Robert Pulie is one of the most experienced exhibition installers who works for Australian Design Centre. Many of you would have met Robert with the touring exhibition Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels as he has installed the show at all of the 14 venues it has visited. We asked Robert a few questions about how he got involved with the touring exhibitions program.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get involved with ADC On Tour?
I assisted with the installation of Menagerie, a large, touring survey exhibition of animal sculptures by indigenous artists at ADC, so when the Gallery Manager was unable to go to Perth to de-install it there, the Touring Manager asked me to go in her stead. I then assisted with the remainder of that tour, and continued to work on further touring exhibitions for ADC.
What are the best (or most interesting) parts of working touring exhibitions?
For a show that's as beautiful as Lola Greeno's, I do enjoy the challenge of adapting the floor plan to work within the constraints of the gallery and utilise its features to the advantage of the work. It's also a great way to see different parts of the country, and as more than a tourist, working with some of the locals, who are invariably helpful and friendly. I had never been to WA prior to that first trip for Menagerie, but since then I've visited Geraldton & Bunbury, and worked in locations as diverse as Launceston in Tasmania to Cairns in Queensland. One place to which I'd definitely like to return is Alice Springs.
You have been with the show from the beginning, how is it travelling?
The exhibition furniture is well designed and beautifully made. Most of the works are carefully fixed within their display cases which slide snuggly into the purpose-built crates. So the work has been largely unaffected by the tour and the furniture shows only minimal signs of wear. It still looks great.
Has the install process changed over the years? How do you approach the challenge of installing in a completely new exhibition space?
The first venue was QVMAG in Launceston and I still refer to the original floor plan at each new venue. Sydney was the second location and the first in which I was involved (although I did see the show when I was in Launceston, installing another ADC touring exhibition, Hyperclay). That was at the previous home of ADC on Bourke Street, Darlinghurst, which had less floor space than QVMAG, so a couple of the groupings of tripods were lined along the walls of the narrow mezzanine space, rather than as clumps of 3 or 6 in the round. I have had to follow this alternative format in a number of venues where floor space is constrained, but I think the tripods look handsome in this configuration.
What’s it like travelling to the hosting venues? Do you have any stories from on the road?
I have returned to some venues for different touring exhibitions, but usually a few years have passed in between. I often forget the lay of the land and the various gallery staff with whom I've worked, but then it all comes back to me (and them) when I arrive. There's a mix of pleasure in reconnecting with people and places, and horror at the thought of how much time has passed and how easily I forget! I have not yet been back to Alice Springs, but it sticks in my mind for the beauty of the surrounding landscape and my encounters with wildlife, such as the lively snake I had to dodge on my cycle to the gallery.
Rob's three top tips for touring:
1. Bring your own allen key (or whatever piece of equipment essential to the installation that is likely to have been left behind at the previous venue).
2. Don't over pack! I like to take only carry-on luggage and there's no point bringing clothing you won't end up wearing (though I always take my toggs and I did buy a jacket here in Wagga Wagga as it was cooler than I anticipated).
3. Remember to communicate any quirks of the show for when it comes down. I'm not usually there for the de-install and you don't want any unnecessary difficulties at the next venue.
Find out more about ADC On Tour here