Tag Archives: Creative People

Poetography Exhibition – Najma Hush

13 Nov

So your first ever exhibition as a Visual Literary Artist was a complete and utter disaster and here’s why….

Walsall Arts Fest '14, Wheatsheaf Pub, Walsall.

Walsall Arts Fest ’14, Wheatsheaf Pub, Walsall.

Where was this exhibition?

Organised and curated by Carolyn Bayliss, as part of the Walsall Arts Fest 2014, I was given two slots over, ‘3 days in November’ at an artistic venture held at The Wheatsheaf Pub in Walsall, which I completed last weekend just gone (7th, 8th,9th’ November),  representing a novel  form of art that I have been experimenting with for around  two and a half years to date; a genre termed, ‘Poetography’, as this is the  word that I use to describe the process of creating an audio/visual experience , when combining poetry with photography and/or videography.

What on earth were you exhibiting?

Please note that the form of art that I am referring to as Poetography, is by no means new or unique solely to myself, as the first ever photographically illustrated book with prose was called, ‘The Pencil of Nature’  by William Henry Fox Talbot, which was published in six instalments, dating as far back as 1844 to 1846.  To name countless others photographic books published with text, Firths, Egypt and the Holy Land (1857) Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War (1856), Annan’s, The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, (1872).  Though specific to this particular topic, these historical works might not be deemed as Poetography as they do not combine Poetry with Photography.

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More specific and closest to the term ‘Poetography‘, are latest poetry books such as Thom Gunn’s Poems in Positives, accompanied by photographs by his brother Andres Gunn, as well as the highly avant garde, Distance and Proximity with poems by Thomas A Clarke, photographs by Owlen Shone, which are presently the only poetry and photography art books available online or in leading bookstores – the most prominent being, Paul MuldoonPlan-B.  In great contrast to these literary works stands the first ever self proclaimed Poetographer, Ron L Zheng, who combines Tanka poetry with Monochrome photography of nature and with such aesthetic perfection that, as well as having toured exhibitions internationally, he has had a printed publication of his entire collection called ‘Leaving my found Eden’.   Furthermore, although there appears to be only a few self published ‘Poetography’ books available online, various other experimental forms of poetry (particularly as visual literature) are being thoroughly researched by the school of humanities at Dundee University; the programme led by Professor Andrew Michael Roberts, is called ‘Poetry Beyond Text: Vision, Text and Cognition‘ and has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council since 2009.

With a fair few facts and brief outline of some history into what I refer to as being Poetography, when touching upon its avant garde status up till the present date, one would have some profound cheek to proclaim oneself as the first ever Poetographer, however ‘Poetography’ is still not a term that is widely used, which is probably why it also sounds odd.  However, I insist and without any pretentions that ‘Poetography’ is the natural phenomenal result occurring when poetry is combined with photography or videography to create a narrative.

During the past couple of years, I @YouTubehave been practicing how best to combine my poems with photographs I have acquired working as a photographer.  What I intend to achieve by combining poetry with photography, is to create subliminal narratives between poetic verse and symbolic imagery which is understood by its audience through a cognitive process that is unquantifiable – but which, as a creator, I am able to experience in the works produced.

Now that might sound rather illusive, however if  put it into simple terms, you would understand that my primary goal, when creating Poetography, is to use psychology to induce mind altering states and hit home the narrative on a subconscious level.  To describe some of the ways I attempt to do this is through the use of symbolic imagery, preferring to create videos in which I can animate and flash the imagery along with the words, then fuse the two together with ambient music by underground artists. I have also dubbed a few even further with subliminal voiceovers.  I am particularly interested in combining the Poetographs with Binaural Beats which are scientifically known to induce alternate brainwave activity depending on the varying right and left hemisphere frequency pitch that the beat omits (i.e Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, Gamma brainwaves are induced when listening with headphones).  Some of these videos must come with a warning as they could induce not only brainwaves but also seizures, if the participant was epileptic or labour if the participant was pregnant.

So what the hell happened?

The works thus produced has been created to cause a deep cognitive impact and I believe that these video’s have the potential to be rather powerful.   Having used my own research, I have created a visual literary art form to be experienced at a sensory level, including audio.   Regardless of this, it is sufficient to say that my first exhibition as a Visual Literary Artist failed miserably.  There are several colliding factors for this, which I have mainly put down to my own deficiency of experience exhibiting such works, the location and the event’s setting.

