Monday, December 31, 2007

What a Steal!

Courtesy the Artswipe Collection

How is it that you can spend a year waiting for something to happen in the World News Headlines and then - BAM! - it happens right at the end of the year. No, I'm not talking about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. That kind of thing happens to world leaders all the time, so excuse me if I can't commit to that news item. The news story that caught my undivided attention in the last 24 hours and which has become a contender for most compelling true crime story of the year (if not the most nail-biting event of the post 9/11 age) is the tale of the Brisbane couple who got busted with $40,000 worth of stolen library booty in their home. Over 1000 library books, DVDs, CDs and magazines were hidden in cereal boxes in their home. "Pass the milk sweetie, these Bryce Courtenay bran flakes are a little dry and plotless."

Apparently every item had been read by the couple and because of that, I really think we should cut them some slack. Everyone knows that only in rare cases does anyone ever read books borrowed from the library. So give peace a chance a leave the couple alone. They've suffered enough for their crime against literature and civic responsibilities.

To show my support, I went to the local second hand store and stole a book. The security at my local library is way too tight so I had to resort to the local Vinnies. Libraries and thrift stores are basically the same thing aren't they? Since my crime I have been planning the best dinner parties. For instance, today I've been workshopping a New Years Eve dinner party with my stolen literary treasure: The Australian Women's Weekly: The Busy Woman's Cookbook (Food editor: Ellen Sinclair, Golden Press, 1971).

So if you were lucky enough to be invited over for dinner tonight, this is what you can expect:

Entree: Mushrooms a la Greue

Mains: Little Carpetbag Steaks with a Zucchini and Pineapple Salad

Dessert: Cold G
rand Mariner Soufflé with Brandied Caramel Pears

Happy New Years and Bon Appetit.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brief Exchange

Of course you can exchange

Boxing Day brought so much joy for The Artswipe in the shopping stakes. I don't really think my loved ones know me well at all! Otherwise they would have bought me presents I wouldn't have to exchange. Thank The Good Lord Above they kept their receipts. Actually, my mother has taken to wrapping presents in a collage of Christmas receipts. Not only is it saving on paper - and therefore good for the environment - but it saves on the rancid gift economy bullshit of Christmas. Because really, the receipt often looks a whole lot better than the crap purchased at its expense. Once the disappointment of Christmas subsided and the trainwreck of family departed after a long day of eating overcooked turkey, drinking VB shandies and watching repeats of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, I ended the day soaking in a long hot beauty bath - it's the perfect place to ponder what the Boxing Day sales might bring.

I got up early on Boxing Day. My shopping circuit was thoroughly mapped out over a breakfast medley of leftover roasted meats. The Artswipe's Boxing Day Shopping Cartography: Myer, DJs, JB HiFi and Target with a couple of Gloria Jeans chasers thrown in for good measure. Maybe the gift-shop at the MCA would be a good place to get a new sex toy? Surely they have merchandised a whole range for the Julie Rrap show.

Start at Myer first because the teaming crowd of Dawn of the Dead extras lining up outside hours before opening is perfect material for examining the human condition. The ethnography of shopping is one of the first things on my mind before participating in consumer whoreticulture. Moreover, the crowds clamouring for their Myer mystore TM fix are always peopled with such hot snatch that you can score at least a year's supply of shower nozzle masturbation material.

The salivating throng of crowds lusting for homewares and haberdashery makes Boxing Day my favourite day of the year. But if you're going to make post-Christmas a sexy time, you need good underwear. You know, mix it up a bit at Bras and Things before checking out the stench of cheap cotton maxing out Men's underwear at Target. Maybe even take a chance on a few items left over in the change room, like a tasty little seamless microfibre low rise number or some comfortable odor controlling fabrics from Calvin Klein. Why bother trying them on beforehand as nothing makes for better souvenirs of festive cheer.

The Artswipe
Specials, 2007
Found objects

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Road Safety

The Artswipe
The Seatbelt Series, 2007 and ongoing
Mobile phone moments

Life has been roadworthy. Merry Christmas Youse Guys. But before you go, heed to an Artswipe social message moment: Don't drink and drive and certainly think twice before souping up the car.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best of Best of Best of 2007

The Artswipe
Clit Art, 2007
Courtesy the media

The Artswipe visited so many exhibitions this year, because, well basically it was the year where "drinking problem" became a well-worn phrase... and we all know the booze at art openings sometimes makes up for the art. A lot of great art was seen but basically The Artswipe is more interested in trash and tabloid. Here's a year best of list to end all lists:

1. Nikki Webster's Coming of Age
2. The ABC for a year-long dose of art, mini-golf and 'dicktation'
3. Tara Reid Rentals
4. Ricki Lake's Vagina
5. Renny Kodger's Penis
6. Dead Horses
7. Chrissie Amphlett on Idol - SMS and MS collide
8. The chick from Frente made a comeback
9. Ribena Scandal
10. Edmund Capon Fits in My Coat

The Artswipe
Who's got the Blu-Tak? 2007
Courtesy the Thievery Corporation

Friday, December 14, 2007

Human Sculptures

The Artswipe
Come on Vogue, 2007
Mobile phone moment
Courtesy the artistry

Sorry guys for being one slack asscrack blogger. But there's a reason for my absence. Aside from end of year compulsory alcoholism, I've been away at Brisbane for over a week visiting friends and relatives. While there, I checked out the razzle dazzle of the Andy Warhol show at QAG/GOMA. In fact, I just returned today and have mild jetlag. The most amazing part of my journey was happenstancing on these human sculptures on a main road in the part of Brisbane where they have shops. I think this couple were on their way to the Warhol, I couldn't really tell.

If you know what they are doing, where they are going, or who they might be, let me know via comment or email and I will send you a Christmas present. I promise.

Coming soon at the The Artswipe: what was hot and what was snot in 2007.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


From this day on The Artswipe never has to make bad collages about John Howard such as the two you can view here and here. Surely over time, Kevin Rudd will deserve a collage or two. But until then, let's pay tribute to Bennelong's new boss Maxine McKew. And what better way to do this than to dust off a bit of Sharon O'Neill.


Creases in your white dress
Bruises on your bare skin
Looks like another fine mess
You've got yourself into

What's the matter with you?
Has the cat got your tongue?
Well if you don't like the beat
Then don't play with the drum

Maxine you're not the only one
To take the whole world on
No one's ever won
Maxine case 1352
A red and green tattoo
Eyes cold steel blue

On a rain-slicked avenue
Long shadows in the night
Take off your spike-heeled shoes
You've got to run for your life

Razor blade in your pocket
From an ex-marine
Makes you speed like a rocket
Ooh it cuts so clean

Maxine you're not the only one
To take the whole world on
No one's ever won
Maxine case 1352
A red and green tattoo
Eyes cold steel blue

How come you're payin' for borrowed time
Starin' out into space?
Bad boys and cold comfort
And a smacked-up face

Maxine you're not the only one
To take the whole world on
No one's ever won
Maxine case 1352
A red and green tattoo
Eyes cold steel blue

Who's that walking, walking behind you?
Who's that talking, talking about you?
Who's that walking, walking with you, Maxine?

© Sharon O'Neill 1982

Watch it at YouTube:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reading Lips

The Artswipe
Sign Language 2007
Mobile phone moment

With the looming election, I felt it time to get back to basics and explore some nationalistic themes - usually a hot topic here at The 'swipe. A favourite moment in recent times (say, the last month or so) has been the introduction of the Australian Citizenship Test, which is so important it even has its own Wikipedia entry. In case you've been living under a rock (let's say Uluru in this instance, or Ayers Rock if you prefer) applicants for Australian Citizenship have to pass an Australian citizenship test. As summarised by Wikipedia:

The objective of the test is to prove an applicant's grasp of English language and understanding of Australia’s "values", history, traditional and national symbols. Citizenship applicants will need to study a booklet produced by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The computer based test will consist of 20 multiple choice questions drawn randomly from a pool of 200 confidential questions. The test will only be available in English. Applicants will have 45 minutes to complete the test. The material is drawn from the official guide "Becoming an Australian Citizen" published by the Australian Government department of Immigration and Citizenship. Applicants must obtain a mark of at least 60 per cent to pass but must also answer three mandatory questions correctly. Applicants will need to pass the test before they can submit their citizenship application.

OK, so that's the official line. I agree Australian values are important. But who sets the tone for what is characteristically Australian knowledge? Obviously the whole thing is designed to ensure migrants 'assimilate' into the Australian way of life. That good old fashioned 'A' word: assimilation. It's like a cross between ass and simulate and something Australians know a lot about: the simulation of assholes.

So I was wondering what questions I'd want included in the test, so that it is a true snapshot of Australian life. For instance, is there an Australian art question? Surely there should be something about Brett Whiteley as he's the only Aussie artist apart from Pro Hart that non-artsy people know about. So the question could be:

How did Brett Whiteley die?
A: face bitten off by a grizzly bear
B: auto-erotic asphyxiation
C: heroin overdose
D: thrown from rollercoaster at Luna Park

You may think of others, say some pop culture inspired ones:
What type of bird is Ossie Ostrich?
A: Ibis
B: Plucker
C: Kookaburra
D: Ostrich

Or even something about indigenous culture:
Which word are Aboriginals not likely to hear from the white fella?
A: sorry
B: pardon
C: apologies
D: all of the above, but especially A.

Or perhaps something about Kylie Minogue:
Complete the name of this Kylie Minogue song, "Confide in ___"
A: Michael Hutchence
B: Molly Meldrum
C: Mel Gibson
D: Me

If you have multiple choice questions you'd like to add to my "Getting your Aussie L Plates" database, just comment at this blog or send an email to: theartswipe at hotmail dot com.

Just one thing before I go, I'm no racialist but really there is nothing worse than being the only person in the room who can't speak the language. This happened to me recently when I found myself at a speed-dating event for the deaf. Everyone was talking in sign language. How did I find myself there? I hear you ask. I was told really hot people are sometimes deaf. NB. Marlee Matlin. The only bit of that night that I could understand was the screening they had afterwards of select Home and Away episodes, which came in both spoken and sign language. Look, I believe Home and Away is a good start, but the deaf should think a bit more carefully about the politics of effective assimilation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trophy Wife

Elvis Richardson
Field Study #1 2007
Archival Pegasus Print, 40 x 45cm framed
Courtesy the artist & James Dorahy Project Space

Elvis Richardson
The impossibility of losing in the mind of someone winning S.T.G.C. 2007
Found trophy, burnt and re-silver plated, 13 x 13 cm
Courtesy the artist & James Dorahy Project Space

One of my greatest childhood regrets is not being sportier. I always envied those kids who would have cabinets upon cabinets of sporting or breakdancing trophies. I always imagined being awarded a medal for fencing, even though I never fenced. I suppose the annual School Rock Eisteddfod at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was more my forte – and admittedly that was as spectator than participant. Then there’s ArtExpress? I never made it in, but I did appear acting in a friend’s video artwork in the late 90s and that made it in. But unlike Hollywood, the auteur is everything in the artworld and the actor is regarded as shit-like.

I guess I’ll have to settle for being a trophy wife.

