Sunday, 1 March 2015

I've been to the moon

I've been wondering for a while now whether the massive uptake of digital photography and photo sharing (Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ...) has/will increase people's interest in and enjoyment of what I will call, for the lack of a better word, "art photography" - the kind of photos we see in galleries, the pieces (Peter Peryer at The Dowse last year, Anne Noble at Bartley + Company just recently) that to me are still differentiated from the motivation and execution of the (often very skilled) everyday photographer.

My gut feeling is - no, not yet. Maybe 'no', full stop. And this article on the sale of a chunk of vintage NASA photographs tickles up that feeling:
At a time when the International Space Station has an Instagram feed, it’s easy to forget the profundity of these pictures and their vistas, and tempting to dilute their impact by re-contextualizing what they represent in today’s terms (see: Buzz Aldrin’s “first space selfie” of 1966 above).

Saturday, 28 February 2015

State of the blogosphere

Look. I'm old, okay? I'm old and I still haven't really figured out tumblr (because I can't search the damn thing from google) and I like Instagram because it's elegant and specific (i.e. lets me lazily like goodlooking photos) and I'm sad about what feels like the demise of Twitter (because my stream is full of advertising and people policing other people's supposed crimes against humanity) and I'm still keeping the hell away from Snapchat (since meeting my first real life person who sends dick pics - though not to me) and I miss the days when people (including me) blogged. Yup. I'm old.

So it's in that context that I really enjoyed this piece by Robinson Meyer on the release of Medium's* new features:
Medium’s new product bets that there’s some juice left in the old voice-driven web. It’s a testament to how much the Internet has changed that I can’t tell if that’s a solid tactic or middle-aged nostalgia.
And in the same context that I've been delighted over the last few months to see Matt Webb's Interconnected popping back up in my feedreader (yet another thing that underlines the I'm old refrain).

*Yeah. I don't fully understand Medium either, but at least this article made me feel better about that.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

I have vastly enjoyed our summer project to write entries for New Zealand craft artists on Wikipedia. In addition to getting over the beginner's hurdle with the site itself, and learning a tremendous amount about this facet of New Zealand's art history, I've been able to geek out on research and use all those semi-dormant art history skills I painstakingly gathered (and paid for) at uni.

But most of all I've found satisfaction in just being able to make things. For example, creating entries for New Vision Gallery and Barry Lett Galleries. At the start of the day these galleries - which were really important to how art developed in New Zealand in the second half of the 20th century - only existed in a scattered way on the internet. And then at the end of the day, I'd been able to sew that all together into a coherent - not complete, but at least findable and usable - narrative.

With the passion of the converted, I now of course want to spread the love. As part of this, on Saturday 7 March The Dowse is taking part in the international Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon events. We're hosting a free all-day event that starts with a crash course for brand new editors, and then moves into an afternoon of communal editing.

While the focus is on improving the information available about New Zealand women artists on the site (here's a list of artists who don't currently have page, or only have the most minimal of entries), we welcome anyone who wants to learn to edit on any topic, or who'd like to share their skills, or even just hang out.

We're taking RSVPs to help us plan, so if you're interested, all the info you need is up on our website.

On the radio

Today on the radio I'll be talking about artists getting agents as an intro to Billy Apple's forthcoming survey at Auckland Art Gallery.

UPDATE: We ran out of time to talk museums trends, so we'll save that for March.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Around the web

Clearing some tabs this afternoon ....

I am utterly in love with the architectural renders for Ellsworth Kelly's proposed 'chapel' for the Blanton Museum of Art (not to mention the notion that the various great modernist chapels around the States might end up in a transcendence-off). Who would make a great NZ chapel? You've got to say Kate Newby, I think - a outdoors structure strung with bells and windchimes, with careful, meditative placements of sticks and stones about the place.

NPR has been experimenting with what makes for shareable audio, and have struck on four archetypes - some crunchy ideas their for our embryonic podcast at The Dowse.

