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Public diary of a curatorial girl...

by Deborah Turnbull on 03 MAR 2010


I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to participate in the EXPERIMENTA UTOPIA NOW International Media Arts Biennial, courtesy of KWON MILLER PRODUCTIONS and their fabulous art! Now might be a pertinent time to remind my avid fans <you know who you are...> that The Nauru Elegies @ Blindside Gallery concludes this Saturday 6 March @ 5pm.  Friday night we are having a huge blow out at Shed4 Warehouses, where Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) will perform the score to The Nauru Elegies with a live string quartet.  A VJ will perform both before and after Mr. Miller's concert, for those of us who need to shake a little booty! Tickets available at www.moshtix.com.au!

Below is my cheeky take on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, only a bit more formulaic and reflexive than Billie Piper's portrayal in the BBC adaptation of the blog and books of the British escort Belle du Jour. It's quite a bit less sexy though...


Sunday 14 February 2010

Well my new media-philes...it's Valentine's Day and it seems my heart, once again, belongs to new media arts installation :D I'm in Melbourne for the UTOPIA NOW Media Arts Biennial, EXPERIMENTA's major project that exhibits one year and tours the next, in fact, set to tour Australia over 2010. And why is this important to us, dear readers? It's because the DJ and the architect have made it into said Biennial with The Nauru Elegies project. I have decided to write a shorter blog post each day I'm in Melbourne to commemorate install week for my first (hopefully of many!) Biennials. <hope><hope>

Now normally I would insert a happy satisfied sigh here, but upon leaving Sydney this morning to install a quite significant exhibition for my wee venture, I actually realized that Aram, my usual tech and partner, was actually not coming with me. Now I knew this logically, but this morning as he slept in while I readied myself with the insane amount if things I had to do before I caught my flight at 1:15pm - with 6 mounted posters, 2 projectors, 2 projector plates, a forgotten knapsack from the sketch exhibition for the architect, and my own luggage in tow - I actually realized how terrified I was that he and his calm demeanour and enormous brain and infinite patience were all not going to be with me in Melbourne this week and I entered a sort of state of shock. Not because there aren't reasonably fantastic techies associated with a media arts biennial (particularly one hosted by EXPERIMENTA), but because mine wouldn't be there. It came to me in a shocking and violent epiphany just how much I've come to rely on Mr. Dulyan as an install force. So much so that I have sacrificed many a pair of shoes and beautiful dresses in the February sales to have him work on my last show with me; a seemingly break-through exhibition, and I so badly wanted him involved that I am still making payments to his boss for his time <hi Greg! Love you Greg!>.

Champ that he is, Aram then busied himself with the business of organising me. He carried bags to the car, bought parking passes, found out about airport parking, got us brekky, got me money, advised on how to re-pack my suitcase to better protect the smaller projector and short throw lens, performed HILARIOUS impersonations of airport luggage staff and how they would load my things on and off the plane, and then advised me to ring my friend Gracie to drive me to the airport to avoid a $300 parking cost (Aram never did learn to drive a stick-shift...). Amazing, right? And Gracie and the Fiance now have a car for the week...win-win! What I haven't yet told you is that when Gracie and I got to the airport, Aram was surprise-there to help me with my bags, the excess baggage fee, and loading the posters and projectors onto the over-sized items carousel. He then stayed with me in the airport at my gate telling me funny stories about how his boss' daughter plays hide and seek in such a way as to always let the seeker know exactly where she'll be when they're done counting to 10. This and other funny stories ensued while we waited for my plane to load.

Now, everything got here ok and it's all good and I had a lively evening watching a UTOPIA NOW film titled Second_Skin on the lives of Gamers and the different communities that crop up around them (both virtual and in the real world). Before bed I texted Aram to see how his day was and we had a discussion on a subtext within the film, the one where the virtual gold farmers in WOW have a physical reality in outsourced Chinese companies, with young folks literally working in physical sweatshop-like conditions; a conversation which was quite enjoyable indeed! I can now go to sleep with that satisfied sigh as, in fact, my techie is with me after all. <sigh!>
Monday 15 February 2010

