47 has de-inspired me to do any more video reviews of galleries.
Don’t get me wrong – I really like everybody at 47 and I think the installations are exciting and relevant. There is a great vibe to the space. It’s all these positives about 47 which validates my sudden crisis of confidence as an independent arts and culture blogger – the sudden cold water bitch slap realization that I have no relevancy to this place and to most galleries in Toronto.
It’s something I suspected for a while but did not fully figure out until I visited gallery 47’s website recently. And it’s not just 47 – it is a philosophy deeply ingrained into the psyche of nearly every ambitious gallery administrator (including myself when I was in that same position).
Popularity is not as important as recognition from your peers – being a curator / director is a very competitive sport. You could say the score is measured by marks on newsprint and attendance of the same people who go to the galleries you are being better than.
What this means is that many galleries plan exhibits are actually designed with a mere handful of people in mind. If the exhibit gets public, printed coverage from the right person(s), it creates a valuable historic document and therefore is a measurable success – a thousand random people passing through does not do this. Radio is good, TV is good, online articles can be important too but in reality nothing compares (still) to the million little printed “I like this”‘s.
It can be described as a very simple formula thusly:
1000 gallery visitors is worth less than 1 established critic’s review UNLESS the 1000 gallery visitors resulted from that critic’s review in which case it is equal.
( The last half of the above formula can be explained this way – one thousand critically uninformed people are worth less than one thousand people who see the exhibit because they read a (certain) critic’s review. These people will typically be a more relevant and “academic” demographic than the other group and the number’s will add support to the historical relevance of the exhibit. Otherwise, a popular exhibit adds little weight to assessing it’s overall significance )
So why I am so blue and bugaboo all of a sudden? Like I was saying earlier, I checked 47’s site yesterday and there a blurb about how popular the last show was and thanks to various persons and critics who covered it and links to them. There is no link to my video review of this show or any mention of ALP or me. Kinda embarrassing because I talked a bit to the artist, the owner, the intern and arranged to have a co-host for it as well. Even posted twice more on ALP with links to the show to help encourage people to see it. It is a lot of work, and is entirely volunteer labour based. (I am not going to post links or get specific here because it is besides the point)
I’ve always had a soft spot for 47 because I found out about it from a contact I made doing early ALP video reviews. They seemed lost in that alley. I wanted to help. I’ve done video interviews of 47 and posted 47 exhibit PR on my websites since. I’ve blogged about them. I even criticized that one awful show. I even did not put up some images and movies that were better left unupped (not a word, I know). The most humiliating thing is that I mentioned a lack of any link backs weeks ago. I heard nothing back but the answer was right there in front of me – I am not someone or something that is worth mentioning. I now realize the softball teams were just divided up between the two cool kids and no one chose me.
But now I realize that I’ve never gotten an email from them. I don’t get invitations. My posts about them don’t get responded to or shared. They have never posted any PR or links on any of my websites, or any of their to mine. They don’t look at any of my other work or reviews. They don’t subscribe to any of my channels. Even in person, I got the sense of “they know they don’t know me” and so are not really interested in anything I am doing or who I am. In contrast, many of the commercial and co-op galleries are really easy to work with and were eager to take advantage of any favorable marketable channel they could – but then again, a 1000 random people are worth more to them 😉
I’ve been in Toronto for about a year. To get to know the people, spaces and “scene” I decided to set up a Toronto-based art blog. I am an artist who writes, so naturally it seemed easier and more unique to offer quick, blog-style video clips of what is currently going on a handful of different galleries week to week. I tend to cover shows that I like, and I tend to be a teacher aimed at people who are outside or on the margin of art literate circles. I am completely inspired by the “Monkey Toast – the improvised talk show” style that would complement my complete unfamiliarity of Toronto and it’s arts and culture. This past year I’ve played the part of a dumb critic, somebody who talks about exhibits without any clue of the artist, gallery or background but with an educated and practical perspective. It’s been fun and is honest and therefore valuable as any feedback is, and guessing about the work, chatting about art and making some jokes is my way to encourage people to go to galleries despite feeling intimidated or that they “don’t know enough about art”. I’ve truly never seen an arts show like it and I am very proud about that.
