Photo: courtesy of Mosman Council
These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 .An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.
Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon
Peter Nelson completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with First Class Honours and the University Medal for Fine Arts in 2006 at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. In 2011 he was an artist in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris and won the Art and Australia Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award. He is currently finishing a Masters by Research at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, developing a critical framework for analysing invented landscapes.
How do you manage the juggle between promoting your work and making your work?
I have a natural tendency to be isolated and work by myself. That has changed in the last few years though; I’ve found myself working with other people lately. That has broken down the distinction that I used to have, that either I was away by myself working or with others and being distracted from working. I now understand that I can work while being with other people and that promoting work feels like more of a part of making my work than it used to. I now think that being around others not only helps in building a profile it also is important because it allows you to put your work out there in your artistic community. Putting it out there forces you to engage in a community that challenges you intellectually.
I’ve seen a few interviews with you lately. How do you feel about doing interviews?
I often think I’ve said really silly things, things that I would not have said if I had responded via email. I’ve come to realise that interviews are not the worst thing in the world though. Somebody wants to talk to me about things that I’m interested in, things that I’m interested enough to build my career around. Usually we bore our friends to tears with that stuff. In an interview someone sits down with you and wants to talk with you about it for an hour!
How did the Cité (Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris) residency assist you with networking?
The Cité is unique partly because of its size. There are something like 218 studios in the one complex. There are always a lot of people around. Other residencies often have up to 8 studios. Everybody there is outside of their regular networks, their regular life and their regular commitments, so you have time to sit around and talk to them. These are people you might not otherwise get the chance to talk to, or perhaps might not otherwise ever be willing to talk to, simply because you are in awe of them.
An Italian architect and I actually ended up delivering a lecture together because we were both obsessed with particular periods of European architecture. That developed from a chance meeting and because we both had the time. We sat around and chatted and it evolved into a lecture.
What about follow-up? What advice do you have for maintaining a new professional relationship?
I think you need to make sure that communication is relevant. If you want to have a professional relationship with someone and remind them of your existence then it is good to have something valuable to say. I contact people a lot more when I have show coming up because I have something to contact them about- otherwise it would be a very strange email or telephone call.
The best connections happen when there is some purpose behind the communication.
How important do you think investing in a social media presence is for an artist?
It’s important. There is a blurred distinction on these platforms between your social life and your professional life though- they bleed into one another. It is a good way of putting things into the public forum without a whole lot of effort. You can also then build upon the discussion and interact with people. Most of the exhibitions I go to are via word of mouth or facebook. It’s where many day-to-day conversations happen, and it’s where many of the relationships are.