I met Casey Kelbaugh in 2004, we were both budding young photographers who had recently moved to New York City. Casey would throw these parties in his apartment every few months where he would invite artists to bring their own food, drink and most importantly images of their work to share in a group slideshow. It was a novel idea and a really big hit. Over the next year or so I would notice that the parties would get bigger each time, people would be overflowing from his apartment into the street. Soon that overflow was too much and Casey and his producer Alys Kenny would have to rent out large venues in the city just to contain the crowds of people wanting to be a part of this hot new artistic event. Fast forward a couple years and now “Slideluck Potshow” is now in over 45 cities around the world. It’s been truly incredible to see this phenomenon develop and I’m particularly excited for the Fourteenth Slideluck Potshow that will be happening in New York this Friday. Lesley A. Martin, head of the book-publishing division at the Aperture Foundation, curated this show along with Casey and the list of artists includes influential names like Chuck Close and Vincent Laforet along with many emerging artists (I am flattered to mention that I am among the list of artists chosen to present their work).
This Slideluck Potshow will be at The Aperture Foundation (547 West 27th St, 4th Fl in NYC). Doors open at 7pm, show up early or buy tickets ($10) in advance.
I’ve asked Casey if he could answer a few questions about Slideluck to give everyone a deeper perspective about the genesis and future of this unique event…
Slideluck Potshow is a 501c3 that aims to build and strengthen community around food and art. We host multimedia slideshows combined with potluck dinners in about 45 cities around the world— from Stockholm to São Paulo to San Francisco. Each show is localized and the idea is to create a new platform for artists— primarily photographers in our case— to present work to and engage their community. We show 5-minute slideshows of everything from fashion to still life to reportage and some of the artists are household names, while others are emerging, and some are non-professionals.
Where did the idea come from?
I started Slideluck Potshow nine years ago in my Seattle backyard with about 50 people. My intention was, as it is now, to bring people together. Back then, most of the photographers I knew were still working in their darkrooms and studios. I looked around and realized that I knew so many creative people— photojournalists, ceramic artists, fashion photographers, painters, still life photographers, architects, and portrait artists— that were doing great work, but none of them knew each other. My thinking was to bring a wide variety of creatives, who also happened to be great people, together in a positive, non-competitive and congenial way. I felt like each genre, be it the photojournalists or the fine art photographers, was so insular and clannish and I wanted to kind of break through that. I also felt, as I do today, that all of the channels for one to succeed in the, say, gallery/fine art world, the editorial world, or the advertising world, are so hierarchical and opportunities are hard to come by. This is such a shame because there is a lot of talent out there that is never even given a chance! I realized that there was so much great work being produced that never sees the light of day, and I wanted to give people a chance to step out of their darkrooms, studios, or get off their computers, and let their darlings go.
Slideluck started out a small meeting of and has expanded to an international phenomenon, how did you make this happen?
Really I think by keeping with it. Our development has been so organic, and in a sense, quite slow. We’ve made changes and such over the years, but what is probably more significant is how much we’ve kept the same. I do think we have a lot to owe to word of mouth, the internet, and blogs like this.
Almost all of Slideluck Potshow’s growth has been by demand. In fact, we are not physically or financially able to keep up with this demand. At this point, we are the bottleneck. In the last few weeks, we’ve had invitations from Boston, Manchester, Dallas, Rekjavík, Indianapolis, Florence, and Tokyo. Some of these people are reaching out us from institutions that have the funds to bring us there, and some are individuals, or groups of individuals, that have heard about what we do and want to bring it to their community. Our aim is to accommodate all of these requests, and we are actively doing all that we can, but being under-funded and under-staffed really makes this a challenge.
I think what people are responding to is authenticity. At almost every turn, we face a world that is ultimately leaves us dissatisfied because it is too commercialized, superficial, derivative, disingenuous, and predictable. There is something very simple and affirming about getting together with a group of people, eating together, drinking together, and sharing artwork with one another. Sure, not everyone likes the potato salad or the photos of naked soldiers, but there is something thrilling about seeing what your neighbors are up to. More often than not, Slideluck can be a truly educational experience. In a few short hours, you are exposed to so many varied and sometimes conflicting ideas, techniques, subjects, genres and approaches. I find it fascinating to observe the incredible range of subject matter that people choose to explore and inspiring how great the possibilities are for those bold (or mad) enough to do so.
Industry heavy hitters have been known to show up at these events, any success stories of an unknown artist being “discovered” after participating in a Slideluck?
There are tons of examples of people finding reps, getting gallery shows, new clients, and even meeting their husbands/wives at our shows. One story that I found interesting, because it came from such an unexpected direction, is this:
I met Michael Foley last December at Art Basel in Miami, and he said, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to thank you!” I was perplexed as we had never met. He went on, “I read about what you were doing in the 2007 New York Times article and there was a sentence about the ‘audience being rapt as Jessica Dimmock’s work about heroin-users played across the screen. I thought that sounded interesting so I approached her and asked if she’d ever considered doing a gallery show. She agreed and it ended up getting us a great review in The New Yorker, which then led to another show in DC, and eventually a book deal. But it all started when I heard about her participating in Slideluck!”
Slideluck is in dozens of cities, has an active social networking component and even a charity (the Slideluck Youth Initiative)…what’s next?
Hopefully more of the same!
Our goal is really to bring this positive, arts-appreciating, community-building initiative to as many communities as will have us. We are exploring ways of how to feasibly accomplish this, while maintaining quality-control, and not denigrating the product that we have worked so hard to refine over many years. Our current stumbling blocks are time and money.
We of course have tons of other ideas swirling around— publishing a book or a quarterly review, bringing the Slideluck Youth Initiative to other cities that host Slideluck Potshows, creating a lecture series, connecting artists with those that buy art, and working on shows that focus on a specific issue, in order to draw attention to it. That being said, we are taking things one step at a time.