Tuesday 29 September 2009

A quick plug

This was going to be a long and considered post, but a holiday beckons (so no posts until early October, folks). Instead, the points that would have been paragraphs:

1. I went to the Dowse in the weekend

2. It was my best visit since the revamped building opened

3. [Although the location of the front door *still* confuses me]

4. It was my best visit, because:
  • there was a lot of art shows
  • there was a variety of art shows
  • the art shows looked good (finally)
5. The Felix Kelly show was interesting, and looked great (could have benefited from some temporary walls to create breaks between sections). Soft surrealism and British neo-romanticism might not be your thing, but it was a well put together. [Now closed - sorry. The next show in the big gallery is the Wallace Art Awards. Are they running that twice a year now or something?]

6. I thought that Michael Parekowhai's Jim McMurtry looked better at Christchurch Art Gallery - the person with me thought it stood up well in the claustrophobic black-walled gallery. We agreed it looked even better when the lights came on. Still dispute Dowse publicity that the bunny is "catching a few z's" - it's dead, right?

7. The Cao Fei show (via Artspace and the IMA, Brisbane) was a bit of a revelation. First time I've seen really good Second Life art. Fascinating RMB City project, and plain good-looking stuff. Even managed to hold its own in that truly weirdly shaped gallery.

8. Go. Please. Enjoy. Be grateful.

Monday 28 September 2009

Raymond McIntyre appreciation day 2009

Over the past few weeks I've spent quite a lot of time looking at Raymond McIntyre's portraits. I'd rather like to see them (or the ladies, at least) shown alongside Yvonne Todd's cosmetic counter women.

By the by, I found all these images at once using the DigitalNZ Search; Christchurch Art Gallery, Auckland Art Gallery and Te Papa have all added their records to the search, meaning you can go to one place and search all their catalogues at once.

Images, from top

Suzette, 1912-14, oil on panel. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery, presented by Mrs M Good, London, 1975.

Edward McKnight Kauffer, c.1915, oil on panel. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, gift of the estate of C. Millan Thompson to mark the occasion of the retirement of the director, S.B. Maclennan, 1968.

Felice, c.1913, oil on panel. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 1976.

Lizette, c.1913, oil on panel. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 1976.

Haraldur Hamar, c. 1923, oil on hardboard. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 1983.

Ruth, 1912-14, oil on panel. Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery, presented by the McIntyre Family, 1938.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Un-named, 2009

Yesterday I went to check out Wall Works at the Adam Art Gallery - site-specific works by 8 artists, commissioned to mark the 10th anniversary of the gallery's opening.

Earlier in the day I'd had a really surprising visit to the Dowse (more on that later) and while I enjoyed some of the works - Jeena Shin's in particular - I think my capacity for art wonder had been used up for the day. You can read John Hurrell's review for more about the show, and David Cauchi's rather entertaining accounts of the development of bathroom work to get a feel for the "art camp" experience.

Instead, I got rather hung up on one detail of the exhibition installation. For the second time in the row (Laura Preston's previous show was the same, I think), there was no signage to tell you who each work was by. I can understand the desire not to put labels up next to wall works - it would have been quite incongruous, and even ugly. But surely there are some inventive ways to get around this, like vinyl signage on the floor?

If you picked up the understated little flyer from the desk, you did get details about each artist and their work, with the name of the space they were working in. However, this relies on you checking whether you're in the Congreve foyer or the lower Chartwell gallery to make sure you correctly match artist to work - or doing this retrospectively, if you pick up the flyer on the way out.

It's fine if you're pretty familiar with contemporary New Zealand art, and can make a good stab at it for yourself. But I do wonder how this makes less regular gallery visitors feel.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Web muster

Today I'm going for proper engagement over click-n-scan

The City Is A Battlesuit For Surviving The Future. Matt Jones blew my little mind at Webstock this year; get a cup of tea and settle into this lengthy investigation of how the architecture of science fiction has influenced urban design.

A 163 slide presentation by the ever-marvellous George Oates, looking at how the social web can complement traditional library and archival practices.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Say it loud

Today I filled for a friend on Nine to Noon's 'New Technology' slot on National Radio.

The segment ended up being almost entirely ad libbed, but here are some notes I prepared, mostly as a reminder to self, some of which got covered and some of which didn't ...


The GLAMS sector is gearing up towards the annual National Digital Forum in November, so it's a good time to look at the work they're doing. I've picked topics to do loosely with access, innovation and using social media to reach out to communities and audiences.

NZETC releases e-publications

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre at Victoria University is a free online archive of digitised New Zealand and Pacific books, manuscripts and journals. They have stuff like Jean Batten's autobiography, Katherine Mansfield's 'The Garden Party', and a big set of 19th century New Zealand novels.

