Paola Anselmi judged at the City of Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award

Judge Paola Anselmi.
Judge Paola Anselmi.

CURATOR, arts writer and public art co-ordinator Paola Anselmi was a judge at this year's City of Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award.

In her guest address at the opening of the awards exhibition at Lakeside Joondalup Shopping City on Saturday night, she described the judging as ‘an enjoyably difficult task’.

She said herself and fellow judges ” Fremantle Arts Centre exhibitions co-ordinator Erin Coates and PICA exhibitions manager Nadia Johnson ” had spent considerable time in an effort to select the winners among a strong series of works. Here’s an edited version of her talk:

I’m sometimes heard saying in frustration that I feel like I have the attention span of a goldfish, I never knew how close to the mark I actually was.

Until April this year that may have been a self-dis, that is until the American National Centre for Biotechnology Information released new statistics that show the goldfish’s attention span is indeed rather low: nine seconds.

But the average human attention span in 2013 was eight seconds. So, that puts me in the ‘above average high goldfish percentile’ ” refreshing news!

Eight seconds.

Think.

What can you understand, reference, how much information can you absorb in eight seconds?

What can you remember in eight seconds? When you may never have seen the artwork before?

So while we the judges have done our work, you’ll be pleased to know spending significantly more than eight seconds per work, this evening it’s really your turn.

Choose your artwork, look at it, study it, engage with it, choose an artwork you may not be normally drawn to, move outside your comfort zone ” as they say ‘meet new people, make new friends’. You may not puzzle the artwork out in all its complexity first go. Knowledge equals time, effort, focus and attention.

If the initiated find it a difficult and often complex task to unravel, explore and unpack meaning and content even with all the intellectual baggage that is brought to the discussion table. No wonder art broadly speaking has a difficult time engendering a connection with the general public if a handful of seconds is all that is exchanged. The trick is to find ways to shift from a bird of prey ‘scanning at high altitude’ approach to more methodically grazing for content.

Over the years the City of Joondalup Community Invitation Art Award has engendered strong advocacy from the general public and the artistic community which is a testament in itself ” professional artists will not be involved in programs that do not stand up to professional scrutiny.

In my previous involvement with the award, I have myself been in the firing line of people’s dissatisfaction at certain artworks ‘purporting to be art’. But I have also seen a great number of familiar faces come back year after year, softened by the knowledge, familiarity and curiosity instilled by previous visits and conversations.

Given the breadth of expression, competency, talent and professionalism in the exhibition I am sure eight seconds will pleasurably multiply a hundredfold.