Monday, December 25, 2006

Ern Malley. A frisson of text.

Detail of Ern Malley, painting by Sidney Nolan, from Collected Poems paperback cover.
We will be wraiths and wreaths of tissue-paper
To clog the Town Council in their plans.
Culture forsooth! Albert, get my gun.

But in all of this I got no culture till
I read a little pamphlet on my thighs
Entitled: ‘Friction as a social process’

Ern Malley.
Extract from Culture as Exhibit.
Circa 1943.
Collected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1993.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Text and the Parrot.

“Parrots migrate widely through the human imagination because they are useless. Or more precisely, they are productive because no particular meaning (or use) can be assigned to them.”

“Parrot, like the phoneme in structuralist linguistic theory, is the in-itself meaningless unit of communication that becomes meaningful precisely because its lack of meaning means that it can be connected in a myriad of ways without any loss of identity.”

Paul Carter, Cultural Studies Review, Vol 12 #1 March 2006.

Then I saw it. Crouched on top of a high cupboard was another parrot. Also bright green. Also, according to both the gardienne and the label on its perch, the very parrot which Flaubert had borrowed from the Museum of Rouen for the writing of Un coeur simple. I asked permission to take the second Loulou down, set him carefully on the corner of a display cabinet, and removed his glass dome.

How do you compare two parrots, one already idealised by memory and metaphor, the other a squawking intruder? My initial response was that the second seemed less authentic than the first, mainly because it had a more benign air. The head was set straighter on the body, and its expression was less irritating than that of the bird at the Hotel-Dieu. Then I realised the fallacy in this: Flaubert, after all, hadn't been given a choice of parrots; and even this second one, which looked the calmer company, might well get on your nerves after a couple of weeks.

Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot, Picador, 1985.
“A delight… Handsomely the best novel published in 1984”, “A dazzling achievement… remarkably inventive as well as audacious”, “An intricate and delightful novel”, “Flaubert’s Parrot, c’est moi,”, “Endless food for thought, beautifully written… A tour de force”, “A gem: an unashamed literary novel that is also unashamed to be readable, and broadly entertaining. Bravo!” “delightful and enriching…A book to revel in”.(John Fowles, Walter Abish, Graham Green, Fran Lebowitz, John Irving, Germaine Greer, Joseph Heller)

This parrot – “Does it talk?”
Another time, another place, the same words, another meaning.

Re-posted from we make money not art – see site for links:
20 Dec 2006 10:58 PM CST
Last May, i blogged about Plagiarismo, an exhibition that tried to demonstrate that the appropriation and re-formulation of other artists' ideas is an essential component of culture.
Vuk Cosic - who's having a solo exhibition at the ·kuc Gallery in Ljubljana- wrote me then that he was putting together a show called CTRL-C on a similar subject. The show has just opened at the galerija Simulaker in Slovenia. Here's the gist:
From Duchamp and Benjamin to Beuys the art of the previous century has asked the question of copying and multiplying as a legitimate artistic practice. The advent of the internet has dramatically placed the digital original and digital copy in the very center of artistic but also economic frictions.
Mere simplicity of making copies is socially not perceived as a liberating tool for artistic creation but is turning out to be the main point of conflict between economic interests and those of societies at large. Traditionalists fighting for Intellectual Property are trying to pull the giants from under our feet.
The CTRL-C show is presenting projects exclusively focused on the artistic relevance of the digital copy. Exhibited works are using the language of the non-original to express a very concrete critique of the circumstances in the world of art and in the society. All works in the show have provided their authors with a measure of scandal and a bigger measure of fame:
In September 1997, Vuk åosiç made an almost perfect copy of the website of Documenta X before it was taken down by the organisers of the famous contemporary art show. The artist saw his act as an “expression of a rebellion against the art system and the return of art from a gallery into reality.”
Epilogue: The copy found its way into relevant “kunst.historisch” literature and is still accessible on the author's internet server. Being a legitimate and conceptual work it has been exhibited many times, also at the Venice Bienale in 2001.
In 1997, 0100101110101101.ORG made a series of clones of well-known projects (, art teleportacia, Jodi) as a digital monument to the principles upon which the Internet runs. "The belief that information must be free," explained at the time Renato, 0100101110101101.ORG spokesman, "is a tribute to the way in which a very good computer or a valid program works: binary numbers move in accordance with the most logic, direct and necessary way to do their complex function. What is a computer if not something that benefits by the free flow of information? Copyright is boring."
Epilogue: The three copies are still accessible on the authors' server. Nowadays they are known for their numerous projects, acknowledged by the public and the media.
In 1999, Rtmark – The Yes Men altered the website of the World Trade Organization and made it very similar to the original. They received invitations to symposia (no one's going to forget their talk and little demo at the Textiles of the Future conference in Tampere), where they presented the identity of GATT as they understood it.

Epilogue: The authors belong to the group of the most recognizable names of the New Media scene. A documentary has been made about their work (also available on google video btw.)
During the exhibition of Fluxus in 2005, Gordan Karabogdan and Nikica Klobuãar snatched a few of Beuys’ videos, copied them at their home and returned the "originals" without anyone noticing it. They even produced free copies and the media comprehended this deed as a criminal act.
Epilogue: The work, called Enigma of an object, ended with an act of handing over the copied films and entire documentation to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka.

Alison Clouston and Boyd

Those of you who remember the great work of Alison and Boyd at the Dawn Light Symposium will be interested to know that they will be back in the region at the Peats Ridge Festival.

The following, forwarded to The Back Page, is the text for a sign relating to their installation planned for the festival:

“Body of Water.”
Boyd, sound artist and Alison Clouston, visual artist

Water moves through our bodies and the landscape in a network of creeks, veins, rivers, and arteries. Get yourself eavesdropping on the secret hydrology of the river and our own bodies -– we are ourselves at least 70% water.

Try the headphones provided in the little coracles, or circular boats, drawn up on the riverbank, and you can listen through the hydrophone – a microphone under the water. Or place the landed hydrophone on your own belly and listen.

You might pick up the mysterious sounds and signs of life and health in body and water – the clicks and whirrs of fish, turtles, and macro-invertebrates, and the strange and funny music of the human innards.

The flotilla of small vessels carries the hydrophone out to the depths of the water: Like us, adrift, and vulnerable to the currents of change.

Alison Clouston and Boyd
Visual artist Alison Clouston and sound artist Boyd have been collaborating on sound and sculpture installations for twenty years, exhibiting in the national and international context. Their engagement with environmental issues, and their work with Landcare in the Southern Highlands of NSW where they live provoked their recent projects about Sydney’s water crisis, “Adrift” for Murray Darling Palimpsest 2006, and “Wake” and “Potamology” shown at the Gosford Regional Gallery last year.

Documentation of more of their work can be found on their Burragorang website.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Creating Gosford

Gosford is a state of mind.
Beyond the material and energetic fields, a “place” exists as we collectively think it into being.
The Gosford Times site is a journal of record for the creation of, and reflection about, “Gosford” – a working contradiction partly fact and partly fiction.
Half rhetorical, half historical, it is a collaborative invention of imagined, remembered, borrowed and documented material.
The Gosford Times might be somewhere to start Reading the City.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Text Art as Public Space

If art is a culturally, historically and theoretically constructed concept, constantly changing – what the general community understands as being art is probably what artists were concerned about, in an emerging way, 10 years ago, and was an unknown concept two hundred years before that.

We come to know and identify art through language. Things and actions can exist, but they need language to transform them into art. It is written text more than image or object that defines what we regard as art.
As Dave Beech writes in Words and Objects After Conceptualism, “The illusion of art’s independence from language in general and ‘supporting’ texts in particular is finally put to bed by Conceptualism.”

“Art objects are inert without their texts…..Similarly, art objects without texts are impossible, but there is no good reason to exclude the opposite. Text is a condition of possibility for art but there is no logical incoherence in an art of texts without inert art objects.
Conceptualism’s insertion of text into the field of the art object – of presenting text as art – has destabilised the customary distinction between art objects and the various texts that accompany, frame, explain, promote and name them. That is to say, the normative idea that the artwork should ‘speak for itself’ can no longer be sustained after the historical emergence as art of the catalogue, the magazine ad, the private view card, the essay, the slide talk and so on –
strictly speaking, it never could. It was not so much that Conceptualism elevated text to the status of art, exactly. The significant transformation here is how Conceptualism pressed art up against the institutional, historical and social conditions of art, including the linguistic conditions for art, without which there would be no art at all, never mind art ‘speaking for itself’.”

The fluidity of language and digital text, subject to social and psychological forces within a geographic and historical milieu mirror many concepts that constitute the “space of flows”.

Some interesting examples of text-as-art in/as public space can be found on these sites.
Free Words
Walking in Place
Urban Screens
Chirag Mehta
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries

If you know of others, please let us know so that we can add them to the links.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gift idea.

Dear Santa,

C/o Tim Braham. Curator,
Gosford Regional Gallery

Are you wondering what to “give” the artists who came to Gosford for the Dawn Light Symposium in September 2005?

They have told us that the promised exhibition catalogue and DVDs would be very nice.

Perhaps you could get your little elves in gear and see what can be done?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Art and the Gift Economy

Art and the Gift Economy: a couple of Stocking Stuffer Gift books.

With most artists living a life of precarity, the idea of the Gift has been examined as a way of understanding the motivation of artists as well as their relationship to the community and economy. The positions presented range from regarding ‘Art’ as existing as a philosophical attitude outside the market system, to its role as a player in a Gift Economy – and many states between.

There seem to be three main areas where Gift economies are discussed. One is in social anthropology, a second is in evolutionary biology and the third is in art.

Reciprocal altruism exist in the natural world, and while the adjective, “reciprocal”, implies a trade economy, the motivation for such behaviour is unlikely to be conscious, calculated self interest, as many of the life forms exhibiting these altruistic acts (ants for example) are assumed to be incapable of the necessary level of cognitive ability for cynical decision making. So we must be observing genetic coding being expressed, mechanically on the one hand, or through emotion and desire on the other. In other words generosity and altruism can be seen in many higher species as intrinsic characteristics linked to positive emotions. We give because we experience joy in doing so. Remembering of course that as with all human behaviour, we are looking at complex and often contradictory determinants.

“If men were as much men as lizards are lizards, they would be worth looking at” -– D.H. Lawrence

Why do we then decide that all giving is cynical and calculated (some no doubt is), and must be part of an all-encompassing market system. Who would want us to think that?
Can we not attribute value without considering its tradability? Valuing the giver not the price of the gift?
We give for the joy of giving – outside the world of accountancy.

“It must have been a gift - I got nothing back – how kind of me.”

Germs on Art

“The true field of art is the mind of the beholder; what is being worked on is the relation of the beholder to his perception of reality, of duration, relativity, acceptance, rejection, alienation. The artist positions you in a dark room and turns the light on, and off again. He does no more because there is no need to do more. In finding yourself equal to the encounter, you are empowered with the artist's own intellectual energy. For the time you are together, you are sharing the same cerebral space. Best of all, you can only remember it. You can't collect it………….. Perhaps we should begin to think in terms of ensuring that our young artists are free to work, and have space to work, by paying for them rather than their product.” – Germaine Greer.

Stocking Stuffer Gift Book #1.
The Gift (1925) Marcel Mauss.

David Graeber, a professor of anthropology at Yale University writing on
the great early-20th century French sociologist Marcel Mauss’ most famous work, The Gift.

“The universal assumption of free market enthusiasts, then as now, was that what essentially drives human beings is a desire to maximize their pleasures, comforts and material possessions (their "utility"), and that all significant human interactions can thus be analyzed in market terms.”

The idea for MAUSS (Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste dans les Sciences Sociales) was born in 1980. The project is said to have emerged from a conversation over lunch between a French sociologist, Alain Caillé, and a Swiss anthropologist, Gérald Berthoud. They had just sat through several days of an interdisciplinary conference on the subject of gifts, and after reviewing the papers, they came to the shocked realization that it did not seem to have occurred to a single scholar in attendance that a significant motive for giving gifts might be, say, generosity, or genuine concern for another person's welfare. In fact, the scholars at the conference invariably assumed that "gifts" do not really exist: Scratch deep enough behind any human action, and you'll always discover some selfish, calculating strategy. Even more oddly, they assumed that this selfish strategy was always, necessarily, the real truth of the matter; that it was more real somehow than any other motive in which it might be entangled.”

Social anthropology analyses many exotic societies with so called gift economies. But our own system, as it is calculated for purposes of financial and political budgeting, is based on an un-costed gift economy; the voluntary and charity sector. It has been estimated that close to 50% of the total national economy is made up of gifted goods and services.
This “grey” economy is operated by volunteers who give their time and money to make social welfare, health, sport, culture, civic life, etc., possible at home, and survival possible in other parts of the world. Sometimes living precariously themselves, they make up that part of the economy that market systems exclude from their accounting – thus making the arguments for a market based global economy something of a sham. Similarly in local political discussions about water and carbon trading (using the market to save the environment), the costs of ground water and carbon emissions are based on partial information and are therefore likely to be grossly underestimated. It is not in the interests of short term profitability to do complete long term environmental costing.

“Polanyi, whose major work is called The Great Transformation, is really an ecological thinker. He shows how the notion of the self-regulating market, which is supposed to assign a proper price to everything and thereby secure the necessary resources for the continual production of an ever-expanding
range of goods, fails tragically to account for all the factors involved in the reproduction of land, of labor, and of the very institution of exchange, money itself…
..Unconventional and dissenting ideas don't often come out of established and conventional functions. And when everybody tacitly agrees that cultural production can only take place under the beneficent gaze of the market and the state, and on their payrolls, what you get in my opinion is very dull and timid attitudes combined with grotesquely simulated and overblown emotions. Or, from the more ambitious and professional types, you may get hyper-specialized discourses and elaborate aesthetic affects.” – Brian Holmes

Stocking Stuffer Gift Book #2.
The Gift, Lewis Hyde.

Hyde’s basic premise runs along the lines of what he calls a system of gift economy. Art is not a commodity, he says. It cannot be valued according to principles of commerce. Rather, the spirit of the work, its independence and individuality, its very essence, can remain active only if the gift of art is kept in circulation – shared, passed on. The minute art is bought or sold in the traditional sense that merchandise created for a market is bought and sold, it becomes nothing more than another pair of shoes, or a dinner service. – Kirsty Gunn, in Art is most precious when it’s free.

The Art of Giving. Last words to Bruce Barber from his writings on Litttoral Art.

