An open invitation to the ‘gentleman’ who was responsible for the unleashed dog that ran through my artwork on exhibit at The Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability as part of the North Sydney Art Prize and then insulted me by giving me $10 towards the costs of damages.
When I received the news that I had been selected for the North Sydney Art Prize I was ecstatic. As an artist, we invest heavily in our time and own financial resources to create work for both ourselves and the wider general public, to hopefully extend the experience of their world, create beauty, get people thinking and to create a sense of something beyond the economic rationalist view point that seems to have somehow dominated our society.
I was even more excited to find out that I had received the Encouragement Award. All too often an artist life is an uphill battle.
Unfortunately my experience during the first two days that the exhibition has been open to the general public has left me far from encouraged. This is the third installation of this artwork but it is the first time I have observed it being treated with such an incredible lack of mindfulness and respect.
While the installation is slightly problematic in that it is a floor piece and there are a number of works in the room, it is not so problematic that anyone knowingly walking into a space to view artworks as part of the North Sydney Art Prize would not be able to navigate the space in a respectful and mindful way.
While minding the space as a volunteer (of course, artists are not expected to get paid for their time) I have seen adults walk over the work, damaging elements with no acknowledgement of their action or apology. This has also applied to the parents of the numerous children who have run, walked or fallen onto the piece. Parents please hold on to your children’s hands if they are not familiar with appreciating art.
The last straw for me was Sunday when a gentleman allowed a dog, unleashed and in his care to run frantically across the work, scattering the elements widely and destroying many. I took yet another deep breath and remained calm, as accidents happen. People are careless without even realising it. It is an offence to have a dog unleashed in a public space. North Sydney Council officers, where were you to offer him his on the spot fine?
I invited the ‘gentleman’ to help me repair the damage that his dog had created (actually not his, he was minding it for his daughter, and agreed that it was out of control…”so why not leash the beast I thought to myself”). He seemed a man educated in the arts, discussed the similarities that he thought my work had with a work displayed in the new Kaldor Wing at the AGNSW……I made light conversation while taking deep breaths to remain calm…in an attempt to keep him from ‘feeling bad’ about the damage that had been done to my artwork……and then, when it was ‘fixed’ to a level that seemed suitable, he offered, hastily, a $10 note towards the damage that had occurred and quickly disappeared.
I was stunned. Still in a state of shock from what had happened, I took the note but felt deeply insulted.
My work takes a minimum of 18 man hours to install. The elements were made over an intense period of 21 consecutive days working 15-17 hours each day. There are 10,000 elements in the piece. I realise that the Visual Arts is increasingly undervalued and continues to be de-funded but the disregard shown by that $10 left me speechless. If not for the tireless commitment, and financial investment of the participating artists to their practice, the works in this exhibition would not exist for the public to enjoy.
So I invite the ‘gentleman’ to the opportunity of a lifetime, to experience what it is like to be an artist. To, in effect, recreate the commitment and effort it took to create my artwork that was then made available for him and others to enjoy; so that he can be educated in the life of an artist. He will have the opportunity to create his own artwork, learn new skills, experience dedication, persistence and focus.
I offer to take the time out of my life, to make him a commitment over all my other commitments (as a mother, wife, business partner, gallery director, student and artist), to make his experience my primary motivation, to take him on a journey that will open his heart and his mind to the joy (and heartache) of creativity and to the focus required to create an artwork like this. All he needs to do is commit, as I did, to 17 hour days for 21 consecutive days. I will even provide him with a gallery exhibition space to exhibit the resulting work in where he can celebrate his creation with friends, family and colleagues.
I will also commit to giving him $10 to compensate for his efforts in the event that his work is damaged by persons showing a lack of respect for his creation.
Signed Bridget Kennedy.
Bridget is a contemporary jewellery artist and a director of Studio 20/17 (studio2017.com.au). Her works are respectfully exhibited within the galleries at 2 Danks Street in Waterloo (2danksstreet.com.au) and elsewhere. Her floor installation “just help yourself why don’tcha” is on exhibition at the Coal Loader as part of the North Sydney Art Prize until Monday 5th August 2013.