Today we have an account by Ashley Mackenzie-White who left the conference full of questions.
MA12: Collaboration in Practice, 18-20 April 2012
‘They don’t realise they are experiencing art, but they have a feeling’ – Umberto Crenca
It is a week since I walked out of Te Papa, acutely aware that the buzz of the MA12 conference would wear off and that soon I would find myself unable to turn to someone who just gets it. As it was said at the end of the 3 day conference; there will always be more questions than answers. For me, these questions include:
Why didn’t I know about the amazing work of Te Kura before now and how are we, the museum sector going to help?
Why don’t we have our own version of AS220 in Aotearoa?
Why didn’t Pou Temara speak to the entire audience?
Why, in a museum filled with post it notes, was there no place to comment on what we loved, liked or disliked about MA12?
Why at a conference made up of discussions about tikanga Maori, taonga Maori, and more centrally collaboration, was there no discussion about the recently cancelled work by the Mexican artist, Teresa Margolles? Isn’t this decision relevant to all people who work in our sector as it raises questions about consultation and collaboration, censorship and cultural sensitivities, tikanga and korero?
In the three days at MA12, I heard about the exciting projects happening in the Far North. I learnt that as beneficial as licensing trusts may be, it is the people that always come first, and that we should never take them or the time we have with them for granted. I heard many times how we should feel the fear and just do it. I heard that cooperation is about meaningful involvement, that museums are places of social commentary and that sometimes people have to put their ideals aside to enable a better community. I got excited about boosted.org.nz as well as equal pay. On Day Two, I was pleased to learn thanks to Jim Marchbank – former CEO of Science North, Sudbury, North Ontario – that there are commercial companies that want a long lasting experience that ‘emotional response’ rather than to slap us with their brand. I was shown, thanks to the amazing people of Canterbury, the transformative power of art, the power of the human spirit, and the importance of our cultural & heritage institutions in the face of disaster.
For those at the conference, or around Aotearoa, who were privileged to hear and meet Umberto Crenca from AS220, Providence, Rhode Island, you will have experienced that same awe, inspiration, faith and perhaps frustration that I felt during and after his keynote address on the closing day of the conference. These same emotions came to the fore when Coralie Winn from Christchurch showed us the stunning work of the Gap Filer community where all things from fridges full of books, to sculpture, fill the spaces where buildings once stood.
Museums, galleries, archives, libraries, public spaces and government departments all have the ability to change people and their communities. Museums, galleries, archives, libraries, public spaces and government departments survive by virtue of the values and passion that fulfil us. This was seen in the conference bags, made from exhibition advertising and lovingly reconstructed by the team at Mana Recovery. These bags are a physical manifestation of what the conference taught me; that it is the people that paint the pipes in copper colour then sprinkle them with dust that will save us from the ‘cuts’.
To the casual observer, the conference went extremely smoothly and our national museum was a gracious host. Phillipa and Sophie and their team have again pulled off a tour de force on their limited budget and tight resources, so hats off to them for a highly successful and engaging MA12.
Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage