Saturday, November 25, 2006

Foot in Mouth Disease

The Artswipe
Foot in Mouth Disease, 2006

Artswipe is back in therapy. I've been having a recurring dream. We all know that Artswipe likes recurring themes (Oprah, Bono, Madonna, Philip Brophy) but recurring dreams are just too much to fathom. Especially when in your dream Madonna is signified as a rotting foot and Oprah is the rotting cancer mouth. Like the rotting body parts seen on Australian cigarette packets, Oprah and Madonna have a via-satellite dance-off, tearing up the dancefloor so hard that they merge. Madonna's foot and Oprah's mouth become one big foot in mouth disease. How strange. My therapist has suggested I start seeing someone else because I'm freaking her out.

Thanks to the anonymous Artswipe fan who emailed me this great animation:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Adrienne Shelly 1996-2006

Adrienne Shelly in Trust (Hal Hartley, 1990)

The Artswipe has been in deep grief since Adrienne Shelly died. Earlier this month Adrienne Shelly - who cemented her indie-fame as the lead in Hal Hartley's first two features The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and the amazing Trust (1990) - was found dead in her New York office. Initially believed to be a suicide as she was found hanging from a bedsheet, it was later revealed that a 19-year-old construction worker from Ecuador had accidentally killed her and later made it look like a suicide, all because she complained about the noise. Adrienne was in post-production on her film Waitress, her third feature as writer/director.

One of Artswipe's all time favourite movies is Hal Hartley's Trust and the best scenes are when Maria (Shelly) shooshes Matthew (Martin Donovan) because she thinks she can hear bombs dropping from afar. Maria and Matthew are meant to be together because he walks around clutching an undetonated hand grenade. They don't like noise. And then there's those fabulous scenes featuring an almost unrecognisable pre-Sopranos Edie Falco as Maria's scene-stealing-white-trash-with-pink-ski-jacket sister.

If only we could all go around killing people because we don't like the fucking noise complaints! Shame on you construction worker man.

Read an Adrienne Shelly obituary

Friday, November 17, 2006

Message Received

All week I have been trying to write a song. One in the grand 1980s namedropping tradition. You know the type: Billy Joel mastered the tradition with
"We Didn't Start the Fire": "Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray, South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio..." Transvision Vamp tried to top it with their song "Born to Be Sold." Who? You remember Wendy James – hot snatch indeed! But whenever I put 2B pencil to paper, all that comes out is trite Haiku type pretensions.

The reason I have wanted to trade my 12" blog for the 7" single is quite simple really. Instead of namedropping celebrities in my song, I will sing a laundry list of social causes that I must remember to get behind.

Since Belinda Emmett died last week I have realised that I am not doing enough for breast cancer.

Since the weather went crazy I realised I am doing enough for climate change.

Since I saw that show at Campbelltown Art Centre called
For Matthew and Others I realised I am not doing enough for schizophrenia (let alone bad art promoting awareness).

Since I saw U2 in concert last week (yes Artswipe caved) I realised I am not doing enough for AIDS in Africa or myriad other social issues that I can't recall now.

Since MySpace became a vehicle to stream the
Australian Make Poverty History concert I realised I am not doing enough for the starving kids of the world.

Since Sydney art schools have been disappearing I realised I am not doing enough for the art kids.

Since November was renamed
Movemeber in a bid to get men to grow mustaches to show their support for prostate cancer I realised I am not doing enough for the prostate, let alone the rest of the groin region.

Since Madonna
announced plans to adopt another African baby I realised I am not doing enough to get behind Kaballah.

Since watching Channel 9's
A Current Affair last night I realised I am not doing enough to get behind the more microcosmic of social issues: radical weight loss, gambling problems, people who cheat the dole, feuding neighbours hosing each other and the "love rat" (a man who had eight girlfriends at the same times). Next time Tracy Grimshaw asks, "If you've got a Centrelink story, email us now" I might just do that.

Not being able to write songs, I have instead decided to send protest text messages. Bono asked his congregation at the Telstra Stadium to holding their phone high in the air and text message support to some organisation or another. Was it the United Nations, I don't remember. Eventually I sent the message after illegally using my mobile to film some of the concert for some YouTube distribution. I even took a photo on my mobile phone camera of everyone else using their mobiles for world peace. Message received!

