Category Archives: Culture Notes

Justice Repeatedly Delayed

When Paul Yore mention hearing was scheduled for courtroom 1 of Melbourne Magistrates Court I had some hope that the case might progress. Courtroom 1 is the courtroom where they hold the mention hearings for the big cases; the murders, the baby killers and MP Craig Thomson’s corruption accusations.

Looking at the court lists on the ground floor of the Magistrates Court I was disappointed to see that it had been moved to Courtroom 11. Again there were a few journalists in Courtroom 11 from before 11 am and, again there was no sign of Paul Yore or the Informant, Snr. Cons. S. Johnson of Victoria Police. There was a notice on the door of courtroom 11 that impenetrably said that “SOL cases” had been moved to courtroom 12. By the time that the AAP journalist and myself found out what “SOL cases” meant the Paul Yore hearing had been adjourned again until the 14th of February.

Last year on the 25th of November there was meant to be a mention hearing for Paul Yore in the Melbourne Magistrates Court but the case was adjourned. See my post: Justice Delayed.

The whole absurd case is a waste of time and is just creating further delays in Victoria’s justice system, as if there isn’t enough delays in Victoria’s justice system already. Victoria’s Magistrates Courts have the largest backlog of cases of any jurisdiction in Australia; according the annual report of the Victorian Magistrates Court 8.7% of cases pending for more than 12 months. (Annual Report 2011-12 p.91)

Scroll down the page for the inevitable comment from the troll that started this legal waste of time, Adrian Jackson.

Persons of Interest

Persons of Interest was a series of blog posts about artists, writers and thinkers who have had an impact on me at some time in my life and have continued to have an impact. I wanted to write a personal history of art, telling it from my own view, to examine how the art and biographical details have influenced my own critical judgements. It was not an easy process and the posts did not attract many readers; maybe it was too self-indulgent or my choose of persons too obvious. Maybe, the posts didn’t come with enough images; anyway, I don’t think that I will continue it.

Who to include and who to leave out? This is always the question in making such lists. Influences come and go in waves of interest by the public and at various times in your life you get caught up in that wave of general interest. As a kid I must have been reading Robert Hughes in Time Magazine as my parents subscribed to it but I wouldn’t want to count Hughes as an influence or a person of interest. I played on synthesisers and so I was interested in Brian Eno. I am not claiming that I am major fan of Eno but Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World has been on high rotation for decades.

Here are all my Persons of Interests posts. They were written roughly in the order that they started to influence me.

Jan #1 – Desmond Morris

Feb #2 – Andy Warhol

March #3 – Salvador Dali

April #4 – Marcel Duchamp

May #5 – Laurie Anderson

July #6 – Various, Notes from the Pop Underground 

July #7 – Keith Haring

August #8 – William Burroughs

September #9 – Philosophers

December #10  – Hunter S. Thompson

It is not surprising that I am interested in influences when the subject of my thesis was the influence of Max Stirner’s philosophy on Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. I started reading Max Stirner because of one remark by Marcel Duchamp but as I was investigating his relationship to philosophy, both the influence on and the influence of, I felt I had to read him.

“When he (Duchamp) was asked later in life to identify a specific philosopher or philosophical theory that was of specific significance to his work, he cited Stirner’s  only major book – Der Einzige und sein Eignetum…” (Francis M. Naumann “Marcel Duchamp: A Reconciliation of Opposites”  p.29)


I’ll be Watching You

I went to see Spectacle – the music video exhibition at ACMI (Australian Centre For the Moving Image) with my friend, Sean Doyle, ACMI’s Macintosh Systems Administrator. Sean kindly invited me to an ACMI staff family and friends viewing of the exhibition. We saw the exhibition and had a beer at Optic while wait for Jane Routley who was still watching the music videos (she was in there for two and a half hours). There were so many familiar videos bringing back so many memories. There are so many videos in the exhibition that it would take days to cycle through them all.

Music videos are like Wagner’s dream of a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, a total art experience uniting the visual with the audio. Wagner was right it is “The Artwork of the Future” but not in the way he would have wanted it to be; Wagner would not have wanted the pointless luxury that the spectacle of music videos offers. Wagner may not have wanted his MTV but there is a lot to appreciate in music videos. At their best many overlapping with video art or experimental movies and at the worst slick advertising productions – and all in under four minutes (compared to the hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle).