One person (from Ottawa no less) so far has contributed some videos to my great idea of video feedback of art exhibit via social and mobile channels. A few galleries have started to post to my network but I realize now most will not. The best I can hope for is to get emails as part of a mail-out list. I spend most of my free time finding and posting content from Toronto, keeping up the hope that others will follow suit. Free, powerful, edited, non-commercial service designed by a professional CMS developer and slaved over by two people. Because of this, it is doomed to fail – unless I can find a minor local celebrity to become a partner. There are terrific people here in Toronto, but there is no community. I know realize to be part of a true arts community here I will have to buy my way into it at galleries collectives such as Propeller, Red Head or Loop.
I was concerned that because it is free and independent, coupled with the fact I am a complete unknown in these here parts, that there would be little to no perceived worth to Art Listings Professional or Art Wire PR. I am some guy with cheap business cards and a website of other people’s art. My continued enthusiasm and industrialism also does not help avoid being taken for granted as an amateur and perhaps portrays me as slightly lonely and with some delusions of self-importance (this may be a correct picture). Any value I have is derived from that fact that a) I am a guy with a camera and your marketing budget is a fucking joke + b) I am harmless and polite.
But I know what I am talking about when it comes to art and media, and I know when something is not working.
I now get the distinct impression from a lot of places that they are doing me a favour and not the other way around. I am now someone who the intern is supposed to deal with, and I get fed trite fluff. So I am going to stop doing the video reviews.
Instead, I am changing the format to the following projects:
1. I will carry out the pledge to visit and review every gallery in Toronto in 2010 because I think it is worthwhile.
2. I will do video interviews of individuals of interest from time to time.
3. I will continue to produce the “Alpy the Art Critic Star” animated series because a badly composed animated character has a better chance of being seen by more people than what I am doing now.
4. I will cover big events such as Art Toronto, TIAF, Nuit Blanche, outdoor fairs, etc. But no more individual galleries every week – anyone is more than welcome to submit their own video reviews (I doubt that will happen but don’t doubt art exhibit video reviews will be gain popularity over time).
5. Most importantly for ALP, I will focus on ALP TV as the vehicle for the new “Art to see this weekend”. A brief video every Thursday with my recommendations of current exhibits and events. I think I may add Alpy as a part of that video, if it won’t make it too long.
6. I will continue to try to establish artprwire.com as a viable, free, professional and popular alternative for arts PR in Toronto and Canada.
7. Most importantly than even #5 is returning to full-time work within the IT and web marketing industry. I was hoping to get picked up a gallery admin team somewhere somehow but I think I am going to have to hang around for a couple more years, buy some better clothes and open my own gallery if I want to be anything other than an intern.
8. I am going to review some shows with written articles via my blog. No more Mr. Nice video guy who depends on permission. I’m writing about the bad and the good from now on.
9. Most significantly my own work calls to me. Geez, it only took about 5000 images and 400 gallery visits in the last eight months to get inspired back into the studio.
So anyways, yeah, I feel pretty disheartened in many ways but with a clearer vision of the next step. This has been a lot of work but I have learned much. They say it takes about 200 videos uploads on YouTube to really start to get comfortable with it and that seems to be true. I’m excited to see how this next year goes with a much more limited and focused video output.
So my final word on 47 is that for a independent gallery they sure don’t value independent art bloggers – not like they did before they got the reviews they wanted it seems. I was completely naive about it – this was not some unknown group who banded together and came out of nowhere.
They are no longer a young, fresh space hidden away because it looks like 47 has come into it’s own and is all grown up.
The problem here is obviously I need to grow up and rethink, look at my own assumptions and approaches to things.
Ok, to finish up this monumental post, I thought I might create
a list ranking the different types of media coverage a typical professional gallery values*
- Quarterly glossy national magazine
- National Daily Newspaper
- CBC radio
- Daily Newspaper
- Weekly Newspaper
- Local radio
- Local Magazines
- National TV
- News Websites
- Local TV
- Email News List
- Social Media reactions