Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Olafur Eliasson and tiny sculptures

I have an obsession with maquettes.

At the recent Olefur Eliasson exhibition at the MCA in Sydney, despite all his wonderful finished works, the real lure for me lay in one of the side rooms: the maquettes of imagined or eventually realised works.  Yes, the copper wire was messily soldered, the forms were perhaps unresolved, yet these tiny sculptures held something (other than potential) that really intrigued and excited me.

There’s something very special also about tiny sculptures.  They’re not on display currently, but the Art Gallery of New South Wales used to have an almost permanent exhibition of tiny Robert Klippel sculptures just next to the (now extended) café.  While I live in Hobart now, I grew up in Sydney and used to gravitate towards these strange forms whenever my parents took me to the gallery.  Maybe it was their minuteness, perhaps the fact that they kinda looked like other things (bicycles, swings, see-saws…), the forms had some sort of hold over me.  Alas, in the last few years, the Klippel sculptures have been removed, unfortunately coinciding with my ability to articulate exactly what I like about certain artworks.  If only I could see them one more time in my adulthood…

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advertising for canvas prints on my blog, oh no!

I thought I'd give this advertising for blogs a spin, as it seems a relatively harmless experiment.

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

ArtStart Grants: what do they do with the artists after fertilising them?

I'm not sure what Australia does with all the artists after they've grown and fertilised them, but I thought I'd stick up this link to the new Australia Council 'ArtStart' grant (mainly because I like the logo):

The thing that worries me is that all these grants stress that the cash is not intended to cover the living costs of artists.  In other words, it looks like the government is supporting artists (particularly emerging, if you talk to any mid-career starving artist) through all these grants with fancy logos etc., but in actual fact they're not prepared to invest in creating full-time, or at least long term, meaningful jobs for those in the arts industry.  Talk to any fine arts graduate and they'll tell you how hard it is to get a job relevant to their field (that does not include managing the photo hub at Kmart).  I know that there are a ridiculously large number of people enrolling in art schools around the country, and not all can be expected to get a job in the arts, but it would be nice if I knew that more than one of my fellow BFA graduates now has a fulfilling arts-related job.

So how do you employ artists and fine arts graduates? Off the top of my head, I'd say that the easiest way would be to pour more money into museums and acquisitions, and thus provide more museum jobs. At the moment the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery does not have an acquisition budget for instance (Luckily for Tasmanian artists, the privately funded, soon-to-be-opened Museum of Old and New Art, is commissioning away...).  Fund arts festivals which have a significant visual arts component, encourage both the public and private sectors to fund public artworks, and recognise the worth of artists in terms of creating a diverse and rich national culture (think about it - are most great cultures remembered in terms of their sporting prowress or their arts?).

Just an idea....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hobart Art Galleries: a personal overview

[note: this is an old guide. An updated one can be found here]

