Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in review

At the end of 2015 I was struggling with the feeling that my time was leaking away with nothing to show for it. I felt busy, but not productive; things happened, things were delivered, but I had no personal sense of completion or achievement; I was running every day just to stay in the same place.

So from the start of 2016 I kept a diary of all the things I do that aren't part of my day job - all the fringe work, all the hobby work. Taking a leaf out of one of my American colleague's resumes, I also kept a record of what he termed ‘service’ - things like sitting on boards.

From the perspective of the end of the year, I don't know if this exercise has lessened that sense of being busy yet not productive, but it has plugged somewhat that sense of time leaking away - I can now view that time as being invested, and understand that while the returns might not always be immediate, they do amount to something.


I broke 1000 Wikipedia edits for the year in December, a combination of continuing to update pages I've worked on over the past two years and creating new ones. You can see my editing stats here; my most-edited page was the timeline of feminist art in New Zealand.

I bashed out my report on my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Scholarship-funded trip around art museums in seven US states: clocking in at around half the length of my MA thesis it covers open storage, membership programmes, digital developments and general visitor experience observations.

I posted nearly 100 entries here - mostly, to be honest, weekly round-ups of interesting things I've read online but also the occasional longer piece: a frustrated response to Tiffany Jenkins' arguments of repatriation; an extract from my keynote at the Emerging Museum Professionals hui in the middle of the year, on how to network; a wrestling with the ideas of 'engagement' and 'experience' in art museums;  a reflection on the Four Waves of Feminism hui we hosted at The Dowse in April.

I contributed pieces to the The Third Enjoy Retrospective Five Year Catalogue, to the first issue of Tauhere | Connections and wrote a column for Art News New Zealand that may become a more regular gig in 2017.

Beginning in April, I experimented with a (nearly) weekly email newsletter using Tiny Letter, drawing together online articles I'd been reading recently. I do this partly because I enjoy writing for people, and partly because I read so much online that I felt the need to do something with it. It feels like it duplicates my blog dreadfully though, so it might be that in 2017 I'll stop my weekly blog roundups and focus on the newsletter. We'll see. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best reaction I got to the newsletter was when I stopped collating other people's thoughts and collected my own instead, in an issue devoted to getting my purple belt and why I do jiu jitsu.


God, I talked this year. Just talking - turning up at functions, meetings, briefings, planning sessions, community groups, what have you - takes a big chunk of my working time and my energy. This year I tried to keep a record of my non-core-work talking gigs.

It was a real thrill, and pushed me well out of my comfort zone, to be asked to chair a session of the New Zealand Writers Week Festival with Mallory Ortberg in February (I also got to introduce and handle the Q&A with the charming Robert Dessaix).

In April I chaired a panel discussion for Wellington City Council and the Goethe Institut on artist residencies. In May I chaired one of the panel discussions held to inform the National Library's new strategy document, ‘Taonga and Mana: Capturing experiences and stories of New Zealand’s heritage’; in May I was also part of a panel discussion relating to the Julian Dashper exhibition at City Gallery Wellington; that same month I presented, or was part of a group of people presenting, five different things at the Museums Australasia conference in Auckland. In August I facilitated a Q&A session with the Wellington mayoral candidates for Arts Wellington. In October I was part of a panel at the Art Crime Symposium in Wellington. At the NDF conference in November. I facilitated a panel discussion on 3D technologies (a topic of which I know little, and actually I'm quite sure I was asked to facilitate primarily because the five speakers were all men) and got to do a fireside chat with the awesome Seb Chan.

Throughout the year I also spoke to the Mahuki Lab at Te Papa, Museums & Heritage Studies students at Victoria, did a day of reviewing students' work in AUT's Crit Week, popped up at Enjoy's Book Club, and got rung in at the last moment to (happily) be the speaker at the Whitireia arts end of year celebration.

After taking the first six months of the year off, I went back on to RNZ's Nine to Noon programme in June with a monthly report on the visual arts. I tried hard to balance my coverage not just between New Zealand and international, and North and South islands, and small and large institutions, but between male and female artists, an apportioning I think I've not paid explicit attention to before.


In February this year I joined the Arts Wellington board. I'd previously only been loosely aware of the organisation, which facilitates networking, information sharing and advocacy on behalf of members, which represent most of the professional arts organisations (of all stripes) in the Wellington region. Over the year my understanding of the greater cultural territory has dramatically improved; in August I took on the chair role and in December I ran my first ever AGM. [Arts Wellington takes up about one working day per month.]

Mid 2016 marked the beginning of my second year of my term on the Museums Aotearoa board; with Cam McCracken taking on the chair role I became deputy chair. As with Arts Wellington, it's been a fantastic opportunity to better understand the wider museum sector, and to start seeing what I think are the long term challenges and opportunities for the sector. Just before Christmas we released an update of the MA strategy to members and I'm encouraged by the energy I see. [Museums Aotearoa takes up about 1 working day per month, probably a bit more across the year.]

2016 was my third year participating in my favourite extra-curricular activity (besides BJJ), as a member of the independent panel of experts for MBIE's Tourism Growth Partnership. The other members of the panel are just stellar people, I have learned so much, I have contributed usefully, and it has been fully worth the time investment. [The TGP took up about probably about two working weeks this year.]


I'm contemplating another digital outlet in 2017, a quick and dirty way of checking out a concept that I failed to get funding for this year. I'm curating my first big project at The Dowse. I'm staying on the radio, but plan to step down from at least one responsibility during the year, which will free up little chunk of time. I'd actually like to fill that will less reading, less writing and more physical activity - maybe it's finally time for The Year of Gymnastics?

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