Saturday, 1 June 2019

Reading list, 1 June 2019

A whole bunch of old stuff as I finally clear and close some ancient tabs ... and some new news

Ed Rodley's report on the 2019 Immersive Design Summit with his take on how it applies to museums, and also the Immersive Design Summit Annual Report (trends and things to watch for)

From April - the report into Australia's national arts / culture / memory institutions, Telling Australia's story - and why it's important: Report on the inquiry into Canberra's national institutions

Jarrett M. Drake's Graveyards of Exclusion:’ Archives, Prisons, and the Bounds of Belonging, a keynote lecture given at the annual Scholar and Feminist Conference.

Adam Moriarty of Auckland Museum posts the notes from his 2018 NDF talk Do Museums Still Need A Collections Online (actually, it's all about getting digital collections out to where people will use them)

Dear lord, just send them home: British Museum considers loan of ‘invisible’ objects back to Ethiopia (The Arts Newspaper)

An article about the Australian Cruthers family & their foundation supporting visual art by women (read it for the foundation's name alone)

Vanessa Friedman in the NYT's collation of Gen X articles on CK One, perfume of an era. That's short, throw in Alex Williams' lengthy overview of the generation if you want more.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, has been appointed secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (first museum director to be appointed in 74 years)

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Reading list, 19 May 2019

"on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest" - the Met turns down Sackler moneyAnand Giridharadas opinion piece.

There's something nice about seeing a director interviewed four years in about their philosophy & changes they've made, rather than at the time of their appointment: ‘There Were Women Working Then, Too’: How Dia Director Jessica Morgan Is Breaking Open the (Male) Canon of Postwar Art

Interesting for museum interpretation: the Guardian is changing the language it uses when reporting on the environment to be more emphatic. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. ... The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

In a similar vein - Erin Banks' guide to trans-inclusive design, which has a lot to share about communicating with people across all media.

Julia Halperin for Artnet: Borrow, Barter, Crowdsource: How Small Countries Bootstrap Their Way to the Venice Biennale

Still open in my tabs: a reflection, 30 years on, on the importance of the 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Reading list, 11 May 2019

Stagecoach South East, the bus company, was brought onboard by Turner Contemporary in Margate, host of this year's Turner Prize: the company and the gallery have parted company one day after the announcement, due to protest over Stagecoach's boss's anti-gay views.

Marc A. Thiessen's column for the Washington Post on Jenny Holzer's installation: A museum has turned itself into an instrument of anti-U.S. propaganda:

It’s no surprise that the art world is left wing. But the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao — an institution owned by an American foundation, in the heart of Spain — has turned itself into something worse: an instrument of anti-American propaganda. The museum is spreading calumnies against the men and women of the U.S. military and fueling hatred of America in a foreign land.

Linking to Rebecca Solnit's writing is so passé, and yet: When the Hero is the Problem

teamlab and Meow Wolf are taking over the world: here's Rachel Monroe on the latter for the New York Times - Can an Art Collective Become the Disney of the Experience Economy?

The papers from the 2019 Museums and the Web conference are available online

A useful history of art / artists / arts communities on the internet by Kelsey Ables for Artsy: The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities

Canadian Heritage has allocated $680,000 Canadian i to the Canadian Museums Association to undertake a national review of museum policies with Indigenous communities, to ensure alignment with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and make recommendations for best practice.

The New York Times Magazine documented the development of its cover designs for a year


Saturday, 4 May 2019

Reading list, 4 May 2019

Still chewing this over with a lot of discomfort: Is this ‘Common’ Language? A College’s Misguided Guide by Rand Richards Cooper on Commonweal and a copy of the Amherst common language guide referred to in the opinion piece, since redacted by the university.

Recent writing by Nathan “Mudyi” Sentance: Queering [the museum] needs to be anti-colonial

Three pieces of catch-up reading from the Pantograph Punch:

Speaking of which, the Pantograph Punch is looking for a new director: a 0.5 role working alongside the Editor in Chief to run the platform

I'm sure I've linked to this before, but an extract & link to the full statement: Germany reveals Framework Principles for Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts

Recently from Nina Simon: evaluating and ranking potential risks of failure, to get organised & reduce stress

NPR's guide to saying "foreign" names on air

Thousands of articles of everyday women’s clothing are being preserved in lockers in a college basement. But where, exactly, does their value lie?




