Open Source and the Arts

Bronwyn Holloway-Smith said in her acceptance speech that open source processes have been used by artists for centuries, even if not necessarily using that terminology.
Introducing the awards, Laurence Millar (left) said "open source and the arts are natural fellow travellers, both by necessity and by philosophy."
The 2012 New Zealand Open Source Awards were announced at a gala dinner in Wellington on November 7. Webcast screenshot.
Whisper Down the Lane created digital 3D models and miniature prints, available for download, of selected works at The Obstinate Object exhibition at City Gallery Wellington. - Image of After Rohan Wealleans' He With Glands Of Wasp.
Image of After Rohan Wealleans' He Of 109 Names And One Tusk
Image of After Raewyn Martyn's For Loan
Image of After Ben Pearce's Curse Control
The use of open source in the arts was recognised at the NZ Open Source Awards. The Big Idea was proud to be a finalist in the category, with the award going to Whisper Down the Lane.

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The use of open source in the arts was recognised at the New Zealand Open Source Awards in Wellington this week.

The Big Idea is proud to be a finalist in the arts category, with the award going to Whisper Down the Lane by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith. The project created digital 3D models and miniature prints, available for download, of selected works at The Obstinate Object exhibition at City Gallery Wellington.

In introducing the awards, Laurence Millar said open source and the arts are natural fellow travellers, both by necessity and by philosophy.

“The arts has never been awash with funds, and the use of software that doesn’t come with a price tag is intrinsically attractive to any artist. But I think the philosophical base is much more important. The arts as a community operates through networks and collaboration. It’s a complex web of ideas and innovations that really need a community to prosper.”

The judges described the winning work as “Creatively alert and provocative, Whisper Down the Lane is an example of cutting edge technology used seamlessly in a creative project. It highlights some key issues around open source and free culture, and the creative tensions implicit in the age of digital reproduction. And it does so with a wit and verve that would make the original free software hackers cackle with delight.”

Bronwyn said in her acceptance speech that open source processes have been used by artists for centuries, even if not necessarily using that terminology.

She quoted Dalia Judovitz, who said at the start of the last century ‘Artists are always drawing on each other’s ideas and works. Collaboration is implied, if not in the actual contact among artists, then in the material conditions of production of their works that bring into play the prior gestures and ideas.’

“I think it’s vital we continue to acknowledge and protect this to live in a society that enables new and innovative ideas,” said Bronwyn.

The finalists, The Big Idea and Daniel Reurich’s Organ Refit, were also acknowledged at the awards.

“The Big Idea is a critical piece of infrastructure in the New Zealand arts community which deserves wide-spread recognition. It’s a comprehensive repository for what’s happening and it’s also an important historical archive of past events. The Big Idea has been an essential resource for many New Zealand artists and makers to be able to connect with the community.”

The Big Idea is powered by Drupal, an open source content management system, and is in the process of upgrading for a re-launch in 2013.

Daniel Reurich’s Open Source Organ Refit work was recognised as “a wonderful example of how open source can support a community and how modern technology can preserve a cultural artifact as rich as a church organ. In rescuing this organ from the junk pile, Daniel has demonstrated the power of open source to contribute to the community and inspire their imaginations with what else might be possible.”

The judges for the 2012 New Zealand Open Source Awards were: Dr Brenda Chawner, Victoria University Wellington; Dr Fabiana Kubke, Auckland University; Dave Lane, Egressive; Francois Marier, Mozilla; Dave Moskovitz, Webfund; Paul Seiler, ETC Limited; Austen Sinclair, Inland Revenue Department.

The other projects recognised in each category at the 2012 New Zealand Open Source Awards, announced at a gala dinner in Wellington on November 7, were:

  • Open Source Use in Government: GNS Science for GeoNet Rapid, a state of the art, fast and innovative earthquake location and information system that is a key component of the GeoNet Project.
  • Open Source Use in Education:  Manaiakalani the digital access programme in nine of Auckland's lowest decile schools.
  • Open Source Use in The Arts:  Whisper Down The Lane, the open source art project for The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture at the City Gallery Wellington in 2012.
  • The National eScience Infrastructure Open Science Award: GNS Science for their Data Policy and Services, the policy for all data including seismic wave form data as well as derived data, such as the catalogue of earthquake locations made by the GeoNet Project.
  • Open Source Software Project: Piwik: the open source web analytics software.
  • Open Source Contributor: Grant McLean, for contributions to Perl and the wider open source community.
  • The ZaReason People's Choice award*: Sofa Statistics, a powerful open-source and cross-platform statistical analysis and reporting application. (* The People's Choice Award  winner also receives a ZaReason ZaTab Android tablet computer.)
  • Special Award: Promoting Open Culture The Warrington School for the Ubuntu Room, a low-powered community radio station that runs on Open Source software and plays only Creative Commons licensed music.


Also announced on the night was the University of Auckland's Department of Computer Science $2000 Clinton Bedogni Memorial Prize for Open Systems. The winner of the 2012 prize was François Marier.

NZOSA organisers said this is an impressive list of New Zealand's open source community, and it represents a cross-section of what is a thriving technical, social and creative sector.

“The calibre of the nominations meant that there were strong contenders in every category. And while all of the finalists were worthy of recognition, the judges unanimously agreed that the winners in each category were the stand out projects or people,” Jason Ryan, chair of the judging panel said.

About the NZOSA Awards

Free and open source technology is changing the way people and organisations collaborate and innovate to achieve common goals. For New Zealand, free and open source technology not only represents an opportunity to contribute and be recognised on the world stage, but also to deliver real competitive advantage to our business sector, show leadership in government and the public sector, and provide more effective tools for community-based organisations as they meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The New Zealand Open Source Awards recognise and promote:

  • the contributions of New Zealanders directly to free and open source projects or the promotion of free and open source philosophy.
  • exemplary use of free and open source by New Zealand organisations.

The Awards work to raise awareness of the free and open source advantage for New Zealand by telling powerful success stories based on real achievements that are already making a difference for our country.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

8 Nov 2012

The Big Idea Editor Cathy Aronson is a journalist, photo journalist and digital editor.

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