Performing the DIY Museum: Compositing a Local, Responsive, Social Scene

The DIY Public Museum project is based around the concept of performing the actions of the public museum within a community. In practical terms this involves working in the capacity of a facilitator to realise creative projects/activities around Invercargill/Southland. Those located outside of the boundaries of current museum ideologies are a particular focus as there are numerous creatives maintaining active practices in the region which are intimately connected to what it means to be a Southlander. 

The DIY Museum's ethos is to perform a responsive museum model that connects with the aspirations of community members to present an annual public programme of events/activities. The DIY Museum also aims to reach parts of the community that may not consider the institutional model that is the traditional public museum/gallery as accessible. Audience will be approached from the perspective of creating a scene that engages publics with projects over a period of time providing greater opportunities to connect throughout the creative process rather than simply engaging with the finished art product. Initially being inspired by the concept of the "museum without walls", the DIY Museum attempts to work in the gaps - or in those areas not being addressed in the context of museum practice in the region. The DIY Museum is a responsive approach to museum practice that positions the city/region as site and therefore makes use of existing infrastructure to present projects/activities.

Project question: Within the context of institutional critique, how does the notion of a DIY Museum reveal the network of relationships underscoring museum development and prompt discourse on the perceptions that shape the ongoing operations, community relevance, and therefore sustainability, of regional public museums in New Zealand?

Referencing the concept of Do-It-Yourself as a “prevalent core value”[1] of the punk subculture, DIY is, in the context of my research, connected as both a way to describe processes employed by “micro” and “small” museums as well as a method employed in my own approach to museum development, in particular the proposal to construct a public art centre/gallery in Invercargill’s CBD.

The project will document the perceptions and actions that shape regional museum development through the collection, archiving, compositing, animation and presentation via a website/s of artifacts including my own photography, media material, reports, meeting minutes, notes and other publicly accessible documents. This will not represent a definitive chronology of the development of a public museum, but will rather analyse my own role within the framework of artist as bureaucrat/administrator in the conversations and associated circumstances that underpin the actions/decision-making that contributes to museum development.

This will be supported by the analysis of artist-administrators who make museums both fictional - Marcel Broothaers’ Musee d’art Moderne, Department of Eagles (1968); potential – Fernando García-Dory’s A Dairy Museum (2012); and actual - David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technology (1988). Specific focus, in the form of a case study, will be given to the role of artist-administrators in museum development in the Invercargill and wider Southland region in particular, Jim Geddes as Director of the Eastern Southland Art Gallery in Gore.

It is anticipated that this case study will assist in revealing the often overlooked work of the artist as administrator in the making of museums. In terms of academic inquiry this particular aspect of Geddes’ influence has not previously been reflected upon so this thesis will generate original scholarship on an influential figure, who, it is proposed, demonstrates how a DIY ethos can be utilised to develop the subculture that supports the development, ongoing operations and community relevance of a regional New Zealand museum. How this way of working may contribute to dialogue in the field of institutional critique will also be explored.

Bricolage will be utilised as a methodology that supports the potential embodied in immersion or the ability to be a researcher and an active participant simultaneously and predicate an “informal” and “unplanned” approach in the collection of what academic Micheal O’Regan describes as “fragments” to seek to represent in tone and form the largely undocumented social complexity of museum making in regional New Zealand. Education theorist Barbara Boltrefers to a “way of being” that embraces the seizing of possibilities, which is consistent with, it is proposed, the DIY ethos utilised in the of making “micro” and “small” museums in New Zealand.

[1] Moran, Ian P. (2010) “Punk: The Do-It-Yourself Subculture,” Social Sciences Journal: Vol. 10:Iss.1, Article 13.


MAI: After Party