Archives for posts with tag: academia


Dr Justin O’Connor is a professor in the ARC Centre for Creativity and Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology. In January, the Australia Council released his report entitled Arts and creative industries, which outlined the development of the creative industries in Australia and discussed the role of economics in arts and cultural policy debate. He spoke to arts interview about the report and his ideas of how the industry could move forward.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

What implication do the differences between cultural industries, arts and creative industries have for the creation of industry policy in Australia?

The first problem is that nobody quite knows what creative industries are. Sounds great at first, but does not mention the word arts (that is always a good thing for economic policy makers). As we drilled down into what it meant, no one really knew. What areas of the economy aren’t creative? Are we saying medicine isn’t creative? We are saying creativity is an input into this particular sector of the economy, but it is also an input into many other sectors of the economy. What then is included? Consequently it is a challenge to develop industry policy when the industry itself is not defined.

The second element is that creative industries are defined increasingly in economic terms. All those who will read this will make arguments about the economic impacts of arts and culture. But policy makers are turning around and saying ‘if you are economically successful then let’s invest in this because of the economic returns’. In attempt to sell the whole idea of a thriving and growing sector it has also done a bit of damage to it.

In terms of cultural policy, was the last true attempt Keating’s Creative Nation?

Very much so. Remember that Creative Nation was not just about the economic aspects of culture and markets, the private sector was important too. It was also about a new Australia, a multicultural, forward looking country with an identity that would engage with the modern world. Creative industries have dropped all that and become the economic residue of these sorts of discussions.

According to the interviewees in the report, what are the weaknesses in the current Australian system?

One issue was the way in which the different systems, whether federal or state, could not handle the complexity of what practitioners were doing. Could not handle the fact that people were doing cultural things AND economic things. Those who were operating commercially were saying ‘people think I am commercial, but I am also doing it for artistic and cultural reasons’, and those in the subsidised sectors were saying ‘I also work in a very commercial space, using resources in an economically rational way.’ They felt caught on either side of the divide, either as a starving subsidised artist, or a commercial, hard-nosed, profit driven operator. In reality most fell right in the middle.

How has the report been received?

It is a think piece; it is meant to get people to review where we have come to. It has, however, touched on a desire for a bigger debate, questioning ‘What is the meaning of art and culture? Why do we do this? How can it be improved?’

I am hoping that it feeds into a growing concern that we are a bit rudderless, a bit directionless in this area. I think we have lost that moment, that Creative Nation moment, where we could link the economic aspects of culture with its wider implications for the identity and future of Australia.

You have said the challenge now facing the mainstream arts institutions is how to enter the policy debate without feeling the arts are threatened by the changes. What can be done to support this?

We have to encourage arts bodies to think about the broader picture. What shape should the Australia Council be? How can it best engage with the sector? It is not about abolishing, or suggesting they have done a terrible job; it is what kind of vision do we want for arts and culture in Australia and what role can the Australia Council play? The arts institutions have to think about engaging with the non-publically funded sectors, thinking about infrastructure funding, about engaging with more complex fields, things like small bar policy or how best to regulate or encourage private capital investment into the sector, how best to engage with urban planners and community policy makers.

If I was to write the report again I would be more forthright in the idea of critiquing economics. What is the economic? Most of it is just a myth, do we mean the financial markets? Do we mean the everyday economics of how people live? I would say it is a paper tiger, but it is a real tiger, suggesting there is an economy out there which is the ultimate arbiter of everything, but when you look closely it is actually smoke and mirrors.

Further reading on the politics of creative industries below:


Design and Art Australia Online  (DAAO) is a e-research tool that has been built on the foundations of the Dictionary of Australian Artists. DAAO captures biographical material, when artists were born, when they died, whom they associated with, but also gathers information on artists’ practice such as their works and exhibitions. It is a dynamic and multifaceted research tool that services a range of researchers interested in Australian art and design. Dr Gillian Fuller, DAAO’s research director, took the time to talk to arts interview about this complex, evolving project that involves organisations from across Australia’s art and design sector.

 Interview by Kim Goodwin

DAAO is going through a change – a relaunch.  Who is involved in this new project?

Academic Researchers have always been at the core of the project, which is wonderful, it has enabled the DAAO to get a solid sense of scholarly authority. For the DAAO to be something you can trust, the academic input into this has been pivotal. Next is to open up the database to researchers who are non-academic, those working in museums, such as the Powerhouse, or amateur researchers who have knowledge about Australian art and design.

It works on two levels; we are opening up technically, so that the actual structures of the database can interoperate with other database, which means we can directly exchange data with organisations such as the Art Gallery of NSW or the Ian Potter Museum. We are also opening up the project at the interface level, so that a whole range of researchers can not only use the database, but they can contribute and update records, and participate on projects together through the database. In addition, we are enabling a whole range of researchers to not only use DAAO, but also to contribute and participate on projects together through it. For example, two researchers at different ends of the country can contact each other, share data, form teams, really start working together and finding new questions about Australian art and design.

What challenges have you faced bringing together so many academic and non-academic organisations to participate in such a complex project?

One challenge and I think this is the area I find most encouraging – once you get the business plan right you have to also make it worthwhile for everybody involved. It is a challenge, but it is an exciting challenge to find out what people want and incorporate the feedback into a design that works. We had to listen to the issues that partner institutions are facing. For example, a lot of museums and galleries have incredible digitised assets but they have nowhere to put them beyond their own websites. By putting things into the DAAO, all of a sudden their collections data is sitting next to exhibitions data, which is sitting next to biographical data. This incredible and beautiful juxtaposition of data enables a really rich picture to emerge. Our partners really understand this; they are driven by a love of wanting to know what influences Australian art and design.

