Wendi Sia from Gallery Gerimis explains the details of what goes on behind the scenes of an art exhibition.
By MIRA S. for Lensa Seni
Visiting an art gallery can be an enchanting experience. From the art itself, to the curation, and the backstory of the artist – there are numerous puzzle pieces that click together to give the audience a grand time.
To generate an experience such as this, there are meticulous details involved in the behind-the-scenes process. Lensa Seni speaks to Wendi Sia, co-founder and project director of Gallery Gerimis, who shares some stories of her journey.
The intention behind Gerimis was for it to amplify Orang Asli culture through art produced by Orang Asli artisans. “Gallery Gerimis is a multipurpose space dedicated to indigenous art and culture. We feature works from Orang Asli artists and promote stories from our Gerimis Art Project’s fieldwork archives,” Sia says. She describes Gerimis as a platform for reconnection with Malaysia’s forests and natural heritage while also being a medium for fostering strong bonds with the indigenous cultures and identities.
Art comes in many forms and Gerimis embraces all of it. “We promote visual arts, photography, digital art and illustrations. We also include handicrafts by different Orang Asli tribes,” Sia explains.
The first steps
Like with most things in life, Gerimis kickstarts its process of delivering art with the seed of an idea and a conceptualisation of how it should manifest. The founders’ minds brim with ideas, and they want them to flow out and reach the world. With the many mediums available to convey an idea, the main point to ponder is which option would be best.
“We would think of how we wanted to express our message, whether through an art installation or a video,” says Sia.
After solutions are decided upon, the team then crafts plans to obtain one of the most important elements of an art show – the funding. “Gerimis came to life through various funding which we are forever grateful for, and we have kept going through the support from the public who purchased our books and merchandise,” Sia says.
The next step is all about the venue and the structure of the show. As every art installation requires a space for its magic to be displayed, the Gerimis team sets out in search of vendors to fabricate the space needed. There is also power in details and thus, they garner as many materials as possible to further enhance the setup of the art space.
When asked about the relationship the organisers have with the artists themselves, Sia says there is clear communication and connection with them from the beginning. Gerimis approaches notable, iconic Orang Asli artists such as Shaq Koyok, to gain feedback on how to improve the exhibitions. By fostering a relationship with artists, they are able to connect with other accomplished Orang Asli individuals to expand their circle and host more talents.
Even while participating in large scale festivals such as the George Town Festival in 2019, Gerimis ensures that it connects with Orang Asli artists. The goal is, after all, to provide a platform for Orang Asli creations. “At George Town Festival 2019, although we stayed close to the core of our initial idea, some of it changed according to the encounters and experiences we had when we spent time with the Orang Asli community,” she says.
Marketing as a key to reach the masses
Once the intense planning chapter ends, the next step is the marketing and promotion of the piece. In the digital age, social media cannot be ignored. Gerimis uses Facebook and Instagram to spread the word. Interestingly, they also rely on the evergreen word-of-mouth method. “We rely closely on our network of family and friends. We also have to ensure that our team members who will be giving the gallery tours are prepared to answer any questions from the public,” Sia says.
Once the exhibitions come to a close, the team kickstarts its cleanup journey. At Gerimis, its close knit team works on the same processes from start to end.
Sia mentions that after the exhibitions, unsold pieces are returned to the original artists. Once the art is cleared, the crew works on cleanup, which is usually a simpler process compared to setting up the venue. “We have to ensure that tape is removed, all the floors are cleaned, and that no paint is chipped on the walls,” Sia says.
Another important note to add is the full-fledged support that Gerimis offers to the Orang Asli community after an exhibition.
“In all of our events, all proceeds of the artwork sales go to the artist and the same applies for any Orang Asli artist and artisan who opens a booth during our events – we do not take any commission from the sale. Besides that, we also help the community sell their crafts, which we buy and collect during our field work,” Sia says.
The setup of an exhibition is no simple feat. Each layer of a display contains numerous elements crafted and pieced together by committed individuals who want to ensure the audience has a holistic experience. The next time one marvels at a sublime art piece, perhaps they should also recall the tremendous effort and care it took for that art to be displayed. The process in itself is an artistic endeavour.
Mira Sharon is a participant in the CENDANA ARTS WRITING MASTERCLASS & MENTORSHIP PROGRAMME 2021.
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