Saturday, December 06, 2008

Documental as Anything

It was announced earlier in the week that
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has been appointed curator of Documenta 13, to be held in Kassel, Germany in 2012. Most recently Christov-Bakargiev's claim to fame is curating the recent Biennale of Sydney, which according to MCA director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor (as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald), helped the curator bag the prestigious job. In particular, Christov-Bakargiev's "bold use" of Cockatoo Island as a venue assured her the job. Macgregor was part of a nine-member international committee that selected Christov-Bakargiev.

Documenta is probably the most esteemed contemporary art event in the world. What The Artswipe finds so flabbergasting is the self-importance placed on such extravaganzas. What's with the nine member committee? Is this the United Nations or something? One of the problems with the artworld these days is how over-determined everything has to be. Because we all know that no matter how much importance is placed on who the curator is, or which artists the curator selects, we'll whinge about the show because, well, we weren't included! The Artswipe is hedging bets that whatever Australian artists are selected, they'll be drawn from the pool of Australian artists already represented in the recent Biennale: Shaun Gladwell, TV Moore, Mike Parr, Raquel Ormella, Tracey Moffatt, Vernon Ah Kee... take your pick. Or get together a group of nine artist friends and take your collective committee styled pick. Either that or dream of the day when the artworld holds Idol style auditions or Big Brother style evictions for these spectacularised international art events, because I know Paula Abdul would be The Artswipe's pick for curator.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baz is a Spaz

Can someone please back me up on this: Baz Luhrmann is a total spaz.

Recently in the news - which is mostly consumed with talk of the release of his overblown epic Australia - Luhrmann made claims that Barack Obama would have been "stolen" had he been born in Australia being that he is the offspring of mixed race parents. Well the fact is, Obama was not born in Australia. I think the plight of the indigenous in Australia is not at all comparable with what African Americans have endured. Perhaps the only similarity is that both the US and Australia have shamefully racist legacies when it comes to how "black" people have been treated. Does Luhrmann really care about the stolen generation? His film cost a trillion to make while a significant population of Aboriginals live in abject poverty in Australia. I mean really, his designer wife Catherine Martin flew all around the country sourcing the perfect bush tea cutlery set for the production design. I seriously doubt they were that concerned about righting Australia's wrongs in the process. Moral of the story: if you are after an attempt at quick publicity of the socially responsible kind, espouse shallow generalisations about "blackness" and race relations.

All The Artswipe has to say is this: If Luhrmann had been born in the US, surely someone would have "stolen" that closet from him and outed him by now. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Regime Change Room

The Artswipe celebrates Obama's election win with a costume change*

What an amazing day when the real world aligns with popular culture. The idea of the black president has been long accepted as a reality in popular culture, as documented at Slate Magazine. The Artswipe has been so used to seeing depictions of black presidents in Hollywood movies that it was always a total reality check when the real president would come on TV and shake his redneck booty. But now times have changed and there's a new sheriff in town. To celebrate Obama's triumph, and in keeping with the Countess theme of the previous post, The Artswipe thought it best to slip into something a little more comfortable. I posed for this portrait earlier today at Darling Harbour.

* Apologies to Charles Browning

Monday, November 03, 2008

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend

Ron Rophar
Countess, 2007

A new blog has surfaced in the blogosphere called
CoUNTess and it's one of the most interesting ones The Artswipe has seen this century thus far. Taking its lead from The Guerrilla Girls, CoUNTess gets busy with gender statistics to highlight how women continue to be marginalised in the big bad artworld. With only two posts published to date, CoUNTess is bursting with promise. Gender inequality does still exist so we must expose it and then fucking terrorise the oppressor - STICK IT TO THE MAN, LADIES! 

For instance, The Artswipe did a Google experiment to demonstrate patriarchy in action. Male = 449,000,000 hits. In contrast, Female = 393,000,000 hits. What a cruel world, where the Female is not more ubiquitous on the interweb. 

Better yet, when typing "countess" into Google Images, The Artswipe found a great artwork of a countess surrounded by her menagerie. What an inspired solution: when men no longer work out for you, get some pets. By "world renowned master artist" Ron Rophar, this painting is adorned with over 250 carats of genuine diamonds, "a first in the history of art" according to an online press release. Indeed the press release is right by proclaiming it is a "21st century masterpiece". Damien Hurst is such a copycat with his jewel encrusted skulls and shit. 

Now who said you can't dress up feminism with a little bling.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meeting Your Maker

Renny Kodgers meets Kenny Rodgers: A Simulacrum to Behold

The Artswipe has always wanted to meet her maker. But to do so would warrant some discussion as to who The Artswipe is modelled on. Inspired by performance artist Renny Kodgers meeting his maker, The Artswipe is asking loyal readers to guess who The Artswipe might be if there was a real world CELEBRITY counterpart - and I'm not talking art stars. I'm talking the real shit: the Brangelinas of the world, etc. How much fun: it's almost like a competition, except it would require too much effort think-tanking a potential prize. Send a comment with your nominations, and who knows, The Artswipe may do some market research with the data. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Referential Juxtapocombinations

Astro Black: A History of Hip Hop (Episode 1), 2007
Digital video
Courtesy the artists

The Artswipe's regional tour of Orange Juice County (see previous post) I have been compelled to return to my urban roots and examine what’s hot in the neighbourhood. There's so much on - such great stuff I've seen - but the focus of this review will be this year's Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was curated by Hannah Matthews. Usually this little love-in of work by Australian artists under the age of 35 is a hit and miss affair. But this year it shone, if only for the inclusion of the Sydney contingent made up of two artist "entities" for want of a better term: Soda_Jerk (previously reviewed at The Artswipe here) and Ms & Mr (previously reviewed at The Artswipe here).

Soda_Jerk (AKA Dan & Dominique Angeloro) presented episodes 0-2 of their remix readymade video series – Astro Black: A History of Hip Hop. Soda_Jerk shine because they expertly and unpretentiously mine z-grade movie archives looking for samples that will form new-fangled narratives when reassembled in always inspired juxtapocombinations - I coined this word in dedication to Soda_Jerk. Using the audio language of remix, but supplanting it in both audio and visual terms, Soda_Jerk snub new media convergence rubbish for a good old fashioned VHS love-in. I just hope Soda_Jerk are on good terms with the manager at their local Blockbuster, because surely it is here where they are most at home, indeed it must be the temple at which they worship. You can hear their squabbles: "Dan! How the fuck did we wrack up $237 in late fees?" "Dom, I've told you once, I've told you a million times: REWIND!"

Unlike Soda_Jerk, who are a sister combo, Ms & Mr are a husband and wife team (Richard & Stephanie nova Milne). Soda_Jerk never reference their real selves in their work because, well they haven’t been in movies that could be sampled (unless they are hiding this from us). In contrast Ms & Mr are child actors, who performed ad-nauseum for their own family home movies. They either had a very patient family or totally controlling stage mothers who would make them perform... OR ELSE! As adults Ms & Mr decided the best way to pursue an art practice was to turn these little home movies into spooky sci-fi video installations that explore the idea that Ms & Mr have always been together, forever and always and in every time zone, including daylight savings. If not for their
goosebumply - I coined this word in dedication to Ms & Mr – Primavera
installation, another reason to like Ms & Mr is because unlike almost everyone I know in the artworld (and I know everyone), they are totally married. I thought no one got married into that heteropatriarchalnormative framework anymore. Wonder what will happen when they have a kid – will they become Ms & Mr & Jr?

Soda_Jerk quote movies. Ms & Mr quote themselves. Melbourne artist
Danielle Freakley quotes, well everything because she's obviously greedy. True to her surname, Freakley performs "freak-like" as
The Quote Generator – a woman with dark frizzy hair (it may be her own) and who only speaks in pop culture quotes. Unless you fact-check everything she says (and frankly, who has the time) you have to accept that she's not making this shit up. And really, having a conversation with her must be the equivalent of stabbing yourself in the eye. But good for her, there is a real art to annoying the hell out of people. Speaking personally, I believe Freakley has stolen my thunder because The Artswipe has always seen the world in quotation marks. I’m a very rigorous referencer. If I could fuck a footnote I would. Certainly, Freakley’s work has great potential – it is an endurance performance par excellence, excuse the French, but really it has no visuality to speak of, rendering it a limp, ill-considered and visually boring installation encountered upon entering the MCA’s main entrance.

That’s all I have to say about the 2008
because - I hate to admit it - I never made it to level 2. Recently I developed a rare allergy to stairs.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I Have Been Irregular

Apologies for being away from my desk. September is always a hard month for The Artswipe, being the anniversary for 9/11 and all that. But I did leave the answering machine on, and well, thanks for your messages. If I haven't returned your call by now, you can rest assured the reason is because I think you're a total spaz. Why mince words?

So what have I been up to I hear you ask? Well, the reason I have been so irregular with posting is the whirlwind tour I have embarked on recently with some of the more regional outposts of the artworld. The highpoint of this recent bus trip around regional Australia was the Citrus Sculpure project initiated by Griffith Regional Gallery. Now why didn't I think of that first? The Artswipe has always admired the impact fruit has had on art. Basically the still life genre owes its, um, life to fruit. 

The benefits to representation and art history aside, fruit is important because it can really dress up a drink. With this in mind, I brought my hip flask to Griffith at the weekend and ensured it was filled to the brim with vodka. When a gallery guide wasn't looking I grabbed an orange from the Big Orange Cabin and used it as a mixer. Delicious! Now that I've been to Griffith and eaten (read: drunk) the equivalent of a Golden Guitar's worth of juicy fruit, I promise to be more regular.

