Thursday 29 March 2007

Photographer on photographer

I really like listening to artists talk about other artists. In a recent post on his blog, Alec Soth takes a shine to Judy Linn.

More Judy Linn photographs - Feature Inc website

Image: Judy Linn, Untitled,1997. Silver gelatin print. From her page on

Art - it's a collaboration

An oil tanker, a smashed police car, a used mobile home, deactivated bomb shells, nine shipping containers, a two-story house, and a completely rebuilt local movie theatre ... but the installation isn't complete yet.

An article in The Boston Globe by Geoff Edgers chronicles the falling out between the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and Swiss artist Christoph Büchel over his exhibition 'Training Ground for Democracy.' Intended to open in December, the artist has walked off the job after being told that the US$250,000 project budget had been spent.

Geoff Edgers article - The Boston Globe

The situation poses interesting questions in terms of who gets the final word on a project's size and scope, and also the wider context: is the artist a vendor contracted by an institution to produce a product on time and in budget, as mutually agreed, or is the institution a patron, dedicated to realising the artist's vision, come what may?

Büchel has sent Mass MoCA a list of requirements for the completion of the project, some of which Edgers reproduces on his blog.

List of demands - Geoff Edgers' blog

Wednesday 28 March 2007

Funny ha ha?

MoMA have created a nice little Flash site to accompany their exhibition 'Comic Abstraction: image-breaking , image-making'.

Comic abstraction online exhibition

[Note - if you've upgraded to IE7 your Adobe Flash player may not have automatically upgraded, and you may have to de- and re- install to view Flash applications.]

Jerry Saltz described the exhibition as 'unfunny'.

Image: Rivane Neuenschwander. Zé Carioca no. 4, A Volta de Zé Carioca (1960) (Edição Histórica, Ed. Abril). (detail) 2004. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Radio ART

I'm an unabashed fan of Radio Sport. Sometimes on roadtrips I create imaginary lineups for Radio Art:

  • Breakfast with Jim and Mary
  • Mornings with Rob Cherry
  • Drivetime with Hamish McKay
  • Evenings with Dick Frizzell
  • Late night storytime with Peter McLeavey
I'm stuck for an afternoon presenter though. Can anyone think of an available shock jock?

Update: readers have suggested Julian Dashper for the spare slot - not a shock jock, but a great story-telling talent.

Monday 26 March 2007

Smells like mid-afternoon

For the last couple of years I've been quietly obsessed with Luca Turin, a European biophysicist who has championed the vibration theory of smell, which proposes that, rather than the nose containing receptors which lock on to smell molecules, and recognises them by shape (which is the way the immune system works), the nose works as a kind of fleshy spectroscope, which recognises the frequencies of the molecular structure of the smell.

Now, I realise that the paragraph above (which, I'll proudly have you know, I wrote from memory without any reference to Wikipedia) sounds far from interesting. But three things about Turin make him fascinating. One: he's a 'nose' - he has an uncanny ability to distinguish, recall and describe smells. Two: he's a perfume expert and connoisseur. Three: he's one of those movie-genius types: impassioned, inflammatory, defamatory.

One of my favourite books from last year was Turin's The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell, and I first got on to Turin through Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses, which is a sympathetic but clear-eyed account of Turin's attempts to get his work recognised by the science fraternity.

You can get both these books from Unity. But you can also read Turin's monthly perfume reviews / rants / laments on the NZZ Folio site, if you're looking to while away fifteen minutes.

Luca Turin reviews - NZZ Folio

Friday 23 March 2007

CNZ to fund video game development?

Okay - that's totally speculative. In fact - not even speculative, utterly baseless.

What triggered it though was an article by Bruce Gain on Wired about the French government's newly announced sponsorship of the French video gaming industry.

Earlier this month, three game designers were inducted into the French Order of Arts and Literature. France has also recently signed tax breaks for video games made in France into law.

The breaks are only available for some projects: Gain cites an advisor to the culture ministry as saying "The games must have a narration of some kind and a scenario written in French with elements of adventure or simulation games."

Surprising fact I gleaned from this article: the game for King Kong was made by leading French video game company Ubisoft.

Thursday 22 March 2007

Second Life for Joseph Beuys

Artists Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a. 0100101110101101.ORG) are re-enacting well-known performance art pieces in the virtual world Second Life.

The image above is from their re-enactment of Joseph Beuys' 7000 Oaks, a project started at Documenta 2 in 1982 with the intent of planting 7,000 trees beside basalt monoliths throughout Kassel.

