Week 6 - Exhibition

Alcatraz Island - photography exhibition of photos by Leigh Wiener. Above photo taken by me - March 2017

Alcatraz Island - photography exhibition of photos by Leigh Wiener. Above photo taken by me - March 2017

Following on from last week I have been considering how best to exhibit my work, if I do move forward with holding it in the office at work. It is not only a practical option, but also one that would provide an interesting physical and visual comparison between the corporate office world and the natural surf environment. Through my work I am hoping to show the ways in which surfing and being in the ocean can help mental health, and the way in which it provides relief and respite to landlocked surfers that spend much of their days in offices. Being able to show this work in an office could help to emphasise these points as well as display the work to this targeted audience. I think many people have preconceived notions that artwork displayed in galleries is perhaps inaccessible or not relatable to their lives. Brian O’Doherty likens the gallery to “the sanctity of the church, the formality of the courtroom”[i]. By not using a formal gallery space and instead exhibiting my work in a more “normal” environment, I hope to make my images more accessible to these viewers, and by doing so hope they connect with the work rather than just seeing the photographs as something to look at and then leave.

Choosing an exhibition space that contrasts against or resonates with the images being displayed can add to overall experience of the exhibition. Earlier this year in San Francisco I visited Alcatraz Island, and the toured the now closed, infamous, prison. Among the tourist-oriented areas there is also a room displaying photographs taken by Leigh Weiner[ii] during the last day of Alcatraz, when the remaining inmates were transferred to other facilities and the prison closed. Seeing those images displayed in the same location that they were taken really added to the experience of viewing them. It felt easier to imaging being there in that time, in that space, and I felt like I could connect more to those images than if they had been displayed in a white walled gallery in the city, or a gallery even further afield.

In addition to the space, the images of the last day of Alcatraz were also displayed on large canvases suspended from the ceiling rather than in a more standard 10x12 dimension behind glass and in frames (photo above). I again feel like this really helped with connecting to the works and the history they captured as you could get close to the photographs and feel as though the character of the photographs was a part of the space and not just in the space.

In order to emphasize the way a landlocked environment can feel stifling in comparison to freedom of surfing/being in the sea, I initially wanted to frame the smaller black and white images and leave the larger colour photographs unframed. However I suspect the space I will be using will not allow for nailing frames on the walls so I will need to find an alternate method for displaying the photographs. In this week’s webinar a few people commented that the images I was showing as an example of recent work (below) complimented each other due to the opposing bisecting points of focus. This gave the photos a different edge to viewing them separately, it prompted a questioning of the images and thinking about their meaning rather than just looking at surf images. This has made me reconsider the display for my photographs. Instead of having the inland images smaller and the surf images larger, I may experiment with having them the same size, as well as printing and displaying them in the same format. Pairing them or grouping them together like the pairing below I hope will give the images greater effect and impact on the viewers.  

[1] O’DOHERTY, Brian. 1999. Inside the white cube: the ideology of the gallery space. Berkeley, CA, London: University of California Press

[1] WIENER, Leigh. 2012. Alcatraz The Last Day. San Francisco, CA: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy