artist statement: a southland museum

a southland museum: condition report

with Kathryn McCully, Sam Mitchell, Sandi Nur and John Wishart

Condition reports are typically utilized in museum practice to document the state of incoming/outgoing item/s. Documentation ensures that any change in an item’s condition is traceable and that appropriate action is facilitated to prevent damage or deterioration. A southland museum: condition report proposes that a condition report on the state of arts and cultural institutions in Invercargill is required so that there can be some reassurance that equal diligence of process is employed in cementing a place for arts and culture.

Museum professionals subscribe to the condition reporting process, for example, because they believe in and accept the collective responsibility associated with the preservation of items trusted to their care. Equally significant is the collective responsibility of creating the social cohesion within which development can occur. In practical terms this process requires leadership and the commitment of institutions to forfeit individual institutional agendas and visions in favour of a ‘big picture’ approach which draws together the aspirations of the community of stakeholders required to expedite sustainable development.

Simply utilizing the rhetoric of condition reporting within museum practice would, for example, inevitably result in the breakdown of the network of relationships necessary to prevent the damage and deterioration of collection items. In the same way the lack of cohesion prevalent and evidenced by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery and Anderson Park proposals presented as part of the recent Invercargill City Council annual plan serve to solidify existing divergent agendas. These agendas continue to seek to define distinctions between institutions offering public arts/cultural products and services rather than focusing on what is the clear duplication of these products and services.

The breakdown in the relationships necessary to action cohesion have, therefore, resulted in a state of stasis that has in turn contributed to a lack of resources to undertake the basic development necessary within each institution to progress sustainable growth. Pablo Helguera emphasizes the importance of social interactions or “social scripts” that shape what he describes as local art scenes. An art scene, he says “suggests a mise-en-scène in which the real-life drama of art unfolds. In other words, when the social process meets art-making, locality becomes stage, and those who enter it have no other choice but to engage in it as spectators or as actors”.[1]

Many thanks to the ILT, Southern Institute of Technology, Sam Mitchell, Sandi Nur, John Wishart, Martin McCully, Rachel Mann, Danielle Carter, Chris Macdonald, Hope Wilson, and City Gallery


[1] Helguera, Pablo. Art Scenes: The Social Scripts of the Art World. Jorge Pinto Books, New York. 2012:p27.