Saturday, 27 April 2019

Reading list, 27 April 2019 / different from usual edition

I spent much of Easter writing a preface for a forthcoming book that I will share more information about here when I can (it's really, really good though).

As part of writing the preface, I spent a good deal of time of thinking about how the development of the contemporary web - as tool and ethos - has tracked alongside the development of the contemporary visitor-focused museum. As the web has afforded new communication and social abilities, it's also created new metaphor - myths, in Roland Barthes' term - that shape the way we view and describe the world.

The text that first articulated this for me was actually from 1998, when the web was still in quite a restricted state. It's an address given by Neil Postman, an American cultural theorist and educator, to a group of theologians and religious leaders in Denver. It's called 'Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change' (I suspect this talk was given often, and tailored to this group) and it's about patterns you can see playing out in society with each introduction of a major new piece of technology.

Postman's third Thing is the argument that embedded within every technology is one or more ideas that we may not consciously grasp, but which have massive potential to influence us. He writes:
The third idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards. This idea is the sum and substance of what the great Catholic prophet, Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence, “The medium is the message.”
Writing my preface, I did that thing where you get so off track that you've basically started a PhD thesis, all because you're desperately trying to cram that one perfect quote into your text. I was trying to make an argument about how web / digital development and technology has seeped over from tools to mental frameworks.

Eventually I discarded the quote but kept some of the thinking. But in pulling my train of thought together, I revisited some really influential pieces of writing that illustrate this timeline I was seeing inside my head:

Richard MacManus writing at the launch of the influential tech blog Read Write Web, about what that phrase means in terms of a new era of the web where the tools of publishing are embedded in the medium, and newly available to 'ordinary' people. The metaphor comes from computer science - something that is read / write can be displayed (read) and modified (written to). There is something powerful in that metaphor that speaks to me about the way a generation of experience designers in museums started to create interactive museum displays - not just buttons that people could push, but new techniques to elicit opinion and contributions from the public. Still a really enjoyable short read.

Tim O'Reilly's What is Web 2.0 - the codification of the design patterns and business models he and his collaborators saw as characterising the tech companies who survived then thrived after the 2001 dot-com bubble burst. It is both a group of technical processes and approaches (constant deployment, web as platform) and conceptual approaches ('harnessing the collective intelligence'). So much of the exciting museum work I saw when I first got involved in the web in 2006 at the National Library of New Zealand was enabled and inspired by this moment. It seems almost cheesy now, but holy shit - remember when Web 2.0 was new and changing the world?

Alexis Madrigal, The Weird Thing About Today's Internet, his comeback article for The Atlantic and a reflection on his 10 years covering technology, starting as a writer for Wired in pre-GFC 2007. I'd read this 2017 article sometime around when I was first approached to write this preface, and I pasted this paragraph into the Google doc I fired up to start collecting ideas:
But then in June of 2007, the iPhone came out. Thirteen months later, Apple’s App Store debuted. Suddenly, the most expedient and enjoyable way to do something was often tapping an individual icon on a screen. As smartphones took off, the amount of time that people spent on the truly open web began to dwindle. ... The great cathedrals of that time, nearly impossible projects like Wikipedia that worked and worked well, have all stagnated.
I felt that shift in play when I went to the States in 2015 on a Churchill scholarship, visiting museums renowned for their digital leadership. I noted then a move from the big projects of 5-7 years ago, which were driven by those ideas of the open web, universal access, all people contributing knowledge on an equal footing, to the new hot experiences, designed to enrich the physical visit. The 21st century web had driven the first round of innovation, and the smartphone & widespread wifi the second, but I couldn't help but feel there was some evolution in ethos as well (partly, I suspect, from the funders and granters, who might have been starting to question the value of reaching a global audience, and becoming easier to convince on projects that were about value for the exclusive, on-site visitor. However, I also see the natural curiosity of digital leaders playing out in this change: minds adapting to and making use of each tech advance in the museum. Chicken and egg stuff really).

This 20-something year history sits within a wider context of the successive eras of thinking about the social purpose of museums, as articulated by Seph Rodney here. It's not surprising then that I had to spin my wheels through about three days of writing what was basically the outline of a thesis before I could relinquish enough of my treasured quotes and observations to get down to the guts of the piece. I'm not going to tell you how the preface ends, because that will give it all away. But I'm really looking forward to sharing that book with you.




Saturday, 20 April 2019

Reading list, 20 April 2019

Lined up for post-deadline listening: Hrag Vartanian interviews two artist estate managers about how families should cope with a dead artist-relative's legacy.

Also on Hyperallergic: a write-up of a new transcription project from the Smithsonian, focused on female figures from 19th century art history, including the diaries of Anna Coleman Ladd, an American sculptor who made custom prosthetics for soldiers injured during the first world war.

Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, has the most tricked-out office I've seen to date.

Another "must read later" - The Happy Museum project's list of tools and resources for measuring organisation's impacts on social wellbeing.

I'm sure you used to be able to download the AAM annual TrendsWatch survey for just the cost of your email address? At least you can still download the exec summary. This year's five key trends - "truth and trust, blockchain, decolonization, homelessness and housing insecurity, and self-care".

A nerdily detailed article on the review and decommissioning of minimal and conceptual artworks from the Panza collection at the Guggenheim museum.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Reading list, 14 April 2019

One of the recent issues of The Gray Market newsletters (looking at how museums in England and the US refusing sponsorship from the Sackler Foundation, now deemed too toxic for brand association) introduced me to the concept of the Overton Window, from media theory, which describes the 'window of discourse' in which a politician can suggest policy changes (the window of discourse on military-style weapons in New Zealand, for example, has shifted dramatically following the attacks in Christchurch). When yet another article about an art museum selling collection items off to finance more diverse additions (this time the Art Gallery of Ontario) floated across the transom, it made me reflect that the window of discourse on this particular topic has shifted markedly in recent months, from radical to acceptable, possibly almost sensible (though without a concerted collective decision from the sector, still falling well short of policy).

A similar shift (and dramatic increase in publicity) has happened on the subject of repatriation from museums collections over the last couple of years. The latest piece I've read is by museum curator Chip Colwell, a letter to the editor in the NYT that talks about what museums have to gain, rather than lose, from repatriation.

Ticketed for future reading: Response to the 2018 Sarr-Savoy Report: Statement on Intellectual Property Rights and Open Access relevant to the digitization and restitution of African Cultural Heritage and associated materials

I learned a massive amount from this NYT article, which describes how 12 linked exhibitions in Spain are exploring the art of its former colony Peru (which gained independence in 1821):
“This is the first time we’re showing a painting from colonial America,” Miguel Falomir, the Prado’s director, said in a telephone interview. The Prado owns “between 15 and 20” paintings made in Spain’s former colonies, he said, but they are kept by the ethnographic Museum of the Americas. They have never been shown alongside European old masters. 
For centuries, “we’ve considered this art as second-class,” Mr. Falomir said. “That, thank God, has changed.”
Smart work at SFMOMA: Tracing the Roots of Photo Sharing, From Mail Art to Instagram

One of curator Okwui Enwezor's final interviews: “There are code words to push back against change”

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Reading list, 6 April 2019

A history of working class protest: Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, via the Guardian

Farah Nayeri, 'A Museum Tackles Myths About Jews and Money' in the New York Times, on a new exhibition at the London's Jewish Museum.

Siri Hustvedt on why Duchamp's urinal should be correctly attributed to Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

Susan Tallman's 'Painting the Beyond' for the New York Review of Books:
But the claim for af Klint as an inventor of abstract art runs into two serious problems. The first is that it doesn’t seem to match how she thought the work should function. The second is that abstraction was “invented” in the same sense that the Western Hemisphere was “discovered.” Millions of people knew about both for millennia, just not the people who counted. It is a myopia that art historians have helped sustain through their habitual “canvas or it didn’t happen” bias, but once you look beyond easel painting, it becomes clear that af Klint’s seemingly unprecedented visual language had been circulating for centuries in the diagrams, illustrations, and serial formats of books and prints.

Ela Bittencourt's review of Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s new anthology Photography after Photography: Genre, Gender, History for Hyperallergic

The Art Institute of Chicago has pulled a show of Native American pottery:
"The principal thing that we have not accomplished is to have an aligned indigenous perspective, scholarly and curatorial, with the project,” [president and director James Rondeau] said. “And I think that ultimately for us has been the crucial realization that our ability to reflect back what we were learning needed to be done in multiple voices, not just our voice."


