Entries from June 2011 ↓

Oh! The O

With apologies to James Thurber or Anne Desclos fans, but this is a story about another kind of O…

When you visit MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart), once you’ve made it past the engaging architectural effects and you’re standing in front of a work of art, you realise there are no labels! And so you turn to the “O” they gave you at the door. It’s a modified iPod (an OPod perhaps) which is (another) paradigm shift in the way you experience a museum.

Powered by 46 WiFi transmitters embedded throughout the building, at any time at least six of them know where you are, and your O presents you with a list of the things you’re looking at. And better still, you have options at your fingertips which allow you to go beyond the title data to levels of information and opinion which are inaccessible in other formats.

No longer do we have to engage in that forward and back dance to read the label beside a work of art: “this looks like…” “never heard of him, oops, her…” “when was this made?”  or “where on earth did they get this treasure/dudster from?” Now MONA’s O gives you access to all these layers of provenance and interpretation, and more. It’s very smart. You can even vote: yes, you can form a love/hate relationship with a work of art!

Other museums agonise over how much information to provide on their labels. Not enough, and you’re expected to buy the book. Too much, and it’s Anthropology. Don’t let the Words get in the way of the Art, they say. With the O, you decide. And if you enter your email, by the time you get home you’ve been sent a record of all the things you looked at, all the things you missed, and access to the layers you didn’t have time to read.

One of the tabs at the bottom of the gadget’s screen is GONZO This gives you David Walsh’s words… What made him buy it, among other things:

Enjoy the mini-essays by Jane Clark and others, under the ARTWANK tab…

And there’s the interactive diagram of your voyage through the labyrinth. Very cool indeed.

And MONA keeps all this info to tell them how to rearrange things in the future. According to David Walsh, if a work becomes too popular, it comes down!

Even though that’s unlikely in the case of the Kiefer Pavilion. The O is a product which DW would like to see adopted by museums internationally. It gets the Iconophilia vote, but we don’t yet have a museum to go with it…

the quality with no name: silver’s aura



OK so it’s just the ghostly reflection of this wonderful silver inkstand. During the first decades of the 20th century, silver was relatively much more valuable. So it evoked a different quality than it does now. As you see in this piece, made by Josef Hoffmann, for Moriz Gallia, in Vienna in 1911. Gallia was one of the patrons of the Wiener Werkstatte. He must have stared in wonder at this object every time he picked up his pen. Just as we do now.

You can see this and many other silver treasures on display at the remarkable exhibition Vienna Art & Design which opens today at the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s one of those exhibitions where there’s too much for just one visit. Your background reading by Tim Bonyhady is here, and here (the book)…

Picturesque Dickson: the esoteric art of Views and Vistas

Don’t you love it when town planners go all poetic? Get this. Your iconophile lives on the fringe of Dickson, one of the larger shopping centers in suburban Canberra. Dickson Shops has a funkily downbeat, unpresumptuous, country town feel to it, thanks to having been designed by a Mr Rafferty, and therefore following no apparent rules or principles. It nicely merges Chinatown with Boganville. But not for much longer. The ACT Government has just approved a new Master Plan, which follows Planning and Design Principles to create a “progressive and safe hub”, among other extraordinary oxymora. One of the key Design Principles is identified as “Views and Vistas”, wherein we the citizenry are informed that: Views and vistas along recognisable routes promote legibility, ease of movement and a sense of connection. Defining vistas into and out of the centre will reinforce the ‘sense of place’ and the role the centre plays as a meeting place for the community. Aligning buildings along routes facilitates safety and reinforces the vista. Applying the principle, we are told that: The proposed precinct code will require that development/redevelopment along the view lines shown in the diagram below are setback and oriented so that views are not obstructed.

Let’s explore these Views and Vistas. The lesser vista to the West brings you to this view of the rear of the Telstra building. Not to be missed.

And what was it like along the way? Pure Heritage.

But the pièce de résistance is the Vista to the South, where your gaze is directed to the back fence of Daramalan College, just across the stormwater drain.

How about that? Or did we miss something along the way?

The Tradies! Of course! At this point on one of the Plan diagrams there’s a notation, a reminder to “improve connection to the drain.” But could it get any better than this?

Apparently such vistas of “fine grained shopping precincts” are to be preserved. “Most blocks have been developed with smaller shops creating the fine grained built form and scale that is typical of the retail core.” Except that there’s a roadway being planned to divide the Tradies Club and Motel in two, and there is provision for six story buildings where we now enjoy the “fine grain” of the Caltex servo, Premier Instruments, Canberra Auto Parts, Bells Drycleaning, Foxy’s Fast Foto, Asian Groceries, Curves, El Dorado’s Steakhouse, Michelle’s Hair and Beauty, Dom’s Barber Shop, The Cheesecake Shop, and Keir’s Radiators, just to the right of this photograph. Now preserving the authenticity of this fine graininess will present quite a challenge for future town planners and heritage buffs.

Canada triumphant in Venice

Steven Shearer is Canada’s entrant at the Venice Biennale: and here’s the blurb… Rot-munching architects proceed with caution. Want more? Punish yourself: there’s still more. And yet more – altho the relation between outside and inside (Heavy Metal and Fin de Siecle) is thinning…