Bourdieu's logic of practice privileges individual agency, in all its unpredictability and contrariness, as the primary component of a generative model of giving (and understanding). Perhaps this logic of practice, like that promoted by Habermas himself "provides an alternative to money and power as a basis for societal integration." And without an acknowledgement of individual agency within communicative action, that is of the potential for contrariety - the act of giving, the gift of food, the gift of labour, the gift of blood, and of life itself, would seem valueless.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Culture is the Enemy of Art

"Culture is the enemy of Art"

Frank Sartor, quoted in the Express Advocate when launching the Gosford City Plan:
"People will accept development if they think it adds culture to the place"

I reach for my Goering.
(see "the wife likes that sort of thing" and "Goering got it wrong" posts)

Architecture in the Space of Flows

This recently received notification is of interest to both the discussion about Gosford city planning and to the RRP:0 research about the space of flows and Gosford CBD.
(See Translocality post)

Architecture in the Space of Flows: buildings - spaces - cultures
21 - 24 June 2007
Culture Lab, Newcastle University, UK.

Call for papers:

Flows of energy, libido, capital, water and information make our lives possible. The buildings and spaces that support our activities inflect the flows; we tap into them, surf them, block them at our peril, or we may be excluded from them. Flows are global, but have local effects. Buildings are local, but their embodied energies flow from great distances, and their embodiments can cause local or distant turbulences. Everything is moving, intensifying, dispersing; growing, decaying, proliferating, networking, sedimenting, eroding.

Understanding ourselves, our buildings, our cities as modulators of flows
represents a fundamental shift in sensibility away from the perfect
Euclidian geometries of Vitruvian man, to the productive consumer, the
desiring subject. Cultures and spaces are fluid and relational, and
designers are searching for ways to give expression to these telluric
undercurrents that are shaping and re-shaping our worlds. New sensibilities
are taking shape, and it is the aim of this conference to explore and gain
understanding of emergent possibilities.

The conference, or confluence, will be transdisciplinary, bringing together
people who are developing ways of thinking about places and our responses to them, making use of ideas of flux.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gosford City Plan

Copy of letter to the Express Advocate - Designer Deckchairs in the Desert

Congratulation to the State government for getting a much needed Regional Strategy and Gosford City Plan up for comment. However anyone interested in the Arts who is looking at these proposals will be feeling rather depressed.

Neither of the plans show awareness of the role of the Arts in society.

The City Plan redesigns and rearranges the deckchairs, but the ship is the same old ‘economic’ model – with more passengers, and although their cabins will have better views, that is the only water they will see.

At this stage it is all style without substance. Corralling similar activities into “precincts” seems to be the magic formula, but we are not told how this will work.

The opportunity to comment could be the opportunity to put some content into the style. It makes sense to cluster a library, museum, contemporary art centre, concert hall and film theatre at the City Centre – Kibble Park

We need to find and support any planners and politicians who are serious about Art, and who understand that Art is more than just leisure activity – a life style option. “The importance of creativity ultimately reveals itself specifically in the important questions that art asks about the foundations of the ideology and the collective moral foundations of our age.” – Marketta Seppälä

We need a cluster of creative and knowledge industries at the centre of civic life. “a room without books is like a body without soul” – Cicero.

The Gosford City Plan is on display for comment until December 8. If we say nothing, that is what we will get.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Art Savers

To the editor.

The news that UWS is closing down and “teaching out” the Fine Arts and Electronic Arts programs, and will abandon its Performance program, is an uncannily familiar story here on the Central Coast.
UWS students, staff and others have organized a campaign against the closure and are calling for concerned individuals to log onto their website and sign their petition. They have also set up a blog to keep everyone informed of developments.
Although UWS has said they will be introducing a new Contemporary Art program in 2008, it is difficult to get a clear view of the facts. There is little to tell us the reason for the changes. Were there ‘problems’? Is there a change in pedagogical theory at work? Do the changes arise from government educational objectives and priorities?
It would also be useful to know more about the new Contemporary Art program. Is it better or worse than the present program, and against what criteria?

It is ten years since my most recent work at UWS, so I cannot comment directly about the program, but a number of people for whom I have great respect have been passionately opposed to the closure, so I think the campaign likely deserves close attention and support.

There are of course close parallels with the situation on the Central Coast, where the University of Newcastle closed the Fine Arts program at Ourimbah, leaving central coast students no option but to move to Sydney or Newcastle for (Contemporary) Fine Art education. As with the promised “Contemporary Art” at UWS to service Western Sydney, U. Newcastle offered “Creative Arts” to Ourimbah – a similarly rubbery concept.

When asked about “Creative Arts” in September, Carmel Lutton, Head of School, was unable to give a clear statement either of the programs philosophy, projected educational outcomes or conceptual foundation as a discrete discipline. I suspect because they have not yet been formulated. All I could glean was that graduates would be able to script and produce interesting theatrical events utilizing IT skills. Good stuff, but “Is that all there is, my friend?” The program might turn out to be brilliant, but if so, that will not be because the university has understood and articulated its educational premises.

What does seem clear at UWS is that communication, consultation and collegiate process failed. In such cases it is usually a management issue, or politics mismanaged. A familiar story in the Newcastle case.

At Ourimbah the decision to close was supported by, if not based on, the 2005 Course Review report that found little to commend the Ourimbah program. This was probably a harsh but fair appraisal. The report highlighted longstanding problems of which the university was aware, and which management should have resolved years earlier.

Despite the differences in the cases, both raise serious questions about the Universities’ commitment to their regional constituencies, and responsibility to provide education of a kind to equip graduating students to participate professionally in an exacting, and increasingly global arena of practice.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the Howard instrumental, market doctrine is seeping into academic decision-making. Maybe it is inevitable that when one party is in government for a long time, institutions that rely on government funding will absorb some of the philosophy and policy of the government. But if we are to retain that rigorous, critical evaluation of prevailing ideologies and assumed foundations of society, that is one of the potentials of contemporary art – as well as the imaginative, speculative, confounding, confusing challenge that it offers, we have to resist.

We have to resist and articulate clearly, and often, why we need Art and the Humanities at the centre of academic life. And we need to make the case that we need diversity within the discipline; to draw the unique vision from the local and regional communities, and to bring to them the best the art world can offer to help them make their uniqueness part of that world.

It is important for artists to require UWS and Newcastle to be aware of their responsibility to provide their regions with education and pedagogical processes appropriate to an increasingly sophisticated international contemporary art practice.

Neil Berecry-Brown

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mount Penang Institute of Contemporary Art

This POST is from information provided to Back Page by Neil Berecry-Brown.

Some background to the comments to the “my wife likes…” post, based on the Wyong Shire Cultural plan.

Quote: “An initiative that has the potential to provide stimulus to the visual arts across the region is the recently established Mt Penang Institute of Contemporary Arts. This is a non-profit community organisation located in a heritage building (former boys’ home) in The Avenue, Mt Penang. With a background in tertiary education in the Fine Arts, the principal individuals behind this project ……. have the objective of encouraging innovation and excellence in contemporary art practice.”

An artists run centre, the Mt Penang Institute of Contemporary Art, was established for a time at Mount Penang Parklands, Somersby, 2004-2005. This was achieved initially through the non-profit artists’ initiative Eo inc., then, following a refocussing of their objectives, through the short lived Artlab.
The Institute held three exhibitions with 25 emerging and established artists. At the time of its closing in 2005, it was the site for an international collaborative project, and it was scheduled as a workshop venue for the Dawn Light Symposium in 2005.

