Closed

After some time struggling with this blog – I’ve decided to close it down. Actually, I’m not going to take it down but I’m not going to write for it any more. It was started with a particular focus in mind and my job, my circumstances and my interests have changed slightly. The upshot of which is that I now find it increasingly difficult to find things to write. Hence stopping half way through the list of ten things, nos 6-10 of which should have repeated ‘Don’t say you’re going to list 10 things unless you already have them planned out.

It’s not the end of blogging for me – I have a Posterous blog, which mostly deals with movies, exhibitions etc that I’ve seen and you can find that here.

I’m also moving into doing more freelance work around arts communication and diversity and I’ll be setting up a new blog to sit alongside that. I’ll probably drop by and leave a calling card for that at some point but in the meantime thanks for reading and see you later.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social media & contemporary visual art – 10 lessons from 2010 (part 5)

Several sketches of faces pinned to a wall and ceilingIn the spirit of economy and recycling I’m doing just that for this post. This is a revised version of a ‘think piece’ I wrote for Permeate, a project for which I sit on the advisory group. Permeate aims to redress a lack of diversity in the workforce of visual arts organizations through a series of strategic internships. There is a website to be launched very soon but in the meantime you can read more about the project on Fabrica’s website.

The photo btw is by Jane Fordham from a drawing workshop that she led at Fabrica.

Social networks and diversity

The arguments for arts organizations using social networks are well rehearsed, and I’ve made them at length elsewhere, so I won’t rehash them here. I will list some relevant points though.

If used well by arts organisations social networks offer:

  • lowered barriers to engagement
  • democratisation of access
  • visibility and accessibility (physical, intellectual and economic)
  • the opportunity for audiences to participate creatively, to engage and to be engaged in meaningful ways
  • the opportunity to allow different voices entry into the organization and in turn be allowed to speak for the organisation
  • Organisational change

The last two of these points is the most relevant here and, in terms of diversity, the most exciting. The death of the silent audience will have a significant impact on diversity and the arts. (By silent audience I mean the audience that is out there in the dark with only minimal and formal ways of contacting us, and limited opportunities for engagement.) Through social networks our audience has not only become visible to us but also to each other, in all their diversity. If we let those voices into our organisations and, more importantly, allow those voices to speak alongside us, whether what they have to say is good or bad, then the impact on our organisations and the way we work will be huge.

This is a quantum change in organisational culture for a lot of arts organizations; it’s difficult for them to let go of their official curatorial voice, which is the voice of the organization – the voice that appears in their press releases, their brochures and on their websites. Unfortunately, sticking your head in the sand is longer an option. The world has changed and people are having conversations about your organization; you can join in that conversation or you can ignore it and watch your audience move on to other arts organisations that will engage in that conversation, who demonstrate that their audience’s opinions are valued by sharing them, and seeking to engage their audience in more meaningful ways.

A sole reliance on ‘old media’ methods of communication, with its curatorial voice and reliance on mainstream and/or specialist arts press to carry content, is exclusive almost by definition. It’s elitist by implication, saying to people that if they don’t get it, if they don’t understand that curatorial voice, then maybe they’re not actually welcome. At least, that may very well be the perception. In organisations that work in that way diversity will always be a bolt-on activity, not something embedded at their heart.

There are arguments that social platforms themselves are not always accessible, for economic, social and physical reasons. This is true – but it will become less so, and the time to engage is now, not in some mythical future of universal access. We must never forget, though, that this is about people, not technology. The technology offers us a platform to give people a voice and we should ensure that whatever we do in the digital world fits the needs and capabilities of as many people as possible.

Permeate recently held an event at which we asked David Bryan, of Xtend Consultants to talk, and two things that he said have really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but the first was that arts organisations have a duty to contribute to quality of life; and the second was that at the very least they shouldn’t actively contribute to discrimination.

For arts organizations, engaging with social networks is contributing to quality of life and failing to do so is contributing to discrimination.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social media and contemporary visual art – 10 lessons from 2010 (parts 3 & 4)

I’ve spent the last year continuing to be preoccupied with social media and the role it can play in contemporary visual art. As promised in a previous post, I’ve been working on a list of 10 things that have made me think this year and about which I continue to ponder. Actually the title is a little misleading because I suspect more of them are raised questions rather than lessons. Most of these probably warrant longer posts and chances are I may come back to them but I’m going to try and keep this relatively snappy, which is not generally my forte, but here goes.

Update – since I started to write this post it’s become clear that despite my promise it’s going to be way too long for one post so I’m splitting it up into pairs of points that will hopefully make sense together.

3- If you build it they may not come

During our summer exhibition, A Fine Line by Frederic Geurts we ran a photo competition. We put it out on Fabrica’s Posterous, tweeted, facebooked and emailed it and over 900 people looked at the guidelines and the prize we were offering, a £75 Amazon gift voucher. And the result of all that interest? 2 entries. At that point we had to declare that the competition just didn’t happen and move on. We had run a similar competition the previous summer during John Grade’s The Elephant Bed and had many many entries. So what’s the difference? Why despite there being a better prize on offer did the competition this summer fail to take off? In many ways it reflected the response to the works themselves. The response to Frederic’s piece was a lot more muted than the response to John’s. That’s not to say that people didn’t like it but maybe that they didn’t feel strongly enough about it to return to it. I think John’s piece maybe had a more emotional impact which leads me neatly to point 4. But not before saying that sometimes things just don’t take off and just because something worked once it may not work again and that’s ok. We’re still playing here and exploring new ways of working and things aren’t always going to pan out the way we planned. You can’t make people engage with something they don’t want to, whatever you do.

4- People not technology, emotion not intellect

During our spring show, artist Stig Evans was in residence in the gallery providing visitors with a different way to engage with the work, Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings. Stig’s particular interest is in colour and that was the focus of his residency. As part of his residency and to give it an online presence I set up a blog The Colour Diaries, which detailed a colour of the day over 25 days and asked for people’s responses to it. There were also a couple of other pages, What’s my green? for example gave people the opportunity to say what green made them think of, what the colour they saw was. The Colour Diaries elicited probably the biggest response we’ve had to anything that we’ve done online, over 4.5k hits and the reason is simple; people have an emotional response to colour, we all have feelings about particular colours, like smells they trigger memories, emotions, responses and crucially, we understand that the response is personal and we’re not afraid to share it, not afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being thought stupid. There are two lessons here, firstly a reminder that this should always be about people and not about technology because social networks are people (despite businesses trying to muscle in) and secondly if we are asking people to engage with contemporary visual art either in the gallery itself or in an online space we have to break down some of those self-imposed barriers that we often face. People who think they don’t ‘get it’ or are afraid to say they don’t like it or feel they don’t have the right vocabulary to talk about it. And maybe one of the ways that we could do that is to seek an emotional rather than an intellectual response. One that people will give more freely and that maybe that’s the first step in people becoming more deeply engaged with us and the work we show.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Social media and contemporary visual art – 10 lessons from 2010 (parts 1 & 2)

I’ve spent the last year continuing to be preoccupied with social media and the role it can play in contemporary visual art. As promised in a previous post, I’ve been working on a list of 10 things that have made me think this year and about which I continue to ponder. Actually the title is a little misleading because I suspect more of them are raised questions rather than lessons. Most of these probably warrant longer posts and chances are I may come back to them but I’m going to try and keep this relatively snappy, which is not generally my forte, but here goes.

Update – since I started to write this post it’s become clear that despite my promise it’s going to be way too long for one post so I’m splitting it up into pairs of points that will hopefully make sense together.

1- How much is too much?
Or rather how many is too many? I’m talking Twitter here. As of writing we have over 1800 followers, which is pretty amazing I think. We are following around 700 and that’s where the problem lies, 700 is too many to have a meaningful dialogue with, indeed in a time poor environment it’s too many to be able to follow the stream in any meaningful way. I have always believed that for arts organisations Twitter is more important than just another method of pushing information out, but as the numbers grow I worry that is the direction in which we will inevitably head. I want to ensure that doesn’t  happen but now I’m not sure exactly what to do to promote a genuine social space. Cull people we follow? Try to regularly spend more time on it? Keep going and try to keep the content interesting, not all marketing messages and hope we develop the engagement that way?

