We’ve amassed some beards in our collection! Curator, Rebecca Evans, takes us through her favourites.
We’ve amassed some beards in our collection! Curator, Rebecca Evans, takes us through her favourites.
Charles Laseron was an early collector at MAAS and formative influence upon our applied arts collection. He was also present during the Gallipoli landings in 1915. In the week leading up to the ANZAC Centenary, we are publishing a series of posts detailing Laseron’s life. This post is the second of three. Continue reading
On Saturday, 25 April this year, Australia marks 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli during World War I. As part of proceedings to mark this significant anniversary, MAAS has collaborated with Castle Hill RSL Club on a special exhibition for their members and guests. The Centenary of ANZAC Exhibition combines objects from the MAAS collection, the Castle Hill RSL collection and personal archives held by members of the local community. It’s on display until 29th April in the main foyer of the Castle Hill RSL Club. Curatorial volunteer, Kate Clancy, reports on the installation process.
This rather majestic black and white photographic portrait of Australian artist, designer and photographer Dahl Collings (Dulcie May Wilmott 1910-1988) was shot by her husband Geoffrey Collings (1905-2000) during a trip to Stonehenge around 1936. It has recently been digitized from a two and a quarter inch square negative still housed in its original glassine sleeve, part of the Dahl and Geoffrey Collings archives held by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. These important archives document and reference Dahl and Geoffrey Collings multi-faceted Australian and international cross-disciplinary art, design, photography and film practice from the early 1930s through to around 1980.
Together with other photographs in the Collings archives, including the image of the Orion wharved at Sydney Harbour in 1935 (below), this portrait of Dahl demonstrates the Collingses’ emerging interest in asymetrical non-pictorialist modernism (where spatial planes are as significant as forms within the frame). Others shots highlight the influence of the British documentary film and photography movement on their practice (where the human condition is documented ‘truthfully’ in rural or urban settings). A carefully constructed, it places emphasis on the ingenuity of Stonehenge’s construction and the diminutive scale of the human figure when juxtaposed against the man-made monumentality of this prehistoric structure. The Collingses’ own artistic practice is represented by the presence of the artist holding a camera.
Restoration of the sailing boat that made the first single handed voyage to Antarctica
Dr David Lewis was a courageous sailor, an extra-ordinary navigator and an adventurer with big dreams. He was the first navigator in modern times to cross the Pacific Ocean without using instruments, following a legendary Maori course from Tahiti to New Zealand. In 1972, David undertook another adventure to sail, alone, to Antarctica and circumnavigate the subcontinent. He bought a second hand, steel hulled boat designed by Dick Taylor. It was an 11 metre sailing boat, called Ice Bird and David and some friends hurriedly prepared it for his summer journey. The steel boat had a large amount of lead in the ballast in case the boat capsized. The trip involved sailing through the ‘Roaring Forties’, the ‘Furious Fifties’ and the ‘Screaming Sixties’. He encountered mountainous seas with 35 metre waves, constant gales, hurricanes and freezing temperatures. The boat was not built for such incredible conditions and capsized three times, twice on the way to the Palmer Antarctic Station and once on its way to Cape Town, South Africa. Continue reading
Lawrence Hargrave, aeronautical inventor, was one of thousands of Australians who lost a son in World War 1. Among the Hargrave artefacts and papers in the Museum’s collection, there are six photos that tell the story of his son, Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave. In the first, he is a baby posed with his hopeful parents, Margaret and Lawrence.
The Australian Dress Register (ADR) is a website that celebrates men’s, women’s and children’s dress that has an Australian provenance. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs on the Register. The Register supports the garments remaining in their locations, but allows the information to be shared with a world-audience. The criteria for contributing to the Register is simple – if an item of clothing has a good story behind it and is put in the social context of the time it was worn, then we’d love to see it on the Register. With the 100 year anniversary of World War 1, it’s a good opportunity to look at what entries are on the Register that are associated with wartime. You can search the browse option or the timeline on the front page. You can do in-depth searches by clothing type, era, location, theme or manufacture details. There are not many uniforms on the ADR, so we would like to focus on this area in the next few years.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences holds two important photography archives related to Sydney photographer David Mist – the Studio Ten archive (92/401) acquired as a gift of the photographer in 1992, and the David Mist archive (96/44/1) acquired as a gift of the photographer under the Australian Government Taxation Incentives for the Arts program in 1996. In recent years David Mist has been helping digitize these irreplaceable analogue collections with the Museum regularly lending David batches of negatives and transparencies to scan. These digital records then get added to the Collection Database. Thank you David!
