I recently took part in a salon with a group of my classmates at the South London Gallery. Even writing that name down “Salon” gives me the shivers. At first I thought it sounded rather pleasant, but it’s really not. Out tutor had actively encouraged us to join in as it would be a great opportunity to show our work to our fellow classmates and leave it up to discussion. Some may come out of it feeling refreshed and inspired to make more art, others come out of it feeling deflated, confused and maybe even a little embarrassed. I was unfortunately the latter on Thursday.
The way a salon works is this; you all bring your work to a space, set it up, get some beers and snacks and then the discussion (or terror) begins. Last Thursday I brought a short film of mine I was working on. Still in the editing process I though it would be a great idea to bring it to the salon to gage some responses. The responses I got were not what I was expecting. Many felt it was manipulative as I had chosen to use a voice over and background noise to set the tone. They felt they were being told what to feel. One person even said it looked like a good samaritans video. Everyone laughed, I was mortified.
I can’t speak for everyone who has gone through art school but for me its both a fulfilling and terrifying experience. Art by nature is an extension of yourself. I don’t care how abstract the art is, in some shape or form it is a representation of your experience with the world, it’s often deeply personal. Therefore, if someone tears it apart it can often feel like they are tearing you apart. What a ludicrous thing to think! But you can’t help it. Even to this day, tutorials scare me. I get nervous and agitated and often, even though I know I can speak well about my art, what comes out of my mouth is less than coherent. While making art is deeply personal, you make art primarily for other people to view it. At a recent talk by artist Susan Hiller. I asked her if she has ever felt she made truly ephemeral art. She answered me and said “Well sometimes I think when I doing the washing-up, this is art! But really, it’s not art unless someone sees it.”
She is right. Art is for the viewers, it has to be, otherwise it loses its point. With this in mind a salon is a perfect way to let us really understand how people view and read our work. It is often brutal in its honesty but in the end incredibly useful.
There is one more salon left and maybe I’m a complete masochist but plan to sign myself up for it!