Four emerging Central Coast artists who exhibited at Mt. Penang ICA were sponsored to participate in the Nine Dragon Heads Symposium in South Korea.

Picture 1. Marie Andrews presents Central Coast greetings to Korean officials to Meredith Brice Copland, Sandy James and Maumer Cajic.

Picture 2. Melissa Habjan (pink bow) at opening address by Park, Byoung-Uk and the Swiss Ambassador. (Background work by Bedri Baykam, Turkey) Chongju.

The Institute was asked by the Festival Development Corporation (Ministry of Commerce) to vacate Building 27 in order for make way for AISDA , which in the end did not want the building. M’PICA had been working to the advice of the Ministry for the Arts to demonstrate a need for a contemporary art space by conducting a successful program. This was a stated prerequisite before they, The Ministry, would consider any financial support. The Mt. Penang Institute venture had been assisted by Marie Andrews’ approach to the then Minister, Bob Carr, and a start-up rent free period negotiated with the Mt Penang Parklands administration.

Lynn Brunet

The 25 exhibited artists were:
Amanda Anderson, Kristel Baigent Neil Berecry-Brown, Emily Berlach, Meredith Brice Copland, Jennifer Brown, Lynn Brunet, Maumer Cajic, Samara Cotter, Maureen Clack, Jillian Gates, Anne Graham, Melissa Habjan, Ian Hobbs, Sandy James, Aldona O'Brien, Sandy O'Sullivan, Pamela Purcill, Amanda Purnell, Karen Robinson Smith, Betty Saez,, Ibtihal Samarayi, Catherine Sutton, Robyn Wainman and Peta Werlemann.

Ibtahal Samarayi

Neil Berecry-Brown

Left to right: Maureen Clack and Aldona O'Brien.

The Mt. Penang Institute/Artlab’s objectives are now being carried forward by brown’s Cows Art Projects, which is working with others to find a new site in Gosford CBD for a Centre of Excellence in contemporary art practice. In this regard we fully support Liz Wright’s goals.

Image: Ian Hobbs

Friday, November 03, 2006

Translocality: Art and the Public space.

The Reading Room Project currently being developed for Gosford CBD, will be predicated on changing ways of thinking about space, place and art in public. The following post adds to the discussions already held, and to the references on an earlier posting ‘Space and Place’.

Public Space illustration.
Artist: Joe Fafard.
In current intellectual inquiry, all of these terms, “space”, “place” and “the public”, are contested. Which indicates that changing circumstances are calling into question the assumptions upon which we have been relying.
For example when we make an art incursion into a public space we must firstly have an idea of what “space” is, and if there are new ways of thinking about the concept. As Charlotte Bydler says of public art in relation to the ‘Out of Site Symposium’, “its main aim should …. be to problematise society, culture or art itself”, and by extension engage different conceptions of social space and time.

And when we speak of the public (as in public art), which public do we mean, and what does it signify that there is no longer a singular public identity?
We now have a dog’s breakfast of outpourings about Australian Values and identity politics. Clearly society and culture are already “problematised”.
Perhaps art in the last hundred years has always been made, at least to some degree, for an imaginary public or audience.

We are accustomed to thinking of public spaces geometrically, as architectural, rather than existing as social and democratic potentials i.e. static rather than dynamic. Their function follows their ‘understood’ form, as undifferentiated multi functional no-mans’ lands between structures demarking Property. They are designed and decorated, and their meaning is inscribed by planners, which means they are fixed, not fluid, and they service adjacent interests.

Felix Stalder, in discussing an art project , BlackBenzRace , presents an interesting model of a conception of space found in the writings of Manuel Castells. He writes, “At this stage, the project makes a series of tentative proposals about how to deal with the transformation of (public) space, artistically and theoretically, which is being fragmented and reintegrated under our very feet.”

“Traditionally, public space is thought as something entirely local….
BBR rests on the assumption that this notion of public space is being challenged by a new type of space that must be conceptualized quite differently. Rather than being local, contiguous and based on mass media, this new space is translocal, distributed, and based on what the sociologist Manuel Castells calls “the space of flows”

The space of flows is best thought of as a myriad of translocal networks, held together by continuous circulation of people, materials and bits, each characterized by a particular make-up of resources, and developing, over time, a unique culture that defines the boundaries of that space. The key element about the space of flows “which justifies to speak of it as a unique space despite its constitutive fragmentation” is that it enables us to connect distributed entities as if they were in one place, thus fundamentally affecting social geography.

Space of Flows illustration:

Artist: Masayuki Amano
From the point of view of physical urban spaces, the impact of the emergence of the space of flows is that of a deepening fragmentation. Physical proximity plays less and less a role in bringing together different entities that co-exist within one locality. Put somewhat schematically, the easier it is to create real-time interaction across distances, the less important is the fact that local co-presence enables real-time interaction as well. From within the networks, on the other hand, people and things that are geographically distant become quasi-locally present for real-time interaction. Thus, we have two interlocking movements, one is fragmentation (on the ground), the other is integration (through flows) of social processes, and the particular cultures through which they are created.

Just as Felix Stalder represents some of these ideas through BBR, so we will try to explore some re-conceptualizations of public space and time in RRP.
The ideas, sometimes complex, that give rise to art are often most effectively communicated through the art itself.

Friday, October 27, 2006

“The wife likes that sort of thing”

“The arts” or ‘Art’? What’s the difference?

‘Art’ as distinct to ‘the arts’ has had a specificity since the 19th Century. The term is associated with an idea that the artist’s creative life offers unique insight or potentially transforming revelation (see E.B. Browning and Daily Telegraph article in ‘Goering’ post, 25-10-06).

‘The arts’, and/or crafts, which includes painting, pottery, quilting, sculpture, carpentry, shoe making etc. on the other hand has a continuity of material practice through time, and still today produces valid and valued forms for aesthetic contemplation and enjoyment. We could say that ‘Art’ is a possible, but not essential attribute of ‘the arts’, and that ‘Art’ can exist independently of the material forms that are its customary vehicles i.e. ‘the arts’.

Why does this matter?

That depends on your point of view. For one thing most observers, certainly critics, contemporary theorists and others of their ilk, privilege contemporary ‘Art’ as worthy of greater regard, and, most importantly consider it significant for its contentiousness. That is, an art that contains ‘Art’, and as such is marked by modern (or post-modern) radicality, so making it dangerous to some.

What is this thing called ‘Art’?

This is not a question that is simply answered.
It could be described as a method, an attitude, a way of knowing and being, a cerebral and emotional ‘technology’, a process of coming to awareness, a critical engagement with the cognitive and perceptual frameworks that constitute assumed reality, a quest of psychological and philosophical inquiry. In short it is a form of inquiry and reflection about contemporary culture that communicates in a way that is critically conceptual and challenging. That is why it matters. That is why controlling regimes like it shut (shot) down.

‘Art’ occupies an important niche in the social environment and functions as a crucial element in democratic, civic and intellectual life. This is particularly so in the current circumstances of saturation government and corporate spin and the narrowing of the channels of media information. Through its language of sign, symbol and metaphor, it can, with some impunity, question the prevailing values that ruling elites manipulate to maintain power – patriotism, religion, ‘the market’, identity (racial, cultural) etc.

One of the effects of the semantic dissolve of culture, the arts and ‘Art’, (Goering post 25-10-06) is to “decommission” ‘Art’ while keeping “the arts” – to eliminate those culturally and politically uncomfortable, antisocial aspects of ‘Art’.
Perhaps it was ‘Art’ that got Goering’s goat; culture was not the target.

At the local level it is convenient for culture activists to base support for culture on instrumental grounds, not on ‘Art’s’ intrinsic value and its freedom to express, criticise, contest and interrogate. However the danger is that is easier to close cultural programmes (the arts and ‘Art’) on grounds of cost effectiveness, than to directly argue for the closure of critical debate about our politics and values, which is possible when there is no articulation of the differences.

Or you can foreclose: “Council is concerned that the Culture that develops in Gosford reflects our values and is never in conflict with them.” (Gosford City Cultural Plan – Action Plan.)

Or if you prefer Counter Culture: “In collaboration with Space Furniture, CounterArt is offering artists an opportunity to exhibit their work within its new gallery space in Sydney.” The cultural revolution meets retail values at a store near you in time for Christmas.

Another parting shot from the Browning: Robert this time.

“Tis you speak, that’s your error. Song’s our art:
Whereas you please to speak these naked thoughts
Instead of draping them in sights and sounds.
– True thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up!
But why such long prolusion and display
Such turning and adjustment of the harp,
And taking it upon your breast, at length,
Only to speak dry words across its strings?
Stark-naked thought is in request enough:……”
From Transcendentalism, a poem in twelve books.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Goering got it Wrong

Goering got it Wrong

Goering is said to have been fond of saying, When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun. The original line, "When I hear "culture" I release the safety catch on my Browning!", comes from Hanns Johst’s play Schlageter performed in 1933 for Hitler’s birthday.
What was it that worried the second-in-command of yet another of histories book-burning repressive regimes? What was the threat from culture?

We tend these days to semantically dissolve Culture, the Arts and Art into an expedient mess from which no useful conceptual or strategic model can be constructed. Add to this mix, recreation, and sport (NSW Dept. of the Arts Recreation and Sport, Rod Kemp Minister for the Arts and Sport, in the UK, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, etc.) and it is no wonder that it is difficult to make a public case for specific planning measures, and difficult to see what was spooking Goering.

“By ‘culture’, Goering probably meant the old literary civilisation typified by Goethe and Schiller rather than opera houses and galleries, but it's difficult to be sure because the semantics of "culture" are even more complex than those of "the arts". Nowadays the word has pretty much lost its original sense of "a process of nurtured development" and operates under several levels of meaning, all of them vague.

The sloppiest modern usage makes "culture" synonymous with "the arts"… several efforts have been made to find a new vocabulary that dissolves the entailed misconceptions. The result is that the use of the words "the arts" and "culture" is fading: instead, we've come up with the peculiar bastardised notion of "multiculturalism" and more neutral terms such as "recreation" or "leisure activity" (a phrase that comes close to self-contradiction).
The latest Blair-approved wheezes are "creative industry" and "creative partnership" - Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell recently prophesied, in an unfortunate image, "an avalanche of creativity". Scratch at the agenda there, and you find an implication that 'the Arts' need to get off their backside, stop relying on public money and engage with commercial imperatives.

And that, inexorably, is the way that things are going. The arts can only be justified if they feed into some great pumping-station of urban regeneration. Culture is no longer a matter of a lifetime of slow, meditative looking, reading and listening - it's gone ‘fast-food’.” Extract from the UK Daily Telegraph.

Nasi Goering - Pop Culture, Pop Art.

The following ‘mission statement' is a good example of the institutionalisation of this confusion between culture and the arts, and most significantly, of the complete omission of Art, as a distinct conceptual entity.

Making the Case for Culture.
"Culture or 'the arts' takes on many forms: painting, writing, quilting, pottery, museums, landmarks, sculptures, landscapes, streetscapes, memorials, sport. It is a way for individuals and communities to express and engage themselves with family, friends, and their neighbourhoods, their communities. Culture can be used to renew or revitalize municipalities, regions, even a country. It can build community identity and pride, strengthen bonds, improve quality of life on all socioeconomic levels, and engage children and youth in education and their environment. Culture can be the catalyst for positive change, engaging all ages and communities. Diversity can be embraced through culture, building trust and understanding. And culture can act as the economic engine that drives municipalities toward growth and prosperity."

I reach for my Browning….

"Revolving pistols are ingenious things,
But prudent men (Academicians are)
Scarce keep them in the cupboard next the prunes"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who also wrote in the same poem Aurora Leigh:

"While Art
Sets action on top of suffering:
The artist’s part is both to be and do,
Transfixing with a special, central power
The flat experience of the common man,
And turning outward, with a sudden wrench,
Half agony, half ecstasy, the thing
He feels the inmost, - never felt the less
Because he sings it."

As artists we need to be able to articulate what it is that distinguishes Art from “the arts”, what makes it a unique aspect of culture (And why it worried Goering).

More in a later post…"the wife likes that sort of thing".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Elizabeth Wright

Another young emerging artist to watch, not just as an artist, but as an individual determined to contribute to the development of contemporary art on the Central Coast.

Elizabeth’s work is currently to be seen at Watt Space, Newcastle, in Fractured Beat II, an exhibition with Suzanne Robertson, until the 29th of October. She is an active member of the Reading Room Project in Gosford, as well as completing the 3rd year of a Fine Arts Degree at the University of Newcastle, Ourimbah.

Someone once said of athletics that to achieve your best you
had to push yourself beyond your limits -– and continue to hold your form. This, if applied to art, would sound like the subjective experience of the creative process as described by many artists. Perhaps art and sport are not as far apart as is sometimes supposed.

Elizabeth competed in the Paralympic Games at Atlanta in 1996, where she won bronze in the 50m Butterfly, and in Sydney in 2000 where she won a Silver and a Bronze medal. Silver for the 400m freestyle and Bronze for the 4X50m freestyle relay. She had a large program, competing in 7 events, making 5 finals and breaking 5 national records.
She has held the100m Butterfly world record (classification s6) and the
national 50m Butterfly, 100m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke, 200m Backstroke records.
On top of her impressive sporting achievement she took on civic duties as an Australia Day Ambassador in 2000, and has been an Australia Day Ambassador for the towns/cities of Gosford, Ryde, and Narromine.

After ‘Ourimbah’, Elizabeth intends to undertake postgraduate study in Australia and overseas. Fortunately for us, one of her goals is “to create an Artists Run Gallery on the Central Coast to enable contemporary artists to exhibit within a space that encourages experimental art practices.” If past achievements are any guide, we can confidently await our invitations to the opening.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fest or Famine: Gosford Art Culture

It is perhaps not surprising to find in the Central Coast Regional Strategy document that art and culture are treated as minor considerations. Inevitably this reflects the planning process as well as the underlying ideology and imbedded values of the planners.

The process inevitably privileges the voices of the influential and powerful (particular, in these Howard years, the business lobby). To the extent that local government had input, it would have reflected Vision 20/25 where art and culture are ranked as low priority.

No news so far.

Artists are, always have been and always will be, a very small percentage of the population, in spite of which their presence and products are taken as defining elements of cultural identity and pride, be that at a local or national level.

Consider than a paradigm shift; a recognition that provision of cultural services is not only a basic service, but also one of central significance to the community. It has taken yet another drought to begin to shift ecology to the centre of economic planning – what will it take to change the paradigm in social planning to position art and culture at the centre, as the touchstone for other planning strategies.

If we don’t have water the economy shrivels. If we don’t have art, the mind and soul are dry and stunted. You cannot live without water – but life unenriched by art and culture is only partly lived. Or as Socrates said, a life unexamined is not worth living.

The Road Ahead

In the fields of social and economic planning, in relation to arts and culture, there are two prevailing and overlapping “instrumental” views.

The first is identified with Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class) who argues, largely from an economic perspective, that when Regional Cities provide the necessary cultural resources (art, music, youth culture, theatre and performance, libraries, museums and multicultural life) and environmental circumstances (clean and green recreation spaces) to attract the Creative Class, they benefit from increased economic development beyond that delivered by tax incentives, subsidised real-estate, and the other usual business “incentives”. Members of the “creative class” are those whom Andrew West (Lifestyles of the Rich and Tasteful) would categorise as young “Culturists” in the Australian context.

The second comes from the creative industries and art-for-well-being lobby. ‘Creative Industries” (creative nation, creative hubs, creative…., etc.) takes an industry approach with all the standard language that assumes integration and meshing with business, law and government agencies. It is an approach taken by NAVA (with great benefit to art workers) and, with irony one must say, by the Howard government whose promised increased funding to Ozco is intended to advance the relationship between artists and the commercial sector and also to move funding responsibility from government to corporate players through art/business partnerships at the big end of art town.

What has been outlined so far, albeit in simplified terms, is the instrumental view of culture as opposed to a view that regards art and culture as having intrinsic value. The instrumental conception is one that appeals to the managerial types, bureaucrats and politicians, who can use economic rationale to justify expenditure on the arts, which is helpful, or to justify little or no expenditure on the grounds that the economic benefits claimed cannot be statistically demonstrated. Art commentators like Andrew Brighton and John Carey (What Good are the Arts) support this critique of the instrumental value of art and culture.

Both these writers contest the instrumental “social well being” justification for improved support for the arts, such as that made recently by Regional Arts NSW in its submission to the Draft NSW State Plan, Plan Ahead. Their submission is a good one and should be endorsed.

One can understand why art and culture advocates employ the language of community development, i.e. enhancement of tourism, local identity and education, building of self esteem in youth, indigenous, disadvantaged and multicultural groups, and creating social well-being (what ever that means). This is the language that allows elected representatives and their minions to articulate the benefits they have delivered to the people. (Such as a music fest, a garden fest, a poetry fest, a writer’s fest, a coast fest, an art fest – I am reminded of that imaginary island where everyone made a living by taking in each others washing.)

Perhaps we should get serious about spending on infrastructure for the rest of the year. Investing in sustainable primary cultural production.

Town centre - hotel, council chambers, court house, police station, funeral parlour and School of Arts.

“The Culture Wars”
This term comes from a debate in the US a few years ago about how, why and to what effect, art and culture function in community and national affairs. Similar processes of re-evaluation have been taking place in a number of countries. The discussion paper for the National Review of Visual Education in Australia collates some of these ideas, and they are examined by a number of writers in Double Dialogue’s Culture Wars: Art and Industry.
as well as in papers given at the Speculation and Innovation (SPIN) conference hosted by the Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology.
In the US, the Center for Arts and Culture produced a useful paper: Creativity Culture and the Workforce and the Rand Corporation produced the rigorous and encompassing Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the benefits of the Arts.

We live in an increasingly global (art) culture, and these debates, conferences and papers provide the background for decisions that need to made about the future of contemporary art and culture on the Central Coast, and as such are vital to Regional Strategic Planning.

Ann Daly, in Beyond Richard Florida: A Cultural Sector of Our Own, points to important shifts in the way artists’ organizations are structuring themselves, and an emerging trend away from the arts-in-the-service-of …., philosophy, towards a practice where art is regarded as an unfolding of understanding, insight and vision, centred on the artists themselves. Grant Kester (check brown’s Cows website for references), more than ten years ago, was talking about the link in the US between the rise of socially engaged art and a shifting of government and corporate funding away from the National Endowment for the Arts and toward social welfare programs. Perhaps the lure of lucre was illusory and artists are returning to a wish to control their own creative agendas.

Perhaps this return could be seen as a reclaiming of the intrinsic values of art and culture as detailed in the Gift of the Muse report; a celebration of the individual, poetic, dissident and imaginative dimensions, and a recognition of the limitations of the economic rationalist model as applied to the humanities.

This position understands art as one of the last domains of freedom, and therefore one that must set its own objectives if it is to remain so.
In fact it is that freedom that most defines art in a world increasingly in thrall to spin and the corporate control of media. It is the power not to speak in the language of conventional paradigms, to posit sometimes bizarre, confronting and absurd alternatives, that give art its power to enlighten, inspire or critique.

There are lessons to be learned from many societies facing the future in similar ways to us. From Finland, Marketta Seppälä writes in New Value for Creativity. “Right now, when there is an urgent need for investment in creativity and culture, the preconditions for the creation of anything new – experimental thought and action that transcend boundaries – should be especially safeguarded. There should be resources to support things that do not yet exist. The making of art also has to be allowed to be unsystematic and unprofitable in order to be able to punch holes in the doctrines that surround us, and to investigate divergent paths of thought in order to see where they lead. The importance of creativity ultimately reveals itself specifically in the important questions that art asks about the foundations of the ideology and the collective moral foundations of our age.” Full text at:

“Resources to support things that do not yet exist.”
The challenge then is to plan for the unknown; to plan with vision and faith in what the arts and culture bring to human experience.

Early Contemporary Interdisciplinary Art Space

B&W picture references: Old Gosford and District in Pictures, Gwen Dundon.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Urban Infestation

At a time when planning strategies for Gosford and the region are being developed, involving different levels of government, theories and practices from a variety of disciplines can perhaps offer useful perspectives on the process.

The following extracts will be familiar to Reading Room Project artists, and might provoke some ideas more generally. They have served to define the starting point for an art event in development.

Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of smooth and striated space, as outlined below, has application to living in the result of past regional planning strategies, which resulted in a meandering, horizontal and dispersed geography. They have also produced commercial and retail real-estate outcomes in the CBD akin to that of the Israeli military in Lebanon.

The first extract is by Eyal Weizman, an architect, writer and Director of Goldsmith's College Centre for Research Architecture. In this article he looks at the use of Deleuze and Guattari by military planners.

“The reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.

(Naveh, Israeli commander, in conversation with Weizman) ‘This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. I said to my troops, "Friends! If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!’

This form of movement, described by the military as 'infestation', seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF's strategy of 'walking through walls' involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

I asked Naveh why Deleuze and Guattari were so popular with the Israeli military. He replied that, 'several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaux became instrumental for us allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise. It problematized our own paradigms. Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of "smooth" and "striated" space [which accordingly reflect] the organizational
concepts of the "war machine" and the "state apparatus". In the IDF we now often use the term "to smooth out space" when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders.

In addition to these theoretical positions, Naveh references such canonical elements of urban theory as the Situationist practices of dérive (a method of drifting through a city based on what the Situationists referred to as 'psycho-geography') and détournement (the adaptation of abandoned buildings for purposes other than those they were designed to perform). These ideas were, of course, conceived by Guy Debord and other members of the Situationist International to challenge the built hierarchy of the capitalist city and break down distinctions between private and public, inside and outside, use and function, replacing private space with a 'borderless' public surface.”

