Ideas Digital Forum 2018: Exhibition Making & Re Making
When I was, chuckling. In a way during this sessions. Was. The metaphors, we've used, to to, convince the political leadership we've, had Star Trek. That. Connects and I. Had to use Ryan, the, the. Oscar-winning. Film to convince the the mayor mayor. Of Mississauga, that. We should go, in the direction that I'd been suggesting as my vision which was actually, to. Build a culture plan that, was digital, and looking at the idea, of the public realm the. New public realm which was the digital public, realm etc. Anyway. My. Office also reported, to the CIO directly. And the mayor and luckily. I was able to. Get. Half a million dollars to do the first culture, plan anyway. I think these are really interesting, context. And contrasts, and the tweak in in the three cases, that we heard, fascinating. I'm, just going to start off the Q&A very quickly, with. A question, for each one, of you each, one of the present, presentations. So. Rosa I'm gonna start with you your presentation. Of the curatorial, intervention. So. It, piqued my curiosity we, saw a lot of the work and how you refer, to it was really interesting, but. What. Was the impact, of the exhibition at the White Chapel, I. Mean. On its approach to future. Exhibitions. On, the audience, for example. That. I'd be really interested to know what what kind, of an impact that kind of your. Your superhighway. Presentation. Had on. The. Way the Whitechapel moved. Forward, even, or, even during that. That's. A really interesting and. Complicated question, for the Whitechapel because. I think. I mean first of all everybody. Has to understand that I'm not I don't work at the Whitechapel Gallery but. It's. A really interesting problem, for the white childhood because they don't actually have their own permanent, collection, so. Everything, they bring in is really. To try and as you say stimulate, their own practice. Develop. Their archive, and then stimulate, the work that's being done by other artists, and what. What, they are able to do is because of their located. Nests and because. They, are perhaps. More. Innovative, than, say, the Tate is able, to be although that has changed, a lot with the new Tate. Exchange, which, you know could have been something we could have talked about. What. They are able to do is they are able, to bring in sort of more radical exhibitions. And involve, their communities, more I. Think. Overall, what, they did with electronics, superhighway. Are things, that are, their outreach, are things that were are normally. Done in the UK, so. They had quite, a few symposia. Associated. With it there, are a. Number, of. Presentations. Online that, you can go and watch about, the exhibition that took place there and. But. In terms of actually. Affecting. The space, and. The. Way they look at work I'm not. Sure if I can if. I can really say that anything. Was, permanently. Changed, as a consequence, of that exhibition, but. I do think, that the landscape. Of understanding. And that was the first time in many, many years that there had been this, kind, of a show and then. A similar, show, BIGBANG. Also, took place simultaneously and. Both, of those, were. Landmark, exhibitions, that really I think changed, the way other galleries. And. Other institutions. Looked at artwork. So. There was impact, in. Other ways that you could you can speak to I suppose I. Think, Leanne what. I've wanted, to ask you was and I was you know struck, by this cuz I think these are real questions for galleries you've, obviously made, a digital, media acquisition policy. And, I. Think it could be a model for other, public. Art galleries. What. Are the two things you would not do in hindsight, and, what are the risks that you took.
