Thursday, November 30, 2006

Week Two Day Four: Lovely lovely people

Today everyone got stuck in their proposals again. They are taking it so seriously. I am impressed. I am also slightly worried. Had an intense day again, packed with detailed presentations on fundraising and marketing in the morning. After lunch we set a task which required everyone to write a proper proper proposal, with budget and powerpoint presentation - and about five hours to complete it in. It kind of put a damper on the farewell braai that is currently still underway. Music blaring, quiet island life temporarily disrupted.

Last night Abdul showed a very violent Japanese film - set on an island, 8 km in circumference. The same size as Robben Island. In the film 30 school kids have to kill each other for a single one to survive. For a moment we thought it almost an apt metaphor for the curators workshop... in the cutthroat contemporary art world, with 14 emerging curators in the same small space... cooped up for two weeks...

On a serious note, the two presentations todat were quite informative. Joseph Gaylard had some memorable quips about funding and fundraising. Did you know, that the per capita government spend on arts and culture in Mpumalanga in 2005 was an astronomical 3c, compared to R34 in the Western Cape?

Deborah Weber came in to deliver an impressive presentation on corporate sponsorships and marketing, and provided tools for bridging the gap between contemporary visual arts practice and leveraging corporate support. She also explained how to quantify Returns on Investment (ROI), and a number of good tips on accesing oppertunities within marketing and social investment budgets.

Tomorrow morning everyone will present their final proposals, and they seem very nervous about it. Virginia MacKenny said on Tuesday that we are too kind on people...

Ps. No blogging by bloggers. Useless.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Week Two Day Two: Bloggers on Strike

We just finished the second day of the second week - its ten at night - with an intense group conversation on relationships with artists. A subject that we have somehow not given any attention to during the past ten days. Quite ironically I think.

Some hillarious anecdotes surfaced - and some tragic ones. Yvette spoke about the difficulty of working with artists with no physical addresses nor telephone numbers and Andrew once desperately bartered artwork for a curated show with a sixpack of beers.

Before supper a decidedly unbalanced game of soccer was played with kids on the island. Big curators pushed small children around on the field, but they got their asses kicked by the motley crew of little ones. Cindy got whacked on the ear. Its still red and half the size of her head. Storm had a beer and occasionally shrieked half heartedly "go team, go team". Joseph permanently damaged his inner thighs.

The formal sessions were fun too. Everyone had to present their projects after yesterdays proposal writing exercise. Some intense feedback ensued - the thread throughout the day were the brutal honesty with which everyone critiqued each others work.

Stacy Hardy presented an intense paper on education processes - which were really interesting and off the wall. She packed in concepts and ideas, peppered with really interesting obsevations and appropriate expletives. Its great hearing such strong convictions and opinions being expressed - on a subject, education, that is usually tacked on most art projects as an afterthought. She urged the enthralled audience to think about educational possibilities at the inception of their projects.

Brendon Bell-Roberts, a very busy guy, presented on his art publishing experience. Getting him to the island proved a logistical nightmare. I will one day write a book. Urgent calls to the director of the RIM finally got access to a later ferry, as Brendon has an important meeting earlier in the day and could not rock up at 7:30 am.

Virginia MacKenny gave a well-oiled talk on basic priniciples of writing media releases and curatorial statements. A 'nuts and bolts' presentation that went down really well, with very usefull 'how to' tips. She's bright. An exercise was set late in the afternoon, and I expected a riot to errupt from a very tired and exhausted group. Only Rita stormed out.

After a while everyone regrouped, strangely energised and all eagerly read back their five line media releases. And here came the brutally honest feedback. No one held back, nor from presenting, nor from criticising. I liked the maturity of everyone and also the honesty with which this was handled. Mavis I think, offered an interesting and rounded reading of her project.
Supper included, unusually on this particular island menu, rice and stewy stuff. I am finally gaining weight, after 34 years of unsuccesfull dieting.

Ps. The documenting teams are useless. They have not blogged a single line for two days. Only Abdul, but he's blogbefok.
here we are

Sunday, November 26, 2006

WEEKEND

Thankfully the task of blogging the carousing curators weekend was omitted. However, comments are welcome.

Friday 24 November

Overcast, last day of the week, interest is by no means flagging despite some of the days going on ten hours at a go. This is the workshop where there are no sloppy participants.

Carol Brown Director of Durban Art Gallery

Carol outlined the historical development and background to the Durban Museum and highlighted the gaps and discrepancies in the early collections. She mapped the progress of the museum in terms of better representation of artists in the collection as well as staff development. The museum building remained an intimidating building until the AIDS convention in 2000, when the entire structure got wrapped in a massive ribbon. The ribbon was made by 1000 people ranging in skills, age and background. This effectively rendered the space more welcoming and accessible, and the performance pieces that were delivered in the environs, added to this.

