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Melbourne Art Truck

Designed by Tristan Strong

Designed by Tristan Strong

Back in February 2012 i embarked on a brief adventure exploring the idea of creating an art truck curatorialproject. I was (and still am) in love with buying my food from trucks and had the zany idea that an art truck would be a fun additional to Melbourne’s art and food scenes. Drawing on the work done by the food trucks with Melbourne’s municipal councils, i pitched the idea to the Awesome Foundation for their MEGA Grant party.

I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in the top three and found myself pitching the concept to a large group of interested people, in the mix to win the MEGA Grant of over $4000. Unfortunately i was not successful on the night, that honour went to  One Girl, who used the money to build a toilet in Sierra Leone.

As a consolation prize, incredible people over at Pozible offered me assistance in running a campaign to raise the funds through their innovative crowd sourcing website, however after much deliberation, i decided that the concept was great in theory, but looking unmanageable in practice.

So for now, the concept has been put on ice, awaiting a time when i can find the right truck and funds to lift the idea off the ground. I am very grateful for the support of my friends who donated to my Awesome Foundation tilt and to Awesome and Pozible for giving me a go. For now i shall go back to eating Tacos from trucks and dream of a day when one can also enjoy so emerging art with food.

Art Truck Header

My Art Truck Pitch for those interested.

Also, a huge thanks to Tristan Strong for designing the Melbourne Art Truck logo 🙂

Well, i finally bit the bullet and curated a group show ALL BY MYSELF! This was a scary prospect as other shows i have previously curated had either been smaller, with students or an exhibition where the artists were volunteering their work.

In this show, not only did i negotiate with 40+ artists, but they were paying for the privilege plus selling their work.

This prospect was terrifying to me as an emerging curator, who not only needs to curate a kick-arse show, but also to make it worth it for the artists.

To be honest i am pretty damn happy with the show! Of course there were a few hiccups on the day but the awesome install staff at BSG were on hand to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible.

Some artists even sold their work which makes me feel a little like a proud parent.

Curating this type of show has taught me that curatorial problems often sit well behind other logistical problems, such as financial sustainability or practical concerns like lighting or a hanging system.

This is not ideal for a curator however it is a fact of life in a Gallery. Flexibility with a curatorial design is key.

Anyway i thought i would share a few photos of the exhibition taken by BSG. Enjoy! 

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Researching Images

Well, that wasn’t too painful. In fact it was kinda cool. The class consists of about 20 or so Masters by Research and PhD students, who are loosely researching ideas relating to images. There are some really awesome topics, included but not limited to:

  • Dance choreography and the importance of So You Think You Can Dance
  • Philosophy and imagery of Sophia Coppola’s Maria Antoinette
  • The depiction of animals in painting at the turn of the Twentieth Century
  • The oeuvre of Howard Arkley in relation to conservation and restoration
  • A rethinking of Futurism in relation to its actual reflection of the politics of the day
  • An examination of the rise of private collection institutions such as Tarrawarra and MONA

The workshop itself was pretty bludgy. I got to describe my ideas and listen to what others had been up to over the break. As it turns out, the majority of the class has been at it since the start of the year, so i was one of the only mid-year starters. It was both handy and scary to see where i need to be at in six months time!

Having sat through one of these, i may now be coming around to the wisdom that these workshops might be handy to staying on track and having a cohort to support you in the critical year one of candidature before confirmation.

A PhD has classes?

After jumping head first into this research adventure, my first stumbling block has been the addition of classes in the PhD program at the University of Melbourne. New this year, the Arts faculty has, in its infinite wisdom, decided to introduce compulsory workshops. Beginning this week i will be attending a workshop called Researching Images, run by Prof. Charles Green and Dr. Mark Nicholls. I am not sure how i feel about this. One of the excellent qualities of the PhD is meant to be the lack of class time and tortuous forced readings. I will update with the wisdom of this workshop after day one. Stay tuned.

A PhD hat* i hope to wear one day
* may not be technical name

Today marks the first day of my PhD Candidature. Yup, that’s right, i have taken the leap into research. Five years ago when i handed in my Art History thesis i swore i would never do another research project! Ironically that thesis was a tiny total of 12,000 words. I am now facing down the barrel of seven times that much!

Why? Well i am fast learning that a BA (hons.) is not enough, nor has the Masters of Art Curatorship really solved the problem. I have the perennial arts student problem, i am a jack of all trades and a master of none (despite what the shiny testamur might say!) So i have chosen to tackle this problem head on. I have found a topic that i believe will sustain my interest for three years and dived in head first (that is for a whole other post!)

This blog will lay testament to my journey. I am excited and nervous all at once. I am also hoping the clichés are a temporary affliction.

Truth be told i am really in it for the hat… oh and so people can refer to me as Dr. Flick.

ARCA Conference

I just arrived home from a mind-blowing trip to Europe where i attended my first major international art fair (ArtBasel), my second Documenta and my first international art conference as a professional (rather than an organiser!)

View over Umbria at sunset

I found ARCA – the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art – during a random hunt for an overseas postgraduate degree. ARCA run a Postgraduate Certificate in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in the European summer. As amazing as it sounded, the cost and the length of the program (three months), prohibited me from pursuing it further.