The pair have also re-enacted Chris Burden's Shoot (1971), Vito Acconci's Seedbed (1972) and Valie Export's Tapp und Tastkino (1968-71).

Eva and Franco Mattes - Synthetic Performances

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Making things online

From the old to the new. I found the Ponoko site via Rod Drury's blog this morning.

The Wellington-based initiative is moving into beta. It describes itself as 'a system you can use to develop your design ideas and make money'. It seems that they'll help you create a protoype of your design idea, and then provide an outlet for you to sell it in - all online.

Visit the Ponoko blog to read about the kind of things they're drawing on. It's a fascinating idea - and will be interesting to see what happens when/if it does take flight later this year.

Annie, get your gun

This is one of my favourite works from the Alexander Turnbull Library's Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection - a small (67 x 90 mm) watercolour by Charles Heaphy, from 1853.

I can remember seeing this little fragment of a work on a tutorial visit to the Turnbull when I was studying art history at Victoria. I was really taken by its oddity - the fierce little woman with her shotgun, the woman in white, looking like a sacrificial virgin, and the buttoned-up lady with the big hankie. I've wondered since then - what were they warding off?

Image: Charles Heaphy (1820-1881) '[Shooting party], Mansion House, Kawau [Island]', 1853. Watcolour. Collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference number: A-164-046.

Monday 19 March 2007

The critic who collects

An article by Jen Graves posted on The Stranger has called forth a lot of debate across a network of interconnected visual arts blogs.

In the article, titled 'Critical Mess: the iffy dealings of Seattle's most widely published art critic', Graves follows up rumours that Seattle art critic Matthew Kangas has asked artists whose shows he has reviewed to give him a work. Nine artists went on the record for the article saying Kangas had requested works from them before or after writing a review.

The article takes the allegations and weaves them into a wider investigation of the propriety of critics asking artists to give them work (blatantly wrong) and critics collecting art at all (a question with considerably more nuance).

Opinions and positions range from 'critics should not collect what they write about' (Village Voice critic Jerry Saltz, for example, collects only junk shop paintings and ceramics) to 'critics might collect ethically' (Regina Hackett, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's art critic has her own rule: "She collects art by full-price purchase only, and doesn't sell anything. She talks with her editor when she fears she's written too much about an artist whose work she owns and is in danger of becoming the primary critic on the artist").

Edward Winkleman and Artworld Salon have both posted responses to the article, and the comment thread on Artworld Salon in particular is good reading.

It would be an interesting question to ask in New Zealand. Given the size of the New Zealand art world, people don't just do double duty - sometimes they're performing three or four roles: critic, curator, teacher, consultant, valuer, collector, spokesperson. And given what freelancers are paid, often they're doing this for peanuts. It's never going to be right to expect an artist to give you a work in return for a write-up. But when does the relationship become too cosy?

One number for life

A new US-based phone service is doing the rounds on the blogs. GrandCentral allows you to choose a single, unified phone number to replace all your individual phone numbers (home, work, cell, yacht, private jet ...).

When someone calls this unified number, all your phones ring at once. Depending on your personality type, I guess you'll either find this hugely useful, or it will turn you into a twitching, hunted wreck.

The service has a bunch of other features, as detailed in an article by David Pogue in the New York Times last week.

One Number That Will Ring All Your Phones - David Pogue
Tim O'Reilly on Pogue's article

Blow up

In Christchurch at the end of last week for the opening of 'Reboot: the Jim Barr and Mary Barr Collection' at the Christchurch Art Gallery, I was lucky enough to wander in the Gallery's foyer on Friday afternoon when Michael Parekowhai's Jim McMurtry was being inflated.

It's always fun watching a work go up, and even better when it's as interactive as this. It went from being a limp beige plastic pile on the tiles to a buoyant, joyous rounded object amazingly fast. As the sculpture inflated Parekowhai walked around, tugging and kneading and fluffing the work like a baker making bread.

The next morning I watched as two small children lolled on the sculpture to have their photo taken by their dad, and then saw them skidding across 'Reboot' as they chased down Cosmo, the other Parekowhai bunny featured in the show.

You can read more about the work and its contentious Christchurchian history on Overthenet, where the above photo is from.

Sunday 18 March 2007

That's vile

How do you feel about clients buying works from you and selling them at auction?

I feel sorry for them if they ever plan on buying anything else from me ... but seriously, when they buy a work from me they're buying it from the artist. And if they then take that piece of art from the artist and stick it in the auction house, that is an abuse of the relationship which is created through the purchase ... the artist-collector relationship, which, by the way, is the central relationship in the history of art.

