and Bob Dylan’s doin’ it. Read Greg Allen’s forensic analysis here at greg.org
Entries Tagged 'NEWS' ↓
Some months ago I wrote about the growing phenomenon of “street art” at the KAF base in Kandahar, in south-eastern Afghanistan. There was even a response to the incarceration of Ai Weiwei here and there on the concrete blast walls. Now we find the Australian official war artist Ben Quilty getting in on the act. His variation on the Australian coat of arms is a radical challenge to iconographic analysis. While the Australian War Memorial has mentioned his mural in passing in last week’s pre-publicity, we are yet to see them publish a photograph of the work, or to offer an account of the meaning of its symbolism. The inclusion of skulls and serpents (locally symbolising the infidel crusader) may pose a challenge to officialdom. This may yet prove to be the most radical “war art” yet. We look forward to the official account. Here’s what they say thus far… (This photograph was published in Air Force: the official newspaper of the Royal Australian Air Force, (Vol 53, No 22, Nov 24, 2001, p.17).
And this is the first version of the image: the one above has (for better or worse) been made specific to the KAF context:
Ben Quilty, Landcruiser, 2007, Chinese Ink and Gouache on Aquari paper, 188 x 282cm (from the QUT Ben Quilty Interpretative Guide)
This text by Don Walker accompanies the image: “It’s an old trick. Take a universal, publicly owned snatch of melody, fanfare, phrase or image and pervert it. Ben Quilty has used the Australian coat of arms, an image so official and hoary it’s almost invisible, and mounted it on a mesa piled with skulls. The shield-bearers are presented as road-kill, the kangaroo muzzle flattened by a double bogie. Between them now is a cairn of skulls knitted by worms and lies. The crest is a convict shackle, looking as though it was cut from a kerosene tin, just to make it clear that not all the bones belonged to Indigenous Australians. Like most people, Ben Quilty defies caricature. A bogan who chose to pursue a degree in Aboriginal culture. A petrolhead who buys his art supplies at Bunnings, yet carries tiny notebooks full of the most exquisite pen-and-ink sketches of Venice done in his recent youth. Close in, where Quilty works, his paintings look like a bad paving job. Step back twenty feet and he’s caught the whole sorry tale, a country built by the survivors of pogroms, massacres and land clearances elsewhere, who found a haven here on land cleared by massacres of our own.”
The image and text above was found here. We’re waiting to hear the AWM’s version…
slip across and see cai guo-qiang’s exhibition of “peasant da vincis” at the Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai until August 8th, 2010 on designboom now
Read the backstory on the ABC The Drum. Then read Lindsay Murdoch in The Age on Saturday, then Bob Gosford: “Yesterday Geoff Scott, CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council made a gift to the Alyawarr people that was both symbolic and ironic and will ring a loud and clear rallying call to the Alyawarr people who just a few months ago walked off the literal cess-pit that the Ampilitawatja township had become after years of neglect from all levels of Government.
Geoff Scott gave the Alyawarr people a bright and shiny brass bell inscribed with the following message:
This Declaration Bell is presented to the Elders and families of the Alyawarra Nation by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council on February 14, 2010 in recognition of their principled walk-off and continuing fight to uphold their land rights, culture and heritage. May it ring for justice and change.
What the? Iconophilia wonders what set of smarts idiots thought that Fascist Realism would be the right style to stir up the annual jingoism around the Australia Day holiday? Yes, multiculturalism has slipped out of political fashion, but what other-than-Ayran ethnicities (with the exception of the designer boy-girl with olive complexion and well-plucked eyebrows) might feel included in this “celebration”? Indigenous? Indian? Anyone? Who is the Government Minister responsible for the creative genius on the Australia Day Committee who thought is was a good idea? At least some lowly layout designer at The Oz got it right: Think Again… And maybe patriotic Indigenous Australians like Maria (below “XOZX”) have another apology coming?