Feelings of regret for being a total loser when it comes to trophy acquisition (or lack thereof) came rushing back to the fore when visiting Elvis Richardson’s show at James Dorahy Project Space, The Impossibility of Losing in the Mind of Someone Winning. Richardson has been working with trophies for awhile now and they’re not her own. A total op-shop whore, Richardson mines the second-hand market place for abandoned trophies and makes them her own. She’s a collector of the kind of stuff no one wants or needs. I mean who the fuck wants someone else’s token of triumph displayed on the mantelpiece, let alone a complete strangers. But artists get off on reimagining the detritus that was once a treasured icon of achievement. For instance, Nicholas Folland also uses trophies and sport memorabilia in his work, to wryly comment more on defeat than the usual elation associated with winning. I'm even reminded here of Tracey Moffatt's great series Fourth (2001), where the artist lovingly photographed from her TV screen the almost winners (ie losers) of the 2000 Sydney Olympics as if the coverage was a found object just waiting for an artist to come along and reclaim it. Found objects in art always work so well when they carry with them the burden of displaced meaning. That’s my fancy faux academic way of saying that once the object screamed to the world, “I’m a winner” while now it reeks of apathy and amnesia; what was once so revered is now a lacklustre footnote. And what’s even more pathetic is that unless these objects end up in the hands of a clever artist, they sit at the op-shop as bitter reminder that Joe Citizen once won a tennis tournament, but he’s now either downsized or dead.

Richardson plays with these tensions beautifully in her work. You may recall similar themes pervading her ongoing Slide Show Land work, where 35mm transparencies are reclaimed and reconfigured from the dustbin of history we call eBay. In this body of work, Richardson has taken a bunch of trophies and refashioned them by burning and recasting them. The resulting works are bent out of shape rendering them sad and comical at the same time, like they’ve been polished one time too many. Imagine the maid took a line of speed one morning and over-polished the trophy cabinet in one particularly manic moment of hard-core hygiene - that’s what these readymade sporting sculptures look like. In a country that privileges sport over the arts, it’s great to see an artist like Richardson forcing sculpture onto sport. A nominee in the Basil Sellers Art Prize, which asks Australian contemporary artists to reflect and engage with sport, Richardson is something of a contender because she reminds us that despite its obvious and enduring emphasis on physicality, sport is potent as one of our leading elements of cultural and social life because it is a stage for unfettered emotional melodrama. It’s safe to say that today’s triumph will inevitably be tomorrow’s defeat and Richardson’s repurposed signifiers of sporting prowess blur the edges around these supposedly extreme states of victory and loss. Therein rests sport’s greatest paradox: a trophy always needs a shelf; a winner never wants a shelf life.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Greatest Artist in the World

There's a new ARI (artist-run-initiative) in town. Let me explain...

I was doing my 5pm power walk around Centennial Park on Thursday, when I encountered the opening night fanfare of Art Sydney at The Royal Hall of Industries, where hard-bodied suits were parading down the red carpet with their pregnant Double Bay wives. Replenishing my fluids more than necessary, then pretending to tie my Nike shoelaces, I waited awhile hoping to spy someone semi-famous. Be careful what you wish for! I didn't just see someone famous, I saw Arie Levit, the self-proclaimed
"Greatest Artist in the World". Admittedly I didn't know who he was; I'm just guessing he's famous and I didn't know because I cancelled my subscription to Parkett, like, ages ago.

It was quite amusing actually because Arie (who I gather has a mental illness or something) was rejected by Art Sydney and letting everyone know with his makeshift stall showcasing his precocious talents. What does he do? He paints, not with a brush, but with a trowel. I guess it's better than action painting from your asshole. I took a few phone snaps of management fighting to have him removed while an amateur TV crew (who I suspect were booked by Arie) filmed the commotion. As I was about to leave to finish my now interrupted power walk, Arie bailed me up with a brochure. Grammar may not be a strong suit, but confidence is. For that I feel blessed to have come close to such greatness. As Ari says:

Since the invention of the camera painters have had to compromise on the only thing that turns a painter into an artist... skill. Arie is the only painter in the last 200 years to put skill back into the art where it belongs. "I can do with my towel what the great Salvador Dali did with a hundred brushes. I paint the best paintings in the world, you can touch them, you can clean them with a cloth, you could even spill red wine over them, just mind the carpet mate!!" Aries fresco paintings amazes everyone who ever touches them. "When people touch my art my art touches them".

Pity his trowel isn't being used to craft the old-fashioned art of commas and apostrophes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Daily Dose

Stevie Nicks as an artwork courtesy of Commander Cody

Apologies to all (ie both) of my loyal readers for being AWOL. The last few weeks The Artswipe has been holed up at home sick as a dog. I contracted a case of apathy. Who'd have thought that was sexually transmitted! I went to see the family doctor and all she could do was offer some aesthetic advice and tell me to avoid coming into contact with anything white. Maybe I should stop seeing a PhD and visit an MD like the rest of the world because whiteness if just too fucking pervasive to avoid. But if you must know what The Artswipe is endorsing at the moment, here goes.

My favourite new media piece of recent times was The Worm by Channel 9 (Sunday, October 21, 2007). That was hypnotic and quietly compelling. My favourite text art was from the Good Weekend (October 13, 2007) - especially this quote from an article about Stevie Nicks:

So 1993 comes rolling around, and Stevie Nicks is finally convinced that that the protracted high dosage of Klonopin might be killing her. So she does exactly what you or I might do. She instructs her personal assistant, Glenn, to take her daily dose - just to see what effect it has. "I said, 'It won't kill you, because it hasn't killed me, but I just want to see what you think... Well, after an hour... he said, 'I can't fix the stereo and I don't think I can drive home'. And I said, 'Well good - just stay there because I'm studying you.' And he was almost hallucinating. It was bad".