Carol is currently curating the South African component of an AIDS art exhibition Make Art/Stop Aids . This exhibition is about representations of the AIDS pandemic in USA, India, Brazil and South Africa and is being organised by the Fowler Museum in UCLA , in California countries that are contributing works are :India, Brazil and the USA and South Africa. The exhibition includes the work of Churchill Madikida, Pieter Hugo, beadwork by Siyazama, Zapiro, Clive van den Berg, Langa Magwa and David Goldblatt.

Carol introduced the Red Eye www.redeyeart.co.za initiative which began in Durban in 1998. It was born out of a need to include the disinterested young adult population in Durban in the activities of the gallery. Options were workshopped with people with various specialties and they came up with a risky multi media event. In its 8th year it remains an annual success ! Red Eye has evolved into a platform for curators , performers and artists.
Carol Brown is quite a somebody!

Sylvie Groschatau-Phillips - Art Therapist
Our proudly South African Parisian!
Always do your best -- Don't make assumptions -- Don't take anything personally.
Voyage Ensemble - A Journey Together www.voyageensemble.blogspot.com
The exhibition project was aimed at fostering relationships between refugees and local artists. By doing so it helped to break down xenophobia and to introduce the displaced artists into a South African art network. It reflected on the movement of African people and their cultures and examined the political and social realities refugees find themselves in as a result of that movement. The project had a multi-disciplinary approach encouraging artists to work in different media. The exhibition had been planned to co-incide with the opening of TransCape in order for it to show on two platforms. Even though disappointed that the TransCape event did not occur they went on to show at the Scalibrini Centre, September 2006.

Sylvie emphasised the importance of the documentation process from the outset to the actual exhibition. She got the media involved at an early stage and this paid good dividends. Media coverage was good, funders were happy, artists were inspired even though sales were not what they had expected. Sylvie motivated to take the exhibition through the country! We hope she is successful in doing this as we would like to see it in Jozie and Maputo!!

Watch out for Sylvie, she is getting together a group of artists and preparing for another exhibition to show in March 2007. We wish them success.

Sipho Mdanda - Museum Curator, Freedom Park

Sipho, being the last speaker of the day and for the week, felt that an anecdotal presentation would be more beneficial to the group. He started his presentation with the question 'What is a curator'?

He goes on to relate his experience as a 'long distance assistant curator'!! His story reveals the heterogeneous nature of the curators 'job'.

It begins with a desperate phone call from friend in New York "to save his skin", and asked to curate an exhibition in two weeks on the theme: 10 Years of Democracy in South Africa. He was pleased to be invited. In spite of being nervous to be set up for failure, he decided to accept.

And so the journey begins.

Trials:
The difficulties of operating with zero resources.
Needed to be clear about what he wanted to achieve and what he wanted to represent.
Decided to use work of lesser known South African artists and those that are not living in central urban areas.
Dealing with artists who were contracted to particular galleries.
Assisted some of the selected artists to create biographies.
Negotiated the tricky terrain of those artists disappointed by rejection.
Insurance of works where the value of the artworks were difficult to determine by the artists.
Getting artworks created with animal products through customs.
The disappointment of not having a voice in the final selection.
Returning artworks to artists who no longer resided at their previous addresses.

Withstanding the above the exhibition 'Sondela: A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa' www.sondela.net opened in Boston and toured to Dallas, Florida and NSA in Durban, 2004 - 2005.

Advice:
Acknowledge your team
Thoroughly process your ideas
Draw on the resources and expertise of your friends and colleagues; test your ideas on them; let them critique you.
Find out what others have said on the subject you are dealing with.
Write, edit, write, edit, write, edit, reference correctly ..... perfect.
Be generous with your knowledge.
Artists must take themselves seriously and document their processes.

Closing Panel : Giovanni Carmine, Eddie Chambers, N'Gone Fall and Bisi Silva.

The distilled messages drawn from this discussion included the following:

Curators need to be vigilant as to what sort of art infrastructure needed to be created, maintained and pursued in South Africa.
No one model of curator exists. One needs to find ones own way of working with artists.
In order for our institutions to be genuinely credible we need to have a wide range of input.
South Africa need to engage more with other African countries as the connections between us remain largely unexplored.
The importance of networking and documenting was stressed over and over again.
As a curator you have to believe in what you do and have a passion for it.
African members on the panel agreed that this workshop provided a useful framework for similar workshops on the rest of the continent.

And so we came to say sad goodbyes to a number of our esteemed colleagues.

Posted by: Angela, Sarie and Fatima