Saturday, July 9, 2016
You may have noticed the lack of posts on this blog lately. Neglecting the blog was not my intention but I wasn’t sure what to say. I am very excited to be the recipient of the emerging curator initiative but I am also feeling a range of other emotions. Being that this is my first exhibit, I can’t help but feel nervous, anxious, thrilled, and even a bit terrified. I also do not blog so I am embarking on many firsts throughout this process.
When I began developing the exhibit, I knew immediately what the theme would be. I believe my words were “Something about technology!”. I have always been drawn to the topic of technology. How and why we used it? How does it affect us? What does it say about us? I think people would appreciate such a relevant and exciting topic and hope to present it in a way museum and non-museum goers would enjoy.
(Dis)Connected will explore the relationship people have with technology and the ways in which it connects or disconnects us to people and ourselves. With technology being such a broad concept, I am constantly working on narrowing the scope and making this exhibit clear. Narrowing the scope is not an easy task when so many interesting topics emerge from the term “technology”, and when artists interpret it differently.
Nevertheless, I am enjoying the time I spend with this concept and believe this exhibit will be quite enjoyable. I will continue to update followers on my journey and look forward to the relationships with artists and galleries that will emerge!
Till next time,
Posted by Kayla Harriel
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The Secrets Can... exhibit was deinstalled on Sunday, April 27th. It was a bittersweet moment. I had done what I had set out to do - install a contemporary art exhibit at Kirkland Arts Center. But for me, it was about more than that. It was about making something meaningful. The exhibit was about connecting people to one another. It was about interaction and introspection. It was about allowing for dialogue, thoughtfulness, and empathy. It was a tall order. It is hard to say if it was successful in all of these ways. How does one set out to measure that which cannot be seen, the invisible work, and the subconscious? I could spend a PhD or two on that question alone.
I know I'm a bit biased, but I it was successful overall. We collected a modest number of surveys. We asked people if they liked the interpretation we provided (artwork was grouped by the artist and themes). We asked what visitors would tell their friends about the exhibit. We asked how they thought the exhibit and interactive components handled the topic of secrets. Every single response came back with positive remarks. Perhaps the folks who visit KAC are some of the nicest in the world - and I do think this is true - but no one said anything negative in the anonymous surveys (or to me). It could be that the old adage "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all" was employed, but I think many people did connect with the exhibit.
The opening night was a whirlwind of activity. My mom flew in from Wisconsin to see the exhibit come together. She graciously and carefully counted for every visitor. The clicker stopped at 122. I felt humbled and inspired by the turn-out. A lot of my friends, colleagues, peers, and mentors came. It provided me with a mini-reunion for some of my online library school friends - people I hadn't seen in person in years. I was really overcome with emotion and I couldn't help but cry a bit when I had to deliver my speech. (What can I say, I'm a happy crier...)
We collected 85 secrets from the interactive. The secrets were about love, relationships, hardships, fears, loss, self-worth, hope, and personal truths. They were written in English and one in Japanese. They were written by those with a lot of life experience, young adults, teenagers, and children who aren't quite able to write letters but who still had something they wanted to say. The secrets were beautiful and heartbreaking. I have only the sincerest hope that the issues shared will be resolved in the best way, that those little kiddos get the Lego sets they are hoping for, and that everyone who bravely shared a secret felt a connection with their community.
As of this Friday, all of the artwork will have been returned to the appropriate galleries and artists. A new, fantastic student (Kayla) has been selected for next year's ECI exhibit. Things are moving forward, as they do, but I keep thinking of my exhibit. Being in the gallery once everything was hung, right before the opening night, was a pivotal moment of my life. I knew I was doing the right work. It's not glamorous and sometimes it's slap-dash. Yes, I love exhibit design, but more than that, I love doing something meaningful. Colleen texted me frantically one afternoon, providing me with a play-by-play that made all of the hard work worthwhile. A grandmother and her grandson were walking through the exhibit, talking about something that had happened to her son (the boy's father) when he was young. A friend had confided they wanted to commit suicide and swore the boy's father, a teenager at the time, to secrecy. After much thought and turmoil, the boy's father decided he had to go to his friend's parents. The grandmother told her grandson that it was one of the hardest things her son had to do - he had to be brave and betray his friend's trust. But it saved his friend's life. The grandmother told her grandson that he should always let her know if he felt unsafe or if he was worried about a friend. They continued the conversation as they walked through the rest of the gallery, and while the exact words were not said, the message was clear: you are loved, what is important to you is important to me, and you don't ever have to go through anything alone.