Wheatsheaf PubAlthough The Wheatsheaf Walsall is a lovely pub, which has apparently been home to a whole host of celebrity musicians, in terms of my own work, the videos were played at the end of the bar on a television screen, despite there having been an isolated room allocated kindly by the manager of the pub, this room had not been utilised during the festival by the curator, upon the grounds of poor audience participation at the overall event. Initially given three, thirty minute slots across three days in an isolated room, I was instead permitted play the videos in the pub, within a 10 minute slot and give a short presentation, filmed for the Walsall Arts Fest youtube channel explaining my work, whilst it played behind me on a 36” TV screen at the end of the bar.   By the day two, it became evident to me that my work was not appropriate in this setting and environment and very obvious that it was neither appreciated under these circumstances.  However the best thing about this festival was learning about about the other participatory artist  work as well as realising through the experience, exactly what type of setting would be more appropriate.

Where will you go from here with Poetography?

What I have also learnt is that the work I am producing  is distinctly sensory, with it’s audio and visual properties and therefore requires its showcasing to be in a solitary area where it can be projected on either a small screen in a booth with headphones or upon a large wall in a blacked out room whilst playing at full volume in order for the viewer to have a totally immersive experience.  Had it not been for this event I might not have learnt how important this was and this is how I intend to have my work screened in the future.

How has this experience helped you evolve your concept?

The mere experience of how disengaged this exhibition was and the lack of support I gained at this festival has made me realise how important finding the right  audience is.   No matter how old this art form may seem, it is still relatively very new.  Poetry Beyond Text is an area still under development and with an intention to push an arts movement in the direction of Poetography, it is not to say that Poetography is the future of poetry but that such Visual Literary Art is still under negotiation with its experimenting creators and with the marginal few who are closely examining its development.   This opportunity however disastrous on the outset gave me great motivation to revisit my entire videographic collection which has up till now been shared on and through my youtube channel (@Najma Hush)  taking on board all the constructive criticism I had obtained from various viewers and improve upon any future endeavours.  This experience has given me much clearer ideas of how the work should be displayed and of its primary function; therefore, I would say that being part of the Walsall Arts Fest has contributed towards the improvement of an art form, I am passionately working towards establishing.

What else did you learn?

Najma HushI learned that the most important trait for any emerging artist is to develop such a strong internal point of reference that there is not any kind of criticism, good nor bad that will detract you from your goals.  If you are clear upon your goals but detached from the outcome, you will learn more from each and every experience that will help you to develop not only your work, but also your primary asset, which is yourself!

Furthermore I would stress that the most interesting people are always the ones with most varied interests and the people with most varied interests are the ones who listen more to others, with an open mind, than they do talk about themselves.  Therefore it is important to meet as many other artists, who are working in a variety of mediums albeit different from yourself and listen to them about what they do, with an open mind.

Upon that note, why not check out the brief photo documentary about the people I met during my short  journey at the Walsall Arts Fest 2014 and what I learned about them?

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Abstract Elements: The Exhibition Opening Event  

9 May

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.

Najma Hush Abstract Elements Exhibition Opening Evening

Spot the Freudian slip…

Today, we would like to do something, a little bit different. By ‘we’, I mean me – Najma Hush, one woman, who is going it alone, like so many other creative people, determined to make that critical transformation from an emerging artist, to an established artist.  Usually writing about my projects upon this blog in third person –  PhotoGiraffe – bragging about how wonderful the exhibition openings have been.  Although, they have been rather fabulous, upon reflection, I now feel that there are certain drawbacks when not openly addressing certain faults with such ‘experiments’, when perhaps if disclosed openly, it could help many other emerging artists who might be scratching there heads, wondering how to make themselves stand out from all the other wee-little chicks in this birds nest, all screaming for attention to get that juicy worm, dangling from the mouth of the giant (i.e. established galleries).  But how much honesty can I display here at the detriment of my own reputation and personal liability?  The only way to find out is by reading on and I’m kind of curious myself, as to what this write up will be like…

  The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, the more you progress.

