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.