Someone bought a painting from Tim Eitel two years ago for $2000, it's nine inches square. They sold it at auction - those paintings are not $2000 any more, now they're $9000 - they sold it for $120,000. That's vile. That's not art collecting. If you bought it two years ago, what happened? Are you broke now? No, that person is not starving. Did they turn to the artist's gallery and sat: "Would you like a chance to place this in the right collection (because mine is obviously not)" or whatever? What happens is you breed a class of people like Charles Saatchi whose only interest, in my estimation, is to raise himself above the artists and take pleasure from destroying their lives. They attempt to corner the market by buying dozens or hundreds of works and then, when the moment is right, dump them at auction; they capture the upside and then the market falls away. The first artist Saatchi famously did this to was Sandro Chia, whose market never recovered. For what pleasure did he do this? To destroy Sandro Chia's life? What happened to his insistence that his devotion to artists was the reason the dealer should sell him work after work? What about his friend Damien Hirst whom he extorted millions out of by threatening to dump a dozen major works at auction? The booming market and the auction system breeds this parasitic behaviour which to me is a little reminiscent of the Romans entertaining themselves by throwing the Christians to the lions. So I guess you might say, I'm not a big fan.

Marc Glimcher, president, PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York. Quoted in Adam Lindemann's Collecting Contemporary, Taschen, 2006.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

Hoefler & Frere-Jones

A visit to the New Dowse (just how long can that name last?) was marred by the eeny-weeny type face used on some of the wall labels. It's a small point, but for a museum profiling the best in contemporary design, it has pretty shitty signage.

That's what brought me back to - the website of typeface designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, and the page in particular about the Whitney font designed by Frere-Jones for New York's Whitney Museum:

"When Tobias Frere-Jones was asked to develop an institutional typeface for New York's Whitney Museum, he had to contend with two different sets of demands: those of editorial typography, and those of museum signage. Typefaces for catalogs and brochures need to be narrow enough to work in crowded environments, yet energetic enough to encourage extended reading. But typefaces designed for wayfinding programs need to be open enough to be legible at a distance, and sturdy enough to withstand a variety of fabrication techniques. Fonts destined for signage need to anticipate being cast in bronze, etched in glass, applied in vinyl to backlit signs, and rendered in pixels."
Exactly. Go to the page and check out the myriad ways that Frere-Jones worked this font.

Tuesday 13 March 2007

Opening up access to collections

People often gripe that at any time, a museum or gallery will only have 5-10% of its collection out on display.

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has made a move to improve this statistic, opening its Castle Hill storage and preservation centre up to the public, not just for a special event, but on a permanent basis. They've set up a new website to profile the venture:

Powerhouse Discovery Centre website

The Castle Hill centre houses 40% of the Powerhouse's collections (by volume), or about 50,000 objects. Sadly, you can't just roll up and visit - access is somewhat mediated via:
  • monthly public open days
  • quarterly community field days
  • themed supervised tours into stores on site
  • educational programs and workshops, tours for school groups and special-interest groups school holiday programs
  • community engagement programs
  • regional partnership events
  • specialist/industry and professional development programs.
As well as looking at the objects when you visit, you can get more information about the collection through the Powerhouse's online database, available on OPACs in internet-connected kiosks throughout the space.

Image from the
Powerhouse Discovery Centre website

Monday 12 March 2007

State art funding = mediocrity?

In an interesting post on Artworld Salon, András Szántó poses the question:

"Why is it that America’s sink-or-swim attitude toward arts support keeps producing world-renowned stars, while lavish state funding in Europe seems to achieve the opposite?"
Szántó is tackling the situation in Norway, but what he says resonates for New Zealand:

"The problem is that government programs don’t seem to do too well in nurturing the kind of artistic reputations that merit recognition abroad. Access to free training and living subsidies is a wonderful privilege. Enterprising artists can even take advantage of government travel grants. But in Norway – as in other European nations that spend generously on the arts – these forms of support have, by and large, failed to translate into international approval.

Let me suggest that this might be a perfect mission to embrace by private philanthropy, a phenomenon that is finally emerging in full force in Norway."

Szántó argues that private supporters and foundations can achieve things that government funding, hampered by politics and policies, cannot. His post is particularly when you put it against the Creative New Zealand Draft Strategic Plan.

