Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Car Park
The Artswipe was driving around this afternoon, lamenting the self-imposed death of my Seatbelt Series and wondering what my next serious body of work would be and how it might suit a future Sydney Biennale. All of a sudden my creative reverie was interrupted by a cacophony of horn honking. I turned my attention to the car radio and realised the incessant racket was not coming from the road but from a story broadcasting on Triple J's Hack program.
I was about to slip back into my fugue state, when journalist Antoinette Chiha referred to the din of horns as "music". Shades of Bjork making pulp of paparazzi pond scum came to mind. Indeed the horns were music belonging to the "wind section" of several utes parked at the amphitheatre of Campbelltown Arts Centre at the weekend. The inhabitants of the utes were being "conducted" by classical music composer Michael Atherton along with the "fusion" of mag wheels, car engines and rap artists.
I have always been afraid of being raped in the eardrum so I was about to switch the dial before realising it was either Triple J or possibly dying a slow death to the "junk in my trunk" of some Black Eyed Pee Stain on 2 Day FM. So I sat there in traffic, having a serious "Michael Douglas in Falling Down moment", gritting my teeth while Atherton was interviewed about how his choice of cars as music generators were inspiration derived from his professional stomping ground of western Sydney. It strikes me as odd that Atherton, who is a music professor at the University of Western Sydney, would perpetuate such dull cliches about western Sydney, as if it's the only part of the world that's ever witnessed a proliferation of "car cultures". Add "cultures" to another word, stir and you have a phenomenon. (For example: when I get home I engaged with some "instant coffee culture", answered the phone for "unsolicited call centre culture", before turning on the "TV culture" and settling in for a night ending with a "sleep culture" filled with dreams where I had at least three cultural studies PhDs).
Usually I'm never so moved with what I hear on the radio to get all "Artswipe culture" about it. But it struck me that western Sydney lost a whole lot of its culture recently due to the closure of several art degrees at the University of Western Sydney (the whole saga documented at this student run blog) and here is this UWS professor reducing western Sydney culture to a shallow car cliche. It seems music is the only arts-related degree left after the fine arts, electronic arts, theatre and dance degrees all bit the proverbial bitumen. If Atherton is the jewel in that degree's crown, I'll hedge my bets that their music degree could be restructured as engineering. Perhaps western Sydney regional galleries should start boycotting any UWS related involvement in their events. Unless a car rally convention is on the cards.