What if Kanye had never interrupted T-Swift? 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Sunday, 8 February 2015


The returning ritual: unpack, throw on washing, re-stock fridge, clear the compost of the feedreader ...

Tyler Green interviews Melissa Chiu, recently arrived director of the Hirschhorn Museum (The Washingtonian)

The process by which the US National Gallery is absorbing (part of) the Corcoran's collection (New York Times)

Kim Knight on 'Implicated and Immune' at Michael Lett Gallery (Sunday Star Times)

Shelley Bernstein on teething problems with installing iBeacons in large gallery spaces (Brooklyn Museum tech blog)

Friday, 30 January 2015

Recommended reading

I cannot recommend this piece by Jessamyn West on the quandary of inheriting a person's digital remains enough. Take ten minutes from your day to read it, you won't regret it. (Especially the passages about her father's house.)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Confirming that there are few things worse than listening to your own voice

This week's edition of The Dowse podcast sees Sasha and Cat embark on their mission to demystify museum jobs by talking to me about being a first-time director.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Yo Yo Yo

Today was a good day at work for a few reasons. One of the big ones was that we launched a new experiment - The Dowse Podcast.

The podcast is designed to be a short, quite playful look at the workings of the art world and art galleries. You can read more in this blogpost.

I'm thrilled about the podcast for two reasons. The main one is that Sasha Greig (front of house host) and Cat Auburn (exhibition preparator) have taken this idea from pitch to reality. This isn't a comms or curatorial project - it's two people who are interested and interesting, trying a new way to share The Dowse spirit.

The second, smaller, reason is that Sasha and Cat agreed to call the inaugural podcast Yo Yo Yo when I asked them to :)

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Every so often, I toy with the idea of a PhD.* I don't know what it would be on, exactly, but it would be something to do with tracing webs of connections - whether that's relationships between changes in arts funding and arts practice, or the way curators/directors have moved around the country and how that's influenced programming, or a study on women in the museums profession, or the movements in influence between Dunedin at the start of the 20th century, Christchurch in the 1930s-1950s and Auckland from the 1960s onwards. History, so far as I can make out, is the outcome of the jostling of personality, social connections, opportunity and hazard, and I'd like to test that idea against some research and data.

I'm thinking about that this weekend as I've been reading this NYT article on MOMA's Object:Photo project. A 'multi-platform' project (exhibition, book, website and symposium) that's taken four years to develop, it is based the Thomas Walther Collection of ~300 photographs from the 1920s and 1930s which MOMA acquired in 2001. As with our present moment, that period was one of rapid technological development and new infrastructures and conversations sprang up around photography.

MOMA's team has taken the collection as a microcosm through which to explore the moment. I can't speak for any of the other formats, but the website is what's got me thinking about the connections that are the building blocks of art history. Using the Visualization section of the site you can compare photo techniques and trace artist's geographical movements. But the most interest tool lets you trace connections between artists, by school, major exhibitions, cultural hubs, photo industry hubs and publications, allowing you to ask questions like which artists identified with the Bauhaus movement also worked for Vogue? 

As I continue to chip away on our Wikipedia project at The Dowse, I've realised that 'joining up' pages are very important to the endeavour. We needed, for example, a page about the New Vision Gallery to flesh out the early careers of many artists. A page was needed on Bone Stone Shell. I'm currently pulling info together one about the Portage Awards, and we've added info about the Arts Foundation Laureate Awards and the Creative New Zealand Craft/Objects Art Fellowship and Pacific Arts Awards, all to provide greater context.

What's missing though are the generational and social connections, and that's where I could see something like MOMA's project being really interesting for New Zealand art history. So much to ponder.

*The reason I think I couldn't ever undertake a PhD is that I've discovered I really like to work collaboratively - or even more accurately, socially - on projects, and I don't think I could apply myself to such a solitary task for such a long time. If however a way of taking on PhDs in a more collaborative way emerges, I'll be there with boots on.