The Artswipe
Mobile Constellation, 2006
Interactive Multimedia Performance

Later I went and bought a bottle of Mount Franklin water for about $5. As it was one of the pink bottles that promote Mount Franklin's partnership with the Breast Cancer Foundation, I didn't mind. Instead of buying (RED) this week I have been buying pink. Even Masterfoods tomato sauce bottles are pink at the moment – admittedly this freaks me out for reasons which I'm sure have psychoanalytic origins.

I suppose it's important to leave the songwriting to those with real musical ability - Actors Turned Musicians (what Artswipe abbreviates to ATM). Why ATM's are the best songwriters – Toni Collette is no exception – is because they spend most of their time performing authenticity. Method acting finds a perfect match in songwriting, especially when the music makes meaning. Reading Michael Idato's
Sydney Morning Herald obituary for Belinda Emmett, Artswipe discovered that her final project was an unreleased album of her own songs. Idato writes: "Though best known as an actress, music was a more defining influence in her life. She had said her taste in music was 'a bit bohemian.' The album, with the working title So I Am, was produced by the John Farnham collaborator and former Southern Sons bandmember Phil Buckle. 'Having written the songs, it really means something to me,' she said."

It's bound to mean something to all of us too.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thanks for the Add

One such image that you find when you type
"thanks for the add" into Google Images

It's been almost 6 months since The Artswipe began. In that time, Artswipe has been super busy keeping up appearances, because after all, appearance is the one tool of an artist's trade that gets used the most. Woodwork was never my thing. Instead, I was too busy reading Cultural Theory for Dummies while all the butch kids at school were making wineracks for Fathers' Day.

But back to appearances. As you might notice, Artswipe has taken the lead of
Skanky Jane and moved to Blogger Beta. Why they'd call such cutting edge technology after a redundant form of video I'll never know. But such are the mysteries of life in the cybernetic fold.

And with change comes the desire to rebrand. So I called the offices of (RED) as they're this week's hot dollar brand for Artswipe readers. I figured (RED) could redesign Artswipe and in return I would promise to sign up for Adsense and donate what ever spare change dribbled in, should Adsense actually work. So I looked up (RED) in the White Pages (thinking for a minute that perhaps whiteness was just a little too pervasive). Dialling the long international number, it rang for three times before a woman who announced herself as Sandy answered the phone. I asked if I could speak to Bono.

"Who's speaking, puurleease?"
"Artswipe from Sydney."
There was a pause... It was like Sandy had put her hand on the receiver so I couldn't hear her chatting to a superior.
"Hello, Sandy... Hello (RED)?"
After a minute she returned and in a rather gruff voice told me Bono called me an talentless shit-for-brains Aussie twat and that I was never to call again. "NEVER!"

Now that I have just finished selling my U2 CDs on eBay - Zooropa didn't sell - I have decided to just pick another template because after I finished Cultural Theory for Dummies, I could never get through Visual Communication for Cultural Theorists. It just didn't take. But admittedly, I feel really uncomfortable using a premade template. I feel like
David Byrne might see right through me and know that I have been guilty of using PowerPoint presentations; or that I once made a birthday card using clip art; or that I have forwarded spam emails (the kind that ask you to read some unfunny story, make a wish, choose a number and send it to people equaling the number you chose times 500); or that I have been secretly yearning to start a MySpace page.

You may remember in one of my early posts (again Bono themed) I wrote about resisting the lure of cultivating "friends" in MySpace. From what I could tell at the time, MySpace users usually had a vocabulary of four words, and when put in a sequence they would read:

Thanks for the Add.

If you have a MySpace page you can "Add" friends. Really, it's all about redefining what friendship is. If having "friends" in the 90s meant courting Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, having "friends" today means digging
Lily Allen (because she is like, so MySpace, man!) and - ummm - knowing that you can stalk that 14-year-old kid next door who I think I saw masturbating through the venentians, but I can't be too sure... There was a YouTube or a MySpace logo involved, that's all I can remember. Since then I have had to reacquaint myself with my therapist. You see, the last time I visited my shrink it was because Sarah Cottier Gallery was not having opening night events for her exhibitions. Well, Sarah emailed recently to say that's all changed and that she added me to her mailing list. Thanks for the add, Sarah!

So now I only visit my therapist when I have MySpace cravings. The voyeuristic kind. The kind that make me want to look up all those mofos who I hated at school to see if they have a MySpace profile and then hire that 14-year-old from next door (who is an Internet hacker, by the way) to corrupt their code. But before then I look at how they've let themselves go; how they're miserable fat alcoholics who still work at Wendys or Lone Star (in management of course). But that rarely happens because most of us have pseudonyms these days, and can be hard to track down.

