Why exhibit?

I had works in an exhibition earlier this month, for the first time in, I don’t know how long, but it must be fifteen years? Partly because I was busy with lazure murals between 1998 and 2006 and they are permanently on exhibition (unless someone paints over them). But partly because I don’t see the point.

Before I ever read Dewey on the problem of a museum conception of art that takes away the lived experience, I didn’t like exhibitions, mine or anyone else’s. I couldn’t see the point of sticking a dozen often unrelated pictures on a wall in a strange room (some gallery space) for a few weeks, just so as people could come and gaze at them, and say “hmmm?”, before turning the canapes.

The concept of an installation is much more sensible – to present the opportunity in a special space for the audience to have some sort of experience – but it is still  an artificial construct. As Dewey said,

When artistic objects are separated from both conditions

of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them

that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which aesthetic theory deals.

Yes, a wall of incomprehension usually, which then leads to questions like “what is the point?”. You may well ask ….

But this time, I was doing it for motivational purposes: by saying yes, I would exhibit, I was forced to get out my paints and produce something. Never a good idea in my way of painting, since I never (rarely?) create with an end product in mind. So the resulting work was a bit clumsy (see above) but I enjoyed the experience of working again with colour and form and that, according to my research participants, is what creativity is all about: enjoying the experience.

Feeling a bit more ambitious I put two works in a paper I gave on how developing certain kinds of awareness, or mindfulness ( to use the popular term) can help develop cognitive flexibility, which in turn, helps you become a more creative thinker.  Now I think I will aim for an exhibition next year, but just of my own works, but in the context of my doctoral research, like a visual representation of it.

So why exhibit? to provide the conditions for others to have a certain type of visual experience? To share the experience you, the artist, had, while creating it, so that they have an alternative understanding of dissertation. Hopefully.

Because it will give me something other than writing my dissertation to look forward to. A bit of breathing out. And an alternative to typing all day long.

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