Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Miss Representation: documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Just had to share- think this is long overdue. Check out the website to see where it's screening. If you're around Paddington tomorrow night it's screening at COFA- you can register here.

Miss Representation 3 minute Trailer 8/24 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.
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Monday, 27 February 2012

Birmingham's youth devoid of culture...?

On my way to work this morning I came across an interesting article on The Art Newspaper online which claimed that the children of Birmingham in the UK were "culture starved," according to the tourism enterprise Visit Birmingham. Surveying 2, 000 parents across the UK, four in ten children aged five to 12 had never visited an art gallery, while 17% had never been to a museum with their parents. A quarter of parents said they could not afford the entrance fees for attractions and 28% said they did not have the time.

Now, I lived in Birmingham for two years, managing a small commercial gallery for one, and my opinions are divided by this survey. To single out children as the ones who are "culturally starved" is, I feel, missing the point. They are a product of their environment & their parents. The real culprits here are the adults. When I was a child my parents made a concious effort to take my brother and I to museums. This not only provided us with some culture but it taught us how to behave appropriately in such a setting- something I feel is distincly lacking in children today. 
Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum

Don't get me wrong- I loved living in Birmingham- but I found it to be one of the most culturally starved cities I'd ever seen. Ask anyone and the only gallery they can name is the IKON gallery and perhaps the Birmingham Art Gallery & Museum- but that's it. Working in a gallery I was privileged enough to be allowed into this strange exclusive little underground art scene which operated almost like a club. Everyone knew each other and you really needed to know someone to get involed and invited. It seemed everyone in this 'club' was either an arts worker, an artist, a curator or in some way connected to the arts- so it's not surprising that your everyday family was unaware.
IKON Gallery

I'm not saying Sydney's any different- there are little cliques here too- but perhaps due to the fact that Birmingham was just a smaller city, it was just so much more apparent. Particualarly when I had a falling out with a particular curator and was subsequently banished from the 'club'. Suddenly I no longer knew when openings were on and the invites ceased. Despite all this I have hope for Birmingham. After all it is still developing and trying to shed the industrial image of its past. Let's hope things can change. 

However until the attitudes of it's inhabitants change the arts will never truly flourish. I met a lot of different people during my year at the gallery. The work I exhibited was mocked, scorned & I was often told it was "complete bollocks". The 'general public' who did come in had no idea about art & what's worse- absolutely no respect.

This article did remind me of something my boss, the Director of the gallery I worked for, said to me in a meeting. While dismissing yet another one of my ideas for a show & my comments on the current one he informed me, "What would you know, you come from a country devoid of any history or culture." Outraged, I stormed out of the gallery, refusing to return until he had apologised, which he did, grudgingly. Well, Sydney may not be as old as Birmingham but I would wager out children are far more cultured. 
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Friday, 24 February 2012

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: joke or genius?

Image: The Art Newspaper.
Damien Hirst has pretty much built a reputation on causing a stir. There's the animals in formaldehyde, diamond encrusted skulls & his refusal to exhibit in favour of heading straight to the auction house. He has even spoken of getting monkeys to create his art for him- now that's real monkeys, not just some crude reference the the people who create his art for him at present. Damien Hirst is a business, a brand & like any good franchise he knows a brilliant money making gimmick when he sees one. Enter the 'Spot Challenge.'

Now let's forget for the moment that of the 1, 400 spot paintings in existence Hirst only painted 5, commenting "I couldn't be fucking arsed doing it" and labelling his efforts as "shite". Call me old fashioned but when I buy an artwork I like to think that the artist actually touched the canvas with more than just his signature. But perhaps when you buy a Hirst artwork you are really just buying the signature- that's really what is worth the money. Anyway, let's imagine for the moment that Hirst has lovingly painted every single dot himself, the real question still remains- are they any good?

The Art Newspaper Editor Cristina Ruiz went off in search of the answer to that question when she agreed to undertake the Hirst 'Spot Challenge'. Visit all 11 of Gagosian's galleries in London, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens, New York, Los Angeles & Hong Kong to see Hirst's spot paintings, get your card stamped & at the end of it you get to take home your very own spot painting. Given that Gagosian Gallery had the count at about 650 paticipants, I'm not sure how 'limited edition' those works are going to be. Ruiz kept a blog of her experience & it makes for some very entertaining reading.

