Monday, 26 February 2007

Getting it right ...

The exhibition 'Heroes and Villains: Australian comics and their creators' closed yesterday at the State Library of Victoria. I didn't see the exhibition in the flesh, but I like what they've done with their web accompaniments.

Heroes and Villains online activities

The Library ran a three day blogging session with Australian cartoonists, loaded up a podcast for use in the exhibition or for using for a virtual tour, and created an interactive Flash thingie (with too many exclamation marks for my liking).

The first thing that caught my eye was the online competition, where people (mostly - purportedly - kids and young teens) could submit drawings of their own superhero, with a few snippets of information:

The Tunnel Killer (Nicholas, age 6)
My superhero wears: He wears black pants, a chain mesh shirt, and a mask with spikes on his arms.

My superhero looks like: He looks tough and strong.

My superhero has a gadget: Spikes and weapons.

My superhero can: He has spikes and weapons and is very strong.

My superhero lives: In tunnels.

An adventure my superhero has had: He was trying to get some people that had crawled into some tunnels and he won.

That's Anggry Dud, by Callum, age 7, at the top of the post.

Superhero Gallery

But I'm also really impressed by the online catalogue:

  • it's in HTML, instead of being a PDF of a print publication, making it more accessible and eliminating download time
  • the left-hand nav replicates a contents page, making it easy to move through
  • despite the all-caps font, it's still clean and easy to read
  • the design seems to have been made for the online environment instead of transposing a print design onto a website.

Heroes and Villains online catalogue

Friday, 23 February 2007

Putting your coverage where the money went

There's a small article tucked away on page B8 of today's Dom Post, announcing that Fairfax Media has "won newspaper sponsorship of one of the most significant exhibitions to be staged in the southern hemisphere."

Hooray, I hear you say. The Dom is going to sponsor some fantastic art event in Wellington.

Well, no. The Dom (as a Fairfax-owned paper) is now technically a sponsor of the National Gallery of Victoria's exhibition Guggenheim Collection: 1940s to Now - New York-Venice-Bilbao-Berlin (30 June - 7 October).

Here's a link to more about the show on the NGV site; the site keeps crashing on me, but better luck to you.

The Fairfax story doesn't appear to be online anywhere (and yes, I did look properly), but to transcribe:

"The Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst said that sponsoring the exhibition was a coup for the newspaper and Fairfax Media, as many New Zealanders would visit Melbourne to view the masterpieces and want to read more about the artists and their works.

'The National Gallery of Victoria and The Dominion Post are a perfect fit and we look forward to bringing our readers comprehensive, quality coverage.'"
Let's go over that, slowly.

"many New Zealanders would visit Melbourne to view the masterpieces and want to read more about the artists and their works" ... in the Dom? Which is suddenly big in Melbourne? Or, instead of reading about the show in some run-of-the-mill local rag like, say, The Age, New Zealanders will wait until they're back on this side of the ditch before reading anything more about the exhibition?

"The National Gallery of Victoria and The Dominion Post are a perfect fit". Distance makes the heart grow fonder, I guess, but mightn't the Dom be a perfect fit with someone, I dunno, a bit closer to where they're published?

"comprehensive, quality coverage." Tim - have you read the Arts section lately?

For more (and I'll admit it, much better) commentary on the vagaries of corporate sponsorship, see this recent post by Edward Winkleman.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Social bookmarking - filing on the internet

I've never had a filing cabinet. Well, to be more precise, I've never used a filing cabinet properly, only to hold stuff that I don't want to look at.

Instead, all my experience of filing has been online - with Windows folders (which is great, because you can configure it exactly to your own logic, but falls down when other people are allowed to mess about with it) with document management systems like Hummingbird (which gets around the other-people-stuff-it-up thing, but allows no personal logic) and with bookmarks in my browser.

I've been experimenting with bookmarking sites, including the biggie,, and some that aren't as famous as YouTube, like simpy and furl. I've decided that my favoured option is Magnolia. I like the interface, they way that you get told who has bookmarked the same page as you, the presentation of the tag cloud. It's quite pretty and soothing.

What I want though is the best of both worlds - I want folders to categorise my bookmarks, not just tags. I want to treat it like a binder full of photocopying, with dividers and coloured tags. The Magnolia wiki shows that I'm not alone in this. Fingers crossed.

For other paper-lovers: a guide to making a notebook act like a PDA, from Creating Passionate Users.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Paying to learn about spending

There's a sudden rash in Wellington of events where you can learn about how to collect art.

At the National Library earlier this month you could listen to Jim Barr (collector of contemporary NZ and international art, man about town) Tony Arthur ( long term collector of fine 20th century printing and proud owner of 60-odd vintage typewriters) and Paul McNamara (art collector recently-ish become photo dealer) talk about 'passionate collecting'. I went along, and while there was plenty of entertaining story-telling, there wasn't a lot of buy-now advice.