Abstract Elements is a collection of five photographic images, currently exhibiting at The Warehouse Cafe (Please see previous post for details).  With its  exhibition opening held last Monday (5th May’14), I hosted my very own launch event inviting Poets and Musicians to platform their own skills and celebrate my latest exhibition at the Warehouse Cafe.   An award winning restaurant, located in the Friends of the Earth building (Birmingham, Digbeth), The Warehouse Cafe are a non-profit, community interest company and provide local artists, a space to exhibit.  They were interested in exhibiting a selection which would compliment their ‘Green’ ethos.  This is how we reached the mutual decision to exhibit Abstract Elements due to its connection with natureHowever, due to the small number of works and their size, this collection was not big enough to fill their walls, which is why a last minute decision was made to exhibit, Some Kind of Blue too.

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Without any disillusionment about motivation, the main reasons for inviting poets and performers has always been to collaborate for cross-promotional purposes.  As a creative writer my main circle of associates have mainly been other poets.   As an emerging artist, I have little contact with buyers and in all honesty as someone who is quite new to this business, I don’t really know who they are.   As a poet I like poetry performances and this is how I generally spend my spare time.  Inviting poets to these events to perform, gives me a little more to talk about on online social platforms, other than just saying, ‘Hello world, I have an exhibition and this is the concepts behind this collection’.  The performers benefit from this collaboration, due to the platform I provide for them to showcase their talents as well as all the promotional write ups I usually do on this blog and the pictures I post on my facebook page which promote their skills by positively  reviewing their input.  Futhermore, because of their involvement, they help me spread the word about the exhibition opening events.  Sounds like a good idea in theory and here is how it is works in practice.

 Advantages:

1. It contributes to a more lively atmosphere for the exhibition opening events and adds a varying dynamic to the overall occasion.

2. It gives the (emerging artist) an opportunity to practice standing in front of an (otherwise larger) audience to host and talk to about their work publicly. 

 

Disadvantage:

1. The majority of people who will come to your exhibition opening will be the people performing who will be more keen to perform than view or provide feedback on the images you’ve displayed.

2. Your exhibition opening might be at risk of becoming more about performing art rather than the exhibited  fine art.

 

There are no failures only unexpected outcomes.

Seems like a fairly balanced assessment of advantages and disadvantage, however, the latter is what became most prominent the morning after the night before.  Post-exhibition opening, when reviewing the responses from almost all parties involved, I noticed that the main feedback I was  getting that the event that I had organised was a poetry performance event.  Other than reading performance reviews  from peoples ‘ facebook status updates’ I noticed, there was little commentary about the exhibiting images.  Furthermore, there seemed to be little mention of the fact that there was any art work displayed at all, which they the performers had initially been invited to come and respond to.  Although most performing artists (bar two), did perform along the theme of the ‘natural elements’ to tie in with the collection of the photographs, this fact became even more protruding when I noticed that even The Warehouse Cafe had posted a thank you note on their fan page to all those who came to their ‘first ever open mic night’.  (Lucky for me, I have a great sense of humor.)

 

Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush's  Abstract Elements:  A photography exhibition.

Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush’s Abstract Elements: A photography exhibition.

 Conclusion

What I have learnt from my experiences and reconfirmed in recent articles I have read about exhibiting in cafe’s and  restaurants, that they are ‘ not looking at this as an opportunity to make a commission on sales and increase their revenue – consequently, they aren’t going to have much motivation to actively promote or sell the work  (http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/showing-your-art-in-cafes-restaurants-banks-and-other-venues/) and as this article points out  that more than often the artist using these venues just become a commodity promoting their venue.

Naturally, nobody does anything for nothing and therefore it is the exhibiting artists responsibility to define their own outcomes from their opening events.  Also as the above referenced article points out, cafe’s and restaurants might have an interesting mailing list to attract people to the opening events, however even if The Warehouse Cafe did have this, they admitted later on that this was not a priority due to their busy schedule.  After all, to reiterate, for most cafes hosting exhibitions by local artists, their business is not art but will always primarily be food and drink with an agenda to gain more clients.

