Saturday, December 19, 2009

Horse and Carriage again

My dear friend Manky posted this link on FB recently along with Helen Razors recent article about the 'trash the dress' trend in big weddings lately. the jist of both being that Marriage is an institution already trashed by hetties, so there's nothing to lose in queers being allowed to share the party.

Manky has also shared articles which criticise the massive amounts of pink cashola and queer energy directed towards marriage equality campaigns. And it's a really toughie, because pink dollar politics aren't really radical, but dodgy, assimilationist and ultimately restrict queer activism to a 'tolerance' model, whereby the best we hope for is to be assimilated into hettie society rather than explore the really radical possibilities of queerness to challenge the really crapola basis of straight capitalist society which ties love and desire into a binarised model of gender and a privatised model of property ownership. Queerness fucks with both.

However, while I have a right on radical analysis of such things, I'm still negotiating how that works with the way I am in the world. Maybe the points I'm going to note below merely prove this analysis right, that Queer Marriage is merely a means to enable tolerance of queerness, and it's containment within hettie society.

The above shot is of the splendiferous cake that my mate Elyss made for our wedding last month.

I have many strong personal reasons for marrying the woman of my dreams. Like many queers in coupled unions and in polyamorous collectives we are passionately in love and committed to each other and our relationship. We also have a rapidly diminishing family unit consisting of one surviving parent (mine) as well as some cousins, aunts and uncles on both sides.

We had a wonderful ceremony in the garden with about 100 people present, including about 12 biological relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins). We were both given away by non-related older female friends, and we both had a range of chosen families of various ages and genders. For me this isn't a particularly queer thing, as my closest friends, the ones I call 'family' are straight. It is feminist thing though - because it derives from a particularly feminised experience of family - or alternative families that women are forced to develop when they break from the family structure.Both of us grew up with single mothers so we were both brought up by a network of family friends, and both of us have maintained and developed various non-biological families since. My Mum was too sick to attend so she sent a speech mentioning the biological family of Renaissance Girl and (typically) missing the point of who the celebration was for, and about.

Getting married this time was for me, a way of publicly and privately acknowledging our relationship as the foundation of our adult lives and the centre of the kinship networks of friends that we have chosen and continue to choose to be a part of our lives. Maybe I lack imagination, but I can't think of any other way to make such a firm public statement about who we are and how we 'do' our family, or make it, or how they make and constitute the fabric of our lives. It was also a significant healing moment as many of Renaissance Girl's mothers friends were able to come and enjoy the garden and home of Renaissance girl's recently deceased mother. Now it is a truth rarely told that death doesn't bring people together, but often drives them apart. people really don't know what to do with their own grief, and have no idea how to 'support' someone else who is grieving.

Maybe it's the Irish in my that thinks that if you want to bring people together it's better to hold a big party rather than a big funeral, but I also believe that grief releases a lot of love, and there has to be a space for that to be expressed in a positive and creative way. Asking people to make food or create a contribution to the wedding meant that we had a day that was profoundly social, in that it was something socially created and shared among a group of people. We had the world's best wedding cake, a wonderful CD, incredible food, a great sound system and playlist, a beautiful wedding album, plants, cookbooks, portraits, photographs and lots and lots of other things made by people we know and love, and who showed us they loved us.

The above is all easily palatable and I have no political quandaries about what we did, or how, or why.

It's been very weird though to realise just how 'straightening' marriage is in the real world. "I'm getting married" made coming out at work incredibly easy. A few of my colleagues blushed when I clarified that my betrothed was a woman rather than a man, but they all chipped in and gave us a wedding present. (I really love my workplace). Marriage is something that lots of people can share and speak about. the wedding rituals and the mention of a spouse all act to ensure that my identity at work is as a fully fledged adult and functioning member of adult society. As a single 'out' lesbian I would be aberrant, with the slippery status of queer desire not containable within the heteronormative conventions of straight socialising. My gender makes it easier because I am 'womanly' at work - I'm not really a 'femme', but I'm certainly not butch, and I do easily pass as straight in straight society. So by being married, my queerness is contentedly eunuchised, and I become a working wife. The fact that I am a wife with a wife shrinks into a minor detail.

While I criticise this situation, in reality it's a great relief and makes my life easier. Marriage is a nice easy bridge into the straight world, and it creates a nice friendly space where straights get to be 'right on' and tolerant, and queers get to be palatable and contained and integrated, rather than single and slippery and seductive.

Is this what I want?

I've been thinking about this a lot, and chewing my nails, and.... I think that actually the question is not so much about queers versus straights, but a broader question of feminism. the thing that really shat me about interdependent relationships recognition was that it was based on a profoundly anti-feminist model of union - where ALL property and finances were completely merged. It was FUCKED!

I have a fantasy that Renaissance Wife and I will maintain our financial independence and continue to split bills and partake in groceries and household duties in a way that respects both our needs to remain as two distinct adults. We share our lives and our love, but we don't own each other and don't intend to. I believe that the feminist model of relationships that refuses the feminisation and disenfranchisement of one member of the relationship for the benefit of the other is a good one. Feminists are forced to create kinship structures because to be isolated in the world as a single woman or a single mother without the crutch of a masculine 'half' (actual or imagined) is almost unbearable. Maybe all the queer marriage movement needs is a strong dose of feminism. Maybe all the world needs is a feminist movement again. where did we all go?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I didn't think there could be man more hot than Renny Kodgers, but now there is

Meanwhile Jane Polkinghorne is challenging gender normative sartorial standards that insist on pink for girls by cominging denim with scowls - aka Gurns inspired by crap art opening goon.

Life is dandy

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Telling Stories

What is Produced?

I'm afraid that this may turn out to be one of those hard-core full-on ghastly emo seguing into high theory kind of posts, so please forgive me, and I'll forgive you for skipping the scary bits and heading onto the next post which is nice lite social geography.

I went to an incredible conference the first two days of this week which is where the images come from. I have decided that Cheesy powerpoint slides are the best way to present the complex assemblage of ideas and themes in my thesis. Its either that or strip off and force my 'auditors' to actually participate in the life drawing experience......

It's not that I reject writing or listening to well formed papers, but I'm having big fat problems with my own issues of translating practice into theory, and what happens when a complex and multifaceted and often very individual set of experiences gets interpreted into a particular narrative, which is singular, and doesn't allow any space for other events, possibilities and experiences to be included.

What happens when the style of representation becomes so teleological that it allows no space for surprise, for change, for interpellation (a calling between names) - or interpolation (a calling between people)?

Sorry - it looks like I segued into high theory all too soon there.

I'll try to back track just a little.

the conference was one of the best I've ever attended to date. the range and quality of the presentations was stunning, and there were no multiple strands so we got to all hear each other. the topic was about applying creative research practice, and the applications of creative research and creative practice were mind boggling and soul warming.

Being a neurotic grumpy bastard, I'm going to pick on the only paper that gave me the shits, partly because I don't want to make people turn green at the gills reading about what they missed, and because I want to use this as a starting point to consider more difficult issues.

the things that shat me about the post are also intersecting with the stuff I'm doing in my day job as a qualitative researcher in an interdisciplinary team in Western Melbourne. We are working on participant action research in epidemiology, and my colleagues are biochemists, nutritionists, community psychologists and neuroscientists, CCD workers and community health researchers. I'm employed as the feminist ethnographer, visual ethnographer part of the project.

I'm not really in a position to start writing up my work issues here, because, since I'm working in a team, it's not my story to tell, but one that I hope we can work into some sort of communicable finding. But I mention it because I'm working within a methodology that emphasises evidence based research (ie the process of research is about collective various forms of information) and the thing I really like about this is it's transparence: we are very, very clear about what collecting information is, how we do it, why we do it, and the nexus in knowledge production between participants and researchers.

I find it interesting in relation to my art practice and the way I theorised it/analysed it in The Bloody Tome. ONe of the things that really shat me about art history involved the emphasis on interpretation of an art image as some sort of fixed immutable that was a metonym for the art practice itself: Art historical analysis of life drawing could only analyse life drawings and somehow try to interpret them into a nice neat narrative.

For what its worth, the sheer crappiness of life-drawings forced me to consider life drawing as a practice, and develop an analytical framework of visual art practice that included an evidence based emphasis of the components of that practice, however fleeting, ephemeral, subjective or invisible.

anyway, that's not what this post is about.

this post is about a paper that shat me completely.
The abstract gave me the heebeejeebees because the presenter mentioned the link between depression, child sexual abuse (pretty much diagnosing depression as a symptom of child sexual abuse), and then claimed that art could be a cure.

this sounded pretty emo and intense, but a reasonable enough claim. I'm never keen to go around picking at my own psychic scabs, but as my period at art school coincided with my 4 year therapy for childhood sexual abuse, I thought I would probably find it interesting to see how someone undertook research on what is a pretty intense situation....

(At the same time, I kept thinking of Paul Carter's discussion of polyhedral research and his discussion of the etymology of "hedra" as referring the rump and the saddle, and how this connection of seatedness was the basis on which people mapped paths over places and histories.... and my brain linked this to the bit in Michael Taussig's: A study in Terror and healing where he refers to the imaginative spaced generated between the sweaty arse of he that is carried and the sweaty back of him that carries, and that's a pretty wild segue but it's where my brain kept going, and I almost wanted to mention it......)


the speaker essentially gave an account of her interpretations of the figurative semi-expressionist paintings of an Australian (male) artist who had a bit of a depressive crisis, saw the paintings of Salvador Dali in Spain, and then 'came out' about being sexually abused as a child.

I'm not dissing him, nor the paintings, but this is how I received the account of his life and work as represented by the speaker. She showed large slides of each painting, and told a story about each based on her interpretation of a number of elements that were pictorially depicted, like a man, a hole, a pile of stones, a dog, a river, a field. there was nothing about colour, and shape, texture, form, size, thickness, sheen, and very little about composition. she could have been describing photographs, or films stills, or sculptures, or words written on cards, or words spoken, or a stage set. the fact was, is that she was interpreting a number of image components, but she was not, as far as I could tell, demonstrating any engagement with the paintings; merely applying her own narrative to a Freudian analysis of story telling.

I started to remember that bit in Deleuze and Guattari about little Hans and the Melanie Klein interpretation of whatever he was saying that insisted on a clear interpretation of his toddler babble that bound it within a Freudian doctrine of Oedipal angst, and the phallus, or something similar.

I felt like little Hans, I wanted to scream. I really wanted to scream when she said "Storytelling is the best cure for Sexual Abuse victims. If they can tell their story, then they can be healed of their depression".

I think I may have believed that for a few stoned moments in the early 1990's, but fortunately that belief was shattered when reclaim the night rallies started featuring redemption stories of born again christians recounting their stories of sexual abuse by satanic cults. Stories are important and powerful not because of the truth of what they say, but of the conversations that are allowed to happen around them . I believe truth is in the weird gaps between words, in the murky spots between images, in the fumbling for words, the stumbles, the spaces and the silences. The parts where they eyes mist and meet, where bodies curl or hands unfurl. I was lucky enough that my psychoanalytic journey was via somatic psychotherapy and it gave me the courage to stop telling stories, but to sit silently and feel, and sense, and wait, and open myself up to a discovery of what couldn't be described or told or narrated, but how living, remembering, grieving and healing actually felt, and feels like, and how it feels.

where Freudian story telling emphasizes the past, and reinscribing a new telos on an old one, I'm more interested in the future, in how the past suddenly appears in the present and what can be done with it, where it can go.

My own experience of depression is that it involves a vast fatigue, a deep anomie, and a shutting down that refuses all communication. At its best depression is a space where I've been able to rest, to stop telling stories but just mooch about sobbing and sulking for a while. At it's worst, it's utter fucking hell, which is why I've embraced biochemical solutions, to try to manage and contain the collapse into myself while still trying to let myself go numb for a bit, and retreat from the world.

I guess I found the paper offensive because the interpretations silenced other interpretations of the artists' paintings, except as narratives of horror, and from what I could tell, there was a lot more in them than that. It also silenced other interpretations of healing and surviving sexual abuse. Given the statistics, there would have been 20 other people in that room who had experienced childhood sexual abuse, and dealt with that on a daily basis in the course of creative practice. It just happens. we don't tell our story and get miraculously healed. Damage insinuates itself into every cell of our being, and it's something we have to learn to walk with, sing with, fuck with and breathe as we continue to move through life.

One of my art school teachers said that "painting is a bout secrets" and I believed him. I believe it is these secret sacred parts ourselves that get embedded between our bodies and the stuff of the world where creativity lies, they do have the power to engender new sensations, connections, new possibilities for how life can be made marvellous, and not merely endured.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Les Jardins de L'eau et La Source du Caroline

That's the name we gave it, my colleague and I on the winding car journey from Footscray.

Footscray is the inner city compared to where I work. They have a tram there, and it's only 2 stops from the city, and if I go to visit my colleagues at the Footscray campus I feel like I'm working in the city, and can get in some shopping on the way back to the real 'burbs. The ones with massive parking lots, and more cars than pedestrians, and scary windblown train stations with no shelter and no trains.

Rather than describe the endless meanderings across a myriad of ring roads, that, as Marc Auge said, turn any place into a non-place, and that remind me so much of Paris, or Brie, that it's not funny, (actually it is very funny) maybe it is better to describe the journey by train.

Connex trains runs peripetatically out west, but somehow the random trajectory within a constructed metal box makes everything seem a bit more local, than the smooth gliding in a streamlined private freeway hugger. Maybe car rides as a passenger are too saturated with conversation to allow any other spaces to enter.

It starts at platform 5 of Flinders Street, an olde worlde jewel in Auntie Melbourne's Victorian crown. Like Lithgow, Platform 5 is one of the coldest places on earth at any time of day or year, but western line trains tend to leave from it, so that's where I wait. Werribee, Williamstown, Watergardens, Craigeburn, Upfield. All of them pass through the neo brutalist-baroque cavern (yep -it is a pastiche) of Spencer Street, and it's little brother North Melbourne. The first three cross the Maribyrnong into what is known as Melbourne's west. The Maribyrnong crossing is marked by a splendid golden statue on a lake near a temple under construction. It's a slightly more optimistic sight than the deconstruction of the Melbourne Eye in the docklands toytown.

Footscray station is an old station, and the last city stop for the Bendigo and Ballarat lines. Hence it has brick shelters on the platforms and working toilets. These are gradually being strangled by a myriad of hastily constructed platform interchanges. the first consists of a series of scaffolding straddling the station and flanking most of the streets beside it, which supports 7 foot fences and a series of sheet metal and ply ramps running up and down and around. This Buchenwaldish setting is occasionally broken by the odd electronic billboard relaying random information in bleeping orange neon. Alongside this structure, above the press and huddle and confusion of consumers running thither and yon you can catch glimpses of a series of baroque brutalist metal tubes, housing what I assume will be the new concourse, scheduled for completion around the time I reach menopause.

Now the term 'baroque brutalism' may seem a bit indulgent, but baroque was meant to evoke the calcified undulating frills on oyster shells, and I think it is the best word to describe the endless attention to surface effects of cut and sprayed metal spanning brushed aluminium and plexi-glass which reconstruct commuter spaces as profoundly discomforting, disconcerting and confusing and repellent spaces. These are not waiting spaces at all, and yet the trains are so infrequent and random that waiting is the one thing that we do in these spaces, which are Marinetti fantasies of speed and movement.

OK - so much for Footscray station. ON the watergardens line I head due west where the station decor shrinks to corrugated bus shelters on asphalt platforms, flanked by a speaker and a ticket machine. There's nothing baroque about this brutalism. The train stations are no-where hell zones, where waiting customers are scorched by the sun, and whipped by the wind. West and middle footscray feature weatherboard worker cottages from the early 20th century. There are also massive open areas populated by powerlines or flour mills and other factories.It's after Sunshine that things start to look a bit weird. Sunshine has a hospital and a couple of big malls and a cinema complex. There's also a commuter stream of junkies between Footscray and Sunshine, and once I heard a conversation between 2 blokes that sounded like a dialogue from "Dead Calm". I looked away and decided I was hallucinating from too much Muesli.

