Dec 24, 2008

Daylesford September 2008

Backdated photos from a daytrip to Daylesford. My favourites are the ones from the insane (read insanely disorganised and insanely awesome) antique shops.

Dec 18, 2008

Take that, Mr Hirst

"Art is Boring"

By Polish-based graffitti artist Peter Fuss. I like how the greys and blacks fit in to the bleakness of the industial Polish landscape, and the way the people photographed around the works seem not to notice them at all. Does a bleak life and/or environment condition you not to respond to art, or is it just that Fuss's works look too much like advertisements? Or are they too unexpected in this setting to even warrant a glance? I'm not sure, but I like him a lot. Here's some more:

"They are together because they don't want to be alone"
"He pays her bills. She cooks his dinners"

"This means love"
"This means peace"

By the way, if my post title doesn't make sense to you, the following images should help clarify.

Chlorprotamide, 1996

Dec 16, 2008


In exactly 20 days I will be heading here...

(Photo from Reuters via

...where record breaking bad winter weather has resulted in a state of emergency, with the Tiber river threatening to break its banks. The ABC reports that the river's level has risen by five metres in just two days, and most reassuring of all (not!), more storms are forecast. All I can say is that I'm crossing my fingers and toes for DRY weather over the next few weeks. A flooded Rome makes for a rather difficult month in the Eternal City -- especially considering the amount of walking we are scheduled to do. Somehow sheltering in the British School at Rome for four weeks just doesn't justify the course pricetag!

(Image from AFP via

Edit: I guess I should just consider myself lucky that I won't be in Venice (feeling especially sorry for the girl in the fifth picture!):

(These images from Article here)

Dec 15, 2008

This is old...

but I really like it. I have been rediscovering a bunch of photos taken a fair while ago, including this one, taken in Lille in Feb 2005. Other oldies having a bit of a renaissance at the moment:
(Centre Pompidou, Paris, Dec 2004. This, as I recall, was called Fibonacci Crocodile, and the neon numbers behind the croc were, of course, the fibonacci numbers)

(Water tower at the back of Te Irirangi Drive, Auckland, March 2005. My 19th birthday)

(Morton Bay Fig - my farourite type of tree ever, just look at those roots - Auckland Domain, January 2006)

Dec 14, 2008

Uh, guys...

...I think you missed the point. Today (tomorrow..? I am up late, after all) the Age reports that Melbourne has "[lost] its treasured Banksy."

(Right: the Banksy, behind perspex; left: paint has been poured behind the perspex, and the words 'Banksy woz ere' written on the front of it)

In recognition of the British graffiti artist's rapidly rising profile, the recent trend has been to "protect" his work with perspex panels. Now, I don't know about you, but as far as I can tell this goes in direct contradiction of the notion of the impermanence of graffiti. It is rewarding when you do manage to see it, because you know that it is in fact fleeting. The graffiti world is democratic, and self moderated. The notion of the permanent work of art, frozen for all perpetuity, conflicts with graffiti art at a fundamental level. Of course, this is all problematised by Banksy, who, in typical guerrilla fashion, brings graffiti aesthetic into the gallery space, and in doing so both questions the gallery, and challenges the limits of graffiti art.

All this said, though, there is something weird and contradictory about putting perspex over a piece of graffiti. The Age says:
"Earlier this year, the little diver's potential value went up when another Banksy artwork on a London wall was sold for £208,000 ($A472,528) on an eBay auction."
Just how one can place a value on art painted on the wall of a building is slightly confusing. After all, the art itself is inseparable from the building, and cannot exist as an in dependant entity. Sure, if the Nicholson building went to auction "avec Banksy" it would sell higher than if it were "sans Banksy," but at the end of the day, the Banksy work on the side of the building -- the back side, might I point out, adds no concrete value or function to the structure as a whole. Please note that I am not saying this as a criticism of Banksy or his work -- in fact I think he is witty, fun, arresting and brave -- but rather of the notion of graffiti art as a fiscal asset. The whole point of it is that it operates outside that framework. Yes, Banksy sells work at auction, sometimes to famous types, and sometimes he even creates work for a gallery setting. But his street art has no pretensions of permanence. I'm not saying that it isn't disappointing to see one street artist wilfully destroying the work of another. It is. But I do wonder what the Age's position is on the way the Melbourne City council 'sells' Hosier lane's stencil graffiti as part of Melbourne's status as a cultural capital, whilst simultaneously discouraging teenagers from engaging in any form of graffiti art with the ban on sales of spray cans.