Full text at:

The next extract explains Debord’s idea of the dérive and draws attention to the psychological dimension of geography as it is lived.
Theory of the Dérive - Guy Debord, Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)

“One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.
But the dérive includes both this letting-go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities. In this latter regard, ecological science — despite the narrow social space to which it limits itself — provides psychogeography with abundant data.
The ecological analysis of the absolute or relative character of fissures in the urban network, of the role of microclimates, of distinct neighborhoods with no relation to administrative boundaries, and above all of the dominating action of centers of attraction, must be utilized and completed by psychogeographical methods. The objective passional terrain of the dérive must be defined in accordance both with its own logic and with its relations with social morphology.”

Full text at:

The final extract is from Nomad Art by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaux.

“Several notions, both practical and theoretical, are suitable for defining nomad art and its successors (barbarian, gothic and modern). In the first place, "close-range" vision as distinguished from long-range vision; second, "tactile", or rather "haptic" space as distinguished from optical space. "Haptic" is a better word than "tactile", since it does not establish an opposition between two sense organs, but invites the assumption that the eye itself may fulfil this non-optical function. It was Alois Riegl who, in some marvellous pages, gave fundamental aesthetic status to the couple close vision-haptic space. For the moment, however, we should set aside the criteria proposed by Riegl, Wilhelm Worringer and more recently Henri Maldiney, and take some risks ourselves, making free use of these notions. It seems to us that smooth space (a) is both the object of a close vision par excellence and the element of a haptic space (which may be visual or auditory as much as tactile). Striated space, on the contrary, relates to a more distant vision and a more optical space, even though the eye is not the only organ to have this capacity. Once again, as always, this analysis must be corrected by a coefficient of transformation according to which movements between striated and smooth are at once necessary and uncertain, hence all the more disruptive.

The opposition between striated and smooth space is not simply that between the global and the local. For in the one case the global is still relative, whereas in the other the local is already absolute. Where there is close vision, space is not visual, or rather the eye itself has a haptic, non-optical function: no line separates earth from sky, which are of the same substance; neither is there any horizon, background, perspective, limit, outline or form, or centre; there is no intermediary distance, or all distance is intermediary.


a. Smooth space is "an open space throughout which thing-flows are distributed, rather than (...) a closed space for linear and solid things. II is a vectorial projective or topological space" as opposed to a "metric space: in the first case 'space is occupied without being counted'. while in the second case ‘space is counted in order to he occupied ( ...) Sedentary space is striated, by walls, enclosures and roads between enclosures, while nomad space is smooth, marked only by 'traits' that are effaced and displaced with the trajectory (...) Every point is a relay and exists only as a relay (...), the in-between has taken on all the consistency ." (Mille plateaux, Ch. 12, pp. 447 and 471)

b. "The nomad, nomad space, is localised and not delimited. What is both limited and limiting is striated space, the relative global: it is limited in its parts, which are assigned constant directions, oriented in relation to one another, divisible by boundaries, and can be interconnected. What is limiting (...) is this totality in relation to the smooth spaces it 'contains“, the growth of which it slows or prevents, and which it restricts or places outside. Even when the nomad suffers its effects, he does not assume this relatively global character, where one passes from one point to another, from one region to another. Rather, he is in a local absolute', an absolute that is manifested locally, and engendered in a series of local operations of varying orientation." (p. 474)

c. "The nomad distributes himself in a smooth space, he occupies, inhabits, holds that space. This is his territorial principle. It is therefore false lo define the nomad by movement. Toynbee is profoundly right to suggest that the nomad is on the contrary he who does not move. Whereas the migrant leaves behind a milieu that has become amorphous or hostile, the nomad is one who clings to the smooth space left behind by the receding forest, where the steppe or desert advance." (p. 472)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Welcome David Barton.

Back Page welcomes David Barton.

Although he has been based in Australia on the Central Coast for some time, we welcome his contribution to local dialogue in the form of a recent comment to our posted invitation to review the Gosford Art Prize.

Your Place or Mine. Sitings exhibition. Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada.

David is originally from England and has lived and worked as an artist in a number of countries before coming to Australia to work on a new project. Although an interdisciplinary artist, he is best known for performance, text-based work and book art.

Homage to Cornelia Lumsden (Detail) Surrey Art Gallery, Canada.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

eO inc.

Ed. -Posting received from eO inc.

Elizabeth Wright. col-aberration exhibition Gosford, May 2006.

eO inc. is a Central Coast Contemporary Arts Initiative which strives to promote and profile Central Coast Artists by providing regular exhibition opportunities.

Betty Saez. col-aberration exhibition Gosford, May 2006.

New members welcome.

Sharyn Walker. Watt Space exhibition, Newcastle.

Announcing: Exciting Exhibition Opportunity

We are seeking current, returning and new members for our March 2007 exhibition at the
New View Gallery, Newtown.

Fiona Doyle (painting) and Peter Morris (sculpture)
f3Xit exhibition NSW Parliament House, November 2005.

For further details, please contact Sharyn Walker at:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sculpture in the Vineyards

From the North West Frontier of the Central Coast: Wollombi.

Sculpture in the Vineyards

7th October to 7th December, 2006.

Title: Drop
Materials: Beeswax, pond, water plants, water, trees.

Juliet Fowler-Smith puts finishing touches to part of her installation.

"I have made many visits to Cedar Creek over the past months while also working on a model of a small, cupped, human hand cast in beeswax. This is a development on from work made in South Korea for the Nine Dragon Heads International Art symposium in 2005. Ideas to do with vulnerability and needs arose when thinking about responses to the natural environment in this earlier installation.
From these beginnings the work has developed site specifically at Cedar Creek. Scarce water resources, creek plant life (and invasive weeds), the never-ending sensitivity to the weather and rain or no rain, are ideas that I have played with for this work. My particular sensitivity to this site is linked to a lifelong relationship with the Hunter region, and in particular the Williams river valley, Dungog, the site of a proposed dam."

Juliet Fowler Smith

Juliet has been involved with a number of Central Coast art events.She was a Co-director of the Dawn Light Symposium, 2005, worked with Sculpture by the Bay (Gosford Regional Gallery), participated in Eco-poetics, 1998, and Dog Trap Road Biennale, 2000, (Somersby) and “Duck”, 1997, (Mangrove Mountain and Wyong) as a member of Synapse Art Initiatives, and is currently a participant in the Reading Room Project: 0, centred in gosford.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Never Mind the Art, Look at the Catalogue.

The exhibition is over. The artists have gone. We have some memories and reflections.
But if we want to remind ourselves about the work, revisit the artist’s commentary about their way of working, consider again the concepts, ideas and issues in their work, read about the curatorial intention, consider including the artist in another exhibition, we look to the catalogue. Also the catalogue is an important resource for the viewing public attending an exhibition, to give them greater insight into the meaning of works exhibited.
NAVA stresses the importance to the artist of the exhibition catalogue as a way of promoting their professional profile. Artists rely on receiving a professionally produced catalogue from their exhibition as supporting material in applying for grants, employment, further exhibitions etc.
It is now over a year since the end of the Dawn Light Symposium at the Gosford Regional Gallery, and a year since the catalogue was due to be available to the public, and participating artists.
We are still waiting, and the artists are not at all pleased.
For all the artists, particularly those who came from Japan, Korea, New Zealand and China, participating in Gosford cost them considerable amounts of money.
Artists subsidise public events like Dawn Light from their own resources. Ephemeral site-specific installations are not part of the retail system, they are to a large extent a gift to the community.
The least we can do is make sure that they receive a catalogue that they can use in the development of their practice.

