Technically today marks the end of my first working “week” (five days over 5 weeks) interning at Hazelhurst gallery and arts centre.
I celebrated, as I assume is traditional, by spending nearly an hour this morning scanning hardcopy documents into digital documents.
Typical of galleries, Hazelhurst keeps a visitor’s book at the entrance to their main gallery for visitors to comment on current exhibitions. Now I have no idea if it’s also typical for galleries to create copies of these comments for the exhibiting artists as mementos (retrospectively it might actually have been a wise idea to ask), but I thought it was a pretty neat thing to gift to the artists. And hence why I spent my morning scanning a visitor’s book.
Though a tad monotonous, going through the book as I scanned it was a surprisingly educative experience. Like many people my age, my ability to handwrite is vestigial at best, a hallmark of older, darker times. So I’d never really bothered to leave a comment in a visitor’s book before. I assumed though that the comments would be blandly positive and polite.
What I actually learned was visitor’s books are essentially the pre-digital equivalent of online comment sections. Filled with trolls.
To be fair there were plenty of the aforementioned generically positive comments. But I was kind of amazed by the significant number of negative, and in some case just plain baffling comments that people had written down.
After I commented on this I was informed that a disgruntled visitor had actually disliked an exhibition so much one time that they accosted the curator while they were speaking to someone. Way to get upset about not enjoying a free art exhibition bro. I mean at least the art made you feel ~something~. The experience reminded me of how in nearly every industry you’re going to come across people you can’t please, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.
My morning of – let’s be honest – filing, led into the rest of the day spent researching. I’m starting to realise why so much of university is spent doing research-based assignments; that skill is going to be helpful later on. Much as I was scanning the visitor’s book as a memento for artists who had exhibited in previous exhibitions, I was tasked with searching for all previous media and event listings to also gift to these same artists.
I realised two things while completing this task.
- Shameless self-promotion seems to be (unfortunately) so important in attracting press for art exhibitions. Maybe I’m just a terrible researcher, but there was a very meagre supply of media coverage available on the exhibitions involved. An occasional write-up in the regional paper, a brief mention in the Sydney Morning Herald’s “what’s on this weekend” section, and a whole bunch of obscure event listing sites that I’d never heard of were all I could really find on the exhibitions. I imagine that as an artist, if you really want to get your work into circulation, you’ve got to keep doggedly putting yourself out there and promoting your work.
- There are SO many artists just in the Sydney general area. So many. I swear every time I’m at Hazelhurst I learn of another dozen. This actually might contribute to my first point – promoting yourself and getting exhibited might be kind of tough when there’s a whole bunch of equally eager artists trying to do the same thing in a culture that doesn’t really promote visuals arts as a viable career option. Also – how do all these artists get noticed and approached by galleries to exhibit? And what do they do when they’re not exhibiting at galleries, particularly when not every exhibition pays artists? I mean I know grants are a thing but I could not live solely reliant on that.
So all in all I suppose today has been quite introspective. I’ve raised quite a number of questions. Should probably see about getting them answered next time I’m at Hazelhurst.