The first few stations west of Sunshine seem to attract guys in trakkies, carrying plastic bags with UDL's in them, at 9 oclock in the morning. It's western melbourne's Heidelberg west. The train station at Furlong Street has a bottlo, a pharmacy and a concentration of some of the ugliest men on the planet, who are perpetually exposing excessive amounts of flesh and frightening facial hair. From here the houses are exclusively brick veneer and younger than me. At St. Albans, things improve a bit. The ugly men drive cars (I saw an Elvis impersonator in an old statesman), and LOTS of people of every different race, age and class are walking around. there are lots of shops, and a steady stream south bast the bingo hall to the university campus where I work. There are also a couple of parks, some schools, and even a community garden. It's nice.

Then things get weird. It is possible to get to Sydenham by train, but, like Las Vegas, it is best appreciated by car. If you do cathc a train, you get it to a station named after the massive shopping mall located there. Watergardens could only have been constructed in a drought stricken city and is flanked by a series of drive through fast food outlets, and the crowning glory of the LUXOR function centre, which is a neon lit palm tree and obelisk studded cladded concrete tribute to Egypt. Just down from the Luxor, someone has build a miniature version of the Hagia Sophia next to the Jehovas Witness Kingdom Hall. - You can see it from the train.I'm still not quite sure how to describe what Sydenham is. It's a sudden burst of rather abject opulence jammed up next to some really poor areas. Maybe it looks more start than the differences in the East because there are less trees, and more roads, and the roads reveal the garish architexture and the security gates around the clusters of idenitikit McMansions. They only have gated communities here. It's the wild west in a totally different sense. the houses are cut by massive roads. Children HAVE to be driven to school, to be driven acroos the road, even! It could have been so easy to make this pedestrian friendly, to put in bike paths, but in the past 5, 2, 1, years when this has and is being erected, it's been a cash fueled, car driven planning system. It's a nightmare.

Further south, things just get freakier. Half of Caroline Springs isn't even on Google Maps. Massive villas are springing up overnight in an antipodean replica of Orange County, and Tuscany, and Miami, and the town centre is a replica of the Docklands toytown. they were still peeling the labels of the windows of the Mercure hotel where we had a convention to attend. There is massive amounts of money and development occuring at a breathtaking place, and none of it has any sense of environmental sustainablity or community health. It is the pure anome of greed, a continuous denial of presence and place into the hyperreal imaginary of non-space.

And yet, I'm sure within this rendered concrete kleenwipe consumer circuit, there are some spaces of rupture and dissonance, as well as the many large spaces of contradiction rubbing up against each other. It's just that between the big roads, the big houses, the big malls and big houses there isn't a lot of space for small detours, fledgeling fantasies and awkward moments.

Troggling along

OK I'm going to write, I must write, I should write, I need to write.


I've got a conference presentation to prepare, and I've got to do it this weekend, and I spent an incredible amount of time sleeping today, and then I had to watch 3 episodes of the Sopranos, and now I'm here in my fluffy writing dreaming staring cave and it's the middle of the night, it's the witching hour, and I should be writing something tomish and bookish and decent but here I am and I'm writing on my blog.

And I haven't written in my diary for months and months and months, and haven't posted here for over a month, and I thought getting some email friendly phone would fix this, but it hasn't and I dunno why it is that I don't write, don't draw, don't create much anymore.

and the conference i'm meant to be writing for is researching practice, and Lucazoid is writing about blogging as a practice that is researched in the process of practice, and I'm meant to be presenting something about my thesis (my what?) that big thing I've got to tidy up and fix and bound and do something with, and I can't even bear to look at the book case where it is, and I'm not doing any life drawing at the moment anyway and haven't done for ages, and probably won't for ages so how the hell can I give and engaging presentation about practice based research when I've done a whole heap of research on something that I'm no longer practicing?


and I'm wondering what kind of practice do I actually have at the moment, when I feel that I'm really quite content just to get up and go out and do stuff each day, and I enjoy my work and enjoy the people at work, and love having stimulation and a challenge that is structured and renumerated and rewarded rather than the long slow drudge of solo bloody thesis writing, and god it was so hard, so bloody damnably difficult.

and the other thing about research, and doing this as a career, is that the practice of writing, of thinking, the hard slow grind of paper production is STILL DONE out of hours in the spare time, in the secret hours after dark, working from home, or working on other stuff, and every academic will tell you this, and we all look forward to xmas break SO WE CAN DO OUR WORK - because our work only happens when the university is shut down, and that is the craziest contradiction in the world, I don't even know where to start 'unpacking' it, but I wondered at what point did I make the shift from artist to academic and start seriously dreaming of how I cold fill my hours with words, more words, and deep slow thought, and papers and books and stuff?

Meanwhile I can barely bear to think of reading a novel, let along a book of theory, and GOD - why didn't anyone tell me I would be this tired?

Not that I'm a total braindead voidoid.

I take stuff in each week, each day. so much stuff.

Western Melbourne is Crazy in lots of wonderful ways.

hell. it deserves its own post

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is my blog dead?

I couldn't really think of a proper title, but I just noticed that I hadn't posted for over 3 months, and was wondering if I ever would post, and what about.

the last post was pretty depressing. and I was really exhausted and really depressed. and after this, I started taking happy pills, and a friend gave me a bicycle so I started rolling around the flat streets of Brunswick, and instantly felt a hell of a lot better.

So.... a brief recap.

I was unemployed for 3 months. By that I mean, I was actively, intensely DESPERATELY looking for work:

I diligently applied for 10 jobs a week as specified in my mutual obligation diary. No luck.

I even applied for 10 public service jobs. No success (but probably quite a bit of luck in not ending up in the public service)

I cold canvassed every lecturer in every university in any field vaguely related to anything that my crazily erudite brain could teach/research/work in.

I received a lot of rejection emails.

and I received a tiny weeny bit of transcription work, which kept me from slashing my wrists in desperation.

I rang up friends whingeing long and hard, and some wonderful friends gave me little freelance jobs to stave off the last final limit of my credit card.

I did a scary freelance job for a nasty little man, who posted something on an academic e-list and got my fingers nastily burnt and my face nastily slapped.

I finally got a woefully underpaid part-time job in the arts-sector (after being a volunteer), and was feeling so desperately grateful after 2 interviews and 2 months of grovelling to have something-anything to separate me from the rest of the Moreland Centrelink dole queue, that I was prepared to overlook that fact that the pay was less than life-modelling, and started to apply for NEIS schemes, just to buy a bit of state-supported time for me to find a real job.....

And then.... something came up.

one of the jobs I'd applied for, randomly, unthinkingly..... they invited me for an interview. So I went. And I discovered that it was a hell of a lot more interesting than I'd anticipated.

And so.... I've got a job. doing research in a university for 12 months.

and it's not in art, art history, cultural studies, design studies, gender studies, performance studies or anything else I'm officially qualified for..... but in community health/epidemiology. but it's an interdisciplinary project and they were looking for someone with strong qualitative/visual ethnography skills.

Hence I seemed to have breezed into a field that does seem to fit every single one of the random things I've been involved in for the past twenty years.

aharrr... the vast and tender freemasonry of useless erudition has finally furnished me with a little nook.

So - I'm not involved in 'ART' and have lost interest in the art world for the moment. I found the inner city melbourne art world too white, to familiar and yet too foreign, too self conscious, too cold. Maybe if it was 'my' art scene I wouldn't notice. Maybe if I didn't already have an art scene that I was desperately missing I would notice it less.

But I desperately loathed almost every single opening I have been to so far. Even on happy pills.

Meanwhile the missus and I have moved out of brunswick up to the burbs. our home and garden is like a palace. there are no restaruants, and only a mutiplex cinema inside a shopping mall, and the only shops are inside a shopping mall. It's bloody scary. very pedestrian unfriendly.

we live in a leafy, hilly, four-wheel-driven zone of bland, beige blissful consumerism. Fat white people in fat shiny cars, crawling between hillside bungalows and the shopping centre parking lots. Physical exertion is confined to the purda of Fernwood, or cloaked in the burquas of brick veneer home gyms and wii boards. I'm finding it hard to lose the 15 kilos I gained while finishing my thesis.

Each morning I take a detour along the river and cricket fields to avoid the tangled snarl of parking-lots and freeways, to meander for 20 minutes on shanks pony to the train station, where a 40 minute train ride gets me to the city. I'm spending a LOT of time on trains, eating my muesli with elbows pinned to fellow commuters, or shivering on Flinders street cursing connex.

I try to tell myself that it's like the lower blue mountains. I try to think of the bird-life and ignore the roar of lawn mowers.

fortunately I am working in Melbourne's multicultural heartland and have INCREDIBLE asian supermarkets and fresh food markets. I lug shopping bags to work and back home again, and we fill our fridge with fresh greens and frozen fish, and try to like supermarket bread.

So my life has become curiously content. I'm still to tired to write, to reflect, to read anything more challenging that Mx and the junk mail catalogues. I've unpacked my studio and arranged a mayhem nest in the basement. It's pink and sparkly and warm, but my paints are still in milk crates.

I've paid off my visa overdraft, and am paying off my mum. I bought my first pair of non-second-hand shoes in 4 years. Our loungeroom is a large book-lined bourgoise showroom of every aspiration I've ever had. this is it. I'm a grown up. this is the life I dreamed of in many many ways.

in one month I'll have a wife and troph of our betrothal.
Shortly after, I hope to have made enough corrections to be able to change my title.

things are coming together. strangely. finally. wonderfully.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hoping in Hellbourne

I've been scared to write this, in case all of my procratinating protodoctor comrades catch sight....

but it's been a bloody hard and horrible month.

there was the night I woke up sobbing at 3am, and renaissance girl found me 10 links on post-thesis depression... all this while she was managing end of term reports/exams/psycho colleagues/psycho students... oh - and her own personal tragedy which is makes my thesis completion comedown feel like a broken nail being compared to a ruptured spleen.

I wish i'd had cash or foresight or non scary mutual obligation frights to take some time off and go and swim/meditate/walk/weep for a couple of weeks somewhere cosy and quiet.

instead I returned south and tried to establish some sort of post-thesis life. Part time work? very very difficult to find. I've looked, public service, academia, public service, temping... lots of places. Ten rejection letters from Public Service jobs is even more crushing than writing thirty serious job applications.

the deck chair shuffling at the CES/JSP/JSA titanic hasn't helped. Just when I'm gung-ho about getting a job - i've got no official support to help me get one.....

finally after weeks of major soul destroying commando style cold calling, I have scored a teensy weensy bit of part time work. It's casual, precarious yet miraculaously in an amazing area that i'm interested in.

at times i have tried to pursue ART in the great southern city. and had little success.

The other day I made my tenth attempt to enter and be entertained at ACMI. why? because I like cinema, and REALLY like video art. You think this would make it more appealling than dragging myself plus John Brack's grim canveases or the horrors of Dali's lugubrious onanism.

hell no. the first six times I entered from the Fed Square entrance, and the last four have been from the Flinders street entrance. Each time I've been incredibly repelled, confused and simayed by the interior and had no idea where to find ANYTHING. including info on what could be seen, when or where. Actually I tell a lie. The 8th time i attempted an entrance, I found a staffed counter, with a person issuing programs. I took a few. the foyer was dark, the print was small and pale on a dark background, so i took them home to read them.

It appears that acmi runs cinematic festivals according to themes, where they screen particular movies at particular hours and days for particular fees. this information is available aone the website and wihtin brochures that are occasionally made available at a front desk, when it isn't being renovated. i have yet to encounter any signage within or near to the premises themselves that explains this.

this may be due to endless random renovations that have marked my last two attempts at entering ACMI and from which I have beat a retreat - often to the more endearing and engaging temporary public sculptures set into the foyer area of the NGV Australia.

On the other hand, it may be a deliberate conspiracy to scare away the Bev's and Kev's visiting Fed square from entering the hallowed halls of Art DOM.

I wonder if anyone has actually entered ACMI and experienced a Moving image Experience without the benefit of initiation and hand holding by a local cognoscetti. If so, please leave a comment with directions and advice to the wary.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brunswick Cassoulet


It's not an anti-vegan post - but is about the gratuitous consumption about the flesh, fat and bones of fellow living creatures... hmmmm,

Ducks are one of the few animals I like living as much as I like them roasted and succulent and sliding down my gullet.

Last week Melbourne faced a big fat chill that had everyone grumbling in public, fumbling with woollies and thermals and rugging up.( I know Sydney is miserable in winter but it isn't actually cold). I spent about 3 days in thermic misery before my New England cellular memory kicked in and I started feeling ok with the bracing feeling of cold pores and goose flesh wherever my thermals or polar fleecy had slipped...

It isn't that cold either - hovering around ten degrees, and 6 at night... but the feeling of cold and a deep need for slow snuggle food, reminded me that unlike Sydney, melbourne does facilitate the cooking and consumption of one of the great northern European comfort foods..... hmmmm..... cassoulet.

Cassoulet sounds like french for casserole - and it's kind of what it is, basically beans cooked in duck fat. My gallstone rotates just thinking about it, and my arteries harden..... -oh - but it is so unbelievably succulently wonderful, that....

My first cassoulet came out of a tin in Belle ile en Mer, about 8 years ago. I'd been sitting on a cliff face, doing my standard hypothermic plein-aire in ski gear act, when I heard a strange low moan howling around me, and realised it was me, involuntarily groaning as the wind gushed and ocean pounded and roared beneath me, and salt spray rose and stung me on the face.

At the time, I wasn't sitting on the exact cliff face shown in the pic above - but I have sat there before and since, and this pikkie gives you the general impression of intense cold and wind.....

Anyway - after catching my moans, I packed up my oilsticks and canvas, and staggered back to casa abel, were I gulped down some whisky while she opened a tin, and poured it into a pot on the stove......

In france - even tinnned food is gourmet - and this was an amazing revelation of the divine power of fat, to warm, soothe, comfort and tantalize the tasetbuds.

The key to cassoulet is 'confit de canard', for which the crude translation is 'duck jam'. It's a way of preserving the duck thighs in a generous amount of duck fat and salt, somewhat akin to corning beef. Our local deli sells confit style prepared duck legs for $5 a pop - but the proper ones are still almost raw, and need to be cooked slowly with some exquisite grease absorbing vegetable or bean...

I was inspired to buy some tinned confit de canard, combining them with fresh toulouse sausages and the special type of haricots blanc, that in Chili are called "porotos granados" and that you can get fresh once a year in long grainy red bods..... so that was how I learned to make the mayhem cassoulet.

Back in the antipodes - it never got that cold, so I'd never bothered, till now.

I took the tram into vic Markets and wandered over to the gourmette deli section, asking for duck confit. the french stall had some Perigord confit for $52 a tin (note to self, I thought: must stock up on 11 euro tins of duck confit if I ever go back to Europe), but after my eyebrows ascended my chrome dome in flabbergastination, they directed me towards the gourmette fowl stalls on the other side - where I could procure ONE confit thigh - shrink wrapped in vacuum sealed plastic for a mere $12.50. It would have to do. I wandered around the various sausage stalls till I found the nearest continental approximation of Saucise de toulouse ( Chorizo and Karakowska don't quite work for this), and picked up some dried canneloni beans, got the tram home, popped the beans in some water to soak overnight, and went out and got drunk.

Fortunately I'd had the foresight to prepare some stock a few months earlier from a peking duck that we bought from Footscray late last year to share with Renaissance girl's mum. We've also inherited her crock-pot - so this seemed like a fitting tribute, as well as a cosy entree into winter.

One saturday morning, I plugged in the crock pot, extracted the confit duck leg, and plonked it in the bottom, with the duck grease. I chopped up an onion, and some garlic, and put them in the fat. I then threw on the four italian sausages (which kind of doubled as a bouquet garni) and the drained beans. I then hauled the block of frozen duck stock and fleshy bones out of the freezer and banged it on the top. then I went back to bed for 12 hours. (OK - I turned the crock pot down from high to low after 7 or 8 hours)

When I recovered from the hangover, Renaissance girl and I filled our bellies and our souls with soft, creamy, beany, meaty goodness. Yum Yum.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

post-protodoctor purgatroid

It is done. finally.

Five years, two months, four deaths, 107000 words, two volumes, five countries, 54 subjects, a messy divorce, two heartbreaks, two house moves, two departments, a stomach ulcer, lots of blogging, lots of chocolate, lots of codeine.

Submission was - of course, delightful - so was sydney - for the first 4 days - and then I came down with a chest infection, that kept me huddled over my laptop, slicing words off the enormous expanding tome, so it could conform to the faculty limits of non-insane theses (ha ha).

