Popup Blog

Popup Blog

Just finished a book this week called The Power of the Habit by Charles Duhigg which I think can inform artists practise. He calls on major research and many studies real world examples and practical tips about habits and how they can be ingrained, but to how change habits so they become automatic, you can change a routine, and you can still get the reward at the end of it. There are a few key things he cites – the belief system, assigning a group to go with you, changing the environment, the automatic reaction so it’s something you no longer have to think about.

Fascinating work. Although habits remain for life and the pathways are there, you are capable of ingraining new habits, He uses really diverse examples like the NFL and the civil rights movement to help us understand how habits work.

How to Change Things When Change is Hard – by Chip and Dan Heath was a similarly inspiring read which focuses on why we insist on seeing the obstacles rather than the goal – understanding how our minds function in order to engineer shortcuts and switches to human behaviour.

I look at goal setting often in the pop up program, usually at the commencement of an artist’s time with us. It does work – one of the fashion designers with us has mentioned this as a turning point in her early career many times. One of our more recent arrivals is working through an action plan with her mentor and it’s an exhilarating time for her, reminding herself of why she set up the brand, but facing the changes too with an open mind. I’m so excited about this.

Making people accountable to their Mentors is one of the keystone features of the Pop Up Program. Of course this is not the only feature – once they accepted they are part of a cohort, a group or a network, some of which are working towards some of the same goals. There are so many initiatives, activities and things that have been developed in the last few years that I’m intensely proud of. That of the artists and creative leaders who have created their own communities around their dynamic, intensely local and diverse projects. Prospector Store, Ruth Fattal, Ivan Chew, Unknown Quantity and Shh Centre 4 Hybrid Arts I’ll cite as local leaders in this field. Particularly with PS, as the director has said to me many times, she has created a community who engage with and love the product and become ambassadors for the brand, highly engaged net promoters.

These artists nurture their community in a way that our city needs. Good urban design and elements talk a lot about what a community needs to thrive, and last week’s Festival Keynote Event – the Colloquium from the Sydney Architecture Festival talked about the key things people require to build their community – the key features are access to public transport, proximity to arts, culture and recreational facilities, access to major universities, great hospitals, and a feasible or short journey to work. Parramatta is this. It has all the hallmarks to succeed. The way we work has changed – we follow the high knowledge and innovation jobs, smart jobs, educational investments rather than being focused on industrial production or manufacturing. Many cities have done this very successfully in the past. As Pop Up is part of the wider activities driving the City Animation team to grow and nurture our city, I believe this small brand of place making is highly applicable to all our activities across the public domain.

Creating a good framework for where artists sit in all of this is never easy. But I think we are part of that change, we can live and vision and grow the type of creative city we would like, right here in #parracity. Whilst everyone in pop up is creating their own personal brand, they are part of a bigger change regarding our city that will enhance and build our reputation as a growing, responsive and dynamic one.

Yesterday, I discovered there are about 300+ social media channels worldwide. Which poses the question, which are best for the artists and creatives of this world? Anything with ample room for the immediacy of images from events, exhibitions or progress shots, like Facebook, Google Plus and Instagram perhaps?

I hear regular comments from creatives I work with about how they don't 'understand' twitter. Fair enough, as it struggles with the visual content, but is excellent for writing about conferences. Or arguments. Or making up after an argument. Or pop commentary with cleverly coined hashtags (think #dirtystreetpie from our recent love-hate affair with the Bachelor that took place in Australian lounge rooms and now splshed on magazine covers). Inherently my experience as a visual artist was sometimes an isolated one, so perhaps it's easier via a visual trail to conduct the conversation.

Someone famous once said, 'eyes are the window to the soul,' but after years of working in the sector and beyond, I'm rethinking that statement to translate in 2014 as 'your social media are the window to the soul'. If you are in the creative space, here are some thoughts about what your social media channel should do:

* As artists in Pop Up can attest to, because your project is sometimes of a temporary nature, social media can be the link to your continued life outside of the project space. Also it shows the progression, the journey, occupying a virtual space and in turn a physical space that is linked and connected and pictured perfectly for all our viewers to see. In particular, I believe Instagram does this better, because in my experience, Pinterest is too polished, too clinical, and Instagram allows the grungy and hip into the media space, which, let's face it, often makes for more interesting and diverse content. Every time I post original content on Pinterest, I worry if it's beautiful enough for the channel, in my mind, there's pressure to make it look like light-box perfection.