Expectation Versus Outcome

My expectations at this current stage of my career is not to make loads and loads of sales, but rather to gain exposure and a good reputation.  Reverting back to defined outcomes, I do not feel that event was a success because, I did not place enough emphasis upon the work that I had curated and exhibited.  I failed to attract a crowd of art lovers/buyers but instead curated a spectacular arts festival, which was truly magical and amazing and the hospitality shown by the venue was immaculate, however it has made me think more critically about exactly where I am at present, versus where I intend to go.  Nobody can predict or control the behavior and response of those who you collaborate with, after all we are all individuals and we all have our own expected outcomes, but what one can do, is learn from each experience by reflecting objectively and positively in order to progress.  

Najma Hush at the Exhibition opening event of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the event.

Najma Hush at the exhibition opening of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the nights event. (Photographed by Shahid Chohan)

How might you learn from my mistakes?

When selecting a cafe or restaurant to exhibit in:

* First and foremost, be proactive and go out to all exhibition openings so that you can gain the right contacts with people who really are interested in fine art and whom you can invite to your exhibitions.

* When choosing a restaurant or cafe, ask yourself, do you have similar values?  (i.e do they have a reputation for being a hub for the creative arts? Or will you have to compromise a great deal on what you want exhibited and also question why they are allowing you their space?)

* Ask the venue what kind of mailing list they have and how much will they can contribute to the promotion of your opening event.  If you are a proactive artist and good with social networking media, you might be doing more to promote the venue than your own work and unless you have a large network of buyers/clients this might not bother you, but otherwise I would say, choose a cafe that would promote your exhibition equally. 

 *  Find out from previous artists if they gained much feedback from the venue’s clients and if they made many sales in these spots.  Were their price margins the same as yours?

*  By all means invite performers to platform, but keep the slots short and simple, and make sure that number one: you are selective with quality performers only and number two you make it clear it’s not an open mic night which otherwise implies your events is just a-free-for-all.

*  On your opening event, make sure you rehearse a script of what you might want to say as an opening speech.  Prepare what you will say about yourself and then about the exhibiting works. Practice, practice, practice and then open up a panel discussion for questions and answers – if nobody has any questions – ask for feedback…

*  If you do not get the feedback ask for the feedback.  Don’t be shy, ask the questions. ‘What do you like about this collection?  Is there anything you do you not like about it?  What’s your most favourite and why?  What’s your least and why?’  If you find this intimidating, create anonymous feedback forms for honest criticism and advise.

 

Keep On Moving!

Whoever may be reading this article and no matter what you maybe doing with your life, I believe that if you got this far down reading this article, it’s probably because you are an artist.  Remember, no matter what genre of artist you maybe, if you are being proactive with your skills you are putting yourself out there to be judged.   Your work has to be judged and whether those judgement are a positive or negative reflection of your work, you must learn to accept the opinions of other, but still remain strong in what you believe in and let what you believe in, always be yourself!

 

Please do comment with any useful or contrary thoughts.  I am generally a student in life; I have an open mind and I’m always willing to learn.

After all that's said it was a very night and really well organised...

After all that’s said it was a really great night spent with amazing people and really well organised…

 

Abstract Elements: A Photography Exhibition

3 May

Abstract Elements, A Photography Exhibition  by Najma Hush.

 

Abstract Elements is a collection of five photographic images, representing the five most essential principles, believed in many philosophies to constitute the fundamental powers of everything.  Depending upon peoples cultural beliefs, these elements vary between fire, water, wind/air and aether, usually differing between four to five. However, no matter what you may believe these elements to be exactly, they possess different meanings for different people which can be either positive, negative, or neutral.  The images represented here have not emerged from any specific cultural philosophy, but rather are the Artist’s interpretation of such elements and are open to your personal reading.

 

Abstract Elements, a photography exhibition by Najma Hush.

Abstract Elements, a photography exhibition by Najma Hush.

Abstract Elements is currently on exhibition at, The Warehouse Cafe, (54-57 Allison St, Digbeth, Birmingham. B5 5TH. UK) from the 5th May – 1st June 2014, with a exhibition opening night dinner planned on the Bank Holiday Monday at the restaurant.  Check out the event’s page and if you are around come along and join the fun.  There will live performances from Poets and Musicians to fit in with the theme of the exhibition.  Here! Click on the link and check out the facebook events page to see who is going:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1472489166301598/ and also stay tuned for the next post and we’ll let you know all the gory details on  the opening of this exhibition.

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