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.