Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Plural of Moose

Moose, spiders, giant cane toads, monsters, fantastic fun, unbelievable, strange and beautiful. All of these feature In Your Dreams, the current exhibition at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. Curated by Edwina Bartlem and Victor Griss the exhibition is intended “to spark the imagination of children and the young-at-heart”.

I went to see the exhibition with a person who wished to be described as “boy (aged 11)” and his parents, who are old friends of mine. I wanted to know get a child’s opinion of it because of this curatorial intention and also to get a fresh perspective on  the work from artists that I have enjoyed for years.

The boy aged 11, divided the exhibition into the cool, the good and the alright. In his opinion Kate Rohde’s work was “really cool”, especially Tarantula. Here the boy aged 11 proved articulate, as well as, observant, pointing out the glitter covered bird skeleton and taking about South American bird eating spiders.

Mark playing Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine, You We're in My Dreams, 2010

Mark playing Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine, You We’re in My Dreams, 2010

Words were not needed to express his appreciation of Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine’s You We’re in My Dreams 2010 – the boy aged 11 was fully engaged with it. The stop-motion interactive installation puts the face of the player onto the screen making it entertaining to watch and play. The boy aged 11 played on this as his father and I made our way around the gallery again and then waited, reminding him that, there were other people waiting to have a go (me).

Daniel Dorall model, Game and William Eicholtz’s sculpture, retelling the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Princess and the Pea with lamb princess covered in oak leaves and fake gems, both received the honourable mentions of “pretty good” and “good” from the boy aged 11. I’d have to agree with him about that but use different words and I prefer Eicholtz’s other sculpture in the exhibition, Courage, for its beautiful movement, complex meaning, especially for the glowing red rocks.

I was disappointed that the boy aged 11 didn’t have any comment about Sharon West, photographs and dioramas and how they relate to Australian identity (see my previous posts). I thought that her Cook encounters a very large can toad is hysterically funny. Personally I was also glad to see Steaphan Paton’s Urban Doolagahl again, this time in a gallery after seeing them on the street (see my previous post) and to hear some Dylan Martorell, ambient audio track in the gallery.

In answer to my interest in how the exhibition worked for children, the boy aged 11, declared that it was suitable for children aged 7 or older because of the ideas and level of abstract thought required. I asked him about this because there is very little of what could be described as juvenile in the exhibition, it is not a word that comes to mind when I think of the work of any of these artists.

The exhibition raises questions what is the difference between children’s taste and adult tastes? Some tastes (camp, over the top, psychedelic) require experience (yes, Mr. Hendrix, I am) to fully appreciate but that doesn’t exclude children from enjoying them. It was great to see the psychedelic landscapes of Kate Shaw and Stephen Bush in the exhibition. The weird and the wonderful are strange attractors in chaos of different tastes and they can be read in many different ways depending on the experience of the viewer and how the viewer thinks that others will react.

After leaving the boy aged 11 expressed disappointment that there wasn’t more of the exhibition. I felt that way too, all of the artists in this exhibition have been making really fun art for years and I still want to see more of their work.


Against Naive Idealism

Or, why contemporary artists need to study philosophers, such as Foucault. (Yes, this is blog post is written specifically for my most recent subscriber – yes, I do look at your blog when you subscribe – but I know that there are other readers who should think about this.)

There are people who naively think that things are predefined and that a knowledge of English (or whatever language) is sufficient to know what the word means. That the meaning of words is inductively learnt as a child. For example, that they know what ‘art’ is because they speak English. This creates a world where the idea of words exist outside of people’s minds, in which there are true and false things according to how they fit with a predefined definition.

These people have been encouraged to think this way from an early age by conservatives because it helps them to hold onto power. They are told that things are the way that they are and that any attempt to understand why is futile sophistry. They are encouraged to be idealists and Socrates’s story of the cave is endlessly repeated as if Parmenides had never rebutted Socratic idealism. This is for the benefit of conservatives because it discourages any examination that might reduce their power.

The definition of the word ‘art’, like other words (‘men’, ‘women’, ‘marriage’ etc.), is not fixed. Definitions are mutable; the word ‘art’ has changed meaning several times in the last few centuries and will continue to change as society changes. By examining how the words are used and defined the political structure of society can be understood. This is why reading Foucault (or Chomsky or other philosophers) is important; or if you are conservative, why you should dismiss them without examination.

If it is impossible to change the meaning of the word ‘art’ then if you want to be a popular artist then you should make images of girls with big tits (see my post Sexy Girls, Girls, Girls) and refuse to believe that these images have anything to do with the position of women in society. If you want to be a wealthy artist then make images that supports and flatters those in power and refuse to believe that they could do anything wrong. If the meaning of the word ‘art’ cannot change then why do you think that your art can change anything?


Keep Hosier Real

Approximately 2000 people visit Hosier Lane every weekend, even on a cold, rainy Sunday in May. On this particular cold, rainy Sunday there were more than the usual number of people in Hosier Lane. People had to squeeze through the crowd that had gathered to rally in protest at a proposed multi-story hotel development in the aerosol paint covered lane.

Bride keeping Hosier Real

If you think that the lesson of the story about the goose that laid the golden egg couldn’t be more obvious, then you are seriously under-estimate the capacity of humans to be both greedy and stupid. The current proposed redevelopment of the old MTC/Chinese theatre site on Russell Street, that backs onto Hosier Lane into a multi-story hotel is not just an inappropriate development, it is a greedy and stupid.