Oh where, Oh where, has my catalogue gone.

Review the Gosford Art Prize

Any motivated or aspiring exhibition reviewers out there?

Give the artists some feedback, or tell us why you should have won.
Post your review in ‘comments’ to this posting or email to Back Page editor.

Gosford Art Prize: The Game is the Winner

Gosford Art Prize: The game is the winner.

Depending of course which game you are on.

Art Prize Exhibitions.
They are a strange and proliferating phenomenon. They put bums on seats and give the appearance of giving the public what it wants – always a politically savvy manoeuvre. They are cheap to run – artists pay to enter, they are not paid artists fees, and often the cash for prizes comes from sponsorship, private foundations and trusts.

But what do they have to do with exhibiting best practice in art? Is this an objective?

The GAP (The Gosford Art Prize) this year has no video, installation, performance, IT or time based work, non-gallery practice, sound etc.. This is not to say that it should, but that it should perhaps indicate clearly that GAP is for art in traditional media, and in traditional media specific categories.

It encourages a perception of what the main game is, cash for craft. This is not helpful to young artists or to local decision makers who need to recognise that it is through encouraging innovative, strange and sometimes socially abrasive new forms, that we enliven local creative culture. If you make work of this kind, don’t bother running for the gravy train. Mind the GAP.

With the demise of the Australian Sculpture Prize there has been some discussion of the appropriateness of a “winners and losers” model for generating excellence in the arts. Witness the Oscars; and we know from the recent League Grand Final that the referee decides the results. The game must be the winner.
No one doubts the success of “The Prize” as popular entertainment.

Ron Radford’s decision to end the Sculpture Prize was supported by last years winner, who in an a recent ABC interview, said that despite his pleasure with the cash in winning, he thought the greatest attraction for him in entering was to have his work seen by more people. We might ask, which people, and whether the prize money might not have been better spent in presenting more exhibitions and therefore more exposure for more artists.

There is an interesting nexus, a comfortable collusion, between the big “block-buster” competition and the big end of town.

But they are popular, they bring in the punters, attract a huge number of entries, and engage a great deal of community support. The extra sponsorship of GAP this year by Sharpe Brothers was terrific – including the Roadworkers Prize. They set a great example for other businesses.

I do congratulate those artists, including the prize-winners, whose many works were very professionally executed. There was only time for a quick survey at the opening so we will return.

The comments here are about the role of art competition prize exhibitions in the field of art practice and not meant to disregard the undoubted passion, commitment and skill of the artists shown.

Maybe there is something in the water locally. Councillor Holstein commented at the opening that the region had so much creativity and talent because of our beautiful environment. Don’t know how they manage to do so well in New York.

Alternatively, perhaps it is the seduction of the environment, or the absence of anything else, which we need to contend with in developing an art that is conceptually rigorous in the context of emergent contemporary art issues. Anyway the water is almost gone.

Some extracts from Art Life follow – see the link for the full version.

“The prize giving season is the art world's eqivalent to a family Xmas. First the presents, then the booze, then the drunken recriminations then a long silence until next year. Part of this annual art world ritual is to celebrate the winners before turning on them like a pack of savages. Perhaps it's the knowledge that they are the ones that get to leave Australia - a country where any minute now we'll be forced to sign loyalty oaths, where everything will be owned by just one or two companies, where everything that was once ours has been sold back to us and we're expected to say thank you sir, may we have another... The artists get to leave, see how they do it overseas and maybe not ever come back.

Art World FAQs # 2 – Bad Art

What is ‘bad art’?

Bad art is literally art that is bad. Easy, you say, I know what bad is – but do you? There are eight identifiable types of bad art and it pays to know what’s what.

1. Competition Art. The most easily defined type of bad art, Competition Art is found in many different areas of the art world from humble shows in your local church hall right up to and including media saturated events such as the Archibald Portrait prize. Competition Art is easily spotted due to the artist’s complete lack of traditional skills like the ability to draw hands, master perspective or apply the paint. Typical examples of lower end Comp Art feature trad still-lifes, landscapes and horribly misjudged portraits. At the other end of the scale bad art is often veiled by the artist’s own celebrity, early career or better work, but even the so-called professionals turn out some horrible crap.”

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Jenny Brown - The G A B A project ∑

This project was recently on display for comment at Glebe Town Hall.
Jenny received a grant from Gosford City Council in 2004 to make two public sculptural works at the Ourimbah campus, and showed work in the Art First Party exhibition at Mt Penang the same year.
“The GABA is a mobile self-directed audiotour that incorporates ten custom built bicycles housed with GPS locative technology to navigate the bike rider towards any one of the tour’s historical, cultural and political intrigue hotspots along Glebe Point Road. The Glebe Art Bike Audiotour (GABA) is a fun informative eco-friendly way to discover Glebe’s rich and often hidden underbelly. As the rider reaches a designation the bike’s core tracking system will trigger the story for that place.” Jenny Brown and Damian Castaldi.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gosford Regional City: Art and Renewal

The development of contemporary art and the infrastructure that has grown up around it has been built on artist directed initiatives and innovation. This has been the case in the past, and has been particularly important in Australia in the last 25years; and it will continue to be the case in the future.
Governmental instrumentalities can play a major part in facilitating this development, and many have done so. The work of Richard Florida has proposed a demonstratable link between a rich urban cultural life and economic benefit, and this has motivated some regional governments to adopt more creative concepts of development beyond the conventional business model.

The recently released Central Coast Regional Strategy invites comment. While many issues are addressed, water supply of course being a headliner, the plan identifies Gosford as being the Regional City for the Central Coast and the amenities that a regional city requires.
(see link)

The opportunity to comment on the strategy is an opportunity to argue for the central place of arts and culture in the developing Gosford Regional City. While planning is possible without aesthetic vision, good planning is not. Culture has always been the heart of a community and the city; it is what gives the social conglomerate an honourable and compassionate identity.

What defines a city is its cultural assets. Sydney is an idea, and a destination, because it has a concentration of iconic cultural assets. MCA, AGNSW, Artspace, Sydney Opera House, Australian Centre for Photography, Australian Museum, Museum of Sydney, State and Mitchell Libraries, many Artist Run Initiatives etc. all within walking distance, and at a public transport hub.

This is not to say that Gosford should, or could, model itself on a major city of four million people. But it does indicate the essential role that cultural resources play in creating a city.
Shopping centres, supermarkets, sports clubs, businesses, car yards, professional services etc. can be found – and often the same ones are – in every urban and suburban centre. We go to Sydney for its cultural assets. Can we develop more of our own?

The conventional market model does not seem to be working. Gosford CBD has become a rabbit warren of empty retail and business spaces. The Laycock Theatre and the Regional Gallery cannot be moved, but there are many other art and culture amenities, as yet underdeveloped, that could be given a place in the heart of the city.

Many people feel estranged from the political decision making apparatus, but visit the website and make a comment. It just might help, and it might make a difference before it is too late.

(Who put that stadium THERE!)

Neil Berecry-Brown