Instead i had to settle for the annual conference, which was being held for the fourth time during the postgraduate program, to allow the students the opportunity to network with, and learn from, the gathered art crime experts from around the world. The festivities took place 23-24 June, in Amelia, Umbria in Italy, a small medieval town about 40 mins from Roma.  

Jason Felch’s Chasing Aphrodite

On the day of the conference, the Italian transport system failed me on route, and i found myself stranded at Orte station, a good 20 min drive Amelia. Luckily the conference organisers were on the ball and rather than have to figure our the Italian taxi system, a car was dispatched for my rescue.

After chatting to other stranded international attendee in the car, i realised it may not have been my esteemed presence that warranted the car, but my fellow passenger, who i learned was Jason Felch, an LA Time reporter.

Mr. Felch was the brains behind the revelations that the Getty was willing buying looted objects for its collection. This made him somewhat of a celebrity amongst the archaeologists in the audience. His book on the topic, Chasing Aphrodite, co-authored with Ralph Frammolino, details the case and he was in Amelia to receive a prize for his work on the Getty.

The program over the three days covered art forgery, archeology and looting. You can check out the program here.

I found the majority of the presentations exciting and interesting, having never studied looting or art theft in detail. I took copious notes and have already ordered Jason’s book, as well as number of others on the topic!

On the Sunday, the session i was waiting for on art forgery came around. Australia was represented by two criminologists, Saskia Hufnagel & Duncan Chappell. They gave an overview of a number of high-profile art forgery cases, both in Australia and overseas. I had been hoping for more presentations on art forgery, as the conference had a strong bias toward archaeology, rather than forgery. This is now serving as my motivation to present at the next one!

Attendees at the Conference

Being a baby researcher in the area, i was in awe of the experts in the field, but i can already see some holes in the current academia  For a start, Saskia and Duncan are coming at the problem from the perspective of criminologists. Whilst this theoretical framework is integral to the bigger picture solution, engaging art curators and art historians’ knowledge and experience with dealers, artists and buyers, is also needed. In fact, the whole conference consisted mostly of lawyers, criminologists, archaeologists, police and academics. I was one of the only art curators or art professionals in the room. This is a long-term problem for this conversation, and i did note a subtle hostility toward the rank of museum director/curator. Those misgivings aside, the attendees were passionate and pro-active about their respective causes.

Overall I found the conference far too short and i am already hankering for the next one. I made some great contacts with the younger attendees and i am looking forward to seeing them next year.

Artempo media image, Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, 2007

My first memory of really being struck by the curation of an exhibition, rather than just the art, was in an auxiliary exhibition during the Venice Biennale in 2007. Held in a Palazzo down a laneway, off a laneway, was Artempo: Where Time Become Art at the Palazzo Fortuny.

I happened upon it after spending an afternoon off the Biennale map, instead following the signs around the city, in this case, a little red arrow.

Stepping inside the Palazzo was like stepping into a Seventeenth Century Wunderkammer, a hodge-podge of artworks dealing with decay, death, life, time, temporality, space. The array of artists exhibited spanned decades, with Man Ray and Duchamp, Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon and even Martino Fortuny himself, the artistic all-rounder whose marvellous palazzo we were standing in.

Curiosities like skulls, decaying furniture and stuffed animals, provided point and counter point to the artworks on display. It was a transformative and visceral experience. A complete assault on the senses and intellect, and I remember needing a hefty carafe of wine after the experience.

Level Two of the Palazzo
(thanks to David Yoder for The New York Times)

Even now, this exhibition has remained with me and I wish I were able to go back and experience it again.

To me, this is what curation should be, creating something with the art objects that makes people stop and think, even if only for a minute.

This exhibition made me want to be an art curator. I can only hope one day i will put on an exhibition that  makes someone react in the same way i did all those years ago.

I am inspired by the installations by artists like Anish Kapoor, Pippilotti Rist, Yayoi Kusama and Antony Gormley, who create new worlds for you to stick your head into.

Kapoor’s gaping, buzzing holes of colour in Untitled 2006-07, at the Queensland Art Gallery and Rist’s dada-like Small Laguna, 2011 at ACCA, are works that make the audience question what is going on before their eyes.

Another exhibition that has stuck with me was at London’s Hayward Gallery in 2009. Walking in My Mind: Adventure into the Artist’s Imagination featured large-scale, room filling installations by ten artists including Kusama and Rist.

Kusama’s room size red balls and dots created a magical land and people were running around in delight, finding different angles with which to take photographs of themselves with art and the surrounding mirrors. The exhibition also has a great flash website you can still check out.

One of my guilty pleasures is to subtly observe how other people react to the art they are viewing. I love how one work can fascinate one viewer, repulse another and not even register with a third.

MONA in Hobart, Tasmania

More recently, it has been David Walsh’s MONAisms that has struck a chord with me. I love how MONA contrasts old with new and hangs artworks next to each other that create dialogue. The dead horse next to the suicide machine or a Egyptian mummy next to the Chapman brothers.

I love the room that contrasts an Andres Serrano morgue series photograph with an actual mummified body. The use of the ‘black’ water moat around the walkway of a sectioned off space that only one or two people could enter at once, created an eerie space of reflection on death and mortality.

Wandering around MONA made me realise that I dislike staid exhibition text. The lack of text on the walls and randomised ‘O’ machines means that every visitor experiences the museum and each object in a completely different way to the person next to them.

This is the type of the experience I want to create as a curator.