You have made the switch from academia to leading this project, what have you learnt?

I would not say I have made a switch as such – I am still an academic; I still research and publish. When I was working academically I would talk of data ‘coming together’ without understanding the actual footwork that goes into working with institutions with regard to getting the data to be open about obtaining permissions etc.

I have learnt too that when you have a big project with a big budget and a short timeline, you learn to be very solutions focused very quickly. The thing I find very satisfying about working on a technical project is knowing if something works or not immediately.

Also the more detailed and open you are about what you are doing, the better quality feedback from stakeholders you get. I am not particularly concerned if stakeholders disagree with me, just so long as we get a chance to talk. For me these kinds of discussions are part of best practice in design.

After July the project moves into a new phase. When the new site launches, what does ongoing success look like for DAAO?

Success looks like a truly useful e-research tool.  If you can create something that is useful you have solved most of the problems.

Ongoing success means a database that is self-sustainable and active. One that a high amount of people use every day, and saving and exporting our data for other purposes.

However, success is not just people using the database, but using it in surprising ways that I have never thought about. We are putting out a website with new functionality and many different sorts of system capabilities. I cannot wait to see how people hack it, mash it, how they use it, what they do with it.

More information the DAAO journey can be found here:

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin is an internationally exhibiting artist, architect, and Professor of Porosity Studio at College of Fine Arts, UNSW, with work ranging from freeway infrastructure to the gallery to “parasitic” architecture/public artworks. In 1996, Goodwin established the Porosity Studio that enquires into a dynamic understanding of art, architecture and urban design that has been recognised and supported internationally by various universities and institutions. In 2002 and 2009, he has been awarded the prestigious Discovery Grant and Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to further his research into Porosity. His body of research became widely published and exhibited in galleries across Sydney and begun to influence the way designers, architects, artists and even emergency services view the city fabric.

Richard Goodwin has shared with arts interview the nature of his multiple roles and their importance to his arts career.

Interview by Natalia Ilyukevich

With multiple roles that you have, what is your role as an artist, architect and professor?

My role as an artist is about adding meaning to language and all other forms via systems and devices that are so complex now, especially after the 20th Century. It is sort of a multi-faceted role. I cover a large part of what I call the art spectrum, which includes practice that goes into gallery. It is a hybrid form where I mix my architecture with my art, and make public art that adapts and transforms architecture as the site of public art – hybrid public art architecture. Then I do think about radically transformed architecture itself and urban infrastructure. The vast majority of the work is for the gallery and the academic side simply harnesses that. I run the multidisciplinary Porosity studio to bring together people from different disciplines like myself to test their projects at the scale of the city. Another side that made me an academic was my theories about public space existing inside private space for which I have received research funding from the government.

How do you balance the commercial, artistic, educative and other related aspects of what you do?

I balance my roles by never compromising them for each other. To me they are just facets of the same project. When I was a younger artist, the only way to make work possible was to have a studio somewhere separate. I went to my studio as part of the discipline of learning how to be an artist. Ultimately, as things got more complex I gathered the wagons in the circle and locked them all together. The only way that I am restricted commercially is the limitations that I can spend on materials and etc. I run my businesses and various things but I never think rationally about money, and it is usually when I am least rational about it, I make money. As a professor, I have to do a certain number of hours teaching and really offset against all the other things. I maintain my position at 0.5 – half the normal hours of work load. Where it is beneficial is that the more I talk about my theoretical project the more I learn about it too. The way I balance this aspect is by running studios the way I want to teach, adding into that the tutoring and supervision required from university, and changing my timetable around it. Overall, it is a totally integrated role to me.

How do these three roles inform each other for you?

There is no doubt that teaching reinforces the way you think to yourself. There is no better way to test what you are thinking then to have to explain it out loud to somebody else. Teaching makes you better at your own project, but it can also ware you out on your project too. Students usually scare you to the degree that they can immediately incorporate your project and go further. But you are learning from them and understanding that you have to keep moving. Being an artist also influences my family in several ways. In one way, we had to sacrifice where we live. We live above my studio because I need it and that is the only way we can afford this particular type of space. Although it may be a sacrifice in one way, but does not seem to destroy anything, it just makes things more particular.

What are some key aspects that you believe are crucial for managing multiple roles?

All of these extra things that must be done are the sanity makers, the structuring devices. They are the ‘in-between’ that can play out this exhausted process of trying to find poetic manifestations of your ideas. Multiple roles should be seen to help each other, but there would be a point where they get in the way, so you have to be clever enough to understand how to balance them. As soon as you know one thing is getting in the way, you have to knock it off regardless of the money. It is a constant balance of questioning: even now for me – will I go on with academia, what it is going to do for me, if I am on an edge what will I do, and what will it do for me in favour of the art that takes presence. You can balance a large amount of things, and the faster you go the more you comprehend, so there is no limit. The biggest thing I have learnt as an artist is that you have to be ruthless with your work and trust your own instinct. You get to the point when you give an idea a 24 hour test to understand if it does or does not work. There is also a point when there needs to be a part of you that is incredibly stubborn – if the art is good you cannot cut down the art, you have to cut down everything else.

Further reading on artists with multiple roles: