Prior to booking the exhibition space, I made several visits to the Pie Factory both to asses the gallery and survey the location. Then, in Early March, I met my collaborator Sarah Youseman at the gallery to discuss how we might use the space to the best advantage and to discuss other practical matters relating to the exhibition. Much of this we can do online but it’s much quicker and easier face to face.
The Pie Factory is a re-purposed commercial building (previously a butcher’s, hence the name) which sits at the centre of an art enclave in the seaside town of Margate which has greatly benefited from the arrival of the Turner Contemporary in 2011. The accommodation covers four connecting rooms at street level, a mix of white gallery and gritty industrial aesthetic - a few tiles remain from the premises past life. There are studio spaces on the upper floor, and the façade looks out onto a sort of square on the edge of a pedestrianised area with other galleries, cafes and a pub.
We arrived at the gallery to find that the exhibition in situ had not yet opened – mental note: ensure the doors open at the advertised time! We returned a little later, looked around the show and chatted to one of the artists with work on display. I’d done this on previous visits and it’s very useful to access personal experiences from a venue’s users. Having explained the primary reason for our visit and checking that it was OK to poke around and take photos, Sarah and I looked at the space with reference to our particular application.
This is where a collaboration comes into its own; we act as a sounding board for each other to test out ideas and combine experience. Sarah and I had already agreed the overall division of rooms based upon the types of work we will each be showing but we needed to discuss the visitor experience overall, how people will move through the spaces and how the interface between the two halves (we will be taking two rooms each as separate mini-exhibitions) might work. The later transition is of great importance as the rooms run one from another so whoever has the last two rooms needs to be sure that visitors will be attracted through. Likewise, the artist with rooms 1 and 2 needs to present more than an entrée to a main course; it’s about balance, cooperation and, most importantly, understanding.
There were other discussions such as ‘will there be any sound bleed from Sarah’s film into my space’ and if we have music at the private view, where should the musicians go and what are the sound implications. Equally important was the critical advice about how each other’s work might work in the space. This contact is more important for those studying on a ‘distance basis’ and I would advise any student in a similar situation to consider collaboration as a positive, creative experience.