As the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney undertakes a restructure, downsizing staff numbers as it endeavours to become more nimble and sustainable, curators will soon be re-applying for their jobs. My thoughts turn to the often envied, sometimes maligned, role of the curator and to curatorial competencies.
What makes a competent curator?
After almost 30 years of experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the most important attributes of a competent curator, is the ability to be discerning (though I’m not exactly sure how one would go about measuring this capability). I’d be interested to hear your views on which attribute you think is most important.
Being discerning involves standing one step back from your own personal preferences, choosing not necessarily what you like, but what’s significant in context. I think this is one of the least understood of all the curatorial roles, and together with the ability to make smart connections between objects, one of the most important. In being discerning, curators make complex decisions about what to acquire, and what the most appropriate juxtaposition of objects and ideas might be in displays. How often have I heard it assumed that a curator loves something simply because they’ve chosen it for display or acquisition? This simplistic view is offensive. Personal taste shouldn’t take precedence in curatorial work. Personal preference is one of the last emotions one brings to professional considerations when assessing, collecting or curating – not the first. Does a talented teacher look for learning tools that they like, or do they seek the most appropriate resource for the individual student’s learning needs or style?
Paradoxically, curating still requires a passion for objects, but in equal measure it involves a thirst for knowledge, an understanding of how things are made and how things work, and a willingness to share this knowledge, passion and understanding with others. It requires the ability to undertake complex research, and an understanding of people. Curators need to be able to communicate complex concepts and ideas succinctly and engagingly to colleagues and clients (including artists and designers) then help find strategies which communicate these concepts and ideas innovatively and coherently to diverse audiences.
Curating is complex
In 2006, I developed an exhibition for the 2006 Sydney Design Festival titled “In your face: contemporary graphic design”. I didn’t necessarily go about choosing contemporary work that I loved, nor only the work of Australia’s leading design studios. Rather, I decided to be more discerning – decided to select works which exemplified where graphic design was at that moment – when the boundaries between art and design were blurring, boutique multi-disciplinary design studios were springing up all around the inner-city, animation and motion graphics were becoming increasingly prevalent, tattoos were for everyone, handmade retro type was being generated in response to the impersonal domination of standardized computer-generated fonts, lomography slipped into advertising campaigns, and websites and mobile devices were capturing the imagination of illustrators and designer toy makers.
This approach wasn’t necessarily explained in the exhibition, it was purely a part of the curatorial process. 16 case studies were selected – some of the more esoteric, like Reg Mombassa’s Aussie Jesus or Josh Roelink’s tattoo designs, almost rejected. I fought to retain them all. With curatorial projects, uneasy inveigling is sometimes required to rationalise prioritizing, meaning, significance and aesthetics. Eventually 16 case studies remained – short TVCs, supersized graphics, comics, 3 minute mobile phone animations and tattoos alongside logo design, typefaces, book design, poster design, brand identity and way-finding.
The show’s diverse and surprising content was well received by Museum audiences, especially students and culturally active young adults (some coming with older parents and grandparents). It was perhaps slightly less well received (but in no way totally rejected) by traditional graphic design practitioners who may have expected a celebration of past professional practice. This too may have been valid, but not necessarily the best, or only, fit for the Museum’s Sydney Design audience. Similar debates arose around the Love Lace exhibition a few years later when it pushed the boundaries of lacemaking in preference to making an assessment of traditional practice. Curating is complex and it often involves making difficult decisions.
Love to hear your thoughts on this topic, especially any misconceptions you have experienced around the role of the curator, or what you feel is the most significant attribute of a competent curator. Happy to answer questions.
Written by Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, Design and Society
Discovering the identities of World War One soldiers from the Tyrrell Collection portraits has often been a difficult and tedious process. A contributing factor to this difficulty is the use of aliases by soldiers. According to military historian Neil Smith, the “incidence of aliases being used is frequently underestimated” within the AIF. The prevalence of aliases means that the real names of soldiers are “often difficult to establish”.