Anybody that knows me well knows that any form of presenting or public speaking is my version of a nightmare; my face turns red, my throat closes, my hands tremble, I feel nauseous, and can hear my heartbeat in my ears. This, if nothing else, is the one thing I aim to conquer in my Erasmus year; to believe in my work, to be able to speak about my work, and feel confident in showing off my work - after all, that's what the art world is all about.
The 3rd Year expo, following our final assessment presentation, is the time where these presentation skills are put to the test. Each year at Academie Minerva, the third year students curate a showcase of works for a week in March, and this year I would be a part of it. As well as the week-long display of work, we (students) host an opening evening where industry professionals such as: gallerists, publicists, collectors, directors of artist residencies, critics and more, are invited for a private 2 hour viewing of our works. We are encouraged to approach said individuals and encourage conversation, critique and even potential sale of our artwork, with the hope of making valuable connections and networks.
For me and many other students, this was a really daunting experience. Whilst I'd previously been a part of and even led student-run exhibitions during my time at Coventry University, this felt like a much bigger deal with a huge amount of pressure to make myself be present and stand out. Previous third year students had expressed to us that the critique received is often harsh and hard to swallow.
As the exhibition opening commenced, it was the time to stand near my work and wait for any potential interest, or look for anybody to approach who I want to hear my voice or who I want to help learn about my art. At this point, the usual blood-pumping sensation through my ears and stomach-heavy anxiety was really setting in. Not long into the opening, I noticed a Friesland gallerist looking at my work and reading my written passage in the programme, and it was time to take the plunge.
The conversation was tough, in that I had to do most of the talking and questioning, but I surprisingly held myself well and feel I explained my work fully and openly. The quality of my presentation and materials were questioned due to my classic student budget, but I was happy with the criticism and it has definitely made me consider the investments I make into my work, and essentially, my career.
After the first important conversation, there were several more, and by the end my nerves had largely vanished, and I was feeling much more at ease and talking with confidence about my concepts for new work, as well as my work on display. This was a huge challenge for me, and taking the plunge to approach a successful, and potentially important individual about my work is probably the biggest challenge I've faced so far during my time, not only in The Netherlands, but during my studies as a whole. Whilst I don't feel like I've (yet) conquered my fear of speaking to new people about myself and my work with confidence, I can definitely see myself improving, and hopefully this means that by the time I graduate, I'll be ready and rearing to go and dive in head-first into the big and terrifying world of art.
For now, enjoy some photographs of our installation - designed and arranged by our wonderful student curation team - and Netherlands friends: the exhibition is still open until Friday for you to view the third years' work...