well Douglas, i seem to have struct a nerve there. i'm not going to address
all your points, but here's some thoughts by way of a response.
i spent a bunch of time in the Cake Shop on Cuba St when it was running,
which showed me that really interesting things can happen when you have an
open space where different ideas can mingle. it was a great place to work
and more importantly to be inspired to work further.
i left Wellington for a number of reasons. pertinent to this discussion
was my growing sense that there were a whole lot people in the city,
interested in similar things as myself, who worked in isolation and didn't
share, not because they didn't want to but because (like myself) they
didn't realise their work might be valuable to other people, and even if
they did think it was valuable there was no established place to share it.
the arts market in New Zealand is as far as i could tell lost in
post-colonialism and so heavy with theoretical nonsense that i always felt
it was impossible to approach it coming as i am from a position of having
no formal arts training.
i started organising events to try to rectify what i saw as a tragedy of
lost opportunities. this was the point of the Bleep series of workshops,
and although they were successful in doing what i was hoping to achieve, i
quickly realised that without any infrastructure the overhead of effort was
enormous, and that i was not cut out for organising events; moreover
without follow-up the social aspect was quickly lost, and it was hard to
make these follow-ups happen in an informal way.
the point is definitely not to hire a 'coordinator' and fill a clinical
set of rooms with new pieces of hardware. of course that wouldn't work. the
hacklabs i have seen that work, work because of the social aspect, and
because of local patronage. they may have a bunch of very shiny equipment,
or they may have nothing at all, but that's not what separates the good
from the bad.
when they work, they function as somewhere where people can go to be
inspired by and to inspire each other. for 'ordinary' artists the gallery
can serve this task, but digital art is so hopelessly underrepresented, and
so much ink is spent on propping up the non-digital with impenetrable
language, that for people like myself the gallery failed in that respect.
when i put together Sounds Like Light, Lights Like Sound for the Fringe
festival in 2007, i thought that because the work that i was making was
coming from a more practical approach to artistic work, it was somehow
lesser art, or perhaps not even art at all because it was so technical.
these feelings are something that of course come from my identity as a New
Zealander, but i know that if there had been a hacklab space in Wellington
i would not have felt so isolated and confused about what it was that i was
actually doing, and as a result i believe the work i could make would have
been much better.
that's what it means to me, and that's why i care, because i know there are
other people back home dealing with the same shit i was dealing with in my
head, and that since such a place would have helped me, it could help them too.
Douglas Bagnall wrote:
> but, based on what i've seen in my travels, some of the most interesting
> creative stuff seems to be happening in and around /hack/lab spaces: the
> kind of spaces which put together, in one place, open-source enthusiasts
> who want to spread the word, and artists who are interested in working
> with new technology and want access to equipment, workshop space, or
> just a social space to hang out with other likeminded people.
The reason for this, Damian, is that you are a
tourist. You find interesting stuff there because that is where you go,
so you go there again and again. You are like an appreciator of
pelicans who goes from zoo to zoo and says "all the most interesting
pelicans I see are in zoos". The argument is convenient and circular.
In actual fact, digital artists might not be "like-minded people". They
might not be lacking in social spaces, or "equipment", or any of that,
and they might not live anywhere near the centre of a main centre. And
those who do fit this kind of collaborative tech-head profile are
already doing it. Which is good (although, as far as I can see the only
difference between one of these hackery spaces and other people's
studios and practice rooms is the presence of a website and a written
set of rules).
so, in my mind, the best, cheapest single thing
they could do is
part-fund the formation of a hack-space or several hack-spaces,
strategically located in major cities. in Wellington, a small space
(Happy-sized) somewhere in the not-yet-gentrified bits around upper cuba
or tory st, or in newtown.
This sounds dreadful. It also sounds like Toi Pōneke.
The thing is Damian, this isn't a new idea. It comes round and round,
and every so often someone acts on it. A coordinator is appointed and
they immediately buy three top end Macs with just the right software for
something, and they hire a space and there's a kitchen and foosball and
a locked room for the cool macs which can be hired out for really cheap
even though nobody knows what to do with them and the kitchen becomes
grimy and somebody loses something (maybe stolen, maybe not) and nobody
comes in any more and it seems like a terrible waste until a group start
to use it for lan parties and they have fun for the final 6 months of
the lease. Or perhaps more money is pumped in and the mistake of the
old Macs is corrected by buying the latest model. Or perhaps it morphs
into an incubator, or an internet cafe, or a therapeutic workshop, or a
key sector institution that it would be somehow embarrassing to stop
Perhaps the key difference between here and Madrid and Vienna is not
that we are few and poor, but that our country is just not an attractive
hub for centripetally motivated people. Those cities draw moths like
yourself, whereas our artistic immigrants are like slaters or
cockroaches scuttering to the dampest hidden places. Without the churn
of visitors, your super-hack-space will be left with the same old people
that somebody went to school with, seeming like just another badly
implemented badly fitting cultural import. It would be better for CNZ
to let us self organise, *then* give us the money.
damian stewart | skype: damiansnz | damian(a)frey.co.nz
frey | live art with machines | http://www.frey.co.nz