Actually, just to answer my own question at least in part, one of the things that we could do is open up the account so more people within the organisation have access to it, I have no objection to that but it would involve a change of thinking and those sort of changes are difficult and they don’t happen overnight. (I’ll be returning to the subject of organisational change in a later post).

2- Educating the audience
I admit I may be on slightly dodgy territory here considering what I said in point one about having less ability to engage with our online audience but here goes. As social platforms develop it seems to me that there is less dialogue happening, less feedback. I’m pretty sure that we’ve not become less interesting and leaving aside for a minute what I said previously, I wonder, as more people join social networks, as the networks grow and develop if the people joining now ie not the early adopters are less interested in dialogue and engagement and more interested in just listening. Especially as we are an organisation and not a person. If that’s true, is there a case for educating the audience? I have no idea right now how you’d do that but what I want to convey is that we’re interested in their thoughts, their input, their feedback. I want to break down the idea of galleries being elitist and I want to know how we can help audiences play their part in that, to understand that they can engage, can contribute, that they don’t have to sit back passively and listen. Unless that’s all they want to do, which is of course also fine.

One of the benefits of writing this blog has always been that it helps to crystallize my thoughts, hopefully in an interesting enough way for readers. In this instance this has helped me to refocus and challenged me to refresh our relationship with Twitter (my thinking tends to focus round Twitter and then filter down to other platforms and methods of engagement). So then, my goals for 2011 are these – I want to open up our Twitter stream to other people in the organisation, to give the multiplicity of voices that exist the opportunity to speak. I want to ensure that we’re engaging with the vocal minority and that we continue to put out thoughtful, valuable and interesting material that gives people greater insight to Fabrica and our work for the people that just want to listen. In that way, I believe that the vocal minority can grow as engagement across our audience deepens.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Great 2010 Silence

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet here for most of this year. There are a number of reasons for this but mostly, I have to be honest, because I didn’t have much to say. I’ve been busy doing – experimenting, building and rebuilding websites, thinking about engagement but I haven’t spent a lot of time writing and certainly not much blogging.

This has been a year of transition at Fabrica and a year in which things in the arts world have become increasingly difficult. So I finally feel like I have something to say and I’m currently working on a 10 lessons from 2010 post, which will be up before the end of year.

So check back soon and in the meantime you can check out the websites I’ve worked on below

Iris – this was built as a magazine site for Fabrica and our five partners in a three-year European project.

LCP – this is also an outcome of our European project and sets out to capture and convey the learning that is central the project, the parts of the project that don’t necessarily have a public outcome.

Fabrica – the gallery’s website rebuilt and revived.

A final point, I’ve just imported this blog from blogger to wordpress and I’m still playing with different themes so think of it as, you know, a work in progress.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guest blog post

I was recently asked to contribute a guest blog post to Culture 24’s Museums at Night blog on the Arts and social media. So just in case you’ve missed out on me (repeatedly) linking to it on Twitter and Facebook, here’s the link.

Comments as always welcome.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

#thirty30

77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno. Image: Lumen London

We’re gearing up for the Brian Eno show 77 Million Paintings which has its preview on April 1 and opens the next day. I worked out today (March 2) that from tomorrow it’s 30 days to the preview. I’ve also been thinking about different things that we could do to build on last year’s work around social media and the arts and putting the two together I came up with the idea of 30 days – 30 tweets. Essentially I’m planning a series of 30 tweets, one per day, about the show. They might be facts, observations, links, pictures, audio clips. The tweets might touch on the practicalities of the process of putting the show together, some of the themes, interviews with people involved, the artist, etc. The aim is that they’ll have a light touch. Although the primary platform that I’ll be focussing on is Twitter the tweets will also be expanded for Facebook.

Then I thought it’d be great to hashtag them so they become findable and at the end of the time form an online resource. Hopefully on the way they’ll be an entertaining and informative way to get people engaged with the show. The hashtag is #thirty30. As per usual I’ll report back at the end and give some thoughts on how it turned out but I’d love to hear any thoughts in the meantime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment