Monday, March 12, 2012

Getting Harder

Group R met at my house today. We're getting down to the nitty gritty of some specific things about the exhibition in October, and things haven't been all smooth sailing. In fact, for the last two months, I've thought the rest of the group would do better if I left the group now, because I seem to be making all kinds of waves. But then I think that way of any group I belong to, and I like the woman involved so I've hung on so far.

The thing is, from my perspective, we need to discuss, as a group, everything, from the size of the posters to how we're going to put our names on the wall besides the work to... everything. And we agree in principle. But in the last two meetings, it appears some of the subjects/items I bring up rub people the wrong way, or these are such mundane things they need not be discussed.

See, contrary to popular believe in the group, I don't have especially strong opinions about most things, but I want to make sure they are discussed. There are some in the group who won't offer opinions unless asked, and it is in these discussions that we find out about each other, and ourselves, and I find it so very... fruitful. I also believe relatively simple things can make a great difference, like whether to use matt or gloss paper to stick on the foam sheets that will carry our names, work titles, material and techniques. But then there are others who feel I don't respect their experiences in exhibitions, or that I don't trust them, and when they corner me, I get flustered and say whatever that comes to my mind, which may not be what I mean. The truth is, I'm more interested in picking their brains and sharing what they've seen or used in the past, so we can choose the best possible option.

I feel like I have to defend every topic/item I want to bring up, and justify my being in the group. And because I had the gallery space in the first place, nobody will ask me to leave. And I must have a terribly way of saying what I mean, because my intentions are incorrectly interrupted more often than not.

Group, eh. Next meeting is the day before my birthday, so I'll stick it out at least until then.

* * * * *

Sampling spoils me. Thank you very much.

14 comments:

  1. both god and the devil are in the details... as an editor who works with both text and design I completely agree that all these things should be considered. But perhaps one person (you?) should be designated as the manager for the graphics and exhibition materials. Then you can present the group with a couple of options, not too many, and have them vote if you want it to be participatory. Work like this can be collaborative but if you're meeting resistance that's never fun.

    Anyway....hope it works out so you can stay in. I'm sure you contribute a tremendous amount and you'd miss it, and they'd miss you, if you left because of some discomfort. Democracy is messy, and so is art, right?

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  2. Messy is right. One thing I need to learn is to suggest things without making it sound like I'm dissing something else. I do that to, in my mind, soften the atmosphere, but I think it doesn't work. There is a lot of different kinds of experiences in the group, but it appears when I try to get more information, they hear it as a challenge. And I end up digging a bigger hole. But that's just from my perspective, you understand. I know don't if any in R reads my blog, but it'd help to get their perspective.

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  3. Another one I made a royal mess of was, I wanted to discuss what the difference is between five makers bringing what they made and exhibiting them in the same space, vs five makers making a group exhibition together, and where our boundaries might have been. I need to find a way to say this without offending.

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  4. I have found that when I am trying to voice opinions on things that if I approach the topic in a way that says 'I value your opinion' or 'I want to make sure I understand YOU/ your ideas' then things go a little smoother. Perhaps saying something like "I know that going over every single detail as a group can be stressful, but I think we should just to make sure that we are all on the same page" or perhaps... "We are all artists, we all have a good eye, but we are different people. To create a unified show, we should make sure that all the little details are taken care of." Say something like, "I value your opinions, and am not picky about the details per say, but I think we should discuss them so that they don't get overlooked when we are all stressing out about our work and hanging the show...

    I hope this helps, and wish you lots of success in your show! I look forward to seeing photos in October! Hang in there...

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  5. Anonymous, thanks for the suggestions. Do people really talk like that, though?

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  6. I used to be involved in committee meetings at the cathedral, where of course every opinion comes with a shedload of emotional-spiritual baggage and people could often end up in arguments over things that they thought they were hearing. I'm usually an ideas person rather than a people person, but in those meetings I kept quiet and paid attention to what others were worried about - what was it about "what she said" that made him so upset? What was the common ground between them? Eventually this gave me the confidence to address some of the more emotional reactions - rather as Anonymous suggests: "I get the impression that you are worried about x, but it sounds to me as though what A proposes will actually be good for x in such-and-such a way" Often the two folk who were arguing actually had the same concern in mind, but were coming from such different perspectives that they couldn't recognise it without some sort of "translation". I mention it because it might be worth adopting a watch-and-wait approach to see if you can identify the concerns that the others have. That in turn might enable you to raise your points in a way that addresses what they really care about. I must admit that I find committee life generally stressful, and it drives me nuts that people bring all this stuff with them when there is a practical job to do! However, I deal with it by putting on a (usually metaphorical) committee hat and adjusting my behaviour as above.

    And, by the way, I completely agree. Labels matter. Everything about presentation matters. I am the pickiest of picky nit-pickers when it comes to presentation. But, as Lainie says, those who aren't will be only too glad to have you volunteer to organise it!

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  7. So, this is not a considered response but what I see as elements that can help me, perhaps.

    1) I come with a whole lot of baggage, among them, at the forefront, is that I haven't liked many textile exhibitions I've seen.

    2) I'm new to textiles and art, and I don't travel as much as others, so I KNOW they've seen more exhibitions, textiles or otherwise.

    3) I have a tendency to make jokes and belittle myself and what I say, which confuses others sometimes, and shocks them when I state as clearly as possible what I think, at other times.

    4) I have a history of having been interrogated by parents, relatives and at school, for having been labeled the difficult one. When I sense this is happening, and it most definitely was yesterday, I go into full-defense mode and say whatever that comes to my mind, which may not be the point I try to stress but it further confuses folks.

