Over the years I’ve grown wary of awards. Some of them are nice-recognition, affirmation, appreciation, all that. The kinds of awards that are selected by nomination, free to enter, judged by the wild and the groovy. But the kinds of awards that proliferate in the commercial arts are sort of similar to the cycling proficiency test. Except much much more expensive. And less useful. And less fun. More prone to homogeneity. Bland. And far less reliable as any kind of measure of quality, talent or depth. And there’s some awards things that are even worse.
There’s also trade shows. They can serve a purpose. When they’re nicely ad hoc and unfussy they can even be inspiring. Perfectly genuine people setting out their stall and offering an insight into their work, albeit in a somewhat nervy way. A little bit leaden. Tricky if you’re not keen on socialising and just want to look at things and give them the attention they deserve. Now imagine being invited to judge some awards thing. OK.
Only the awards thing is a trade show. Right. Glass/bottle/bottle/glass. But not as funny. A trade show, where good people have paid money for a little space to show and talk about their work and those they represent in person, and an awards show, where somehow the work is to be navigated via the trade show model and work judged thoughtfully and carefully. With no prior explanation of the situation. Which is tricky at best.
Its tricky because it imposes-an invitation to judge is not the same as a decision to attend a show. There’s a conflict here. A whole load of neuroses around the notion of privately considering the merits of work in the company of peers (or otherwise), the tension between paid entry and nomination, the criteria for judging, the validity of creative awards in the first place.
Really, it was a sneaky way to get me to attend a trade show which I would never have thought twice about. Well done. I’ll go back to being very dubious about these things for a while I reckon.
But. Hang on. What if? What if there were a creative awards thing that worked by nomination. How would that happen? An awards thing as open and free as possible, encompassing and inspiring by its sheer wantonness? Awards that took the wild, the untamed, the unrecogniseable, the visceral and the unconditioned as their starting point and looked for the things that are truly wonderful? Something about people making things, making things together unfettered, in love and joy, things that make things better, more human, more alive and more fleeting, their value in their transient beauty that provokes the response in kind to make and keep making and keep on keeping on . . .