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Semi-Permanent Sparks

May 30, 2013 Art

Semi-Permanent, the annual talk fest of design and ideas, is on at the Aotea Centre May 31 and June 1. Frances Morton talked to regular Sam Chapman about getting the most out of the event.

If you’ve lived in Auckland or Wellington in recent years, chances are Sam Chapman has helped you have a good time. He’s one of the brains behind Wellington’s the Matterhorn and Mighty Mighty, and when he moved north, he founded Ponsonby’s Golden Dawn. Not that he wants to be known as the bar guy. His job title these days is “strategist”. He runs his own communications company, Toot Group, and works on projects as diverse as marketing ethical farming products and consulting on the Christchurch rebuild — helping to make the central city a place people actually want to live, shop and socialise in.

Chapman’s an ideas man and if you go to Semi-Permanent, you might be sitting next to him. He has become a regular at the event since moving to Auckland five years ago. It’s tricky to describe exactly what Semi-Permanent is. You could call it an art and design conference. In reality, it’s a couple of days sitting at the Aotea Centre listening to inspiring speakers talk about their fabulous careers in the creative industries.

That’s all great fun, but what makes organiser Simon Velvin really excited — and he’s a bouncy kind of person who does get very excited — is the idea of “creative collisions”. Bringing people together and making industry happen.

Chapman went to his first Semi-Permanent in 2009 looking for inspiration. He can still remember the speakers who appeared that year. They included Pentagram, an international multi-disciplinary agency, UK illustrator Kate Moross and Cleve Cameron, an advertising creative from Wellington. Chapman and Cameron got talking during a break, which led to a beer, which led to a business partnership.

“The great thing about Semi-Permanent is it provides a forum to connect with people,” says Chapman. “It’s an environment where it’s not only acceptable but it’s encouraged to talk.”

Kiwis tend to be a reticent bunch. Although forums for sharing ideas are increasing with initiatives such as Pecha Kucha slide nights and Creative Mornings presentation breakfasts, we’re not natural trumpet-blowers and networkers. “Seeing people actually get up and talk about and be proud about what they’ve done is really important — especially as New Zealanders,” says Chapman. He introduced himself to advertising agency Special Group after seeing them present at Semi-Permanent last year and they’ve since teamed up on business projects.

Chapman’s tip is to come to the party with your own ideas. “Conversation shouldn’t be just one way. If you’ve got something you’re inspired by and have got something to share, it’s always going to be great fertile ground for an ongoing conversation.”

And even if you’re not ready to strike up a deal at break time, hearing international speakers share the inner workings of their business and recognising a common philosophy in their approach to work can be a big boost. “We’re pretty outward looking as a nation but sometimes it can seem quite far away so it’s nice to have those people actually here, not just a talking head on a YouTube clip. And to see they may have resources and budgets working with brands that we just don’t have here. But, at the end of the day, the thinking is something that you can really identify with.”

This year’s lineup

Aaron Rose /Alleged Press / Los Angeles / Big breath now for this mega-slashie job title: artist/writer/musician/film director/curator. Annoyingly, he’s good at all of them.

Annie Sperling / art direction / Los Angeles / She makes David LaChapelle look good.

Askew / Auckland / His street art makes our city better.

Sam McIntosh / Stab publishing / Sydney / For tips on creating a smart surfing magazine that’s more sexy than stoner.

Daan Lucas, Random Studio / Amsterdam / The vague lingo “digital”, “media” and “interactive” gets a lot more exciting when you add “Amsterdam” and “dance parties”.

Darryl Ward and Matt Noonan / Curious Films / Auckland / Pictures that move. Award-winning TVCs, short films, and they bring cool films to our shores too.

Dominic Hofstede / Design Studio / Melbourne / It’s definitely not lettering. It’s “typographic craft”.

Kelly Thompson / illustrator / Melbourne / Languorous drawings of pretty gals. That’s going straight to Pinterest.

Mark Bashore / Digital Kitchen / Seattle / The big guys in making creative content for the big guys. Credits include a bunch of Emmys for the title sequences of hit shows True Blood, Dexter and Six Feet Under.

Niklas Roy / Berlin / Arty robotmaker.

March Studio / architecture / Melbourne / Ridiculously good-looking buildings.

Steve Ayson / TV commercials director / Los Angeles / Two words: ghost chips.

Michael Lugmayr / Toko / Rotterdam to Sydney / Branding. That sounds simple. It’s not.

Sandra Dieckmann / illustrator/artist / London / An injection of woodland whimsy to the whizz-bang line-up.



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