Imagine Me & You, I Do
The work is a ten meter high neon light, reading 'Imagine Me & You, I Do', mounted on the side of St Paul's Cathedral. It was made for the theme 'Closer Together' for the 2008 Next Wave Festival.
“'Imagine Me & You, I Do', has an intimate, poetic and questioning relationship with its very loaded exhibition site, inviting viewers to re-evaluate their relationship to the spaces they inhabit and move through in the course of daily life. Melancholic and introspective, yet also engaging and empathic, it describes a certain sense of disconnection between ourselves and the world. Ultimately, Imagine Me inspires its audience to question the impact that institutions have on their ideas of self and space.” Kirsty Hulm
How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?
The Next Wave Festival Director, Jeff Khan, is really interested in taking art out of galleries and into the public, and as that is one of my main interests as well, we were really pushing for this to happen. I first wanted the space above the clocks at Flinders St Station, but after contacting them and negotiating a meeting via e-mail Jeff and my project manager Tai met with them and they were not interested. I contacted Creative Spaces and the Project Manager suggested the Cathedral. I found the Dean's e-mail address, wrote to him personally and he was very interested, so we had a meeting and he really liked the idea and said yes almost straight away.
What was required to secure the space?
Initially I met with the Dean with only my personal drawings. I think in this instance I got lucky, as he was very open minded about the concepts straight away and personal liked the idea very much. Once he said yes, plans went underway.
What needed to be provided by you as hirer or user of the space?
The church very kindly let me have the space for free, so there was no money exchanged. I provided the work, permits, labourers and their equipment to install and de-install the sign. Luckily there were brackets already in place on the church, so We had a custom made frame built to fit these brackets. It's important to note, the installation was quite an ordeal as the street had to be blocked off to let cherry pickers put the sign up, which took around 6 hours. This required around three permits from the city council which we had to obtain at the last minute as the contractor hadn't told me this would be necessary- ALWAYS make sure your contractor has told you all the logistics of your install, as you may need to apply for permits you don't know about.
What were the costs?
The main cost was for the fabrication of the sign and install and de-install. I got a number of concessions from the contractor for various reasons, but the end total was around $10,000. All up, including Next Wave's in-kind support etc the project was much closer to $15,000
What were the resources available to you?
Next Wave was invaluable. I had a project manager helping me with everything from negotiating with irrate council workers to writing grant applications, to coming up with fresh ideas for spaces. To be honest though, the best way to go about securing a space like this is to make a very professional application, preferably with references included - show how dedicated and organised you are, and simply ask. There's no harm in asking and you might be surprised like we were.
Who helped you to fit it out?
Legally I was not allowed to touch anything as I do not have artist insurance (a wise investment if you are going to be undertaking such projects), so the hired contractors did everything. Don't underestimate the time and resources it takes to mount a work of this scale - many hours, problems and pieces of equipment I had no idea about - where used to place the work. It took three installers, a site manager and a church representative to mount the work.
What were/are the obstacles?
Making sure you have all the permits you require is key, so if you're using a contractor talk to them about all these issues. If you are installing yourself, you should definitely get artist insurance. The main obstacle in securing a space is being professional- you need to prove you are dedicated with not only a well made concept/work, but a well structured plan about why this space is important to you, and show you've thought of the logistics/problems of install, how it will affect their space and the people who use it etc. One thing I did not think of when approaching the church, is public feedback, something the church as an organisation was very concerned about - they ended up putting out their own media release and newsletter as they were concerned about backlash (which thankfully didn't happen). So being aware of how what you're doing ties in with the image of a space or area, and how people may react to it is very important.Providing professional references directly related to the work you are asking to show is also very helpful.
What were/are the risks?
I wouldn't identify any of the problems I faced as 'risks'- they were simply issues that needed solving, which if you are prepared, shouldn't be a problem. The main risk to an artist making work outdoors is vandalism, but I had no problems with this at all.