Tag Archives: art

Going back to gallery land #ndf2012

Going back to gallery land
Courtney Johnston, Hutt City Council @auchmill
This talk has been prompted by a shift: from private to public sector, from things on the web to things on walls, from Cuba Street to Lower Hutt. It will range over a group of freewheeling ideas, including the sensitised museum, the stack as metaphor, and the potential of emotional interfaces. There will also be 90 seconds on the topic ‘How to be a great client’.

Refers to article by Alexis Madrigal on “giving a shit”.

Advice for being a good client:

  • build a good relationship – trust
  • be customer-focused
  • don’t think of them as vendor but as customer
  • hard decisions are around money

Director of the Dowse Art Museum – big enough to do stuff but small enough to fly under radar. Leap from running web company to becoming director of art museum. Budget management and HR and strategy all obvious. But also experience of customer-focus, experimentation….

Lots of thinking in metaphors for transition. They’re a bridge between familiar and unfamiliar. A way of making a new kind of sense. Thought of “the stack” – visualises racks of VCRs. Old boss used to say when starting a new project should go through the whole stack. Never used to take diagrams seriously because didn’t help her think but now started drawing own – using stack metaphor.

“We should do X because it will better allow us to fulfill Y aspect of our mission by Z” (Nina Simon at NDF2009)

Realised her “stack” isn’t a straight line but a circle – realising that fans and mission aren’t two ends of a line, they’re the same thing.

Can’t afford to have visitors feel stupid or wrong, online or in physical space. No 404 or 403 pages in our buildings, and customer service people need to be our Fail Whales. Don’t hide the thing people come to place for – in art gallery the art.

Emotional response to books, art, museum spaces. Sport as “spectacle” – event designed to evoke reaction from viewers/participants. Memorable, moving. Have we become timid? Our visitors are hungry for experience. What if we had more emotion, personality, connection in our museums and galleries.


Museum of emotions – up to beginning of previous century men would have intimate relationships with each other, now seems lacking. Our language has become impoverished, fewer words for feelings. “Chivalry” reduced from whole code to “holds doors open for women”. Museum of emotions is a place you go to to experience emotions that have fallen into disuse, emotions you haven’t experienced yet. Not a place to learn about them but to experience them. Not a programme designed to evoke them, but one where exhibits radiate the emotion at you.

Emophoto – Makes DigitalNZ sets for various reasons – pulling things together and annotating; exploring ideas/thesis; to accompany blogposts; for amusement as public/private gifts to people. Currently can’t search for sets or see sets other than those on homepage – have to follow setmakers on Twitter. Created Tumblr site to aggregate some but dependent on time. Meaning accruing to images as collected in different sets. Wants to make sets collaboratively. Frustrated that can’t search sets by emotion. Let people classify images by an “emotion picker” (like a colour picker) – quality vs intensity. Both what emotion do you see in the photo, and what emotion you feel – these are different things.

[Shares descriptions of images that have moved her emotionally.]

Metadata as a way of turning looking into thinking. (@petrajane)

Hard to tweet as a director! Personal and professional smash up against each other. Risk of putting foot wrong and standing on landmine – but doesn’t want to stop because openness is powerful and scalable way of staying connected to fans.

Keynote 3 by @_sarahbarns #ndf2012

Past forward: speculative adventures in the city’s archive
Sarah Barns @_sarahbarns
Dr Sarah Barns is a researcher, strategist and digital producer whose work sits at the intersection of cultural heritage, digital media and urban history. Her interest take collections out of the building, capture unguarded moments, and create real time city- and data-scapes from intangible heritage.
Recent projects include the ABC Mapping Emergencies trial (2012), which delivered a crowd-sourced platform for journalists, emergency service agencies and social media users to share information on natural disasters across Australia, Unguarded Moments for Art & About Sydney (2011); About NSW Suburb Labs for the Powerhouse Museum (2011); and ABC Sydney Sidetracks (2008), a cross-platform project exploring the history of Sydney using documentary archives from the ABC, the National Film and Sound Archive and beyond.
She has a PhD in Public History and a background working as a strategist and research adviser for many cultural and media sector organisations. These include the ABC, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Creative Industries Innovation Centre. Projects, sound resources and writing by Sarah can be found on her blog at www.sitesandsounds.net.au/.

[ETA: Sarah’s slides and notes.]

Last year comment made that “The 20th century has released us into history through technology”. Big data is a big concern – digital deluge. She’s interested less in dealing with it than in experiencing it. Previously had a sense of distance, peering through a window; now we can interact with it as a resource. A direct experience. Shows overlay of historic video over Streetview; video of Bert and Ernie peering through the camera and saying hi to us. We can interact with our past.

Interested not necessarily in most technically advanced way to do things but in where platforms are going. Various projects she’s been working on in last 9 years, in interaction between archives (film, tv, sound, image), digital (relationship between information and space – eg geoweb, locative media), place (important to who we are as people), public space (site-specific installations).

“Making the invisible visible” installations from Helsinki – eg visualising pollution.

2003 looking at phones with GPS technology, location-aware, and wondering what might be done with this futuristic tech. Heard people talking at conferences about would be able to watch tv at bus station – was horrified at idea of replicating the past with old media monopolising new tech. Eg news companies when radio was introduced, opera when phone was introduced. So thinking how to engage location-aware phones with world around us? Idea of public authoring of the city. Someone did pilot of people contributing stories re places; another did pilot of navigating space and stories attached. But clunky tech meant you’d have to walk around looking at device, not interacting with the space itself. Also privileged the digital story over the physical reality.

Wanted the street to speak for itself so idea of using phone to act as homing device to history of place. Already had film and sound archive so could use these? Found people creating “sound walks”; artists and acoustic ecologists. 2007 worked with National Film and Sound Archive to reimagine archive as archaeologies of recorded action. Collection didn’t include ambient recordings – hard to find. Protest footage from the 1970s (opposition to development) cf gentrified area in the present. (more on her website)

Found only could use ABC archives if employed by them, not as member of public. Created “Sydney Sidetracks”. Moved away from pure interest in sound as website needs more visual stuff too. Mobile interface but very clunky and no-one used it. (She didn’t even use it herself.) But well-received in terms of encouraging archives to rethink how to present collections. [Sound recording of Martin Place 1945 (first in situ sound recording in Australia) cf image of Martin Place 2008.]

Started to look around spaces for surfaces – can we interact with a space including sound but using projections? Project photos onto built spaces. Project for “Art and About Sydney” who think of city as collaborative canvas. “Unguarded Moments” asked people for photos from their life in Millers Point and got queues with photo albums. Site-specific projections of photos around the area, used windows showing (slow) video.

Last Drinks” incorporates sound archives, images about the Australia Hotel (now site has MLC Centre), lots of culture documented about these times/places. Asked people for stories – work, marriages, photos. Scanned old Australia Hotel Journals. Not just website expecting people to visit, but plinths and other on-location things. Created a mobile site – pared down version of site.

No metrics on usage as all in public domain so hard to measure where people got to it. Naively thought could access eg ABC archives as a researcher because publically funded but no, doesn’t work like that… Could only do it with partnerships/relationships.

New Memory Palaces and the Sublime #ndf2012

Piotr Adamczyk, @adamczyk, Google Art Project
Piotr has been exploring the possibilities for exchange between practices in the sciences and evaluation techniques from the arts. Most recently he led development on the Google Art Project. Before that he held an analyst position with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. With a background in Mathematics and Computer Science, Piotr holds graduate degrees in Human Factors and Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Piotr has authored papers and organized workshops for Association for Computing Machinery conferences centred on human-computer interaction, and served as a Program Committee member for ACM Creativity & Cognition in 2007 and 2009. His recent work is focused on the use of open/linked data in cultural heritage institutions.

Shows images of museum content contrasting with museum data… Worked on Museum Data Exchange Project with OCLC

At one pointed had to scrape own website to get data sharable. Has used Yahoo Pipes. Tried this with a single object – what about with a whole collection? V&A infinite scroll. [Google, DuckDuckGo, etc do this – why not library catalogues and databases?] SFMOMA ArtScope lets you see an overview of the whole collection but still distancing, doesn’t give you context or differences. SFMOMA Collections Online Visualization Tool – Beta makes it into a graph.

Got into Google Art Project as a Met employee. Now working on backend metadata and systems. 36102 artworks from 184 collections from 43 countries – 2 from New Zealand. Will take any nonprofit institution, copyright-free or -cleared content. Not replacing existing platforms but creating another one. Not just the art but also a streetview component currently in 55 galleries. (2m-tall trolley that someone walks behind and gallery says where to go.)

Adding features – In Google can do things quickly compared to “museum time”. Eg user galleries, compare features to compare two artworks eg a sketch and a finished painting. Unplanned benefit of aggregation. Quickly added a Hangouts feature, so can take people through guided tour. Goggles – image recognition software for mobile devices to lead back to institution website.

“Memory Palace” (Wikipedia, WikiHow)

Lots of photos of exhibits here, and Flickr groups – What’s in your bag?, Bookshelf project – musing about how we visualise collections of things.

Google Art Project can only give a sense of what’s measurable, a sense of what institution has said is most significant. “But what we do well is we do everything at once.”

Brings us back to copyright, he says, showing a streetview with one of the images blurred out. (There’s someone who goes through this streetview and takes the blurred images and gets someone to paint it so that the blurred painting now actually exists!) There are also some glitches due to software/hardware images from the trolley trundling through. Some issues remaining but thinks still doing good stuff.

Q: What problems do people report with StreetView?
A: Visitors ask why they can’t go into certain spaces (navigation is determined by institution); institutions report more technical problems.

Q: Showed us several examples of meta-art – would it be useful to articulate a new level of language to talk about this kind of art?
A: Big data’s something we need to deal with which scientists have been looking at. When you start putting things together, need to have a different way of talking about collection. Language of curation and selection has to change. Trying to get metadata from different institutions to talk together is hard.

Q: Just used “big data” and “curation” and “selection in a single sentence. Can we select (“a person sifting through every day for ever”) or do we just take everything (“the firehose”)?
A: May need to go with the firehose. Can we expect people to sift, or machines, or…? May depend on how much meta info we need – if we want richness might need human intervention, to get closer to meaning. Machines can only do so much.

Q: How do we enable people to make meaning for themselves; how enhance engagement?
A: Each institution has very different reasons for joining the project. Some because everyone else was, some because they don’t have own website, some trying to drive users back to their own site, some to make use of advanced features. How do we measure success? 50million visits in last six months, which we know is just looking at the objects. Does this mean more engagement?

Q: Can you talk about the Google Art Project’s plans for opening up connections not just through screens?
A: When setting up background did work on converting data to a metadata standard and giving this back to institution. Less of half of institutions have given metadata (for whatever reason). So are being kept back from opening up as an API because only a few institutions could do something with it right now; but is something they’re interested in.