Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Open Letter to The Ministry of Casual Living

Dear MOCL folks,

In September of last year I submitted a proposal for a show of my photographs at The Ministry of Casual Living. It included jpgs of the images themselves, and my reasons for specifically wanting to show them at MOCL. Bonnie Gooden replied to my e-mail and graciously offered me a show in the third week of January. She told me that my show would be her last as minister of the center.

I then posted a notice about the show on my blog, with a link to the MOCL website, and contacted my printer in Vancouver to have the prints made. The show was to consist of two fairly large c-prints, hung side by side on the MOCL's movable wall. The prints were completed at a price of $365.00, including lamination and mounting, and then shipped to me direct from the lab and framed upon arrival (an additional $100.00.)

On January 2nd I sent an e-mail to Bonnie enquiring as to the specific start and end dates for the show, as I wanted to begin making the invites. I promptly recieved a reply e-mail from Catlin Lewis, saying that Bonnie was no longer the minister, but that they did have an opening near the end of January, and what kind of work did I do? A bit confused by this turn of events, I then re-sent my original proposal to Catlin and so recieved my second go-ahead for the show. At this time I also enquired as to the state of the space (if I would need to come in and paint, etc.) Catlin assured me the walls were just as I last saw them, white and (relatively) clean. We settled on Friday the 26th as an opening night.

In early January I recieved an e-mail from Jay Morritt asking me to call him so as to go over final plans for the show. When I talked to him on the phone, Jay claimed to have never seen or heard of the proposal, and asked me what kind of art I made. I briefly re-explained the concept and requirements with him and made a mental note to drop by the gallery and talk to him in person, just to avoid any more confusion.

On Wednesday the 25th, I stopped in at the gallery to introduce myself to Jay. Upon entering, I noticed that the movable wall panel my work was to hang on had been stripped and replaced with two bare pieces of grey drywall panelling, with a horizontal, nail studded seam running straight across it's center. I asked Jay if the wall would be puttied, sanded and painted in time for the show. He said it would. We then sat and talked for a bit about my proposal. We agreed on a time of 7:00 - 9:00 for the opening. When I was heading out the door, I asked Jay to call me if he needed any assistance with the finishing of the wall. I had the next two days off and could easily come in to help. He said thanks for the offer, and that he would call if he needed the help. I sent my invitations to the printer the following morning ($56.00) and sent e-mail reminders to friends and family about the opening.

On the day of the opening I called and e-mailed Jay, asking him when I could come and do the installation. I didn't hear back from him until around 5pm, at which time he told me that he had been busy during the day, but that everything was now ready for the installation. I headed up to the gallery with my work under my arm, my girlfriend and a curator friend from Vancouver in tow.

We arrived to find the movable wall exactly as it had looked three days earlier (two pieces of grey drywall panelling, nailed together at the center.) When I asked Jay why the wall had not been completed, he replied that he simply hadn't found the time. He seemed surprised, and slightly irritated, that I didn't want to go ahead and hang the prints on the drywall anyway. I asked him if it would be possible to come early the next morning and finish the wall, thereby getting the show up and running by the following night. He said he didn't think so, and that regardless, he really wasn't up to discussing it at the moment, having had a "very long day."

I'm a photographer, and photography is an expensive, risky enterprise. Film, developing, scans and prints are astronomical in cost, and make it financially difficult, if not outright impossible, to put together and mount a show while working for minimum wage. This show cost me $500.00 dollars in total, and I worked my ass off to cover those costs. Why spend so much money and time on something that is only going to hang in a tiny, out of the way gallery for a week? Because, goofy as it might sound, I actually give a shit about art, and about the culture that art exists in and contributes to. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that an artist run center, especially one as fiercely and excitingly independent as MOCL, should too. So, while I respect that the operative word in your establishment's title is "casual," I would ask that you consider this situation from my perspective and ask yourself how you would feel about the way things have been handled.

thanks for your time,

Jamie Tolagson