My practical training as an exhibition coordinator

Gaining experience in art production, staying creative and fighting for a more sustainable future.

When my documentary photography project got selected for the Visual Catalysts Exhibition, I didn’t imagine that I will also be one of its coordinators for 5 full months. Having both roles at the same time it was a real honour, but it also meant a great amount of work from my part that I didn’t even imagine in the beginning!

Visual Catalysts as the Special Call for Backlight Photo Festival

 Visual Catalysts Exhibition is part of Backlight Photo Festival 2020. Backlight is an international photo festival organized every three years since 1987 by Photographic Center of Contemporary Photography in the city of Tampere, Finland. Backlight is one of the oldest and largest international photography festivals in Northern Europe.

Visual Catalysts Book
Visual Catalysts Book, a free publication that aims to inspire and make you think twice

Where Art and Research meet

What is maybe more important is that Visual Catalysts is not merely an exhibition, but a more complex project that involves workshops, exhibitions, books, and a lot of research. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Juha Suonpää from Tampere University of Applied Sciences. He is also an important part of CICAT2025, a joint project between Finnish universities searching for catalysts for the transition to a sustainable circular economy.

How can art catalyze change?

Starting from the idea that art helps us see things in a new light and offers fresh perspective in order to move towards a more sustainable future, the biggest question that arises is “What can artists do about the climate crisis?”

Climate change, art and circular economy are the three main topics that interweave and meet over and over again when it comes to Visual Catalysts. More information about our activities on this topic you can find here.

Visual Catalysts Zoom
The screen for the online broadcast via ZOOM with some of the Visual Catalysts artists

The biggest challenge of all

With the COVID-19 restrictions, the maximum number of persons allowed to the opening was 50. We didn’t want to accept this, as the main idea of the whole initiative is to get the attention of as much people as possible. So, we did it in our way!

We decided to create an online broadcast where we invited all our international artists, guests and collaborators from all around the world. The opening was a success! There have been various speeches, discussions with the artists and nice stories that we shared together with our physical and virtual public.

How I got to be the organizer?

Simple! I just emailed my teacher, Juha Suonpää, if he needs some help with the exhibition! He said that his exhibition organiser, a German artist, Alex Lembke, would need some assistance. We immediately started the collaboration the following week.

I started as a shy exhibition assistant, but soon, everyone realised the great amount of extra work that was coming every day. Slowly but surely, I started to accept more responsibilities on my shoulders. I have been the main contact person between our team and the 37 artists. I also did the documentation of the gallery space, designed the exhibition catalogue, proofread the Visual Catalysts Book. In addition to these, I guided my fellow colleagues from the Photo Minor at installing of the show, did the marketing, created the project plan, hosted the online event… and the list can go on.

Juha and I hosting the virtual Zoom meeting together
Juha and I hosting the virtual Zoom meeting together

Of course, I learnt a lot and I am very grateful that both the physical and virtual opening turned out to be a real success.

But maybe the greatest lesson for me was when I realized that behind every great visitor experience, lays hundreds of hours of brainstorming and hard work.

A big thank you for everyone who participated, helped and made the exhibition possible and special thanks to the amazing TAMK team: Petri Kiviniemi, Jouni Hirvonen, Mika Nousiainen and all Photography students!

Great opportunities around the corner

TAMK was a life changer for me. I am extremely grateful to be surrounded by so many kinds, intelligent and active people. In order to make the world a better place, we need open-minded people who understand each other, collaborate and are willing to create a better environment together.

I arrived in Finland in 2018 feeling small, with a heart filled with fear and a mind full of uncertainty. It is 2020 now and I feel more confident than ever, so courageous and easy to accept all the challenges!

*Visual Catalysts Exhibition is still on display at Kulttuuritalo Laikku, Tampere until 18th of October. If you are interested to get the book and check our show, you can find more information of the opening hours here Free entry!
Read more:
Backlight Photo Festival 2020
Visual Catalysts Exhibition
International Art Collaborations Network

– Luiza

Visual Catalysts organizer
About the author: Luiza-Paula Preda moved to Tampere from Romania to study Media and Art in TAMK. She enjoys taking photographs of the Finnish lifestyle, nature and roads.

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