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.
The Plimsoll is the University of Tasmania’s gallery, located at the Tasmanian School of Art on Hobart’s waterfront. The gallery is a little tricky to find as it is tucked away underneath the art school, which is housed in the majestic old IXL jam factory. The gallery has a rotation of three week curated exhibitions with an emphasis on international and interstate artists, although there are often quite a few artworks by Tasmanian artists on show. The Plimsoll Gallery, in my opinion, is one of the best contemporary art spaces in Hobart, showing an eclectic mix of exhibitions, which are usually quite challenging and cutting-edge, but occasionally regresses a little. Unfortunately, over the summer, in Hobart’s busiest tourist season (and when the gallery’s icicle-like temperatures are actually productive), the gallery is used for research post-graduate examinations, and is closed during the week. However, the post-graduate examinations are generally open to the public the weekend following examination, so check out the gallery’s website before you visit.
The current exhibition at the Plimsoll is the Wharmby Collection, which showcases works purchased by the University throughout the 90s as a result of a generous bequest from Marion Wharmby. The exhibition includes works by Sally Smart, Fiona Hall, David Keeling, Hossein Valamanesh, Bill Yaxley, and Elizabeth Gower to name a few, and has a distinct and funky thematic (a nice reflection perhaps, of the collection committee chaired by Lorraine Jenyns). The collection is not yet finished; in fact, the remaining money has grown in the last decade so that a substantial amount remains. The committee hopes to start acquiring works again by the end of the year, with the aim of completing the collection by the end of the year so that a monograph can be produced. It’s a good 90s art show, and not at all as boring as a exhibition with the word ‘collection’ in it, may suggest.
To get to the Plimsoll, you have to walk through the windy art school tunnel, which houses the Tasmanian University Union-run gallery, Entrepôt. All students enrolled at the University are eligible to apply, both postgrad and undergrad, and as a result, the gallery showcases a wide range of art styles, and more notoriously, standards. Nevertheless, there are few restrictions placed on exhibitors at the gallery (I think there are three rules: you can’t burn the gallery down, brick the door up, or sleep there), and I’ve seen some pretty wacky exhibitions there over the years. Currently at Entrepôt is the TUU-affiliated Sculpture Society’s (unofficial) annual exhibition. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, including few videos, a work using blood samples and microscopes, and some interesting liquid-filled objects to name a few; but it’s definitely an improvement on last year’s show.
CAST (Contemporary Art Services Tasmania)
CAST is similar in its focus on contemporary art to the Plimsoll, but with an emphasis on local art. Located in Tasma St, North Hobart, and harder to find than the Plimsoll, they have a strangely difficult space to show work in despite its regular cubic shape (for some reason even the most imposing sculptures tend to shrink in the space). As the name of the organization suggests, CAST provides services beyond the gallery, assisting artists with grants, advocacy and other such necessities, and is run by an enthusiastic group. They also have some great annual programs such as the Emerging Curator Mentorship, the 3 into 1 show for emerging local artists, and the fun CAST members show (December), which by sheer necessity, is hung salon style. Currently at CAST is About Photography II.
Inflight is Hobart’s (relatively) long-running Artist Run Initiative (ARI), which is more challenging to find than the Plimsoll and CAST combined… plus some. Inflight is hidden behind the toilets, which are behind the garbage bins, behind the carpark, behind Kaos café in Elizabeth St North Hobart. The gallery has two small spaces, and so there are usually two shows running at any one time. The work there often wants to be innovative and [insert contemporary art buzz word here], with various level of success, but it’s always worth a look. I haven’t actually been to the current exhibitions, which I understand consists of a curated exhibition in the main gallery and in the smaller gallery, a show by local artist, Iona Johnson.
6a is the new ARI on the block. In the last two (?) years since its opening, the gallery/studio complex, housed in an ex-pet butchers/slaughterhouse, has established itself as an art space to complement, rather than rival, Inflight. The difficultly shaped space encourages site-specific art (if you’ve ever wanted to make a work in a kitchen or bathtub, apply now). The openings are always last on a night’s gallery opening run and usually run quite late, with crowds of younger, scungy, arty types gripping beers and toasties around a fire in an old oil drum in the gallery’s dusty carpark, accompanied by the sounds of local musicians/sound makers. Not quite on the same scale of hard-to-find as Inflight, to get to 6a Newdegate St, North Hobart, look for the meaty sign at the entrance of an industrial-looking driveway between two houses. Ben Booth’s work is currently on show, including some of his wonderful distinctly styled sculptures, and an anxious-making video.
Fine Arts Gallery (FAG)
The FAG is a small Tasmanian School of Art-run space up on the main campus of the Uni, Sandy Bay. I rarely make the ‘trek’ (I think I’ve been in tiny Hobart too long if I think of a trip to Sandy Bay as a significant mission), but I understand that it’s got a new and enthusiastic committee and has had some really good shows recently. Currently on show is the work of 3rd year painting students.
As the major state institution, I probably should have put the TMAG first, however, it just doesn’t show enough contemporary art to warrant an early mention. To give the TMAG credit, there have been some great shows in the last few years - mostly survey shows of the work of artists such as Mike Parr, Patricia Piccinini, and Leigh Hobba. The annual Hobart City Council art prize, hosted by the gallery, keeps getting better too. Funds are apparently an ongoing problem in regards to both acquisitions and exhibitions, but it’s a real shame that such a high profile and prominently positioned institution can’t host a more consistent cycle of relevant and engaging art exhibitions. Currently on display in the ‘art’ area is a small selection of art and craft in a walk-through area (enthusiastically titled The 80s Show); a beautiful exhibition of indigenous fibre works, called Tayenebe; and Jao Tsung-I – calligraphy and painting by the Chinese scholar, which has unfortunately been advertised as ‘the largest…’ and ‘the only…’ rather than emphasising the exhibition’s artistic merits.
The church-turned-house-turned-gallery, Detached, was unveiled late last year to co-host Mike Parr’s The Tilted Stage with the TMAG. It’s privately owned, but behaves like a well-endowed public gallery. To be honest, I don’t really know much about the gallery, but I like what I’ve seen so far. Detached is currently hosting Brook Andrew’s 8 Months of War, and is located in Campbell St, just around the corner from the TMAG.
The Carnegie Gallery is a Hobart City Council-run gallery hidden above the Maritime Museum in Argyle St (this hiding-the-gallery thing is turning out to be a massive theme in this post). It has an eclectic range of exhibitions, ranging from the best that contemporary art can offer, to the Australian Glass Society’s members’ exhibition. Ignore the Maritime Museum attendants when you enter. They’ll glare at you, but just keep walking up the grand stairs.
Salamanca Arts Centre
The Salamanca Arts Centre houses a number of galleries, but I’m going to list them as one simply because this post is blowing out. The largest gallery is the Long Gallery, which again has an eclectic mix, although they’re less discriminating than most of the other galleries listed above. One weekend you might find a blaring sound art exhibition and a room full of finches jumping on amped up guitars, the next you’ll stumble across a show by the Tasmanian Embroidery Club. Go figure. Next to the Long Gallery is the Sidespace and on the very top floor is the appropriately titled Topspace. The Long Gallery, Sidespace, Topspace, and Kelly’s Garden (an outside, gravel-filled space) all accept proposals, and there’s usually at least one good exhibition on at any one time.
Salamanca Arts Centre is also home to a couple of artist coops, the best of which is called Handmark. Handmark is currently showing a weird and wonderful exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Tricky Walsh. In addition, there are a number of ‘craft ‘n’ art’ shops, many of which are pretty banal, although the jewellery shops are quite good.
Bett Gallery is a commercial gallery, and part of the Hobart furniture. It shows quite a mixture of art, although painting seems to be the predominant medium of choice. They also favour male artists. In addition to their shop front in North Hobart, they show work in Raincheck Lounge, a coffee shop just down the road, although these shows tend to exhibit the work of younger, emerging artists.
Like Bett Gallery, the commercial Criterion Gallery tends to favour male artists. Nevertheless, Criterion is always worth a visit. Located in Criterion St in the centre of the CBD, make sure you have a coffee at the adjacent Criterion Café at the same time.
MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)
The Museum of Old and New Art isn’t even finished, but since it’s so eagerly awaited, I thought I’d tack it onto the end of this list. I visited the construction site a month ago and it looks amazing already. Tasmanian philanthropist and owner of Moorilla winery, David Walsh, is building the massive museum (it promises to be the largest private art gallery in Australia) to house his significant (and growing) art collection, a theatre, space for temporary and touring exhibitions, a library, and bar…s. The website is worth a visit even if you can't get the museum yet.
Mega post completed. Again, I must stress that this is all just opinion. Enjoy art.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why Canvas Prints are the Epitome in Bad Taste

