Saturday 25 April 2020

Reading list, 25 April 2020

Covid, of course

A beautifully imagined and written piece by Rebekah White in New Zealand Geographic, 'Our New Future', a non-sensational take on what the coming months could look like, in the scenarios of a second outbreak, or where the virus is contained or eliminated.

American museum consultant Dan Spock (a very considered person) thinks through the Post-Coronavirus Museum

From the Art Newspaper'There is no fast track back to normal': museums confront economic fallout of the pandemic - follow this overview up with the indepth podcast, with long interviews with Frances Morris (Tate), Dan Weiss (The Met) and Philip Tinari (UCCA Center for Contemporary Art Beijing).

Not Covid specifically, but interesting data

The Mapping Museum research project based at Birkbeck University of London looked at the explosion of museums in the UK in the second half of the 20th century, and sought to document and analyse how the sector changed between 1960 and 2020. Their website has a variety of articles and research reports, including the just released Mapping Museums 1960–2020: A report on the data which includes the top-line finding "758 museums have closed, which is 18.7% of the total number of museums open since 1960. The assumption that museums survive and that they keep collections for posterity is misplaced."

Not Covid, just heartbreaking

Letters reveal postnatal crisis of Barbara Hepworth - from the Observer, I've read this story about four times and each time it just wrecks me. Don't read it if you're not feeling resilient.

Not Covid, just nostalgia

Midwest - a brief but brightly burning publication coming out of the John McCormack / Robert Leonard Govett-Brewster - has been scanned and put online by the gallery (except one issue, waiting for John to have access to his storage post-lockdown)

Sunday 19 April 2020

Reading list, 19 April 2020

Covid-19, of course

New NZ thinktank Koi Tū's paper on the questions the pandemic should be prompting us to ask for the future. And The Great Reset: What Will (Need to) Change after the Crisis? from a House of Beautiful Business Living Room Session (whatever that is?). Long pieces I'll come back to post the Monday announcement, I reckon. 

From NiemanLab: The coronavirus traffic bump to news sites is pretty much over already (American, of course, I'm not sure where NZ is at. Check out the most recent episode of The Fold in which The Spinoff editor Duncan Grieve pondered the Covid-19 impact on the media on March 27, a monologue that still holds up)

Covid-19 and magical thinking defence mechanisms

Moving beyond the content-frenzy: Andrew McIntyre of audience research company MHM in the first of three articles about becoming more audience-focused post-Covid

McIntyre links to this interesting piece by Nicholas Berger, The Forgotten Art of Assembly Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making: "These immediate, ad hoc, digital projects highlight not a resiliency, but a deep fear. The coronavirus has exposed us all, desperately afraid of being alone."

Let's zoom out on that one. This week I was sent this article by a friend, Why Are You Panic-Working? Try This Instead by organisational psychologist Gianpiero Petriglieri. He gives a psychological framework for this productivity response, the "manic defense", outlined by Donald Winnicott in the early 20th century. Petriglieri writes:

Like all defenses, the obsession with staying productive is a source of dubious comfort. It sustains the pretense that if we work hard enough, we can hold onto the world we once knew. 
It shields us from feeling powerless in the face of events, but it comes at a high price. It costs us our connection to reality, to our experience, and to others. We become incapable of appraising the situation, acknowledging our feelings about it, and being present to others. We become numb. Eventually, we fall apart because we have tried too hard to keep ourselves together.

How we respond when placed under pressure is something I've been intrigued about ever since I drove my car over a small cliff as a teenager (long background story) and never more so than this past month. Call me late to the party (like, arriving a solid 10 years after it started) but I've just started listening to Brené Brown's podcast 'Unlocking Us'. The episode on anxiety, and people's tendency to either over or under-perform when placed under pressure is full of commonsense and good reminders, and links well to Petriglieri's article. 

Covid as a springboard for writing about new cultural artefacts

Using Barbie to stage mini-protests: I usually hate art gallery stunts, this is genius. "That's not art it's Victorian porn!' – how one small Barbie doll took on the art world", Nancy Langham-Hooper's interview with Sarah Williamson, creator of ArtActivistBarbie.

Simon Wilson reviews Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, (paywalled) asking what we can learn from Thomas Cromwell's life and times to apply to our current moment: "Power, wielded successfully, is about matching ambition to circumstance. Doing what you can, knowing how to play the long game but also seize the moment. You can't just do what you want. You have to do it so it works."

Not at all Covid

A 2019 piece from The New York Times by Caity Weaver, on the office design of the company that runs a bunch of America's mall food chains.

Also from the Times: Sarah Miller's lengthy analysis you didn't know you needed of Claire Danes' character's attachment to cross-body bags in Homeland.

Bonus reading fest

This massive New York Times T Magazine's 2020 Culture Issue. I particularly enjoyed the article about butch and stud lesbian style / identity. 

Monday 13 April 2020

Reading list, 13 April 2020

Cultural sector

Colleen Dilenschneider is releasing regular updates to the (American) audience surveys about appetite to return to cultural organisations after lock-down

The National Library of New Zealand on how they're documenting online life during Covid-19

The best piece I've read so far on abruptly moving to working with remote teams, by Mandy Brown

This Happy Museum piece is good - How might museums help us navigate beyond our current crisis? - but actually I really liked how they presented it as a Twitter thread

From Mass Action: How Are We [Museums] Centering Equity in this Time?


This (short) reframing of the idea of "accountability" in the workplace has really helped me deal with a word I usually find to be weaponised.

This tweet thread from whoever @LewSOS is (apologies Lew) is really interesting. The observation is that we are all getting much the same data right now, but the speed at which you can form and announce an opinion based on that data, compared to the speed at which you can form and announce an implementation plan based on that data, are quite different.

Three reasons why Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response has been a masterclass in crisis leadership: direction-giving, meaning-making and empathy.

Deloitte's think piece: thrive scenarios for resilient leaders - different ways the world might come out of Covid-19 (more or less trust in government, technology, other people ...)


I keep returning to this piece by Emma Pattee in the New York TimesThe Difference Between Worry, Stress and Anxiety

Every couple of days I also contemplate this graphic (which I can't find an original source for):

With a lot more walking in my life, I'm doing a lot more podcast listening nowadays, including RNZ's Coronavirus podcast (I enjoy their focused approach) but most especially How's Work? with Esther Perel, from Gimlet Media (the workplace counselling podcast you didn't know you needed in your life).

Light relief

The social media phenomena of people recreating portraits in their own homes has been pretty great, but I truly applaud my friend (and cultural sector champion Glen Barnes) for this one: