Bringing MoMA to Town

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE ART GALLERY

Glenn Iseger-Pilkington, Associate Curator of Indigenous Objects and Photography talks with Carola Akindele-Obe about his experience working on the planning and presentation of bringing works from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to Perth for the Van Gogh, Dali and Beyond: The World Reimagined at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Delivering six exhibitions with MoMA has had the Gallery in a spin. The staff and the curators are under pressure to deliver on multiple levels. So I am surprised when Glenn Iseger-Pilkington answers the phone on a Friday afternoon with a bounce in his voice and a chuckle. From the conversation that follows it is evident that he thrives on the diversity and the continuous learning that his role affords him.

He’s cognisant that his gregarious nature and interest in people from all walks of life has set him up well for the code switching required of an Indigenous art curator. Equally at ease conversing with Indigenous artists at a remote community as he is with a museum director in New York, Glenn professes that he loves to hear and talk about art.

Glenn started out as a photographer and new media artist. Studying for a BA in Fine Art from Edith Cowan University to pay the bills, he took on coordinating the Regional and Indigenous Artist Development Program for Artsource.

‘In working with Indigenous artists and other curators I became interested in how art collections are developed and the important role institutions play in capturing cultural memory.’

From an Indigenous background on his father’s side, and a European background on his mother’s, it was inevitable that Glenn would be drawn to preserving the cultural legacy of first Australians.

‘I didn’t really plan to become a curator but my decision to work at AGWA six years ago turned out to be a good one. If I was ever to move out of my specialty in Indigenous art I’m almost certain I would continue to work with new media, photography and installation art.’

As an AGWA curator Glenn looks after the Gallery’s collection of Indigenous works on paper, new media, sculpture, ceremonial artefacts and some bark paintings. He explains that it’s not easy to compartmentalise a curator’s role by art medium, particularly with Indigenous art, because it’s more about what is being communicated, for example a ‘narrative’ painted on bark, may also be applied to a carved object. .

Starting with a very large coffee, his regular day at the Gallery includes researching the collection, piecing together information about individual works, such as attributing works to people, times and places, as well as finding ways to communicate the works in the collection in practical and meaningful ways.

‘We inhabit the exhibition spaces – looking at placement of works, lighting, design elements etc. Writing is also important – for catalogue essays and journals – and it’s something that I have enjoyed developing with the help of mentors and good editors. I think writing absorbs some of my latent creative energy.’

In October 2012 Glenn travelled to New York where he worked on a scale model of the planned exhibition, at MoMA.

Salvador Dali

Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined is showing 22 June – 2 December 2013 at The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.

 ‘The experience of working on Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined has rekindled my interest in modernism and contemporary art and undoubtedly broadened my career path. With co-curators Gary Dufour and Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art, we have collaborated over the selection of works, the design of the space, audio tours and of course the installation itself.’

When asked what Friends and visitors will find most exciting about the show, Glenn chooses the power of proximity,

‘I hadn’t really considered ‘modern art’ since I studied it at art school, so to see these incredibly iconic artworks in real life, instead of a small representation on a page or on the web, is really quite exhilarating. To think that the hands of such influential artists’ were right there painting on these surfaces!’

Visitors will take away much more than this. As well as the versatile craftsmanship of the great artists, Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond encourages contemplation on how we respond to change. The exhibition covers landscape, still life and portraiture from 1889 – 2011, created in times of great change, world wars and social development.

‘It’s easy to forget the date of the older works because they sit so comfortably with the works of recent times in their style and how they challenge the status quo. However we have to recall that artists in the early 1900s were hugely restricted, sometimes persecuted and not celebrated. Contemporary artists today have so much freedom and can enjoy success during their lifetimes.’

In November, we are invited to hear Glenn talk about Salvador Dalí before the screening of the film Dali Dimension – Decoding the Mind of a Genius.

‘Dalí is totally unique; many artists have tried to emulate his work without success. In a small space he is able to present multiple realities, often polarities, such as depictions of loss and euphoria. Because of this his work elicits different responses from different viewers – and so, the viewer in many ways creates, or resolves the work in their own minds.’