PS. We haven’t seen it since – perhaps its been pulled? Nothing on the official site… Or does this Australia Day advertisement mean Sam Kekovich has gone mainstream? Only The Punch seems to have noticed…
PPS. Ad agency CEO Russel Howcroft (George Patterson Y&R) takes the credit for it. See the comments below…
PPPS. Yesterday the blog for ad enthusiasts The Inspiration Room posted a story claiming it’s just great, and have reproduced better images, if you’re interested, and name all those who actually did the work: executive creative director Ben Coulson, copywriter Annie Egan, art director Ryan Fitzgerald, illustrator Mark Thomas and retoucher Hung Nguyen. Makes you wonder…
October 8th, 2009 — NEWS
On Wednesday night the Canberra audience for the premiere of the movie Julie & Julia were transfixed by the appearance of a rare three dimensional self portrait attributed to the great Russian/German modernist Alexej von Jawlensky. No sooner discovered than lost again to the mysteries of art history, alas… See for yourself.
As the story unfolds, so the plot thickens. As it should in any melodrama.
The “real story” of Petrov’s accident on the Cooma road at dawn on Christmas Eve, 1953, is a truly unlikely tale according to the myriad of sources now available to your iconophiliac. The police records, ASIO records, the numerous subsequent publications, plus the memories of local residents, are the very stuff of myth. All we need is an icon!
On 23rd April 1954 the Canberra Times rewrote the events of Christamas Eve as a “murder attempt” – probably the source of the mythology that persists in the public memory to this day. And published a photograph of the wreck the next day. Apart from the fact that it was the Christmas holidays, and that most of the police and ASIO officials were on leave when the accident occurred, the “official” accounts of what actually caused the accident, and what happened to Petrov subsequently, are as various as they are entertaining.
Frank Cain, in his ASIO: An Unofficial History (1994) gives a rollicking account of Petrov as a rather incompetent Walter Mittyesque figure, who was lured into in whisky smuggling and bawdy incidents in Kings Cross by ASIO counter-agents. On the story of the accident, Cain relates that Petrov was driving south “on a secret assignation” with a Madame Ollier, of the French Embassy. A colourful figure herself. In this version of events, after the crash, battered and bruised, he left the car, Petrov hitched a lift to Cooma, and then caught the train back to Canberra. No evidence of the truck which is said to have run him off the road was ever found.
On the evidence of the Royal Commission which followed his defection, Cain concludes that he was unlikely to have been a spy-master of any kind. The Royal Commission on Espionage, it is widely recognised, was as influential in Menzies’ re-election and Evatt’s political downfall as the visit of Her Royal Majesty in February and March 1954. Realpolitics in action. To set the scene (a Royal theme), here is Royalla today…
Senior Constable W.J. Osborne’s report relates that Petrov had “collided with a red vehicle” (surely that’s a giveaway: what other colour truck would the MVD drive?), and that he then “returned to Canberra on a train from Royalla”.
Mysteriously the accident is reported by ASIO as being “approximately 2 miles past the Royala (sic) siding” whereas local accounts place the event about half a kilometer to the north.
The secretive map of the incident site bears no relation to the topography of the area or to the actual path of the roadway, which ran parallel to the railway line for miles in either direction. No railway is shown on the map.
Other Police reports (recorded on the 4th January) describe Petrov as “a great hunter” who was traveling south to Cooma on a fishing expedition.
These different accounts from the Police and ASIO variously report him having returned home on the first train north (from Royalla Siding), while others relate how he hitched a lift to Cooma for his rendez-vous with Madame Ollier, keeping his return rail ticket as evidence when he subsequently defected. Others relate that he was in such a shaken state as to be unavailable for subsequent interview, as evidenced by the extensive bruising to the diplomatic buttocks. One wonders what else the MVD did to him when he returned home to the embassy sans Skoda.
In The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage (1987) Robert Manne wrote that Petrov knew he had been lucky to escape with his life. “He claimed he had been forced off the road by a truck, and not unnaturally given his present state of mind, wondered whether his Soviet colleagues were behind some attempt on his life. Inside the Soviet embassy he received little sympathy. Petrov had never renewed the insurance policy on the Skoda. Generalov demanded he pay for a replacement with his own money. When he eventually emerged from the Soviet embassy to speak to the Canberra police about the accident, he misled them on a number of points, at least partly because he wished to conceal from the the purpose of his trip to Cooma – a conspiratorial rendezvous with Madame Ollier of the French embassy. Only an unusually heavy evening in Sydney… to bring in the New Year could temporarily mask his growing despair.”
