Not Quite An Artist? Marcus Westbury Interview


marcus westbury

Not Quite Art has 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! 

Marcus Westbury, aged 56, living in Ballarat, what would his DIY Museum contain?

I’m not that into museums. I reckon when I get to 56 and set up my regional cultural project it will probably be in Newcastle and full of live artists making stuff. But given that I am currently working on a scheme to do exactly that, maybe it won’t need to wait that long.
Any recent developments with the ‘Renewing Newcastle’ project?
Yes, our web site is up and we are calling for project proposals from artists and community groups that want to do projects in cheap empty shop and office spaces! See: for all the information about it!

Not Quite Sport? Which sport did you find most difficult in your radio challenges with Olympic athletes?
Softball. You wouldn’t think it to look at it but those women hurl that ball underarm at you so fast it could kill you. Unlike cricket there’s no box around the strategic bits so the whole experience was pretty terrifying. (Audio of the horror )

What does Luke Skywalker have to tell us about Australian culture?
“I have a bad feeling about this.”

Given the former Premier of NSW, Bob Carr, argued on the ABC’s Q+A, that you don’t understand how U.S. elections work, would you care to offer your forecast for the U.S. Presidential election?
Barack Obama will be elected President with somewhere between 300 and 350 Electoral College votes. I’ll even more confidently predict that Bob Carr will conveniently forget that he was on TV a little while back predicting the collapse of Barack Obama’s campaign and accusing me of ignorance for disagreeing with him!

*I actually enjoy the show very, very much.

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  1. […] merit in doing this all year round. Leveraging his profile developed with ABC TV’s Not Quite Art, Marcus has created a body to liase between owners of empty buildings in Newcastle, and artists and […]

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