Usually I am very good at self monitoring and keeping my mental health fairly stable. I was committed though and as a freelancer we know we are only as good as your last job. We are our own stock. Our reputation as an artist depends on what we do and how we do it. Managing this through failing mental health is fraught. everything you do has a psychological/professional/personal cost. Getting to the finish having succesfully completed commitments became a massive, nay monumental undertaking.
The fact i did achieve everything is in no small part due to some of the people i worked with along the way, particularly Sarah Derrick from Dundee Contemporary Arts - who was noy only supportive but very understanding and accommodating.
The final work i did was take part in the 'View From Here' exhibition at Salisbury Arts Centre, This was an unusual experience for me. I was invited by e-mail from someone i had never met or heard of. We had phone and e-mail discussions and i went to visit the site. As time and budget were tight i sent down ideas to be executed and installed by the team at Salisbury. This lead to interesting developments which i will write about eleswhere.
As part of the exhibition i was invited to take part in an artist panel discussion about the work shown. I wanted to take part but knew i was not at the top of my game - did i cancel? did i make excuses before i did it? did i just try to get through and ignore the whole mental health thing? It passed off ok but would i like it as a sole reflection of me and my practice? Probably not. But I did it, no one died.
This event was further complicated as I met someone who was wanting to discuss the prospect of a possibility of working together in the coming year. So there's me comparitively mentally unwell trying to say I can do this, this is my approach and trying to convince this person who I had never met before that i am a 'safe pair of hands' , you know how it goes.
I guess what I'm getting at is the contrast between making a living, keeping well, doing interesting and varied work - the whole juggling thing and keeping everything moving successfully.