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Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

Political Junkies

“The trouble with Nixon is that he’s a serious politics junkie. He’s totally hooked and like any other junkie, he’s a bummer to have around, especially as President.” Hunter S. Thompson

The 2010 Australian federal election campaign is boring. Even the scandals, leaks, debate, stunts, party back fighting are obvious and insignificant – who cares? If this is the best that Australia can do in discussing the important issues then Australia has a major problem.

Van Rudd’s election campaign as art is a very technical exercise; there is nothing utopian, idealistic or humorous about it. Van Rudd is a serious political junkie, steeped in Marxism, even though he is rejecting “the careerist path into the parliamentary system”. The campaign will all be documented as part of his fine art Masters research at the University of Melbourne.

“The significance of this project will be its contribution to the ongoing art world debate regarding the conflation of art and life. Its innovation lies in its direct relationship to the reality of Australian and global politics, while demonstrating that art is on par with every aspect of living.” Van Rudd emailed me.

Making art on a par, an equivalent with every aspect of living is boring. Trying to make every aspect of living on a par with art is interesting, utopian and creative, even though it might not always work. Van Rudd has set the benchmark for art to be on par with life, too low. To be fair to Van Rudd a lot of contemporary art is dull and boring, on a par with the dullest parts of everyday life, but that is no reason to continue this trend.

I thought that covering Van Rudd’s campaign would add some interest to the federal election but his campaign is one of the dullest. Van Rudd’s campaign might be more interesting and effective if it were a prank like the Chaser’s Yes We Canberra on ABC. The Chaser is full of pranks, fun and humor but Van Rudd’s campaign isn’t a prank. You can do both. The Australian Sex Party’s campaign is serious, confronting serious issues like the Internet filter with sensible policies and ending the tax-exempt status for religions.  But they aren’t political junkies and Alexander Gutman (aka: Austen Tayshus whose comedy record, Australiana went to Number 1 in 1983) is their candidate for Warringah. Is there any difference between a serious campaign election and a prank?

Even the serious media is can’t keep a straight face in the election/joke. “Gillard and Abbott go gangbusters over gas-filled shark darts” (Mark Davis The Age July 29 2010) That will put more fear and loathing into the election campaign. I’m trying to bid for a gas filled shark dart now on Ebay at $495US. I’m on a political junk high and I’m channeling Hunter S. Thompson, the great geek of political journalism everywhere. Hell, I might as well – I was going to cover Van Rudd’s campaign as art but he has been dodging my questions. And I’m failing to understand why Van Rudd’s Marxism is focused on consciousness raising when according to Marx the material world needs to change before people’s minds. If running for office is “direct action”, as well as, art, it might simply be a political junkie trying to get another fix.

This is the second part of my examination of Van Rudd’s federal election campaign as art. See the 1st part: Van Rudd vs Julia Gillard. And for more art related election junk read Marcus Westbury (The Age August 9, 2010) on the arts vote in the seat of Melbourne.

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Van Rudd vs. Julia Gillard

In the upcoming federal election it is a Rudd vs Gillard contest for the seat of Lalor. Artist, Van Rudd is running for the Revolutionary Socialist Party against Julia Gillard, the current Prime Minister of Australia. But this is not simply a story of amusing names and a political sideshow – this is art. I am not a political pundit – I am an art critic interested in art with political content.

Van Rudd is the son of the Prime Minister’s older brother, Malcolm and a Vietnamese immigrant mother. He is an artist with a political focus to his work; he has never held public office. Julia Gillard, the incumbent has held the seat for the last 4 terms, since 1998 and won the last election by 31%.  Will she win a 5th mandate to represent the people of this seat in Melbourne’s west? It is hard to imagine that an artist could defeat her, even if he does have a familiar name and more humanitarian policies. Regardless of the differences in political weight between the two candidates, the poetry of politics makes this a perfect contest. Perfect for the name, the issues and the all important “underdog” status in Australian culture.

This work of art is viral, occurring in the minds imagining this political scenario, reading and seeing the news media. When I heard about his election campaign I started to exchange emails with Van Rudd as I intend to write a couple of blog entries about this art event. Van Rudd was keen to emphasis that running in the election is an art project inspired by Bueys, “ It is not a piss take,” Van told me.

Joseph Bueys is a good example of a politically engaged artist; he invented the name of the German “Green” party, which he co-founded in 1980. He also stood for political office as a Green Party candidate. Beuys created social sculpture, points of interaction that attempted to heal with the application of layers of theory, felt, metal and fat. (This mix of theory, felt and metal is rather like Wilhelm Reich’s orgone accumulator, a device that was also intended to heal.)

I’ve heard about Van Rudd’s art and politics before but I hadn’t seen any of it for myself. This is not the first time that Van Rudd has taken his art to the street and this is not the last time it involved politics. Van Rudd has been courting controversy for years and although the Australian media love an arts controversy they don’t like mixing art and politics. On Invasion Day/Australia Day (pick a side) of this year he and a friend were fined for “offensive behavior”, in what the Age newspaper described (26/1/10) as an “anti-racism stunt”. Both wearing white KKK outfits and placard the word “racism” and the Australian made logo outside Melbourne Park at the Australian Tennis Open. Van Rudd has also had a painting banned by the Melbourne City Council (but nobody noticed because it happened on the same day that the Bill Henson controversy broke). There is an article about it in Peril magazine.

I went to see Van Rudd’s ‘Used Car Part from Afghanistan’. It is on exhibition at Australia on Collins, (level 5 260 Collins St Melbourne) near the “Self Centered Day Spa”. It is part of the Spectrum Migrant Resource Center’s Creative Cultures Art Exhibition, a typical community exhibition in a shopping centre. Van Rudd’s installation stands apart from the paintings, woven baskets and drawings – it is a black rubber shard of a Goodyear car tire on a plinth with text in a silver frame above it. Now you might not believe that this is a piece of an Afghan civilian car destroyed by a NATO AGM-114 Hellfire Missile in the city of Kabul – but did you believe the politician’s reasons for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq?

I will be covering Van Rudd’s campaign as a work of art, a social sculpture with political comment, rather than a political campaign by an artist. This is just the foundations of a social sculpture; see part 2, Political Junkies.


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