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.
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?
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.
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.
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.