Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Art? In Inverness?

Greetings people,

I've just returned after my lunchly sojourn and have an art experience to relate.

Inverness could hardly be touted as the thriving hub of anything, much less modern art. But there is an exhibition on right now that is worthy of a shout out.

ig:lu (19 Church Street - yes, that's right, my street) is a rather interesting art hub. Never knew it even existed before I read about this latest exhibition, but there you go. We have an arts hub.

So what is this latest exhibition? I'm glad you asked. A projection room has been set-up (well, partially set-up but I'll get to that later) which is broadcasting Instagram images on two walls in live time. There are over 200 amateur photographers' images being streamed on one wall, and a slideshow of images, in real time, from 50 invited photographers. All artists are using the Instagram application, which is a photosharing utility similar to flickr, although I think Instagram holds more facebookesque delusions of future grandeur.

So what of my reaction to the show? Let me coat my answer with a promise to visit the space again later in the week. Now, having coated my answer, allow me to answer EPIC FAIL! I'm not talking about the potential of either the space, or the show, I'm talking about my user experience of the exhibition.

For a start there was little (or nothing) to invite you into this exhibition from the street. On reflection it was nothing. Had I not been previously alerted about the show via other online media I simply would have no idea it was on. Not being a space that openly broadcasts itself to the street is a handicap for any show on at ig:lu, not having adequate signage at the space itself is simply unforgivable. And while I'm on it, I don't think ig:lu, or IGLU or IG:LU quite knows what it wants to do with it's own branding. Upon arriving home I set about looking up their website to confirm details on this blog post. I can't find a thing. I found their poster on my phone as I had a coffee across the road beforehand. But I can't remember if that was all lower case, or with the colon, or a combination. Point is I shouldn't have to. I'll tell you this for free, guys and gals, sort out your identity and you will make life a lot easier for yourselves.

Next, back to the action, I enter the building. I've never been here before, so I don't know where I'm going. There are little stickers pointing me upstairs, but not telling me how far upstairs. Then, as I climb higher and higher, I am invited by posters on the wall to join the Inverness Befrienders on the second floor. Now, I'm sure the Befrienders do a great job at whatever it is that they do, but it all felt like a bit of a scam to get me into the Befrienders. I nearly turned around. Anyway, I persevered through the tunnel of poor signage to eventually find the door (I've been working out, and even I was short of breath having climbed those stairs - for the record, I think it's on the third floor) and in I go. I look around, and there's no one and nothing here. I peek into a room with a couple of rows of seats (which is empty but for a clipboard on a table), sneak into a darkened room which is also empty, past a slightly open door marked 'PRIVATE' and another signed 'TOILET'. I finally reach a door with a label on it 'PROJECTION ROOM' although the text was smaller than you're reading on here. A brief (and tiny) description of what delights awaited inside was underneath. Keep in mind I still haven't seen a single human being at this point.

I open the door and enter the 'PROJECTION ROOM'. There is a ladder in my way. I wonder if this is part of the exhibition. There are four or five human beings in this room, all of them appear to be 'crew'. They appear to be wearing matching t-shirts at least.

'Hi, come in,' welcomes one of them, which was nice. He then leaves the room, leaving me alone with a girl on a stool, a guy on the floor with a laptop, one other loitering staff, and the ladder. It appears that they are still 'setting up the space'. It is 2pm. What little advertising I have seen indicated that this opened at 9am. Some guy is up the ladder twiddling with alignment or focus or some such nonsense.

And none of them engage me in any way. Not a 'what are you doing here?', a 'how did hear about us?' or 'what do you think?'. Not an explanation that on one wall is live-feed images from 200 amateurs, and the other wall is a live feed single image slideshow from 50 invited photographers. Nothing. All they were worried about was that the guy with the laptop hadn't yet had his soup. They actually seemed embarrassed that I was even there.

So I stand there for a couple of minutes looking at the show and just get an overwhelming sense of underwhelmed. For a start, the matrix wall of amateur images is too congested and too slow moving to capture your attention. It is an impressive wall of colour, but there is little artistic integrity reaching out to suck you in*. Think iTunes wallpaper, you know - the one that displays all of your album covers and flicks them over, one at a time. I spent ages configuring my iTunes wallpaper so that the effect was just right. It might have helped had someone in charge here had afforded it the same indulgence. And over on the other wall the one image at a time was fine except, well, except that that bloody ladder was in the way. There were seats facing each wall, but the feng-shui was all wrong because, well because people were still kinda working on the show in there. I felt like I was intruding.

So I left.

I'm not rubbishing the show necessarily. It's an interesting and ambitious project. It is all warm and fuzzy that this is happening in Inverness, and on my street no less. But get it right. The things that let this down are the things you can get for free. A little direction, a little organisation, a little preparation. I guess, to their credit, when I left the building the guy who initially greeted me was writing the exhibition details on the blackboard outside. But hey, fella, aren't you about five hours too late?

I will be back to see how they've got on. The advertising promises that the exhibition will grow over the course of the week, so I suppose I should have something to look forward to. Unless that day later in the week is anything like today.

* You should know by mow that ALL of my mixed metaphors are intentional.

PS: Whilst attempting to research this post I stumbled across two websites that seemed to promise plenty. What's on Inverness.com and Northings.com. Each appears to be a listing of what's happening locally, each with a bit of an Arts perspective. Neither of them have this exhibition on any (easily navigable) part of their website. There is too little happening in this part of the world to excuse these listings being incomplete. Highland FAIL!

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