Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mike Parr and a short rant

This Friday sees the opening of Mike Parr’s survey show at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). Or at least I think it does. With no advertising, media attention or announcements I really only have word of mouth (oh and something from a friend on Facebook) to confirm that Mike Parr is indeed having a show in Hobart.

Mike Parr is one of Australia’s most well-known and respected living artists. He is known for his confronting performances (see my previous post for a description of his piece in the Sydney Biennale), where he sews his lips together, cuts the heads off chickens, or holds his finger over a flame for as long as possible. You can probably understand why I’m excited about his three-day performance Cartesian Corpse, which will see the normally fairly dormant TMAG open 24 hours a day for the duration of the event.

I will be writing on Parr’s performance and exhibition (which will be co-hosted by Hobart’s new gallery Detached) later in the week. However I thought I’d just have a quick rant about the lack of advertising on Parr’s show, simply because this in not the first time this has happened in Hobart.

Art events tend to be kept incredibly hush-hushed in Tassie. In Sydney, in contrast, announcements of art exhibitions and events can be viewed in the newspapers, on the side of buses, billboards on the waterfront, and yet down here word of mouth seems to be the preferred method of communication. To the outsider who is denied this game of Chinese Whispers, the Hobart art scene is non-existent, and yet Hobartians complain constantly that it’s hard to get art ‘out there’, that mainlanders overlook this state’s vibrant art scene and that we get little acknowledgement in the country’s numerous art magazines (although I believe that there are notable exceptions, such as Realtime and Artlink).

Take another example, for instance, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Michael Edwards, the director of Contemporary Art Services Tasmania (CAST), at an exhibition opening a couple of months ago, announced that we should be very excited about all the recent developments in Tasmanian art, such as MONA, Detached, the proposed redevelopment of the TMAG, the new Peppermint Bay Gallery, and the possibility of the quarantine shed on Hunter Street being turned into a large art space with the ability to host large travelling exhibitions/ blockbuster shows (that is, if developers, excited about turning every possible building into cafes and boutique accommodation, are fended off). Yet, he said, while everyone on the mainland is excitedly watching Tasmanian, no one down here is talking about these developments. About a month later, The Australian newspaper ran a story on MONA, which alerted the buffoons at the local paper, The Mercury (ironically owned by the same company), to the fact that perhaps art could be news after all (yes, that’s right, The Mercury doesn’t cover art because it’s ‘not news’). Later that week the Mercury ran two gushing double-page spreads in the Saturday and Sunday papers on David Walsh and his impressive MONA.

It’d be wrong to focus on just the Mercury as the reason why the word just doesn’t ‘get out there’. It appears to be a symptom of what I see as an inward-looking local art scene. The Hobart art scene is vibrant, experimental, refreshingly uncommercialised, and incredibly supportive. The art scene has also given me opportunities in relation to curating, writing and my own art practice, that I’d surely not have if I were living in a city such as Sydney or Melbourne. That’s one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog, and one of the reasons why I bemoan the lack of publicity given to exhibitions such as Parr’s.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy,

I've just stumbled across your blog today and am so thrilled, both to find it and that you've kept it rolling on (so many well-intentioned and potentially interesting blogs die after 5 or 6 posts).

I concur with your frustration re: event promotion. While ensconced for so many years within one of the circle of local arts organisations, I really had no idea just how big a problem this is. The information just flowed across my desk and I guess I assumed, everyone elses.

Now I am no longer there? Don't have a clue what's going on. I can't seem to get on postal OR email lists.

I usually have a paranoid tendancy to take these things personally but if it's not just me... well...

It seems as if money tagged for promotion gets used up by preaching to the inner circle - sending hard copy invites to those already in the loop and therefore meeting some kind of 'I'll send you mine if you send me yours' custom.

Maybe $$$ may be better spent on larger - more public advertising and relegating invitations purely to email... But I don't really know the answer...

But it does seem to me that local art orgs. while simultaneously trying to find an audience in the larger community are managing to keep even those who are actively interested at arms length.

Whoo-hoo! A rant for a rant!

Lucy said...

I'm pretty impressed that my blog has sustained itself too! My old blog, which just has all my pip-related art, dwindled a bit (although that probably has something to do with the fact that I haven't been making much of late). If anything, I've become more interested in my blog! Especially now that people are actually reading it. Weird.

I have some notes for the glass exhibition at the Carnegie, which I've got to write up. so maybe in a couple more days I'll have another post up.

re. promotion. I moved to tas 5 years ago, and it took me years to get into the art 'loop', which seems to be mostly word of mouth. It's an interesting and valid point that you make in your last paragraph:
"it does seem to me that local art orgs. while simultaneously trying to find an audience in the larger community are managing to keep even those who are actively interested at arms length."

The question is what can we do about it?

Thanks for the rant. I'm a bit of a fan of the ol' rant! Good for soul etc.