Artswipe shudders at the thought of being so hard to track down, so if we don't connect here, "friendship" comes free at Artswipe's MySpace page:

Be my MySpace "friend" and I promise to stamp you with this homespun handmade treat:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Reading (RED)

In today's
Sun-HeraldArtswipe's favourite weekend Bible – Bono defends Madonna's decision to adopt David Banda: "I'm very happy that Madonna should offer succour and more than that to a young boy," Bono said. "He's got a great opportunity now." The article goes on to reveal that Bono was once offered an African child by a desperate father, but was unable to take him home. Apparently the boy's face "haunts him to this day" and is the reason Bono started campaigning for African poverty relief. Surely Bono could have taken the boy on as staff? He does employ a whole fleet of people to attend to his family's every need.

Earlier this year Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of Data, created a product line called (RED), which aimed to raise awareness and money for a global fund to help women and children with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
(BLOG) RED documents the journey, which in recent months has seen Gap, Apple, Motorola, Converse, Emporio Armani and American Express release products associated with the (RED) brand. If you buy (RED) you are helping the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Why "red"? Well, in my last post, I suggested – quite crudely I admit – that red and black work quite well together. Red string works on black skin. Even Coca-Cola know they're onto a good thing with their black and red visual identity. The tension the (RED) campaign raises is the way it purports to be about politics, when really it's about aesthetics. Writing about fascism in the epilogue of the famous essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Walter Benjamin argues: "All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war." Bono is certainly not alone today in his attempts to "render politics aesthetic." Much art and popular culture thrives on this instinct, and certainly, Artswipe believes that aesthetics sparkle brighter than ever when charged by the frisson of political engagement – but only when the machinery of propaganda isn't facilitating such processes.

Buy (RED) and we can feel like we're fighting dire social problems like the spread of HIV/AIDS in poverty stricken corners of the globe. Our rampant desire to shop can now feel justified as charity. We're saving the world when we buy a Motorola phone. Can the receipt for a purchase of a (RED) iPod Nano be claimed as a charitable tax deduction? When we spend big on (RED) American Express and get into monstrous debt, does the exorbitant interest charges also go to help Africans with HIV/AIDS? Even OprahArtswipe's favourite philosopher (after Walter Benjamin) – champions (RED), taking the time and photo-op to
spend big with Bono. Of course she supports it! Oprah obviously has a major shopping addiction. If "EVERYBODY GETS A CAR!" (as her entire studio audience did in one infamous 2004 episode of her talk show) it's only because she feels compelled to momentarily alleviate her own conspicuous consumption.

Charity begins at home and homes always look better when decked out in a wealth of commodities. Consumed with fervour in the western world such commodities become tokens of cultural, social and even intellectual capital, even if their origins derive from non-western sweat shop labour. (RED) labours under the weight of such good intentions to conflate the frenzy of consumer culture with social responsibility.

Why is it branded "red"? Simply because the issue is not as political as it is aesthetic. As aesthetic as blackness is for a white western culture bred on a Benetton "united colours" mentality. Perhaps signifying blood, which with or without the stigma of HIV/AIDS is still coloured red, the (RED) brand reveals its shallow aestheticisation of race as if it's a Dulux colour chart in its revealing manufacturing of blackness.

For celebrities endorsing the (RED) campaign, blackness is a commodity that can be purchased symbolically. Through cash register empathy, blackness can be bought to ensure the privilege of whiteness is momentarily used for good. Kate Moss appeared on the cover of the UK magazine The Independent in blackface with the headline, "Not a Fashion Statement." Touted as "The Africa Issue," this September 2006 edition of The Independent was designed as an eye catching tie-in with Bono's (RED) campaign. In her opinion piece for the
Sydney Morning Herald, Emily Maguire writes:

"The stereotypes in these campaigns range from the banal (African equals beads and face paint) to the offensive (Africa equals AIDS). Both contribute to the biggest Western misconception of all: that Africa is a monocultural mess waiting for Westerners to come and clean it up. Africa is a continent, not an issue. AIDS is a disease, not a cause. And while celebrities may believe they are helping by raising awareness, they are, in fact, telling us what we know and creating a false sense that the problem is being addressed."

Maybe The Independent is right: maybe this whole campaign is a worthy cause and "not a fashion statement." Perhaps Madonna had simply purchased everything in the (RED) catalogue to match her red Kaballah accessories, and after a Sunday afternoon bout of consumer fatigue, simply decided babies over brands.

Whatever the case, white bread has never been so (RED).