Daily Archives: December 6, 2008

In the Post

“Every day is like Monday now.” Terry, the postman told me in the first week of December. And adding to the increasing load of mail was Brunswick Arts Space’s exhibition, fund raising and mail art project, Going Postal.

The artists have donated the work to the exhibition and a silent auction is running throughout the exhibition. Fund raising auctions are a common way that Melbourne artist run initiatives (ARI) get sufficient money to keep going, as they have no sponsors or government grants.

The art, artist’s letter (often with instruction on how to assemble of hang the art) and envelope, postal tube, cardboard carton or other packaging was all displayed. This system of exhibiting gave coherence to an otherwise disparate exhibition of drawings, collages, CDs, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, postcards and other things sent to Brunswick Arts by post. There was no selection and what ever was posted was exhibited under whatever name the artist choose; this included an invite to participate in a group exhibition in Portugal. The exhibition brought out the jokers along with the usual ARI artists, like Anne Kucers of Trocadero Art Space or Alistair Karl of Brunswick Arts Space.

Mail art was a big underground art movement back in the 1970s, before snail mail was overtaken by email. One of the aims of Mail Art was to provide an alternative to gallery art, so it is odd that it has now returned to galleries. This did not stop Mail Artists like Ryosuke Cohen from Japan in participating. There was also a Fluxus found sound 7” single from Keith A Bucholz in the USA; Fluxus used the postal system like no other art movement since Dada and the subsequent Mail Art movement was influenced by Fluxus attitudes.

The heaviest work posted must have been Liz Walker’s postcard made of found steel-plate. With postcards like these small wonder postmen are complaining.

Colour Wii World

De Blob is a Wii game designed by Melbourne game design company Bluetounge. 

De Blob (no relation to the horror film) is an animated blob of paint that leaves a coloured trail where-ever it goes. De Blob is a round resistance fighter trying to save Chroma City from the Inky fascists invaders who have turned everything grey. However, this is an artist-based revolution and there is very low stress cartoon violence. The style of the cartoon world is a mix of Dr. Seuss and 60s retro.

The objective of the game is to repaint the city, not just one colour, but in a patterned aerosol style. This is one indication that the game has been inspired by Melbourne style aerosol street art as seen in Hosier Lane that aspires to a total building coverage rather than individual pieces. There are different styles of art to collect as you play through the multiple levels of this sandbox. These styles are very familiar and appear to be tributes to various Melbourne street artists’ styles.

Game play includes aspects like mixing primary colours to get the right colour for a particular project, painting buildings in specific colours and shaking up tins of paint. As buildings are liberated from the grey Inky forces citizens come out to celebrate and dance in the street. The music subtly builds as each level is painted.

It is a fun game because De Blob is always doing things, repainting buildings and leaving trails of arrows and paint. This makes the game fun for both novices and experienced gamers.

Along with promoting street art as a liberating and fun experience for all the city’s citizens. The game is redolent with other attitudes from Melbourne’s street culture: it is against billboard advertising and supports green city spaces and public transport.

De Blob is just one example; there are pro-street art or anti-graffiti influences in all manner of contemporary cultural artefacts from children’s books to Wii games.

Neo Pop

“From afar, these things, these Movements take on a kind of appeal they don’t have close up. I can assure you. But, after all, I’m beginning to get used to the –isms.” 6 July, 1921 Marcel Duchamp


Art movements may be a kind of fiction, an attempt by art critics and historians to tell a story by creating categories that do not exist in reality, e.g. the baroque. Some clever post-Hegelian artists and poets consciously create their own art movements, e.g. Surrealism. Furthering a fiction by consciously creating ‘real’ examples is playful and creative but not a proof that the original fictional is true. Just as speaking Elvish or Klingon is not a proof of elves or Klingons.

Critics want an art movement to have a start and finish date, presenting a distinct section in the archeological dig through old art. The idea that the contemporary art world might simply be continuing past movements is anathema to the idea of progressive art. Pop art is an art movement started in the second half of last century and it seems to be continuing.

Neo-Pop at the John Buckley Gallery could be seen as demonstrating this continuing movement or a curatorial band to tie the work of disparate artists. The exhibition features art by Howard Arkley,
Rae Bolotin,
Marcel Cousins,
Janenne Eaton,
Kate Just,
Christopher Langton,
Nick Mangan,
Scott Redford,
Stuart Ringholt,
Carl Scrase (see my review: Only Rock’n’Roll)
, David Wadelton (see my review: Spin, Persephone, Homepage & Emu Feathers), 
Glenn Walls
and others. Some of these artists create works of capitalist realism like, others are jokers, and others are creating sculptures with pop rhythms and colors.  Or sculptures out of contemporary readymade materials, like Carl Scrase.

The artists in Neo-Pop are clearly influenced with the art of the 1960s but the art of the 1960s was not a unified, homogeneous whole but diverse variety. Pop is a difficult concept to define; just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? Even though it is difficult to define and may not exist, Pop Art is something that I like. It is a term that refers to art that is fun and appealing, even apparently superficial, but also a mirror on consumer culture. I knew what to expect from the Neo-Pop exhibition because of the term ‘pop’ and it exceeded these expectations. 

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