My. The. Feeling, that I have just doing the digital, media. Walking, that path is, not. Looking down it never even occurred, to me to look back like. I just you. Know it's always been walking. On air because there's never actually been a funding, stream for, the tech lab or. The sound. Program it's. Just it. Had to be done and so we added it we do about 18, exhibitions. A year, so. It's. It's. Always challenging I've never looked back and. And. I. Think that. The. Biggest, lesson, that we've learned and I think it applies to everything we do is how important it is to listen there's. There's, such. A stupidity. That comes with assuming, that you know, something. And there's wisdom that comes when, you listen. So. That's, probably. Maybe. Listening, earlier. Yeah. Or, knowing those things sooner. Would. Have been helpful. And. For. Gordon. And Sarah. Wow. What an amazing, feat. And, like, to reinvent, the gallery in that way constantly. I mean I think we're all in awe, but. How. What, is your critical assessment, or what's the feedback what's, the what's the you. Know what what's the critical assessment, you have on your own on the other thing that you have created. Well. Maybe what I'll do just, one thing that we didn't really talk about is, that. By. Being on the floor and essentially. Creating. Every visitor who comes in. We. Have the, best most. Accurate demographic. Information probably. Of any other any, public. Gallery we know actually, by name. Allah. A, huge. Number of our visitors we know where their firm we know how often they come we know how many kids they have we. Know everything. About our audience because we actually talk, to them so, as in, terms of. Critical. Analysis. Of it our feedback that we get will shocked at how positive. Our feedback is I mean the other thing is we get a hundred. People a day coming, us. Really. Really nice. I. Would say. Tempering. That, you. Have to have, huge, amounts, of energy, you. Have to be available all, the time. This, is a growth, stage so we're four years in, it. Can't. Continue forever. And, so then you have to start looking at ways that you can continue, that energy, and and how is that done and how, do you add to that. With. Passion, and and with understanding of, these, goals. That. We've instituted. Okay. I'd like to open it up to the floor I know you. All have burning questions. On, on, what, we've seen and heard today. Yes. Now. Given. That last. Statement that you guys have a lot of direct feedback from people I'm assuming. That. Arose. Minh and Leanne you also have some sense of how people respond. So, get given this kind of split. That's come up I brought it up between. The new, media, world. And the larger. Art world do you think that I, guess. It would be all anecdotal as, evidence, but do you think that people internally. Reconcile, their. Experience, of new media art with other, art you know with paintings, etc or. Do. You have a sense of that you have any way to respond, to that. Yeah. I just. Want to tell just a little story silvia grace boorda one, of our first artists. And residents her, proposal, was to photograph. Every bus stop in Surrey, which was over. A thousand, bus stops series 300 square kilometers. And. Then she created she worked with art engine to create a website and and. Quite. An interesting project at. The time that we presented it there were studies that have been done about what people wanted to see, in. Galleries, and it, is as you would. Know landscape. Painting, number one the, last thing sort of like level G was. Digital. Media. So. We weren't sure what, would happen we, also had her come and give an artist talk you, know artists. Come and talk about a digital. Media project, it. Took 40, minutes to, sit through the presentation. Of the. Artwork. People. Stay for the entire time they, would look at a painting for, what's the average for looking at a painting it's like three and a half seconds, or something forty, minutes with an artwork who spends. That kind of time the. Other thing was the artist, talked it was shocking, it, was a, complete, demographic, profile of our key Kame, it. Was so surprising it was completely, contradictory, to, what people thought they. Wanted and, what. They actually did. So. And, it may have done something. Had. Something to do with what the subject, was but, but that was the reality and that's what we've repeatedly, seen people.
Think That they want paintings, but, they don't spend time with them it's. It's, a it's, a phenomena, that we see over and over again. I, think. In the case of the Whitechapel there's, there's, two things that I can say about the electronic, superhighway, that, are really relevant one. Is a kind of curatorial. Factor. So. In, the way it was curated, downstairs. You had this sort of mad cacophony. Anarchy. A space. That. Somebody. Like myself. Found. Quite daunting. Upstairs. On the second, level was, much more a historical. Picture. Of where, the. Art had come from and where. Digital, media had come from and there. Were I mean and remember, we're talking about a gallery, that is not enormous. And had. Over, a hundred and. Hundred. And fifty were artworks. And. Mohamed. And I were just talking about this, because. Downstairs. It was crazy upstairs, it was much more calm. But. What it did was, downstairs. You found that. All the young, people the. Post, Millennials, were totally, engaged with what was going on in the space and. People. Like myself were, going upstairs and kind, of having that more sublime. Relationship. With the gallery that we are used to, so. There was that but. The second thing was because, the, exhibition. Was actually, organized. As a feedback. Loop. When. You were downstairs you, had that, experience. You. Went upstairs you, had a much more intellectual. Experience. And a, much much. More reflective, experi. And. Then. When you went downstairs the, second, time because you had to move through the, space again to exit, so. It became like a feedback loop you, actually, began to reflect, on those pieces, in a, way that you never would have went. First encountering, them so, it was something to do with the curatorial, vision, also, that created. That kind of educational. Or didactic. Experience. Yeah. We, have, we. Have audiences that are young that obviously, engage with the works but, we also have older, audiences, that are completely, engaged, with this material. Because. We're work walking people through the gallery and having conversations. We're. Able to talk to them about the. Fact that this is art this is this is material that artists, use in. A way that all you know artists have have used, new media, for. You know thousands, of years, they've. Always sort of pushed boundaries with new media so yeah. These are interesting conversations. I. Guess. The thing that, Leanne was talking about another, thing with our numbers, is that the, average like the for a visitor to stay in our galleries, 20, minutes to. An hour, which. Is a really, long stay, and. I. Think the other thing and it's again touching a bit on what Leanne was saying is that when, we were pushing. The idea no, one really knew what a new media gallery was and. What, we was. Convincing. Council was that it's not that people know what they want it's that people want what they know and and. We were a big unknown to, the city it's like they, didn't really have an opinion about a new media gallery because they didn't have a clue what a new media gallery was. So. That, relationship with traditional, art they, were I think initially when the community wanted a gallery they wanted paintings, and things like that but now that we've been open, it's. Hard for us to compared to a traditional, gallery, because we we. Are actually a dedicated. Focused, new media space. Yeah. So. Steve Daniels yesterday talked, about the fact that stuff, breaks so, you're, a new media gallery and Siri has so much new media when, stuff, breaks, what do you do. Doing. It for a while, we. Usually we. Work with the artist we talked to them about, the. Smoke and mirrors because. As, I was saying about. Easily. Changing. From, artist to gallery in terms of who bears the the. Risk and the pain is is we. Want to protect the artist, and we also want to protect ourselves if, we're presenting, ourselves as, showing. New media it better be working and. So. It's, where, we partner with the artist sometimes it's, a might. Be an interactive, work responding. To your presence, and sometimes. It might be a video. Where. It looks like it's doing that but it actually isn't so we. Prepare. The artist so that there are two layers to most of the artworks. So. We're. Do, everything we can so it always is, working. Or it. Appears. To be working this. What. Is what my, rule of thumb in working with an artist is. Only. We know what, it was supposed to do and. The. Other thing is we don't point to a problem. So. We don't say, it's not working so those, are the things that have. Those. Are secrets. We're, slightly, different in our approach if, it breaks it's broken, but. We, typically. We've only had that a few. On a few occasions to, be fair we. Don't unlikely. And we don't commission works we don't we. We don't, collect. Works we only deal with finished, work. Partly, a budgetary, thing but. It also means that the work we get is typically, at, least, been exhibited, somewhere, once before so it's generally we work look for work that is rock-solid.
Basically. But, having said that things go wrong. We. I, actually, get. Very involved, in understanding, how to what. To do when things go wrong and we we, will typically repair, it we recently had a work by Sol, Cano and yang o2 which, was a robotic. Drawing, on the wall that was. Down about 50% of the time and we ended up sort. Of. Taking. Parts off one row we had some spare robots and rebuilding. Them over and over and over again to keep it running and, and, there are there are troubleshooting. Things we have to deal with the fly revolver, suddenly, stopped responding, we. Had to figure out why that happened it turned out that people, have. Figured out that they could activate, the trigger by putting, a shadow of a fly on the target, so. He had to turn up the resolution of it to make the flies really black much. Blacker than the shadows, and what, had happened was there was a dome over the camera and basically the flies were pooing, on the dome which. Was turning the black of the flies gray. And and. The solution, for that ended up that we had to we, had to clean the dome and the piece started to work again another. Piece it was just the air with, the the sofa that balances, on the point of one leg it was spinning and collapsing. And it turned out that it was because, we're a class a gallery and we're doing six air changes an hour the. Air currents, were actually blue it was so delicately. Balanced, it was spinning and the cable was pulling it over so we had to redirect, our. Currents. So we are and another, big problem we've had with two robotic pieces, is electromagnetic. Interference, which is a really, difficult thing to fix and sometimes it's just a matter of moving. A power. Transformer three, inches over and everything, works and sometimes you just can't fix, it and it goes down and it goes down and it goes down so. With. Us we. Typically. We will fix it and. If it does a break then it. Breaks um. No, I mean we have shown a work called, user-generated. Server, destruction, that visitors. Would destroy. So. It would it actually broke four. Times over the X and five times over the exhibition. It. Was meant to break but it was an interesting piece because after. It was broken we still exhibited, for several weeks as a broken piece in the gallery. There. Was about people making choices that would destroy the work in in and deprive. Success. Of visitors from having the experience, and so depending on how people, how. Quickly people destroyed, it it.