However, at two upcoming Wellington events you can hand over your cash and learn how to spend money.

Overthenet have recently posted about an $185-a-head dinner at Te Papa, where you can hear director Seddon Bennington talk about the way Te Papa buys art and David Carson-Parker talk about being a "hopelessly enthusiastic" collector.

Or for a more modest $40, you can attend City Gallery Wellington's two STart seminars, where collectors, dealers and conservators will hand out words of wisdom and (maybe, if you're real lucky) some insider advice.

It's interesting that there appears to be this kind of market for advice on how to collect art, when the advice boils down to such basic points; figure out what you like by visiting shows, reading catalogues and sifting around online, then gets to know some art dealers. After all - it is just shopping, people.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Music to watch powerpoint presentations by ...

A colleague just brought to my attention - an online warehouse of royalties-free music that you can purchase to liven up your presentations (or for personal listening pleasure).

You can listen to demos for free - I highly recommend the Corporate section, with such gems as:

We've got the plan
Inspired simple lines speak to confidence, intelligence and a slick presentation. Forward-thinking, motivational, well-paced for most corporate presentations.

Millennium Man
Bad-ass corporate dude wearing an Armani suit gets into his Porsche 911 Turbo somewhere on Wall Street.

My kinda website

An interesting article in yesterday's Guardian about the online growth of the Brit publication Farmers Weekly.

Farmers take online bull by the horns - The Guardian
Farmers Weekly interactive (worth checking out for the banner and pop-up ads alone)

The article looks at the site's traffic spike recently in the wake of an outbreak of bird flu in Suffolk, but also at the bigger picture; how farmers' access to the internet, and broadband uptake in particular, is increasing, and how the Farmers Weekly publishers have been looking to get site visitors to exchange information.

The site has 11 forums (including 'Chicken Chat and Talking Tackle*), in addition to blogs, podcasts and a specialised farming search engine. A sample from the forums:

Is this pheasant male or female help needed again
hi i wonder if someone could help me as i brought a pheasant last year in september and was told it was a female as it was dark brown all over but in the beggining of december last year it started loosing its baby feathers and they grew back brown green blue and also developed the red patch around its eyes and grew very long tail feathers,can the female phesants be this colour or is this male as i have asked around and no one seems to know,i would be very gratefull if you could click on the link and veiw the picture of the pheasant in question and advise me on what it is also what type please,many thanks lisa

Re: is this pheasant male or female
Hi Lisab

No eggs from that one either. You have a pair of cocks.

(cockpheasants as opposed to henpheasants)

regards Jim
BUT, getting back to the point, one of the things I found interesting about the Guardian article was that it also looked at how the Farmers Weekly editorial department got its print journalists online. They sought out 'web evangelists' in each team, and hoped that their enthusiasm would inspire other staff; encouraged staff to blog; and run competitions with cash prizes to get staff to learn new skills - like making clips and posting them to YouTube.

* which is about machinery, not artificial insemination, which was my first thought.
Image: the bird in question.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Share the love around

The perfect sentiment for bloggers.

Web 2.0 Valentine's card - Social Signal

Via CommonCraft

The what, John?

Sometimes artist's talks can be doubly revealing.

At the first public programme accompanying City Gallery Wellington's Telecom Prospect 2007 exhibition, Rohan Wealleans was talking about his work Cold Comfort, when John Hurrell (of Artbash) asked him whether he thought that using polystyrene in the work altered its meaning. Rohan , rather bemused, peered at John through his sunglasses and said "The what, John?".

Image: Rohan Wealleans, Cold Comfort, 2006. Acrylic on nylon, polystyrene, metal and wood.

CNZ draft strategic plan released

Creative New Zealand has released its Draft Strategic Plan for 2007-2010.

The Draft Strategic Plan identifies four strategic priorities

1. New Zealand Communities are Engaged with their Arts
"This priority is focussed specifically on communities and their participation in the arts. It acknowledges that through the strong foundation of communities and the arts, both the overall arts sector and communities will be healthier."

2. Development of Quality New Zealand Arts and Artists
"This strategic priority aims to ensure that New Zealand artists develop the quality of their work, reach their potential and move the arts forward."

3. Development of Quality New Zealand Arts and Artists
"This priority aims to give New Zealanders in metropolitan and provincial centres regular opportunities to access high quality diverse arts experiences."

4. International Success for New Zealand Arts
"International success for New Zealand arts, artists, producers and arts organisations does not tend to happen spontaneously, but is generally the result of a long-term commitment to achieving success for New Zealand arts internationally."

Feedback on the plan is due by Wednesday 7 March. CNZ has appointed an external reference group to provide independent feedback on the draft plan, consisting of Jenny Harper, Liz Civil, Sai Lealea, Roger King, Anna Kominik.

CNZ Draft Strategic Plan and background info - CNZ website

n.b. don't bother searching for the word 'venice'.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Yahoo Pipes!

