Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
However, I've noticed that a lot of the ads coming up are for canvas prints, which is a source of great distress for me. A couple of months ago, I let go with a rant about the evils of this new trend in 'home decorating', but apparently google ads don't pick up on tones in writing.
I can see the funny side of the whole dilemma, but all the same does anyone out there know how to pick and choose your google ads?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The other day, an old friend from Sydney asked if there are many art galleries in Hobart. I don’t think she was being disparaging, because to be honest, it took me about three years to become even mildly familiar with the Hobart gallery scene. So I thought I’d do a quick overview of the key Hobart galleries (with lots of opinion), and send her the link with the added bonus that perhaps, just perhaps, it may interest others. Please note, that this is not a comprehensive listing of all Hobart galleries (I’d be here all day), but rather the ones that I regularly or semi-regularly visit and/or ones relevant to contemporary art and this blog.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I think I was secretly afraid that it was some kind of art snob bias; however, I now realise that that’s more to do with my living too long in Australia, where any mention of arts funding results in the standard letters to the newspapers, accusing the government of catering to ‘latte-sipping, opera-watching elitists.’ Oh, if only they knew what us ‘elitists’ got up to in the local Artist Run Initiative…
Anyway, back to canvas prints. So why are they so offensive?
- The most obvious first reason is that they are spruiked in home improvement magazines as a quick and ‘tasteful’ wall accessory that will complement any house colour scheme of your choice. Examples printed on their glossy pages often include the ubiquitous oversized sunflower or frangipani image (sometimes with a suicidal looking dew drop on a petal’s edge), shells on the beach, or a desert landscape. It’s one thing that these magazines call them ‘tasteful’, but they also frequently call these ‘free computer desktop’-like images ‘art’.
- An oversized flower is one thing, but in practice, many ‘homemakers’ end up getting an oversized portrait of their kids printed on these canvases. Oh, but wait there’s more…. not before converting the digi file into an ‘arty’ black and white. What is wrong with regular photographic paper? Yes, I know that the neighbour has photographs of his kids printed on photographic paper, but hey, his is printed in gloss, you could always try matt… or a better frame…?
- Shops selling these canvas prints market them as ‘instant art’, and eBay is littered with canvas prints of giraffes and inoffensive ‘abstracts’. Art is rarely ‘instant’, and while I’m not necessarily equating time or labour with good art, it is offensive to artists everywhere that these banal objects are being bought and sold under the banner of ‘art’.
- Canvases are not an ideal printing material for photographic images. The only reason why canvas is being used is because of the material’s connotations with the fine arts. Yet, taking a photo of your small child with a bucket and spade in its hand and slapping it on a canvas will never turn a family happy snap into a work of fine art, no matter how many pixels your new digital SLR, with optimum zoom and five different coloured flashing LEDs, has. If you want art on your wall, employ an artist. Hell, there are heaps of artists out there that would love to earn a bit of money doing what they love and are good at, rather than stocking shelves of the local Kmart with the latest canvas prints from China. If you ask them nicely enough and promise not to tell anyone, they might even be able to use colours that fit in with your interior design. Yes, it will cost more money than a canvas print, but at least you won’t have something on the wall that is akin in taste to serving cocktail frankfurts at a wedding.
That’s my rant. I probably could come up with many more reasons than the four listed above for why canvas prints are the spawn of the devil, but I’d like to hear other people’s opinions too. Please leave your thoughts.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
The thing is, no one warned me about how big the Venice Biennale actually is. There seem to be about 50 other minor exhibitions/venues outside of the Arsenale and Giardini and getting to them all is going to be a task and a half.