|Folded and Disclosure | Artwork by Ellen Heck | Courtesy of Davidson Galleries|
|Humans of NY | Artwork by Doug Keyes | Courtesy of G. Gibson Gallery|
Monday, January 25, 2016
In 11 days I’ll be getting ready for the Opening Night of Secrets Can… You’re all invited! Mark your calendars for Friday, February 5th from 6:00 - 8:30 PM at Kirkland Arts Center. There will be wine, beer, food, and lots of folks to chat with. Oh, and FANTASTIC ART! This week I will be picking up artwork from five galleries and one artist and receiving artwork from another gallery. There is something so exciting and scary about seeing the artwork for the first time in person. I have only seen 13 artworks in person so far. Online photos simply do not do them justice. You cannot see the texture of the paint or intricacies of a figure’s eyes. I feel like I have decent spatial reasoning and yet I’m always surprised at how much smaller or bigger a painting feels when it is revealed to me for the first time. Colleen has often seen me struggle with the tape measure so I can wrap my head around how big a piece actually is, but it just doesn’t matter until I see the piece in person. That seems to be the moment it “clicks” in my brain. I fall in love with the artwork all over again like the first time I had seen it on the artist's or gallery’s website.
My relationships with the pieces change too. There have been pieces of artwork that I had initially connected with due to the content and the concept of my exhibit. But working with the images for marketing materials or seeing the paintings and photos in a gallery or at a hand-off means my relationship deepens. I see details of the work and speak to individuals who created or curated the work as well and my connection to the piece intensifies. The most exciting thing for me as an art-lover in the context of this show (beyond getting to work creatively with artwork, artists, and other gallery professionals), is that I’ve noticed my aesthetics change. Pieces that would never have drawn me in if they were hung on a sterile white wall in some museum now hold deep meaning for me and occupy a special place in my heart thanks to the ECI process and my concept. I sincerely hope there are pieces in the show that speak to visitors in a similar way.
As I triage tasks and attempt to solve last-minute problems on the fly, I’ll be updating the social media for the exhibit. You should follow along and tell your friends. I promise I don’t post so much that I’d spam your feeds. It’s @secretscan_kac on Instagram and Twitter.
More eyes on the social media means more eyes on the artwork, artists, and galleries. True, there are some artists that make obscene amounts of money (cough Koons cough), but there are so so many more than do what they do for the love of it and every artwork sold or appreciated helps. Every artist and gallery that I’ve worked with so far has been fantastic and supportive. This show would be nothing without them. I’d like to encourage you to check out their websites and social media accounts as well. If you are the next ECI student or just someone who feels like they need a bit of art appreciation now and then, you’ll enjoy what you see!
Leslie Balleweg (see Howard / Mandville Gallery)
Raul Campos (see Hall | Spassov Gallery)
Diem Chau (see G. Gibson Gallery)
Doug Keyes (see G. Gibson Gallery)
Ellen Heck (see Davidson Galleries)
Friese Undine (see Traver Gallery)
Nick Kosciuk (see Hall | Spassov Gallery)
Piper O'Neill (see G. Gibson Gallery)
Samantha Scherer (see G. Gibson Gallery)
Amy Spassov (see Hall | Spassov Gallery)
SylC (see Hall | Spassov Gallery)
Here’s my not-so-secret secret of the day: my success is not my success. I remember a quote from glass artist, Preston Singletary, from the first TEDxRainier I went to in 2013. He attributed it as a Maori saying and it is as follows: "My accomplishments are not mine alone but those of many." From Colleen and Anna and other KAC staff to Wilson O’Donnell and Grant to my family and my friends who have been “liking” stuff on social media - you’re support is so appreciated. You have no idea.
Until next time and with much love,Becca
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
I realize that unless you are as jazzed about literature reviews and research as I am, the last blog post may have been a bit of a snooze. I hope that my social media accounts and this blog provide people with snippets of secrets and my inner musings as I bring this show together, but I also realize that I haven’t been showing as much of the behind the scenes as I had intended. Back at the advent of blogging large missives chronicling the monologues of mopey teenagers was de rigueur. Now, not so much. We consume our blog posts through heavily filtered and styled tableaus of bloggers’ home lives and outfits of the day. That’s neither here nor there, but I did figure I should break up some of my long-winded writing with photos of what I’m working on.
First, let me say I’m really lucky to have Grant Barber. He has been a most excellent mentor and person to talk me down from the ledge of “ohgodthereisn’tenoughtimetherewillneverbeenoughtimemyexhibitwillsurelysuck”. He went through this process last year and knows it intimately. I mentioned to him that I had wanted to use the blog as not only a thought repository for my thesis paper, but as a sneak-peek into exhibit design work. “Yeah, I know what you mean,” he said over drinks recently. “But a lot of it is just sitting at a computer sending and responding to emails.” Basically, a lot of exhibit design is decidedly not "sexy". The part where you develop the concept, hem and haw over What You Are Trying To Say is, and then there is a lot of coordination and organizational efforts, and then - and I’m not there yet - there will be a flurry of activity in which I will don my all black curatorial clothes a la Dieter in Sprockets from SNL as Colleen and I point at underlings to hang artwork in the gallery.
Image Courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcq91OGL8vM
Reasons why this is silly: 1) I already own almost all-black clothing, so everyday is a dress-like-a-curator day, 2) I’m not quite at the esoteric level of Dieter and I’d be laughed off of his show, and 3) I am the underling - as I should be, I’m learning! :) Do you remember that meme that was going around with people’s career titles? I searched “art curator” and this is what I got:
Image Courtesy of http://free-admission.com/2012/04/10/the-role-of-a-curator/curator-meme/
I haven’t quite had those experiences, but it is kind of funny if you know a bit about the world of museology. Silliness aside, here are some photos and screen captures of things I have been working on.
This took me hours. Hours for the exhibit proposal and then 13 of the 20 pieces I selected were no longer available to me. So I kind of had to start over again in the search for my art. It is a unique and fun challenge to have, but I’ll be the first to admit, I have a relatively narrow concept. A lot of art that speaks to me as a person doesn’t quite fit with the concept of the show.
(all of the lists!)
I am not joking when I say I use three planners. I also have a notebook that houses my exhibit related anxieties and to-do lists. Every task is made up of many sub-tasks. Exhibit design is a lot about coordination and communication. For this exhibit I am working with over a dozen artists and galleries. For the record, they have all been fantastic to work with. I feel pretty lucky! There is a lot of back and forth for loan agreements, transportation arrangements, and marketing. Also, I try to keep lists that are detail-oriented. If something happens to me tomorrow, Colleen just has to look at the Google Drive we share to know what’s going on and who to contact. Lists are an exhibit designer’s best friend.
Collaborating on Educational Components
Image Courtesy of artist Tim Suchsland
I have the pleasure of working with local artist and high school guidance counselor, Tim Suchsland on a zine for the show. I wanted to have something that parents or guardians could take home to talk to their kids about secrets and the differences between healthy and unhealthy secrets. I’ve been working with Tim for awhile now on the content and we’ve sent stuff back and forth as well as met in person to plan parts of the zine out. Pretty soon I’ll have to put the finishing touches on the in-gallery interactive, which means making some purchases, doing a dry-run of the set-up, and preparing some materials.
Writing and Editing Labels
Colleen suggested I include interpretation (labels that give more than just the “tombstone” information of the artwork) and I think it’s a great idea. I hope that it will add another layer to the show. I wrote up a rough draft, Colleen gave me some edits, and now I’m going back and re-working it.