So I am reading this in the doctor surgery waiting room. That's the best place to read the Good Weekend as you can be waiting a long time and the dullness of the magazine is a perfect match to the dodgy interior design characteristic of such places. As I contemplate what it must be like to be Stevie Nicks, I have a killer idea for a performance piece. I will get my doctor to prescribe me high doses of Klonopin - a hearty tranquiliser endorsed by none other than the white witch herself - and hand it out at the next art opening I attend.

I will call this piece 'Studying' the White Cube (just like the white wing dove) 2007.

Later in the article Stevie talks about why she founded "The Stevie Nicks Soldier's Angel Foundation". In case you don't know, this foundation promotes the use of music in the rehabilitation of of US servicemen and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing them with iPods.
And that's just what those brave soldiers need.

It had crossed my mind that the consolation prizes offered to Australian Idol contestants as they get booted off (juicy plasma screens and then some) are probably more generous. But at least the gift of music heals like nothing else. Stevie just knows that it's better to scratch your phantom limb in time to the beat of Rhiannon than to the bitter bombless silence of American life post-wartime.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Multiple Choice

The Artswipe
Born 2B Cute, 2007
Mobile phone photo

I was strolling through a suburban Westfield (my favourite of art spaces) and encountered this shiny installation. Very Kingpins, I thought. Who'd have ever thought the acid house smiley face would make a comeback precisely 20 years on. But how appropriate, how artworld are such comebacks. The remixing of pop histories is very much a present day concern, exemplified by artists like The Kingpins, Soda_Jerk, Ms & Mr, Spat + Loogie, Motel Sisters. Exhibiting with your actual name is so last decade - it's so much more zeitgeist to invent a funky moniker to match your funky artwork. I called deed poll to ask their opinion about all of this and spoke to a woman called Tap Water. She said,"ask me no questions, I tell you no lies". Hmmm cryptic, I thought. (Just as well she didn't call herself Tap Gallery - that place makes my skin crawl). One thing Tap Water did shed light on is that it's against the law to change your name to a conjunction (joining words like"and", "for" or "or"). Shame if you're a text artist.

I was so inspired by the Westfield installation - partly because everything was so cheap - that I made my way from there to The Kingpins opening at Kaliman Gallery on Thursday night (4 October). There's no point going to see their show unless you go on opening night because the whole point of their practice is the party involved. As I'm fairly shallow at the best of times I like artists who aren't afraid to make partying their medium of choice. And what a party it was. Check out the opening night photos at the new and very trendy Kaliman Gallery Blogspot. I'm standing just behind the wig sculpture in case you're wondering.

The Kingpins
Survivor, 2007
Oil on canvas, 90 x 65 cm
Courtesy the artist & Kaliman Gallery

So who are The Kingpins? All you need to know is that they're a supercrazygirlfoursome who remix history with such garish kitschy aplomb it makes your rectum bleed sequins. Known mainly for their music video like works, The Kingpins' new stuff depicts Azaria Chamberlain as if she was a 27 year old trapped in a Bollywood world. I don't know about you, but I've always wondered what Azaria would be doing now if she was alive. Last time I visited Psychic Sue, she told me Azaria is very much alive: she lives in our hearts. What an uplifting thought. In the universe of The Kingpins, Azaria is trapped on canvas. Yes, trapped in a painting. Like all good rockstars between albums, The Kingpins have given the music video production team annual leave and commissioned sign painters from India. The blurb at the Kaliman blog says:

To produce the paintings the Kingpins travelled to India to work with Bollywood cinema and sign painters, Muthu Arts and Kumar Arts of Pondicherry. This collaboration allowed the Kingpins to explore a history of cinematic advertising, famous for its hyper-real palette and incredible technical skill. The resulting pastiche is a mesmerising combination. Mothered by dingoes and fathered by popular culture, Azaria Chamberlain appears before us as a fantasy woman, legendary figure of the Australian outback in full-blown Bollywood colour.

I suppose the blog isn't going to say: The Kingpins are now making paintings because they are easier for a commercial gallery to sell. But come to think of it, video art is selling like hotcakes these days. So much so it makes me wonder if there's a bootleggy kind of black market out there trading Shaun Gladwells. Just picture it: a nervous crackwhore bootlegger in Chinatown with his pirated video art copies spreadout on a tressle table: "For you two dollar".

Pope Alice
Giza circa AD1500
from Appearances series, ongoing
Courtesy the artist and MOP Projects

What else have I seen this week? Well video art and the whole persona thing (usually) done by the likes of The Kingpins is the subject of the MOP show Multiple Personality. I've been meaning to see this show since it opened as a PDF of its catalogue was emailed to The Artswipe by curator, Daniel Mudie Cunningham. Referring to
The Art Life, The Artswipe, Skanky Jane, and Art & Mayhem, he writes in the catalogue text, "Persona is evidently multiple in an online context as it relies less on the accountability of the word made flesh." Nice one DMC.

Multiple Personality is an entertaining show that positions veteran legends like the Luke Roberts/Pope Alice nexus alongside new stars like Matthew Hopkins and Sari TM Kivinen (both of whom have been the subject of older Artswipe posts. See here for Hopkins and here for Kivinen). The video work by Ms & Mr is a highlight that shows the artists remixing their childhood home videos so that present day Mr appears in video footage of a school play performance by Ms. Think Twin Peaks meets Degrassi Junior High. Their video at MOP has a similar vibe to Videodromes for the Alone: The Lovecats, 1991/2007 - showcased in Heavy Sentimental, their wonderful debut show for Kaliman Gallery in June 2007. If I get bored of partying as my medium, I'm going to take a page out of the Ms & Mr guidebook to life and make marriage my medium of choice. Why not? It's multi-tasking at its best. "Babe can you take out the trash?" "Sure sweetie, but wait, let me grab the camcorder, bin night hasn't been examined yet in our practice".

