Friday, December 11, 2009
by Kevin Etherton
One of the things I like about working here is the variety of things that I do on any given day. As Installation Coordinator, I oversee and plan the execution of installing the artwork here in the museum. This involves coordinating with the various departments to plan, prepare, and install the art. I also light and alarm the exhibits once they are installed. My work day is quite varied which keeps things interesting and I get to work with some of the most talented and resourceful people, right here on our own staff. For the Shonibare exhibit there was a fairly long lead time to think about and plan the installation. Unfortunately, the time to actually install and light the show was only 10 days. With the exhibit taking up three separate gallery spaces on two levels; 10 days seemed like a short time to execute a show of this size. This is where the talent, hard work, and dedication of our staff really showed up. We also had the luxury of hiring some good contractors in addition to having some folks from Sidney Australia’s Museum of Contemporary Art (the organizing venue) show up to help out during installation. It was a great team that worked well together.
Installation of Carriage
One of the more challenging objects to install was a replica of a 17th century horse-drawn carriage that is suspended about 6 feet above the floor. It is part of the installation piece known as Gallantry and Criminal Conversation. The object looks like it is a complete and fully functioning carriage but it actually hangs in three separate pieces that are connected with leather straps and metal supports. There is no structural rigidity to it at all. If it were to rest on the floor the whole thing would collapse under its own weight. To start the installation process, I made a template with the eight hanging points of the carriage marked at their precise locations. Once the template was in place on the floor, a laser level was used to shoot those points up onto the ceiling where the cables would eventually be attached. This work was done in advance before the object was here. The object arrived in four separate crates and once it was uncrated, the center portion was raised to height using a small forklift. The pre-installed cables hanging from the ceiling were cut to length and attached to the hanging points of the carriage. The forklift was gently lowered, allowing the carriage to hang as planned. The same basic procedure was used to attach the front and back axles. Once everything was hung, the leather straps and metal supports were attached along with various sundries that made the object look like a real carriage. The whole process took about a day and a half with about 5 or 6 folks working on it at different stages. It was a big relief once it was up. For me, the rest of the installation seemed like it would be a cake walk.