Blindboys Wideyed: the afterword

April 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

The end is only the beginning

This weekend we had to go to Newcastle to clear the Forth Lane billboards of Lenskap’s ‘Where are you going Mr Mahajan?’ piece, ready for the next artist. We were a bit sad (especially as the posters were still intact!), but it was a beautiful day, and even good things must come to an end sometime.

So now that our part of this collaborative exchange has come to a close, and we’ve had some time to think about it, we’ve realised that one aspect of the whole BLINDBOYS WIDEYED experience we haven’t mentioned, but which was really a key factor, is chance.

The empty shop we originally hoped to use as our gallery is steel clad, which is where the idea of using magnets to hang the exhibition came from. But if we had been able to lease that space instead of 67B Westgate Road, we wouldn’t have also had the billboards on Forth Lane for Mr Mahajan.

When we first approached Blindboys about exhibiting their work in Newcastle, they asked us what we wanted them to send us. So we told them that the size of shop/gallery we secured (which we didn’t know at the time) would determine the size and number of prints we could display, but that wasn’t their problem and anyway, they should just send us whatever they wanted us to see and show. Had we tried to prescribe the exact quantity and kind of photographs we wanted, we might not have had the foresight to select the images we received – the wealth of work that we were then able to respond to and, thanks to the fact that Wideyed doesn’t have its own permanent gallery space, be flexible and inventive about how and where they were displayed.

Take Charli Bikaner. After we’d worked out the sequencing for 67B, we were lamenting the fact that we didn’t have enough space to exhibit Charli as well (because we heart Charli!)… when the idea of approaching the Mining Institute occurred. As for the billboards, the option of using those came about as we randomly chatted to Mike Tilley (of Newcastle Arts Centre, who rented us 67B) about Blindboys and their ‘Blow.Up’ street exhibitions – and it was as we told him we thought it such a shame we couldn’t do anything similar, that he offered us the billboards on Forth Lane as well.

And here we circle back to Mr Mahajan. We turned up yesterday with buckets, sponges and scrapers, ready to remove the posters completely, but when it came to it we were asked to just smooth away any ridges and cover over the darker areas with paint, leaving as much paper in place as possible. While we worked, so many people passing by told us how much they had enjoyed Mr Mahajan, saying they wished we could leave him in place. So we couldn’t resist – we mostly did as asked and covered everything… but the cones. Hey. Last chance to play, and we didn’t hesitate to take it.

It will be interesting to see what happens to art works subsequently placed on Forth Lane – whether they’re respected as well as the Mr Mahajan piece or not – because as far as we know those billboards have not been used for that kind of display before, and everyone we’ve spoken to has been both amazed and more than happy that the posters lasted so well. Which raises questions. For example, that series of images (however they’ve been read) have obviously been enjoyed, and it makes us wonder – is the evident pleasure they’ve given, both to us and passersby, necessarily a guilty pleasure?

Does it really, really matter if it is?

More important than anything though is something Blindboys and we agree on – that work needs to be seen. BLINDBOYS WIDEYED has been all about making that possible. And while the internet has been incredibly useful, digital is not the last word.

Chance is. Woo, did we dare say… chance? Well yes! We are photographers, so we do have some experience in either making or recognising luck when we see it. And really, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Touch wood.


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