The Biennale is a weird experience, kind of like the Disneyland of the artworld. I could even compare it to a Royal Agricultural Show experience. The pavilions in the Giardini are only used for the Biennale every two years; just as the showbag pavilion at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, for instance, is used for only a couple of weeks every year. To be honest, we all came away from the Biennale clutching showbags of sorts too. I’ve lugged back to my hotel room a Collectors ‘showbag’ from the Nordic Pavilion, complete with artist goodies, such as a print, calendar, cigarette lighter and a bronze pea. I also have my new laptop stand (generally, the catalogue de jour) – the Biennale catalogues (yes, the plural is correct). While staring at my ambiguous map in the searing midday heat today, I overheard a couple discussing their next move: “I don’t think I can be bothered with the Australian pavilion” (“Mummy, I don’t want to see the cows, they smell”). As with the RES, the portaloos were creating their own brand of smell in the sweltering Venetian heat, and the food, while not as good as a Country Woman’s Association Devonshire tea, was of similar rip-off value. But just like the show, I came away sweaty but happy, tired as a dog, yet with the knowledge that I’d learned a lot (albeit information more relevant to my field of work than knowing the names of innovative designer breeds of geese).
So, what works can I remember? (always a good test)
Well, the pick of the Pavilions, for me, are:
- The rather sinister Russian group show, with an immersive and interactive environment created by Gosha Ostretsov called Art Life or The Torments of Creative; a couple of sculptures constantly pumped with human blood by Andrei Molodkin; and Pavel Pepperstein’s Perspectives of Development, a series of humourous drawings and paintings predicting weird and wonderful monuments for the future.
- The German representative, Liam Gillick, has kitted out the German Pavillion with a maze of kitchen benches which fill the multiple rooms. The sparse wooden benches seem at odds with the rather forboding building, designed and built during Hitler’s reign. I should probably mention that each of the pavilions have been designed and built at certain times and are a mish-mash of styles from different architectural periods, some of them (such as the German pavilion) reflecting the countrys’ political and social climate of the time.
- The Hungarian Péter Forgács’ With Time – The W-Project, where the viewer is presented with dozens of portraits in various forms, from video to photographs, yet with all the faces anonymous.
- The Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko’s work, where projected silhouettes of window washers behind ‘frosted glass arch windows and skylight’ present the illusion that the work is on the outside of the gallery while the viewers stare out from within.
In the main curated exhibition, the outstanding works include Nathalie Djurberg’s Experiment, a seductive oversized sculptural garden filled with colourful weird and wonderful plants, which is accompanied by three projected erotic and rather etch claymations; Tomas Saraceno’s giant ‘spiderweb’; the once interactive series of artworks that date from the 60s by the Japanese avant-garde Gutai group; and André Cadere’s Six Barres de Bois Rond – a 1975 work where he would take these coloured sticks and install them anonymously in public spaces. Cadere is now dead, however, his sticks have been positioned (strangely with labels) throughout the main pavilion. The work in the cafeteria by Tobias Rehberger also deserves a mention. Far more exciting than the CWA show café, the cafeteria has been transformed into a psychadelic maze of wonky tables and chairs, with colourful stripes that transverse the room around rubbish bins, furniture and walls.
The Danish and Nordic Pavilions house my favourite work for the day. The modernist buildings have been fitted out to look like homes, ‘lived in’ places, which suggest a rather sinister narrative. Outside the Danish Pavilion, beyond the ‘For Sale’ sign, is a postbox telling us that ‘A. Family’ owns this house. As you wander around the house you start to make assumptions about who the people are: (fake) works by Frank Stella on the walls, flashy leather bound books, designer furniture…. then you notice that the television has been left on, the stairs in the library violently destroyed, the bedroom a black spray painted devastation. Something is clearly not right.
Moving next door to the Nordic pavilion, where a pool has been built outside the predominantly glass building, the story takes an even more alarming turn – a dead body floats on the surface of the pool. Brain working overtime, you notice the watch and cigarettes that have sunk to the bottom, and shoes and socks on the side of the pool, while the body is otherwise fully clothed. Inside the house, everything from the dirty coffee cup on the kitchen bench and pet hair on the carpet, to the used condom beside the bed is meticulously orchestrated by the collaborative artist, resulting in an engrossing and strangely humorous work.
