Sunday, March 15, 2009

an eye-opener

today was the day of the inaugural meeting of the artists' group that's being formed in my community. i decided last month to join and paid my 100DKK fee to be part of the group, but as the meeting approached, i felt less sure i wanted to go. however, i took hold of myself this morning, flat-ironed the hair and drove over to the meeting, artwork in hand for the photo for the local newspaper. it was one of those moments when you dress up a bit too much because it feels like the best way to feel psychologically prepared. so, on with my fave gap dress, funked up with electric blue tights, grey socks and purple furry boots--looking suitably arty, right? (why did i not have someone snap my picture--oh right, because they were all still asleep when i left.)

thankfully, i pulled up at the same time as a very nice, smiling older man who actually spoke to me (i actually wondered for a minute if he was danish--he was) and walked in together with him and ended up finding a chair and sitting next to him in the back of the already-crowded room. no one said hello (not that i expected them to). soon, the meeting got underway. strangely, it started off with a list of what the association wasn't, given by the presumed chairman of the board (she wasn't elected yet at that point). i found it a strangely negative tone to start off on, especially as it mainly consisted of a lot of whining and pushing away of responsibility by the board that wasn't even yet elected and foreseeing of problems caused by group members who weren't yet causing any trouble. i sat back and reminded myself to put on my anthropologist hat and just observe the natives in their natural habitat. they say that anytime there's a group of at least five danes, they will form an association of some sort, so i wanted to see this in action.

one of the most interesting and to me, incomprehensible, aspects of the meeting was the presence of what they called an "overstyrer." this seems to translate, as near as i could tell, as meeting nazi--as she rudely interrupted people, spoke in the most patronizing, agressive manner, only allowed grown adults to speak if they had raised their hands, cut them off and loudly answered "no" whenever the gentleman taking us through the by-laws point by point asked if there was any feedback--thereby preventing anyone from offering any feedback at several junctures. what was most strange is although this particular individual was not elected to the board, she ran the entire meeting, even closing it with a little speech that conveyed that she thought it was a room of small, dull children rather than grown-up adult, creative artists, most of whom were in their 50s and 60s. it was really quite astonishing as a cultural phenomenon. i'll admit i don't yet have my head around it.

i wasn't the only one astonished, as at the end, one of the older gentlemen--one of six in the room that i had decided really looked like an artist--called her on her patronizing speech. she didn't take it well and the other righteous women in the room rallied around her, so she didn't actually learn from it at all, which was a real shame.

however, there are good things about the group. it's cool to be part of a group of 68 artists that live in my community. there's going to be an "art route" on may 17, where the public can go around and visit the studios and workshops of all who want to participate. i signed up for that, as my studio is perhaps my main point of pride (other than the famous kitchen, of course, which i'm still a little giddy about) and it will give me the push i need to be ready for that (i'm a girl who needs an assignment). i think it can only do me good to meet artists and find sources of inspiration within my own community, rather than almost exclusively online (as much as i love and appreciate all of you).

i guess overall, what surprised me most is that i thought that a group of artists would be extremely open--open-minded and generally open as people, but quite the opposite was true. their views on the incorporation of the group were really very square and what i can only characterize as non-artistic in nature. at one point, several people wanted to exclude young people under 18 from joining (not that there were any there), but why should young artists not be welcome? i just really didn't get that and luckily one of the elder voices of reason spoke up on that point and it was voted down. there was a closedness that surprised me, tho' i suppose it shouldn't have in light of how denmark is in general. i just expected artists to be different. in all, i guess it was an interesting experience.

i'm curious to get to know some of the others and find out why they got involved. i think it could be a real eye-opener for me to learn that, because i'm beginning to think that it's not for the reasons i would have imagined.


will said...

Wow. I can't imagine such a meeting. I probably would've walked in the first 10 minutes.

I've been around a lot of artists and craftsmen - both fine arts and commercial art types - and, other than a woodworking guild composed of amateurs, I don't think I've met more than a few who would join an artist' group - especially one composed of formal meetings, by-laws and such.

An artist collective to share gallery space is more common - but when it comes to rules and who brings the juice and snacks - the people I've met would die laughing.

beth said...

you my little give-away!!
stop by and get your prize :)

Just Jules said...

Sad, our art community is so diverse here (i plan on blogging about it this summer) but I know the "art gallery" can be pretty uppity and rule forcing. watch out when you give a power hungry person a little power (or in this case they just take it) ...

d smith kaich jones said...

Goodness. This sounds like my friend Lulu's description of faculty meetings at every university she's taught at. (Terrible grammar, I know, but I can't figure out another way to say it.) I've always assumed it was just an academic thing.

I'm with Bill - no way would I have stayed. I hope this gets better as you go along. Good luck!

Do they know about this blog? :)


Unknown said...

You really had me laughing out loud with your description of the meeting! :) Shame about the nazi and all the rules, but there seem to be good ideas coming from the group, I'd love to visit artist's studios around here, so I'm sure you'd enjoy it!

Char said...

ugh - I really dislike whiners like that so I definitely would have been turned off by that. I hope you will have better experiences in the group.

julochka said...

Bill--i'm not sure myself why i didn't leave and i expected something much more open and free. one of the reasons for the by-laws and such is that if you are an official group--with all that bureaucracy--you can apply for state funds, so i think that's why they're doing all of that. clearly tho', some of these people are pretty into all that stuff. i guess in the end i stayed because i was transfixed in the face of the culture.

beth--yay!! i'll stop by later today!

jules--clearly a power-hungry person (which surprised me big time)

debi--they have been provided with this blog address, but i haven't named names. in the unlikely event anyone concerned is interested in anything outside themselves, i decided it would do them good to read this. i'm certainly not going to allow myself to be silenced by a couple of righteous danish women.

B--my sentiments exactly (tho' i didn't realize it was funny, since it didn't really feel that funny in the middle of it) on the notion of the art route and other potentially good things the group will do. i guess that's why i stayed.

char--it can really only get better, eh?

Gwen said...

Love the accompanying illustrations.

So artists are really just people, too? Well, that's a drag.

(And this was preferable to--what was that again?--longitudinal bulkheads?)

Bee said...

I was fascinated by your description of this meeting. That officious woman sounds atrocious. Was it her idea to form the organization? Why did she think that she had the right to dominate?

Maybe you should form a splinter group, J.

tangobaby said...

Ewww. This description got me all squirmy and feeling badly for you and all of the other people who came to the meeting with good intentions and wanting to share and be supportive. If a community of artists can't get behind each other (no matter what the country is) then I'm with Bee, start a splinter group.

And I would say this even before I had gone to the Anarchist Book Fair.

ps. Why did you have to iron your hair? Is that more Danish looking?
pss. The eyeball fixation is getting worse, isn't it? ;-)
ppss: My word verification word is maspati, which sounds (to me) like a Vespa made out of marzipan.

Pia K said...

Wow, this sure reminds me why I stopped being very much involved in non-profit associations, because for odd reasons there seem to be more nasty than nice people drawn to such organisations. It's really strange since one should think that a passionate interest and semi-common grounds should bring out a positive and helpful atmosphere... People are just plain weird.