In the last month they've released most of the texts in the archive as ePub eBooks, which means you can now download them to your Sony Reader or iPhone or iPod Touch. I think the interesting thing about this is that while the NZETC site is an amazing research tool, it doesn't feel to me like something you want to settle in front of and read a whole novel. It's really well done, and the search functionality is great, both on the site as well as for grabbing search engine's attention, but that's a little bit like reading a book using the index as your way in. Turning the digitised texts into e-publications restores some of that original bookiness.

Archives New Zealand on Ziln

Ziln describes itself as "New Zealand's internet television network". People who have video content can work with Ziln to create their own channels. Archives New Zealand have done this; you can watch things like the 1955 open rollerskating champion doing her thing, and a clip of 4 tuatara being sent to zoos in London, New York, Chicago and San Diego. It's a smart example of an organisation saying "why should we try to make people come to our website to see our stuff - if we have video, why not put it in a place where people are going to watch videos?"

Aotearoa People's Network Kaharoa

Based in Christchurch. I think this is one of the most important projects going on in terms of access. The APNK works to put computer equipment, like PCs and scanner and webcams, and broadband internet access and wifi into public libraries throughout the country. They've started with small and rural libraries, and I think they're up to somewhere between 130 and 160 libraries now. They don't just provide the equipment and the access, they also train staff in the libraries and provide ongoing support, so there's someone to call if the wireless goes down or the software is behaving funny.

These new facilities in libraries that couldn't previously support them are bringing new audiences into the buildings - like teenagers and migrant workers. People are going into libraries to skype home, and one of the funniest things people are seeing are all these new Facebook and Bebo accounts getting set up, full of photos of kids standing in front of bookshelves, because they're using the APNK equipment to take the photos and get to their accounts

GLAMS on Twitter

GLAMS organisations in New Zealand have taken to Twitter with a vengeance. They're talking to people about their shows, events and collections, and all sorts of random stuff. At the National Library we use Twitter to share strange, moving or funny items from our collections: yesterday I tweeted out a 1912 ad from a nursing journal we recently added to the Papers Past website, advertising cough lollies with ingredients including cocaine, formaldehyde and potash.

One of the nice things about the Twitter accounts is that they're often being run by people who don't normally get to talk to the public (web managers, collection managers, writers) but who are filled with enthusiasm and passion.

National Library http://twitter.com/NLNZ
Te Papa http://twitter.com/TePapaColOnline
City Gallery Wellington http://twitter.com/CityGalleryWgtn
Christchurch Art Gallery http://twitter.com/ChchArtGallery
Te Ara http://twitter.com/te_ara
NZ on Screen http://twitter.com/nzonscreen


Blogs are another of the Web 2.0 technologies that the GLAMs have leapt on, and especially the libraries.

Christchurch City Libraries' blog is outstanding - they've even sent people to live-blog the Auckland Readers and Writers festival http://cclblog.wordpress.com/

It's not just the big libraries though. For example, Rodney Libraries blog everyday and it's just two people with piles of enthusiasm driving it. http://www.rodneylibraries.blogspot.com/

Te Papa also has a really active blog, that covers all kinds of topics, from ferns to framing to the giant squid. It's interesting to see how these blogs create a sense of community, even with a huge audience like that of Te Papa. For instance, when the artist Julian Dashper died earlier this year, and one of the Te Papa curators wrote a post about him, people from all over the world left their comments and thoughts on the blog. http://blog.tepapa.govt.nz/

Tell the GLAMs what you want

Collecting organisations all over the country are busily digitising their collections so that they can make them easier for people to access. Digital New Zealand was a website where the public can suggest and vote for and comment on things that they'd like to see available online. There's all sorts of requests up there - from aerial photography to the Maori Land Courts Minute Books, and it's really interesting to see the discussion around why people want stuff.

One of the unexpected benefits is that people in organisations are watching the site, and when they see people asking for stuff that's already online, they're jumping in to help them find it.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Today I'm ....

... wondering where the Dowse is going to put Jim McMurtry

... pretty impressed by some of the Powerhouse Museum's plans around licensing and encouraging staff innovation in their strategic plan [PDF]

... putting aside this long piece on non-profit's need to invest in infrastructure (even though that's hard to sell to funders and benefactors) until I have more time to digest it

... feeling a level of agreement with Tyler Green

... checking out Rob Stein's pitch for using open source software at museums on the IMA blog

... thinking that while openness and engagement is a fantastic goal, I'm not sure that an intercom to scientists is the best way to achieve it

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Web muster

Holland Cotter is over the blockbuster:

I recommend that that material be presented in small, smart, frequently changing shows that feed our hunger for novelty, but also change our habits of looking, our idea of what a great exhibition can be.

Starkwhite has started a series of up/down with recession blog posts: Jim Barr and Mary Barr of Over the net kick it off, with sentiments that marry up nicely with Cotter's:

For the past decade and more institutions have used the good times to increase the duration of exhibitions way over their ability to captivate, to build and then build some more, to sideline incisive curation for exhibition design, to sacrifice focus for funding partnerships and move the selection of after-opening restaurants from two stars to five. Maybe a return to home entertaining, faster turnaround of exhibitions and more openess to opportunities and ideas is the way to go.

No relation to the above: an interesting article on hacker art (observation: open source is the new postmodernism).

Monday 14 September 2009

Needs to get out more

I obviously need to sign on to more enewsletters, or read more blogs, or simply talk to more people, because for once I've found out about something through (shock, horror) advertising!

The front page of the C-Monster website is currently showing an ad with what looks suspiciously an Yvonne Todd photograph ...

Intrigued, for the first time ever I clicked through. Turns out that yes indeed, it's an Yvonne Tood ( Approximation of Tricia Martin (2008) to be exact) and it's there because her work is included in the 3rd Foto-Festival biennale in Germany.

Clicking round the artist list on the site I realised that there are 3 NZers in the biennale: Todd, Ann Shelton and Yuk King Tan. And I guess this is due to Tobias Berger (ex-Artspace, Auckland) being one of the two curators. In other news I was horribly unaware of, Berger has moved on from Para/Site in Hong Kong to the Nam June Paik Art Center in Korea: its terrifically flashy website is here.

Sunday 13 September 2009

long time ...

... no blog, huh?

I'm doing three pieces of contract writing and editing which are sucking up my blogging time right now (one of these, however, I hope to republish here in a few weeks).

It's a bit of a slow patch in Wellington at the moment, as we wait for the reopening of City Gallery Wellington with the Kusama show on 27 September, and the reveal of the Adam Art Gallery's commission of 1o wall-works for its 10-year anniversary next Saturday.

And things have been a bit sluggish in the media, if you set aside the utterly predictable hoo-hah over the Waikato Art Awards.

But I promise to try harder. Next week.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Little big web

Little is big on the web, from mechanical turks to microcredit.

Now a Brooklyn start-up is doing micro-patronage of the arts. Kickstarter describes itself as "a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers". Artists submit their projects to Kickstarter, who load them to the site, where people can then chose to support a favoured project by donating a couple of bucks.

Crucially, donors don't just get warm fuzzies in return for their donations: the artists offer insider access to the project, and sometimes physical or tangible exchanges. In return for a $50 donation, audio engineer Earl Scioneaux III offered a gumbo dinner and a chance to listen to his recordings with other financiers; Emily Grenader got both the funding and the participants for her project of mailing out a postcard every day for a year.

The site is run by Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler, who raised $30,000 in seed finance before launching the service. In this New York Times article Chen emphasises that Kickstarter is not "an investment, lending or a charity [but] something else in the middle: a sustainable marketplace where people exchange goods for services or some other benefit and receive some value." Fittingly, the article appears in the NYT's Business section rather than being filed under Arts.

At the moment the site is curated; Strickler and Chen review and select the projects. According to the NYT article, they're considering opening the site up to anyone and charging a small fee for transactions. I wonder if that will be as successful - curation is so often the key to quality and appeal.

Of course, sometimes big is good too. Check out Chris Heathcote's loca london.* The page (yup, you read that right - a 5100px wide page, not a site) grew out of his @localondon feed on Twitter, which sends out reminders of when art exhibitions open and close. In this blog post Heathcote tells how this feed of alerts and reminders has turned into a page giving an overview of current exhibitions, plus reviews of the shows. Heathcote clearly sees the curatorial aspect of the page as important: it's not *everything* that's on, and nor is it regurgitated gallery press releases. Instead it's quality, easy to skim critical responses to shows. From the post:

these two services are trying to be slightly different – super simple, low volume, presented in a neutral voice and delicately curated. It reflects what I want to go and see, not everything that’s on.
Interestingly, Heathcote notes that the one-pager is partly inspired by a part of the Guardian that's only available in the print edition: the G2 grid of culture reviews.

Heathcote also describes why he went for one big page, not a 'normal' site. If you ask me, it's inspired - a really clever, thoughtful, elegant tool that re-uses information intelligently and subtly.

*Thanks to @gnat for the tip-off