The problem with major art exhibitions, such as the Biennale, is that you become hyper-observant, and every single object around you is interrogated as a possible work of art. The coloured bike frames chained to stationary objects around the gardens, the esky outside the Nordic Pavilion, the small box next to the toilets…
At one stage, I find myself engrossed, watching a pointy-beaked bird attack a small spring possibly from a ballpoint pen, something that I’d probably not have noticed any other time. However, my attention drew others, and soon a substantial group of people were standing behind me looking at the fire hydrant just adjacent to the bird. Although to give them credit, perhaps it was an artwork.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wikipedia was to be my downfall.
You see, the dictionary contacted me because they’d noticed that the second paragraph of my biography submission was nearly identical to my Wikipedia entry. They were very nice about it, and said that they (rightly) assumed I was the same author, but asked me to change the second paragraph of the biography and resubmit the entry.
Now, I wrote the Wikipedia and dictionary entries on this artist slightly differently. The dictionary, being peer-reviewed and administered by a university, was more meticulously spell-checked and I had put my ‘academic writing hat’ on especially. The Wikipedia entry, on the other hand, had sub-headings and I viewed it as a bit of a ‘work in progress’, as most Wikipedia entries seem to be. However, as I have a particular style of writing, and a specific knowledge of this artist, there was never any doubt in my mind that these entries were going to be (or indeed, needed to be) very different.
So why is the similarity between the Wikipedia entry and the online dictionary a problem if I am the author of both, even taking into account the fact that Wikipedia is ‘anonymous’? I see now, that perhaps I should have written the Wikipedia entry after the dictionary entry was approved. Hell, I could have cited myself! Perhaps I shouldn’t have put information out on Wikipedia at all. If I ever write anything on this artist (or any other topic that I’ve contributed to on wiki) I could be accused of plagiarising myself, and as a post-graduate student, I have a significant case of ‘plagiarism fear disorder’ already.
Also related, is the content on this blog. When I started hobART, I wrote under my middle name, thinking that I could be more ‘critical’ if I was anonymous (although people guessed it was me anyway). However, in one of the tutorials I was teaching last year, we were discussing web publishing and the death of the book, and I mentioned that I had a blog, for which I published under an alias. I said that I found it very helpful and that some of the content might make it into my PhD. After one of the students (quite rightly) pointed out that I could be accused of plagiarising ‘Emma’s’ writing, the disorder kicked in and I changed my blog to my real name.
As a result of these incidents, I feel quite uneasy about writing on the web. On one hand, I want to add to the pool of human knowledge (particularly as sites like Wikipedia are weighed down in American content), but I also want to have the freedom to publish my thoughts under my own name as well, and not be accused of plagiarising myself.
Has anyone had similar experiences or hold the same fears?
Does this fear prevent you from posting on sites such as Wikipedia?
Friday, May 1, 2009
This is basically a quick post just to say I’m still here. I’ve just been too busy to write a longer, more considered post. I was hoping that after my previous post, which was, I know, fairly uncritical, my next post should be a little more creative. I have a few documents on the go, so I’m hoping to have something up next week.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The viewer is encouraged to lie on mattresses beneath the five round convex screens mounted within massive tyre-like forms that are suspended from the ceiling. Speakers are positioned behind the provided pillows, and once lying down, the viewer feels appropriately submersed in the sound. The vibrations of the Maori singing, turbines and other accompanying sounds lull me into a relaxing, almost trance-like state.
The videos appear almost narrative. I enter the space at a time when bubbles (which I had at first mistakenly identified as stars) are floating tranquilly across the screens, and this scene becomes ‘the beginning’ for me. Then the turbines start up, the grainy black and white image alluding to past times. The shape of the turbine whisking the bubbles into a fury of circular motion echoes the unusually shaped screen. The noise of the turbines, which, I should add, look eerily like eyes, is deafening (although when I left I realised that I’d stupidly positioned myself right behind the largest speakers).
