Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Here and There

Last week I had batiks to deliver for an exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath, and another to collect from Worthing that is due to go to Saltram House, Plymouth next week. Two others came back recently from Salisbury. Normally, meaning previously, I would have driven my work to/from these venues. But last November when I had to stop driving (medical reasons) I turned to couriers for deliveries and collections. It seems like a good and the right environmental thing to do, saving a bit of carbon here and there. But last week packing the work for Bath left me wondering whether there was more to it.

Upcountry trips can tie in with catching up with family and friends, having a break/holiday, and seeing what's happening elsewhere - all important to one's wellbeing and outlook. Sometimes delivery costs can be shared by taking another artist's work. In this case combining Bath, Salisbury, Worthing and Saltram into a single trip might have been feasible.

The biggest downsides of not taking work yourself is in not meeting the curator and staff and establishing a personal relationship, and in not seeing and getting a feel for the venue and museum. Indirect delivery sort of commodifies exhibiting, which - not being where my art is meant to be - is a feeling I don't relish.

It took most of the day to pack three batiks for Bath – to get the right balance between a tight well-protected fit yet not making it too complex for re-packing by the gallery staff. Well ok, the day also included collecting the (re-usable) crate and (re-used) bubble-wrap from my work storage in Launceston (via lift with friend), and preparing relevant paperwork. If I was driving it, the work could have been suitably wrapped in less than ten minutes! Oh how I would have preferred the adventure of travelling for the rest of that day, never mind the next spent waiting in for the courier...

But a little niggle in my memory makes me search out:

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realise there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

Tao Te Ching, in verse 44, Lao Tzu (translation Stephen Mitchell)

My urge to deliver and collect work personally could be a bolshy reaction to my authorities-imposed driving licence surrender. But with peak oil apparently in sight, using couriers more often and seeking out and sharing deliveries with others should become the norm. By chance someone from the next village was working just 100 metres away from the Worthing venue and brought the large batik back by car last Friday. A friend is also exhibiting at Saltram and will take my work – and me – along with her next week... yee ha! A personal visit!

I have just remembered! I have another batik awaiting collection from the Soil Association offices in Bristol! Hanging on until someone is going somewhere you need obviously carries its own risks.

Have I reached any conclusions here? I don't think so. Further questions arise over the merits of work being on show so far away; and how my delivery/collection position relates to the position of those viewing a show who may have driven some distance to get there; and the collective carbon footprint of visitors to that exhibition...

Suppose all the stops were pulled out to produce and deliver sustainably... and yet the exhibition itself became a net gain for global heating?