I had the great pleasure and privilege to talk Interpretation Matters at the South West Federation of Museums annual Conference in Bath in July. I was one of three speakers in the morning, the others being the energetic and dynamic Alison Bevan, Director of the Royal West of England Academy (“your talk really made me think about our interpretation” she said. Result!) and Dr Piotr Bienkowski, who is leading a huge Paul Hamlyn Foundation project called “Our Museum.” He treated us to some fascinating case studies from project partners endeavoring to become fully inclusive museums. There is a lovely write up of the day on the SWFed website, here.
I was incredibly well looked after by the lovely Sarah Lewis, and Chair Vicky Dawson, and also had the opportunity to look around the American Museum in Bath, the conference venue. They have a fantastic collection of quilts which I so enjoyed looking at (especially having read Tracey Chevalier’s novel The Last Runaway). If the curator happens to read this, I would have LOVED more explanation of how the quilts were made (often by women working together I believe) and the differences between American quilt making and British quilt making.
One of my great joys in life is visiting places I’ve never been before (and making return visits when I can), so I am always delighted to receive invitations to talk at events like this. If your organisation has an interest in interpretation and art writing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. (In my other life as a writer, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Whitstable Biennial and the Liverpool Biennial this summer, Appetite in Stoke, and being Hoodwinked in Tunbridge Wells. I’m looking forward to the Folkestone Triennial in a couple of weeks, and b-side festival in Portland at the beginning of September).
In other news, at the beginning of the month I pressed “send”, and with a mixture of satisfaction and relief, the text and images for The Interpretation Matters Handbook was submitted in their entirety to Black Dog Publishing. (Ok, it took several emails and a surprising amount of time). Black Dog are now doing their production thing and we are on track for an October publication. Watch this space for more detail! It’s all very exciting. And – after initial fears that I might not pull it off – I am incredibly pleased with the shape the book has taken. Some absolutely wonderful artists and arts professionals have contributed their expertise and perspectives, out of sheer goodwill and interest in the subject. I shall always be utterly grateful to them. You can pre-order the book, and if your institution has a shop, you can also stock it. Contact me for details.
And finally, if you haven’t done so already, a reminder to please read the De La Warr Pavilion story on this site here. This work is at the heart of the project, working intensely with arts organisations who are keen to focus, refine and intensify their relationship to their audiences.
Good news! Following last year’s period of planning and development, it’s a tremendous pleasure to announce that Interpretation Matters has been awarded project funding from Arts Council England!
This means that over the next two years, we can further develop and animate this website, work more closely with galleries and their audiences, and continue to facilitate discussion and debate about written interpretation produced by galleries.
In the summer months, you should see a presence for Interpretation Matters in many galleries across the country and on many more websites, as we reach out to gallery visitors and ask them to feedback on their textual experiences in the country’s galleries. This site will provide a neutral platform for that feedback and discussion to take place between galleries and their visitors. Do you have something to say about your gallery experience? Comment on any page on this site, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
With the help of artist Alistair Gentry, I will be working with project partners the De La Warr Pavilion and the Bluecoat to run a series of workshops with staff and visitors looking in detail at how their written interpretation is produced and received. There will also be an interactive text-exhibition at the Bluecoat, to further stimulate discussion with their visitors.
Around autumn, watch out for The Interpretation Matters Handbook, which will be published by Black Dog Publishing. Aimed at a general interested-in-art audience, it will be packed with contributions from a very interesting range of artists, curators, academics and, er, me. It will include audience voxpops, so if you are a gallery keen to facilitate this, or a gallery visitor and fancy getting your quote and picture in the book, please do contact us on email@example.com
Do you work at a gallery and want to get involved? There are two ways to do this:
First, if you are interested in gathering honest and unselfconscious feedback from your visitors, please do contact me for a display poster, and the Interpretation Matters Call to Action for your website.
Second, if you want to review your own process of producing written interpretation, Alistair and I have developed a workshop programme that facilitates this in an effective and painfree way!
We’re also looking for destination marketing and local authority websites who would like to upload the Interpretation Matters Call to Action on their visual arts page.
Finally, we are always looking for more resources, whether in the form of guides, discussion of models, personal or organisational experience, or simply an interest and informed knowledge in this area. Again, if you would like to contribute, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope to hear from a lot of you over the coming weeks and months, and I thank you for your continued support and interest.
Interpretation Matters is all about the written material found in galleries - the text panels on the walls, providing context for the work on show, and the printed booklets that describe the works or overall programme. Usually "under-the-radar", the aim of this site is to highlight this important area of gallery practice.
Interpretation Matters is conceived and directed by arts writer Dany Louise.>