Tag Archives: Mike Brown

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.


Like Mike

The exhibition, “Like Mike” pays homage to Australian artist Mike Brown (1938 – 1997) and looks at his diverse influence on other local artists. The National Gallery of Victoria had a Mike Brown retrospective in 1995 but a retrospective can only look back but an artist like Mike Brown also has an impact on the future. “Like Mike” is more of a prospective exhibition. And given the variety of art that Mike Brown created it needs to be a diverse exhibition.

It is a very ambitious exhibition that spreads across five Melbourne galleries: Neon Parc, Sarah Scout, Utopian Stumps, Charles Nordrum Galleries and the Linden Centre of Contemporary Art. And features the work of 33 emerging and established artists along with some work by Mike Brown.

The overall curator for this massive exhibition is Geoff Newton. I asked Newton why Mike Brown? “The practice has so much going for it in freedom of expression,” he replied. Newton is an incisive critic of his own work pointing out the holes in the exhibition. There is no graffiti, a major omission when Mike Brown was painting the walls of Fitzroy long before the current generation of street artists. And there are no indigenous artists represented.

The 100 page catalogue is an extensive work in itself, featuring images from the artists involved in the exhibition along with a bit of text. Geoff Newton said that he wanted the catalogue to be image heavy unlike the book by art historian Richard Haese, Permanent Revolution: Mike Brown and the Australian Avant-Garde 1953-1997, (Miegunyah Press, 2011)

I saw some of the exhibition Neon Parc, Sarah Scout and Utopian Stumps. I was unable to see the Linden Centre of Contemporary Art because they had shut their doors without explanation after the police raid on Saturday 1st of June (see my post Police Raid Gallery).

Neon Parc has an all women show, giving a feminine perspective on Mike Brown’s influence, with an intense hanging of 30+ works in the small gallery.

The exhibition at Sarah Scout looks at the body and references to pornography. It features familiar work by Pat and Richard Larter and, for me, the unfamiliar work of Claire Lambe and Nell.

Utopian Stumps takes on Mike Brown’s interest in abstraction. I particularly enjoyed seeing the work of John Nixon in this context.

These exhibitions provided both a deeper understanding of Mike Brown’s work and his current influence in Australian art. Ireverant, irritating and diverse… like Mike.


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