I think we can all tell by Dalí’s subject matter that he must have been a complex thinker and possibly deeply troubled. He lived in a time when artists were beginning to take on celebrity status. This was not an easy transition, especially as many artists had previously been able to hide behind their creations.’

Glenn encourages Friends and visitors to look closely at Dalí’s work to appreciate the skill and control in the details; often so fine that he must have used a magnifying glass, for instance look at the cascading bicycles in Illumined Pleasures 1929.

Salvador Dalí – a Film and Lecture, with Glenn Iseger-Pilkington
Mon 11 Nov, 6 – 8.30pm ($40/$50)
AGWA Theatrette
Dalí Dimension – Decoding The Mind Of A Genius  (2008, 75 minutes) delves into the psyche of the Surrealist artist. Through a series of rare film clips and interviews with the artist, it explores the many inspirations that resulted in Dalí’s masterpieces. An evening that will expand your mind!
Bookings required: CLICK HERE.

Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World Reimagined is organised by The Museum of Modern Art, New York in collaboration with The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Visit www.momaseries.com.au for more info.

This article was published in the August 2013 edition of Artifacts, the magazine of the Friends of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Carola Akindele-Obe is an editor and writer at The Write Business.

Q&A: Madeline Bates, Lotterywest Film Festival

WORLD CINEMA CAPTIVATES PERTH

 

Madeline Bates, Program Manager of the Lotterywest Festival Films, has just launched her second season of international films to screen this summer at the Somerville and Joondalup Pines outdoor cinemas as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. It’s an iconic Perth activity to pack a picnic (including a good bottle of wine) to enjoy with friends on the lawn before settling into a deck chair to watch the big screen.

Carola Akindele-Obe: You’ve been here in WA for over a year now – what are you enjoying about it, or not?

Madeline Bates: Well, I’m writing this from the Leeuwin Ridge in Augusta looking out over native bushland and the coastline and to say it’s magnificent looking is a bit of an understatement…

I think Perth has a great youthful energy and is home to a lot of creative people and coming from Europe, in the midst of a deep depression, I appreciate the relatively stable position of the Arts community here.

CAO: It sounds like a very glamorous life to be a Film Festival Program Manager. What is it really like as you clock up enormous air miles travelling to exotic locations, meeting colourful and famous people?

MB: Well, sometimes I steal conversations with some very talented people. My favourite chance encounter this year was sitting next to Ken Loach and his wife in a French bakery and having a chat about….

But, in all seriousness, while it may sound glamorous to travel to other film festivals I have to burst the bubble of that impression, as it’s actually hard work. On an average day at Cannes I would watch about four films in-between meetings. Cannes is a major film market (a huge film trade fair, if you like) as well as a red-carpeted showcase for world cinema. I spend the majority of my time running between cinemas, standing in queues, watching highly accomplished yet emotionally demanding work, and fielding questions and sometimes pressure from distributors about which films we may select for the festival. Cannes is an environment where major deals are brokered in a big dollar yet volatile industry, so you can imagine there’s a lot of pressure and quick decision-making. But that’s also what makes it exciting and fun.

CAO: Which other film festivals did you visit over the last year? Which most surprised or excited you, and why?

MB: As well as Cannes, I travelled to Sydney this year. Cannes is always unpredictable and full of surprises.

CAO: Which countries are producing the most exciting films at the moment and why do you think so?

MB: Where to start?! I try not to be too determined by where a film is from but in a nutshell….

Asia – a continent not a country but widely one of the most important areas for new independent film. In particular, Iran – we have another film by the talented director Asghar Farhadi this year, his previous film to A Separation, About Elly, which is having its first theatrical release in Australia in 2013. Perth is one of the few lucky places where the film will be screened and it’s a master class in suspense and intelligent drama. For me, Farhadi is a hugely important director as his work demystifies Iran to the West and I think, indirectly, that is of great political importance.

