Author Archives: Mark Holsworth

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic.

Warehouse vs ARI

Daniel Lynch posted on Facebook today. “If you have ever been helped out by the warehouse. If u ever crashed there while u found your way. If u ever painted the walls. If you shot a film here or even just came to party, well come hang out today. I got a garage sale all day and I will be working around the place ripping the old beast down.”

Will Coles, cellphone flower, wall of Good Times Studios

Will Coles, cellphone flower, wall of Good Things Studios

I was looking at Facebook as I was thinking about how to reply to an email from an artist about volunteering at 69 Smith Street. The combination started me thinking about arts warehouses vs ARI; so instead of going to hang out one last time as Daniel ripped the studio walls down I thought that I’d write a blog post. I’d been to Good Things Studio on Coco Jackson Lane in Brunswick a couple of times for various reasons since Daniel established it in 2011. (In a 2012 post I call it Coco Jackson Studios I don’t know if it has changed its name or I just misnamed it with its address.)

There are some important art warehouses in Melbourne arts scene: Irene’s Community Arts Warehouse (where I first met some of the Indonesian artists involved in Taring Padi) and Blender Studios.

So how does this compare to ARI? ARI (artist run spaces) emerged in the 1980s; in 1982 Roar Studios in Fitzroy was Melbourne’s first ARI. Aiming to be bridge between the art school and major art galleries, ARI’s became part of the institution of art exhibiting. They look the same as the major galleries only the white walled spaces are smaller. But perhaps they have run their course especially as exhibiting in a gallery space is no longer essential to contemporary art and when even commercial galleries are opening what they call “project space” or dropping the word “gallery” from their name.

Warehouses combining artists studios and other events have been around since the 1990s. Warehouse parties, Warhol’s Factory and the old mystique of the artist’s studio all contribute to the warehouse vibe. The flexible warehouse space provides better matches contemporary art that might be seen on the street or a site-specific location. It allows for both artists who exhibit in galleries and those who don’t. It mixes the arts; musicians, film-makers and visual artists mixed at Good Things Studio. The community of artists working at the warehouse has a more direct influence on the work of the artist’s involved than the opportunity to exhibit.

For a young or emerging artist in Melbourne establishing an arts warehouse is more artistically significant than establishing an ARI.


Worst of Public Sculpture Around the World

Here are some worst public sculptures that I have photographed. My examples may not the worst of the worst but they are, each in there own way, bad. There are some terrible public sculptures around the world, monstrosities imposed on the public by mad dictators and inept city councils but I haven’t seen them, except in photographs. These sculptures are not just bad art, but they have also been badly conceived, installed or located.

Bear fishing Ottawa

Bear Fishing in Ottawa, the sculpture isn’t that bad and nor is its location but the plinth is rubbish. It really is rubbish, a collection of rocks and broken concrete held together with some more concrete.

Dali in Singapore

I had to laugh at the statue of Dali in Singapore, this sculpture and its strange assortment of companions trying to add class to an up market apartment complex are a series of bland realist sculptures of an unlikely collection of heroes.

Bronze gold nugget Brunswick 1

Sure, it is fun to laugh at foreigners but Melbourne has some of the worst public sculptures. Top of the list is the “gold nugget” in Melbourne, this sculpture is both badly conceived and located. Didn’t anyone in the process of making this memorial that a gold nugget modelled in bronze would look like a lump of bronze? The next problem is that it is stuck on a bit of curb on the edge of a parking lot along Sydney Road.

Robert Delandere, Statue of Meditation, 1933

Robert Delandere white marble, Statue of Meditation, 1933 outside the conservatory in Fitzroy Gardens is at least in a pleasant location. It was declared by a contemporary sculptor, Paul Montford as one of the worst sculptures in Melbourne. The smooth sentimentality of Delandere’s sculpture is bad and was out of date even when it was made. Imported from France to memorialise the father of Madam Gaston-Sant in the town of Rheola in Victoria’s gold fields. Why it ended up in Fitzroy gardens remains a mystery as does much about the sculptor Robert Delandere. Delandere is the one known sculptor in this list of bad sculpture. We know so little about the truly bad artists, it is a great hole in art history.

June Arnold, Dolphin Fountain, 1982

Sentimental is one problem but June Arnold, Dolphin Fountain, 1982 in Fitzroy Gardens is complete kitsch, with dolphins,  starfish and other marine creatures.


Bigger, Biggest

Rone’s new mural, L’inconnue de la rue (unknown girl in the street) on the wall of the building at 80 Collins Street claims to be the largest mural in Australia. I don’t want to get into a mural measuring competition but I counted nine stories for Rone’s new mural making it larger than Adnate’s new five-story mural in Hosier Lane. (I used to live near a business that claimed to be “the biggest laundromat in the southern hemisphere” over in West Brunswick.)