Those are just a few snapshots into what I’ve been working on, a “behind the scenes” glimpse into the life of an exhibit designer. I fully admit, it is a lot of work, but I love it. It builds upon my need for organization and my attention to detail while allowing me to creatively solve problems and utilize my experiences as a teacher, librarian, and museologist. Please leave me questions or comments if you want to know more, or visit Twitter and Instagram @SecretsCan_KAC to follow the some of my musings or interesting quotes on secrets.
Until next time,
Thursday, January 7, 2016
I haven’t written in a long time! My apologies, everyone. Fall quarter of this academic year was a particular doozy of a quarter. Why? Because me and some really amazing UW Museology students developed and installed an exhibit for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The exhibit is on sea stars and the wasting disease that has been affecting them. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park is a stone’s throw away from the Seattle waterfront and some areas have experienced a die-off of up to 80%! You can visit http://www.nps.gov/klse/planyourvisit/temporary-exhibits.htm or the park itself for more information. Long story short, exhibit design is really rewarding work, but it is also pretty time-consuming and detail-oriented. Add into that being a full-time student who works part time and you’ve got a recipe for a busy bee who never quite gets to blog posting - oops!
There are 29 days before the opening event of Secrets Can…! I can’t believe it. I started working on the Emerging Curator Initiative (ECI) this time last year. My concept wasn’t quite formulated until late February and I found out I was selected sometime in March. It has been an amazing whirlwind. To put this in perspective, typical exhibits in museums take about three years from the birth of a concept to the launch of the show. Student projects and gallery spaces are different, but still… I am learning so much about the process through my work with ECI. I get to employ my creative problem solving skills, attention to detail, obsessive organization and planning, interesting topics and research, and love of art in one project. Basically, I’m in heaven.
Being a library student means I have a knack for research, and building an academic literature review, while tedious for some, is a total joy for me. Rummage through stacks of books? I’m there! Spend time browsing online catalogs and book retailers for a gem that will bring more meaning to my writing? I’m logging on the internet right now! I’ve been making the most of my access to Seattle Public Libraries and the UW Libraries to check out dozens of books. I’m including my “literature map” for those of you who are more visual learners (myself included).
In case you can’t read it, I’ll call out some of the elements. Each thesis paper has to have a central problem (or else, why are you doing all of the work?). Mine: Design an exhibit that allows visitors to safely share (if they so choose) important aspects of themselves - or to interact with the stories of their fellow community members. I’m using a three-pronged approach to study the psychology of secrets, facilitating dialogue and meaningful conversations in spaces like museums/libraries, and exhibit design. Hopefully, this will result in a project-based thesis paper and an exhibit that uses an interdisciplinary lens to explore the ways in which museums and libraries can make meaningful experiences for their visitors.
I’ve been running back and forth between the libraries and my apartment hauling books that I wish I had the time to read cover to cover. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Out of Anatomy of a Secret Life by Gail Saltz M.D.
- [Secrets] provide a safe haven that allows us the freedom to explore who we are, to establish an identity that is uniquely our own. - pg. 2
- To have secrets is to be human. To find in a private world a personal identity is an essential part of what it means to be a member of our species. The ability to have a secret is the thing that gives birth to our sense of ourselves in early childhood, and the secrets we keep and share are what shape our relationships for the rest of our lives. - pg. 10
Out of Childhood’s Secrets by Max van Manen and Bas Levering
- Some secrets deal with things that are personal; some have to do with family; others exist among siblings, friends, or between teacher and child. There are nice secrets, deep secrets, intimate secrets, social secrets; but there are also terrible secrets, embarrassing secrets, dreadful secrets, spooky secrets, reluctant secrets. We experience secrets desires, secret pleasures, secret fears, secret obsessions. Some secrets are things that we cannot get over, and yet we cannot let go. Feelings of power, punishment, shame, guilt, care, love, and hate may all be associated with the realms of secrecy. - pg. 4
- The German sociologist Georg Simmel certainly felt that the keeping of secrets, “through positive or negative means,” is one of the greatest achievements of human beings: The secret produces an immense enlargement of life. - pg. 7
I limited myself here, but there are so, so many more. I’m going to be incorporating some powerful quotes into the labels of the exhibit. I hope you can come to check it out! An opening event will take place on February 5th from 6:00 - 8:30 PM here at Kirkland Arts Center. There will be food, beer, and wine. There will be interactive elements. There may even be music! I hope to see you there. But if you can’t make it, you can follow along with some of the exhibit design process and behind-the-scenes looks via Twitter and Instagram @SecretsCan_KAC.
Until next time,Becca
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I am a Museology graduate student, but I am also a graduate student with the iSchool in the Master of Library and Information Sciences. I'll be pulling some of what I learned on information behaviors into the paper I write for this thesis project. A student organization called Circulation had a call for submissions of what iSchool students worked on over the summer. Here's what I submitted:
The exhibit will focus on the depiction of secrets and how secrets affect the relationships we have with ourselves and each other. As a burgeoning professional in museums, libraries, and information science, I'm specifically interested in how these fields come together and where secrets may lie in that intersection. Secrets, to me, fall squarely into human information behaviors - whether we're keeping the secret, sharing a secret, or having a secret shared with us. Secrets are bits of information that are not known or seen by others, and the nature of a secret is that they are meant to stay unknown and unseen. As humans we want to know The Thing and we might think we will have something to gain from knowing The Thing (hey, Varys!) and sometimes we keep The Thing to ourselves for fear of what others will think, say, and do.
Where are people sharing secrets? Are secrets still secrets if they are shared? Well, as mentioned before, the answers are "the Internet" and "yes, if shared anonymously". I have been familiar with PostSecret for years now, diligently checking the most visited ad-free blog in the world every Sunday morning. A community art project that involves mail? Anyone who knows me knows that community, art, and mail are some of my favorite things. I was vaguely aware of the Whisper application for smart phones. But I was curious as to what else was out there. I sat down in June to compile a list of all of the possible places people come together to collect secrets. I thought it might be three to five sites with PostSecret being the most developed. Well, I stopped writing my list at twenty, and while PostSecret was, indeed, the most known secret sharing option out there, the sites and applications I came across like Six Billion Secrets, SecretsAnon, Confess, and Babbly were all new to me and all robust in either active community members or web development.
In July I started to develop an academic literature review of the psychology and social science of secrets. It's not yet a robust list of books and articles. I'm desperate to get back to school so I can be on campus daily and consult one of the many friendly reference librarians at Suzzallo or Allen for help with fleshing this part of my thesis out. In August I started making contact with some artists whose work speaks to me on the topic in hopes that they'll agree to be part of my show. So... that is what I have been doing with my summer. Working towards the opening of my exhibit next winter - trying to understand the science, art, and heart of secrets. In September I will finish up my summer internship and have a couple of weeks before school starts. What will I do with the rest of my summer? Well, that's my secret.
When it's published, it might be in a PDF format. If it is, I'll link it to this blog if possible.
I have been dealing in secrets all summer. Your immediate reaction to this might be to think that I am a gossip. Or power hungry. Or Varys from A Song of Fire and Ice. But you'd be wrong, because the secrets I've read and collected are anonymous. And for school.See, I'm working on my thesis for the Museology program and it will be a project and a paper focused on an exhibit of contemporary art at the Kirkland Arts Center. The exhibit is titled Secrets Can... I added the ellipses because I want visitors to figure out what comes after the "..." for a more personal experience. For me, I've always been fascinated by factual and fictional stories. I want to understand the way humans act and interact. Why did that person behave that way? What was their motivation? Why are humans compelled by secrets? Why do people keep secrets if they hurt? Why do people share secrets if it comes at a price? Why are some secrets happy - little pebbles, warm in our hands and hearts and while are others are heavy stones in our pockets that would drown us if given the chance?
You are always on my mind and I wish like hell you would have stayed, but only if you could have been happy.
I love the villains. "Good" guys are overrated. I think I would make a terrifyingly good villain.
I feel like I am always hiding behind a mask.
I flirt with people in authority positions for preferential treatment.
