Tony and the Paint Separator

Some folks who work at the MCA are taking this audit business very seriously. And good for them, I say!

Tony, who runs the exhibitions set-up department is one such enthusiast, who has grasped the nettle (and sometimes my lapels) quite firmly (he responded at length to my exploration of wall-building and other issues here).

After reading my series of rather minor exposés, Tony bailed me up outside the lifts one day and said: “What you’ve revealed is all a bit negative so far. I want to show you some good things! Like the paint separator…”

So a few days ago he took me on a small adventure to “The Paint Room” on level four, to find out about this paint separator business… “Take photos!” Tony commanded. (He wants the whole world to see this wondrous machine…)
Continue reading

Dr Worm checks in

In light of some of the recent discussions around the museum regarding waste processing, today I took it upon myself to invite my friend Paul, aka “Dr Worm” to consult.

Here he is, gesticulating carefully as he explains the relative merits of worms versus other sorts of composting to Glenn the curator.

What I’ve noticed with the organisation is that there seems a strong willingness to make small and manageable changes; it’s just that there’s not a huge amount of time sloshing around, to investigate the options and how to carry them out.

Paul and I have recently completed a permaculture design course together. One of the outcomes is that we have an instant network of very clever colleagues to call upon for such consultations.

I figured that Paul might be able to do a bit of an ad-hoc site survey to explore the possibilities for diverting organic matter from landfill, with an eye to submitting a rough proposal to the MCA – making it all a bit easier for the organisation to consider.
Continue reading

Sounds so crazy it just might work

The In the Balance show at the MCA has put environmental concerns on the agenda for many of the staff who work here every day.

There’s something of a “festival” feel in the air, a spirit uniting the workers whose minds have been switched onto thinking about the relationship between what they do and the wider world of resources and pollution of which they form an integral part. Sometimes this heightened sense of consciousness causes some unease in the carrying out of everyday tasks…

Here are a few ideas I’ve heard bouncing around while I’ve been on-site this past month:

  • star asterixGlenn: We should give staff and museum visitors the option to walk up the stairs during the exhibition. (Currently, floors 3-6 of the MCA can only be accessed by the lift – how much power does this use per journey? More homework for me…)
  • star asterixGlenn again: We should get museum staff, and visitors to the show to make a pledge for the duration of the exhibition. Eg: I will not drive my car to work. Kind of like giving up beer for lent or something. (This sounds a bit like the “I Will…Project” which was recently aired here.)
  • star asterixJudith: Maybe we should look into getting a bokashi compost bucket for the staff lunchroom, to harvest some of the leftover food scraps. (I’m trying to get my friend Paul (aka “Dr Worm”) to come and consult on this very issue… A bokashi bucket is quite cheap – it would probably require some enthusiastic full-timer to be its keeper though…)
  • star asterixTony: I wish we had decided to do a proper Energy Audit on this show, and “offset” its overall emissions. (I think it’s not too late Tony, we could always make an offset action in retrospect, or as an ongoing effort in the future)…

Anyone else got any ideas, big or small? Let’s have em.

Invisible Walls

On Tuesday arvo I made a foray down into the third floor exhibition space, which is full of building materials, tools and preparators working hard to get the galleries ready for the exhibition.

Since there’s only a week and a bit to go before the opening, I guess I wanted to hear from the folks who set things up. How do they feel about the processes and wastes that surround their jobs?


Here’s Jay. He’s been working for the MCA for over a decade – originally as an employee, and now as an external contractor who comes in to custom-build walls for specific exhibitions.

What I like about this photo (besides Jay’s cheeky glance, and his precious bike parked in the background) is that it shows the wall he has built at what I think is its most beautiful moment.

Jay is in the process of applying “mud” – a kind of bulk plaster-spakfiller used to smooth the gaps between the sheets of chipboard which make up the wall, rendering it flawlessly smooth.

Once this “mud” has been sanded back, and it’s had two or three coats of white paint applied to it, the wall effectively disappears. But right now, the wall reveals its labour, its craft. Its pure rectilinearity can be tangibly appreciated as a direct result of human ingenuity and skill.

Aesthetically, it’s a satisfying object in its own right.

But this moment is fleeting. The eventual invisibility of these custom-walls is, in a way, one of the MCA’s great claims to fame. The museum “creates spaces” to best house the artworks which are in each show. And I know from experience (as I too, like Jay, have spent some years installing art here) that the artists whose works are exhibited in these spaces are very appreciative of the attention which is bestowed on “getting it right”.

But how much chipboard, aluminium stud and track, pine two-by-four, mud, undercoat and topcoat paint is used in “getting it right”? And is it worth it?
Continue reading

The all-seeing eye

MCA front yard, Bike rack

It hasn’t escaped my attention that there are some new bits of technology in and around the MCA.

This morning when I arrived I found that The Company Bike Rack had been shifted from the carpark (actually, carpark no more) around to the front of the building. This relocation is clever, on both practical and symbolic terms. Practically, it means that MCA visitors now have a convenient and secure spot to tie up their steeds as they visit the galleries. And symbolically, it “sends a message” that it is OK – nay, it is indeed the new cool thing to do – to ride yer bike to the gallery. Economical, successful.

And here’s something I spotted in the MCA staff kitchen:

MCA Kitchen, bins

I don’t know when this split waste recycling innovation came about. Can anyone in the office enlighten me? Was it related to the recent fanatical drive to collect plastic containers for Lauren Berkowitz’s piece in the upcoming show?

Plastics, rubbish. What’s next? How about a foodscraps bin for on-site wormfarming, MCA? Anyone interested? I know a worm guru who I’m sure would be happy to help out…

Turning the Sod

turning the sod on the new mca building

On Wednesday (my first proper office-day) I was, by chance, present for the “turning the sod” on the building of the MCA’s new building extension.

Tony tipped me off, and I arrived just in time. An array of federal politicians were on hand, ready to don their pristine hardhats and hi-vis vests, to witness the cool earth moving machine take its first symbolic bite into the crust of the MCA car park. The car park will make way for the building extension, which will apparently make room for an expanded education facility, lecture theatre and events space, amongst other things.
Continue reading

Inputs and Outcomes

Meeting the Registration and Conservation Department
[Here I am with Megan, Claire and Melanie, as we brainstorm wildly about what their jobs involve, and the inherent difficulty of balancing safe care of artworks with care of the planet.
-Photo by Mark Booth…]

On Monday, I visited the MCA for my first “departmental consultation”. I met with Claire, Megan and Melanie who work with the museum’s registration and conservation department.

“Registration” is the department that deals with the coming and going, transport, storage and packaging of art: taking stock of things as they enter, inhabit, and leave the museum.

Given that this realm is intimately connected to “imports and exports” (on a micro scale), I figured it was a key node in my Environmental Audit.
Continue reading