Not quite in synch, one by one the screens switch to underwater scenes of waving reeds and submersed figures going about oddly everyday activities. To the sound of a spiritual wailing, a woman floats in a murky haze, hair lazily waving above her head as she tries to light a fire, a man with a spade digs amongst the reeds, and a boy and a girl, dressed neatly in shirts and carrying brown suitcases stare placidly at the viewer. The blurred image, the eerily calm figures, and soundtrack suggest memory or myth, and while the overall effect is quite tranquil, there is an underlying feeling of sadness and loss.
The underwater powerlines that come into view at ‘the end’ are the only built indicator of the town, Horahora, that was drowned and turned into Lake Karapiro. My flatmate, who grew up in a town on the North Island not far from the Lake, remembers waterskiing on Karapiro during school camps, and the way that she described the location reminded me strongly of Lake Jindabyne, the popular watersport playground that covers the similarly submerged old village. A new Jindabyne has sprung up on the shores of the dam created in the 1960s as part of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, yet it’s eyesore that in no way resembles the old drowned town (Apparently, when the dam levels are low you can spot the old church spire sticking defiantly out of the water). Similar comparisons can be made to Tasmania’s hydro electric scheme which has resulted in numerous artificial lakes being built throughout the island, so Aniwaniwa seems an appropriate work for a Tasmanian arts festival.
I unfortunately missed out on the forum on Friday at the Tasmanian School of Art, where the artists spoke about their work, although I usually prefer to look at a work before I hear about it anyway. The gallery guide at the Barn door didn’t seem to understand my preference however, and insisted on giving me a long spiel on the work before I’d even had a chance to enter.
Overall, Aniwaniwa is a stunning work. I stayed for two loops (of I think about 15 minutes each), engrossed the entire time, making it one of the few video/sound works that has managed to beat my very limited concentration capacity (others include a Bill Viola piece at the AGNSW last year and the sound piece at the Sydney Biennale. by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller).
Aniwaniwa is presented by Ten Days on the Island, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and Clarence City Council, 20 March -13 April, at Rosny Barn.
These images have been sourced from http://www.aniwaniwa.org/. Copyright belongs to the artists.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
For those unfamiliar with the Roslyn Oxley9 space, I’ll try to describe it because Morton’s work plays with the shape of the gallery. To enter the gallery, you walk up some stairs where at the top you are confronted with Morton’s first work, Monument #22: Black Hole Relocation (2009), a realistic-looking ‘brick wall’ made of “polyurethane, poxy resin, fibreglass, sand cement”, with a messy black circle painted in the centre. You then turn around, and opening off the small hallway/landing is the main gallery space.
Morton’s Monument #23: Slump (2009), also made of imitation bricks, is a sagging wall, which continues the line of the hallway into the main gallery, essentially cutting the space in half. It’s an unnerving sight: a life-size, seemingly heavy besser brick wall, held up merely by wooden supports and sandbags. Of course, it’s all an illusion, as the materials list indicates, but it still makes you slightly concerned as you walk the thin corridor between the white gallery wall and looming ‘besser bricks’, carefully stepping over the questionably adequate supports.
Morton’s wall falls short of the gallery length and the viewer is able to step around to the other side, the safer, cleaner side, and guessing from the painted surface, the outside. Here, the illusion continues. Painted in a trompe l'oeil style, we see that the geometric shapes are accompanied by shadows that, if you stand in the middle of the wall, emphases the illusion of a buckling wall. If you stand closer to the edge however, the shadows stop making so much sense. It’s disconcerting enough not to want to linger on this side of the wall, even though it’s plainly supposed to be the less ‘dangerous’ alternative.
I have something to admit. I love things that pretend to be other things. I remember the day that I discovered that the ‘metal’ (or chrome paint) on my mobile was peeling off. Was I upset? Not at all, I thought it was terrific. In 1860, Gottfried Semper described plastic’s predecessor, Indian Rubber, as ‘the factotum of the industry [which] lends itself to all purposes… since its nearly unlimited sphere of application is imitation,” and that was almost a century and a half ago. I like to think my mobile, camera, car and ipod, all of which sport a classy ‘metal’ finish, would please Semper.
