Not Quite An Artist? Marcus Westbury Interview

Art Press Release from Australia. Published by Rebecca Gabrielle Cannon on Friday 31 October 2008.

Not Quite Art host Marcus Westbury meets friends from technology-based culture. image

Skynoise blogger Jean Poole recently interviewed Marcus Westbury - the Robert Hughes of Gen X, and host of Not Quite Art, a TV series on the Australian Broadcast Corporation channel that investigates the relationship between contemporary culture and artistic production.

The second series of Not Quite Art can still be downloaded from the ABC website – if you live in Australia. If the following extract of the interview piques your interest, you can read the full interview after the jump.

Not Quite Art returned to ABC TV with another cracker of a series. Once again, host Marcus Westbury dons the curatorial rubber gloves and unearths an eccentric and engaging medley of characters and practices. Should probably include a disclaimer for having lived in a sharehouse, edited a student magazine and organised festivals with Marcus, but don’t let any of my lingering dishwashing, editing or festival organising biases unnecessarily taint or glorify the show, check it out for yourself : Tue @ 10pm ABC, or

You are in a small, noisy, Melbourne laneway bar. Current one-liner for describing the new series?
It’s about how technology is changing our cultural geography – what our culture is, where it comes from and who is making it. Alternately, it could just be described as an arts series featuring a lot of people who are antisocial, don’t smell great and don’t get out much.

What went smoother second time around?
I knew what to expect a little bit more. With the first series I felt a lot like a work experience guy hanging out with TV people, this time I felt a lot more like I knew what I was doing and what to expect. I think I’m a little more confident in front of the camera this time around – there was a bit of rabbit caught in the headlights about the first series!

Despite all the necessary pre-planning, which interviewees actually surprised you?
A few of the surprises were just in the chance to grab people I didn’t think we’d get a chance to interview. We interviewed Lawrence Lessig (founder of Creative Commons) in Singapore by basically going to his talk and begging after all the media people said they didn’t think it would happen.

Some of the surprises were on the negative side. Often when you sit down and talk to people without a camera they’re far more engaging than when you turn up with a crew and make them do the same thing three times and they worry about who might be listening to what they say.

The show is fantastic, the website less so. Are there any broader plans to flesh out the ABC website for it? ( eg links to the people interviewed )
No – it’s basically a question of process and resources and a series like this tends to fall between the cracks a little. I’m pretty handy with HTML and offered to do all that stuff myself to both ABC TV and ABC online but neither took me up on it. It’s a shame because if ever a series should have a decent online presence it’s this one.

And what does the ABC management have to say about the irony of a series that champions the internet, being unviewable online outside Australia?
A lot of the issues are due to nervous lawyers and copyright law. Officially, the ABC has a thirty day exclusive right to make the program available for download. After that I hope to make a version available for download under Creative Commons for International audiences. Although that is currently with the lawyers and my slightly apprehensive producer. Failing that, to anyone who is outside Australia and can’t get hold of a legitimate copy through legal channels, all I can say is PLEASE PIRATE THIS SERIES. I implore you to. Proliferate it far and wide!

(( jp- apparently episodes have been appearing on piratebay and mininova within 24 hours of screening ))

The second episode, Unpopular Culture touches on remixing and copyright law – were there any interesting production challenges here?
To be fair to the ABC, this is basically the reason why international downloads are being blocked. We spent an awful lot of time with the lawyers trying to find a legal way of showing Soda Jerk ’s work. Their film Pixel Pirate is essentially a mashup of a lot of Hollywood movies and we used some fairly substantial excerpts from it. To do that we relied on some very specific exemptions in Australian copyright laws and the ABC was concerned that if the show was downloaded in other territories they would subject to legal proceedings in those territories.

(( skynoise soda jerk interview ))
Or any discussions about providing creative commons access to clips from the show?
Yes. Ultimately I hope to make a download edition of the whole series available via Creative Commons. We’ll see whether that happens!

Read the rest of Jean Poole’s interview on Skynoise