It’s very exciting to see that the Mint’s new Factory Viewing area has been installed and is now open to the public. We have been developing the exhibition for a while now and it’s fantastic to see it come to life!
I have not yet had a chance to visit but have some photos from the team at the Mint.
The factory viewing area enables visitors to look down onto different areas of the factory, but the old exhibition did not really explain what visitors were seeing. There was a lot of machinery but the process was not clear. The new interpretive space is designed around a diagram I developed to explain the coin making process. The train map style diagram is a simple tool for illustrating the major stages and the detail within each stage of manufacture.
The new exhibits and colour-coded displays we have developed offer visitors a range of information and activities to get an understanding of how coins are made at the Mint.
Of course in real life the process is more complex, with many more variables, but I think we have achieved a good balance between detail and making it accessible to non-experts.
The touch screens have been developed to enable visitors to click on a piece of equipment in the factory and then watch a short video of how it works. We fixed a go-pro inside some machines so you can actually see the internal action.
Feedback from visitors has so far been extremely positive, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in person and observing how visitors use the space and the interactives.
The Mint team is wonderful to work with and I hope we can continue developing the Australian history gallery in the near future. We’ve made a start with the decimal currency touch screen that features a shopping game and other audio-visual content.
My role: masterplanning and concept design with whitecube, interpretation planning, process diagram design, research and text development, management of touch screen design.
This curated collection of works (some of which I’ve seen before) presents ten themes of humanness: intimacy, empathy, vulnerability, transience, transition, alienation, restlessness, mortality, reflection and acceptance. It includes sculpture, painting, photography and media works by Australian contemporary artists Natasha Bieniek, Robin Eley, Yanni Floros, Juan Ford, Petrina Hicks, Sam Jinks, Ron Mueck, Jan Nelson, Michael Peck and Patricia Piccinini. According to Sally Pryor’s review, a team of curators reflected together on their own humanness to select and arrange the works.
This is not just about the body and its stages of life, though these are touched on in various works. The exhibition is also about states of mind and body, the body reflecting and inducing emotion, our connection with the natural world and our animal selves. It deals with themes close to my heart, my own creative work and research. It used materials and methods that move me. It felt like an exhibition designed for me.
The interpretation of the woks is simple and accessible. Coloured walls are the primary device to indicate the sequence of the ten themes, with a brief text introduction for each. Text consists of a quote from literature or music (eg: Margaret Atwood, The Doors) and one or two paragraphs that expand on the theme. The use of quotes is very effective, connecting the themes to broader ideas. The panels are effective (although my accompanying teenagers had differing opinions – for one the text was too long; for the other, a bit repetitive). Perhaps when the works are so exceptional the interpretation can afford to be minimal?
Some thematic groupings contain works by a single artist, others by multiple artists. The gallery is uncluttered and easy to navigate. As my professional interest is in interpretation design, I won’t describe the works themselves; such commentary is available elsewhere and besides, this is very much an exhibition that needs to be physically experienced. The interpretive device of the colour coding translates well from the physical space to the printed media of brochures and floor plan.
The exhibition includes an area called the Sensory Space with a couple of blind touch boxes in which you can feel some 3D works and a room with textured walls and suspended shapes that’s good for lounging about and exploring. I love a furry wall and playful environment but this space felt tacked on to the main exhibition rather than integral to the experience. I would have liked the space to reflect some of the themes explored in the exhibited works, or have a stronger coherence as a separate entity within the exhibition.
For once, I managed to get to a major exhibition at the NGV – usually I plan to go but then the exhibition closes before I manage to get to it. With an interstate visitor who is also talented seamstress, we decided the J-P G exhibition was a priority.
The work was presented in collections, reflecting stages and styles in Gaultier’s career. From the first room, we were captivated. The visual design and interpretation in the first room was impressive and surprising. Projection of faces onto the mannequins was restrained enough to be intriguing and delightful – a wink, a smile, a look. Even the figure of J-P G with a voice-over worked for me, probably because of the theatrical setting and clever lighting – and again, a certain restraint.
Some items were set into scenes framed by jewellery-box style upholstered surrounds. This set them apart from the otherwise thematically grouped collections in each room. These smaller displays invited closer scrutiny. He is a sculptor, who uses the human body as a base form that can be manipulated and reformed, extended, adorned and stripped bare – with dramatic effect.
One room had a backdrop of only partially visible furniture, which provided interest without the tackiness of a theatrical set.
It was very generous to allow photography throughout, giving visitors the chance to capture both the drama and the detail of these exquisite works. However, it created a frenzied atmosphere among the snap-happy crowd as we each tried to get a clear view for a perfect wide shot or a close up of the beading work. Perhaps post-visit online access to the collection (MONA-style) would have reduced this, but I doubt it. As visitors we love to capture our own view rather than but a professional post-card image at the gift shop. Photography is about documenting our own journey through the environment, about our own stories, preferences, fascination and emotional responses as much as it is about the objects themselves.
The text-based interpretation was quite traditional – mostly brief introductions to each section in vinyl text on the wall. In the object labels I appreciated the note on hours used in production of the item, often many hundreds of hours of handwork. This highlighted the hand-made nature of the works and the attention to detail in each item, but also emphasises how little of the work was done by J-P G himself. I began to think about how much easier it is to conceive of something outlandish, exotic and flamboyant, with luxurious materials, textures and extremely fine detail than it is to successfully render such a vision real. It slightly diminished my admiration for the man as an artist and made me wonder who the talented makers were and why they did not feature in the exhibition labels.
The exhibition did not disappoint in terms of quality and quantity of incredible works. In fact it was generous to the point that it was not possible to absorb all in one go. We needed a break before tackling the last couple of rooms. Is this a problem typical of such ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions? I’m not sure (see earlier point about generally not going to them). Is it even a problem? It must be good for the shop and café as people seek respite from the sensory stimulation through consumer therapy and nutritional fortification. But I think size is an issue. There’s a fine line between a sense of value for money/effort and feeling you have missed out if you have to leave after 3 hours and haven’t seen everything. The design of any exhibition should consider a visitor’s sense of satisfaction, fatigue and information overload (even if the information is largely visual). Further, although the extent and diversity of Gaultier’s work is astonishing and admirable, the value of each object is slightly diminished by such mass display.
I left weary, excited and overwhelmed, itching to get to my own studio space. I am inspired by his exaltation of the human body, his confident, playful and often provocative attitude, celebration of androgyny and crossing gendered clothing boundaries, wonderful use of materials and his grandness of vision without losing sight of the detail.