In fact, as my proposal for the exhibit was wrapping up last school year, I very nearly tripped over a pop-up secret-sharing board in Red Square run by a site called Sondry. How is it that all of these platforms, sites, and applications can exist? Well, it's because everyone, even your mom, has at least one secret. A secret wish, a secret fear, a sad secret, an angry secret, a happy secret. There are parts of ourselves that we hold just for ourselves, either out of self preservation or because there is no possible way to upload our every thought, desire, and emotion into the cloud and have someone download it into their head to understand us the way we understand us. We are all so together in our shared experience of having secrets, but we are all so individual in the exact blend of secrets we keep.
Your soul is a magnet to my soul. You are a bright sun and I, a lowly planet, want to be in your orbit. I feel a lightness and happiness like none other when I am with you. I could let myself fall in love with you.
When it's published, it might be in a PDF format. If it is, I'll link it to this blog if possible.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
The initial concept for this exhibit was not secrets. Well, not really. Wilson, the ECI instructor, told us that our concept had to be well-developed, simple enough to remember, and powerful enough to make people interested. I originally started this project wanting to highlight the work of graphic storytellers like Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Ellen Forney.
I liked the way that they each used an art form that is often disregarded as childish (cartoons and graphic novels) to discuss heavier topics. I’ve always been drawn to graphic novels and online webcomics as I love illustrative art forms. I believe that illustration lends itself well to telling “hard” stories. I wonder if the medium softens the blow? Or if it reminds us of a time when our stories were simpler? Illustrated memoirs evoke feelings of empathy within me. They also evoke appreciation for the brave storyteller.
Wilson had me drill down the concept from “graphic artists telling personal stories” to “storytelling” and “bringing stories into the light.” I started my rough concept proposal with this:
It is not easy for us to discuss what we find dark or difficult in our lives. It takes a brave soul to admit they feel weak. When we bring our truth and our stories out of the darkness and into the light, we take a risk in sharing them with others. However, the reward for taking that risk can be great. Our story may reflect another person’s experiences. Our stories may cause people to stop and think. When we share our stories courageously, we ask (and hope) that others will treat us with kindness. In turn, we also learn from the stories of the people living around us. We can become better people by listening to what they have to say, seeing what they do with their story, and feeling for them as they have felt for us.
Wilson and Anna gave me great feedback and asked me to drill down even further to the center of the concept. What was it? Why did I find this topic so compelling? I did a lot of soul searching and I started identifying artwork that spoke to me. I noticed the theme of “secrets” emerge and I rolled it around in my head like an anxious person might worry a stone in their hand. Once I found the art that fit the theme, I needed to refine the concept and I kept coming up short. Nothing was sitting with me just right.
I started drawing idea webs and trying to find common threads among words popping up for me. I printed the artwork, pasted it on to 3’ x 5’ cards and carried them around with me. I taped them to the walls, color coded them, and made tape lines between any pieces that correlated to me. I found myself saying this often: “Secrets can Transform You” and “Secrets can Connect You” or “Secrets can Isolate You” and I changed my perspective. Instead of focusing on what the outcome or end-result of having a secret is, I’d focus on “Secrets Can…”
I know people are torn on ellipses. I tend to use them a lot in my own writing because I write in a way that mimics my speaking voice and a sentence will often trail off as my brain considers something new before the old thought was fully developed. I like it for the title and concept of the exhibit because it is almost like a “fill in the blank.” Secrets - and the act of sharing or keeping them - mean different things to different people.
Some of the art is of individuals clearly stifling something. Some of it is of people being changed. Some of it is of people being released. Some of it is of a group where all share a secret or just one has the secret. I’m interested in the human experience of secrets. I’m also hoping that the message people leave with is: we’ve all experienced them, we all have them, and we’re each dealing with our own struggles on a daily basis.
It comes back to the graphic novels I like and how I feel about storytelling. Everyone is working through something in their lives. Sometimes we need to keep that in mind when we get frustrated with people who cut us off in traffic or don’t come through on a project or cancel plans at the last minute. So for me, Secrets Can… is like a reminder to be empathetic and means: Secrets Can Connect Us. What does Secrets Can… mean for you?
Until next time,