Inner city Melbourne’s rejuvenation, the result of decades of planning, creating an event and spectacle based city brings people into the city. This in turn created a market for restaurants, shops and hotels – hotels, that would include the proposed multi story development.

Now a reasonable person would think that it would be in the interest of a development next to one of Melbourne’s major tourist attractions to be designed appropriately for its location but this would, again, under-estimate the capacity of humans to be both stupid and greedy.

I am not against development; I am not like Jeff Sparrow in Radical Melbourne moaning that the Melbourne’s Communist Party Headquarters, at 3 Hosier Lane from 1936 to 1939, is now occupied by a restaurant. What is needed is development that is appropriate to the location, that doesn’t simply occupy the space, that doesn’t simply take things away from the place without giving something back to the area.

Professor Roz Hansen, chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee for the Melbourne Metropolitan Strategy points that the development doesn’t just threaten the tourist value the street art and graffiti in Hosier Lane it also threatens to overshadow the ‘Winter Garden’ in Federation Square.

This new development will also impact on the Babylonian-revival style Forum Theatre – the proposal admits it has no plans regarding the known vibrations from this live music venue. No doubt after it is constructed they will make a complaint and attempt to shut down the venue?

This is not to forget that Hosier Lane is distinctly different to the designed attraction of Federation Square or even the heritage listing of the Forum Theatre. The development also threatens services to the homeless that are provided by the Livingroom and Youth Projects in Hosier Lane. As well as, the pedestrian zone that the lane way has become.

Adam Bandt Keep Hosier Real

Describing these developers as “the real vandals” as Adam Bandt, Federal Member for Melbourne, did at the rally today is being too poetic and too kind. Perhaps I am being too kind in simply describing them as stupid and greedy.

There is an online petition and it is interesting to see that people are signing it from Brazil, Croatia, India, Italy and the USA, indicating that this is not simply a local issue.


Inge King – Retrospective @ NGV

Without a doubt Inge King is Melbourne’s most important sculptor of the second half of the twentieth century. Her importance comes from being amongst the first modern sculptors in Melbourne, her many public sculptures and her long life.

Inge King, Sun Ribbon 1980-82

Inge King, Sun Ribbon 1980-82

Inge King Constellation is a retrospective exhibition at the NGV Ian Potter Centre (Fed Square). In giving an overview of her life’s work the exhibition shows the point where King found her style and then how it developed. Her early works resembles various European modern sculptors: Jan Arp, Juan Miro, Henry Moore, along with a bit of Alexander Calder.

Sculpture was, until the 20th century, made from raw materials, clay, stone, wood, metal; then came assemblage, a particularly modern method because it requires previously manufactured materials to assemble. In 1959 King acquired and learnt to use an arc welder; it was with the welded assemblage of steel plates that she found her style. It was a style that was perfect for public sculpture. A field guide to recognising a King’s public sculpture would probably note they are assemblages of metal and mostly painted black.

King’s public sculptures are very familiar to many people in Melbourne. Her sculptures are across the city from Melbourne University, the Arts Centre to EastLink. Students and graduates of Melbourne University would be familiar with King Sun Ribbon (1970).

Inge King, Forward Surge 1972-74

Inge King, Forward Surge 1972-74

Forward Surge (1972-74 installed in 1981) fits perfectly into the curved architecture of the Arts Centre Melbourne and Hamer Hall, turning the horizontal curves of the buildings vertical. The curves delight small children who try to climb them only to have to slide back down when the curve becomes to steep. King remarks in a video interview that although she understands why the council wants to stop skateboarders using Forward Surge, because they have to repaint it, she is glad that skateboarders do use it.

As a member of the Centre 5 group King wanted to reunited modern sculpture with architecture. Her Red Rings (2008), located at the junction of the EastLink pedestrian and bike trail and the Dandenong Creek trail, are three steel rings painted red. The human scale of the Red Rings, 2.5 metres in diameter allows for people to move through them.

The NGV’s exhibition has many of the maquettes, at various scales, for these public sculptures. There is the maquette for the bird form, Sheerwater (1994) in front of the Esso building on Southbank.

Inge King, Sheerwater, 1994

Inge King, Sheerwater, 1994

The exhibition gives further insight into King’s interest in reuniting sculpture with architecture, one of the five objectives of the Centre 5 group that King was involved with. Her sculptures can be walls, screens and arches but they can also relate to architecture by projecting from walls or, made of aluminium instead of steal, hanging from the ceiling.

King’s arrival in Melbourne in 1951 marks the beginning of modern Melbourne; the beginning of an international outlook aware of Europe and the USA rather than provincial colonial view. King said that when she arrived Melbourne was “like opening a can of flat beer”. It was the arrival of post-war immigrants that saved Melbourne’s culture and made this contemporary, artistic city.

There was no interest in modern sculpture in Melbourne when King arrived and to make a living she turned to jewellery making. The exhibition includes two vitrines of her boldly modern jewellery; vambrace style bracelets set with opals, necklaces and rings with geometric elegance that can be seen in her most recent sculptures.

Given Inge King’s importance in the history of Australian art it is a shame that this exhibition was so disjointed. The exhibition is located in the large foyers of each floor of Ian Potter Centre, extending a bit into a gallery on the second floor and on the landings of stairs. Starting on the third floor with her earliest work, her classic black sculptures are on the second floor and her most recent work in stainless steel on the ground floor. Extending into the gallery space on the second floor allows the curator to include a mini-retrospective of King’s husband, Grahame King, a notable print maker.


%d bloggers like this: