Every Sunday I will be sharing with you the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from a year of following a relentless application regimen!
This week’s open call: Art in General Open Call
What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part I:
The angel I was waiting for was me
Last year, for the first time in my life I started applying to artist open calls and doing it in a systematic way. The night of December 31, 2013 found me on my computer making the final adjustments to my first application for 2014. That is how I chose to welcome the new year -I didn’t even allow myself a break for a glass of champagne!
All through 2014 I strived to stick to the year’s resolution: Submitting to four artist open calls per month. As an artist open call would count any of the following: A call for participation in an exhibition, for an interview published by an online or printed review, a call for a contest/competition, for an artist residency, for a grant, etc.
And even though strictly speaking I didn’t reach my goal, I managed to roll in over 28 applications. Which, for someone who until that time may (or may not) have had applied to any of the above two or three times in total, was a real breakthrough.
These things always overwhelmed me. I felt that the list of the application material requested was too long, too demanding, often irrelevant, and even when I started the procedure with enthusiasm it wasn’t long before black clouds would appear over my head and defeatism would set in. Not to mention the discouragement because of all the paperwork that needed to be done, something that -surprise!- in the digital age I woke up to find myself into, was at last a thing of the past (with the occasional exceptions).
My commitment to this practice, applying and applying with a system, guided by the determination and single-mindedness to push what I was currently doing in the workshop out into the world (living in Greece, I realized after a while that it was either that or total obscurity) indeed bore some fruit. As a result I was invited to participate in a couple of exhibitions abroad, was featured in some online publications, became a member of a curated artists’ network in Berlin, and even got to reject a feature by a printed publication when my awareness about what is good publicity for an artist and what one would rather avoid started rising (something that happens only if one applies and applies a lot).
The aforementioned results/accomplishments are far from impressive but they were something. And something compared to an endless desert of nothing amounts to a lot, even solely on a psychological level, of which, every artist knows the value. These few steps forward as far as getting my work noticed were enough to convince me that whatever was to come, wouldn’t just come to me in the form of an angel landing in my studio, but would most likely occur as a result of certain targeted actions. I finally grasped in a real, three dimensional way, and not in vague hypotheses, that, to the degree I was doing work I believed in and could back passionately, it would get through or remain in the workshop depending considerably on the amount and quality of actions I would succeed in taking after the work in the studio was done.
This strategy, that I continue in 2015, with some discrepancies due to a few personal difficulties, was also my antidote to despair. On the day I would have completed and sent out a strong application I would fall asleep like a baby, content with the fact that through my persistence a bird was set free, a messenger-bird taking my work out into the world (as mushy as it may seem this is the metaphor that would come to mind!) and giving it a chance.
Featured image: Penelope Vlassopoulou, Metamorphosis/Kurfürstendamm, Trace A, Improvisation I, detail, 32.5 x 23 cm, powdered pigment on paper, 2014