Entries from August 2010 ↓

remember the camel plague?

There’s not much you’re allowed to photograph in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. But there’s no love lost for the feral camels that were culled last year  following the invasions of local communities. Remember the uproar last Christmas when there was a camel plague Docker River? See here. This is where the remains of the cull were cremated. And there are still millions out there. Seriously.

And the solution? Some say it’s the dinner table! There’s been some talk of a central Australian camel abbatoir. But harvesting will not address the ongoing ecological issues – the ongoing pollution/loss of waterholes will have a massive impact on core populations of wildlife…

Election night in Coober Pedy…

We assumed the big screen in John’s Pizza Bar and Restaurant in Coober Pedy would be the best place to watch the election results fall…

But no. The AFL takes priority. John set me up in the back room where there was a screen with no audience!

As things unfold, the “Coat of Arms” Pizza may be the high point of the night!

Vote Gnome (or the Angel of Fluxus will be paying you a visit)

Be warned: if you vote for The Bishop and her Pet Monk the folks at Iconophilia can arrange for some gnomely revenge… (For example, this is by Milan Knizak: Andel, 1989, acrylic on plastic. P.S. if this makes no sense to you, there’s a thread).

the return of the orientation conundrum

“…because they’re aerial landscapes you can just swivel them around.” So says the gallery attendant. In a previous post I asked whether it matters that the viewers of Aboriginal art are comfortable installing it to suit their own taste – by making the final decision about its orientation on the wall – in a manner that is unique to this kind of intercultural transaction. Actually, I would want to argue something much stronger: to convert a topographical way of seeing to a pictorial way of looking adds a layer of meaning and value which is essentially alien to the originating culture. My question remains, why does this final aesthetic decision remain unproblematic? Take this example:

The snapshot above includes the painting (on the right) titled Jurnu Kup (Two Sisters), by May Chapman, from Punmu, one of the stars at the exhibition at Chapman Gallery in Manuka. This is a group exhibition Jakilpa Laju Kartyinpa: Bringing a Message showing work by some of the Martumili artists represented in the Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route exhibition currently at the National Museum of Australia.

These two ways of presenting the same painting demonstrates a commonplace lack of resolution of this ontological dilemma. It accentuates two different ways of being in the world, of two different symbolic systems. Clearly, the painting by May Chapman doesn’t yet have a settled orientation. It was advertised and illustrated in the Canberra Times rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise to the way it was hung in the gallery, apparently “to suit the shape of the advertisement”. In the Martumili Artists certificate for this painting it is illustrated rotated 180 degrees (upside down), but described as if it is horizontal. All of which exemplifies the orientation conundrum.

You could argue that it doesn’t matter, because a painting like this is equally valid in any of four orientations. Maybe the artist doesn’t care, or the issue is beyond their ken, or just not on their radar… You could argue these works will always be essentially ambiguous, and therefore the consumer will be wrong three quarters of the time.  If indeed there is a right and wrong. Nevertheless it is usually the outsider (art advisor, curator, dealer, collector) who takes charge, and who decides which way up it should go… The deed is done, whether or not it matters to the artist. So what does this tell us about the asymmetrical relations inherent in such intercultural transactions? See comments…

Canberra? who cares?

For those who live in Canberra the other significance of August 21st will be that it will be THREE YEARS TO THE DAY since the ACT Government and/or the NCA gave up on their responsibility to do something better with the dead heart of Canberra. I admit, this is not a big picture issue. It’s not going to divert us from Our Forward Momentum. But in Tidy Town such things loom large in the Civic Psyche. Three years ago we started making sick jokes about these sad little readymades which occupy the potentially important – but currently dreadful – space between the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings on Northbourne Avenue. Apparently they’re the foundations for some kind of signage that never got finished. They remain as an accidental monument to civic despair. But wait! There’s something new! They’ve updated the bin! And what’s that in the background?

Signage! It’s a sign that (in the most elliptical way) tells us how important this site really is… Welcome to BUILDINGS OF COMPONENT PARTS. Crikey! Who composed that? And for whom?

Dear Chief Minister, when oh when are you going to ask someone to take control and do something FANTASTIC with this symbolic space? Suggestion: emulate the Serpentine Gallery’s annual Pavilion. See here and  here

There. I’ve broken my RULE never to rely on italics or CAPS for emphasis…