The ACT Greens and their Cultural Planning Expertise: a Case Study.

At the ACT Legislative Assembly’s Inquiry into the Future Use of the Fitters’ Workshop – or rather, it seems, the process of seeking alternatives to the occupancy by Megalo Print Workshop and Gallery – on last Tuesday the Committee heard from the acoustical engineers (Kimmo Vennonen, Duncan Lowe and Murray Neish) who had been commissioned to report on the 10 second reverb that has has been measured in the Workshop.

This “accidental acoustic” was the consequence of the original workshop design, including the 1950s ceiling – which, erroneously, the experts declared had been installed as recently as 2007. Despite the challenges posed by such historical facts and precedents, the Committee of Inquiry, on which the Government is outnumbered by the Liberal/Greens alliance, seems intent on searching for ways to justify the building being used as a multi-purpose space, which, presumably, it will argue, is a “feasible and prudent” alternative.

It is also an unfunded alternative, which suggests that it will never happen. Nevertheless, the current political process will attempt to save face by finding alternative visions (with imaginary budgets) for the use of the space, which will justify them to stymie the (approved, budgeted) Megalo plans. In this cause, (straying far from their brief), the acoustics experts enthusiastically attempted to correct some of the public interpretations of their submission. It would be possible, they argued, to “curate” the space to suit a wider range of musical performances than those cited, to make it “amenable to contemporary music”, as well as the “outer boundary” musical forms (gregorian chants and bathroom songsters, they suggest) which might benefit from the existing eccentric acoustical qualities of the space. These are, they said “at times superior to anything else” in Canberra. At what times? you might well ask… Within this alternate cosmos, an expert, some “acoustical curator” presumably, would, through the choice of furniture, the rotation of carpets in and out of the space, and the installation of retractable curtains over the (substantial) window areas, “model” the space for each event. Hmmm, good, that’s interesting, nod the Green/Liberal Alliance.

But the really interesting point raised by Kimmo Vennonen, Duncan Lowe and Murray Neish is the implicit necessity for a professional role for an Acoustics Curator, who, presumably, would be responsible for managing the changeovers (several times a week?) between the role of the space for exhibitions, raves, and rug sales – and the unique and magical performance space role that is being promoted for The Fitters. When it’s empty.  And, of course, let’s not forget that if there’s an Acoustics Curator, there will need to be an Exhibitions Curator, to manage the re-installation of whatever art exhibition is sharing the space at any given moment. And both of these characters, having different professional expertise, will necessarily “manage” crews of workers to make this happen. And then someone will have to manage the managers, plus the scheduling, plus the financial accounts and acquittals. And the cleaners, and security, and so on. And, as the experts agree, there will need to be incursions into the space, for dressing rooms, green rooms, toilets, safe access, ticketing offices, heating, a PA system, and storage facilities for chairs, carpets, and exhibition materials etc. Whether or not such incursions alter the acoustics of the space…

Now for an unfunded set of ideas, that should make the Greens start to wonder what they have got themselves into. Nevertheless, this is now being promoted on all sides as the best outcome for everybody – except Megalo, of course.

Shame, Greens, shame!

Curious? Read the submissions and transcripts here.

1 comment so far ↓

#1 Rob on 09.19.12 at 2:49 pm

One should remember that space that used to be on the playhouse site in the city adjoined to the Canberra theatre.
This gallery did not have the mired of curators and officials for its use, just a simple booking process that allowed individuals and groups to conduct a show for a period of a week. The FW offers that type of industrial space common in Berlin and New York. Large uncluttered openness. A place that did not reflect political or artistic correctness just a place for exhibitions of all types for all people.

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