We often talk about our work, in formal and informal situations, with people who may not know what we do. Communicating clearly is always of vital importance in any discipline and is an essential aspect of artistic work.
In this post I will talk about the importance of creating your speech and how to make the artist statement.
If you have ever seen the series Friends you will remember Chandler’s character, although it is very likely that you do not remember well what he worked on. It was something that was repeatedly joked about in the series.
In his case, nobody could understand what he was doing and they didn’t remember it afterwards, that is, they didn’t understand his speech.
Whether in the context of an event presentation, an exhibition text or an artist’s statement, the author must decide beforehand what he wants people to remember about his work.
Before we go into how to write an artist’s statement, we will try to define some concepts that are closely related to each other and that can sometimes get confused.
We will start with the best known: the artistic cv and the biography.
While the artistic cv tells at first sight what you have done in the past and reflects a chronology of your education, your exhibition history, awards or press reviews, the biography is more focused on the most outstanding and relevant milestones to understand your career as an artist.
The portfolio is another document that every artist or creative is expanding as they develop their activity. Simplifying, it is a portfolio, in physical or digital format, where the artist shows a record of his most representative works or artistic productions.
Accompanying the portfolio we must find the artist’s statement, which reinforces and reveals everything that the images cannot tell.
Its importance lies in the fact that it provides a vision of the creative’s work and allows to add meaning, providing practical details such as: the materials, the processes or the concepts or ideas under which his work or a specific project is based.
And finally we have the artistic discourse that gathers ideas both from the artist’s statement and from the biography. A discourse is a relatively short message that is pronounced in a public way.
It is a communicative action whose purpose is to expose or transmit some kind of information and, in general, to convince the listeners. In this case, it is focused on your work.
Bearing in mind that there are creatives with different professional profiles, as in my case, we will have a speech for each of them.
Although all these documents (cv, biography, portfolio, artist statement and speech) are independent and give different approaches to the artist’s activity, there is no doubt that they are all related to each other.
Having them ready and memorizing a speech about your work is an exercise that will allow you to know in depth what you do and communicate it when you are asked about it.
I often meet creatives who assume that their work speaks for itself and who do not have to prepare a presentation of their work. They even ask me why they should write this artistic statement when their work is fundamentally visual.
This way of thinking leads to the fact that if they have their website, few people pick it up, and if they only have profiles in social networks, their message is contained in the publications they make of their work, already devoid of any supporting text.
I know that it is not easy, it can even be tedious to prepare different texts depending on the case, but I would say that it is obligatory to prepare them if as a creative you want to advance with your project.
In my opinion, writing about your work is a process of finding one’s own voice. You have to do a lot of introspection about who you are and the work you do, and it’s also very useful to clear up doubts about what you don’t do.
Nowadays, for better or worse, we are all on the Internet and we must take advantage of this medium to move our activity clearly.
When I look for references to an artist or a creative, I find it very useful to read their artist’s statement or declaration to see what it conveys to me.
Facing the writing of an artist’s statement is one of the challenges that every creative will have to face, sooner or later, if they are committed to their work.
In principle, there is no single way to approach the task, but you will be helped by the following set of general ideas.
- Your work may revolve around one main concept or idea. It will guide you in any text you prepare.
- When talking about your work or artistic proposal it is preferable to write it in the third person because it offers enough distance to give objectivity.
- You should not abuse adjectives as it is not a marketing message.
- The style and syntax of the text must be taken care of because it is also part of the knowledge you contribute as an author and your personal brand.
- The length of the text should not exceed one side of an A4.
- The content must add up information about the work without including a trajectory or chronology of the work, which is what the artistic cv is for.
- The text must answer the questions:
What do I do? Describing the discipline, the technique, the language, the theme, for example.
How do I create it? By talking about your creative process in general or the methodology used.
Why do I do it? By responding to the origin of the conceptual idea or inspiration, the mission and the intention behind the work.
It must be taken into account that it is not a rigid and permanent text, but rather the opposite, and that it is adapted according to the phase in which the creative is in or depending on its use.
The artist’s declaration or statement is necessary to apply for a competition, a grant or to launch any collaborative proposal. It is common to prepare a short version and a longer one, as required, that allows to understand what your work and the specific project is.
If you are an artist and do not have your Artist Statement ready, I encourage you to take some time and outline it with the content of the post. Or if you are planning to submit a call for proposals, prepare a text that summarizes your proposal.
Besides helping you to improve your artistic practice, it will give you more confidence and security when talking about it. Decide what you want them to remember about your work.
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