* Often when I've given talks about Pop Up, the most powerful shots that resonate the most with audiences are the 'before' and 'after' shots. Like weightloss or gym junkie pictures, a potent mix of what is achievable with a bit of creativity and mountains of hard work is awe-inspiring. It combines the renovation challenges of the block (with minimal budget) with the dream that only a creative can achieve of how to make something better.

* At the pop up studios and arts centre for instance, Rising Pictures have recently ripped up carpet, polished the old timber floors, a huge risk with dropping serious cash into a space which is due for demolition in a few years time.
* Meanwhile, over at Connection Arcade, The Prospector Store has become an inspiration, now renovating the third property in 2 years with a particular unique style in mind which keeps clients coming back in hordes.
* The Epping pop up project was a similar challenge, the Pop Goes the Easel team, turning a 200 square metre pigeon riddled floor into an outstanding community gallery.

* But sometimes the vision can go down a particular pathway which is unattainable. There are others I have come across who are so engrossed in getting everything to look good, they forget about their practice. But their Pinterest accounts are stunning. But, I'm hungering to see the journey, so it can be followed, analysed an commented on through social media. The work through to the destination is just as valuable.

At the end of the day, track your journey through your social media weapon of choice, choose whatever channels work for you, but choose wisely. Keep content relevant to the target audience, and go with where the audiences go (for example soundcloud rather than myspace). And have fun!

Shane is 29 and works in a café in Parramatta. He plays in an all-guy banjo troupe, wears checked vests and scarves, cares about the taste of his coffee, does performance poetry, enjoys boules, and has a beard and black rimmed glasses. He lives in North Parramatta. Shane is fictional…only, we wish there were more of Shane in Parramatta. (by the way, the picture isn’t of Shane, it’s another well known hipster in Parra, thanks to the Prospector Store).

Hipsters are glass jar loving, vintage bicycle riding, typewriter-possessing guys and girls who get around in inspired cool style from the 1920s-onwards. We love them. We always have. They break up the regular crowd who get around in Parramatta and make us smile with their fun-loving ways.

But we were saddened recently after our years of love affairs with the hipster, trying to steal them all from Surry Hills or Melbourne, trying to attract them to the warmer climes of Western Sydney. Because it’s official, now. Last week the University of New South Wales have uncovered research about the hipster and how it’s losing it’s edge with the bearded look on the guys. Furthermore, hipster look was no longer hip, announced The Guardian last week. The subculture has now become the mainstream from the time we started talking about it, and now that we have decided to embrace it, unfortunately it’s all over. Because Parramatta was only just starting to ‘get’ the hipster, although they had actually been around for a while, this saddens us somewhat.

We are excited to see which subculture will hit the ground next on the streets of this town (ParisMatta). What do you think it will be? 

So you are all with it on social media, there are a couple of things you know. You know that your teenagers are posting to Instagram (henceforth known as insty) and nowhere else, because now Mum, Dad and Grandma have joined Facebook and they need another social media space to be themselves. You know that Flickr is becoming as much of a wasteland as MySpace was at the end of the naughties. It’s time to see where you sit in terms of insty and where it’s all at, which is of course widely used by artists and foodies and others who are interested in documenting everything. Interesting suggestions, let us know what you think. Tell us how many has been you…in the past or in the future!

  • The person whose duckface is out of control. #1duckfaceaday is no fun for your ifollowers. You need to put it away with last year’s birthday cards and make sure it never sees the light of day again.
  • Questionable food pictures – taking pictures of bland food, or worse the empty plate at the end of a meal…and then you tell! No one is interested in your end-of-meal quotes.
  • Sunsets or rooftops with sunsets behind. We left this back in the postcards to Vietnam circa 1998. We. Need. Variety. To. Get. Better.
  • Work desk or work station images. No one is interested in seeing where you work. We like to pretend we all work at open plan glass shaped spaces overlooking the edge of Chicago or overlooking Milsons Point in Sydney. Don’t disturb the fantasy.
  • Artwork in progress images. Be careful how and where you show these.  Insty never forgets.
  • Suspicious looking accounts with 30,000+ followers, but barely any in return. The discerning insty viewer will sniff out paid followers in a heartbeat. Social media connections (ideally) should be genuine and you can’t buy that kind of following.
  • Those who've joined the hashtag express. Many hashtags cause confusion. Just a few will do guys, because sometimes, less is more.

Just to note to you all at Pop Up there, are many many mistakes we have made like these over and over and deserve to be fined by the Insty police. Thanks to Renee Jacques on the Huffington Post for providing the inspiration for this article.