PHOEBE Yuen catches up with curator Fiona Trigg about her curatorial career and ACMI’s new exhibition, Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From Book to Film.
Ever wondered whose job it is to co-ordinate and oversee the production of an entire gallery or exhibition? How would one tastefully showcase an artist’s work? Would you need any particular qualifications to be able to curate an exhibit?
For Fiona Trigg, she has made curatorial work her career, and is a curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).
Graduating from Media Studies at RMIT University, she went on to complete her honours in Cinema Studies at La Trobe University.
Fiona has previously collaborated with Oscar-winning writer-director Adam Elliot for Mary and Max: The Exhibition, and was responsible for curating the Best of the Independent Games Festival in 2011.
Her next project for ACMI is Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From Book to Film.
“Our job is to work with artists, to show their work in the best possible way, and to communicate that work to visitors who come into the galleries.”
According to Fiona, ACMI’s curatorial team comprises just four people who work across both the major galleries and the smaller shows. Though the team is small, they work hard to ensure they’ve got the artists’ best interests at heart.
“Our job is to work with artists, to show their work in the best possible way, and to communicate that work to visitors who come into the galleries,” she says.
As the central hub of moving image culture, the team is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting works, particularly with Australian practitioners.
One of these Australian practitioners is author-illustrator Shaun Tan.
The upcoming exhibit focuses on his Oscar-winning animated short film, The Lost Thing. Based on his picture book of the same name, The Lost Thing is the story of a boy who comes across an unusual and lost creature amidst a bureaucratic city. The book was first published in 2000. It was turned into an animated short in 2010 and won an Academy Award the following year.
“Shaun had made a short film from his book, and that film (had) gone on to win an Oscar. We knew that was a much loved work, and that people (would) be interested to find out more about it. So we approached Shaun, and he was very happy to be part of the show,” says Fiona.
He keeps everything. So, we knew (there) was a big archive of imagery that related to, first, creating the book, and then, explaining how that world should come alive in an animated form.
The exhibit will consist of two sections. The first part of the exhibit sees the original picture book come alive while the second part is about the development of the award-winning animated short film.
Fiona says Shaun provided her a wealth of resources to work with.
“He keeps everything. So, we knew (there) was a big archive of imagery that related to, first, creating the book, and then, explaining how that world should come alive in an animated form.”
But sometimes, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. The more options you’ve got, the more difficult it is to narrow down your choices, says Fiona.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of things that we could have chosen to put in the show,” she says.
“We worked closely with Shaun to select a good range of material. I guess it’s sort of an editing process of trying to find the range of material that will give people insight into all the different filmmaking processes that are part of making a computer generated animation.”
There are hundreds and hundreds of things that we could have chosen to put in the show.
Another challenge for Fiona was actually being able to show the process behind computer generated animation in an exhibit environment; especially when one considers that the magic of this animation is conducted from within a computer.
“We conducted interviews with the animators and the CG (computer graphics) artists (who worked on The Lost Thing), and with Shaun and the film’s producer. Hopefully, they will help explain their own processes to people who come to the show,” says Fiona.
Working with Shaun Tan
Having worked as a full-time curator for more than two years now, Fiona says working together with Shaun on this new exhibition has been a highlight of her career thus far.
“His work is so beautiful and he is really great to deal with,” she says.
“He’s just a very creative person who always has beautiful ideas to offer, but at the same time, he is a really good collaborator, so he let us bring ideas to the table as well.”
He gave Fiona plenty of freedom but also provided plenty of ideas and new materials.
“He made some sculptures, especially for the exhibition, so that was really exciting,” says Fiona.
For students potentially considering a career as a curator or for those in the creative arts industries, Fiona advises students to absorb as much information as they can.
“Learn as much as you can about the art form that you are most interested in. That would be my advice,” she says.
Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From Book to Film exhibition starts today and will be on till Sunday January 19, 2014 at ACMI. Entry to the exhibition is free and opens daily from 10am to 5pm.