Rone in Collins Street

Rone in Collins Street

Rone is from the Everfresh crew and Adnate is from the AWOL crew. The Everfresh and AWOL crews have been in open competition since 2011, when they were in a competition for the space in the NGV’s studio. Everfresh won that round and had an exhibition in NGV’s Studio. The next round in this competition are two giant murals by first Adnate and now Rone.

Everfresh are the established masters of Melbourne street art based in Collingwood with heaps of reputation on Melbourne’s streets. AWOL, the new comers from Brunswick, bring both ambition and a willingness to change and develop their style. The only member of the Everfresh crew to really change styles has been Reka, Makatron has developed but after seeing about a hundred Phibs on walls, boards, tattoos etc. his style isn’t that fresh anymore.

Adnate at work in Hosier Lane

Adnate at work in Hosier Lane

It is good that Melbourne’s street artists are now being offered such large walls; they have been crying out for large walls for years. Neither of these huge murals are great works of art, except in their size, as they are both thematically and artistically far to simple. Their style goes back to the hand painted painted advertising billboards of the 1950s and 60s, that many commercial artists used to paint, including James Rosenquist before he turned to Pop art.

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There are a couple of holes with Rone’s new mural; the most obvious is that bit of old wall that has had concrete sprayed on it. Why wasn’t that part painted over? Why is it there to begin with? The other problem is that the image distorts as you look up from the lane way; the perspective of the face only works when viewed from a certain position near Nauru House. Simply scaling up an image to fit a wall this large is not enough.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next round of this creative competition between these two crews will bring but I just want to point out that the biggest mural in Melbourne was Adrian Doyle’s Empty Nursery Blue in 2013 that covered both sides and the paving of Rutledge Lane.


Tram Conductor Performance

At the anti-EastWest Tunnel rally in Brunswick on Sunday there was a man in a Melbourne tram conductors uniform giving living-history performances with a political edge. The dream of better public transport in Melbourne was the positive agenda for the rally.

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Melbourne tram drivers no longer ride the trams selling tickets and helping passengers. They have been replaced by machines that are of little assistance to passengers, especially if they are tourists, the elderly, parents with small children, people unfamiliar with the route… grumble, grumble…

The tram conductor’s political street theatre engaged people in conversation about local history and politics. He even was of interest to small children. The tram conductor was from a performance group called The Connies, that is made up of former tram conductors. They advocate, amongst other environmental causes, the reintroduction of tram conductors.

Dressed up in the old uniform of a tram conductor complete with the leather ticket bag with its brass fittings, ticket punch and tickets (remember when a purple city section ticket was only 30c?). The ticket bag was complete with collectable cards of famous tram conductors: Joyce Barry, the first women tram driver in 1975 and Armand “Frenchie” Lefebvre, the performing tram conductor. Hole punched for authentication.

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The tangible element of the street theatre; the cards about the famous tram conductors and the old tickets made it a very genuine and engaging performance. Really attractive playing-card sized cards.

I walk home from the rally, thinking/dreaming about better public transport. On the subject of transport I find an automatic email that about my blog being quoted in Free Walks of Melbourne using our Trams.  Apparently my post provides a “The following link is a balanced overview of the village” (Pentridge Rehabilitated).


Working on Melbourne’s Sculpture

I’m currently polishing the manuscript for my book Melbourne’s Sculpture – from the colonial to the ephemeral. It is due to be published by Melbourne Books later this year. Making sure that all my photos are labelled correctly, organising the bibliography and list of index terms is dull work. There has been some dull reading too; just be glad that I read some of those dull books so that you don’t have to.

Malfunction, Leopards, 2011, Fitzroy

Malfunction, Leopards, 2011, Fitzroy

It has not all been dull; I have been enjoying meeting sculptors and exploring the city to see new sculptures. Just working at my computer when I received a phone call from Bruce Armstrong in reply to an email that I’d sent about a month before through John Buckley Gallery who repents him. The email from Maurie Hughes came at just the right time as I was struggling to make sense of sculpture in the 1990s.

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging, Footscray

Bruce Armstrong, Two Persons Hugging, Footscray

Some of the highlights have been enjoying great steaks and wine over a lunch with Lou Laumen at the Station Hotel in Footscray. Visiting Peter Corlett in his studio at the back of his beautiful garden and visiting Meridian Foundries with him. He gave me a little tour of the foundry and introducing me to Peter Morley and the workers.

I have not been stuck in front of the computer the whole time. I have been visiting new parts of the city in my search for significant public sculptures to photograph. I hadn’t been out to Footscray or Preston in years. I had never been out to see EastLink offices in Ringwood; the offices are a beautifully designed. EastLink was very helpful, allowing me to use their photographs of the sculptures for free and providing me with a folder of articles on them including one by Ken Scarlett that I was looking for.

Sometimes I have felt like a detective tracking down information from a scattering of clues. I had to make contact with some artists for copyright permission, sometimes anonymous street artists based on little more than a photograph or the initials GT. (I am still trying to get in touch with Mal Function.) Trying to locate George Allen’s Untitled, 1957 a couple of tons of rock that just disappeared. Discovering the lies that Charles Summers told to Governor Darling about the casting of the Burke and Wills Monument.