In one example I find particularly ironic, Disneyworld Florida and Tourism Victoria intended to include a graffitied laneway as part of its 'Melbourne' display at the Epcot international Food and Wine Festival (links here, here and here).

The Melbourne Pavillion's original apearence, image taken from The Age Travel section article dated 29.09.08

The laneways were overridden by Victorian Premier John Brumby. Brumby is quoted in online articles as wanting to promote the laneways' "European sense of cleanliness" rather than their graffiti. I guess what this all raises is who do we allow to decide what characterises a city, what is art, and furthermore which art deserves protection and which does not. It also highlights the differences of opinion between various levels of bureaucracy, which in turn indicates the unlikeliness that there will ever be a definite solution.

I guess the Melbourne-graffiti-at-Disneyworld fiasco coupled with the lost-Banksy fiasco makes me wonder whether someone like Brumby even cares that Melbourne has "lost its treasured Banksy," and furthermore why it is that we rush to protect and/or mourn this foreign street artist, but barely hesitate to think about local artists, who have an active and lasting relationship with Melbourne.

(Like Paisley, the artist responsible for this cat, whose work can be found throughout the CBD and inner Northern suburbs.)

(Ok, rant over. Time for bed. I hope this isn't toooo rambling and stream-of-consciousness, I guess it is just an issue that really does get to me, and I couldn't let the Age article go without saying at least something. )

Dec 10, 2008

Recession, illustration and turducken

I fear that this will be a bit of a scrambled post because I have multiple things on my mind, not to mention a whole bunch of links I want to mention. So in an attempt to force myself to be logical I'm going to give myself three keywords from the outset. Recession, illustration, and turducken. No really, those are my three.

I haven't really done much gallery hopping of late because the 3-job life really doesn't leave a girl free during business hours. It appears that for the rest of December I will have one day off a week: Sunday. Which isn't an issue for big galleries like the NGV, but will get me nowhere where smaller, independent gallery are involved. I buy the Sunday age especially so that I can read the 'on-now' reviewey section, and then sigh deeply when I read that the opening hours are 12-5 Tue-Sat. As a result of all this, my art fixes have been restricted to an internet-only format, because bless the world wide web, it just never does close. This of course leads to some serious sleep deprivation for yours truly, but that is beside the point.

So I have been skipping from blog to blog in my search for visual fulfilment, and whilst arty crafty type blogs offer cuteness and positivity, as far as serious art-world blogs are concerned, there is an awful lot more doom and gloom. The financial recession strikes fear into every art professional's heart, with layoffs of gallery staff, low sales at auction, and, in a more extreme case, Los Angeles' MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) has publicly admitted that it is facing a financial crisis of its own (sorry that these are all American examples. I have searched and scoured for more local examples of the world economic crisis's effect on the art world, with the sole result being the news that the Melbourne-based artist-run-initiative Kings ARI is faced with the possibility of having to close down because the rent for its gallery has gone up considerably. But this is really more related to a shitty landlord than it is to economic downturn). The best article I came across is hardly the most recent. Alexandra Peers' The Fine Art of Surviving the Crash in Auction Prices for the Wall Street Journal is a detailed and considered look at the way the art market crash affects all major players: the auctioneers, the dealers, the artists and the collectors. It is not blindly optimistic, nor is it panicked, and I like Peers' overall conclusion that while a period of recession can be difficult to adjust to, it nonetheless brings with it the possibility of positives that would not be realised when the market is booming.

