In my last post I talked about my experience of participating in the WBNUA 2018 project and now I am going to reflect on the outcomes of this project. In some ways this is many layered and there are several outcomes.
Firstly, each artist has their own completed piece.
Secondly, (for the most part, but there were some exceptions) an image of this piece (rather than the actual piece, although discuss…) is sent and compiled centrally.
This image is shared on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/world_book_night_2018/
Thirdly, the images were printed and an exhibition of all the pieces was compiled and put on in UWE Bristol’s Bower Ashton Library during April 2018.
Fourthly, the images were compiled in a book – Their eyes were watching God A copy of which has been accepted by Tate Britain for their artists’ book collection.
A video was also made for the project: https://vimeo.com/265964557
Whilst the project was ongoing I really enjoyed seeing all the pieces being shared in Instagram, being able to see how people had responded is many different ways to the short story “Watching God” They looked so effective shared in this medium and I was very impressed by all the contributions. When I realised there was going to be an exhibition (as well as book) I knew that I should make the effort to go an see it. The exhibition ran for a month in Bristol, but as I work full time (and live in South Wales) I wasn’t initially sure how I would be able to visit without taking time off work. However, realising it was being held in a University library, I checked their opening hours and was pleased to discover that there was access at evenings and weekends. I contacted the library to check whether as someone not affiliated to the University I would still be able to access the library and this was indeed so. They wanted to know when I would be coming so that they could inform security, but that wasn’t a problem.
So it was towards the end of April that myself and my husband made our way over to Bristol after work on a Friday. I was very excited about being able to see all the pieces in ‘real life’ especially as I knew that they had all been framed in random frames acquired from charity/junk shops to give them the feel of the images and quotes found in the library in the short story.
Now, although I knew the exhibition was in a library I hadn’t really envisioned what this would mean. The pieces were in a study room, with tables and a bank of computers against the wall – above which were many of the pictures. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the exhibition fully as there were students working in the space, sat at the computers, and I couldn’t really go and peer over their shoulders to see everything. so, to be truthful I was a little disappointed. But this is my personal response to the inhabited space rather than the exhibition itself. The pieces I could get close to I really appreciated seeing, remembering many from their Instagram incarnations and comparing my responses to both ways of viewing. Seeing the 3D pieces was especially valuable in ‘real life’.
With some awkward peering from odd angles, and hanging around a bit waiting while someone packed up to leave, I think we managed to see everything. Of course spotting our own pieces was exciting too! I did take some photos, some of which I include, but I was unable to have one of myself next to my own pieces. I did manage to get one of my husband near his (although he felt self-conscious and didn’t want to pose).
We felt awkward intruding into this student space (but that could just be us!), but it was good that this project was exhibited in a public space and I hope the students have paid attention to it.
Of course, what I view as the main focus for all the work was the creation of an artists’ book Their eyes were watching God, and receiving my copy of this was a pleasure, although once again all the contributions appear in another manifestation of themselves. Different sizes to the exhibition, in some cases, although with a book you do have a pre-defined space to be working to. I have enjoyed all versions:
The Instagram images brought with them suspense and surprise as you didn’t know what would be appearing and when, each new piece a joy and an inspiration.
The exhibition brought the images together into one public space and were framed, both physically and literally, in the context of the story (and the town hall library therein).
The book means I have all the images together, at hand, and can look at them whenever I want in private; and also know that there are multiple published versions out in the world (and the Tate).