Surfaces and Strategies Week 11 / by Chris Chucas

Week 11 - Exhibition

This week I installed the exhibition and had the opening night. I think that it was a positive experience and a success. I talked before about having a fairly anti gallery culture outlook. I feel that a lot of the spaces that showcase art with a stereotypical white wall, minimalist fine art ‘look’ can be very elitist and excluive. They’re exclusive by design and meant for a select few and it doesn’t really sit well with me as an artist.

I really admire artists that use spaces to exhibit their work in a less exclusive or elitist way. People like Jr, although the choice of space is an integral part of his methodology in general and serves a purpose to deliver a meaning with the work. Even if it is a by-product or secondary the public space still appeals to me as it’s for those people that use it.

jr ellis Island.jpg

I am really pleased with the chemistry between the space, the audience and the work. To me it felt very organic and it was very relaxed. I had used my Facebook page that already had some fans interested in the work to promote the event as well as twitter. I had been to a few shows the week before and had seen that there was a show on with some core DIY Punk Rock bands from Cardiff happening at the same time as the opening. This meant that a lot of people that might have gone may not have been able to because they had tickets to the other show.

I had asked some bands to play the show and the format I had in mind was for it to basically be like a regular show with bands turning up and playing people having drinks and socialising in between sets. Most bands were either playing the other show, had band members in bands playing at the show or had tickets to go. This just reinforced how closely tied and linked together the community is. I did manage to get two bands to play; ‘Fight like a cow’, and ‘American Graffiti’. I’m close friends with the guitarist and singer from FLAC and I had briefly met American Graffiti before. Everyone was really supportive of the project and what I’m doing with it.

My wife (Becky) and I headed over beforehand and picked up the zines that I had made from a printers.


©Chris Chucas-CRJ 4028  August 28, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg
©Chris Chucas-CRJ 4030  August 28, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg



I then set up my phone to broadcast a Facebook live video of the exhibition being installed with the hopes of getting a few undecided people interested in coming. I had used a program called tiler with my mac to print A2 size prints using multiple a4 sheets of paper. We taped them together before I stuck them up on the wall. In addition to the a2’s I put up some a4s as well. I didn’t really think too hard about placements but I did lay them out on the floor to see how they worked together first before making the last taping to the wall. I tried to group images together that shared the same level of energy.

©Chris Chucas-CRJ 6205  August 11, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg
©Chris Chucas-CRJ 6229  August 11, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg

The bands arrived, I helped sound check them and then played some music via the pa while people hung out and looked at some images.

Both bands played and said a little something along the lines of thank you and kind words supporting the project. I had the zines to hand out to people that might want them which had information to direct them to the website. 

©Chris Chucas-CRJ 6264  August 11, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg

A few prints fell off the wall due to the room being really small with no air con and having a lot of people crammed in together watching bands jump around. It got very sweaty and humid. I didn’t rush over to put them up, because I kind of felt that the living breathing sweat from us all bringing the prints off the wall was a natural process, the prints had been used and then they fall off and fade away. It’s almost like it’s alive.

©Chris Chucas-CRJ 6391  August 11, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg
©Chris Chucas-CRJ 6311  August 11, 2017 Falmouth University Ma Documentary Photography.jpg

It’s this relationship we have with the physical objects of ‘the photograph’ that I both love and hate. I love how it can be liberating and empowering to have a piece of paper in your hand that can stir up feelings and personal experiences, but I don’t like how the object itself can become the main focus hijacking the intention or the reflecting moment. Something I found interesting from Clark was:

It’s a demonstration of contemporary art of sorts, do you think the art world Is too exclusive.

I think the art world is much too exclusive because of the prices and what happens in extremes, which is the norm now.  Collectors like Peter Brandt whom I know and Peter is good guy. Peter and other collators who are billionaires if they want a painting and it comes up for auction they’ll out bid everybody by 5 mil dollar. Like the painting would go for 5 mil Peter would pay 10.

'Photography is about Light shadow and feeling, that’s all it is.' Larry Clark -

Culturally we are in a new phase where prints are around less  every day. I wonder if this could mean prints are easily labelled art photography for the simple fact there are less about.  An interesting article I read mentions.

“Now that images are on a screen, they’re sort of ‘forever young’, and it becomes difficult to realise that there are many things that connect us to the past in terms of basic human emotions. These become more difficult to tease out when everything looks contemporary.” - Lisa Hostetler.

Aside from the cultural considerations from photography, I must examine the cultural and historical implications of punk rock itself. I’m dealing with people who are involved in the DIY scene of making music and bringing people together often for great benefits for those in need. I don’t want to be associated with or add to the rise in the commercialism of the ‘punk rock’ aesthetic in which people are romanticising motifs from a sub culture to be edgy and different from high society as this seems a little wrong to me. Here’s an example of someone turning the punk rock aesthetic into a high fashion cat walk collection.

It’s completely inaccurate and potentially unfair to the actual community today.

Much Like Nan Goldin and Larry Clark two of the most influential artists to me and my practice both have very strong personal opinions on this.

Goldin struggled to get her work out to begin with so made slideshows and travelled her show around as a unique slideshows accompanied with music, which was a big part of the subcultures in her work.

Clarke has also brushed upon parts of the punk rock community with his ‘Kids’ film that involved skateboarders, the two are closely linked so it’s interesting to see his work as I can identify with it. I would like to reach my audience in the same way that Clarke manages to reach his. I was a wild teenager very similar to some of the subject of his Tulsa series and his Kids film. It’s that authenticity and honesty that I would like to show through my own work, but paying careful consideration to not over sensationalise the general mood or feeling of the project by giving special importance to images that are connote extreme . I aim to portray the community in a way that’s not going to over exploit images depicting highly energetic, emotional scenes. The dilemma is that it is a part of the community and what we all love about what punk rock music can do. 

These have been my main considerations with curating and installing the work as well as shooting the work in the first place.

I’m really aware that because I’m so closely involved with community in which I’m trying to portray, I feel an extra responsibility with editorial decisions. I like to check in with myself and reference what I’m trying to do against what others have done before me and re assess as I go along. Right now I feel confident with my intentions and in my production. I’m building upon what photographers like (((((((( have done in documenting the punk rock community before me.  But setting myself a frame work that involves questioning some ethical and personal methodology from thoughts of photographers I look up to, like Goldin and Clarke, constantly re assessing my own feelings on it as I progress. It’s certainly not easy.