Would Have to sit for a longer period of time. Thank. You to, all of you and you, can just feel a bit of electricity in the room a little bit buzz everyone. Is just thinking through all this for, Gordon and Sarah two. Things come to come to mind from a leadership standpoint one is just a quick question and that can. You share with us a little bit more information about your decision, to focus on group, exhibitions, and then. The second, is. Resources. When. I started, here I bought a stand-up desk and my intention, was to be spending a lot of time working down here doing what you talked about and I'm embarrassed to say I think I've managed to do it maybe three days so. Can you talk about. What. Your team looks like and, you. Clearly prioritized. It I know and I'm guessing that you don't have one so this makes it trickier, question how. Do, you. Make. That priority. You've made it a commitment and how do you continue, to do it which, with what must be mounting, pressures, and distractions. In a lot of different areas. We. Have a lot of energy ourselves. Our. Team, what does our team look like our team we have two fantastic. Technicians. Who. Are at, the moment tearing, down the gallery. Gordon. Is very involved in the technology he just, actually, built, the. Four computers, that were using in the next via. Suite. So. He has an incredible, technical background. And that. Is very helpful. We, take, advantage of all the city workers, so those are provided to us so that's huge. That's, an administrator. That's a registrar. Part-time, registrar, that's. All the cleaning staff all of that we, don't we. Don't have to take care of so that's provided, to us. We. Have a we, have seven, workshop, instructors. Who are part-time, and we pull them in as we. Give, workshops. We. Had a programmer, who's just, gone on to another fantastic project. And she's, still working with us but we're we're going to be looking for a programmer. And. Then, this. Work. In the gallery being, in the gallery is shared between the three of us so, we're they're each about a third of you know maybe a day or two. Per. Week I. Think. As well we. One. Thing that maybe didn't come across in our introduction is that all, my, work has actually been in the private sector the colleges I've worked at or, run were all private, colleges. That I, worked at the lesson which is a private. Gallery and Sara's work has all been in the public sector so, the gallery is kind of a hybrid of those those, two models, and, because. This is essentially, a startup, we. Kind, of took, it on when we took it on we said this is gonna be held for the first a, couple, of years but we treated it as as, a business, startup, and and kind, of wrote off two years and said let's just focus, on this we're coming we're now in our fourth year and we're, coming out of that phase, finally. And. What. Was the other part of the question oh. Why. Do we show group exhibitions, that that's just us looking, at there are different different, types of galleries there's academic galleries. Artists run centrism and public. Galleries, we, think the role of a public gallery is to to really give. Our audience exposure, to as much work as possible so, if we showed solo. Artists, we would have shown 19. Artists, by, showing group exhibitions, we get to show them. A hundred, and ten artists, it's, it's kind, of just a simple math thing of saying and we also I mean, it's harder work for us I suppose because we have to we. Have to come up with curatorial. Positions, four times a year based, on group, exhibitions. But, it. It doesn't seem right to have a solo artist that. We like like. Understanding. How and why you put a work in a public. Gallery I think is a, discussion. Another kind of discussion, I. Have. A question or actually. It is a real question so you. Know for. Four scholars, who've been looking at the development of contemporary art it's. One. Of the one of the one of the markers one, of the markers of like coincidence, of contemporary, our new, liberalism is, the, fact that. Institutions. Are encouraged, to not have a collection especially. The new ones that that start and basically. Be a space that. Always. Seek the. New and changes. Right and then, that way. The. Costs are kept low and then the job of a curator would become to constantly, look for for. New work and as, someone who worked. At the. UBC, AMS gallery with a great collection that, went back to, 1910. We we had like group of seven in in this like student-run basically, gallery, like Lauren Harris all the way to like Rodney, Graham in other works the. The value, of the collection and actually this morning I had a chance to come in early and go and look at the vault downstairs and look at look at the section, with all the painter Elevens in a in a basement it was wonderful, so. You. Guys see yourself, Incirlik in your vision to, start a collection, particularly. In relation to Surrey that insist on having a collection because you know as someone who looked at these trajectories I think it's very important.