It has been fun having my ideas challenged and changed. Sculptors who are conservative artistically but a progressive politically. Large corporations are more progressive artistically than local governments. City governments are capable of planning and enacting long term. Enough to make my mind spin a couple of times.

I’ve had a lot of help from artists, academics and various test readers who volunteered to read my manuscript. I still have to polish the manuscript some more and check the acknowledgements section to make sure that I’ve got all the names right. I will be glad when I can hand the manuscript and photographs over to the publisher next Monday. Not that I will be finished with the book but it will mark another point in the process. (See my December post: Book Deal.) I still have to find an image for the front cover.

Culture Rubble, 1993 by Christine O’Loughlin

Culture Rubble, 1993 by Christine O’Loughlin


March Exhibition Reviews

For me the exhibition of the week was Concrete Poetry Now! at Melbourne City Library in Flinders Lane. This little group exhibition of visual poetry curated by Ashley J Higgs really spoke to me about what is art/poetry/music/photography. The poetry of life in letters/signs of all kinds. It is a fun and thought provoking growing exhibition that left me wanting more and made me aware of more.

I also saw the exhibitions at Blindside. Todd Johnson’s Evidence shows evidence of impacts on ordinary objects like the bonnet of a Holden. More taxidermy in art; this time a beautiful fox hanging from the ceiling (see my post Taxidermy & Contemporary Art). Did it impact with the Holden?

Also at Blindside, Kieran Stewart A Highly Unadvisable Undertaking is about his attempt to build a parachute. Stewart describes his art as incorporating “a wide range of construction and building techniques that are constantly developing as part of my multi-disciplinary arts practice.”

On the second floor of the Nicholas Building the two exhibitions at Edmund Pearce Gallery made me think about the staging of photographs; when and why a viewer might suspend their disbelief in the photographic evidence. Daniel Sponiar’s series of portraits of Melbourne chefs, Yes Chef! has many dramatic images that are obviously staged but that only adds to showing the character of the subject. However, in Rebecca Dagnall’s In Tenebris series of dark Australian gothic bush scenes the more that I noticed the staging the photograph the less convincing I found the photograph.

On the way to my train I had a brief look at Platform but found Andrea Eckersley’s painting too subtle for the space; a underpass is not conducive to contemplation. Maybe this might work at a gallery. Metro Gallery had an exhibition of paintings by Kathleen Kngale the soft and delicate colours in intense fields of dots almost completely cover the dark underpainting. Beautiful and relaxing like a soporific drug but they wouldn’t be effective in an underpass either.


Melbourne Future @ Brunswick Art Space

What ever happened to Troy Innocent? In the mid 1990s Troy Innocent’s computer art was the talk of the town, or at least amongst the people I was spending time with, Melbourne’s Clan Analogue and one of my housemates. His art was on the cover of World Art #12 magazine in 1997 and the article inside started by noting him as “one of the most acclaimed and internationally recognised artists working in his medium.”

I didn’t expect to find the answer at Brunswick Art Space but more on Troy Innocent later. I went to Brunswick Arts on Friday night to see the opening of two exhibitions; Melbourne Future and Metsä Pako that are both part of the Brunswick Music Festival. The converted factory space on Little Breeze street is now almost surrounded by new construction, except for the back of Alasya Restaurant.

Metsä Pako is an “immersive environment file with ambient, experimental sound”. It didn’t help that the neither pair of headphones were working and the ambient music from the two speakers could barely be heard. It wasn’t that immersive, just two video projectors and some clay leaves hanging from the ceiling.

It is hard to be that immersive when in the next room there is a virtual reality experience; Roger Essig’s North South East West that is far more spectacular especially as it was my first VR experience. Not that all of the art in Melbourne Future is all that great, some of it, like Essig’s virtual reality or Pierre Proske’s Voiceprint, voice activated custom software is still in a beta version. If the future was fully realised then it would present but the exhibits are fun and worth considering.

What is not a beta version but has been completely realised and looks and plays spectacularly is Benjamin Kolaitis and Troy Innocent’s interactive installation Play Parameters. The large sandbox on which the game is projected is surrounded by a wooden fence with wire stretched around it that the two players, in opposite corners tap on with metal bars. It is an amazing and fun creation… lights flash, the game is on… So this is what Troy Innocent is doing now, as well as, being the Senior Lecturer in Games and Interactivity in the Faculty of Life and Social Sciences at Swinburne University and represented by Hugo Michell Gallery in South Australia.

Melbourne Future is a reference to Melbourne Now at the NGV but it is not just a prediction about the future of art but also “borrowing from the successful format of the ‘Melbourne Now’ program we will be running a mix of exhibited works along with engaging the public with free talks and workshops.” (See their Facebook page for details on the talks and workshops, a must for all artists working with technology in Melbourne).

What the future of art will look and sound like? Will the future of art look like a computer game? Will we still even recognise it as art?


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