MY YEAR: DOVETAIL JOINTS VIRTUAL GALLERY | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Thinking Inside The Box, still from exhibition space. Artists in image Tom Oliver, Ali Cadir, Isgandar Hajiyev, Victoria Peal

Words: Conor Clements

For background, myself and Bobby Benjamin ran the Dovetail Joints organisation together until November 2019, putting on events first in a flat above the Bongo Club just as and where we could, with no fixed location. When Bobby stood back from the project in November 2019 leaving me sole director the initial plan was for me to keep putting on exhibitions around Middlesbrough with no fixed space. I got as far as putting on one IRL exhibit at Disgraceland in January when lockdown hit and it all looked pretty impossible. That’s what led me to look to the online program, and turn Dovetail Joints into a virtual gallery; I’d always intended for the Dovetail Joints organisation to be pretty fluid so this seemed a logical extension of that. I studied architecture at university and had just finished a placement at an architectural visualisation firm in Seville so it seemed the perfect opportunity to recontextualise and enhance some of these 3D modelling and rendering skills.

In present times projects like this are more vital than ever. Showing work online through social media and even using virtual tours as a way to archive previous exhibitions has been present a long time, but when spaces are forced to close the reliance on these technologies increases massively. The response I’ve had so far from artists I’ve featured has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only that the virtual space is able to offer a replacement but also that the medium can allow them to really scale up their ambitions and scope for what’s possible without the usual budgetary restrictions.

My personal highlight exhibition-wise was the Thinking Inside The Box architectural open call I hosted back in June. It was the most ambitious exhibition I had done to date, holding an open call for architecturally inspired works. My aim was to allow students, recent graduates and experienced practitioners an equal platform. There was also a good mix of 2D and 3D modelled works submitted which really brought the space to life.

Another highlight was the OUR PLACE IN THE NORTH exhibition, bringing together two Teesside-based artists who have been massively influential to me over the years: Bobby Benjamin and David Watson. Bobby has been vital to my artistic progression over the years, since first taking me in volunteering at the House of Blah Blah, helping me to navigate the local arts scene and bringing the Dovetail Joints project to me in the first place. David Watson’s work has been on my radar just as long. Both these creative partnerships continue to this day in one form of another, so to host the two artists in my own space felt really fulfilling as a curator.

Looking to the future, things look pretty positive. The usual gallery programme will likely slow down in the immediate future as Dovetail and Wet Productions collaborate on a six month programme with recent funding from the Arts Council. We’ll be hosting a variety of open calls and paid opportunities in the form of virtual exhibitions as well as some real life ones provided Covid doesn’t get in the way. Additionally, I’ve recently worked with The Auxiliary in Middlesbrough in create a 3D modelled virtual twin of their warehouse space and side gallery, currently housing Gordon Dalton’s exhibition but eventually expanding with new content. My hope is that the success of Auxiliary’s virtual space will attract the attention of fellow spaces looking to expand into the virtual realm.

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