At the Gallery, there’s an ever-increasing interest in reading, with many QAGOMA Members making the most of the monthly Book Club program.
We may be living in an age of technology overload, surrounded by blogs, tweets, and social media posts, but 2012 also happens to be the national year of reading and all around us people are still reading the old fashioned way, or jumping on board the Kindle revolution. We know Australians love to read, with the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club now in its fifth season, and with sites like Underground New York Public Library we can indulge the voyeur within and be transported to the other side of the world, seeing what people are reading, in this case, on New York’s subway.
Launched in June 2009, the Members Book Club brings together like-minded book enthusiasts and new readers alike to read and discuss books relating to themes in the Gallery’s major exhibitions. We’ve read a wide array of texts over the almost three years the book club has been meeting. Some of Australia’s best known artists and designers have guest programmed Book Club. In spring 2009 designers Pam Easton and Lydia Pearson inspired and challenged readers during the ‘Easton Pearson‘ exhibition with their favourites Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856), Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red (2001) and Alessandro Baricco’s Silk (1997).
Read in conjunction with last year’s ‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ exhibition, André Breton’s Nadja (1928), Robert Irwin’s Exquisite Corpse (2003) and The Elephant Vanishes (1993), short stories by Haruki Murakami, lead to a lively discussion and new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most talked about art movements.
I am inspired by the reactions of our Members to the Book Club. One of our Members, Lenore, says that ‘the lists of all authors and exhibitions are too many to mention. Being introduced to both together enhanced the readings and the exhibitions.’ Lenore reflected on a recent season of Book Club, which focused on texts relating to the ‘Matisse: Drawing Life’ exhibition: ‘Reading his biography Matisse: The Life by Hilary Spurling (2009) was a joy as it allowed me to see his work as a progression. Hilary Spurling said she wrote biographies because they gave her better plots than any novel she could invent.’
This season, coinciding with the major exhibition ‘Contemporary Australia: Women’ opening at GOMA on Saturday 21 April, we’re exploring women’s voices in Australia today, focusing on three critically acclaimed novels by some of Australia’s most exiting writers: Past the Shallows (2011) by Favel Parrett, Swallow the Air (2006) by Tara June Winch and All that I Am (2011) by Anna Funder.
Through the Book Club, ideas are shared and explored, giving Members the opportunity to re-visit exhibitions with fresh perspectives, seeing things they might have missed before. Book Club isn’t about anyone’s expert opinion, but rather, as Lenore says, ‘the Book Club allows us to go on a journey with others. We may not always agree but it’s our different opinions that make the conversation lively. It’s the shared experience that makes it worthwhile.’