Another day, another day of install! The gallery today was great, we got it painted largely; except for the edging which I'll go in early to do tomorrow. There's this outside gate that shuts at an as-yet undetermined time which makes staying late difficult. I should know, my bags were trapped there last night, victims of early Sunday closing time in Aussie-land. Thanks for the PJ lend Ms Needham! The staff and volis are lovely. We all did, though, tend to err on the side of worst case scenario (I think this is the wrong paint - ha! that was me! And it was! - there's something wrong with this projector, that wall needs edging and more board added to it, those posters look better, and you checked every one, right? those posters aren't hung evenly...). Now independently, these issues don't sound that bad, but continuously over the course of 9 hours and 2 tins of paint fumes later, there were so many little issues like this, that by the end of the day, it's as though a meteor was expected by all of us to hit only that part of the building, leaving a gaping maw of wires and charcoal paint; but then again, media installs are a tad stressful. Wasn't I the picture of immobilized shock at the week ahead just yesterday morning? Isn't my little research initiative about simplifying the install of technical artworks? My, my Ms. Turnbull, my, my. Sometimes this reflecting on my practise stuff is a bit of a sonofabitch!

On the upside, I wasn't immobilized by shock even once today, and I also had to shift 3 plinths, 2 rolls full of posters, and a didactic poster very susceptible to wind currents down 6 crowded city blocks. Thank god for Daine Singer and Blake the voli is all I have to say :D I was, in fact, delightfully reminded of my voli days at the Grafton Regional Gallery, when I helped out with installing touring shows like Art Express and the Archibald Prize (the one where Craig Ruddy won!).

So after a few more paint fumes were inhaled we all decided to chill and disperse about 5pm. I went to the gym and then met the architect for dinner. The gym was in one of those labyrinth malls that I didn't think existed outside of North America. I seriously found the way to my Northcote accommodation in the dark 35 tram stops from the Melbourne CBD and 3 blocks in not knowing the address or street name and I could not find my way out of this mall! I had to ask a barrista for directions...mortifying! The workout was amazing, but dinner in a dicey dumplings place whilst plotting the Asian leg of the Nauru Elegies tour was an even bigger adrenaline rush...oh it's grant time people! So many ideas, so little time, even less money!

More tomorrow... Now, I sleep! Xx
Friday 19 February 2010

Well obviously it was a bit ambitious to think I could write something witty and intelligent each day when I'm doing 10-11 hours days on install, attending talks and having dinners, dinners everywhere. Pfft, I hate respecting my limitations.

Let me sum up the last few days:

1) tape and paint a white gallery charcoal (I annoyingly kept calling it blue, eep!)
2) cover windows with plastic, then cardboard, then marvel at the builders construct MDF walls = gallery transformed
3) bring ladders, plinths, posters, sculptures and mini-catalogs from disparate parts of the Melbourne CBD often in heavy foot traffic and following Blake the super awesome voli quite closely
4) go to the gym - breathe, breathe
5) go to the architect's talk and meet all sorts if interesting people - hi Ester! Hi Helene!
6) paint the gallery some more
7) cut and construct cardboard covers for the interior gallery windows- thanks for saying back to help me Annie Annie!
8) finishing touch ups of paint, wipe the walls and skirting boards free of dust, sweep and mop the floor, re-adjust the spots ever so slightly...and we're done!
...9) oops, pick up ice!

Ok, so now we know why my body is tired and why I consumed a LOT of food over the past week! I even got ladder legs, which the builders empathetically let me know happens to everyone; it's not that attractive to have bruising all cuts all over your legs at shin level from leaning on various ladders, but good thing I brought my R'n'R jeans with me, very suitable to wear under my Marni mini-dress for the launch!

A few things that have stayed quite pronounced in my mind are the questions the artist (and architect) asked me over the course of our few days here:
1) is it normal to have 3 assistants helping me assemble my models? - my answer: probably not, but what a wonderful perk!
2) why were we selected when the program was already set? - my answer: because you're work is outstanding, the collaboration between an architect and a DJ quite interesting, the subject matter very timely, and the opportunity to do a large scale concert with said DJ too good to pass up
3) what are the internal politics of the art world in Australia? - My answer: ...errrmm, more wine?
4) what other funding can we apply for while the work is touring with EXPERIMENTA to grow and change the project, so we can get it into Asia? - my answer: I have a few grants I'm looking into that include a tour of Asia..." CUT TO OPENING night with my lovely colleague Melinda introducing Annie and I to her artist Michael...funnily enough, they are doing some shows in Asia....hmmmmmmm....

See my fellow new media spies? My networks are far-reaching indeed!


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