Among other things, Ruiz discusses feeling "spot fatigue" and observes that while the size of the spots are varied there is "no depth to the brushstrokes, no variation to the composition, just... incessant glossy dots." She speaks with many different people on her travels from Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon who insists the "paintings are not a gimmick at all" but an exploration of colour, to fellow spot challenger Theodora Baum, whom she meets in the Paris gallery, who believes that Hirst's spot paintings only work if someone see them all, claiming "they make people happy." And make Hirst rich by the sounds of it with a small canvas being sold at the Geneva gallery for $300, 000.

Speaking of prices, it's in the Rome gallery that Ruiz gets a gander at the price list. The price of a spot painting ranges between $375, 000 to a cool $1.8m.  Interestingly something I noticed about Ruiz's blog was that the way in which she viewed Hirst's work depended a lot on the setting. She noted more than once that in several of the galleries Hirst's paintings "looked good here". That's not to say the paintings themselves are good just that innevitably the frame in which something is seen will always effect it.

Ruiz concludes her journey in LA in the same satirical manner with which she set out. Having completed the challenge she is entitled to the limited edition spot work and can choose a personalised inscription for Hirst to write. She laments that she wishes to write something she believes Hirst would say to her- what does she come up with? "Dear Cristina, Fuck off." Having kept a tally of the cost of this little adventure it amounts to $3250. 75. The big question being, what did she learn?

"That it's hard to write nearly 5, 000 words about spots. That the paintings make much more sense in rich cities like Geneva and Beverly Hills than they do anywhere else. In places such as these it doesn't really matter that the paintings have no meaning. They're colourful and decorative and instantly recognisable as a work by one of the most famous artists of our time."

So really Damien Hirst is like a sports car. It costs a lot of money, has no real meaning but is instantly regognisable. You buy it for the status of owning it. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Roxette: Fading Like a Flower?

Sydney Entertainment Centre: February 16, 2012

Last week I went and saw Roxette (don't judge) who apparently haven't performed in Sydney since 1995. Talk about pressure. Now, I'm not a music critic or really have any great knowledge in this area but I was a little disappointed with aspects of Thursday night's show. While I understand that they are both a lot older now, it seemed that Marie Fredriksson just couldn't reach those high notes which originally made songs like Spending My Time & The Look so amazing.

Ok, so a lot of performers don't sound the same live as on their albums- this is a given- but half of the enjoyment of a performance is the interaction of the artists with the audience. While it was there with Roxette, it was minimal. I would have loved to have heard anecdotes about the songs and their inception, what they'd been up to since the 90's ect. While it was clear that Per Gessle & Marie Fredriksson hadn't lost their groove or their great connection, for me something was missing.

Having said that, I did enjoy the concert- in particular the surprise second encore. But this recent concert- going experience has influenced me to lay down some ground rules of concert/ festival behaviour. Take note.    


RULE 1: If you are on the floor area and there is a designated 'mosh pit' DO NOT wear a back pack and then proceed to jump around so said back pack whacks fellow moshers in the face.

RULE 2: In the pit, if you are ridiculously tall please be aware that short people do exist and DO NOT move to stand directly in front of them.

RULE 3: While a certain amount of touching is inevitable in the pit area DO NOT intentionally grab a person's butt/breast/arm/leg/face/hair- if you wouldn't do it on the street, don't do it here.

RULE 4: DO NOT fart in the pit. That's just gross.

RULE 5: Wear appropriate footwear. This isn't a club, you're not a Kardashian, wear heels & open toes shoes at your own peril.

RULE 6: If in the seated area DO NOT continuously stand up subsequently blocking people's view. If you wanted to stand you should have bought floor seats. The exception being if everyone stands.

RULE 7: While drinks are permitted in most venues please show some courtesy to the people in your row who you will be crawling over to get out to use the bathroom AGAIN. And when you do sqeeze your fat ass past say THANK YOU.

RULE 8: While singing is a natural part of the concert process please resist the urge to drown out the performers. I did not pay good money to here YOU sing.

RULE 9: Wear deoderant.

RULE 10: Once it's all over DO NOT push & shove your way out the door. Everyone wants to leave as badly as you do & contrary to your deluded self belief- you are not more important than anybody else.

Thank you.  

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Sunday, 19 February 2012

A little bit of self promotion...

While I have been writing the near & the elsewhere blog for almost three years I only jumped on the social media bandwagon last August. I admit I was reluctant to do so- it just seemed so... shameless. But I now see its value. While the blog is where I post all my reviews, guest posts & interviews, Facebook is where I post photographs from openings & exhibitions & am able to share info from other arts organisations. I use Twitter to share photographs & thoughts while at openings & shows. While not always strictly 'art-focused' it's usually far more sarcastic.

So here it is. The big shameless self- promotional plug.

PLEASE 'Like' me!!

PLEASE 'Follow' me!!
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Friday, 17 February 2012

WARNING: this is not a drill

Came across this in my wanderings online & it made me laugh. When I managed a gallery I bet if we had this sign out the front more people would have come in. Hindsight. 
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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Even though I don't believe in it...

 Brought to you by the very talented Sara Spence at Dubbleyou Design. Download your own Valentines Day card for free here.

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Book Share on Oxford Street

I LOVE this. The Palace Cinema on Oxford Street closed down several years ago and has been empty ever since. Whenever I have walked past I find it really sad that what was once such a beautiful cinema is now gone. This morning on my way to a meeting I was surprised to discover someone had turned the old entry into a book share space. Cleverly turning the 'lease' signs into 'please share' signs, here is a place where people can leave & swap books & magazines, with chairs provided if you feel the need to rest your legs. I have no idea who has created this makeshift haven on Oxford Street- even less sure how long it will last- but I think it's fantastic.
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Saturday, 11 February 2012

The Artist

The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius (scenario and dialogue)
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman

So much has already been said about The Artist that it almost seems redundant to add my opinion here. Especially when it doesn't differ greatly from the praise that has been thrown around since its release. While I won't drone on about the storyline and the characters I would like to highlight some scenes which I thought stood out as being exceptional. Particularly in light of Jim Schembri's comments in The Sydney Morning Herald which decribed The Artist as a "massively overrated valentine to silent movies."

The first scene of note is when Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is in George Valentin's (Jean Dujardin) dressing room on the set of their first film together. She sees his signature suit jacket and hat on the coat stand and cannot resist breathing in its scent. She then threads her arm trhough one of the sleeves so that it appears as if the jacket is embracing her. A very simple idea but a very clever one, demonstrating Miller's adoration for the famous star and an innocence that endears her to the audience.

Due to some adverse publicity Valentin feels he should buy his wife some jewellery to get himself out of trouble. Another beautiful scene is the montage of time passing over the breakfast table where in each scene the wife is wearing a new necklace. This simple visual says more than words ever could and suppports that fact that every time you see the wife she is defacing her husbands image. The incorporation of montage sequences to symbolise the passing of time meant the film never felt as if it was dragging. This was a very clever way to ensure the plot kept moving and eliminated the risk of the audience becoming bored.

Visually, the scene in Kinograph Studios where Miller bumps into Valentin on the stair case after he has been dismissed, is stunning. It is as if the building has been sliced down the middle and opened up, much like a dolls house. Every stair case and corridor is exposed and people scurry about like mice. By having Valentin moving down the stair while Miller is heading up also symbilises her rise in the industry, having just signed with the studio, and his subsequent fall.

Throughout The Artist the tuxedo became a symbol of success. It is when Valentin has to sell his tux to a pawn shop that he truly realises he has hit rock bottom. The scene where he is walking past a shop window and stops to admire his reflection where it appears as if he is wearing the tux on display is a beautiful moment. Tinged with meancholly, this scene shows the parallel of who he was and who he has become. For a brief moment he smiles in rememberance before he is jolted back to the reality of the street by a passing policeman.

Finally the scene in which Valentin returns to his burnt out house and sits in the chair with his gun, surrounded by the destruction he has caused- through both the fire and his refusal to embrace talkies- has to be one of my favourites. Having decided to end his life he returns to where he feels his life ended and his complete despair is evident in every movement and gesture.

Of course Valentin does not die but is saved by Miller and given a second chance at life and a career in the industry he loves. As we reach the final scene with Miller and Valentin dancing a duet we can hear the sound of their tap shoes. When they finish the sound of their heavy breathing is deafening. 'Cut' is the first word that is spoken in the entire film. The Director of the studio (played to perfection by John Goodman) asks if they can do it again. Valentin responds in a heavily French accented speech 'With pleasure'. It's as if the entire film had been leading up to this moment. I released the breath I was unaware I had been holding. It was the perfect ending.

More reviews can be found here:


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Thursday, 9 February 2012

He Made She Made

He Made She Made, which officially opened last week, is the latest gallery to open its doors in Sydney & one of the few to find its home on Oxford Street. Having missed the opening due largely to my own ignorance- it's located at 70 Oxford Street Darlinghurst, not Paddington- 70 Oxford Street Paddington is a clothing store- I decided to drop in on my way home this week.

There isn't much written about the gallery. It's website is basic & simply states "He Made She Made create and curate works that might be considered art, but often encompass the functionality and utility of a design piece" and puts an emphasise on showing work that is otherwise "under- represented". I'm not sure what I was expecting but I have to be honest- whatever I was expecting- it surpassed it.

The space itself is gorgeous & the very picture of simplicity with its white walls & hardwood floors. It looks like a design showroom except that most of the works are not functional- you cannot  sit in Robert Pullar's Musical Chair- but you can appreciate its irony. The works are of a high quality & although this may sound bad- I was surprised at how professional & polished the whole thing came across. It's location is ideal but I do hope they don't become lost among the sometimes not so ideal surrounds. Oddly while Oxford Street is a prime location, it seems an odd place to put a gallery- but that's why it will work.

Many of the works are for sale, with those that are not generally prototypes. For an opening show this was an exceptional one & I am looking forward to see what they will produce next.  

Alex Fitzpatrick, Light Garden

Robert Pullar, Musical Chair

Andy Grigor, Quarter Past

Henry Wilson, Bedrock Lamp

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Alex Gawronski, Alex Martinis Roe & Kate Mitchell

Alex Gawronski, The Invisible Man, 2012.
Alex Gawronski, Alex Martinis Roe & Kate Mitchell
The Invisible Man, non-writing histories, Magic Undone
Artspace: February 1- March 11, 2012

I confess my main objective for attending the most recent opening at Artspace was for the sole purpose of seeing the latest offering from Kate Mitchell. Having only recently interviewed her for the near & the elsewhere I was more than a little curious to see what work would be the outcome of her time spent in Japan for the BankART residency.

The five channel video installation Fall Stack shows brightly coloured, almost carnivalesque, stalls one underneath the other. In slow motion Mitchell falls through each of the awnings in one continuous motion. The video lasts 45 seconds but is on a continuous loop so there is literally no end to the artists free fall. It's oddly hypnotic watching Mitchell fall, rather elegantly, with the slow motion effect making it appear dream- like. Fall Stack is typical of Michell's comical style & again tests the artist's endurance. Reminiscent of the chase scene in any typical action film where the protagonist leaps off a building only to tumble through the shop belows awning, Fall Stack continues Mitchell's need to push not only her own boundaries but those of her audience.

Accompanying this video is Magic Undone, an unravelled kilim rug, with its threads presented in a neat pile underneath. Again there is a sense of the unreal, of a fantasy deconstructed. Here is a magic carpet that has lost its ability to fly. Mitchell takes these fantastical elements and gives them a slightly sinister twist. 

Alex Gawronski, The Invisible Man, 2012.

Alex Gawronski, The Invisible Man (interior view) 2012.
The work of Alex Gawronski baffles me slightly. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Invisible Man apparently attempts to 'conceptualise the interrelationships between the institution of art, its audience and the spatial models that house it.' Essentially Gawronski has created a space within a space. Inside is a video work which looks as if it's a close up of the wall. That close every partical and fibre is glaringly apparent. The camera moves around the space and the video is conspicuously devoid of any human presence. Gawronski is asking the question- what would the art world look like without the artist and audience. Perhaps The Invisible Man is the answer.  

Non- writing histories attempts to highlight 'gender political operations of non- representation & abstraction by examinging the performative effect of non- representational work.' Ok, I have to be completely honest here, even after reading the accompanying text to this work I wasn't a hundred percent clear on its purpose. However, despite this, I found the work itself facinating & incredibly intriguing to watch. Apparently through the production of 'abstractions' Alex Martinis Roe 'extrapolates these conditions of non- representation & gestures toward a different meaning for abstraction.' There was a sound element to the work which would have been better appreciated away from the noise of the opening night. This is definitely a work I would like to learn more about. 

Kate Mitchell, Magic Undone, 2012.

Alex Martinis Roe, non- writing histories, 2012.

Kate Mitchell, Fall Stack, 2012.

Kate Mitchell, Fall Stack (Bakery Scene), production image, 2012. Image courtesy of Artspace & the artist.

Alex Martinis Roe, non- writing histories, 2012.
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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Damien Hirst- one person's perspective...

The other day I stumbled across the following video on Leg of Lamb (if you haven't read it- be sure to check it out). It's  Hennessy Youngman a.k.a Philadelphia artist Jayson Musson’s critique of Damien Hirst. This is particularly relevant considering Gagosian's recent launch of Hirst's latest 'spot paintings' across all eleven of his galleries. A bold move that hasn't failed to cause a stir.

Whether you love or hate Hirst- this video is hillarious.

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