On Friday 28 November I went to the CCP for the opening of a retrospective exhibition for the Napier studios, a youth art workshop established in 2004 by the City of Yarra. The exhibition features photos of the artists at work rather than the works themselves (or reproductions of them), and the opening night was really the launch of a high quality booklet documenting the achievements of the studio 2004-2008. The exhibition is on until 13 December so go along and get a copy of the booklet.

napiers4 Napier studios retrospective at CCP

At the launch I spoke with original founder Phil and current coordinator Adrian Doyle (an artist and the City of Yarra’s youth arts officer) about the history of the studio. I was curious to find out more about the studio as the Council is useless at promoting or communicating everything it does, and very little information is available online. Apart from information about the current exhibition (event listing and digital postcard – 544kb PDF), the most recent page I could find on the council website is a 2006 press release. This is simply not good enough. Why doesn’t the studio have a permanent page on the Yarra website or, even better, its own site?

napiers3 Napier studios retrospective at CCP

I put this question to Phil and Adrian and neither had a good answer. Both mentioned things about organisational problems and costs. All the while we were holding a glossy embossed slipcase containing a glossy full colour custom size booklet featuring lots of high resolution photographs and explanatory text all beautifully designed and desktop published. As an editor and publisher I know that in comparing the work required to produce a booklet like this and a website or blog published using a content management system, the online option is quicker, easier and less expensive to produce and it gains a far larger audience.

napiers2 Napier studios retrospective at CCP

The supposed cultural legitimacy of print blinds people to its anachronistic inefficiency. Instead of spending thousands of dollars designing and printing the booklet, Napier studios and the City of Yarra could have paid for training that would have taught the artists how to photograph their work with digital cameras and edit the photos using computer software, how to write and edit their own text and how to set up a blog and publish content with it. These are crucial literary, artistic and technical skills that would benefit them for the rest of their lives, help them get work and make progress as independent artists.

napiers1 Napier studios retrospective at CCP

In terms of the artists and their audience, gen x digital natives, it makes no sense to produce a booklet and not a website or blog – the tool of their generation. All the leading Melbourne street artists, some of whom have donated their time as mentors at Napier studios, have comprehensive sites that document their work: see Phibs, Reka, Meggs, Deb and Rone. It is the essential marketing and self expression platform for creative individuals in the twenty-first century.

Like the two books published about Fitzroy in 2008, both of which should have been made into online publications, this represents a lost opportunity and an oversight that could be easily corrected. Setting up a free hosted blog at WordPress or Blogger is easy. Did I mention free? As I previously said in my criticism of the City of Yarra for wasting $6000 in donating it to a business group to make a website, look at what Fitzroy businesses like Meet me at Mikes, I like you and Douglas & Hope have done with their free hosted blogs. Paying for a website is so fucking last century…

It is not my intention to be critical of Adrian personally or Napier studios. I love the work of the artists and I have reviewed two of their projects so far this year: their huge mural at Whitlam park and their exhibition at Safeway on Smith St. My issue is with the council and with governmental, educational and cultural institutions generally. They are all trapped into perpetuating expensive mistakes like printing brochures instead of making websites because of their ignorance, which seems to be wilfully and deliberately maintained.

These legacy institutions know that by contributing to the proliferation of information online they have to give up the power they used to retain by managing information scarcities, and power is the only thing they understand. They are scared of the radical transparency required of organisations in a networked world. They need to wake up and smell the electrons in the ether.

ps I also met Drewfunk at this launch and promised to go to his exhibition opening at Gorker gallery on 4 December.

Napier studios retrospective at CCP

8 thoughts on “Napier studios retrospective at CCP

  • 1 December 2008 at 10:59 am

    I view the book as an outcome in its own right the same as any wall. There are many forms that street art can take on. This project was not any more expensive than any other project that we do. (Whitlam Wall) It is just that some people view street art in a conservitive manner creating all sorts of boundries, content, media, location, form.

    (Oh Yeah, I nearly forgot, this project is not funded by the City of Yarra.)

    First of all it is very complicated to set up a sight for the Napier Studios as some of the young people have a past and age that needs to be thought about. Don’t you think that we would have a website if it was that easy. In stead of thinking about the wonderful art that has been created over the years, or even the great work on the walls. (It is a great show people go and check it out.) You had to make it about politics and boring stuff. And many of your facts are wrong.

    I also recommend seeing Drewfunks show on Thursday 3rd @ Gorka Gallery
    It is hot work.
    WerD uP pUnks

  • 1 December 2008 at 11:39 am

    I always aim to be factually correct so if I have reported something in error please correct me.

    The City of Yarra has its logo on the Napier studio booklet and is variously described as “supporting”, “managing” or having a “partnership” in relation to Napier studio in Yarra press releases and other official sources over the years. Perhaps Doyle you could clarify the financial arrangement.

    Setting up a website is easy. It simply requires initiative. It is no more difficult than publishing a booklet and considerably cheaper. The complaint about the complexity of it is a typical fear response based on ignorance. I’d be happy to run a workshop (for free) on how to do it.

    I’m not criticising the expense overall – I’m questioning the spending priorities. Not for profit community projects usually have the goal of demonstrating community engagement and relevence. The reader to $ ratio is important and I maintain that online gets an organisation more readers per $ spent.