The, Public gallery needs. To insist on keeping a collection because it's a form of material, art history and so. It would be good to hear the advantages, and disadvantages, from you these two light galleries. That are in very close proximity of how you guys deal with it and do you guys plan to have one because I think we'll, be great to see what do you do with your permanent. Color future, permanent collection. Do. You want to have a collection. I. Come. From a, collection. Background, I was, a conservator. I love, collections. We. It is impossible. For us to have a collection right now so, we're in this growth stages we keep mentioning. Eventually. Perhaps. When. The gallery becomes a standalone gallery and it has enough space you have to look at the space as it is critical, but. At the moment no I, would, say in future yes. Absolutely, it would be very interesting, my, personal point of view I think this is do I think he's different. Hmm. I don't. Know I haven't really we, haven't had the energy to so to consider, a collection, but. Yeah. I don't know it's it's a great question, now, I'll start thinking about it I. Think. As well we're a small city were, 80,000. People and. We're. Showing Internet. We're showing, significant. International, artists, so, that there would just find. There would be a kind, of a. Huge. Rift between what, we're showing and what we could afford to collect so, what. We would collect would probably, not be couldn't. Really be representative. Of what we're showing I mean we do show emerging, artists and we could probably collect, some work by them but again because, we have an international. Mandate as well we, don't, have that local connection, that I think Surrey has more of a local, collection. And they have that they. Have a history of collecting. We. Don't have that. I. Think. We've got one more question and. Then. We're going to end. The session. Yeah. Well, I I did. Have a thought that I might, be interesting, for you to think about and that's the phenomena, because. As you know from as. Introduction. To me I also dabble in public art which, is how the urban. Screen came to be, and. It's. The, question of public art in and new media which, is a form of a collection, and. I think that there that that's quite interesting I know that that the. Profession, of public art that. They're talking about, it. Having a limited lifespan which, i think is really interesting that. The commitment, to, a, new, media public art work might be. Very. Limited like ten years although we, all know. Long. One's long living ones like the one, in the tunnel at the O'Hare, Airport. Yeah. So, but that's an interesting another, way that collections. Are actually, happening. With. Digital media. Sorry. One more question and then we're going to close. Up for lunch but I think there'll be many questions that you should ask during. The lunch hour because, I know people want to talk about where does the funding come from and, you know there's other other sorts of questions as well so, I I want to tie this a little bit with to. Yesterday. And also, to some conversations that, we've had kind, of outside. And. One. Of the you know neoliberalism.
The The. Biggest frame the biggest perspective, one. Of the things that's happening, in the world today. Is. The, shift from Big Data you. Know to blockchain, right, and the, idea and that's technology speak, but the idea is can, we cut out the middleman can, we, create. Ownership, over our. Assets. In fact ourselves, our information, our data can, we share it and. Control. It and we're talking from money to. You know a very. Generic. Code. Talking. About everything and I. Tried. To define art you know with with the floor and we came up with this huge space between a gift and and, the traffic control let's. Say. What. We saw today and, just, just now is. An example of how what. We might lose if we cut out the middleman. The, comfort or the one the tracker that brought the Colonials, in what. We might lose if we. Remove. Mediators. Because, I see. In. Sorry, and I've known actually in fact I can include Dana I see, three beep three you know old friends, and new friends who. Have contributed, from. The middle space in, such, a nurturing, way that. The answer, to. The. Question what is art seems. To me to be more less. In the artist. Less. In the audience. And much, more in the commitment, of the people in the middle who, make. The link between the two who, allowed this to flourish. So I want to just to. Thank you guys for, for what you do. But. Also ask you to comment on that that. Idea, of you know connoisseurship, Authority, curatorship, mediation. Selection, exclusion. Its, power plays it's a it's a place of power but, it's also an important, place where you can do service. And and just lifting, from Willard Holmes from, a long time ago who was once the director, of the Vancouver, Agera he he made this comment to me and this would have been in the early 80s. That. He proposed this as the mandated the Vancouver, garyun and it was much, contested. By his team and but, I still think it has. Currency. And it something. That I used to guide my, decision-making and that is I. Think our role is to serve art and the, multiple purposes, of art and I think everything can be organized from. That place. From. That priority, and that has. My. Governance, that the gallery, has been organized. So it's a it's, a curious and. Something. Worth discussing, but, that's kind of my my. Take on that. I, think. We are always. Very aware that, we. Are in a very powerful position. And, you. Mentioned, listening, is very important, and this, is a good deal of what we do in the gallery is is listen, to to. Our audience, to to visitors. And. Let, them guide the conversations. And. So. We bring, in our curatorial. Knowledge. The the, privilege, we've had of talking, to artists, of understanding. The work at. That, level we. Bring that to to, the conversation. But, we don't guide, the conversation after, that I don't think it's it's it's definitely, discursive. And and wanders, I. Think. The the. Most difficult, thing is is. Understanding. How, how. Something, gets into, the gallery in terms of power. What. What works gets elected how what are the criteria for, deciding. This. Artists should be in a group exhibition, in New Westminster and we we, actually tried this this idea we talked about of curating from the work back.
To The curatorial, theme. Helps. Us to. Move ourselves assent, in a sense from the process, as much as possible so sometimes. We'll see works that are linked, by a process, by a material. By a. Philosophical. Position, by. By. Something else and. These are trying. To sort. Of diminish, our input, as much as possible almost. Trying. To use formulas, or algorithms. To to determine the work in a sense rather, than saying. Oh we like this work let's put this in the gallery and everyone else will like it or we. Think this artist should be here yeah the the there, there's, a kind of arbitrary, starting point for any. Exhibition. Which. Lies with. The curator, I suppose, it could, be a. Point. Of research they're interested, in or an event, or something else, but they're there essentially, they're arbitrary things, why. Is what, I'm interested in, necessarily, the best thing to put in the gallery and that's a discussion, that we have all the time and I think because, we're co-directors, and kill Co curators. Everything. We do is an. Agreement, between us that, then extends, out into the gallery. Where. We're, having to defend our own positions. To each other which. I think possibly. Affects. The nature of the the exhibition. Okay. That is a very, very. Difficult, and loaded, question. But. I think I mean. We've, been through a lot of different discussions. In. Curatorial, practice about, the imaginary, museum, being at one extreme, the, artist, curator. You. Know, maybe. Being at another extreme, but. What what we have to remember is. That. A. Human. Being is. An. Instrument, of knowledge. We. Ourselves are. A form. Of technology. Technology. That. Has, perceptual. Capacities. Organizational. Capacities. Algorithmic. Capacities. We also. Fit. Within, the, technological. Scheme somewhere. And. Earlier. Yesterday. I think somebody, said, no. Technology. All technology, is political. So. There is in a sense even, the. Imaginary, Museum even the algorithmically. Determined. Exhibition, even. The exhibition, determined, by chance. All. Of, these. Denote. Value, systems, and I. Think the, important, thing for the curator is one. One, thing, that you're saying which, is looking, at the work first and always, curating. From, the work. To. The idea and. Secondly. Disclosing. The context. Of the curator. Disclosing. The context, of the museum. Disclosing. All those, different, factors. Disclosing. The armature. Not just of the work, but. Of how the work is put together how it has been curated, and if we do that I. Think. We're resolving. The very deep philosophical, issues. Because. We're allowing the. Audience to, make judgments, about that. Yeah. That's I, agree, it's a it's a tough it's. A tough question but I will, wear, my hat of the Oh egg and and. And a. Little bit of my work you you are right that. We are, that, middle we've been operating in those middle spaces, my. With. The onset, and, given that we think that the use of technology is all political, and with the onset of you. Know like the systems, like blockchain. My. Question, has been what. Then will the article, public art gallery even be, do. Will it even remain. Right. And will, Canada, as you call it the communist, country still, hang on and and. Make it stay. Even. Though the, world will have moved on so. You. Know and i like-like-like.
Also. Stay, with you, know my job. Always. And, I even said this to the Canada Council for my work there in all the decisions that were being made I said, remember. That it is the artist, that is the bottom line it's. Not the budget and, whatever. Decisions, were being made around. Budget. And funding if, the artist was not being taken into consideration. You, know then. We were in a problem because we are talking about art.