Have all of ya'll been tuning into the #cindytalks panel discussions surrounding the Cindy Sherman show at City Gallery? Being a new Aucklander my experience of them has been virtual and primarily twitter-based. From afar it seems like they were a mixed bag but hey, that's feminism I suppose. The panels wrapped up this past week with a discussion on Aging and Agency with Miranda Harcourt, Dr Ella Henry, Jacqueline Fahey, artist and Dr Claire Robinson. I'm sure it was a stirring event (apparently a man asked a question and everyone applauded him. lol) but I was a bit disturbed by the content of tweet that came out of it so I am using this week's Fast Five to ponder my irritation...
1. The offending tweet:
As a museum person who's entire professional purpose is to seek out and connect the threads of the past to the present I found this sentiment hard to understand. More generally as someone who understands the contemporary and the past to be intimately and inescapably bound, I actually found it startling. The Now does not exist in an ahistorical vacuum. How can you possibly look to the future without understanding the past. The past helps us examine who were are, how we got here, why things are as they are. The Now isn't a given - it is the direct result of the past and the sooner we all come to terms with that the better. So in defiance of the above sentiment I have compiled but a few examples of people and organisations who understand this and are doing something about it...
2. Auckland Art Gallery's Time: Connecting Past and Future curated by Nigel Borrell. As the blurb says, "In its constant state of transformation time is implicitly linked to narratives of the past and the histories that we create to remember and explain it. Artists act as the philosophers of their era in presenting ideas and reflections that interpret time and history. Some offer ideas which touch on mythic and celestial constructions of time, while others suspend the force of chronology. The works in this exhibition invite a range of views about how time and history is navigated by artists in both subtle and explicit ways."
3. The wonderful Otago University Press publication, The Lives of Colonial Objects. The book, contributed to by a host of our best and brightest, investigates Things and the stories that swirl around them. It understands that objects are imbued with meaning, and have immense intellectual and social relevance beyond their own times and contexts. They talk to us. They are alive.
4. I hadn't heard of this project before yesterday but it sounds pretty rad. Significant objects is "a literary and anthropological experiment devised by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, [it] demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively." Basically the duo assembled 200 thrift store objects to auction off on Ebay. But they weren't just auctioning off objects - for each object they enlisted the skills of a writer to produce a fictitious story around the object. What they found was that a story greatly informs our understanding of an object's worth: "The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total. (Proceeds were distributed to the contributors, and to nonprofit creative writing organizations.)"
There are a few similar initiatives that I thought deserved a mention:
Object stories at the National Museum Australia - was a collaboration between the National Museum, ABC Open and Radio National. This was a crowd-sourced project, inviting the public to tell stories about their own treasured objects.
"All up, around 600 stories were shared through the project – hearty thanks to everyone who participated. Here are our favourite stories from public contributors."
V&A's History of an Object in 100 Worlds. Instead of The History of the World in 100 Objects, the purpose of this project was to tell the story of an object from 100 different perspectives. Objects live complicated lives, ya know.
5. And finally, this piece from The Atlantic I read on the way to work this week helps illustrate why stories of the past are so important to our future: How teachers are using historical fiction to connect past and present. The whole article is great but I especially liked the discussion of Rudine Sims Bishop's 1990 article Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors, which illustrates why the past, even a fictionalized version, is so important:
Bishop presented a model of literature working as mirrors, which reflect and affirm readers’ experience; windows, which provide insight into other’s experiences; and sliding glass doors, which allow readers the ability to move from their perspective into the experience of another.