I'm sure my little Mrs - Skanky Jane - won't mind taking out the trash.

Ms & Mr
Videodromes for the Alone: The Lovecats, 1991/2007
VHS & DV transferred to DVD
Colour, sound, edition of 5 + 1AP, duration 3:02 min
Courtesy the artist & Kaliman Gallery

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Horse Flu

From The Artswipe Collection

Last week I was at a party where this old friend (who I really should just dump) – let's call her Fay – asked me which animal I might have been in a past life. I thought long and hard about it before replying – such things have to be taken very seriously. So serious in fact that I'm sure some COFA Art Theory kid is already writing a PhD on the topic. Before I got a chance to answer Fay's question, she started telling me that her past life was equine. Fay was indeed a horse called Zara. So that Fay/Zara couldn't see my disapproval, I rolled my inner eyes, and thought, what is it about chicks and horses? I don't get it; isn't that girly-horsy thing, like Tab and Swatch watches, just a little bit last century? Once every girl I knew either wanted a horse or wanted to be a horse. Ride a fucking bike, for godsakes! I remember when I was at school (the posh one of my imagination) little princess cunts like Mia, Sue and Julie weren't satisfied unless daddy bought them a pony, which is exactly what daddy did. I used to wonder if their daddies would adopt me. I'd do anything for a daddy who would let me ride.

If I was a child in this day and age, I'd be lucky to score a Tamagotchi from my parents, let alone a day-pass barebacking at El Caballo Blanco. Speaking of which, I was sifting through a week's worth of junkmail yesterday (you know the drill: endless invites to every gallery in the world) and a pamphlet about El Caballo Blanco caught my eye. How amazing that it still exists. I had just assumed (whenever it crossed my mind) that it had gone the way of Old Sydney Town or Australia's Wonderland. Oh wait, it actually did; this pamphlet is advertising its return to Sydney as an All New Arena Spectacle: "A piece of history returns". Yay! The last time I was at El Caballo Blanco – c. the early years – I bought a souvenir spoon for my mother and she thought it really beautiful. As my mother was more into mink coats and costume jewellery at the time, I suspect in retrospect that she was pretending.

Getting back to my past life animal. I won't divulge what my animal might be, for fear the reincarnation gods are listening and will start planning my next life accordingly - just in case I guess the animal and get it wrong. And to be quite honest, I'd rather come back a fridge magnet than an animal. Animals are so over-rated. Who'd want to be an animal when you're never quite sure if you'll end up dinner for another species, roadkill along the Great Highway of Wherever, or shot up with cancer or "the AIDS" for the Greater Scientific Good. Imagine coming back as a pet for either the disabled or dilettante. And seeing how much I hate French cinema in this life, it would be just my luck that I'd come back as the poster pet for the Brigitte Bardot animal welfare foundation in the next life if I don't play my cards right.

Fay was getting mighty pissed with me now for being too cerebral so I bought her another Southern Comfort and Coke to shut her up before moving to the other end of the bar to talk to Wendy. The thing about Wendy is that she actually has a bit of a horse face so I couldn't handle it anymore. After having a spew outside, I hailed a cab and went home. But I couldn't sleep. I had horses on my mind. Ignoring the El Cobalo Blanco brochure sitting on the coffee table, I flicked through the art invite junk mail and saw that Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery has a show of new work by Jenny Watson called Star Material – now there's an artist who knows a thing or two about the horse. I finally fell asleep knowing Jenny Watson could indeed answer my tough equine questions if I paid a visit to the Oxley stable.

Jenny Watson
Horse around, 2007
L: Oil and acrylic on rabbit skin glue primed
Chinese organza over damask, 280x126cm
R: Acrylic on prepared oval stretcher, 36x28 cm
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

With a mild headache, I took myself off to the gallery hoping for answers to the enduring riddle of why girls get their rocks off to horses. Is it just the big swinging cock or is there really something special there, more akin to an emotional connection? Certainly one woman I'll grant a hobby horse concession is
Patti Smith, the first lady of punk. Her Horses (1975) album still makes me come to this day. In the film of her one woman show, Without You I'm Nothing (1990), Sandra Bernhard sums up Patti in a nutshell: "She was a prophetess. She saw so far into the future she could afford to take ten years off and not say another word".

So I'm at Jenny Watson's show on a sunny Saturday afternoon and, as expected, I encountered a painting of a girl on a horse. As Watson has been dealing with the same concerns (girls, horses and then some) for some twenty years, it didn't really take me by surprise. Yep, all the familiar traits were there: naïve paintings on fabrics and scrawled diary-like texts detailing the cutesy everyday minutia inspiring the work. Watson was big for this kind of stuff in the 1980s and with prices fetching in the realm of $20K these days, it's safe to say the horsy coming of age she had in the 80s will be as commodifiable well into her coming of old age. Which is soon, I suspect.

But come on, it's not all old stuff re-hashed. Watson makes a stab at pop culture currency by painting an iPod advert depicting a silhouetted figure dancing with her is… is it a Nano? Whatever the case, I bet it doesn't have 80-gig of memory like mine does! Watson has really captured something here; the painting was so authentic of contemporary "yoof culture", I could almost hear Jamiroquai or some shit like that wafting from the "rabbit skin glue primed Chinese organza over Chinese cotton". Do I hear Sophie Ellis Bextor? Whatever it was, it definitely wasn't Patti Smith.