I spent the final week feeling weak and wet and overwhelmed, and regretting all the things I couldn't go to, all the people I couldn't see - and then I realised what a relief it is to live somewhere where the pace of life is slower than I am.

On my last day in Sydney - I did two wonderful things - going into AGNSW to sit through the entire Phil Collins (the artist, not the pop-singer) karaoke installation of "the world won't listen".

I don't think I've been as moved by something since hanging out in the Rothgo Room at the Tate Modern.
Inspired - I wandered lonely as a cloud through the botanic gardens down to circular quay where i caught a ferry out to cockatoo island to catch Ken Unsworth's grand piano tribute to his wife, called "a ringing glass".

The space itself is so enormous and overwhelming - it's hard to discern whether I was being affected by the site, or the work. the first four rooms were small, and contained discrete mobile musical installations: a dancing skeleton, a dream sequence, and then a series of miniature grand pianos, and angels - and then finally a discombobulated grand piano suspended from the ceiling.

After this, I walked through two enormous rooms: one set up as a large golden curtained salon with a baby grand in the corner, and the final being an enormous hallway - flanked by parallel sets of five elaborately curtained mirrors, and eight small chandeliers, up to a rather disappointing finale assemblage on the stage, flanked by two large monitors screening the dream sequence projection from room two,

This felt like an interesting translation of the experience of playing piano (the symmetry of left hand and right hand mirrored by the bass and treble clefs, as they span the 5 black keys and 8 white) into walking through a piano playing experience. but the whole thing was so nice and classical, it reminded me of being 10 years old, being a good girl, a docile, well trained, well managed classical music box fantasy of feminine musicality that at a certain point I found it a bit sickening.

Maybe the ghostly emptiness is supposed to evoke grief and nostalgia and the gaps between memory and longing, but I'm not entirely convinced. It's definitely worth the voyage out to cockatoo island - but I felt like I was being let into one man's rather indulgent fantasia - enabled by scale, status and cash, but without a dialogue with the materials or others that would let it transform into something more alive.

So now, I'm back in bleak city, feeling mightily relieved - but - mostly weird.
Lots of people say this is what happens - they describe an emptiness, a feeling of anti-climax, of let-down.

I'm finding it hard to string two words together, and trudge slowly through lukewarm fiction: jeanette winterson's boating for beginners, and gunter grass's memoirs. the weather has hurtled down to single figures and I huddle in bed in my thermals, heater blasting, wondering why I feel so cold here when I survived real winters in the northern hemisphere.

Feeling wary of my tendency to crawl into the study with my morning coffee and sit in front of the computer immobile for hours and hours, I dragged myself into the cold and wet last night to catch Lauren Browns installation at Bus Projects.

After negotiating the treck from the north western to the mid-eastern point of the city, scurrying along and past a myriad of melbourne's famous alleyways with other bay-whipped weather beaten sods, I saw a cluster of jackets outside a doorway, near some bright graffiti and the handpainted number 117 and so I climbed the stairs.

Imagine a stairwell somewhere between 'lanfranchis' and the old 'mop' gallery, opening into a small foyer not unlike 'knot', without the feeling of imminent collapse.

A small foyer, chugged with dark jackets and bare bobbing heads. white painted brick walls, covered with straight red stripes of adhesive velveteen, defining the blobby mob within. someone (the co-colaborator Gemma?) had the canny sense to wear a matching cotton striped top, and the bravery to remove lumpen woollens to display. I wanted to get a photo of stripes on stripes but thought it remiss.

I pressed through the bodies, proffered gold coins for red wine in a white cup, twisted arms towards catalogues, contact lists, and slowly edged my way inwards. Saw a black curtain on my right, and a darkened room on my left. headed to my left, and wandered too close to wear LED's and Bunnings power spots blasted into my retinas,embraced the scheining glare of glittering gold towers of spray painted monochrome glory from the Moreland hard rubbish month, all piled into shrines of mammon.

*sigh* this show was like a jewellery box already; red velveteen fuzz, lining the opening for gloriously glittering golden trash.

I tried to read a catalogue essay from the glint off a spray painted monitor and felt a bit overwhelmed, so I pressed on into the final curtained room, revealing an installation by Julie Traitsis & Rebecca Joseph of lots and lots of speakers and audio players, and monitors, all sequentially squeaking staticky fuzzbots of song fragments. It reminded me of the "guess that song" from triple m, and also of ricky's room in "American Beauty" and I got a bit spooked, and started wondering about cultural capital after I seemed to recognise most of the songs, so I had to leave.

Standing in the golden aweness I overheard one girl saying to another "Yeah... I dunno how someone can come up with an idea, and transform it into.... this, ay? but i guess that's what makes them an artist, and me not". I felt a little more relaxed about my cultural capital and crept on into Lauren's curtained room.

First thing: two death certificates. Second thing, the coffin from her blog, cleaved by white flouro light boxes. Third thing, the row of red painted jack in the boxes, lining the wall. I crept around, felt the objects in the space, wathced others interacting with the works, before winding the handles myself. I don't want to give the game away. It's hard to believe that installation art can have a plot, but sometimes it does...

Opening the curtains, peeking back to the golden room, I wondered why it was arranged like a proscenium, an alter, and why people were gathered around as if it was a stage. Two black clad figures walked into the middle of the set up and animated a couple of suspended golden puppets. To the chants of tibetan throat music, the artists, Nicole Dominic & Sarah Bunting, then garbed each other in golden raiments and latex gloves, and then kneeled at their floor alter, and started to perform a ritualised alchemy of dripping stuff into golden paint. It was so silly as to be exquisitely delightful, and watching the fuddle of the crowd, fumbling for objects that could be dipped and transformed from garbage into glory, spread an ineffable golden warmth throughout the space, of participation, relationship and play. I think that "saints of the apocalypse" is a bit of an OTT title for what was sweet, warm, shiny and funny, but the piece and the performance left me glowing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sydney, Here I come!

Ohhh - god and there's so much happening I'm in a whirl just thinking of it!

fortunately some of it is in cyberspace too.

Jane Polkinghorne has just launched a new project - aka 'the year of denim' whihc is being assiduously blogged.....

and Carriageworks is hosting the laucnh of ' there goes the neighbourhood' the Keg & Zanny/squatsapce/redwatch collaboration.... its on friday night

versions of what its about are at redwatch

Plus there's stuff ant MOP, the red rattler, firstdraft.... and my last chance to cathc the MCA drawing show that has sparked all those silly reviews in the SMH... (which were a handy last minute motivation to finish the tome - on life-drawing, and all those silly debates about drawing and 1970s art schools - coz now, I can officially claim to have researched the matter thoroughly - and..... Peter Fuller died in the 1980s but art school drawing did not)

and somewhere in this I'll be handing in my thesis too. About bloody time,

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fernando Solanas - El Sur

This is still one of my favourite films ever, though I'm losing my Spanish... the '90's was The Orb and Astor Piazzola

The Orb - A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain...

Protocrastination can sometimes be taken a bit far...
(this one is for Renaissance Girl)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Death, Discourse... err... dahlias?

At about 1.30 last Tuesday morning, I had one of those swirling vortexes of a moment in which time, experience and everything seemed to turn into the tunnel that runs during the credits of Dr. Who.

I was sitting here, at this desk, tippy-tapping away on the keyboard, editing my intro for the thousandth time, and chugging away, cutting, pasting and knitting together all the little bits of insight and exegesis with reasonably grammatically correct signposting sentences, and accurate footnotes.

then i came to the bit about feminist ethnography and cultural studies, where I'm meant to spend 200 words succinctly encapsulating why i shifted from Art History to Gender and Cultural Studies, and the value of cultural studies methodologies to my inquiry, analysis and findings. I felt a rather dreary sense of trudging back to 2005 and 2006, when i was reading/teaching/loving raymond williams, beverley skeggs, and lugging around Denzin and Lincoln, and the earnest optimistic afternoons in my supervisors office in the quad, as we sat on the carpet, and mapped out the great inquiry, which I presented in manifesto form in 3 papers at conferences and seminars... But this time it felt so cloaked in a haze of amnesia, and buried under so many other thrilling findings and meanderings, that I couldn't bring it up or face it.

I looked at the clock, and it said 1.48am, so I closed the document, and popped online to check on the blogosphere, to wind my brain down before heading to bed. Noting that Lauren had added another post, I popped over and had a look.

I hadn't really expected the image or the coffin, or the musings on death, or the netiquette of online notification and discussion. My eyeballs started swimming, and I felt blushings of shame, and a bit queasy in my belly. Ever the egomaniac, I feared that it might have been an insinuation directed towards my last post, and I wondered if I'd overstepped the mark, yet again. Kept reading, wondering, thinking, brain humming, belly churning.

then I heard Renaissance Girl wake up and head to the phone. Heard her voice on the telephone, asking if she should go back to the hospital. shit. I closed the document, mind reeling, heart racing. We packed bedside camping supplies into shopping bags and I sat with her as she drove to the hospital, sat with her, and her mum during the night, and the next day, and evening.

what happened during that time, is not my story to tell, much lest post here in this blog. If nothing else, Renaissance Girl is a writer herself, and could probably describe this most intimate, terrible and sacred of experiences with more courage, sensitivity and clarity than I could ever hope for.

If that is not my story to tell, then I wonder what is, and why I need to tell anything at all, and what point does it serve, and who do I write for? for me? for her? for the imaginary institutions of community enunciated, iterated and moderated by the discourses of blogging?

I've got a few passionate theoretical threads running through me, that somehow wind themselves between my work, my writing, my life, my feelings.

the first comes from ALphonso Lingis, who, in the introduction to my charcoal scrawled and tear stained copy of "Abuses" says:
"One only speaks for others when they are silent or silenced. and to speak for others is to silence oneself"

and then this takes me back to feminist ethnography - hell! to feminist theory 101 - which was based on the critical imperative of finding way to describe the indescribable, unmentionable, ignored and trivialised reality of women's emotional reality and daily existence. My own feminist journey occurred in the early '90's, where the ACTUP slogan "silence=death" coincided with a 3rd wave take on the "personal is political" and we believed, I believed, still believe, that the work of feminist consciousness involves facing the silent, visible, unmentionable horror of sexual abuse, pain, shame, death, and finding words to wrap around it, bringing it forth, making it a social issue, framed, visible, insistent; one that can be articulated as part of, but separate from us, so that we are no longer consumed by the wordless horror of private suffering.

And then I think of the tome, and the manifesto proclaimed in my Prologue, that I wanted to find a way of enunciating and articulating irritation as an epistemology, not pain as an instrument of torture or horror, but the grinding banality of minor pain, formed in a condition of work, that doesn't quite destroy language, but still remains outside of discourse, and still silences those that experience it.

And I'm thinking that ripped tendons, nerve damage and pulled muscles of artists models have no place of comparison to what I witnessed last week, and quoting Elaine Scarry just seems silly. Bad pastiche, bad opera, bad taste.

So my story, is one of witnessing pain, and not knowing how to bear that witness in an appropriate manner. I don't believe that silence is appropriate, but it is not my place to howl the pain of others. I bury myself in books, cloak myself in words, nestle in the gaps between elucidation, comprehension and understanding, allowing feeling to bubble up in between phrases, as my glasses fog, tears cloud my eyes and my thoughts meander between feelings, sensations and insights. Renaissance girl cries, we cuddle, make soup, casseroles, warm milk, and slowly breathe our way through this.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Is it just me? is it just the universe? is it just bad timing?

One of my colleagues made a joke last year, saying 'hell! I'm scared to be your friend! Look what happens to them!"

Now i'm wondering if it's really funny. A close friend has come out of remission, and is about to go into the scary phase described by Predator 5 years ago, and quoted by me 2 years ago:

Cancer treatment is a stop/go journey.
Find something wrong, chop it out. Wait.
Find something else wrong.
Try and find someone who'll chop it out.
Chop it out.
Wait until, inevitably, something else goes wrong.
Can't chop it out this time.
Cry a lot. Get dead. Zzzzz.
My story has been played out in a million other abdomens and I've never heard about them.
Maybe it's like mine.chop it out, what do I do

but wait, that's not all! Over the past 6 weeks, or 8 now - during some kind of weird late feb, march, now april time slowing, spinning weirdness - the missus and I have been facing another Mack truck, creeping slowly, slowly, slowly forward, growing inexorably immense and scary (and I don't mean the linfox supplychain behemoths outside the front windows). My Missus's mum went into the Palliative care unit this week. the missus cries, cries again, and copes.

I never imagined the end of the tome would be dwarfed by so much... err.... ok cloaked in a miasma of anxiety, helplessness and grief. I started the tome as predator quickly succumbed to cancer, and now, as I finish, I'm watching people close to me wrangle with the implications of scary mutant organ eating cells.

The horror of this mutes my capacity to describe it, or to even try. I send kind messages, hug the missus, cook meals, chase up foontotes, consult my style guide and plug away at the tome, watching, waiting, working towards things that come to an end, even if I don't want them to.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wrapping words

A couple of my blogopshere compatriots have been going a bit of handwringing (if such a thing is possible while typing - maybe my crappy spelling proves that it is ).... and I've had my knickers in a know this afternoon - trying to devise a pithy exegesis of Foucault's anit-humanism - for a footnote.

while taking my eyeballs for a walk I came across the following and fell in love -literally:

[...] I would have preferred to be enveloped in words, borne way beyong all possible beginnings. at the moment of speaking, I would like to have perceived a nameless voice, long preceding me, leaving me merely to enmesh myself in it, taking up its cadence, and to lodge myself, when no one was looking, in its interstices as if it had paused an isntant, in suspense, to beckon to me. There would have been no beginnings: instead, speech would proceed from me, while I stood in its path - a slender gap - the point of its possible disappearance.

Behind me, I should like to have heard (having been at it long enough already, repeating in advance what I am about to tell you) the voice of Molloy , [WTF - no idea who Molloy is - but I know how he feels] beginning to speak thus:
'I must go on; I can't go on; I must go on; I must say words as long as there are words, I must say them until they find me, until they say me - heavy burden, heavy sin; I must go on; maybe it's been done already; maybe they've already said me; maybe they've already borne me to the threshold of my story, right to the door opening onto my story; I'd be surprised if it opened.'

A good many people, I imagine, harbour a similar desire to be freed from the obligation to begin, a similar desire to find themselves, right from the outside, on the other side of discourse, without having to stand outside it, pondering its particular, fearsome, and even devilish features. To this all too common feeling, institutions have an ironic reply, for they solemnise beginnings, surorunding them with a circle of silent attention; in order that they can be distinguished from far off, they impose ritual forms upon them.

Inclinations speaks out: 'I don't want to have to enter this risky word of discourse; I want nothing to do with it insofar as it is decisive and final; I would like to feel it all around me, calm and transparent, profound, infinitely open, with others responding to my expectations, and truth emerging, one by one. all I want is to allow myself to be borne along, within it, and by it, a happy wreck,' institutions reply: 'but you have nothing to fear from launching out; we're here to show you discourse is within the established order of things, that we've waited a long time for its arrival, that a place has been set aside for it - a place which both honours and disarms it; and if it should happen to have a certain power, then it is we, and we alone, who give it that power.'

Foucault, M, 'The discourse on language', Swyer, R (trans) Social Science Information, Sage Publications, April 1971, pp. 7-30, reprinted in Kearney, R & Rainwater, M (eds) The continental philosophy reader, Routledge, London & New York, 1996, p. 339.

the typos are mine....

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It's been a tough week

Mega thanks to Melissa Laing for sending this across the tasman.....
Miss Piggy doing peaches

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art Break

I spent most of last week bed bound with a heavy cold. All I wanted to eat was tomato soup and toast. I felt like I'd been punched in the nose. My brain was too tired and blocked to write so I consoled myself with the Satanic Verses. Gibreel and Saladin's adventures were keeping me happily soothed in the half hour between the tome and my pillow, and I thought Salman Rushdie's most labarynthine work would be nice company for the end of the tome.
alas no. in a fug of sudafed and paracetamol, I consumed it all, then returned to the computer screen for a feverish read of the e-book version of Kant's critique of judgement.

It had been a hard week

On saturday, I decided to feed my eyeballs and, and so i staggered up to brunswick bound for a tea-party launch of Jessie Willow-Tucker's tea drawings.
The weather was a crazy 35 degrees, and I had airplane ankles from lying around all week, so I panted and sweated, scuttling along my now familiar shaded maze of bluestone alleyways. Refused tea, and sipped fruit punch, and eyed the cupcakes. (btw what's this weird deal with hettie girls and cupcakes - some kind of pseudo ironic stepford wives thing?)

not that Brunswick Bound was a hettie girl kind of cupcake fest - more like a generally delicious arty sugar fiend delight. yum yum.