Again, not a country exactly, but Spanish language cinema has a very rich history and often manages to be passionate, artful, intriguing and brilliant. We’re representing some excellent and diverse Spanish language films this year from Spain, Mexico and Chile.

And then, of course, the French industry is famously prolific. You should never really underestimate French cinema as French society generally has such a respectful and esteemed attitude towards the arts and how important they are to a healthy society; an attitude that I admire greatly and which can produce unparalleled work.

I also think there are some great independent filmmakers in the US who aren’t being driven by the commercial prerogatives of Hollywood and whose work feels authentic and personable. I find independent American cinema tends to be very perceptive at telling intimate stories.

CAO: The 2011-2012 program was a great success, how has your experience of that program influenced your focus for the forthcoming season?

MB: I think my first program was a case of getting to know our audiences better and fortunately they responded to it really well. Perth is a global city with a serious and sophisticated demographic who equally appreciate being challenged as well as the lighter side of life. I hope that I’ve captured that in the 2012-13 season.

CAO: Do you consciously try to strike a balance of genres as well as established and emerging directors and actors across the program? And if so, what are your priorities?

MB: Absolutely, balance is really important, which means that many great films don’t make the final cut simply because of timing and the aim to balance out genres and regions. I think it’s important to combine established, respected and greater-known talent with the work of emerging filmmakers and actors yet to be known outside the industry and the independent scene. That’s our job as a festival to bridge that gap. I attempt to represent the best examples of the entire spectrum of style, subject, geography and genre in the program. I also think it’s our job as an international arts festival to support the brave films – the filmmakers and actors who are really brilliant and stick their neck out for what they do.

CAO: I noticed in last year’s season that some of the films were more of a ‘documentary’ style; is this a growing genre and should we expect to see more in the upcoming season?

MB: I select films based on their accomplishment rather than type but I do think the documentary approach can be as fascinating and as cinematic as fiction. When it’s done well, the results can be of astounding resonance for audiences and ultimately if it’s a good story, well produced, the genre doesn’t matter.

While we don’t have a specific documentary strand this year, we are opening Somerville with one of the best documentaries of the year and there are other films influenced by the documentary approach such as Shadow Dancer, a fictitious account of 1990s Belfast but directed by James Marsh, one of the most successful and accomplished documentary makers of recent times.

CAO: Which top three films do you recommend to the Friends of the Art Gallery?

MB: A very hard question to answer as our appreciation of cinema is also dependent on our immediate circumstance; our mood; what’s happened that particular day and what else we’ve been watching recently. It’s like comparing people!

However, amongst all the brilliant and diverse films on offer – three I’d recommend for art lovers in particular are::

Caesar Must Die – The Golden Bear winner at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival is a genre-defying look at a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in a maximum-security prison in Rome with real-life Mafiosi being given an opportunity to express themselves without limits through the conduit of Shakespeare. Powerful stuff.

Blancanieves – A gorgeous, funny and cheekily grotesque love letter to European silent cinema and a reinterpretation of the Snow White story that sees the eponymous heroine re-imagined as a female bullfighter in 1920s Seville.

Tabu – Another beautiful black and white film that recalls earlier forms of filmmaking (a very interesting trend in contemporary cinema). Tabu is part love-story, part ironic critique of colonialism and rather magical.

Other special mentions include NO, a brilliant and funny political drama about how advertising changed Chilean political history and The Patience Stone, a mesmerising visual poem-like film about a woman’s spiritual awakening in Afghanistan. Beautiful, haunting and sensual.

CAO: Can we expect to see Australian and local WA content?

MB: Yes. I’m very pleased that we have the Australian Premiere of Satellite Boy, which is not only Australian but also set near Wyndham. Satellite Boy had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and I’m delighted that we’re screening it first in Australia and celebrating a WA story at the same time. On opening night (10 December), we’ll be hosting various guests from the film as well so that would be a great night to come.

It’s a beautiful story about childhood and ingenuity and casts two young WA boys as lead characters as well as the legendary David Gulpilil as one of the boy’s grandfather.

I also think it’s important – as a major showcase of international cinema – to be supporting emerging WA talent so I’m also pleased that we’ll have the WA premiere of a short film (playing in front of the feature Safety Not Guaranteed) directed by Zak Hilditch, Transmission.

CAO: Are there any other highlights you can share with us?

On the subject of geography – we’ll be celebrating the Asia Pacific region this year as an official screening partner of the 2012 6th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards, which means we’ll be presenting two of their award winning films in special one-off screenings at our Joondalup Pines venue in January (see our brochure and website for more details). That’s a really exciting and unique relationship that I’m very proud of.

We’ve also got some great cross art-form collaborations this year in the Festival. Perth Writers Festival and Lotterywest Festival Films are bringing to the Writers Festival a special focus on the art of great TV – OUT OF THE BOX; we will have a special series of films about artists at PICA; and one of our special guests this year in the music program has also been a major contributor to film history (and soundtracks) so we’ll be hosting a special onstage interview with him about his work on film composition.

Regarding the cinema program specifically, all our films are WA premieres but we also have four Australian premieres in the program (Satellite Boy, What’s in a Name?, Blancanieves and The Patience Stone); it’s great that we’re bringing these films to Perth audiences as they are all acclaimed and excellent examples of their kind and genre, so I hope everyone enjoys them.

I don’t program with the intention of representing particular themes as the program is too selective (with only 25 films to represent 18 months of world cinema) but looking at the program once it’s finished it’s always possible to draw out themes. I think, as always, love is a major theme – whether romantic, familial or platonic.

I hope everyone enjoys the program!

Lotterywest Festival Films run from 26 November 2012. For details visit http://www.perthfestival.com.au/

The ‘short’ version of this interview was published in the December 2012 edition of Artifacts, the magazine of the Friends of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and is published courtesy of Perth International Arts Festival. Carola Akindele-Obe is an editor and writer at The Write Business.

Photos:
1. The Somerville cinema is set outdoors amongst the shady Norfolk Island Pines at the University of Western Australia. Photo: Michael Chesnutt.
2. Madeline Bates, 2013. Photo: Scott Weir.

 

Artifacts – new edition

ARTIFACTS – the magazine of the Friends of the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA)

We’ve been producing and editing this magazine for the last 12 months, and by this fourth, forthcoming edition (out 1st Dec 12)  I’d say we have managed to establish a good format. As always for not-for-profit arts organisations, the budget is tight, so we do our best to keep costs down by using volunteer provided photography, in house writers (TWB & AGWA) where possible, a freelance one man show designer (instead of an agency) – the wonderful zebra-factory.com, quality lower cost stock and of course Louise and I put in a lot of extra effort to make sure that it’s looking as good as we can for the budget.

It’s a 28 page full colour A4 magazine, which costs the Friends on average approximately $4 per issue. Kay, a volunteer, from the Friends raises important income through advertising to cover the hard costs and since the magazine launched its new look it’s certainly been able to attract a lot more ad sales than in its previous incarnation. The magazine is reportedly well-received by the members who receive it as part of their annual benefits as well as visitors to the Gallery – and in this way its a great way to support the Gallery’s exhibitions and activities.

In addition, the Friends have managed to extract a BOGOF deal (I laughed myself silly when I first heard that term when I arrived in Australia – Buy One Get One Free). Basically we produce an Events Guide for the Friends which is inserted into the centrefold of the main magazine. This arose out of the Friends organisation’s need to heavily promote their events (which raise important funds to support AGWA) – but they also wanted a magazine that was more editorial in its focus than ‘marketing brochure’. The Event Guide is a 12 page booklet the size of the A4 magazine but folded in half vertically, which lists all the upcoming events with descriptive text, images and all the booking details. It’s printed on an uncoated laser paper stock and although stapled into the centrefold, it can be removed to stand alone. It is so useful for the Friends that they order a run-on of these Guides to distribute separately.

With increased budget our aspiration for the magazine would be to commission emerging and established art writers, as well as to increase the page count to allow a less congested layout with larger images and the quality of the paper stock.

You can read the magazines at http://issuu.com/thewritebusiness