Indeed I promise to keep bringin' you the shit.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Leave a Message

Hi you have called Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. I'm away from my desk or on another call, so leave a message and I'll get back to you shortly. Thanks for calling.

Hi Carolyn. This is The Artswipe. I haven't seen the Sydney Biennale yet and was wondering if you could extend it for a week as I am free next Sunday, and would love to check it out then. Hope this is OK. I've heard you did a good job. Hope you're well. Call me.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cock and Bull Island

Photos © The Artswipe

In these last days of the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, The Artswipe is finally running a pictorial essay about the much hyped Cockatoo Island venue. These here photos are but a few of the cockatoo islands I have encountered in recent weeks. Note how the cockatoos are either sitting on the trash heap or they are the trash heap.

There you have it - The Artswipe's review of Cockatoo Island, couched in mysterious metaphor.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

High Camp Lows

The Artswipe
First Jobs Series, BBQ Chief at School Camp, 2008
Archival pigments on rice paper with gel medium
edition 20

The Artswipe
always loves to know what Tracey Moffatt will come up with next, so I went to see her show, First Job Series, at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery today. I had a skip in my step on the way there, and on the way back, because it was so much fun to know that this artmegastar once parked cars, peeled pineapples, washed hair, packed meat... she even sold aluminium siding! What I love about Miss Moffatt is she probably is telling you the truth about her past, but that it is so camp. One's early years are always best played back through the spectacle of high camp. Why else would you want to re-live it?

Seeing First Job Series made me feel better about being sold into prostitution by my bitch stepmother when I was 10. Then there was the time at 13 that I babysat that Down Syndrome kid down the road who was clearly older than me. The best first job The Artwipe ever had was fundraising at school: you'd pretend to be making a buck for The 40 Hour Famine, helping African orphans but spending the booty on Big Macs and Cokes. I mowed a lawn once, even worked at a beach kiosk and later got a root in the sand dunes. Oh the good old days. The best job was being BBQ Chief at School Camp. I may not have been paid in cash, but at least I was at Camp.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Adam Cullen's controversial Blake Prize entry

The Artswipe presents a guest blog by Deborah Browne from Sydney:

Mr Cullen, the Enfant Terrible of the upper Blue Mountains managed to get many tongues wagging last week by inadvertently causing a stir with his Blake Prize entry, Only Women Bleed.
Being such a stranger to publicity and the press, Cullen made the terrible error of exclaiming there shouldnt be a fuss about the picture as it was "It's just a Jew on the cross".

The controversy didn't seem to be so much to do with the religious iconography as much as about pannelist Dr Christopher Allen having a major chewy spit and resigning after being over-ridden by fellow panellists.

What the press didn't report on though, was the REAL reason for Allen's disgusting resignation. Apparently Allen couldn't work out why a picture of Jim Henson's 'Animal', from the Muppets, could possibly be regarded as fine art, especially given the other Henson's recent drama at Oxley's. "No more celebration of paedophilia" he cried as angry students swamped his modest NAS office.

Meanwhile, Cullen sat in his icy mountain hideaway feeling smugly warm from a vodka and press-induced euphoria, wrapped in the front page of the SMH and claiming "now that's Art, that is".

Monday, August 11, 2008

Soda Pop

Christian Marclay
Pictures at an Exhibition, 1997
Whitney Museum of Modern Art

Pictures at an Exhibition (After Christian Marclay), 2008
Firstdraft Gallery
Courtesy the artists
Photos: Viv McGregor

In 1997 New York based installation artist and composer Christian Marclay presented Pictures at an Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Marclay selected artworks from the Whitney collection that visually represent "noise". Hung in an over-crowded salon hang, Marclay points out (as quoted in a New York Times review by Grace Glueck) that this "orchestra of images" is meant to explore the "intimate relationship between the immateriality of sound and the tangibility of sound's visual manifestations".

Eleven years later "our Soda_Jerk" (read that with the same love you make when saying "our Nicole" or "our Cate") are presenting their cover version of Marclay's Pictures at an Exhibition in Daniel Green's curated show It's all been done before at Firstdraft Gallery in Sydney. About time really; the Whitney is such a crap venue and we all know that Marclay only showed there because the directors at Firstdraft in 1997* rejected his exhibition proposal.

Soda_Jerk, whose remix oeuvre is played out in video works, photo-collage and installations and who will be showing in Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art this year, are very sassy and clever art ladies. They have not bothered looking to an institutional collection for inspiration. Instead they have asked artists in Sydney to loan them the artworks they made in high school art class, many of which are the outcome of their Year 12 Higher School Certificate. Where Marclay's installation of visual noise encouraged viewers to "hear sound through their eyes" Soda_Jerk have gone for a more deafening approach: being assaulted by the "noise" of youth. Marclay didn't intend to poke his viewer in the eye with a treble clef, but that's because he's probably private school educated. The Soda squad opt more for retina burn of girls who mastered their pick-pocketing trickery at the toughest bitch-slap reform school there ever was!