I’ve loathed canvas prints for a long, long time, and for someone who is so openly opinionated on anything from politics to standard roses, it seems strange even to me that I’ve kept this loathing a secret for so long.


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?

  1. 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’.
  2. 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…?
  3. 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’.
  4. 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

Venice Biennale: Day 2, Pavilions in San Marco

I’m in Venice for the Arts in Society Conference, which means that day two of my Venice Biennale encounter is fairly limited in terms of the amount of art I can experience (I’m not sure that the word ‘view’ is adequate for a large percentage of the artworks at the Biennale). I manage to sneak away from the conference to see a couple of nearby pavilions scattered around the western San Marco area: the Republic of Cyprus, Estonia, the Republic of Gambon, Luxembourg, Iran and the Republic of Slovenia. Of these pavilions, I’m most taken with Rumours by Socratis Socratous from Cyprus (and no it’s not just because of his name), and the Slovenian Miha Strukelj’s Interference in Process.
Stickers for the various national pavilions in San Marco, assisting victims of Venice's maze-like streets.
Socratous’ installed work is based upon a recent event in Cyprus where a number of palm trees were imported into the country to create an ‘exotic, eastern feeling to the local environment’ (artist statement). Rumours started to spread that Cobra eggs were hidden amongst the roots of these trees and that they had started to hatch. The resulting exhibition includes a large palm tree lying horizontally across the floor, videoed interviews, photographs, a collage of text, and most intriguingly, a room that is shut off from public entry by a clear acrylic barrier. The space is set up to look like a one-room home, filled with a messy combination of bed, carpets, clothes and most worryingly, an empty glass snake enclosure. At the entrance to the room, leaning up against the barrier, is equipment familiar to me as those used for snake handling. I stand at the barrier for a long time, looking for a sleek shiny body. I’m tempted to tap the glass, but after reading Harry Potter I feel guilty about disturbing the potential snake (ridiculous, I know). Then I do something that I still regret – I ask the bored looking attendant (the Cyprus pavilion is hard to find, so I’m guessing the flow of visitors may be a little slow) whether there’s actually a snake in the room. On reflection, I would have preferred not knowing.
Miha Strukelj’s work in the Slovenian pavilion is described in the Art World guide to Venice as examining “the issue of perception in five equal segments via painting and drawing.” Now, I don’t know if he changed his mind sometime between the press release and the work but the exhibition and the above description don’t seem to match up. In fact, the exhibition as a whole doesn’t seem very well resolved, but I’m taken by his drawings, which are directly applied to the walls of at least half of the difficultly shaped bottom floor. Looking at times like a road map, or if you squint your eyes you can alternatively see the outlines of buildings, the drawings lapse in and out of these line drawings and what appears to be planning grids and even scribbled mathematical equations. The wall drawing works well with the odd space, the staircase, and the hall that leads to nowhere. Unfortunately, the freestanding painted canvases and drawings that make up the rest of the exhibition are comparatively underwhelming.
Next up: Day 3 of the Venice Biennale - the Arsenale