I’m quite lucky in the visual arts to have so many examples of such illusionism to embrace. On my recent overseas trip I saw trompe l'oeils in the churches of Italy and France, and visited a Fischili and Weiss survey at the TATE Modern, where an entire room was made out of polystyrene objects so carefully shaped and painted that I at first walked through the room without realising they were imitative. Ricky Swallow also practices a similar kind of artmaking - the ‘hand-made ready-made’ as Justin Paton has described it. In short, you can probably understand the basis of my slightly biased enthusiasm for Morton’s plastic ‘bricks’. (Note: these last two paragraphs of rambling have been added after I was trying to work out why I used the words ‘blown away’ to describe an exhibition, and why I couldn’t come up with a more appropriate alternative)
An aspect of this exhibition that really interests me is that Roslyn Oxley9 is a commercial gallery and that Monument #23 work is priced at $120,000. I understand that private collectors are not the only clients of such galleries, and that public galleries frequently purchase work, but really, how is such a work to be handled, where would it be stored, and in the case of a private collector, where would it be placed? (“We’ll place it next to the dining table so that the guests don’t linger…”) I know this is not a new concept, I mean, installations are pretty much standard even in commercial galleries but I often wonder how viable such exhibitions are. Are they subsidised by other shows? Do many installations sell? If so, to whom? If anyone out there works for a commercial gallery, has an answer to these questions, or has ever wondered the same thing, please feel free to leave a comment.
Callum Morton’s Wall to Wall is on at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney 26 February – 21 March 2009
The copyright for all images belongs to Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I've left the image published in the MONA FOMA catalogue of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot's amazing piece From Here to Ear though. The work is on display at the Long Gallery until the 1st of Feb. Please please make an effort to see/hear/experience it, as it really is incredible.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I thought I'd just mention the two great arts events that greeted me on my return to Hobart - Installed Taste and Mona Foma. Installed Taste was a combined 6a/Inflight (two Hobart-based ARIs) initiative set up at the Taste of Tasmania. For those not in the know, the Taste is a major recurring food/alcohol/entertainment event held over the New Year period, and is promoted as a major tourist event. It runs for a week and showcases the best of Tassie produce (yes, I know that’s debatable) –wine, beer, fruit, seafood, air guitar….
Anyhoo, so Installed Taste involved of a number of different artists/groups, who would set up work in two large shipping containers on a rotating basis - anywhere between 4 hours and a day. I arrived back in Hobart from interstate on the second last day so I only saw a couple of the sessions. On the Friday, I saw some of Jamin’s previously exhibited paintings of Tasmanian politicians and major players (such as ex-Premier Paul Lennon, who is currently under investigation by police, and his mate Mr Gay, head of Gunns). It was an amusing choice of work for such a touristy event, as each of the paintings was accompanied by critical commentary by the artist, subtly hinting at the rampant corruption in Tassie politics. While this particular body of work by Jamin has never done anything really for me, I appreciated the fact that they were shown at one of Tassie’s premier tourist drawcards.
On the Saturday, 10% Pending had another instalment of the Guerrilla Gallery, this time with work by Newcastle and Melbourne artists as well as the original Tassie artists. The Guerrilla Gallery has just returned from its mainland journey to the This Is Not Art festival (TINA) in Newcastle and The Village in Melbourne, and picked up works by participating artists at each event. Just quickly for those unfamiliar with the 10% Pending and the Guerrilla Gallery – 10% Pending is a ‘homeless’ ARI which organises exhibitions outside of galleries, and the Guerrilla Gallery is one such project. The GG is a flat-pack gallery made from cardboard, and each artist is given a piece of cardboard on which to make their work, with the cardboard also doubling as the ‘walls’ of the ‘gallery’. The first GG was held in 2007 to coincide with Tasmanian Living Artists week and involved only 12 artists, although one artist destroyed his cardboard in a performance on the day. It was displayed in Mawson’s Place sans permission and attracted a fairly curious crowd. The next GG involved another 12 Tassie artists, and then it travelled to Newcastle acquiring another 20, then Melbourne where another 10 or so artworks were added. There are plans to invite more artists to make work for the next Guerrilla Gallery to be shown during Ten Days on the Island. I can’t critically comment on the Guerrilla Gallery due to my personal involvement (yes, this was a major plug), but the website is http://10percentpending.blogspot.com/ if you want more info.
