..on Sat, Oct 03, 2009 at 08:59:37AM +1300, 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 media-lab/hack-space
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).
I don't think Damian is suggesting a hacklab as a sparkling, bustling new center
for tech art practice in New Zealand, rather a positive contribution to those
that /might/ find use for one.
From what I've seen in Europe and elsewhere
hacklabs can be depressed, selfish
places or productive, generous and social
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
What you describe is a room with three unnecessarily expensive computers to
rent. I don't know what to call that.. A failed business?
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.
What, like Croatia (mi2.hr), Peru (escuelab.org
), India (sarai.net
residencies), Estonia (moks.ee) among many others? Aren't these countries "just
not an attractive hub"? I meet heaps of people in my travels that tell me they'd
love to go to New Zealand, that ask about medialabs or residencies there.
What's unnattractive about NZ for most artists/makers is the airfare and the
lobotomising travel time.
Anyway, hacklabs aren't primarily for extranjeros, foreigners. They're also
shared working spaces for locals to collaborate with, and distribute knowledge
Secondly Hacklab's don't have to survive forever - it's not a make-or-break
thing. Better to see public money in NZ go into a project of this kind than some
Shockwave Flash art on a DVD or some artist's for-sale, month-long solo-show
somewhere in Ponsonby..
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.
This all sounds to me like the kind of post-colonial islander vanity that
defaults to all-excusing apathy; of New Zealand being a land of geographically
cursed, hard-up battlers gripped with cultural isolationism.
Then you go to Peru, Brasil, Croatia or Morocco and see people making it work
with far less and far more to complain about..
I don't know Douglas, I see your point but I worry that being so damning of the
suggestion out-of-the-box just isn't productive. You're obviously a lot more in
touch with the tech arts 'scene' (or lack thereof) there in NZ than most of us.
Do you really think there just aren't enough people working within the same
area, with enough personal momentum, to sustain something like a 'hacklab'? If
so, why does New Zealand seemingly have less activity in this respect than
countries with comparably sized yet poorer populations (Estonia or Uruguay)?
home: New Zealand
based: Berlin, Germany
currently: Berlin, Germany