In short, Pictures at an Exhibition (After Christian Marclay) by Soda_Jerk is ArtExpress Artist Run Initiative style! The works collected are a veritable who's-who of groovy Sydney A-Listers, and that's capital A for Art, no less: Andrew Frost, Christopher Hanrahan, Sam Smith, Rachel Scott, Marley Dawson, Sari Kivinen, Drew Bickford, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Kate Jinx, Kate Mitchell, Ella Barclay, Vicki Papageorgopoulos, Monika Behrens, Tom Polo, Tara Marynowsky, Lauren Brincat, Will French, Emma Ramsey, Harriet Birks, Sumu Sivanesan, Stephanie Nova Milne (half of Ms & Mr) and Dominique Angeloro (half of Soda_Jerk).

What makes this install particularly amusing (in a LOL! kind of way) is that the roll call of artists assembled are all doing interesting stuff these days, but clearly have the most dubious of origins. With this installation Soda_Jerk debunk notions of artistic essentialism through recontextualising the obscure artistic detritus and pop culture minutiae of the past. In other words, a good artist is made and not born. In fact some may have been total shit once upon a time. (Speaking from experience, The Artswipe admits to the shame of a youth spent trying to be Andy Warhol when really I had as much talent as Andy McDowell).

I am doubting any of the groovers assembled by Soda_Jerk got into ArtExpress at the time - I'm sure they just got put on detention!
The Artswipe adores ArtExpress: it is the annual exhibition of Higher School Certificate artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW and other venues. Who needs a Youth Advisor when you have ArtExpress? Clearly it is the only place an old girl like me can get a keen understanding on the real issues affecting the young: war (what's it good for?), eating disorders (often caused when two teens lock their braces during a pash), global warming ("Sir, Darryl farted again!"), fashion ("Did you get that from Table 8 or Supre?"), social networking (MySpace, Facebook or Date Rape?), sexual confusion (when Madison fell in love with her gym teacher and happenstanced upon a same-sex wonderland), globalisation (the Coke or Pepsi race riots), postmodernism and artistic appropriation (remaking the Cindy Sherman Foundation), and the one that encapsulates it all - IDENTITY - those artworks that depict teenage alienation, loneliness and acne scars through endless repetitions of the self; these days in "emo"style. While the artworks collected by Soda_Jerk are quite frankly some of the most putrid artworks of all time, I thank my lucky stars that there's not an emo among them.

* Firstdraft directors in 1997: Tanya Peterson, Tess Knight, Peter Fitzpatrick, Simone Douglas, Gianni Wise, Philipa Veitch, Elvis Richardson, Sarah Goffman and Alex Gawronski.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ace of Hearts

It has come to my attention that curator Anthony (Ace) Bourke, who has carved out a long and distinguished career working with contemporary indigenous artists like the late Michael Riley, Tracey Moffatt, Gordon Bennett, Brenda Croft, HJ Wedge, among others, and who has curated exhibitions at the Museum of Sydney, State Library of NSW and Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, was a "lion tamer" of sorts in a, let's say, past life of sorts.

Ace Bourke, Christian and John Rendall

Talk shows in the US and Australia have been a-buzz with a YouTube clip featuring a young Ace with his pet lion "Christian". The clip popular with YouTube fans shows Ace and friend John reuniting with Christian in 1969 after he'd been released back to the African jungle after spending some quality time in Swinging London. The clip has been watched over 4 million times, has Whitney Houston playing over the top for total camp value, and has even on-screen subtitles summarising the beautiful tale. Read more about how the clip became a YouTube sensation here.

Why aren't all curators this cool!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kissing to be Clever

God loves a polyphonic ringtone

Why did I come back from my holiday during the whole World Youth Day circus? Those pesky pilgrims really are getting up my nose. Is it just me, or has Sydney turned into a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (and I mean the 1978 version with Donald Sutherland)? It really is an alien podscape out there in Sydney my friend. All those self-same backpacks and passes around their necks. Are they backstage passes to heaven? If there is an outbreak of bird flu in the next few days, don't look at me, look at those hoards of high-fiving, tambourine shaking, Mexican waving pilgrim folk. Just the word pilgrim freaks me out, like it was invented to explain how one recovers from depression: Grim? + Pill! = Pilgrim.

Today while trying to get from A to B but having to wait for the tedious ZZZZZs of time wasted at roadblocks to make way for the Pope's passage through the city, I overheard a fat American pilgrim yell at a homeless person for being in her way - she had somewhere to be: front row, centre left for Popemobile no doubt. I went over to the homeless man, let's call him Charlie. I held Charlie for what felt the longest time and he said to me, "can you spare some change?" I asked him if he could break a fifty.