Sugar sated I checked out the walls. and like what I saw. Jessie did a series of "tea portrait" drawings in graphite, watercolour, and tea..... each image based on a particular flavour of tea. Our Lady Grey was a red headed sacred-heart-tattooed virgin mary, sipping tea in the grey clouds, flagged by an electric jug and a serpent, her red cup and saucer glowing in the pit of her belly. Earl Grey was a Brian mannix style retro mod, that brought back the 1980's Decore shampoo ad-ripoff of that sixites song...... the drawings are exquisite, witty and warm, and are still on show upstairs.

Downstairs, I found a paperback of The Brothers Karamazov. I fear my thesis is going to be completed accompanied by abject images of Schemrdiyakov and his poor daughter. hmmmm......

I had planned on doing the full circuit of the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennale - but the weather was really hot and sticky. I came home and lay around for an hour, before venturing out to the base station launch party - which is a short stroll from home...

It's *weird* going to art launches in a foreign city - because I find myself looking at people and seeing weird anonymous replicas of the familiar faces I know in Sydney - only they are anonymous here, and so am I and it's kind of scary and weird, because I feel like a weird fly on the wall, wathcing myself - or at least my class (with a more middle class accents and designer clothes), and definietely my cohort - bright eyed GenX ratbaggers, greying into middle age.

Renaissance girl and I sat on the impeccable green couch grass, sipping execrable wine and admiring the mini hilsl hoist, and enjoying the shade. then we wandered through the "base station" which is someone's house, with a few rooms filled with installations.... which were mostly quite cold, (convenient on a hot day). and difficult to identify form the artists statements. Someone had a video loop taken from a rotating hills hoist in a backyard similar but not the same as the one where the house was. (replica, presence, absence, simulacra, rotation) tres nice, and I *think* it may have related to the following artists statement?

Regular collaborators Geoff Robinson and Jennie Lang have developed a new work for the wBST that is a visual conversation between the artists.

Created in accordance with geographic and recording parameters predetermined by the artists, this video ‘call and response’ uses spatial observations, arrangements, interventions and movement to establish an informal dialogue about form, light and time.

The footage was recorded within each artist’s local surroundings – more specifically their home boundaries - and the work was sequentially created in the months preceding the triennial.

Scary stylised conceptual minimalism aside, the looping weight of the camera/photographer, reminded me of swinging on my mum's hills hoist as a kid. Nice. And I loved Mikala Dwyer's hanging garden - bits of melted clear plastic sculptures - made into hanging baskets for budding succulents, offset the fibreglass verandah shell really nicely - and became something to walk through and appreciate while standing - much like the fuzzy felt pennants festooned around the driveway. the highlgight of the opening though was Lucazoid's entrance with a goat called Bob, who was also commemorated in a brown and beige fuzzy felt pennant. Lucas and Bob had wandered the baking streets of west Brunswick, avoiding the laneways (and the free fruit), but getting lots of attention from residents, including the former Mayor who asked for a photo of himself, Lucas and Bob in his front yard. My aunt made a comment about Brunswick summers, saying they made her wonder what all of the greek immigrants, arriving fresh from Anatolian goatfields thought of this strange flat gridded place. so i'm glad that Lucas and Bob did a bit of retrospective imaginative topography. I told Lucas that his entrance into the OSW launch, complete with Hat and sensational beast reminded me of Joseph beuyss. bob wasn't quite a coyote though - but there was a definite happening aspect. Bob also reminded me of Rushdie's character Saladin Chamcha, morphing into a goat in Bricklane - but I didn't share that with Lucas.


I had more art yesterday when Stephen Mori flew into town, and insisted that I come along to him for the Modern Times launch at Heide. I hadn't been to Heide yet - and was astonished to see green grass, and green trees and slowly ripening tomatos. (most of melbourne is scorched brown). My favourite bits were the towel shorts and tops and woolen knitted swimtsuits that looked like flash gordon.

I saw Anne Dangar's ceramics and nearly cried (I've never really recovered from Helen Topliss's biog of Dangar which describes her miserable exploitation in the neoprimitivist artists colony in Moly Sabata. Poor Anne Dangar, only managed to create her work, in between slaving for Maurice and Madame GLieze, she was fired through the freezing neo-feudalist french winters by her disgust and rage at Australian provincialism).

Heide is a wonderful testament to the bravery and brilliance of the Reeds, fostering a rare vision that bourgeoise Australians could be more than crypto-fascist cashed up bogans, and could support and promote contemporary art, architecture, and literature. the modernist show is wonderful... *sigh* I walked past Dangar's glassed in plinth with a tear in my eye, and gasped at the room of Roy de Maistre's colourful wonders! ah! swirls! One wall had a series of high coloured landscape studies of Berry's Bay and other bits of Sydney Harbour. I imagined Datillo Rubbo sending De Maistre out to the harbour to sea and dream the colours that sing through the shuddering light, water and air of sydney (I'll admit I am still homesick). My reverie was interupted by a wrinkled version of Tru and Pru "err, yairss, this is ma feverrite arff orll, Ahh rarely lark thes warn" "Theers err the best" " Ahh rarely lark thes larnskepp, ther meyooted ternes, arr serr suttle, en ahh lark ther carmposishun" "Err yairss".

I felt a technicolour vomit coming on so I went outside for a glass of chandon and admired the sunset glinting off some big brush steel sculpture....

then went inside to fest on Narelle Jubilen's cannibal feast. this had everyting I love: sewing, a radical critique of primitivism, poignant ironic juxtapositions, found objects, and more sewing. I love how ever single component is rigorously catalogues. the obscure genealogies weaving together other richer histories.....

Monday, March 02, 2009

Big Butch *Blush*

IMAGE © Deborah Kelly Big Butch Billboard 2009

My thanks and general admiration to Debora Kelly for creating the wonderful image and intervention above.
In the spirit of "Hey Hetero" and "Beware of the God" Kelly has done a nice detournement of Maria Kozic's bitch billboard of 1989 to drag around a very sexy image of a butch - on the back of the truck.

There's also gonna be a MArdis Gras entry - of butches and fans dragging alongside the billboard up Okker st. on Saturday night.


And i'm stuck in smellbourne, receiving freaky fire updates on my phone, trying to finish my tome (it's getting there, slowly, but surely)

It's not all bad down south. I've got my own butch icon at home, and she makes me blush and swoon, and sign, and giggle, and sigh some more.....

Big tattooed biceps, hairy musky armpits divided by voluptuous breasts. Real tits, real tats, a soft mo and softer lips. The brut 33 in the bathroom, the collection of cocks in the bedroom. The incredible infinite queerness of a woman who is big and butch and strong and so softly sexily female throughout.

I don't buy into the "butch femme thing" as some rigid sapphic category, but I *adore* having a buxum butch wench so much that bits of me involuntarily water on a regular basis. somehow with her, a lot of stuff seems to be resolved, and a lot more stuff made possible. I feel proud of myself, like i've grown up enough to catch the big fish I always dreamt of. She takes me, and lets me take her places where we both switch and sigh and laugh and fuck and sing across out many genders and many selves.

I desire and respect tranny boys, but the butch wench is what really gets me giggly and happy and exited.... so elegantly striding, sliding along the fence of gender ambiguity. calmly holding herself as a woman in the world, who is not a girl, not a femme, not a man in transition, but a strong, sexy, masculine and feminine, divinely ambiguous woman. Staying outside of the gender privilege of passing as a man, or slipping into the masquerade of closetted femininity, she is confronting, and yet so calm, and so incredibly beautiful.

As i get older, I'm more aware of the exaggerated femininity of young insecure girls, twittering in frills, frocks and shite shoes. Long hair, long nails, high voices. Part of me is tempted to blame the young, because I wasn't ever like that myself, and I feel like echoing the cliched chorus of old feminists "but we weren't like that when we were young"...... and of course I wasn't, and of course my friend's weren't, and fortunately most of us aren't "yummy mummies" either, pushing 3-wheeled designer prams between the four-wheeled drives and pilates classes.

