No Gallery Zero: the perfect is the enemy of the good

Jul 13, 2011   //   by Mei   //   Blog, Mei, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

No Gallery Zero was a success.

Less than a week ago all the pieces of an idea that’s been running around inside my head for years finally clicked.

I drifted into photography. I got a camera one birthday when I was a kid, took lots of photos (film was cheap!) but got few of them developed (developing was expensive!) and quickly gave up on my little shiny silver plastic 110 camera. It’s probably still in a box at my mum’s house with rolls (cartridges?) of undeveloped film. Even before that I remember my dad taking family photos on caravan holidays by the sea, setting the camera’s clockwork self-timer then running to stand in the photos himself. Magic.

At university I had a friend who was obsessed with photography. One day on a road trip he showed me his Minolta SLR and explained what the hundreds of buttons and dials did. It seemed impossibly complicated. Actually, perhaps my friend was obsessed with cameras rather than photography.

I bought my own SLR and within a few months I was taking photos for the university newspaper, experimenting in the darkroom and arranging jellybeans into pretty patterns to photograph.
Then I gave up. Then I started again. Then I got serious. Then I quit my job to pursue it as a career. Then, and only then, I fell in love with it.

I used to be a nerd. I still am. I like science. I like maths. I thought about becoming a research physicist but never quite got around to it. Perhaps my favourite ever book is an instruction manual for a computer programming language. I liked art at school but was steered into more academic subjects by my teachers. Years later I walked into an art school to meet a friend and instantly had, not quite an epiphany, but some kind of realization that there’s all this stuff going on and all these people and all this experimentation and play (I love play) and hey, why wasn’t I a part of this? Who tricked me into doing actual work work?!?!?!?!?

I’m trying to explain what it is I find appealing about having a gallery. A gallery (even this No Gallery) is a means of distribution. One of the joys of doing work for me is getting it out there. It’s not even the having people see it, it’s just the getting it out there. If you do the work and if you get it out where it can be seen then you’ve done your job. Whether anyone appreciates it, well, that’s up to them and frankly if they don’t like it then screw them.

You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval. It might feel like you do, but you don’t.

This is what we (me, Matt) did:

- Bought some cheap photo frames.
- Printed out half a dozen quickly chosen photos each and put them in the frames.
- Stuck labels to the back with name, title, date and a very short (too short) explanation of No Gallery.
- Travelled around London for the best part of a day on foot and by tube, dropping off the pictures at places that seemed good at the time.
- Had fun.
- Gained a new energy and enthusiasm for art generally and our own work.

Sure, it was a trial run, there were plenty of things wrong with it and there’s lots we’ll do differently next time. Part of the reason for using our own work was I wouldn’t want to exhibit some else’s until we’ve shown the worth of the whole project. And of course we both wanted our own work to be seen. Now we’ve both done our first exhibition.

No Gallery Zero was a success!

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