Following a few weeks of research, deliberation, talking to other students and finally a spurt of decision-making, I have come up with what I believe to be a reasonable plan for Assignment 2 (the publication proposal).

The details will be covered in more depth in subsequent blog posts leading up to the actual assignment submission but in summary my proposal has four key components:

  • The main presentation method will be a virtual online exhibition
  • As a supporting publication I will produce a limited run exhibition catalogue to send to interested parties (funding sponsors and virtual exhibition ‘attendees’)
  • The above two items will be funded via a crowdfunding campaign (with top-up from personal funds as required)
  • The publications themselves and the crowdfunding campaign will be promoted online in a variety of ways on a range of platforms

There now follows brief explanations on the above decisions.

Virtual exhibition

Note that by ‘virtual exhibition’ I mean something over and above an online gallery or a slideshow on a website; I am talking about some kind of on-screen representation of a three-dimensional gallery space, that the user can navigate through in order to simulate the physical exhibition experience.

I had been considering a virtual exhibition rather than a physical one even before the Covid-19 issues arose, for a practical, personal reason: I have recently moved from the UK to France, and I have zero photography network in my new country. Finding a venue would have been difficult, especially within the timescales of SYP as a course. Also, the work is heavily dependent on text, which currently happens to be in English. All things considered, the idea of holding a physical exhibition in France around this work seemed to be not only difficult (I can cope with difficult, I don’t mind a challenge), but rather simply not the right thing to do with this work, for a reason that I couldn’t put my finger on at the time (but became clearer with the portfolio reviews, of which more in a moment).

When Covid-19 hit, the question of finding exhibition space became doubly vexing. Venues in both the UK and France closed at short notice for 4 or 5 months, and exhibitions already planned were postponed to later in the year or in 2021. Now the waiting lists for good venues were several months longer than they had been previously due to the unexpected backlog of exhibitions.

During the lockdown, two positive things came up that, added to the challenges explained above, led me back to the idea that a virtual exhibition might be the best approach after all.

Firstly, the portfolio reviews threw up a couple of comments that made me think about how I wanted people to experience the work: reviewers described it as “intimate”, “thoughtful” and “personal”; one reviewer specifically said that it would suit presentation to a viewer in a one-to-one format, small scale, like in a book or a zine. As I will come on to, I do want there to be a printed element to the overall publication, but I also want there to be a version that people can experience digitally in the first instance, and this is in itself a more personal and intimate experience than a physical gallery visit.

Secondly, my study buddy Hazel had to switch her SYP publication at the last minute from a physical exhibition to a virtual one, making her a trailblazer for a new way of doing things! Hazel did an amazing job of quickly turning her real-world exhibition into a virtual one, and I’m incredibly impressed with how it all turned out. I supported Hazel by helping to host a couple of Zoom artist talks, so got to see her revised plan unfold at close quarters. It was a triumph!

So the first point above persuaded me that a virtual exhibition would be appropriate for my work, and the second point persuaded me that it is achievable in a professional, successful way.

Exhibition catalogue

Allied to the above rationale for a virtual exhibition, I always felt that there should still be a physical element to the publication. I want people to have a physical memento – especially as my work is about memory.

I envisage a low-cost, limited print run publication that I can send out in the post to people that have visited the virtual exhibition. I plan to send it out free of charge and so will need to cover the costs of production and postage in my publication budget.

I will expand on this in a subsequent blog post but I think I have ruled out a traditional zine format as too small (zines tend to be A5-ish) and I would like the images to be printed larger than this. I am currently leaning towards a digital print newspaper format.

Crowdfunding

For reasons I went into in an earlier blog post, I believe that most of the funding methods suggested in the course notes are not really appropriate for my work. The only funding sources that I am seriously considering at the moment are crowdfunding and, if necessary, personal funds as a top-up.

One of the reasons I am attracted to crowdfunding is that I can see synergies between the two publication formats and the funding mechanism: one form of crowdfunding gives funders (donors? sponsors?) ‘rewards’ based on their level of investment, and I can see a situation where a pledge of a certain amount gives the funder (e.g.) a copy of the exhibition catalogue, or their name published in the catalogue, or their name published in the virtual exhibition. For the higher reward levels I could offer A3 prints of images of the funder’s choice.

One big advantage behind crowdfunding is that it can help to build viewer interest well in advance of the publication itself. It can give me the opportunity to (online-) talk about the exhibition and the catalogue for several weeks before it goes live. It’s like having two bites at the promotional cherry. Also, it gives the final publication an in-built core audience, i.e. the sponsors. They are going to visit the virtual exhibition, even if no-one else does!

Online promotion

Given how (a) lots of life, even more than usual, has moved more online since the Covid-19 pandemic started, and (b) I’m personally in a kind of ‘post-geographic’ situation right now, it makes sense to focus most of my energies on promoting the campaign and the publication through online platforms.

These will include (but not necessarily be limited to): Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my portfolio website, email (MailChimp) and press releases sent to relevant individuals and organisations.

Once the actual publication is live, I plan to do one or more ‘artist talk’ type events via video, most likely Zoom.


Next steps

I have things to do in each of the four areas to get it to the proposal (assignment) stage:

  • Virtual exhibition
    • Research platforms
    • Trial platforms
    • Choose platform
    • Draw up budget
  • Exhibition catalogue
    • Research suppliers
    • Get sample products
    • Choose supplier and product
    • Draw up budget
  • Crowdfunding
    • Research platforms
    • Choose platform
    • Write up pitch
  • Online promotion
    • Start drip-feeding teaser content
    • Compile emails for press release