Friday, July 31, 2009

Venice Biennale: Day 1, the Giardini

Phew, I just finished my first day at the Venice Biennale. I managed to do an impressive 10am-5pm session at the Giardini, although I would dearly like to go back to see some of the works again. The Giardini is one of the two major venues, along with the Arsenale, of the Biennale, and holds a number of the major national pavilions as well as the showcase curated exhibition.
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.
  • The French pavilion, whilst popularist, has created a false dramaticism that strangely amuses me.

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

Artist Statements and Gallery Texts

It looks like I don't have to write my ranting post about didactic texts after all. Frieze has very successfully done it for me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Writing in Cyberspace: have I just plagiarised myself?

I received an email a month ago from a peer-reviewed online artist dictionary in regards to my submission of a local artist’s biography. I had written on this artist as part of my honours thesis, simply because there has been little written on him, despite his prolific art practice and significant contribution to the Australian art scene. I had decided that after honours I’d submit this information to Wikipedia and the dictionary I mentioned earlier, so that there was publicly available information on this wonderful artist.

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

Bill Hart at Criterion Gallery

I just want to alert everyone to Bill Hart’s exhibition at Criterion Gallery in Criterion Street, Hobart. It opened last night and features a lot of work from his PhD submission, which I wrote about in one of my first blog posts. I was upset that not many people would know about or be able to get along to the weekend PhD ‘exhibition’ so I’m glad some of the work is being re-exhibited, even if it is only a small selection of the works plus a few new (I think) works on paper.

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

Aniwaniwa: Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena, 10 Days on the Island 2009

Accompanied by my New Zealand flatmate, today I went and viewed Aniwaniwa, a video installation at the historic Rosny Barn, by New Zealand artists Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena. The work, which is part of Tasmania’s biannual arts festival, Ten Days on the Island, is an engrossing depiction of the flooding of the village Horahora, as part of a hydroelectric scheme.

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).

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 Copyright belongs to the artists.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Callum Morton: Wall to Wall

I haven’t blogged for ages. I’ve been deliberating over a number of exhibitions but haven’t actually got round to writing them up properly, so I thought I’d bite the bullet and do a quick one on Callum Morton’s exhibition Wall to Wall at Roslyn Oxley9. Yes, I know it’s not in Hobart, but I was lucky enough to be in Sydney when the exhibition opened and I was blown away by the work.

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

Discord - Art from MONA

I've had to remove this post, as the piece of writing was commissioned for an art magazine. See the next edition of Artlink for my review of Discord - Art from Mona.
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

Mona Foma, Installed Taste, and still no Mike Parr

So much for my Mike Parr review. I've been away for the last month, and never got around to writing it. I've also got this bad habit of turning up at Detached on a Wednesday or a Thursday - the two days the gallery is closed - so I haven't actually seen the Detached part of the Mike Parr show as yet. It's a bit peculiar having a gallery closed on a Wed/Thursday as usually galleries take Mon/Tuesday off. As my gallery visiting day is usually a Thursday, and I'm a creature of habit, I keep turning up on the days it's closed. No extra points for intelligence there. I’ll get onto Mike Parr as soon as I get my brain together.

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 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.