Jenny Watson
Self portrait as an iPod ad, 2007
L: acrylic on rabbit skin primed Chinese organza over Chinese cotton, 128x77 cm
R: acrylic on prepared square stretcher, 30x30 cm
Courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery

Leaving Roslyn Oxley9 and wondering if perhaps Jenny Watson is responsible for the horse flu epidemic, I decided to nip this horse shit in the bud once and for all and jump in a
Hansom cab and trek out west to Hawkesbury Regional Gallery to see Bloodlines: Art and the Horse, curated by Peter Fay. I need some context for the major equine love-in that is gripping this country. Stepping inside the space, I was confronted by such a massive lineup of artists that I was somewhat overwhelmed and there for at least three hours. All that was missing was the smell of manure (which is fine considering some of the work made up for that). If I had paid to get in, it would have been worth the admission, heck I would have even made a donation. Look, I'd even go as far as saying that it'd be worth a kidney or two. Bloodlines made me feel better that it's not just the girls who have a crush on the horse - the boys love their pony clubs just as much. Now that I've taken the plunge into "horse culture", I will de definitely betting at the next Melbourne Cup. For that major personal breakthrough I'm deeply grateful.

What's that over there near the door? How did I miss it as I walked in? Just as I'm leaving Hawkesbury Gallery, an unobtrusive and somewhat grungy little piece by Kate Smith takes me by surprise. The artist has pin-pricked a scrappy bit of cardboard to form three modest but powerful words: I Hate Horses.

Kate Smith
I Hate Horses, 2007
Cardboard, 21 x 39 cm
Courtesy the artist

Friday, September 21, 2007

What is Artswipe?

It seems The Telegraph has found me out. After all this time of artworld anonymity, it has been revealed. The Artswipe is "cyber granny", not supernanny as some have conjectured. The Telegraph "outing" is timely, seeing it came just after Simpleposie from Toronto pondered in her "question for the day" a querie that most Sydney-siders stopped asking long ago, "What is Artswipe?" (scroll down to question #2156 - I thought I had lots of questions!)

Apparently it doesn't stop there. YouTube has found me out as well. Smile, smile, smile.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Matthew Hopkins performing in his installation
The Future Pt.2: Getting used to the Future. Version 2.2
Courtesy the artist and Firstdraft Gallery

This week I managed to sneak in a bit of art between meals - so much for my diet. Among others I saw Primavera 07 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Matthew Hopkins at Firstdraft Gallery, and Jess MacNeil at Gallery Barry Keldoulis. Actually I probably saw a few other things at the Danks Street complex where GBK resides, but apart from Jess MacNeil’s work they’ve faded from memory. Actually one thing I do remember is walking past Conny Dietzschold Gallery, where a gallery assistant was up a ladder hanging a piece of art. A couple of old ladies passed by and I overheard one say: “That’s not the kind of dress you should be wearing when you hang a picture”. This was a memorable moment.

I had heard from friends that Primavera was crap. I've never really been one for Primavera bashing. It’s an easy target for criticism – sometimes the complaints are valid, but I suspect in most cases they are flavoured with Sour Grape Snapple. The show aside for a second, at least you know the opening night will be a highpoint. Unfortunately The Artswipe was at a Bingo Tournament that night, but an insider reports that it was a tepid affair, mostly populated with an aging art crowd and the usual Fashion Week wannabes. What was missing apparently was the young artist crowd that Primavera is supposed to represent. For starters, the MCA allegedly did not invite any of their preparatory staff or visitor service officers, a generally young and funky bunch who epitomise the Primavera demographic. Gee, I’m glad I was busy!

Art by Claire Fisher from Six Feet Under

So I finally made my way to the MCA with an open heart and mind. Usually I'm a cold bitch, so this was a real effort OK. But it wasn't long before my bitch radar made its return from the repressed because most of it was not so great. I generally make it a practice to talk up the good things before I go for the ugly jugular but I’ll make an exception today. For starters, let's talk about the signature marketing image for Primavera of the raised hands. Double V, 2005 by Justine Khamara are hands using two fingers to make either an "up yours" or peace symbol - depending I suppose on how you feel. In the Primavera marketing, Double V works because as a reproduction in print or web, it acts like a big enticement for everyone to get their hands in the air because Primavera is here! In reality, it is comprised of tiny cut outs that get totally lost in the space. This is probably for the best considering how underwhelming the work really is. Khamara's three-dimensional collage heads, Bugaboo, might be cool if they didn't appear so inspired by the work of a fictional artist from TV! Is it just me, or did Claire Fisher from Six Feet Under already make this artwork during her art school years? Speaking of cut-outs, a second contender for uninteresting work is Martin Smith’s series of photos with song lyrics literally cut out of them. To make work inspired by popular music is fairly commonplace, but I find the allusions to music dominate and reveal more about the artist's self-conscious affection for the music referenced than it does about any genuinely interesting original visual idea.

Jess MacNeil
Opera House Steps December, 2006
Digital video, 2 min 28 sec, infinite loop
Courtesy the artist and Gallery Barry Keldoulis

What was good? Amanda Marburg's paintings of famous movie moments but recast with cutesy claymation figures were inspired. The highlight of the show was definitely Jess MacNeil's video Opera House Steps December, 2006. Though I’d already seen it before in other shows, being projected at such a monumental scale gave it renewed resonance. McNeil makes videos that look like paintings and paintings that look like video (paused of course). With Opera House Steps December, MacNeil has filmed people walking up and down the steps but used some fancy-pants special-effects to erase the people. What remains are human shadows that move across the steps like a toy Slinky working overtime.