And of course, you can't read journalistic coverage of the art world without Damien Hirst's name coming up at some point. Clever though he may be, he kind of reminds me of that band you once liked that is now playing in every single shop you walk into: in other words, he's everywhere, dammit. Back in September, before the art world really felt the bite of economic downturn, Hirst set a new precedent by holding a direct-to-public auction of new works at Sotheby's. Several things about the auction-exhibition -- for that is what it was -- entitled Beautiful in my Head, stand out. The direct engagement of an artist with an auction house is somewhat unprecedented - the veneer of creative genius can be very easily damaged if an artist is perceived to be too interested in money. However in the context of Hirst's career to date, this interaction with the commercial side of the art world is not so surprising. If anything, he has made his name by being controversial, and for appearing to care more about money than art. Whether or not this is true is inconsequential -- it is still what people think of when Hirst is mentioned: money and controversy. The Sotheby's sale was no exception. Two expat Australian critics, Robert Hughes and Germaine Greer got their tits in a tangle over Mr Hirst and his 'clearance sale'/auction. Hughes (coiner of the 'clearance sale' tag) says that Hirst is functioning as a commercial brand rather than an artist, and that furthermore, his work has been stripped of any meaning beyond its pricetag. Greer counters that whilst she would have liked to see Hughes take on Hirst (too many H's...), her fellow critic "[wasn't] able to lay a glove on his quarry." As far as she is concerned, Hughes is stuck in the past, and has simply failed to move with the times. Damien Hirst functioning as a brand is, in fact, acceptable, because "the art form of the 21st century is marketing..." and, moreover, "To develop so strong a brand on so conspicuously threadbare a rationale is hugely creative - revolutionary even."

To be honest, I have let myself get off-topic -- the auction itself is not the point of this story at all, but it is a problem to which I am still unable to formulate a concrete answer, and it continues to fascinate me, as I struggle to work out which side of the fence I fall on. Basically the entire tale of the Auction-with-a-capital-A is a preamble to the fact that Hirst, whose works command prices that boggle the imagination, is still not immune from the financial crisis: the faceless assistants who complete many of Hirst's works (oh, you thought the high price tag was because the artist slaved away all by himself? think again) have faced job cuts. Even Damien Hirst has to "be mindful of the current economic climate." If I sound cynical, it's because I am. Fence sitter or no, Damien Hirst and cynicism tend to go hand in hand.

On a more positive note, also while is was flitting back and forth through the web, I came across a link to the blog of New York based illustrator Christoph Niemann. In this blog, created for the New York Times, Nieman creates a series of illustrations upon a theme each month. December, for example, is "Coffee," with each illustration taking a coffee stained napkin as its point of departure. Now in words, that sounds pretty lame, but just check out the pictures:
Even cooler than the Coffee pictures is Niemann's series detailing his sons' love of the New York subway. For the seriously curious/bored, you can find Niemann's own website and portfolio here. I like that Niemann's work manages to be both simple and visually arresting, and that he maintains a certain childlike charm throughout his NYT blogs. Heck, I just think he's a nice guy, even if it does seem odd to be making judgements on someone's character based on their drawings.

Lastly, for something completely unrelated. Being a word nerd as well as an art nerd, I often fixate on weird sounding words. For no reason that I can explain, other than they sound funny, and once they are stuck in my head, they stay there for a good week or so, making me giggle at random intervals. Word of the moment, has been alluded to at the beginning of this post (and yes, I know I am about a month late for thanksgiving): TURDUCKEN. Even if you are not a nerd like I am, surely you must admit how absurd it sounds. Now, I know what a Turducken is. It is an American specialty; a turkey, stuffed with a duck, which is in turn stuffed with a chicken. Yet I had a hard time imagining what the final product would look like. Curiosity piqued and word firmly in my head, I decided to investigate.

Presenting "How to make a Turducken"
NB: vegetarians and bird-fans, look away. This video consists of a whole lotta dead fowl!'s one we prepared earlier. The finished product (plus some very excited Americans)

Interestingly, in about August, the word stuck in my head was Tofurkey. So maybe I just have a turkey fixation. Who knows? I am now sure my few readers think I am insane, so I'd better end the turkey/tofurkey/turducken line of enquiry as soon as possible. Until next time, when I promise to be more succinct, and less poultry-based.

Dec 8, 2008

Bardzo milutki!

Oh Frankie, will you ever find me a link that I don't instantly fall in love with? Apparently not, if this is anything to go by:

Pan tu nie stał is an archive of vintage and folksy goodness from Poland. Frankie says the title means "Don't think this is your space" and my Polish-English dictionary says it means (roughly..) "You haven't been here before," but really this is irrelevant: the cute images are clearly the important part. I have a weak spot for all things Polish as I spent six months there in the winter of 2004, working as an English conversation assistant at a nun-run boarding school. Sounds crazy, I know -- and a little too much like something out of the Sound of Music -- which in fact, on several occasions it did indeed resemble.

The girls and I, accompanied by the nun who was the English teacher, did go on several walks in the mountains, and each time I was ever more tempted to break into a rendition of "the hills are ALIVE...." This impression was heightened by the fact that "my" nun was young, mischevious and liked French pop music and skimming stones. If she had left the convent to spend time looking after the motherless children of a grumpy Polish Baron I would have started worrying that I was living in some crazy Von Trapp alternate reality. But I digress. Pan tu nie stał is bardzo milutki (very cute) and an endless source of amusement for nerds like me.

On another note, and in another language, I am totally loving Yelle. Why? One, she is French, and French musicians are automatically cool (Phoenix, AIR, Camille....OK, maybe Serge Gainsbourg is an exception), two, her songs are infectious and put a big cheesy grin on my face, (the fun and infectiousness hides the fact that the lyrics are raunchy and witty - "Je Veux Te Voir" sends up Cuizinier from the mysogynistic hip hop group TTC) and three, her videos are absolutely nutty. Case in point:

(Ce Jeu)


(A Cause des Garçons)

Ah, those crazy, crazy French. The only problem with all this is poppy infectiousness + cute videos = only a matter of time before Yelle becomes yet another iPod commercial. Bleurgh.

Dec 4, 2008

Procrastination, my old friend

As part of my Rome subject, I am required to have read (and understood, because the one doesn't necessarily imply the other) not one but four course texts. And while I am totally looking forward to this subject and all it entails, articles on the development of ichnographic maps are really failing to win me over. Imagine the dryest article ever written, and then decrease its relevance by 300 or so years. Maybe this is a case of the lady doth protest too much, and maybe I'm not giving it enough of a chance -- but really, how can my course readers stand a chance when I'm comparing them to much more interesting reading, both on unusual and alternative things to do in Rome, by way of Lonely Planet's "Rome Encounter" (yes, actual goodness from LP, now I'll believe anything) and Jonathan Boardman's "Rome" from the Cities of the Imagination series. Boardman writes about lascivious Borgias, dodgy Roman papal families, and even makes a case for the emperor Nero being a man of his times whose reputation suffered due to bad historiography. Cristian Bonetto, author of the LP encounter guide, writes of underground student bars and brand new independent art galleries in suburbs that my much larger Dorling Kindersley guide doesn't even mention. I have been writing a list of interesting laces to go, yet with each thing I add I feel a little glummer because the chances of me having enough time to see it all get slimmer the longer the list is. Having already been to Rome and seen the "important" sites, I assumed I'd have a much better opportunity to see a new side of the city...but now as I look at my photos, circa 2004, I feel like I can barely remember being there at all.

But, of course, I was. I do remember that I particularly liked Piazza della Repubblica (bottom image), despite the fact that it was near impossible to get across the damn thing. Photos provide proof when it all becomes a bit unreal -- but then again that shoe photo is Roman fantasy in a nutshell.

Because I am a) a nerd and b) a nerd who likes street art I am particularly pleased to have found (via LP) Sten, a stencil artist based in Rome. His work seems to be mainly around Termini station, but he also pops up in Venice and London. I guess the tricky thing with scoping out street art in a place like Rome is that the more interesting the work, the dodgier the area and the darker (and stinkier) the alley it is hidden in. That combined with the fact that our itinerary is ridiculously packed - we have a total of five free days in the course of a month, and these are not "free" in the true sense of the word, they are "kept free" so we can go to temporary exhibitions and spend time doing research - means my chances of finding Sten are pretty slim. In the meantime, I have contented myself with hunting down images of his work on the web.


Progress on the job front means my brief dalliance with unemployment is all but over, and as a result, so is the abundance of free time I found on my hands a few weeks ago. I still have many a photo I want to take, and many backdated photos to post, not to mention galleries to visit and the aforementioned tome of Rome-reading. I am starting to think this will all fall by the wayside, as for girls who dream of going to Rome, cashflow takes priority over cultural edification and navel gazing. As such, apologies in advance if this blog is sadly neglected in the next month. That's right, month. Maybe I need to get one of those counter gidgets..? It truly is starting to feel real now.
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