Mar 162015
 

This is the last part of a multi-post investigation. Here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

As I said in my first post in this series I have had work in seven solo or group gallery shows over the past seven years, as opposed to roughly 80-100 festival screenings every year. The gallery shows have all resulted from requests for my work from people who came across it at film festivals, media galleries or on the internet. These gallery shows were fun, but didn’t really result in any tangible advantages – none of the work was for sale. The screened films would have been hard to sell, since they were already in the film festival/internet circuit, and the objects related to the making of the films were difficult or expensive to frame. So these gallery shows were mostly about exposure, which was moderate.

Stop-Framing Me, gallery show in Steele Gallery at Gage Academy, Seattle, WA, 2012, co-curated by Tess Martin, and including work by Tess. Photo courtesy of Gage Academy.

Stop-Framing Me, gallery show in Steele Gallery at Gage Academy, Seattle, WA, 2012, co-curated by Tess Martin, and including work by Tess. Photo courtesy of Gage Academy.

My original question was – is it possible to do both festival screenings and gallery shows? Is there advantages to trying to do both, in cases like mine, where the video work would not require special installation in the gallery, and could easily be seen as is in either gallery or festival contexts?

I asked Steven Woloshen (artist/experimental filmmaker), Eliska Decka (curator), Su Rynard (media artist), Ruud Terhaag (animator/filmmaker) and Jan de Bruin (video artist/photographer) to answer some questions for me about their experiences navigating these two worlds. You can see their replies in full here and here.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that all things considered, no, it’s not worth it for me to try to actively pursue gallery shows or gallery representation. Here are my reasons:

1. Gallery representation is helpful, but it doesn’t mean that you are saved the work of promoting yourself. Even with gallery representation you will have to promote your work and solicit interest from venues (Su Rynard).

2. Gallery representation also doesn’t mean that you are saved the work of installing the piece yourself. You still might have to communicate directly with the curator/venue to make sure it looks and sounds good. (Eliska Decka, Su Rynard)

3. Even though video art can be sold, it is highly unlikely that you will successfully sell a piece to a collector (Su Rynard, Jan de Bruin), and even more unlikely that you will sell it for enough money, or enough editions to recoup the actual expenses of the film (Ruud Terhaag).

4. Sometimes galleries will not be happy with the idea of you submitting the video art piece also to festivals, or putting it online, severely limiting the amount of possible exposure from that piece (Ruud Terhaag). However, if you can find a gallery that is OK with this, that’s different (Ruud Terhaag, Jan de Bruin).

5. In some cases the role of distribution companies seem to be more helpful than galleries. They get the work seen, and sometimes get you a screening fee. (Steven Woloshen, Su Rynard, Jan de Bruin)

BUT

1. Gallery shows are good to have because the notoriety from these might encourage more festivals to accept the work (Ruud Terhaag)

Paper Time, Tess Martin solo show at Stern Studio, Vienna. Photo courtesy of Holger Lang.

Paper Time, Tess Martin solo show at Stern Studio, Vienna, 2014. Photo courtesy of Holger Lang.

So I will continue to gladly accept invitations to be included in gallery shows, but I can’t see myself actively looking for more. The main instance in which I can see this changing is if I create a few films that have a lot more tangible detritus leftover at the end, like drawings/paintings on paper, or cut-outs that can be easily framed or displayed, or puppets.

For the past few years I have been creating films through destructive methods (sand or paint on glass), precisely to avoid having to create and store the remnants afterwards. But my last short film, The Lost Mariner, was a photo cut-out film and I do have a box full of paper that could be displayed (but not easily framed). And thinking about it, the film I’m starting now is also a cut-out film, so maybe in a little while I’ll have enough cut-outs that would make an interesting gallery show.

Display of photo cut-outs from The Lost Mariner, AKV St Joost graduation show, Breda, 2014

Display of photo cut-outs from The Lost Mariner, AKV St Joost graduation show, Breda, 2014

But even then, since it is unlikely I would successfully sell any of these artifacts (or want to, for that matter), the potential exposure from such a gallery show would have to be large enough to justify the effort involved in setting it up.

So there you are folks! At the end of the day I can easily picture my films in galleries, and sometimes feel they work better there than in festivals. But the gallery system, as it is, doesn’t offer me enough incentive to actively pursue it. If there are offers, though, I’m all ears.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this special blog post series, and that it has been helpful to others as well. I can always be reached at tess[at]tessmartinart.com for comments!

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