Category Archives: Blogging

Are You Experienced?

In covering the Paul Yore story I felt hopelessly out of my depth, as an art critic I wasn’t experienced reporting on politics and law. I persevered, determined to follow the story to the best of my abilities for over a year.

From the start, covering the case felt like a futile task as I already knew the outcome, it was as predictable as continued government funding for the National Gallery. Sure, it might not happen, especially if people treated the outcome as predictable and that any energy spent on it wasted but realistically, what are the chances?

If Paul Yore had been found guilty it would just been a further repeat of what happened to Mike Brown with the sentence reduced to practically nothing on appeal. To expect anything else is to expect a revolution, art galleries ransack, Chloe seized by police from Young and Jackson’s…. As much as such a purge might be the wet dream of some right wing conservatives, it is not something that magistrates and judges would want to encourage. What they want is to preserve the status quo.

However in Australia, the status quo includes the random persecution of artists. I’m concerned that this could happen again, not in Victoria, not for a few years at least, after the police pay costs for the case, but to another artist in another state in a couple of years. Following the police raid on the Linden Centre gave me the feeling of the repeated witch hunts in Australian culture.

The typical Australian mob chants: “We don’t like it. Ban it!” Art, books, clothing, people…. “We don’t like it. Ban it!” The mob needs to shut up, listen to reason and understand that just because they are the mob doesn’t mean that they should dictate taste. That instead of banning art and the expensive circus of police raids and court cases that we should engage in a democratic discussion. But what are the chances of that happening?

Being out of my depth with covering a criminal case there were things that I could learn, how to find court dates, get media statements from the police but as I learnt I also realised one of the drawbacks of being a blogger and freelance writer. What I was missing as a freelance writer and blogger was the experience of a large newsroom where I could have consulted with, or even collaborated with, the regular court reporters and the politics reporters.

Now I’m not asking for your sympathy but for you to consider a world with smaller editorial departments, smaller news rooms, more freelance journalists trying to tell larger stories. In the current world experience is too often dissipated rather than concentrated.

Sometimes I felt like a vulture lopping over to the carcass of an artist’s career, amid the flapping wings of other vultures and having a feed on the remains. Choosing to stop by Neon Parc on my rounds of galleries in the city to see if I could pick up something.

I wrote a summary of the case for the online art magazine Hyperallergic and an article for Vault Magazine that examined Yore’s use of collage and assemblage in the light of Max Delany’s testimony to the court.


bLOGOS/HA HA

Peter Tyndall’s blog, bLOGOS/HA HA is blogging as contemporary art; there is always an enjoyable conjuncture of images on it and it forms part of his greater work. In 2013 bLOGOS/HA HA was in the NGV’s Melbourne Now and Reinventing the Wheel; the Readymade Century at MUMA. I’m pleased to see it represented in exhibitions where it is displayed in physical (paper) and virtual (computer) forms. I’ve had bLOGOS/HA HA on my blogroll for years.

Adrian Featherston's photo looks at Peter Tyndall at Monash 1975

Adrian Featherston’s photo looks at Peter Tyndall at Monash 1975

Tyndall was my first local favourite contemporary artists when I was an undergraduate at Monash Uni. Tyndall was the first artist-in-residence at Patrick McCaughey’s brand new Dept of Visual Arts at Monash Uni. I was impressed that in the mid 1970s he had retrospectively retitled all his art the same title:

detail

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something…

This title was often accompanied by a schematic representation of the painting, a square with wire hangers (the hanging system of the galleries at the time) and a viewer, generally a family standing in front of it.

In the 1980s Tyndall had refined his title further adding, a line space as in the chorus of a song and then, what Tyndall refers to as the “meta-Title”,  LOGOS/HA HA in upper case. Tyndall played with his “meta-Title” in the title of his blog; considering the entomology of ‘logos’ and ‘web logs’ (as blogs were originally called).

There is a poetry to Tyndall’s title and repeating image. It is part of the post-modern experience, the endless quotation, the paradoxes, the hermeneutical elements building up meaning through repetition. Combining the conceptual and the visual in a sophisticated post-modern understanding of the image and communication.

Tyndall works in all media and his blog is a hyperlinked extension of this exploration of media. Blogging appears like the ideal for Tyndall’s art. Is bLOGOS/HA HA in one media or multimedia? This is the kind of links, interconnections, indeterminacy and paradoxes that Tyndall delights in.

Blogging presents another paradox to Tyndall, the private and the public. His art never expressed the private individual; all that the Melbourne Now exhibition guide notes “1951 – :born at Mercy Hospital, Melbourne, The World”. Tyndall reconciles this by posts on exhibitions, current events and protests in the art world (I learnt about the protests about no sketching at the NGV from his blog and wrote my own blog post). This is mixed with posts on Tyndall’s own exploration of repeating images of people looking at things, including art.

Communicating is at the core of Tyndall’s art and blogging. His writing is crisp and his choice of images to accompany the blog posts are inspired. His obsessions and his visual memory of interconnected images are perfect to display on the internet. As he explained in an email: “In daily practice, I observe that my present inclination is less to the slow and expensive means of the easel and more to the immediate, inexpensive and intuitive exploration via the digital projection-space. I do, each day, still make some things more-or-less in the traditional means, but usually quickly: drawings, collages, postcards, words, photos.” Tyndall thinks that more artists should blog to communicate, create, and exhibit commenting: “I’m surprised how few ‘struggling artists’ give themselves this easy opportunity.”

The size of his blog, built up by incremental additions over the years since 2008 (the same year that I started this blog), makes it Tyndall’s largest detail in his life’s work. It’s size is a matter of duration and it is as endless as Tyndall’s art mantra:

detail

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something…

 

LOGOS/HA HA


Painful progress on my book

When I last wrote about progress on my book, Melbourne’s Sculpture it was the end of March. I am now three months behind schedule with my book.

Progress of the book has been slowed with getting better photographs than the ones I’d taken, mine weren’t really up to scratch for publication. I never really thought of myself as a photographer and I knew that my photography was the weakest part. I should have asked more questions about it and read the camera manual.

So plan B for the photographs and start to develop a plan C; scratch plan B after two months of going nowhere. Move on to plan C and start to develop a plan D and whole vicious cycle goes on. Somewhere in all of this I decided to do some renovations and a major clean up of the house.

Paul Montford, John Wesley  statue,1935, Melbourne

Paul Montford, John Wesley statue,1935, Melbourne

There has so many lows, more pleas for help on windy winter nights, so few highs recently (some great sculpture exhibitions at RMIT, Callum Morton at Anna Schwartz and Inge King at the NGV) and far too much waiting. It is hard to be patient and anxious at the same time. Waiting can be horribly distressing and at time I felt I was being drip fed hope. The street artist, Mal Function who makes those little gremlin heads finally read and replied to my email six months later but not too late as it happens.

I didn’t feel like writing my blog during this time; too uncertain of what the future would bring, too something. It is an odd feeling because the fate of the book was no longer in my hands. It was a good experience editing with Chloe Brien the book. Everyone is doing a wonderful job holding it together around me, the publisher, David Tenenbaum has been patient, my wife, Catherine and especially my old friend, Paul Candy who had been most helpful when exactly when I needed it. Lots of thanks; I must rewrite the acknowledgements for the book.

The book will now have photographs kindly supplied by the City of Melbourne, ConnectEast, State Library of Victoria and several photographers. More thanks.

Amongst the photographers I actual meet Matto Lucas. I had seen some of his work years ago but I had only met him virtually a few weeks earlier; his Facebook post are are often a work of art. I’d also seen his photography in his blog the Melbourne Art Review.

None of the photographs in this post will appear in the book.

Charles Robb, Landmark, 2005

Charles Robb, Landmark, 2005

Bruce Armstrong, Eagle, 2002, Docklands

Bruce Armstrong, Eagle, 2002, Docklands


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


6 Years of Blogging

A few years ago I kept on having dreams where I was back at university. I don’t know what my timetable was, or where my classes were, I didn’t even know that there is an assignment due tomorrow or next week but wasn’t worried at all. I knew that the assignment would only take a few hours to write that evening or over the next week and I was confidant that I’ve already done more than enough reading. I think that my dreams were about blogging. I guess that since I’ve stopped having these dreams that I must have graduated.

Black Mark at MONA

Black Mark at MONA

It has been six years since I started this blog on WordPress. Things are going well for me as a blogger, after all these years; I’ve got a book deal for my history of Melbourne’s public sculpture. I’m writing articles for magazines and online publications about art. In celebration of this milestone I put together six things that I’ve learnt about blogging.

1 – The convention wisdom about blog stats is that regular posts improve viewing stats. This is, in my experience, not the case. Good stats do not come from regular posts – they come from having good content that will be read again and again by a large audience. A good blog post will keep on attracting readers for years. Writing a regular blog posts is a way to become better at writing blog entries. After a thousand blog posts you should be getting better as a writer.

2 – Most reporters, and sensible bloggers, have a particular beat – science, crime, sport – and stick to it. Mine is the visual arts in Melbourne and I write most of my posts about it. (With a few exceptions like this.) Visuals artists might not appear as important as international politics but as Fremon said on The Wire: “All the pieces matter.”

3 – One way to improve your stats is to be the first one to write about an event that many people witnessed but that was not covered in other media. To write about a topic in depth to be the best source of information on it. That means being prepared to be an eyewitness reporter rather than just using media releases. Being the first to write a report on an event will also get you a lot over readers and links from other websites.

4 – You must do professional development; read, go to lectures and workshops. Gather a group of people interested in the same topic and meet for informal discussions.

5 – Make sure that your blog roll is kept up to date, there is no point in listing blogs that are no longer being updated or with content that you do not endorse.

6 – It is difficult to be a blogger, you are doing it all yourself without the support that a publisher provides a journalist, like a subeditor, an editor. You have to be your own photographers, publicist and subeditor. You really need to be a photojournalist and combine text and photos to make a really successful blog post.


2013 – my year in review

I did a lot of travelling this year in Nth America and Korea this year. All this travelling meant that I now have a category for my posts about travel, mostly visiting art galleries and looking at street art in various cities around the world. Seeing New York was the personal highlight of the year. I needed to see to fill a gap in my in my knowledge of the art world with a few days worth of New York galleries that. I’m still processing all that information. One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the Barry McGee exhibition in Boston. Visiting galleries in Seoul filled in gaps in my understanding of art that I didn’t even know were missing. The rise of Korea in international art is impressive given that a century ago it was an antiquated colonised backwater. Seeing Korean contemporary art has changed my thinking in so many ways.

Barry McGee

Barry McGee

Meanwhile I was trying to keep my reviews of exhibitions very local this year for various reasons (cycling, ease, tired of public transport and keep mixing it up) while still trying to keep up with Melbourne’s street art and get a publishing deal for my history of Melbourne’s public sculpture.

HaHa robot in Coburg

HaHa robot in Coburg

Normally when I check the messages from the Black Mark Facebook page or my gmail there is another invite to an exhibition on the other side of the city, or some artist wanting attention. Rarely there someone is giving you a blog post or a story on a platter. This year, for sending me two stories, I’d like to thank Kevin Anslow, who created the Melbourne Street Art 86 site see my post “Melbourne Street Art Blogs” and also sent me the photos that made up the my post “Sexy Girls Girls Girls”.

I’d also like to thank all the guest bloggers who wrote posts this year: CDH (“Street art Salvage”, February), Pauline (“White Night with kids”, March), Jess Knight (“Refashioned: Sustainable Design Survey”) and Vetti (“Peter Fraser’s Lizard: A Box of Gaps”). I thought that I’d try having some guest posts – again to mix things up a bit.

I thought that I’d like to try having a monthly series of articles; I tried with my Persons of Interest. The Persons of Interest were people that had influenced my thinking about art so it was, in a way, autobiographical. I’m not sure how well that went as a series but it was interesting writing them.

Paul Yore, "Fountain of Knowledge", 2013

Paul Yore, “Fountain of Knowledge”, 2013

Meanwhile Australia’s own culture was going through a low point. On Saturday 1st of June in Melbourne Australia police raided the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts and removed 7 collage works by artist, Paul Yore alleging that the art was child pornography. Then in September Bill Henson withdrew from the 2014 Adelaide Biennial after a campaign by an Adelaide police officer, Brevet-Sergeant Michael Newbury against art that he had not seen. With the police in Australia becoming the unofficial art censorship board any hope that Australia might become a liberal society capable of intelligent and informed debate has been dashed.

Enjoy the end of year festivities, knowing that I will be hard a work on my sculpture book during that time, and good luck for 2014 – I think we’re going to need it.

Phil Soliman, The Great Pyramid, Moreland Station

Phil Soliman, The Great Pyramid, Moreland Station


Book Deal

I’m very happy to announce that my forthcoming book on the history Melbourne’s public sculpture will be published by Melbourne Books next year. It is the blogging dream – a book deal based on the blog.

Bruce Armstrong and Geoffrey Bartlett, “Constellation”

Bruce Armstrong and Geoffrey Bartlett, “Constellation”

As regular readers of this blog would know one of the topics that I regularly write about is public sculpture. Not that the book will be exactly what I’ve written in my blog, far from it, there have been many additions, revisions and corrections and there are still many to do.

Which public sculpture represents the identity of Melbourne? I started thinking about this question and so I wrote a blog post about it (see Melbourne’s Sculpture). The question is still haunting me and now I have to choose an image for the book’s front cover.

As I wrote more and more blog posts about public sculpture I became more interested. I noticed that very few people were writing about public sculpture, it is considered a dull topic by art critics and art historians dismissing it as the work of second rate artists working on commissions. However the public want to know about these sculptures I was finding some interesting stories about public sculptures politics, crime and the history of the city. Putting all these blog posts together I found that I was writing a history about a major change in public sculptures; a true story with a beginning, middle and end.

Although it is every blogger’s dream to write a book, it took prompting from my wife, my inspiration, Catherine, for the idea to form. I also needed the copy editing skills of Sue Wind and the advice of many people to get the manuscript to this stage – I’ve already added getting a proper thank you list together to my ever growing 2Do list… write, edit, sort and label jpg files, the front cover image…. ?

La Pok's guerilla gardening Melbourne

La Pok’s guerilla gardening Melbourne

Hester, "a world, fully accessible by no living being", 2011

Hester, “a world, fully accessible by no living being”, 2011

Paul Montford, Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1931

Paul Montford, Adam Lindsay Gordon, 1931

Charles Web Gilbert, Matthew Flinders Memorial, Melbourne

Charles Web Gilbert, Matthew Flinders Memorial, Melbourne

John Kelly, “Cow Up a Tree”, bonze, 1999, Docklands

John Kelly, “Cow Up a Tree”, bonze, 1999, Docklands


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