This week’s Fast Five is brought to you by things that were, things that are (maybe we should change them) and some things that have not yet come to pass...
1. On Tuesday I travelled to Wellington to attend Robert Janes’ skyped-in Michael Volkerling Memorial Lecture Museums without Borders: A Manifesto. Janes is a pretty epic dude. He’s all about ethical, mindful museums who are guided by integrity and a deep sense of social justice. I was asked to be a part of a panel “discussion” (I say that in inverted commas because I, typically, got very nervous and didn’t really discuss a hell of a lot) along with Huhana Smith and Dean Peterson (another reason for the inverted commas bc these two people are ahhmazing and me…well). In my response to Janes’ lecture I made a comment about neutrality and privilege and, being nervous, I kind of fumbled my point. So I wanted to clarify my thoughts here. There’s a lot of talk these days in the GLAM sector about “rejecting neutrality”, and that we have a responsibility to tell difficult stories, to reveal marginalised histories and to give voice to people living in the shadow of a dominant culture. The point I was trying to make (badly) on Tuesday was that, at a national level, the parameters around “neutrality” are defined by Pakeha culture, values, priorities and worldviews. Our organisations, including museums, are built on these worldviews. We have the ability to change them, and they have changed, but I think it’s important to remember and acknowledge that these systems are deeply, deeply entrenched. So while we may congratulate ourselves on doing the right thing and choosing to reject neutrality, “choosing” to do so is actually born out of privilege.
2. The day after this lecture, Matariki tweeted an article, well a letter actually, by Ghassan Hage - Lebanese-born, Future Generation Professor of Anthropology at Melbourne Uni : If I speak at your conference, conservatives will be upset, liberals will congratulate themselves, and the colonised won’t be helped. In this open letter to the Anthropological Association of Israel, Hage declines their invitation for him to be a keynote speaker at their up-coming conference, "So to me, the beginning of any decolonial anthropology is to be anti-politicidal. It has to be concerned with how to stop this horrendous violence and how to give presence and political and social power to the colonised. It is not about making the anthropologist of the colonising society more liberal and open minded and capable of confronting difference. This I feel is all what me presenting a keynote for your organisation would achieve: some conservatives will be upset. But that’s because they are dumb. Then there will be the intelligent liberals who will leave saying 'what a feeling. I have heard a genuinely and authentically anti-Zionist intellectual with really confronting views, and with an Arab background to boot. It was a really enriching experience, I must be so open minded and groovy.' This does not and never did help the colonised."
3. On a more chill-vibes note, last Sunday I went to Christchurch Art Gallery and saw some cool stuff. I was totally enamoured by Joyce Campbell's Flightdream, an immersive video work, overlaid with a narrative written by a sci-fi author Mark von Schlegell. Campbell and von Schlegell seemed to engage in a bit of call and response when creating these works. Campbell first produced photographic works inspired by the Marianas trench - the images are of "sculptural forms dissolving in light-filled liquid"; von Schlegell then wrote a story in response to the photographs; then Campbell made a video work (Flightdream) in response to von Schlegell's story. I think this repeated a couple of times. The work is huge and enveloping. It is accompanied not only by the narrative but also a soundtrack by Peter Kolovos, tiny silver sculptures made by Campbell and the Marianas photographs.
Also on at CAG is He Rau Maharataka Whenua: A Memory of Land curated by Nathan Pohio. The works are Canterbury modernist landscapes. No surprises there, but the interpretation is where things divert from the expected - the works are all interpreted through a Kai Tahu lens. Specifically, stories of the represented land are told by Kai Tahu kaumatua Te Tipene O'Regan. His korero gives the works such depth of meaning. I read all of these labels I their entirety and, as someone who often doesn't read labels in their entirety, this is kind of a big deal.
4. While in Wellington, Matariki and I met with Seb Chan - digital mastermind extraordinaire, currently at ACMI in Melbourne. He's an all around awesome guy and knows a heck of a lot about born-digital collecting, something both Tuskers are really interested in. Seb's advice? Just. Do. It. This material ain't gonna wait around for us for very long. It's forever changing, it's fluid and fleeting (like Joyce Campbell's work...).
5. Now, the "not yet come to pass bit" is the very exciting news that Wellington Tusker is visiting ChCh Tusker next week. It's probably going to be one of the happiest times of my life, AND we're going to be working on some Tusk related things, so...watch this space.