To categorise all younger women as oppressed or unfeminist , ignores the enormous amount of deviation that does exist among younger women; which are still in a minority - like the young student radicals, the anarchists, the baby-dykes, the other young radical student feminists. Thing is - we are always in the minority... and its only when you get older that you see young people as an anonymous cohort; as separate, generally conformist and strangely sexualised, and so incredibly insecure..... It's great to see the variety of genders in dykedom - the differing femmes, the differing genders the variation from andro to butch, to leather daddy, from coy bois to T-d up transmen. My hazy memories of 15 years ago had 99% of dykes looking like bad KD Lang clones, so it's good to see women pushing our genders in all shapes and styles.

Butch women give all of us more space, to breathe, to desire, to walk and stand, and we all have to claim that space, to do our genders differently, more openly, more fluidly, more sexily. To happily and ostentatiously display the infinity of ways in which our bodies, our desires can be and become impossibly exquisite wonderful things..... to take the spaces we can, when we can.

Of course, I'm writing this having not yet left the house. I'm still in my pyjamas, and alternating between opening up the flat, and closing it, as cool cloudy breezes alternate with hot cyclonic blasts. Melbourne weather is more moody than a butch with PMT, and a lot less sexy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If only

I have my erstwhile colleague vicki Grieves to thank for this.
I read it while filling my face with bread and vegemite.
I eat too much, and move too little. keep typing/editing/cutandpaste.
i've had eye strain.

Noone ever mentioned the side of spending 12-16 hours a day on a tome.... my feet swell up! I've had airplane ankles!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ring of fire

I feel like *such* a wimp.

Yes - 47 degree heat was soul sucking eyeball frying hell - but given that 130 people have died in the subsequent inferno - in ways I don't really want to think about - my little squirms and sighs feel totally pathetic. and they are.

still - I feel obliged to mark the occasion by blabbing my own insanely trivial navel gazing version of events.

All week - the weather predictions were getting hotter, and hotter, and going up - and EVERYONE was talking about the weather. The threat of impending heat smoothed the path of my dole diary submission, gave substance to chitchats at the bakeries on the north side of town, and broke u the interminable muzak in the Moreland Salvation Army store (which I swear, has the kitschest music I've heard this century)

I'd also had 3 days of cluster-ridden head pain, and was dreading the compound effect of real heat - not this pissy 33 degree stuff. I wondered how the weather would rise from summery to hell in a couple of hours, and return.

OK - friday was warmish - low 30's, but it cooled off to 24 or something in the afternoon - heading into a nice warm summery evening, with a bit of fresh air. the brunswick love shack is a top floor sunny flat. It's great being 5 degrees warmer than outside for 9 months of the year - but during the last fortnight it's been hell. In the afternoon, the water from the cold taps comes out at a scalding 50 degrees, and the study cops all of the western sun in the afternoon - which is handy since our oven doesn't work, but a tad impossible to work in. So on friday night we opened up the Bruwswick love shack to get as much cross ventilation as possible and ate on the balcony, and slept on the loungeroom floor, with all the windows and doors open.

On Saturday Renaissance girl woke me up early - so we could plan our retreat to the nearest bastion of aircon for the day. It was warm outside but not evil - yet adn We had a lite brekky of fruit, with our coffee.

About 9am a hot wind started blowing. We shut all the doors and windows and did a load of washing and filled the bathtub with cold water. We then had cold baths, soaked sheets and towels and hung them on racks near the windows and closed all the blinds. We left lets of water for the cat, grabbed some cold water and headed out.

The wind was already hurling at us, and I was reminded of a windstorm in coober pedy. We staggered across the road to the tramstop and waited in the shade for the tram. We're lucky to be near the trams. they are airconditioned, and mostly people have the sense to shut the windows and blinds and lock the heat out. We tram hopped to the NGV and Rennaissance girl showed me the best view of the stained glass ceiling in the great hall. bliss.

Now ideally we would have stayed there all day, gazing at Rembrandt and Rothgo, (melbourne is growing on me, OK?) and completely forgetting the time or the temperature. but alas no. Renaissance girl had a violin rehearsal southside and when the weather was predicted to be a mere 34 degrees, I'd booked tickets to go life drawing with a mate, also southside, and also mid afternoon. so - at 3pm - when the heat was peaking at an insane 47 degrees - insetead of enxconsing myself in the darkened airconditioned corridors of the NGV I was gasping at flinders street station with my friend, slurping down a slushy trying to work out a non-connex route south of the river.

Hot dry air doens't feel like a sauna at all. It feels scary and yuck. none of this muscle softening embrace - more like a scary lung compressing, eyeball baking blast. I don't like heat at the best of times, so have to force myself not to panic.

anywya - we did some tram hopping and shadow scuttling and eventually found ourselves in a dark 2 storey terrace - which was amazingly cool inside (without aircon either).

2 hours later, the cool southerly wind arrived from tasmania and swirled around the leaves, and skirts and everyone's hair, and the street umbrellas. There was no sign of the fires alll around victoria, no clouds, no smoke, no smell of burning.
the sunset was a regular orange peachy glow - and not the stunning red clouded ball of fireskies. By then we were at St. Kilda, feet in the water, feeling relieved and calm.

Renaissance girl and I later went out and saw an opera singer do a Johnny Cash number. It's in too poor taste to quote it here, but it matches the crazy cavalry painting I snapped at the NGV.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Gone To Ground

I think I'm meant to be in tomal lockdown at the moment. I feel like I've been in a hellish heat tunnel after last week's heatwave.

the *minimum* temperature was 30 degrees some nights. I kid you not.
we shut up the Love palace like a little hot cave, covering all the windows in wet towels and took the computer out of the study where we could smell burning plastic.Each morning, we filled the bathtub and the fridge full of cold water as each afternoon the cold tap released SCALDING HOT water

the last time I'd been exposed to anyting over 40 degrees was in MAdrid in 1998. I went mad, and skulked in the basement of the Prado, staring at goya's 'black paintings' doing obsessive scrathcy graphite transcriptions.

remembering spain, I decided to adopt a similar strategy. Each day, after soaking myself and my clothes in the bathtup, I skulked across the road to the tram, caught the tram to Flemington Road, scuttled along royal Parade and hid in melbourne uni library each day.....madly reading randoms bits of Australian art history, obsessively checking my footnotes, and rechecking, and rearranging my chapter and slowly going mad.... and just mindlessly gorging my eyeballs on words, trying to forget where I was, when I was, where i am now.... so damn close and so damn far, and really hating everything.

At 6pm, as the library shut I'd curse the furnace of heat as it hit my lips and baked my eyeballs and scuttle back to the tram, come home, scowl and sulk at Renaissance girl, and curse the city...

note to self: must spend next January in Northern Hemisphere

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Greatest Story Ever Told -in Sydney

Profound displacement

Flying High

We hid indoors on Boganday... after seeing some non-ironic Schappylle Scragg clones strolling around Parkville on saturday night -complete with aussie flag shoulder drapes, we weren't gonna leave the house.

Instead Boganday came to us - and we felt our innards tremble as the williamstown jet squad did their top gun style tribute... but forntuately it was brief... and coincided with the meditative morning coffee on the brown velvet armchair, which led me to ponder.....

what a bloody fitting memorial to Invasion day it was - I mean the weird air-borne military salute. Bogan day is based on the commemoration of a bunch of blighty's finest stepping ashore at circular quay and declaring it "terra nullius" or empty land.

Today I read in a book that the sesquicentenary of invasion day was commemorated in sydney by a re-enactment of the landing of Arthur Phillip & co - including apparently a made up speech by the actor playing ye olde governor..... since no-one could remember what he actually said.

It kind of reminded me of the crucifixion re-enactment at Darling Harbour - which i think is one of the most briliantly kitsch things I've seen in a long time.... I guess this is what happens when people buy too much Franklin Mint..... they cross the line of kitschness that goes straight into high farce.....

anyway - I'm trying to write my mini-definitive account of modernism - which is meant to be a deconstructive geneaology more than a neat narrative..... and I've drafted and redrafted and chopped and changed and gotten waylaid with endless searches for footnotes, and I still think it reads like a dogs breakfast, and I'm really sick of my thesis, and I'm sick of the heat, and sick of everything.

And my brain has stopped functioning like it used to, and I wonder if i'll ever get it back, and if I'll ever finish this bloody tome.