Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frozen meat, Julian Dashper, and the PBRF

I'm interested in the pervasive influence of distribution as a way of thinking in New Zealand. It's effect can be seen and felt at quite practical levels in every sector, from art to agriculture. Obviously I'm interested in it in relation to the practice of graphic design, but I'll come back to that at some point in the future.

The first serious depression in NZ occurred in the 1880s and 1890s. I've been reading recently about how bad this was, and about how it was that the country managed to climb out of this downward spiral. In Tony Simpson's book, 'The Road To Erewhon', he attributes aspects of this to technological development, and the development of industrial skills. In particular he makes reference to refrigerated transport, "This development was of the utmost importance to New Zealand."

He carries on..."In New Zealand, the trade owes thanks to the efforts of a remarkable man, William Soltau Davidson... Davidson was only too aware at a time when farmers were driving sheep over cliffs to get rid of them, or trying to sell their sheep at sixpence each to another farmer who was trying to sell his own at two a shilling, that what was needed was a total concept of marketing... and it was under his guidance that the first shipment of frozen mutton was made in the ship 'Dunedin' in 1882. After a journey of some hundred days it arrived at Smithfield as sweet and fresh as the day it was slaughtered and sold for a price double that for which it would have sold in New Zealand... He therefore solved the problem of deflating value, which has always bedevilled a predatory economy based solely on land, by making only one part of a total organised business. Any loss on the land – and Davidson's company lost money on the land they owned for years – could be offset against profits made by processing and shipping the produce of the land." (The Road To Erewhon, p.19)

In my naiveity I was sort of struck by this as a particularly important moment in time for a small, isolated island on the wrong side of the world. Simpson points out though that exporting was already important prior to this, with things like timber, flax, gum, coal and gold. And I'm probably making too much of this here, but I'm interested in the development of an attitude towards distribution here. And I'm thinking about this through the lens of the late Julian Dashper more than 100 years later...

And this is another post entirely but the PBRF (Performance based research funding) we have in the universities here now reinforces the importance of sending your product/work/ideas out to an international audience. Your 'research' is worth more (literally worth more financially) if it is published or shown overseas. It is worth very little to disseminate one's work here at home. I can see the sense behind this, but I do wonder if academics in other countries have this same pressure to distribute themselves internationally? It's easy to be cynical about this too.

No comments:

Post a Comment