Nude Descending a Staircase?
Courtesy Google Images

Recalled in MacNeil's video is the graphic interplay of form that Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein mastered through his method of 'montage by conflict'. In the famous Odessa Steps sequence of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925), the actual steps themselves were key to creating the scene's visual drama. The tiered horizontal pattern of the steps would be interrupted by the descending masses, creating a clash of horizontal and vertical form. The composition of Opera House Steps December echoes the same kind of visual drama but with meditative intent. Eisenstein was a master editor whose practice (and theory) of montage revolutionised filmmaking. While he knew where to cut the frame for dynamic impact, MacNeil keeps the camera running in one long take, editing through the digital removal of the body. Like legendary American video artist Bill Viola, MacNeil has a knack for making poetry with a medium not often used to poetic effect. And that’s certainly what MacNeil achieves in her new work on show at GBK. Again her videos The Thaw, Wake (Coniston Water) and Wake (Windermere) are utterly compelling in their quiet contemplation of scenes that in any other circumstance border on the banal.

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

Of all the other shows I saw this week, a real highlight was Matthew Hopkins' The Future Pt.2: Getting used to the Future. Version 2.2 – A Bogus Infinity at Firstdraft Gallery. Like early Hany Armanious or Adam Cullen, Hopkins makes grunge art installations cut with quick wit. The installation is predominately an explosion of white knotted socks in creepy configurations. Some of his drawings reference Stephen King novels, which makes me wonder if the sock forms are meant to be immobile monsters just waiting to contaminate the earth with a form of tinea never before witnessed. In his artist statement, Hopkins describes the installation as based on research he did when he visited the future. The thing is, the future was just like now but objects were all jumbled around. He writes:

"The funny thing about the future is that it is not that different to now, the present. The future is really just a re-arranged version of now, the present. What I mean by re-arranged is that objects, emotions, things we do etc., are all mixed up and around with each other. Drinking a cup of coffee in the future, for example, is actually building a house. Crying in the future is actually sticky-tape."

Like a synesthete who hears taste or sees sound, Hopkins sculpts an object-based synesthesia to create a scene of a future shape-shifted beyond recognition. That's the kind of future I want to visit, and considering the future is really just around the corner, I'm looking forward to seeing more from this promising young artist.

Primavera 08 perhaps?

Friday, September 14, 2007


People say the Internet shrinks distances, makes you global. I used the think so too. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that life before the Internet - God forbid, life before Blogger - could be just as intimate, just as global. That is of course if you have a healthy fan base. And there's no point being coy about it, The Artswipe has many fans, so many that crowd surfing has taken its toll and my fan club president has taken to chronic fatigue. Because you all know that I like to give something back to the fans, I've decided to bite the bullet and share the love. What better way to give of yourself than as specially made merchandise, editioned in endless multiples. A commercial gallery dealer tried convincing me to limit my editions to 6 + 2 AP (read 'Artist Print') but my better judgement warned against cheating a commodity whore's own logic of global domination.

Without further adieu, The Artswipe coffee mugs are now available on special order. They feature the logo on one side and the collage Heartfelt (recently voted by the fans as one of their all-time favourite visual moments) on the other. Price on application: theartswipe at hotmail dot com

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Eating Crow

The Artswipe
Humble Pie, 2007
Several ingredients outlined below

Thanks to everyone who has invited me to their APEC parties. A blanket apology for not being able to come, I was having my own APEC celebration at home. And what better way to celebrate than to make some humble pie, sit down with a cold beer and watch an Aussie flick. Before I review the film I watched, let me just give you the recipe for my APEC pie.

1 eggplant
2 zucchini
1 large sweet potato
2 cups shredded spinach
1/2 butternut pumpkin
3 cups ricotta cheese
shortcrust pastry base
puff pastry lid
lettering stencil (optional)

Pre-roast the vegetables and configure lovingly in a pasty lined dish. Smear the ricotta throughout the layers of vegetables. Create a pastry lid and cut out the letters APEC and that symbol (use a stencil if you must). Baste pastry with milk. Bake for 45 minutes at 200 C.

You'll have noticed that there is no meat in this pie. I'm not one for vegetarianism. (I tried this for a year or so at art school but only so I could hang out with some of the coolest kids.) The reason for a vegetable pie on APEC weekend is that there are other sources of meat one can indulge in. The meat of Australian screen culture for starters! I went to Video Ezy, paid off my $2.50 late fee for dropping back The Secret DVD late a few months ago and headed straight for the New Release wall. Hurrying myself through the latest titles (as the pie was baking at home and one must not overcook these things) I found a lovely Aussie romantic comedy - a perfect companion to a vegetable pie. "Where's the meat?" I hear you ask. And good question it is. I believe the genre can function like a nice piece of steak when it's a romantic comedy masquerading as a documentary. So that is why I recommend viewing Bra Boys this weekend if you're still looking for ways to spend your Sunday.

Bra Boys (Dir. Sunny Abberton, 2007) calls itself a documentary but it has my vote for best romantic comedy of the year. Assuming it might be about boys who wear either bras or Akubras, my expectations were indeed challenged when I sat down with this little think piece. I won't outline the whole plot as you can read about it at Wikipedia or check out its official website. In short Bra Boys features all these beefy surfer dudes from Maroubra who spend 90 minutes of screen time justifying their beach gang tribalism. These boys have had tough lives - drugs, parental neglect, shit like that. They find freedom in the waves. They find love through the fist. No, they're not into fistin' - that kinda shit is kept off screen! They're into using their fists as an expression of mateship. Or at least that is how I read it. When you live in a community that appears to exclude women (apart from their mothers, none appeared on-screen) I suspect there's a lot of pent up sexual frustration going on. So if you're not bashing each other up over the politics of beach entitlement, you may as well form into gangs and get demonstrative tattoos that read "My Brother's Keeper" with an icon representing a very tight handshake. There's nothing at all gay about this picture when you couch such a tight-fisted homosocial testosterone in familial terms.