Yahoo!'s new Pipes service - which it describes as 'an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator' that will enable people to 'create feeds that are more powerful, useful and relevant' - is getting a lot of coverage around the tech blogs.

From what I've read, the service will allow people who aren't programmers not only to easily create their own mash-ups, but to create super-duper mash-ups, drawing multiple sources of data from throughout the web and presenting it to you in the way that you've designed it to.

This is one of those things I don't fully understand, but I can see the glimmers of understanding ahead of me. At any rate, I've linked below to posts by a couple of people who do get this - and see its potential.

Tim O'Reilly - O'Reilly Radar

Jeremy Zawodny - Techmeme (with links to heaps more stories)
Yahoo! Pipes site - currently crashed by techy eager beavers


Jim Barr and Mary Barr have posted a mock FAQ on Overthenet, based on the 11-page letter sent to artists taking part in City Gallery Wellington's Telecom Prospect 2007 exhibition.

The letter invited artists to submit a multiple for sale as at the Gallery as part of the show. I'm all for galleries making multiples (particularly large editions) available to the public. I'm not so hot on the following factors:

- City Gallery will be adding 40% to the sale price nominated by the artist - and then keeping this as their cut. If the artist has to pass a cut on to their dealer, this has to come out of their original price.

- Based on previous artist fees, it would seem likely that the Gallery will make more money off the artists than they'll give them to take part in the show.

And then there's the bigger question - should our public galleries be engaging in dealer practices?

FAQ - Overthenet

Best diagram ever

Talking with someone last night about yesterday's discovery of the Periodic Table of Visualisation Tool, I remembered this, my favourite diagram ever: Alfred Barr's map of the evolution of abstract art, prepared for the 1936 MOMA exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Art: not just three random letters from the dictionary

A new definition, from Kylie Minogue (currently hot topic of internet conversation for (a) splitting from Ollie Whasit who is (a1) now linked to Penelope Cruz but also (b) and more importantly to this post has become the first popstar to have an exhibition based around their image at the V&A which (c) and finally, you can Google for yourselves, it's hardly difficult).

"Art is what you like or what you don't like."

We can all rest easy now.

Brush up those whiteboard skills

Ever felt like your mind-mapping never really captured the energy in the brainstorming session? That your flow diagram didn't really account for all the possible variables? That a bar graph didn't communicate the essence of the story to your audience in the way you needed it to?

Never fear - help is at hand. You could try a heaven 'n' hell chart. Or give Mintzberg's Organigraph a spin. Or employ a hyperbolic tree.

Learn so, so much more with the Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods - and don't forget to hover, for an example of each method:

Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods

Image from

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Today's reading

A new essay on Yvonne Todd's work.

Justin Clemens - Uneasy Glamour - IMA website

The essay accompanies Todd's show at the IMA, Blood, In Its Various Forms (incorporating Meat And Liquor) which opens on 10 February. The exhibition includes work from three recent series; 'Vagrants’ Reception Centre', 'Blood, In Its Various Forms', 'Meat And Liquor'.

The essay doesn't say a lot that's new about Todd's work. But it's nice to see it up online (although a PDF as well as the webpage would have been useful).

I'd love to see more galleries in New Zealand making catalogue essays available online - surely the benefit of having this writing out there (for the local and international web public, for teachers and students, for the galleries' and the artists' reputations and search engine hits) far outweighs the possibility you might sell a few less catalogues.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Googlebomb-sniffing algorithm

I like the way that sounds like Noam Chomsky's 'Colorless green ideas sleep furiously'.

It's taken from Nicholas Carr's article yesterday for the Guardian's tech section, which talks about Google's introduction of an algorithm to its search engine that will stop Googlebombing - the practice that lead to that exciting-at-the-time phenomena where you could type 'miserable failure' into Google and get sent to George Bush's White House site.

Read me first - Guardian website

In his article, Carr notes that Google has done this not to make the web a better world, but to protect its image:

"One of the company's top engineers, Matt Cutts, explained the move on a Google blog: 'Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven't been a very high priority for us. But over time, we've seen more people assume that they are Google's opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That's not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception.'"

An interesting thread of comments on the article has started on Slashdot

Defused Googlebombs may backfire- Slashdot

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Collecting: same or different?

Continuing on from last week's post about the Auckland Art Fair, two pieces of writing on hedge fund type collecting.

On, an article by Charlie Finch titled 'A New Market Theory of Art', which concludes:

"Herd behavior by collectors at art fairs is stimulated by these new realities [hedge fund type collecting]. Nobody wishes to strike gold, because they already have gold: what these collectors want is status and cachet and, let’s face it, more gold. Greed is good. But art suffers in this context, because it functions solely as an economic and social marker, always subject to immediate obsolescence, should economic realities change. Yes, everyone is making money, but the money is really making them."

And Edward Winkleman, who's commenting on the Finch article in a post titled 'Looking for Fairness in the Age of Art Fairs'.