On the occasion of Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything, our team worked with the artist to realise artworks featuring thousands of LED lights, real live goldfish and wheelbarrows full of coal. Mark Brown, MCA’s Audio-visual Coordinator, shares his insights on the installation process.
Hi Mark! Tell us what you do at the MCA.
I am the Audio-visual Coordinator working within the Curatorial and Digital division. I work closely with other full time Exhibition Installation, Registration and Conservation staff within our immediate team. My responsibility is to ensure all audio-visual aspects of exhibition projects at the MCA are planned, delivered and maintained at the MCA.
When an exhibition approaches, what type of planning do you do to make sure an artist’s work will translate to the MCA galleries?
As exhibition projects approach we work closely with Curatorial staff to calibrate exhibition layout and floorplans. We develop 3D renderings of individual works and whole gallery floor elevations using software like Google Sketchup. Then we start looking at scheduling and crewing for the project, identifying any specialised equipment, materials or outside contractor services we might need.
To understand the parameters of the proposed works we communicate directly with local and international artists and their representatives. These works may be pre-existing – loaned from external institutions or individual owners. Alternatively works can be new and realised for the first time at the MCA. In the immediate lead up to exhibition installation things get quite busy for us and we transition down into the galleries for the intense installation process. Here we work very close with artists and curators to realise their ideas with the highest possible international standard of display.
The relationship between artist and install team is a special one. Tell us about how you worked with Miyajima-San on this exhibition?
With Miyajima-San we worked alongside him in the gallery throughout the duration of the installation period. He is clearly the Master of his medium and very experienced with museum installation teams and methodologies. He was very generous and collaborative in his approach and this inspires you further to realise the artists’ vision.
We engaged Gotaro Uematsu, a local video post-production guru, as interpreter due to his Japanese heritage and technical experience. I often find, however, the language gap is bridged by a shared understanding between artist and crew. This is due partly to the fact that all of our crew are practicing artists, and it was clear that Miyajima and the crew – as it has been with countless international artists undertaking projects at the MCA – were on the same frequency.
Also, Miyajima had a great collection of shirts that he would wear on the floor that I suspect he designed himself and his respectful demeanour was brilliant.
Many of Miyajima’s artworks seem to have lots of individual parts. How do you begin to piece things together?
To ensure that we fully understand the parameters and complexity of work like Miyajima’s we undertake detailed pre-installation planning and communications. This involves liaising with the artist, their studio technical staff, their representing gallery and other museums if the artist has shown recently.
How are the artworks stored? What state do the artworks arrive at the building in?
Works arrive in crates and are systematically recorded and documented by Registration and Installation staff to unpack the works and their many separate components. We thoroughly document the unpacking process so the pack up can be efficient. In the instance of this exhibition, we even integrated crate storage spaces into the floorplan design for the Arrow of Time (2016) space so the crates remain on-site ready to be packed as soon as the show closes.
Does installation of Miyajima’s artworks differ from other exhibitions? How so?
Miyajima I would describe as ‘electronic art’. This defines the show as a hybrid format, given there are conventional 2D works on paper plus video projection works. However, the majority of works involve Miyajima’s prolific use of his bespoke LED digit modules in an array of different applications. There are more discrete sculptures and expanded installations like Time Train to the Holocaust (2008/2016) and 100 Time Lotus (2008). But the exhibition includes coal, model trains, water and live goldfish! So it’s very different to a painting, sculpture or video show.
Most memorable moment from the install of this exhibition?
Tatsuo’s awesome shirts were memorable. Finishing the Arrow of Time installation gave all involved a sense of achievement. Shovelling coal on the coal mountain of Time Train to the Holocaust was also memorable!
Above all, Tatsuo’s generous acknowledgement of our collaboration and commitment to the realisation of his ambitious project was a reminder of how lucky and privileged we are at the MCA to work so closely with the visionary artists of today.
Follow Mr Miyajima’s studio on Instagram @tatsuomiyajimastudio
See the exhibition for yourself! Buy tickets to Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything – on display until 5 March
Watch the installation of the immersive Mega Death (1999/2016)
Mark has a long standing creative and professional commitment to and engagement within the Australian museum and gallery world. As a practicing sound and installation artist Mark has had well established involvement with audio-visual technologies – video media is present in one form or another in most of his installation and performance work.