This whole Youth Day spectacle has really gotten out of hand. What's youth got to do with it? Clearly we live in a land where the spectacle of youth has received short thrift amidst the hysteria levelled recently at Bill Henson and then the Art Monthly mob. I really hope a few rosy cheeked pilgrims take the wrong ferry at Circular Quay and end up at Mike Parr's headless chicken porn torture installation at Cockatoo Island. "Mummy, I thought we were going to Manly for an ice cream cone. How did we get to this smelly island of seagull poop and scary wreckage?" This is dialogue from a play I'm writing called Prayers for Percy Pilgrim. You know how it ends: 20something Percy just can't reconcile his Catholicism with his adult fetish for breast milk, no matter how much he calls it communion.

I digress. There appears to be some art related responses to the whole shebang. For instance that celestial beacon of hope, Pope Alice, will stage a "kiss in" for the queers among us at Taylor Square this Saturday 19 July. Kissing to be clever indeed! The Artswipe has been a supporter of the homosexualist cause for some time now. Without the gays there would be no musical theatre and Amyl nitrate, among other things. I even watch Ellen on YouTube sometimes. What kind of world would it be without the GLBT on turkish, hold the mayo? Look, The Artswipe would be there participating at this kissathon on Saturday, but since seeing Pretty Woman on the big screen in 1990, I have been firm about my no kissing policy; it's better that way. Emotional attachments rarely work when you're an online persona like me. When Al Pacino, in the iconic gay flick Crusing (1980), asks his rough trade, "Hips or Lips?", we don't even need to hear the answer. Ask a pilgrim, hips win hands down. And I'm not talking the child-bearin' kind.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Relational Aesthetics Again

The Artswipe
This is Performance Art, 2008
Probable Biennale Satellite Event

The Artswipe has had a lovely holiday. Thanks for asking. I spent my three week annual leave just wandering the cold streets of Sydney looking for an artworld I can call home. I've wizzed through the Biennale exhibitions but haven't absorbed enough to be quite honest. I did see these guys sleeping at Circular Quay and wondered if this was either a Biennale Satellite Event or simply a definition for Relational Aesthetics. I have overheard people at art parties saying, "The Artswipe is all about Relational Aesthetics." I'm still unsure what that is but I'll pay that. I have a theory that Relational Aesthetics is a way of helping our ugly relatives become aesthetic. I'm guessing it's when the whole family pulls together to help Aunt Sigourney pay the facelift bills.

If I get around to writing about the Biennale it is bound to be about Cockatoo Island. I've been there a few times already. In fact I was at the artist party there and am still convinced to this day that someone slipped Rohypnol in my drink. How else could I account for lost time and the strange feeling I had either been impregnated or dipped in hot Camembert (a sensation I've only experienced with Skanky Jane and it was early in our marriage). I have been to Cockatoo Island since the party and seen bits of art but way to many art people to be able to absorb it meaningfully. I'll go again soon with my Artswipe notepad and mobile phone camera.

Meanwhile, The Artswipe has been a bit quiet on seeing anything else in Sydney. Here is my review of what I am yet to see: Scott Redford at Breenspace, John Citizen (aka Gordon Bennett), Mitch Cairns at MOP, James Angus at Ros Ox (Dale Frank too, I suppose), and then some. I suppose all these shows will close soon and then I will be damned to an eternity of not knowing whether I missed out on brilliance or bile. I sense a country song coming on.

Sarah Goffman as Glue Gun Warrior Woman

Some crazy things I have experienced in art land, which have been very thrill-a-minute: Terminus Projects (a space without a place) hosted a Bazaar at the Clair Hotel on Broadway on 6 July. Artists like Joan Ross, Renny Kodgers, Sarah Goffman, Rachel Scott, Danielle Coonan, Lisa Andrew and many others had stalls where they sold their artist wares. For instance Sarah Goffman made words out of glue gun glue (see picture); Joan Ross sold lots of 'nothing', Renny Kodgers was offering his spreadable hot meat. What a manwhore he is! The twins behind Matchbox Projects were being powerhouse saleswomen of their own cause - all they needed to get the point across further was a flow chart and PowerPoint presentation. In case you haven't been accosted by them, they have a readymade portable exhibition space made of perspex and which to the untrained eye is really just a briefcase. Someone should roll them for that briefcase and throw it in the river. Enough already! Simon Barney did that years ago and with so much more panache. Aside from that being a cause for an Artswipe art tantrum, the brief 24 minutes I spent at the Clair were well spent indeed, despite the serious indigestion from Renny's man meat. Geez I hope he's clean!

The other bit of art I have seen of recent days is that ubiquitous performance artist darling Sari Kivinen do her thing in a glass aquarium-like tank last weekend at Exquisite Corpse at Oxford Art Factory. The Artswipe has written about Kivinen in past posts. A refresher course: Kivinen's live schtick is composed of three sister selves who all have major booze issues. The three girls do dysfunctional things like sucking their toes in public and reciting psychobabble poetry. It's got shades of Tori Amos weird and Patti Smith cool. Behind the bar was a kinetically edited video projection of Kivinen playing out her madness with the help of artists Liam Benson (who was recently seen in SafARI at Gaffa) and Bridie Connell (who has work showing at present at At the Vanishing Point in Newtown). After witnessing Kivinen transition between her three selves for what seemed like a schooner eclipse, I went into the dark night and felt whole again.

Sari Kivinen performing at Exquisite Corpse at Oxford Art Factory

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lets Get Out of this Country

Child with Monochrome (probably a Malevich, but I'm not sure)

Hi Folks, The Artswipe is still on annual leave. I'll be back soon I promise. Meanwhile, the culture wars persist, with the latest issue of Art Monthly Australia igniting debate about the issue of child nudity.

Magazine Puts Naked Child on Cover
Daily Telegraph, Sunday 6 July 2008

A taxpayer-funded magazine has used a picture of a naked six-year-old girl on the cover of its July edition in protest against the treatment of artist Bill Henson.

Angered by the "hysteria" over Henson's pictures of a 13-year-old girl, the magazine also has a number of highly sexualised images inside, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper says.

Art Monthly editor Maurice O'Riordan says he hopes the July edition will restore
some "dignity to the debate", the paper says.

It says an angry NSW Premier Morris Iemma on Saturday threatened to withdraw the magazine's funding.

The July edition of Art Monthly Australia also includes several provocative photos of children posing naked in adult jewellery as well as naked teenage girls.

In the editorial, Maurice O'Riordan says he chose the picture of the young girl in the "hope of restoring some dignity to the debate" and to "validate nudity and childhood as subjects for art". Mr O'Riordan, who does not have children of his own, told The Sunday Telegraph he does not care if it stirs community complaint.

"Maybe this is bold, but I don't see the need to give in to that sort of hysteria or the prospect of complaint.

"I couldn't really understand the furore."

Art Monthly Australia receives more than $50,000 in funding from the federal government's Council for the Arts and lists the NSW Ministry for the Arts under sponsors and partner. The state government has issued grants to the magazine in previous years.

Mr Iemma immediately threatened to withdraw future funding after he was contacted about the images on Saturday.

"Images of this kind are distasteful, exploitative of children - a cheap, sick stunt at the expense of a young child," he said.

"We've now reached a sad point where some people think naked kids can boost their sales and get them a headline. We will have no role in funding them while they use images that exploit children."

More than 5,000 copies of the magazine have been distributed across Australia.
The magazine also includes images by Bill Henson.

In May, police raided the Roslyn Oxley Gallery in Paddington, confiscating several images by Mr Henson, including the photographs of a naked 13-year-old girl.

The photos sparked major national debate and angered several organisations, including child welfare groups, with Mr Iemma labelling the works "offensive and disgusting".

Mr Henson was cleared of any wrongdoing following a police investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Australia Council on Saturday defended its decision to help fund the magazine. She said the council regards Mr Henson as one of the country's premier artists.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Terrible Twos

The Artswipe
BRB 2008
la-bamba print, ed: limited
Courtesy Google Images

The Artswipe turns two next week (on the 21st June). I am a Biennale baby - born amid culture two years ago. A difficult birth - shat out completely. To celebrate, I'm thinking of just getting away - you know, getting in the car and just driving, far far away. I might even get as far as Kellyville or Kogarah. I'm sure there are Biennale satellite shows happening in such places and I plan on reviewing the shit out of them.

What I'm trying to say, loyal reader, is I am taking leave for a week or two, and will come back with some Biennale of Sydney coverage. From what I've heard, it's a real sense fest. Like the thematic premise goes: it's a revolution that turns. I'm not sure what it "turns into". Perhaps you can tell me, by posting a comment. Go on, "turn me on". Just don't "turn on me". I couldn't bare it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Issue 3: The School Zone

Art World issue 3
version 1 & version 2

The Artswipe promised not to mention Bill Henson again. I only said that because I expected the whole kiddie-art c-type photo-scandal to have blown over by now. And also because I am so fickle - remember I write these blogs drunk. 

Has anyone read the magazine
Art World? I subscribe and so should you. Approximately three days after the Henson scandal erupted, I received issue 3 of Art World in the mail and - God Forbid! - it featured Bill Henson artworks. A detail of the image used on the "offending" invite from Roslyn Oxley69 Gallery that caused the furore in the first place actually made the cover of the magazine. That's it, I'm calling Miranda Devine. Miiiirrraaannnnddddaaaa! Miiiirrraaannnnddddaaaa!

Big thumbs up as they say in critic circles to
Art World for being so intuitive and having the insight to be so timely. They have their finger so up the pulsating arsehole of culture, I can barely breathe. Asphyxiation fantasies are popular again - they were a bit ho-hum for awhile there thank you Michael Hutchence. The Artswipe is having a sexual revolution and you're all all invited. I'd send glossly fold out DL invite cards but my budget was given over to rubber life vests.

Back to 
Art Word magazine and how it contained several of the naughty Henson pictures. Ooh ah. What's this? Today I get Art World in the mail again. This time the cover features spent paint tins. Intriguing to say the least. At first I thought a whole month had passed me by and I had not noticed (such is being in your early-late-mid thirties). But wait, this is issue 3 of Art World "repackagaed" without the "offensive" Hensons. Fuck me gently with a chainsaw! How did this happen? Why has Art World re-issued issue 3? Did the police seize the magazine? I'm shocked. We do live in a Police State.

I have a copy of issue 3 v1 and issue 3 v2 and will be displaying both in vitrines at my place during 40km per hour School Zone afternoon hours (I think its 3-4:30pm? Who knows what the morning hours are?) My Henson appreciation courses will be creative creche pow-wows for the critically finetuned. I may even take to eBay trading. I have several Henson books that are now out of print, and a casual glance in the realm of online auctions reveals that such fodder is very lucrative indeed. I may sell my
Art World issue 3 v1 on eBay. That's where I sold my virginity after all.

I was 13 at the time. The first cut is the deepest, as Rod Stewart once said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fatso Whale

Nike Savvas
Atomic: Full of Love, Full of Wonder 2005/2008 (detail)
Installation at Casula Powerhouse
Photo: The Artswipe

The Artswipe has been a nervous mess of late - all this Bill Henson talk has made me quite twitchy, aware that any minute a huge tsunami of repression could wash over a population of stupid masses who are happily drowning in their self-perpetuating hysteria. Grow up Australia! Grow up now! If you see me in the corner, twitching and in a fetal position, it's not because I'm being photographed by Bill Henson; it's because I'm pissed off. I never wanted to live in the 1950s and seeing I was born in 1970, now is not the time for time travel.

The Artswipe promises never mention Bill Henson again, because frankly other art shows are doing the rounds. And because I won't give it power.

So I went to the Casula Powerhouse today as I have been simply dying to see how the renovations turned out. Plus there is this shit-hot show called Australian. I bet Baz Luhrmann is pissed off - his movie Australia is about to come out and he probably thought he was tapping into something that had never been done before. Well think again Twinkle Toes Luhrmann, your movie frankly doesn't have the budget Casula Powerhouse does. Yes, Casula was given a trillion dollars to pimp their space. And just as well: power stations are so 'modernity' - give me the digital age already.

I got off the train at Casula and thought for a second about how this is Ivan Milat Country. The murder rape fantasy eventually wore off and I made my way to Casula Powerhouse. It's quiet there; I'm used to the flightpath of my inner west terrace. I tremble nervously as I made my way across the narrow road that crosses the railway line. All of a sudden I am stuck - fuck it, I can't move, I really am stuck! I have become such a fatso whale that I am increasingly finding it impossible to move through entrances and exits. So much for accessibility. I have been eating a lot of carbs these last few months and now as a result, I won't be able to get into the Casula Powerhouse because the pedestrian access across the rail line is so narrow, so "fat-ist". Even the producers of the "hit" show Keating! share my anxiety.

The Artswipe
How I Got Fat (Thank You for Your Donation) 2008 (detail)
Installation at Liverpool McDonalds

As the Liverpool Leader reports:

Casula Powerhouse staff braved a few bumps while setting up for the musical Keating! A crew of about 25 people rolled up their sleeves on Monday to help unload the set, which travels by a semi-trailer that was too big to manoeuvre down a narrow road and cross a railway line leading to the Powerhouse. Theatre producer Lyn Wallis said the 'bump-in'' theatre lingo for setting up a show ran smoothly despite the obstacles. 'It's been a well-executed operation,' an excited Ms Wallis told the Leader. 'The show's been touring in the semi and there's a tonne of equipment. We managed to negotiate the semi down to the bottom of the hill and close to the railway line, which was a surprise. From there we used three small trucks to load the set to the theatre.'
Finally, after a combination of sweaty discombobulation and holding my breath, the good Lord used his invisible fist to push me through the tough Westie terrain. (Or some volunteers came out to help me...) All of a sudden the angels started singing "Hallelujah." At last, I was inside the Casula Powerhouse after a struggle screaming out for its own screenplay.

Australian, the inaugural exhibition at the revamped Casula Powerhouse, is curated by Nicholas Tsoutas and according to the website:
Casula Powerhouse commissioned Australia's hottest contemporary visual artists to transform the newly refurbished arts centre into a spectacle of colour, texture and movement. Combined, the artists have 40 biennales between them, and are among the most exciting practitioners today. The exhibition features 12 new works, in a variety of mediums including sculpture, painting, installation and textiles.

Like most Australians the artists have cultural and family ties in other places and it is this which informs their work. Australian celebrates the complexity that makes this country such an interesting place to live and presents some of the freshest and most dynamic work being created in this country today. 
Great, I love "hot" artists. Since I've put on so much weight the art "hotties" have stopped picking The Artswipe for casual sex at art opening so I have been a bit sex deprived. But that's OK, masturbation is free. And if you're an art lover like me, you can always use those quiet moments of ecstasy to imagine all kinds of sexual adventures with Shaun Gladwell's skateboard or Nike Savvas's balls.

In case you're thinking this exhibition of "hot" art only features Gladwell and Savvas, think again. It also includes
Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy (so hot right now), David Griggs, Raquel Ormella, Guan Wei, Dani Marti, Gordon Hookey and others. The hottest moment was the wonderful ceiling installation of motorised kinetic chandaleirs by Suzann Victor that greets you upon entering the space.

Unfortunately it's downhill from there. David Griggs presented an installation called
Donkey Root and unless the sizzle of your Winfield Blue ciggie lighting up a friend's Marlboro Light has made a comeback in "hotness" stakes, then it may as well be met with a frosty reception.

I suppose this exhibition has set up a couple of impossible tasks. Much has to do with the title: being called
Australian, it heralds itself as both grandiose and remote. Australian erects claims about "cultural difference" in a self-conscious and tokenistic manner befitting something that heralds its "hotness" before anything else.

Weirder still, the show advertises the involvement of "writers",
Prof. Ien Ang, Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz, Assoc. Prof. Nikos Papastergiadis, Dr. Juan Salazar and Dr Paula Abood. The very least you could expect then is some killer publication to accompany this ambitious exhibition. At least when Captain Cook "discovered" Australia he wrote it all down and it was later published. This exhibition purports to depict what being "Australian" is all about through art and instead of publishing anything, the writers involved are put to work penning the didactic wall texts accompanying the artworks. Surely a catalogue is not much to ask for? For starters, it's usually where the curatorial rationale is located. The writers were also put to work as "speakers" at a three day conference. I was at a pie eating contest and couldn't attend, so I hope they performed the necessary intellectual audit of all the issues involved.

Considering the $13 million government funding Casula Powerhouse has received for the refurbishment, and the
media hoopla greeting its re-opening, I expected to be dazzled. Alas, I have been more dazzled by parking inspectors and abortion clinics.

Flick through the
Casula Powerhouse program and you quickly realise the space has been given over to the priority of high-turnover theatre productions. "Bums on seats" is the technical term used in the industry to describe this phenomenon. It appears that Casula Powerhouse's days as an art space are endangered. The program does not indicate what the next visual arts show will be, and that's because they probably don't know: it is still months and months away. The dates for Australian are 5 April - 7 September. Who ever heard of a regional gallery holding an exhibition for five months? Don't trip over yourself in the wild stampede to see it before it closes! In contrast, the theatre program rolls over with swift conveyor belt regularity.

On my lonely all-stations train ride home, I imagined what it might be like to exhibit at Casula Powerhouse. Some of us are hopelessly aspirational, I know. But then I remembered how fatso whales like me have no place there; we can't even get through the pedestrian crossing! The weight loss has to begin with either me or them. No doubt I'll be the biggest loser.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Don't Give it Power

John A. Douglas
Screen Test # 1(Americana), 2008
c-type photograph on alluminium, 1400mm x 1000mm
Courtesy the artist and Chalkhorse

Who would have thought the
Bill Henson scandal would in fact turn out to be such a red hot scandal? Every single party I attended at the weekend (I was invited to at least a dozen) was aflutter with the news. One person told me she would not speak about it as she had vowed "not to give it power". I took my hat off to her and we had a healing moment together. Every news channel was buzzing and I couldn't get enough. Even Rudd had his say! Oh dear, does this mean art will start becoming micromanaged by the media watchdogs? Has a precedent been set by Henson, whereby contentious artworks, no matter how potentially dull, will always come under the scrutiny of the moral majority? It's not as if this hasn't happened before - art scandals are a periodic affair. But never before has an Australian Prime Minister chucked in his two cents. Or at least that I know of.

But to leave your Monday morning on a brighter note, here is my favourite moment from the Henson media coverage. On Friday evening (23 May 2008) a commercial news network (I forget which one) covered the closure of the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery opening on Thursday night (22 May) by including comment from an artist who was there during the shut down. The artist was John A. Douglas and he said something about the closure being an outrage. What made it funny was they wrote his name on screen as "John MacDonald".

Postscript: John A Douglas, who was interviewed at The Art Life recently, emailed The Artswipe today and said:
Let me tell you that a precedent has been set - it was the first time I had gone to try and look at some work (yes I said to the media his work is actually a bit passe and boring) and been attacked by a media scrum. Basically some guy gave me the wrong info and said that he and the gallery had been charged. In hindsight I think they wanted to get a reaction and i was it. I turned around and suddenly all the cameras were on me (without my consent) as they couldn't get a word from the gallery. I can tell you it was art history 101 to the media - they must have thought I was John McDonald which shows how fucking moronic these guys are.