Now for Mona Foma…
Mona Foma is a music/sound/art event, underwritten by mega-tas-art-supporter David Walsh and curated by Brian Ritchie (of the Violent Femmes). On Friday night I attended Scott Cotterel’s exhibition, The Fall, at Kelly’s Garden, and the concert which took over Salamanca place, showcasing musicians such as Pinky Beecroft, the Italian underground group The Zen Circus, Eugene Chandbourne, Dean Stevenson, Fiona Burnett and Balletlab. I’m ashamed to say that I was distracted by the lush lawns and flowing beer for most of the concert so I can’t really critically comment, although I must say that the Zen Circus was fantastic, particularly in relation to their collaboration with manga artist Davide Toffolo.
Feeling deeply sorry for myself the next day, I dragged my hungover and protesting body down to St David’s Church to catch Ansgar Wallenhorst’s improvised organ performance (nothing like a Church to make you regret your ‘sins’ of the night before). The first piece was in fact not an improvisation but a performance of Franz Liszt’s Fantasy and Fuge on the Chorale, which while unexpected, provided a great introduction to his own work which followed. The improvisation was based on four contrasting works in the MONA (David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art due to open in 2010) collection – Christoph’s Untitled (Le Grand Macabre) (2007), Sydney Nolan’s Centaur and Angel (1952), Mummy Mask made in Ancient Egypt in 1-200CE and Balint Zsako’s Untitled (2007). I was lucky enough to have scored a programme on the way in, having turned up earlier than most of the (apparently unexpected) large crowd. Tiny photocopied black + white images of the works Wallenhorst was using as inspiration, and I really wish that the works could have been somehow displayed in the Church for us to see in person. I understand that there was probably a reason for this –security perhaps, or maybe Wallenhorst thought it might have been distracting – but as MONA won’t be open for at least another year, the public won’t be able to view these works until then, which I think is a great shame. The performance successfully combined the visual arts with music, which was Ritchie’s curatorial premise, and was an amazingly powerful performance. The piece responded to the dark painting by Ruckhäberle, twinkled at Nolan’s mythical creatures, marched through the Egyptian mask and elaborated on Zsako’s patterned ink work.
I’m not Christian, but there is something very powerful about Churches, particularly when combined with such an intense music performance. The organ, which has the ability to make incredibly dense and complicated sounds, belting out pew-grumbling low notes, or softly ringing high melodies, combines well with large open spaces such as St Davids’. During the performance, I considered the sense of wonder and awe felt while listening to the organ in that overwhelmingly decorated architecture, not surprised that people felt the presence of a God in Churches.
One of the amazing things about Mona Foma was its accessibility. All the events, apart from Nick Cave’s concert, were free, which was extraordinarily generous. I know that there’s a reason why festivals such as Ten Days on the Island have fees, but often the fees are so high that I can’t afford to attend the performances that I’d sorely like to go to. Hopefully, with the unexpectedly large crowds, Mona Foma will be a recurring festival, as the premise behind the event was great; plus there isn’t really a festival that solely focuses on sound in Tasmania so it has its own little niche down here.
I’m aiming to head to the Mona Foma sound art exhibition at Salamanca Art Centre's Long Gallery sometime in the next week, so I may end up writing a bit about that in the next post if I haven’t got round to Mike Parr. Also, I’m still counting the male/female artists shown in Hobart Galleries, but I haven’t posted any results because I’m still trying to track down a couple of the exhibitions. Will post asap however.