28 July 2005

The Rooms' Renouf: resistance is futile

From the vacuous space known as The Rooms comes this suitable news release issued on Wednesday by board chairperson Dr. Priscilla Renouf. In its title, the release purports to have the chairperson respond " to statements made by former director [of the art gallery] and clarifies information regarding governance structure of The Rooms".

The former art gallery director made a number of accusations in a news conference he held on Tuesday. He was suddenly fired a few weeks ago, apparently because he objected to the plans to move some of his staff previously involved in efforts like outreach and shift them to other parts of the corporation, like marketing.

He also criticized Renouf and the board of directors who approved demolishing the well-established brand Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador (AGNL) in favour of the pasty-sounding Provincial Art Gallery Division.

Incidentally, the name was changed since the gallery is headed by a director and in government a director can only head a division. Of course, the pedants of government could not merely consider the ranks and titles as being for administrative purposes. The word "division" must be in the title and the separate identity of the gallery assimilated within the parent cube.

In public relations, a response release normally makes some effort to rebut accusations if any have been made. After all, public relations is about communicating with people to gain and maintain support. It's about managing relationships and focuses on things like reputation and credibility instead of the highly transitory notion of image. One actually tries to say something meaningful, to explain what has occurred and give the reasons for it.

In this case, Renouf actually proves the accusations are right: The Rooms is in danger of becoming a gigantic black hole into which our history, culture and heritage is being sucked. There is the pointless repetition by Renouf of the corporation's mandate and the assurance that the board will work to achieve it. There is the matter-of-fact reference to the PAG without even a suggestion that giving a reason for the name change might be in order.

Apparently, we on the outside are not worthy of her efforts. She simply assumes that since the name is changed, we must all accept it. So it is written. So let it be done.

Other than that, the rest of the release is a collection of comments so devoid of any meaning that neither Orwell nor Kafka could have written a better parody of the soul-chilling banality of government.

The release concludes with this arrogant assessment: "The divisions of The Rooms - the provincial archives, art gallery and museum – will continue to enjoy unprecedented support from a broad public as we continue to reach out with a variety of dynamic public and educational programs."

I'd suggest Renouf get some public relations advice but I know I'd be wasting my breath.