Alex Burgess: on faking it

Faking It

Strange title… What’s this all about?  Well, I suppose it is a slight continuation of my previous article I wrote for Artquest; I nattered on about managing time, and focusing on ways to making every moment count on a busy schedule. Writing it was very much for me as it was for publishing it online – it was strangely nice to consolidate the ideas into a single document, and allow yourself to reassess. I hope that by writing this, it is useful to somebody, whilst also being oddly useful to myself.

Anyway, still haven’t answered the question; whats this all about? This is my guide to the moments where you feel like you can’t (seemingly) be immediately productive to your practice. This is faking it, a small tedious string of my thoughts to being productive even when everyone you have bumped into that day has either commented on the bags under your eyes, or the pyramid of bags slowly growing in the bin from the numerous cups of tea. And all you want to do is sit on your arse. Failing to think of ideas of what you could do? Grab yourself a cuppa (something like a Twinnings 1706 Strong Breakfast, rather than the terrible Tetley teabags you get at work (are there people out there that actually enjoy Tetley?!) ) and have a go at a few of my suggestions…

Everything we wished we’d known when we left art school

Super obvious, but you probably don’t know everything. Quite often I think my cat knows more than me about ‘being an artist’. Save yourself some time from reading the dribble I’m spurting out, and download yourself a copy of PRIMER

I remember being given one of these little books during my degree, and reading it all the way through (it only takes about 30 mins, and I’m a slow reader). It is an incredibly informative and useful resource which is worth knowing. On page 2, it starts with the title ‘Everything we wished we’d known when we left art school.’ Read it, it will be worth it, even if you’re knackered (and it’s super easy to drink your cuppa whilst doing so). And I’m not just saying this because Artquest have been exceedingly kind and generous in offering me the studio and all that; it really is a useful, concise resource. I have lost my physical copy, but was pleased to find that you can download it on your phone, kindle, etc.  Find it here

Not Being a Div

We met up with Ceri Hand in January, to discuss our own practices, what we needed to be doing to progress, and who we wanted to meet as part of the residency. We are meeting up with an artist, a curator, and a writer from April.

This was great, and I feel increasingly horrendously lucky to be on this residency. However, I can’t deny I felt like a bit of a div talking about my own work with Ceri, I hadn’t vocalised my blurb to anybody in quite a while. She gave us a homework list for April, and a lot of these things can be done without moving many muscles at all, only to occasionally move your mouse cursor. They are all about preparing yourself for getting into exhibitions, and being professional. Here are a few of them:


We all have websites, obviously. But:

“It’s a challenging balancing act to try and promote your work, yet maintain its authenticity and validity within the same arena.”

Thats a quote from Laura Fowle’s last article., and I would recommend you read it, as it is definitely worth considering.

One issue I had with my website is the documentation of my work. Why oh why did I not just take a single decent photograph of my degree show? Didn’t I just graduate from a photography degree?! If you’re in this position, it might be worth having a go at… Faking it, I suppose. Load up photoshop, and spend your evening retouching, tweaking, or alternatively fabricating new images. To a certain degree, it doesn’t matter that your photographs are no longer ‘real’ (I mean, what is reality in photography anyway? Have a read of Susan Sontag’s ‘Melancholy Objects’ chapter in On Photography).


Business cards

Whilst you still have photoshop open, make yourself some new business cards for your next show. Everyone I know goes to websites like to do this, however it might be worth investigating other sources. I’m a huge fan of local businesses, as you can actually talk to them (or email, for when you’re feeling like your mouth isn’t working) and get the best advice and a much wider selection of papers etc. Personally, I think all the cards from template websites like Moo all end up looking the same, as the layout doesn’t alter particularly drastically between each design. Go to extra hog and design it yourself. I personally use Orange in Convent Garden, as they always have given me really good deals, chucked in extras, and have always been hugely useful.

The all important pitch

What made me really look like a div was failing to cohesively give my pitch about my work. Your cup of tea has certainly gone cold by now; refill the kettle and mask the sound of your own voice practising your speech about your work with the hiss of boiling water. Try writing down some bullet points; what is your work about, what on earth are you doing, why the hell are you doing it etc.


If all else fails, and you can’t do anything else, talk about your work with others. The greatest part of the residency so far is having people to talk to, it allows you to have instant one question ‘crits’ when you need them. They might also be able to help you get back on track for when even the tea just isn’t enough to keep yourself going for the rest of the evening.

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