Why go to the exhibition when I could sit on the couch on a Friday or Saturday night and watch Rage? With the right host selecting the videos Rage can be almost good as the selection of videos at Spectacle. This is a problem that all popular arts exhibitions face when the work is shown outside of the popular context.

The exhibition does puts music videos in a historical context; you will be surprised at the age of the phrase “music video”. I did get a laugh from the literal videos; videos with the lyrics rewritten to describe, literally what is happening in the video. (Check out “literal videos” on YouTube.) But a book or a documentary could have done that.

It is a beautifully presented exhibition and there is more to do that put on headphone and watch videos at Spectacle. It has a few works from the bleeding edge of music videos, including some interactive music videos, crowdsourced music videos and a stereoscopic music video from Björk. Sean told me about the work that he had to do on the Johnny Cash Project of crowd sourced animation. It is originally a webpage and Sean was tweaking the code for that to make it function for the exhibition.

Although my music collection ranges from Gary Numan to bhangra want I’m really into is the intersection between art and music. This is well represented in Spectacle, with bands like the Residents or EBM because curators, like critics, love that intersection. Rage doesn’t tend to play videos by the Residents or EBM and one of the Resident’s giant eyeball masks is at the exhibition. Why didn’t it have something from Severed Heads?

There isn’t much memorabilia and preparatory material in the exhibition, things that you can see first hand at an exhibition. Along with the giant eyeball, there is a small case of Countdown material, some animation cells including some for Ah Ha’s “Take On Me” and some storyboards for videos.


Persons of Interest – Hunter S. Thompson

I didn’t want to write about Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005) even though he has been an influence on my journalism and my life. Another lifetime ago I went to my interview for a journalism cadetship with his book Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas my briefcase; it was not a good omen. I used to read a lot of Hunter, I even went through back issues of Rolling Stone Magazine looking for original articles, in the stacks of Monash University Library. It was a great educational experience.

However by early 90s I was getting tired of the Hunter S. Thompson show. I didn’t want to write about him because I don’t like him that much anymore and didn’t want to acknowledge him as an influence. I was definitely tired of Thompson, the sports writer and drunk macho man because I’m not into sports, guns or machismo. Maybe it was reading Ralph Steadman’s book on Thompson, The Joke is Over that summed it up and then Thompson shot himself.

I didn’t want to read Hunter S. Thompson: An Insider’s View of Deranged, Depraved, Drugged Out Brilliance by Jay Cowan (Lyons Press, 2009) a book about Thompson written by Thompson’s residence, Owl Farm’s former caretaker and handyman but Catherine had given it to me. (Think Doonesbury: would you want to read book written about Raoul Duke written by Zeke?) So I put the book aside for a few years before shoving the book in my satchel planning to read it on public transport. Actually I’m surprised that I even started it after my experiences with Seven Years With Banksy. Actually the book is well written (so forget that Doonesbury image of it being written by Zeke) and has allowed me to unravel the twisted tale and make some sense of the life of Hunter S. Thompson. Cowan’s biography is not a kiss and tell exploitation book but it does tell all about Thompson’s sex, drugs, lawyers, guns and money. Cowan doesn’t just report his experience with Thompson he has done his research and sorted out the facts.  In the final chapter Cowan writes about Thompson’s suicide in 2005, his two memorial services and the start of his legacy. Cowan works carefully up to and around Thompson’s death and I’m glad that he did because I didn’t want to wade through all the gibble written at the time.

Sometimes when I’m writing this blog Thompson’s words of wisdom come back to me. I appreciate that Thompson dealt with some serious issues in journalism, especially in his Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail. Gonzo journalism is more than drugs, guns and lawyers, it is more that just trying unsuccessfully to imitate Thompson. It is the knowledge that you can not be unbiased on some issues, that it is realistic to not remove the participant/observer from the report and ethical to acknowledge the bias and involvement of the reporter. Thompson was a real journalist, the man could write, and I have to admit it, confess it to this keyboard and in front of this congregation of readers that Hunter S. Thompson has been a major influence on my life.

Yes, I share a middle initial with the man, like Hunter S. Thompson, T.S. Eliot and William S. Burroughs – I am Mark S. Holsworth. Yes, I wanted to be that “hired geek”, hitting the keyboard in a quest to report the facts in a way that would do some good in the world. Yes.

Welcome Refugees

On the 7 December 2013 in a co-ordinated effort the Refugee Action Collective (Vic) are attempting a mass action “to shower the streets of Melbourne with messages of welcome.”

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Leaving your country is never easy and even people facing persecution do not take the move lightly. Refugees need to be welcomed, protected and helped; this is the basic standard of a civilised person. Any civilised, rational or moral human would welcome and protect a person fleeing persecution or death, it is an ancient tradition now codified in international law. Australia’s treatment of refugees is a crime against humanity perpetrated by a rogue state backed by a racist mob. Amnesty International reports that: “The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Australia to be in breach of its obligations under international law, committing 143 human rights violations by indefinitely detaining 46 refugees for four years, on the basis of ASIO’s ‘adverse security assessments’.”

Not that I think that any propaganda campaign of posters, fridge magnets and rallies can change the minds of the amoral psychopaths that dictate Australia’s crimes against refugees. I doubt that it will be any more effective than my rhetoric.

The Refugee Action Collective (Vic) was mildly calling for civil disobedience in encouraging people to “sticker, chalk your neighbourhood”. For yes, even writing in chalk is technically illegal in Melbourne; not that I’ve ever heard of anyone being arrested for it, not that the three police at the demonstration were making any attempt to stop people writing in chalk in front of the State Library. Not that many people were writing in chalk on Saturday morning.

Christmas Island Just Visiting

Dignity 4 asylum Seekers

Melbourne’s street artists have been putting out the welcome refugees and showering the streets with more witty about Australia’s treatment messages for years. Of particular note, is Phoenix who has made the map of Australia into a welcome mat in a long running series of paste-ups. Phoenix sums up the both major parties position on refugees with the phrase: “We scare because we care”, a phrase that started with his paste-ups about the ‘War on Terror’. Phoenix is not directly involved with the Refugee Action Collective but his has donated some of his art to their fundraising auction. He is not a single-issue street artist and has been sticking his political art to Melbourne’s walls for years.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

This sustained campaigns of illegal posters and stencils creates signs that the federal government and the opposition does not represent all Australians on this issue and is not in complete control of the territory it claims. Even though it was buffed with in 24 hours I’m sure that my local member, Kelvin Thomson got the message when the external wall of his office in Coburg was recently covered in anarchist graffiti.

Kitchen Status

Visitors to a private house in Melbourne are frequently shown into the kitchen to socialise. If they are in my house there is a combined kitchen and dinning room and is designed to socialise in. A century ago visitors would not have been shown the kitchen then kitchens were small narrow rooms near the back of the house with only space for one or two people in them at the most. Kitchens in a social and cultural context have changed, a complete reversal of status in the house.

Finishing up on my 2006 kitchen renovation

Finishing up on my 2006 kitchen renovation

Socialising in the kitchen allows the hosts to conveniently serve food and drink to guests and family without leaving the room. They are the entertainment hub in Melbourne’s homes from the wealthy to the poor; except where the old house designs do not allow for socialising in the kitchens.

Houses are the form of lifestyles, their architecture defines the way that we live. The architecture of rooms and their use in a house contains information about social hierarchies, taboos and other information about the way of life of its inhabitants.

My kitchen fills half of a large room that also functions as a dinning room and a central intersection of the house. It is the first room after the hallway that a guest usually enters. This combination makes the process of serving food at dinner parties so much easier. I can get up from the table and within a few steps reach the stove, fridge or anything else I need.

The change in the status of kitchens in our culture is a kind of parallel to the change in the status and social role of women. It is also an indication of social equality both in the greater society, in that kitchen staff are no longer commonly affordable, and in the family where the wife is no longer her husband’s servant. My wife and I share the cooking, I probably do slightly more. I’ve been a kitchen hand and I often help when my wife is cooking by cutting up onions or preparing other vegetables.

This change in the status of kitchens has also lead to a change in the way that food is enjoyed and the kinds of food enjoyed. Food preparation may involve designer utensils or novelty kitchen gadgets. Food is a chance to explore the variety of things to eat – fish sauce, Canadian maple syrup and Spanish olive oil can all be found in my kitchen.

In 2006 I built my own kitchen, screwing it together from a flat pack kit. I’m kind of proud of the biggest DIY job that I’ve ever done. Most Australians get professionals to do their kitchens and the kitchen in a Melbourne houses is one of the most expensive rooms. Mine has an island bench, the transition point between food preparation and consumption; most of the plates, bowls and cutlery are stored under the island bench. There is a great flow from the pantry and fridge, through to the cooking area and the finally the cleaning area and waste disposal, sink, dishwasher, and bins. There are three bins: one for compost, one for recycling and one for non-recycling. Then there is the area that where I feed the cat; it has a mat of newspaper because she likes to eat with her paws, dragging her food out of her bowl.

My kitchen is sparsely decorated. There are a couple of vases for flowers and a couple of my paintings on the dinning room side of my kitchen. The fridge is an odd centrepiece to one wall of the kitchen and acts as a kind of noticeboard and place for souvenir magnets. In the 1911 Marcel Duchamp made a small painting for the kitchen of his brother Raymond’s house, “Coffee Grinder”. “It’s normal today to have paintings in your kitchen but at that time it was rather unusual.” Duchamp said, noting the status change in kitchens.

Leaving the ‘70s

It is hard to express how dull the centre of Melbourne was in the 1970s and 80s. In the 1970s the Melbourne’s CBD was bleak and busy but only 9 to 5, after hours and on the weekends it was deserted. It was like John Brack’s painting, Collins Street at 5pm only with updated fashions. Then in the mid-1970s the property boom collapsed and this lead into the recession of the early 1980s where unemployment was over 10% for the first time since the Great Depression. As manufacturing declined people were leaving the state. Along with the economic decline came a physical decay of the city: abandoned factories, empty warehouses and neglected infrastructure.

Charles Web Gilbert, Matthew Flinders Memorial, Melbourne

Charles Web Gilbert, Matthew Flinders Memorial, Melbourne

The centre and inner suburbs were in trouble as people were abandoning them. Almost nobody lived in centre of Melbourne, the population had moved to the suburbs followed by the supermarkets, department stores and shopping malls and that threatened retail in the city centre.

Culturally Melbourne was a post-colonial backwater near the end of the earth. There was no art gallery scene, a few theatres and music venues. All there were was a lot of pubs, another fading relic of the gold rush a century before. Melbourne’s music scene took advantage of the surplus of pubs, leading to the Little Band scene and Melbourne’s artists found cheap spaces for studio.

Meanwhile successive state governments since the 1970s planning how to change the city from a post-industrial ghost town into a spectacle and event orientated city. A city that hosted major cultural events, festivals and other spectacles that would attract interstate and international tourists reviving the central city with hospitality and retail. It was not going to be an easy task. Melbourne did not have a signature building or a landmark, aside from the Yarra River. In 1979 there was a 1979 ‘Landmark Competition’ for Melbourne but nothing came of it. Melbourne would have to redevelop key inner city precincts, changing the city section by section. This is why the battle over Vault in the new Melbourne City Square was such an important battle.

Melbourne’s City Square marked the start of a redevelopment of the 19th century inner city. Originally no city in Victoria was designed with a civic square because the then Governor George Gipps didn’t like them believing that they encourage democracy. They certainly inhibited land sale revenue. Debate about the lack of a city square in Melbourne had started by the 1850s but nothing had been done because of cost and the fear of providing a gathering place for protesters. The idea of square was revived in the 1920s as part of civic beautification and a number of sites proposed but as the centre of the city had been completely built construction of the square would require demolition.  Finally in 1961, lead by Lord Mayor Sir Bernard Evans, who was a notable architect, the Melbourne City Council settled on a site. By 1968 the council had acquired all the properties and by 1974 they had all been demolished.

Melbourne City Square was only built when democracy was no longer seen as a threat by the government. Actually democracy was still seen as a threat, the City Square became a centre for demonstrations, including the Occupy Movement in 2011. It also quickly became the one of the original hang-out places for Melbourne’s emerging hip-hop scene attracted by the graffiti wall that was part of the original design and a record store.

Nick Ilton, Suggestion Box, Melbourne

Nick Ilton, Suggestion Box, Melbourne

Meanwhile, Melbourne’s inner city suburbs were facing their own battle to survive in a post-industrial city. They needed to reinvent their identity on a far more limited budget; artists and other culture workers became the storm trooper for real estate, establishing toe-holds in the inner city suburbs. The infusion of ‘trendy’ culture helped drive up retail rental on the shopping strips and real estate prices.

Melbourne is now an international cultural centre and tourist destination. It has an almost complete calendar of festivals and major cultural events. The city is full of spectacles including temporary sculptures and an endlessly changing display of graffiti and street art. If you think that current circus of a city is bad then consider the alternative, that Melbourne would have become Australia’s Detroit.


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