Monday 27 April 2015

Weekend reading

I often wonder what the word is for leisurely, pleasurable work: I guess it's a hobby, even if what you choose to do isn't potting or gardening but, say, wireframing, or reading research reports with a cup of tea. Maybe it's just work, without the deadline, in a nicer setting. But still - whatever we call it, one of my pieces of leisure-pleasure-work this weekend was reading the AAMD's new report, Next Practices in Digital and Technology.

The report features 41 case studies on digital projects in American art museums, from interpretation to collection management to social media. To be up front, I thought some were just cheaty - especially entries for projects, like the CRM being produced by two San Francisco museums, that are still in the design phase, all written in the future tense ("users will be able to ..."). It doesn't matter how good your requirements document is if you haven't shipped yet. 

Then there are some gimmes, like the Cooper Hewitt's pen and underlying planning and infrastructure - frankly, Seb and his team are lightyears ahead of where I'm able to put my mind. If you want to try to wrap your head around what 'digital at the centre' might really look like, check out Seb and Aaron's Museums and the Web paper from this year.

And in the middle were a couple of projects that, Three Bears like, fit me just right at the moment. One of these is the Rhode Island School of Design's (RISD's) Channel app - using Soundcloud to host short snippets of commentary on works on display, which are then produced in a web app that can be used as an audio-guide in the gallery. RISD have made a point of trying to pair voices on each object, presenting an art historical take, and a perspective from a maker. This project interests me because we've been using Soundcloud to host The Dowse's podcasts and I've been toying with the idea of trialling an audio guide for a coming exhibition with a longer than usual run, using Soundcloud to host a playlist of short tracks.

Then there's the San Diego Museum of Art's work around a still life painting by Juan Sánchez Cotán, Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber (c. 1602), which unfortunately I can't find any mention of online.  The still life is one of the central works in the museum's collection, and they have built a 'please touch' experience around it designed for people with visual impairments that crosses over into other audiences as well. The objects in the painting are reproduced as a bas-relief sculpture that can be explored with your hands, and the touch triggers spoken commentary, music, and other kinds of interpretation. It's a lovely idea and when you look at the painting you can imagine it would be very successful. 

Saturday 25 April 2015


For a good critic, listening to a recording should be like a skeptical stroll around the new-car lot, not an unwrapping frenzy on Christmas morning. Listening alongside fans on social media, racing toward a verdict, too many writers seem to be getting swept away in the lovefest. 
This establishes a hasty and formidable wave of acclaim, and to speak out against it at a later date is to out yourself as a hater, a contrarian, a click-baiter or a troll. Somehow, we seem to be growing more comfortable with this grody polarization of taste. Disagreement is now perceived as a demonstrative act instead of a natural and necessary position.

Rockism, poptimism and music criticism: a Washington post story on internet-incubated insta-love and the failings of critics to be critical is discussed in a Grantland podcast triggering a WaPo response-podcast and all in all forming a chunk of my weekend pop culture consumption.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Listen up

I can't quite believe we're up to our 15th episode of our podcast (or, frankly, that the two people behind it have managed to pump out one a week for 15 weeks in a row).

This week's podcast is an interview with artist Bronwynne Cornish who was with us at The Dowse recently installing her survey exhibition Mudlark. This is the first time I've worked with Bronwynne and I found her to be one of the most articulate artists I've met: she has a gift for explaning her work to an audience and talking about the things they want to hear - and also for considering how her earlier works might be seen today.

On that note, in the podcast Bronwynne talks almost about her 365-piece ceramic installation work Home is where the heart is, the key work in Mudlark and one of the star pieces in The Dowse's collection.

Wednesday 22 April 2015

On the radio

Today on the radio I got squeezed for time by #ponytailgate but still got a chance to run through the current show at Toi Poneke, Ornament/Artefact.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Weekend ponderings

Collections and interpretation

Two Way St, a new tool for exploring the British Museum's collection, has got me quite inspired. I'm fascinated by the emphasis on 'date made' and 'date acquired', which gives an inkling of the shape of the collection: when items came in, what kinds of items, from where and who (whence and whom?).

Rarely these days am I jealous of another institution's online projects, but I'm green as a grasshopper about the new videos from the Met.


This article about Joanne Heyler, director of the forthcoming museum to house the Broad collection, also grabbed me, for this paragraph:
There is no reception desk, for example; visitors — who need to make reservations, although there can be some walk-ins — will be checked in by greeters in the lobby with iPads and iPhones à la Apple retail stores. 
“We had the opportunity — which I wanted to seize — to do things a little differently,” Ms. Heyler said, adding that it would feel “much less formal than visits to other museums."
An extended interview (part one, part two) with Arnold Lehmna, who leaves the Brooklyn Museum after 17 years this year.
Artists were put on this earth to help us think beyond what we normally are able to think about. As such, I for one believe that they are a protected species, and need us all to support that. There’s really no choice—whether it has to do with David [Wojnarowicz’s] work or Chris Ofili or anything else we do, those artists are safe here.

Saturday 11 April 2015


An interesting article on the design of the new Whitney museum, where floors are ready to be nailed into and ceilings ready to be suspended from.

Of course, whilst the artists aren't in yet, the patrons and party-crowd are.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Tuesday 7 April 2015

I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside

Earl Sweatshirt has a new album out (title as above) and with it comes a ghostly music video for the single 'Grief' shot by Hiro Murai.

Dezeen has an interesting interview with Murai on how he achieved the look (and why he went grayscale rather than the garish red-blue-green we're used to with thermographic cameras).

Sunday 5 April 2015


Two examples of gesamtkunstwerk I've been lusting over today: Karl Lagerfield's Memphis Milano-fuelled apartment in Monte Carlo (the Memphis look feels really "now" again to me)

and Helen Hitching's Wellington gallery, currently being evoked in Te Papa's new collection hang:

Thursday 2 April 2015


One of the things I quite like about Instagram is its resistance. You see photos, like photos, comment on photos, follow people, maybe share some behind the scenes stuff.

You can't add links to a photo description. You can't, without significant effort, push people from the Instagram world to a non-Instagram action - like selling tickets or signing up for events. You can't pay Instagram to show more people your photo, so that more people might be tempted into these actions. Given the algorithms that govern what you see on Facebook, and the promoted tweets Twitter is drowning in (or their recent 'Watch the #CWC live' campaign), this feels like a sweet relief - you pick things to look at, you look at the things.

God only knows how long this will last, because all those monetising opportunities must be hella tempting. And of course, people have found ways to cash in round the corners, with endless product placement. (One of my social media rules has become only following people I have met in real life - or am likely to one day - for just this reason. As a result I think the only product placement I've seen on Instagram is a fancy toilet brush care of a New Zealand painter.*)

Which is why this article on ballet dancers' use of Instagram is interesting. Ballet suits Instagram - beautiful photogenic people who enjoy performing, bloody feet, international travel, costumes. And while the companies haven't figured out how to boost tickets sales off the back of hundreds of little red hearts, the dancers are certainly on top of the brand building.

*Or maybe the product placement is so flawless I don't even notice.