Thursday 8 March 2007

The Auckland Triennial website

It seemed fair to post on this too, after yesterday's critique of the Telecom Prospect 2007 website

Auckland Triennial website

First off, the '07 Triennial site is a whole lot simpler than (a) previous Triennial websites and (b) the Prospect site.

2001 Triennial

2004 Triennial

2001 Prospect

2004 Prospect

Its got lots of white space, it fills the screen, and works with the usual expanding left-hand nav. The design may not be inspired, but it's easy to navigate and read.

The site has a print screen function, and The Supporters section has embedded links for all the sponsors (both missing from Prospect '07).

On the down side - only one image per artist (here's the Phil Collins page as an example), and some looooong pages. The Events pages, for example, might have benefited from using a table / calendar format.

Interestingly, my favourite section is the most administrative: the Visit section. Nicely laid out, pretty (and readable) maps and easy to follow.

The Triennial site doesn't have any Web 2.0 features - no interactive, no commenting, no podcasts (which I should have given City Gallery credit for, come to think of it). But it does a good job of delivering information and not pissing you off.

The Telecom Prospect 2007 website ...

is alive. And very reminiscent of the 2004 site.

Telecom Prospect 2007 website

Telecom Prospect 2004 website


Site designer Megan Hosking, from alto, did the '04 version too. In '07 the design has been tweaked to encompass Len Cheeseman's branding; last time round it was the four sets of branding (one for each venue) produced by Neil Pardington.


The '07 version retains the annoying drop-downs menus, which obscure the text and images when you're trying to navigate. there's a bug in Firefox too - in IE the colour block for the menu covers all the links in the nav, but in Firefox the last couple of links get lost.

There's also a nav double up - you get the drop-down plus a page of nav. Call me old-fashioned, but I like left-hand nav. (Having said that, HappyCog Studios have ditched trad nav, and succeeded - but they are web standard heroes.)


The short opinion pieces from the past two Prospects - 'real people' in '01, slightly-less-tenuously-related-to-the-visual-arts in '04 - have been dropped, meaning that the 'Opinions' section is only filled with the opinions of the director and the curator. Possibly (?) the essays from the forthcoming catalogue will appear here, although no placeholder seems to be in place.


The images have been improved by the addition of a pop-up window to get a larger version (missing last time) - but don't hit 'View all the works in the exhibition' expecting an image gallery; it's a PDF list of works. And - I know, being picky - this time round they've dropped the image captions, so if there's more than one work by the artist you can't attach name to object. It also means that if you're not in the artists A-Z, you don't know whose work you're looking at.

The inclusion of installation shots is nice - what would have been nicer was linking the photos of each gallery to the 'Gallery notes' available under the 'Opinions' section. And then - even nicer - within the Gallery notes, link from each artists' name to the page on their work. It's the web people - exploit its webbiness.

And - okay, picky picky pickety pick pick - the fact that the installation shots are posted in a section called 'Participate' indicates that maybe the Gallery should have put some more thought into the site IA.


The Comments book is particularly interesting (not because of the content - it's currently empty, but if you 'Mail [sic] your response or comments to' they will 'endeavour to post them back on this page'.)

What is interesting is the shot of deja vu I got reading the invitation to mail a comment:

We want to hear from you… we invite you to be humorous, whimsical, incendiary, sincere - in short, to be as idiosyncratic as the artists in the show. We want to hear your thoughts, feelings, comments, ideas and reviews.

Now we want to hear from you… we invite you to be humorous, whimsical, incendiary, sincere - in short, to be as idiosyncratic as the artists in the show. You are also invited to talk about the show. We want to hear your thoughts, feelings, comments, ideas and reviews.
Again, apparently.

Wednesday 7 March 2007 goes folksy

Folksonomy, that is. Terrible word. has announced that it has introduced folksonomy into its digital art archive ArtBase:

"In the past, all the works within the ArtBase were organized by a controlled vocabulary produced when the archive was founded. Last month, we introduced a hybrid model of controlled vocabulary and folksonomy to categorize the works. When artists submit works to the ArtBase, they choose from our vocabulary and add their terms. As artist-generated terms gain momentum and popularity, we will add them to the Rhizome Vocabulary. We have yet to determine the exact process for adding these terms, as we'd like to see how the new two-tiered system plays out."

What this means in practice is that artists can now give their works tags that they feel are meaningful, in addition to using the terms that Rhizome has available. It's interesting to see how artists are supplementing and contradicting the Rhizome terms, and also how many of the tags that are being added are the names of artists and associations.

ArtBase -