Saturday, 30 March 2019

Reading list 30 March 2019

A show at the Musee d'Orsay temporarily retitles works after their previously anonymous black models. Kehinde Andrews responds in the Guardian: " n the most part, we remain subjects oppressed to the margins of the canvas."

A diorama at the American Museum of Natural History, depicting an imagined 17th-century meeting between Dutch settlers and the indigenous Lenape people, has been marked up to show its biases

A lawsuit against Harvard University asserts that photographs of slaves should rightfully belong to their descendants.

Olly Wainwright reviews the immense and dramatic new National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel.

Julia Morgan designed more than 700 buildings, died in 1957 aged 85 and has just had her obituary, by Alexandra Lange, published in the NYT's 'Overlooked' series.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Reading list, 23 March 2019

My dormant nerdy art historian side really enjoyed the quiz that accompanies this lengthy NYT piece on deaccessioning from American art museum collections, where you can try to guess which of three artworks from the Indianapolis Museum of Art's collection has been ranked by its curators as of lower importance than similar works.

In repatriation news: 16 German states have joined in issuing guidelines and releasing funding for repatriation of art and artefacts stolen or looted during the colonial period; the Rijksmuseum begins talks with Indonesia and Sri Lanka to return items; the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures (NMWC) has published guidelines last month for countries wanting to repatriate from the three co-managed institutions that make up the museum, though these have been criticised for centring the museum.

Taylor Whitten Brown's statistical analysis for Artsy: Why Is Work by Female Artists Still Valued Less Than Work by Male Artists?

So interesting to see what Olga Viso is advocating following leaving the Walker after the Sam Durrant affair: here, writing about the need for changes in leadership style and focus; Finding Resilience in Challenging Times

The Sackler Trust has withdrawn the offer of a long-discussed 7-figure donation to the English National Portrait Gallery to avoid embarrassment to the institution. The New York Times article on the decision (fascinatingly worded) also links to the NPG's donations and grants policy.

I hadn't been aware of this aspect of the Metropolitan Museum's introduction of entrance charges: Met Admission Fees Will Send $2.8 Million to Over 175 City Cultural Groups.

May we all receive such a generous obituary when our times come: Vale Edmund Capon

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Reading list, 16 March 2019

On artists:

An interview with American painter Betty Tompkins, once shunned and now celebrated for her 'porn' paintings:
“Everybody says to me, ‘Oh, you were so ahead of your time!’ You cannot be ahead of your time. You can only be in your time. Your today is the same as everybody else’s. What you can be is rejected by your time, and I was rejected.”
On the future of experiences in (or near) cultural institutions:

The Library of Congress wants to attract more visitors. Will that undermine its mission?

French museums operator Culturespaces has opened the Bunker des Lumières in South Korea, following on from the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, a "30-minute immersive audiovisual experience of Gustav Klimt’s paintings, featuring mural projections of the images set to music by Wagner, Strauss and Beethoven" (images here)

A Former Guggenheim Director Thinks Museums Need to be More Like Theme Parks

On arts journalism:

Niemann surveys 300 visual arts writers for a new report, Newsroom Pressure and Generational Change

On gosh, about time:

Oxford museum rethinks famed display of shrunken heads

On data:

Price comparison of various leisure activities, from art museums to the Superbowl

On copies and attributions:

‘It is for art historians to decide who painted this picture’ (a depiction of Judith and Holofernes that may be attributed to Caravaggio)

The Imitation Game (on objects in Washington D.C. museums that may not be as 'original' as they are displayed to be)




Sunday, 10 March 2019

NAVA's gender equity resources

Australia's NAVA (National Association for the Visual Arts) is releasing some terrific documentation at the moment as they build out their Gender Equity Resources.

This morning I read their latest set of guidelines, Clear Expectations: Guidelines for institutions, galleries and curators working with trans, non-binary and gender diverse artists in Australia, written by Spencer Messih and Archie Barry and supported by The Countess. It's an excellent, simply and clearly explained, informative and actionable set of guidelines that institutions of any size could use.

The previous set of guidelines to this is Anonymous “Speak Up” Protocol: A guide for boards, designed for boards that are responding to an allegation of gendered harassment.