    5) There are members in our group with a lot of exhibition and art experiences. From my perspective, they consider a lot of items a done deal, from their experiences and best judgment; I just want the chance as a group to discuss and agree because of reasons I posted. This is where there have got to be ways I can propose discussing things better, more casually, without hurting their pride.

    I have felt that I have to wear the "objective" hat in the last two meetings because there are members who won't bring up issues, (or, you know, perhaps I don't let them present their thoughts edgewise?) either because they don't mind either way, they like others deciding, or something else.

    If I am to stay, I need to bring up some of the more mundane topics in a more detached (???) way just so they do get discussed by all five. The wider, bigger issues, like cohesion and vision, I need to prepare a script in the first instance so I plan how to say things, and I must ask I not be interrupted for, let's say, three minutes, lest I get offended, distracted or flustered.

    One of the members said, "You're such a bitch," as she hugged me at the end. I try not to give it too much thought, but that's not part of her regular vocabulary. So I need to figure out when the Universe tells me to walk away.

    No, I haven't decided to walk away just yet.

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  8. You should also know I play the devil's advocate a lot just so we all think about things, (I was a philosophy major for the first three years in college,) and I do come out very strong when I don't like something, so I do present obstacles. I know this. And I can stop playing DA for a while.

    I do have strong feelings against following status quo blindly, not so much with ho proposes/presumes we don't need to talk about it.

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  9. Plus, I don't like confrontations, but I am confrontational.

    I met up with Pat and had a long talk and it felt good because I do read into others things that are not there. And about time, because I'm running out of Rescue Remedy Stress Relief Pastilles. (Sugar free, alcohol free!)

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  10. Dang. I try not to think about Monday, but I was accused, (in my head, one person shouted and pointed her finger at me, but that didn't really happen,) of not trusting the rest of the group. I don't work like that at all; it's all sizes and orientations and shapes and colors and combinations in the same space. This is why I'm more detached from my work, too, probably.

    Do you all serious think about... (not) trusting your collaborators? I haven't got time for that when I make stuff.

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  11. It sounds as though your meetings need a chair! Does anyone (formally or informally) act as chair when you meet? Often with a smallish group people think it doesn't matter - "we all pitch in and work it out together" - but it can be a real problem if nobody is looking out for dissenters. It's just when you said about asking not to be interrupted - that's really important, that you should have space to have your say and that the rest of the group, enforced by the chair if necessary, honours that. In some ways, it is about trust, although it sounds as though co-groupee was a bit melodramatic about it! If you are not getting an opportunity to say what you need to say then why should you trust the group?? I can't stand situations where people get bitten off before they have had a chance to air their concerns. My worries might seem daft to you, or yours to me, but they are no less real for all that.

    Can you make a list in advance of things that you would like to have discussed over the course of the next n weeks/months and share it with the group? Or suggest that EVERYONE makes such a list and then combine them so that it becomes the Group List and not Meg's List. Practical points to work through in a methodical way. If they are sceptical, you could try a decoy like "Oh I am so forgetful, if we don't make a list I am worried I'll keep repeating myself/miss things out/whatever".

    Not sure whether any of my ramblings are of use to the particular sentence. Hope at least that I am not making it worse :-/

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  12. We used to have a facilitator and a note taker when we had preliminary stuff (group names, goals, mission statements,etc) to hash out. When we finished that, when we started discussing primarily what/how we're working, we got rid of both. Which in turn made the meetings aimless and, to me, "getting together for tea" rather than meetings. So the time before last, unplanned, and this time, semi-planned, I put myself in that position. Because it's wasn't discussed beforehand, it might have presented problems to others. I think we do need a facilitator next time. So, I just emailed the group and asked.

    Co-groupee may have felt I was doubting the quality of her work. After speaking to Pat, we think I make things in a very different way to the other four, and they may not have a clue what I was on about. I think I know how the others make things, in my head, but I'm still trying to digest it so I can understand it. But yeah, having been accused of it, I did feel that now we're talking about me the person and not just what I make. "But they are no less real," is what I'm trying to hang on to.

    We also used to have definitive lists, and we did for this meeting, at the top of which was my concern about space and arrangement of partitions, etc., but because some other stuff, (timeline for admin stuff,) appeared more urgent, because everybody is going away at some length over the winter except me, I started with that. So in some ways, others may have come armed with objections to my proposing we discuss space. The biggest problem for the rest of the group was, until they know what they are making, they couldn't possibly discuss the use of space. Whereas for me, unless I see how the space is going to be used, I can't get started. On the other hand, I can be accommodating and make things to fit the space, which is how I usually work for exhibitions. That said, I've been working on this exhibition for over two years so I'm all the way back to the first draft of the drawing board so I have decided to go ahead without discussing the use of space.

    Cally, honestly, I go back and forth between feeling like I got ran over by a freight train, (the long, American kind,) and pretending nothing bad happened and acting as if I'm easy going. Because it appears it wasn't a bit deal to the others. Or they're not talking to me about it.

    It's brought back some bad memories of being scolded by parents and teachers and apologizing without knowing why I was being scolded. Not a nice feeling.

    In Japan in general and in my house in particular, for women to guess others' wishes and act on them before they are requested is a virtue. Laid back/easy-going is often considered too-thick-skinned, and is not commended, especially for women or youth. Pat thinks I try to second-guess what others are thinking/saying, whereas it's so automatic to me I wasn't even aware I was doing it, or that it was a bad thing.

    So.... I'm trying not to think about it too much or else I'll go all bad in my head. And after feeing like I've been really well for the first time in nine years, I so don't want to go down that rabbit hole now.

    So, when I we grow up and get over all these difficulties so I can talk only about what's important, Cally?

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  13. You and me both! I like the "going ahead" plan. Making is by far the most rewarding part of this enterprise, after all.

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  14. And therapeutic, for me. Yeah, time to move on.

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