So anyway, it must be said that Russell Crowe narrates this journey and can I just say, GOD BLESS HIM for that. Bra Boys begins with the Crib Notes story about white settlement in Australia and how it impacted Maroubra - or something like that. I know that when I am reflecting on my own community formations, it is important to go back in time and paint the scene with some sweeping context. For instance, I recently gave a PowerPoint presentation at the local community centre about the origins of blogging. I started my talk with the Big Bang and subsequent evolution of the species.

Bra Boys gets even more interesting when it responds to the Cronulla Riots of December 2005. It is here the boys affirm their multiculturalism. Prior to this event (acknowledged in the last 10 minutes of the 90 minute film) there'd been no reason to explore the multiculturalism of the beach. But what better opportunity to end it with a message to the world about how tribalism can have a social inclusion policy. One of the guys talks about how non-local visitors to the beach should always remember to acknowledge the culture and tradition that has shaped the beach. I couldn't agree more - it's at the beach that you find really rich culture. As a kid I engaged with beach culture through my metal detector. Finding 50c and some fishing tackle was a day well-spent. Until it was all spoiled when my parents warned us to be careful that you don't step on a syringe. Culture indeed.

After the Cronulla Riots segment, the boys of Bra reveal their racial and ethnic backgrounds just after a poignant scene of two children playing: a black dwarf chasing a white non-dwarf. It's a healing moment. Like all the APEC leaders wearing Akubras and Drizabone coats, this image of the children should go down in Australian history as a definitive moment of all types of difference united.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"A" Pecs

The Artswipe
Stuck in Traffic Again 2007
Digital video (still)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Agender: Apolitcal

I'm not one to linger on sexual politics. I have no agenda or a gender - The Artswipe is free of such constraints. Apolitical you could say. People into sexual politics need to get laid more. "Don't speak," I always say when conversation turns to third wave feminism, "Just feel." Not so long ago, the artkids used to chant, "Fuck politics, lets dance". These days, I look for a lover with a slow hand, Pointer Sisters style.

One thing I will say as a coda to Artswipe's previous post about gender in all its complex statistical banality: it remains important to this day to always know whether to leave the toilet seat up or down. And art journalists more than anyone should respect this simple etiquette by at least investigating the gender of their subjects. Sometimes you can tell because a woman artist might have two protruding mounds emanating (for want of a better term) from her chest. A male artist might have a "bulging canvas," as they say in the classics. And then there's the "third sex" - all those queers and diasporicals. That's another story for another time.

The point of this post. Unlike John McDonald, I might not be the hugest fan of the Aida Tomescu canvas. Tomescu features in McDonald's book Studio: Australian Painters on the Nature of Creativity,
reviewed elsewhere at Artswipe. I suspect old McDonald owns one of her paintings and is hoping his endorsement in today's Sydney Morning Herald article might manifest their value fourfold. A case in point:

Tomescu has grown in confidence, becoming much more certain of her artistic certainty. It is the kind of self-revelation that some people seek in psychoanalysis, or a radical change of lifestyle, but for Tomescu the entire drama has enfolded within the confines of the studio. It is not a process that allows for detailed descriptions, just as paintings resists verbalisation.

OK. McDonald mentions her "studio" again. Get over it. All artists have studios - not just the artists he cites in that banal book. As for the reference to psychoanalysis and "radical change of lifestyle" - thank you for pointing out the tenets of bourgeois boredom once more. Finding psychoanalytic solace in art went out with Art & Text. As for radical change of lifestyle? See Andrew Frost's brilliant article elsewhere in the Herald called "If the artists are young the reception is cool". It is here you will find artists who have a lust for life, a zesty yet critical take on "change" and "lifestyle" without being concerned with something regarded as so "radical" as to be perceived as a bit Mick Jagger in reality.

Apart from being chuffed big time that Mr Frost cites The Artswipe as one of the blogs that tries to "pick up the slack" due to the lack of artist-driven publications produced in Australia, I'm also aware that there is a subtle jibe in placement here (being that Frost's article appears some eight pages after McDonald's). You see, Frost laments that emerging art culture in Australia is as ephemeral as the young careers that loom large but sometimes peter out, due perhaps to intensified mental strain - which is all well if you can afford psychoanalysis! But alas, on Centrelink payments, not many of us can afford the Herald, let along a Freudian couchtrip. As Frost points out referring to a hypothetical pup of the artworld, "our esteemed art critics probably wouldn't have liked their work."

So who are these "esteemed critics" Frost speaks of?

Not knowing how to answer that slippery question (ie you do the math) I think it best to turn the question back to my original concern: gender, the arts and journalism. (Can you tell from my subtle yet meandering logic that I was high school debating champion?) That aside, for all my criticism of John McDonald, bless his soul, at least he recognises Aida Tomescu is a woman. Herald journalist Tracey Clement - champion of young artists everywhere, unlike some - for some inexplicable reason, has taken Tomescu's "bulging canvas" literally. As you can see below in Clement's Metro Picks (SMH Metro 31 August 07), Tomescu has man-morphed. But that's OK. Clement was too busy checking out everything in the artworld - not just some "mini-goats-cheese-pizza-East-Sydney-art-studio-crawl" - that she assumed for a moment that whatever might be McDonald fodder could actually be anything but male.