    Financial waste and mismanagement have been priority issues in the Yarra council elections. I note that the Socialist Party candidate Steve Jolly won the popular vote. He thinks the $6000 grant to BOSS is a waste of money and I agree. I might ask Steve Jolly to find out more about what Yarra does for Napier studio.

    Whether you think local government issues are interesting or boring is an opinion not a fact. Whether this post is interesting or boring will be judged by its readers. Your defensive response is indicative of a lack of confidence in your position.

  • 1 December 2008 at 6:15 pm

    My response was not defensive, and I am sorry if I was misunderstood. Remember I am an artist first foremost and only work part time with the Napier. And this is an art exhibition that you were reviewing.

    I am in no position to discuss the funding all I can say is that CityLink is our very best friend.
    As for the book I still see no artistic difference conceptualy, between the Whitlam wall and the book. The idea is to let the young people make art in a safe and fun place. And to help them aim high. And I believe that the book is awesome for that reason. The young people worked with me on it and feel a sense of ownership over it.
    We can not set up the website because of the safety of some of the young people. Many are under 18 and have DHS issues. So we are not allowed to set one up. I would have one otherwise. I agree with you and I have tried my hardest to get one up and running. Don’t worry I never give up. I will continue to work out ways around these issues and the COY constraints.

    The cost of the book was about the same as any project that we do. We do 4 outcomes a year and this book ‘disquiet’ is one or the outcomes.
    I have never met Steve Jolly so I don’t know if he would be much help in informing you about the Napier Studios. I think is probably better if you direct your questions to me and I will try my best to answer any queries.
    I am glad about one thing and that exhibition has created critical debate.

    As three of the Napier kids apply for the VCA I can feel safe that I have done all I can to help them, train them and develop their techniques and mentored them to be ready for the challenges that they are about to face.

    WeRd uP

  • 1 December 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I have made no comparison between the Witlam wall and the booklet. I don’t understand what point you are trying to make with this. I have made only positive comments about the artists’ work and the aims of Napier studio, as you can see from my pevious posts about it.

    If I can read between the lines of what you have said then it is apparent that the direct financial support comes from CityLink and the coordination comes from the City of Yarra, as per your official title in the council.

    Any of the young people attached to Napier studio could have their own blog or website with or without the studio. Many probably have profiles in online social networks like MySpace.

    I can see no legal reasons why their work cannot be shown on a site or blog of their own making. Many artists do not reveal their real identities online and there would be no need for a Napier site to reveal real information about the artists, any more than the booklet does (it contains no information about individuals).

    I am not trying to argue with you Doyle. People in your position are perhaps not used to the techniques of online journalism being applied to local events that have often tried but failed to get traditional media attention. I may not be the Melbourne Leader or The Melbourne Times but they are not interested in providing in depth reporting on community events. I am. Welcome to the hyperlocal web.

    I came to the exhibition expecting to see a lot of art, like the examples I had seen at Safeway. As the exhibition does not display a lot of work I reported on what I did see and what I thought about it. That’s what I do. You can see that I love street art from the many posts I have done on it here.

  • 1 December 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I felt that the photos were great. They were not graffiti, but they were certainly exceptional works on an artistic and research based level, they were clearly art.
    I think that you should come down to the Blender Studios. I would love you to see what we have got down here. I think it will be right up your ally.
    I am here most days 110 Franklin Street, Melbourne. Enter from lane way.
    It is an artist studio with a gallery and a massive legal graf laneway. (With many of the local heros here.) We are also launching a public projection window from next month. It would be nice to catch up and have a beer.
    Give me a call or just drop by.

  • 2 December 2008 at 10:16 am

    Again, you’re seeing criticism where none exists. I have no criticism of the photos – they show the artists at work and that is great. I simply said the exhibition was not what I was expecting. I think many people would think that actual work would be on display at a gallery hosted retrospective.

    As I said, the booklet is of high quality and is a great thing to be able to take away.

    I will come and see Blender – thanks for the invite!

  • 2 December 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Just because a blog site suits your project, it does not mean it is the best medium for all others and in the case of the documentation of Napier Studio’s artwork it certainly wasn’t. I am sorry to have to tell you this but sometimes it is necessary to put our big, fat Fitzroyalty egos’ aside and consider things from other peoples perspectives.

    Fristly, Doyle outlined why the project goals were better met by a book rather than a web blog. Secondly, if someone has an opinion different than your own don’t be intellectually lazy by disregarding it as simply ‘defensive’. It has less meaning than your ridiculous assumptions, including my favourite, – hardcopy books are ‘anachronistic’ (you only need to walk into Readings any night of the week to realise that is total BS).

    I encourage you to see this criticism in its full existence and hope that you become less of a wanker soon.

    S. Smith

  • 2 December 2008 at 6:39 pm

    My point is that non-profit community projects measure their success by community engagement and reach. Printing several hundred copies of a booklet results in a very small audience. An online publication can be read by many thousands. It is simply more efficient.

    Doyle does not make a case for print. He does not justify print other than that he acknowledges the Napier studio is fortunate to have a corporate sponsor.

    There are fundamental differences between the non profit community model of sharing information to benefit the community and for profit commercial publishing, where publishers, authors and retailers all partificate in a market.

    My case remains that print is an inefficient means for community groups to share their message. What are your thoughts on that?

    Sorry but I cannot really take your comment seriously with the incorrect apostrophe on egos’ (sic).


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