So where did the wreck of Petrov’s Skoda end up? John Goodall, who lives just downhill from the site in the old Royalla Post Office and phone exchange, which was run by his grandmother Gladys (“Gladdie”) Burke (nee Goodall) at the time of the accident, is the only person we met who knew anything about the event. From his house about a kilometer away, he pointed to the location on the hillside where he remembers the wreck of the Skoda had been laid to rest. Where is it now? According to John, it was brutally “buried by redneck road builders” when the road was moved 100m to the west in 1991. So there you are. On John’s authority, ever since 1991 you have passed over the ghost of Petrov’s Skoda as you headed south for the snow. By the time you caught sight of the tin cowboy, you were over it, literally…
For those who want to know more – we’re still searching for the pre-1991 aerial surveys – the GPS reference for the location of the buried Skoda is [Aus Geo 1984] 55K 0694889 6068431. And yes, the evidence needs further triangulation, but who wants to ruin a good fringe-urban myth? The FJ Holden which now serves as the symbolic “Petrov’s car” is to be found at [Aus Geo 1984] 0694700 6068433. Or see our Google Map here (with thanks to my collaborators-in-procrastination Annie Jay and Pammy Faye, for most of these arcane details).
Question for Ralph Nader: is it possible to roll a Skoda at 25 mph?
Question for local bandits: who stole the front suspension within 24 hours of the crash?
Question for anyone: who would have wanted a Skoda front suspension anyway?
PS Archives ACT October 2009 “Find of the Month”: the Registration Papers for Petrov’s Skoda
Surely a myth can assume heritage value? Well here’s a contender… Just after you cross Guises Creek a few kays south of Canberra on your way towards Cooma, you see this gay happy-go-lucky silver cowboy, frantically signaling to you. What’s he on about? you ask as you zip past… Answer: he’s trying to tell you you’ve just driven past one of the best of Canberra’s urban myths. Petrov’s car.
Thanks to Annie J for the photograph. Here’s the backstory. I’m driving back from Cooma on a Sunday night with Tom’s dad Bruce – more on this adventure here – when Bruce casually lets drop “you can see Petrov’s car somewhere along here.” “What?” I exclaim, as I nearly fall out the window in amazement… Bruce calmly relates a story of a couple of years ago, when a friend, now a curator in Melbourne, showed him the wreck of “Petrov’s car” in a paddock amongst some pine trees, some 100 meters west of the road. Apparently, so the story went, the KGB tried to take out the Russian diplomat Vladimir Mihailovich Petrov three days before he defected, by running him off the road in a truck, and setting fire to his Skoda, diplomatic number DC 290 and all. Well, that’s how the story goes…
It was dark. “Somewhere here” says Bruce. It was hard to contain myself until the following Saturday when, assisted by an anthropologist and a cold war historian, armed with cameras, a GPS device and two crazy dogs, we set off on the quest. “Somewhere here?” asks the anthropologist. “Not that side, this side” says the driver. “There it is!” And so it was. And so it is, just as Bruce described.
Except. Except it’s an FJ Holden rusting out there in the paddock. Right vintage, wrong species. But now perhaps doubly iconic – as an Australian cold war icon. In its inimical, breathless, on-the-button mode of reporting, read what the Canberra Times had to say on Friday 23rd April 1954. This was twenty days after Petrov defected, and four months after the actual accident, on Christmas Eve, 1953. A “murder attempt”. Is this the origin of the myth? Perhaps it is. The whole affair has also been written about by Nic Whitlam, Robert Manne, Frank Cain, and others. And there’s more to come on iconophilia, but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear the first hand stories, read the Police Report, and find out how you really experience Petrov’s car as you drive to Cooma. And then, there’s the story of Jack, Petrov’s Alsatian pooch, which I will bring you next week…