Thursday, 31 January 2008

Warhol pre cooks the revolution in Brisbane


Excuse the gap in the correspondence but I have been on my travels again, both physically and culturally. Although still fresh in the memory it was more than two weeks ago which found me in Brisbane in the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art staring at the wonderful series of ten prints of Mick Jagger created by Andy Warhol in the 1960's.

They show Jaggar as the young adonis figure he was, his face alive with that postured curiosity, which some saw as arrogance, but which now, more and more, looks like intelligence looking for a framework to make sense of the circus around him.

The exhibition , hailed as an exclusive to Brisbane, brings together more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photographs, films, videos and installations.

The works come from the Andy Warhol Museum, and the National Gallery of Australia; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; the National Gallery of Victoria; and private collections.

Although I found some of it didn't engage - qv many of the early film doco pieces- or felt too remote in time - lots did still retain an ability to provoke big conversations with the viewer .

There are real works of power here , and in balance the exhibition - for me - did confirm Warhol was not only a player, and a contributor to the 60's circus, in hindsight, he really did create many of the key assumptions and ideas surrounding fame, personality and the place of the ordinary in the construction of the extraordinary.

And yes, at the emotional level you definitely have to celebrate the sheer creative guts of the guy, while admiring anew how his then revolutionary magpie techniques could take an issue, art movement or conceptual idea and mash it up for his own purposes.

Read Write Collaborate Generation
Which I guess is the big connection point for me - that though Warhol is welcome to his cult status as an artist who co-created the mid point of 20th century modernism his work retains a compelling contemporary relevance in the way it precooked some of the ideas we are no grappling with around giving the read write collaborate generation access and rights to the heritage and knowledge assets of our big state and national institutions and their collections.

As an example check his version[s] of The Last Supper.

State Library of Queensland

As it happens, for me, there was something deeply serendipitous about seeing Warhol's work being celebrated in such a grand style in this location. The Queensland Art Gallery , which has two sites, sits inside the Brisbane South Bank cultural precinct which also includes the Queenlsnd Museum, and of course, the State Library of Queensland.

I in turn had been invited to Brisbane to particpate in a two day workshop where State Library staff were discussing all the issues that emerge as a consequence of engaging with 2ist century digital literacy, including how to make collections accessible, discoverable, and open to participation to the user.

This user centered approach is already on view in the State Library. Courtesy of a recent remodeling , the ground floor of the building has been transformed into an info zone - i.e. a public/ student - learning space with an open wifi zone.

The result is just plain and simple stunning. You walk onto the ground floor concourse from the river walkway , and immediately encounter clusters of young people huddled either in active collaboration groups or just hanging in companionable silence . All have laptops or so it looks on first glance, and all are soft wired into the learning tardus which is the State Library.

And nobody checks you in - nobody asks your name - gives you a password, or takes away your tote bag!

Up stairs on the the upper floors the "normal " business of a State Library continues - collecting, describing and of course curating key heritage collections on Queensland history, as well as openly searching for models and methodologies which will bring all of this into the forefront of a re-imagined digital learning space which also offers the user the ability to discover, share, co-create.

I fell in love with the place , plain and simple.

And if you would like a taste of the possible - check out this transcription [ both text and audio] of the Diary of Maria Steley, aged 14, written on board the ship “Ariadne” and at the North Stradbroke Island quarantine camp between 6 October 1863 and 23 February 1864.

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