'I think that art reveals a lot more about people than they realise at first.'
You may not be able to tell from the photo, but Rachel Anson is a tall, glamorous philosopher and wildlife documentarian who works here at City Gallery. She was my first victim in a blog series profiling the thoughts and prolific creative output of our Front of House team. If this first interview is anything to go by, we are in for some interesting tales. Rachel and I went from online gaming to hydrothermographs to her love of wildlife photography. You can follow Rachel's insecty tumblr, the Backyard Appreciation Society, here: http://backyardappreciationsociety.tumblr.com/.
How long have you worked at front of house at City Gallery?
One year and a bit.
What do you do when you’re not working here at City Gallery?
I really love just hanging in my backyard, photographing and filming birds and plants (http://backyardappreciationsociety.tumblr.com/). I live out in Strathmore, on the hill. It’s pretty suburban. We live in a big old state house, which is so much better than some of the ‘90s leaky homes around us. Our house has been renovated. Badly. But it has been renovated. I’m also into gaming.
What sort of games?
Mainly online MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game, for the uninitiated) games. I have four older brothers so, in some sense this has been programmed (!!) into me from an early age. I started off as a bit of a cynic, thinking ‘this can’t be that good’. Then I tried gaming on the interweb, and it is seriously addictive. You can make your own storylines. I’m playing Guild Wars at the moment. Hahaha! This is so nerdy. Why am I even telling you this?
Maybe you could become a professional gamer?
That is next level; those people are a different species altogether.
Why photographing birds and plants?
My step-dad is a wildlife photographer and makes wildlife documentaries, so I grew up with it and it kind of stuck.
What’s you earliest art gallery memory?
I’m from Dunedin, I moved to Wellington two years ago. I remember Dunedin Public Art Gallery; I went there as a kid. I think it used to be next to the University Oval Cricket Ground, in the middle of nowhere. It was a crappy building, but it was a cool gallery. I remember going there before it moved into the octagon. I remember a freaky, huge wooden sculpture there, I don’t know if you were supposed to climb on it, but I did.
Since working at City Gallery, what has been your favourite show?
Vesica, Phillip Beesley’s installation. That was really cool, because it appealed to everyone. It appealed to my love of ecosystems, wildlife and nature, because it had all these layers and they were interacting with each other and they were all equally important within the overall structure. You could see people who weren’t necessarily into art were really engaging with it.
Any favourite City Gallery visitors? Or people who have responded interestingly the shows?
I really like the challenging visitors. They are often older, New Zealand men who come in with their arms folded, and come up and ask where’s the art, then?' in a jokey way. I like talking to those people about the work. They also often end up squatting in front of the hydrothermographs, saying defiantly: ‘Look at this! It’s a seismograph!’ I love talking to those people though.
I studied Philosophy and Psychology, so I’m really interested in behaviour and thought processes. And I think that art reveals a lot more about people than they realise at first.
Part of the reason that I like my job at City Gallery is that I can learn from most of the people who come into the gallery, because they’re interested in art already and that already sets them apart from other people.
What’s your favourite time of the day in City Gallery?
People are happier in the morning. People feel motivated for the rest of the day if they come into a public art gallery and get some culture in the morning. We often have a couple of people banging on the windows before 10am in the morning, asking when we are open.
Are there often links between the philosophy you studied and some of the exhibitions we’ve had here?
There seems to be quite a discrepancy between ‘art philosophy’ and philosophy that is taught as ‘Philosophy’ as a discipline at uni, if you see what I mean. So when I talk to some people about philosophy often our ideas are differently directed. So I’m not always clued up on the philosophy used for art theory. I liked philosophy at uni because I had no idea what it was about before I went to university. I thought I was pretty mediocre at everything else, so I should give it a try. I studied everything from the philosophy of religion to the Copernican revolution, and it was great.
What is on the cards for 2013?
I don’t know…I’ve applied for some courses, so I’ll find out in the next couple of weeks what 2013 will bring.