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Tag Archives: Philip Brophy

Understanding Graffiti

Some graffiti writers have some strange ideas about who can understand, speak/write, or even properly appreciate the work. The claim that it is anathema for the uninitiated to ‘understand’; that is not only are their explanations wrong but damaging. Street art tours conducted by graffiti or street artists; would you expect all art gallery tours to be conducted by contemporary artists?

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R.A.D Grant points out “to claim that a belief can be ‘understood’ only by its believers is to use the term ‘understanding’ somewhat oddly, since understanding is normally thought to follow upon explanation rather than to be precluded or destroyed by it.” (A Companion to Aesthetics, ed. David Cooper, Blackwell, 1992 p.103).

However, the English word ‘understand’ means both to comprehend and to be sympathetic. Can only the empathetic comprehend? For it is empathy and not sympathy that is expected. It is about the magic of initiation and spirit. Part of this is a need to maintain control of what is considered ‘understanding’ in order to maintain their power.

‘Understanding’ is connected to notions the person being ‘true to the spirit’ as Philip Brophy explains in “What is this thing called ‘Disco’” (Art & Text 3, Spring 1981, p.64)

“To perform jazz, blues, rockabilly, soul, power pop, Middle-of-the-Road , etc., is to evoke a specific type of consciousness related to a specific set of meanings inherent to the act of performing the particular music style. There, a notion of ‘truthful’ performers and ‘false’ performers exists, establishing a productive difference between ‘artists’ and ‘charlatans’ – and, it is interesting to note that in the realm of popular culture, the institutions that we call the recording industry can profit from both the ‘artist’ and the ‘charlatan’.”

Likewise the graffiti writer is expected to ‘evoke a specific type of consciousness related to a specific set of meanings inherent to the act’ of doing graffiti.

Here is some old graffiti from Brunswick to look at.

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Seven Exhibitions

The weather was perfect for a bicycle ride to Melbourne University today; I had various reasons to go including having another look at the sculptures on campus for a future blog post. I also saw a couple of galleries on the campus, the George Paton Gallery and Ian Potter Museum of Art and on the way back I stopped in to have a look at Brunswick Arts Space.

I thought that I might give George Paton Gallery a miss because the exhibition “Make it New” was just a student union photography competition and exhibition but as I was passing by the Melbourne Student Union building I felt that this reason was snobbish. I was glad that I saw the exhibition, the variety and quality was impressive; I had seen some of the photographs before in other exhibitions.

Ian Potter Museum had three exhibitions: Heat in the eyes, Colour Me Dead and Under the Sun.

“Heat in the eyes: new acquisitions 2010–13” has more than fifty works recently acquired through purchase and donation. This included works by some familiar names: Jenny Watson, Mike Kelly and Peter Tyndall. Trevor Nickolls’ exuberant painting “Gertrude Street, Fitzroy” is definitely worth acquiring for so many reasons.

“Under the sun” is exhibition for the Kate Challis RAKA Award 2013 is an annual award for Indigenous creative artists. The $25,000 award winner is Mabel Juli for her minimal painting “Garnkeny Ngarranggarni (Moon Dreaming)”. The artists on exhibition are Teresa Baker, Daniel Boyd, Hector Burton, Timothy Cook, Mabel Juli, Kunmarnanya Mitchell, Alick Tipoti, Garawan Wanambi and Regina Wilson. I was taking note on the fibreglass resin masks by Alick Tipoti from the Torres Strait Islands, Hector Burton’s paintings of the trees around the waterhole with their fantastic colours, and the woven patterns in Garawan Wanambi (NT) paintings when my pen ran out of ink and so did my notes at this point.

Philip Brophy’s exhibition “Colour Me Dead” is about “changing perceptions of the nude in art from Neoclassicism and Romanticism”. It sounds more like an art history thesis than an art exhibition but Brophy has created an attractive and clever multi-media exhibition from his research. There is a movie, works on paper, digital art, sounds, lights and plenty to cogitate on. And here was I with out a functioning pen.

On my ride back I looked at the graffiti covered Upfield bike track (more research for future blog posts) and I stopped at Brunswick Arts Space. Where there were three good exhibitions. “I need a life, where can I download one? A drawing investigation by Alice Alva” fills two walls with drawings of debatable quality in a Barry McGee style hanging. Jess Kelly’s “Photosynthesis” has alchemical jars and life-size paper cut-outs of the lamppost growing leaves evoking a mysterious atmosphere. And Andy Robertson’s “Works, 2012” took a wry look at the documentation of contemporary art.


Sound Work

21:100:100 is an exhibition at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces of  “100 sound works by 100 artists from the 21st Century” curated by Alexie Glass, Emily Cormack, Marco Fusinato and Oren Ambarchi. The opening of the exhibition on the first hot Saturday night of the summer was well attended. And unlike other gallery openings where talking and drinking are the main priority there was a lot attention paid to the art. Most of the crowd was listening to the works on the 100 headphones.

But why was this exhibition on at a “contemporary art space” rather than a music venue? When John Cage raised the consciousness of music composition from theory to philosophy by asking not how to compose music but what is music? Music became part of contemporary art.

This is does not describes the music that sprang from asking the question – what is music. 21:100:100 is an excellent survey of the range of musical directions in contemporary art that have developed since John Cage expanded our understanding of music. 21:100:100 includes works that range from hi-tech to lo-fi. From pure electronic, to samples, to ambient soundscapes. Music from arty rock bands like Chicks on Speed and Sonic Youth. From extreme music genres like ‘sludge metal”, “free jazz” and “free folk”. Music played on unique and invented instruments, like 50 foot long wires or glass harmoniums. Music from performance art, including the soundtrack from Christian Marclay. 2000, 14 minute video, “Guitar Drag but the video is much better. From around the world the curators have not left an acoustic record unturned to put together this out-standing exhibition.

100 didactic panels along with the 100 headphones were carefully arranged the ultraviolet lit gallery space. The didactic panels were all clear and well written – a major achievement in itself for the curators.

Although the exhibition title says “artists from the 21st Century” this does include artists, like Melbourne’s Philip Brophy or the American industrial musician Z’ev, who were making music long before the 21st Century. Brophy’s “Fluorescent” is one of the most pop, fun and catchy pieces in the exhibition.

While writing this review I was listing to X-X section (Extreme XCD 010) Various Artists on the Extreme label. At least one of these artists on this compilation, Merzbow, was in the exhibition but there could have been more. Extreme is a Melbourne label that distributes many extreme musicians.


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