Wednesday, May 09, 2007


In ‘My First Exhibition of Photography’ I made several vague allusions to the difficulties I had in organizing the whole thing. These were actually all based on one person who was either deliberately sabotaging my efforts, or basically so eccentric and disorganised that one cannot tell the difference between spite and craziness.
For example:

It was extremely difficult to set up the whole exhibition with essentially one night (the night before) to do it in. This wasn't as a result of a lack of urgency, or preparation, or readiness on my part. I'd wanted to start getting into the building from as early as the previous week. I thought Tuesday, a holiday, would then be made available for the bulk of work. The studio apparatus (lights, books, props etc) were only removed a few hours (two or three I think) before the exhibition itself. Thus I was only able to take ownership of the setting -- completely -- in the two or three hours prior to the exhibition. I think 99 percent of people in the world would be driven crazy by such a situation.
Note: I made sure to avoid even a vague reference to the person behind this whole debacle.

There were a couple of references to being driven: ‘to the brink of insanity’.

I also noted: ‘In fact I had put this instruction on the invites: "80 Kellner Road, behind the Potting Shed." I was told to remove the latter part of the instruction, and stupidly, did...

These ‘abnormal circumstances’ though, were not accidental.

First off, I had a discussion at the Red Pepper, in Mimosa Mall, where we - Ms Slettevold and I - discussed the Exhibition. Then Ms Slettevold came to have a look at my portfolio and together we chose the prints. Only 30 were chosen, which seemed too few - until I realized that she meant to also Exhibit with me. Meanwhile, I made arrangements to print the chosen sets, and also have them mounted. As I made these arrangements, I confirmed them with Dame Slettevold. I think it was on the Thursday, having emailed the invitation to the above-mentioned madam, that I received a very early morning call. Clearly irritated, I was asked if I had sent a large attachment because it was taking ‘forever to download, and now (groan groan) I will have to call Telkom to erase it. And you know I don’t think we should have the exhibition any more. It’s too sudden [and I want to go on holiday this weekend and not worry about it].

I should have been warned at that point. But already having committed myself to printing and framing over R4000 worth of photos, I went back to her and made my case. When she understood that she would have ‘nothing whatsoever’ to do with the exhibition (which was silly anyway, since I preferred a Solo Exhibition), she seemed a lot less resistant. She wanted her name removed from the invitations (as a co-RSVP) and peculiarly, asked me to remove a description on how to get to the gallery. Now why on Earth do you remove a description when it is clearly required to find a building hidden behind another building?

I was also informed by phone that despite our conversation at Red Pepper, since it was only my material on display (and not Ms Slettevold’s too), none of it would appear in the magazine Passi (as agreed).

Skip forward a few weeks. I get a call out of the blue saying: ‘We will use your exhibition in Passi magazine.’
Then we made arrangements to meet on Sunday. When Sunday came, Ms Slettevold said she was actually on her way to the Bloemfontein Show (to take over 200 photographs of sheeps being sheared), and so could I hurry up, show up, and leave so she could get there and get parking. I arrived and waited. She turned up late and flustered, and not that keen to talk to me - she just wanted to pick up a memory stick in her office but-what-is-it?

I suggested, on the pavement, at 80 Kellner Road, with all my pictures on my backseat, that we arrange another time then, when, well, she’d have more time. We didn’t come to an agreement, but she later called and suggested Tuesday, a holiday, where she said the place (which she said wasn't ready) would be sorted out and ‘you’ll have the whole day to set things up.’

When I arrived on Tuesday, the remains of a photo shoot (a cloth spanning the main room, with a basket and petals strewn over it) greeted me, and SLETTEVOLD was busy going through 100 photographs of a bedroom with a designer. Lights, cables and other detritus lay on the floor. I had to pile all 60 pictures on two chairs – on the arms of these chairs. Sort’ve a balancing act.

Obviously I was wondering how to go about getting started. I’d already been informed, incidentally: ‘I don’t want any of your pictures against my walls.’

I asked, again, when the space would be cleared so I could get started. We spoke for about 20 minutes, and then I left. So much for having the whole day to work on setting the place up. By Wednesday, not much had changed. Some (3) boards had been provided.
By Thursday, the sheets had been removed, an outside light was declared 'not to work', and a particular gate was still locked (with the key missing). Insane!

On Thursday night I got a lot of work done. I asked her to help me move a board, and she said: ‘I don’t want to hurt my back.’ I asked the designer to help me instead, and he did. In particular, I'd been wanting her to remove a big portrait of shark eggs in the entrance - around a metre wide - so I could start to find space for my 60 pictures. She was very reluctant, and in the end, it stayed up until Thursday night. I believe I finally took it down. Ms Slettevold went home soon after, instructing me to put the keys of her place in her postbox before I went home. She told me that she would clear out the books and other items on the desk the next day (shortly before the Exhibition). She’d been saying this all week.

But when I arrived at around 3pm, this process was still underway. Now the irritation was clear. She was worried about the security of her things, because she was carrying them next door and was concerned that they might get stolen. I told her: ‘You need to be able to organize your own things. If you are worried, take them home. It’s not that complicated. You’re really not behaving very professionally.’

The rest got done without incident. The Exhibition went well, and Ms Slettevold arrived somewhere in the middle of the evening. It was obvious though that she hadn’t invited anyone (I had given her some invitations to distribute). At one point she surprised me by taking the initiative to take a few photographs. I saw her take two the whole evening, and without what one might guess was her usual, painfully perfectionist and detailed approach to quality.

She left at some stage during the Exhibition. I don’t recall when she arrived or when she left, but it was somewhere in the middle, and she wasn’t there for long.

Today I agreed to meet her (her instructions: ‘between 13:00 and 13:30’ , repeated twice) in order to collect an invoice. I asked her if I could also collect copies of the photos she’d taken, to be used for this blog. When I arrived, at 1:23 she immediately gave me the invoice (for R350 – for using the venue - something she must have thought of after I'd said: 'I paid the caterer R300 for her efforts, but it was worth it.'), then after a few minutes gave me a disk I’d lent to her, and then she went back inside the studio. And then nothing. ‘It’s 13:30,’ I said, ‘why isn’t this stuff ready?’ ‘It’s 13:26.’ ‘Yes, but if had arrived here at 13:30, you would have left, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Yes, I probably would have.’ ‘So why isn’t it ready?’

Tic toc tic toc.
‘Can you hurry up, I’m on my lunchbreak.’
‘You know what, I’m not going to give you your photos.’
‘Then you’re not getting paid.’
‘You will fucking…’

Exit me.

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