Friday, 14 February 2014

High rotate

Over January, I gave a lot of airtime to Thumpers

Spring King's 'Mumma' also got the repeat treatment as I ploughed through email

And it's always nice to welcome a new Banks track into the world (especially when its produced by Shlohmo)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

On the radio

On the radio today I'll be talking about Reuben Paterson in New Plymouth, the visual arts component of the New Zealand Festival and having another bash at getting to the story of the V&A's rapid-response collecting policy.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Things to come

January saw the release of a number of predictive pieces, and as we wait for the annual Trendswatch report, here's a taster:

The British Collections Trust on trends for museums in 2014 (growing visitation, shopping in the closet, 3D printing and war)

A small preview of the Whitney Biennale (performance works scattered through the floors rather than segregated; the return of craft)

Trends in American art museum shows (internationals, artist BFFs, artist curators, the art exhibition as selfie opp)

And the Trendswatch contenders from earlier last year ...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

That's just the way I like it

Tiffany Jenkins is angry. She's angry about all this leaning over backwards museums are doing for children and teenagers:
The exhibits, the labels and the whole feel of a museum is now more aimed at the young rather than you and me. This does both adults and children a disservice. We visit museums to know more about past human civilisations and in order to appreciate what they have created, but so many are now so dumbed down for a youthful audience that we learn very little of substance – that’s if we can concentrate with all the clamour. 
Even the innocuous fluffy comes in for a pasting:
One museum I visit not only has a children’s menu (which is perfectly reasonable, before you act all shocked) but also sells babyccinos – that’s coffee without the coffee, ie warmed frothy milk in a plastic cup.
This is Jenkins in December 2013. It's not the first time she's decried the child-friendlisation of museums; in 2009 she was hitting the same notes
Museums don’t have to be turned into playgrounds to be enjoyable. When I was a child it was adult spaces that appeared mysterious and attractive. I wanted to stay up late, go out when it was dark, listen in on adults’ conversations. I wanted access to the intriguing life of a grown-up. I was keen to be treated as older than my years. 
Museums can offer an exciting world if they get off their knees and stop apologising for being quiet and popular with old folk, or different from computer games or shopping. 
Both articles are attacks centred on two things - the Kids in Museums project, and Jenkins' personal preferences around museum going. Jenkins would like kids to shut up, stop expecting to be treated like they're special, and learn politely from the grown ups; she'd like museums to stop making tits of themselves, chasing a part of society who's not interested in their limited attractions.

Her argument, in many ways (amped up as it is for click-bait), is not that different from a recent article by Wendy Earle, decrying the focus on digital technology in museums. Earle likes minimal interpretation, dark corners, and quiet. She'd like museums to stop dumbing things down, sexing things up, over-explaining and playing with whizz-bangs.

If I've learned one thing from the past year and a bit, it's that no-one will be happy with anything you do. But people rarely write articles about what they loved or enjoyed or learned from, what made them nostalgically happy or excited or curious. I've learned, for example, never to read the visitor feedback forms first thing on a Monday morning, because nine times out of ten, they're people (quite within their rights) explaining why they hate something you decided to do.

So, do me a wee favour. Next time you go to a gallery or a museum and you are struck by how much you've enjoyed the experience, tell them. It'll do the world of good.

Monday, 3 February 2014

A day at a time

Last year I tried, for about four weeks, to maintain a 365 project (a daily published effort).

It turned out to be far too much work for me. My friend Virginia Gow however made it through the whole of 2013 with her daily photo project Tuhonohono, in which she snapped a picture with her phone every day, and then published it at night paired with a photo from a historical collection. Virginia persevered with the project not only across the year, but across the country, and also during a sojourn in the States.

In December, as part of the Old Hall Gigs series, Virginia gave a presentation on her project. She has blogged the notes, which are very well worth reading.

 In her talk, Virginia quoted Charles Landry: “heritage works best when we perceive ourselves to be part of its continual creation”. This perspective is well embodied by the piece of work Chris McDowall has done based on Tuhohono, a piece of progamming magic that allows the whole year's worth of photos to be viewed and browsed as four-way colour chips.

Projects like Virginia's and Chris's show that art and heritage collections can be used and explored in many more ways than the books and exhibitions we are accustomed to. They also only enabled because the National Library of New Zealand (which Virginia used extensively for her historical images) allows and enables easy embedding, and Virginia herself is using a Creative Commons licence. Continual creation is what we - as collecting institutions - are here to help make happen; infrastructure like thoughtful, permissive licensing is what we need to offer as part of this continuum.