Saturday, December 29, 2007

Parallels and palindromes

At this pivotal time of the year, at the fulcrum, when we are looking both backwards and forwards, I am reminded of the texts by Susan Hillman in the Space Between.
If you enjoyed her moving LED 'palindromes', you might be interested in the paintings 'Rorschach Shopkeeper Works' of Ken Lum, also from Vancouver, currently showing at
L.A. Galerie Lothar Albrecht, Frankfurt.

And a quote from another Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, apropos the road ahead, ‘We drive into future using only our rear view mirror.’

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some hay in the manger

Very Best wishes for the Festive Season
from the Brown Cows

Click Here, KoPAS


The next in the Click Here series of art activities in the centre of Gosford produced by Brown’s Cows Art Projects and Gosford Art Flux Forum.

Streaming consists of three art performances “in homage to the Common Stream” by members of the Korean group KoPAS, also performing at this years Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland.

River by Baek Ki Kim
Facing against the Wind by Yong Gu Shin
Le Duex by Jae Seon Moon

KoPAS, led by Baek Ki Kim, is one of the leading groups in Seoul, with up to 40 participating artists from all disciplines and art forms. The artists coming to Gosford for Streaming have all performed in many cities around the world. Some Gosford people might remember Yong Gu Shin’s installation and performances in the Dawn Light Symposium in 2005.

See KoPAS at:
Kibble Park in the heart of Gosford

Saturday, January 5th 2008
1.00 pm.

Buried beneath Kibble Park in the heart of Gosford are the old town wells and the streams that once sustained the aboriginal people and early European arrivals.

On this site in January 2008, Baek Ki Kim, Yong Gu Shin and Jae Seon Moon will perform works whose symbolic and metaphoric meaning resonate with hidden currents in the land beneath the streets of Gosford, and take fleeting shape in the invisible streams in the air.

These are performances in poetic form that express through the metaphors of flow and change, and the symbolic meanings of water and air; of the river and wind, our common hopes, needs, emotions and strength.

On the Commons, in the public domain, around the town well, lives merge, as streams become a river. A river of streams survives. Like the common stream, buried but still alive, and the flow of the breathing air, still free.

This project regards water, the natural world and creative culture as a trust in common, and is not sponsored by any global water bottling and fizzy drink corporation. As taxpayers we sponsor them.

Click Here is supported in part by a Cultural Grant from Gosford City Council.

Monday, December 03, 2007

GoG postponed

The heavy rain on Saturday morning meant that the scheduled artists’ forum, Gaff on the Green”, had to be postponed.

However because of the high level of interest in having a gathering of this kind to discuss the role of contemporary art in the future of Gosford, and of a coordinated Creative Gosford initiative, the event will be rescheduled for early next year.

A fortunate outcome, despite the, rain, was that the Guest Speaker Associate Professor Adrian Hall had a chance to meet and talk to a number of Gosford artists. He has expressed a strong interest in returning to offer whatever help he can. His international expertise in education and contemporary practice will be a welcome contribution to strengthening skills and focusing professional opportunities in the region.

Discussions will be continuing with him regarding his role in the formation of an independent tertiary “contemporary art college” in Gosford to service some of the region’s educational needs locally.

Until the next Gaff on the Green, we will use the time to develop ideas before returning to Kibble Park. If you have some topics you would like to add to the conversation, please email them to us , and perhaps some informal discussions can be arranged soon.

The image is of an art performance by Adrian Hall. It took place at Somersby in 1998 as part of Eco-poetics, an international artists project organised by Synapse Art Initiatives.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gaff on the Green - speaker

Gaff on the Green.
Special Guest speaker. 3pm.

Assoc. Professor Adrian Hall (retired) will give the keynote talk at Gaff on the Green.

This is a unique opportunity for us. Adrian, since moving to New Zealand after leaving COFA, has been unavailable for events such as this. For me, and many others, his absence and his past frequent calling to account of art practices lacking critical rigour, has been sorely missed – along with his humour. So it is great to have a chance to hear from him again.

Adrian Hall, as an artist and educator, has been an inspirational and catalytic presence in Australia as well as in a number of countries overseas. He has an uncompromising integrity in his approach to his work and a commitment to the compelling and enigmatic nature of art as a vital process of knowing.

As a key figure at SCA in the 1980s, he has had a lasting influence on students and colleagues alike.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gaff on the Green


We would like to inform you of an event to take place in the centre of Gosford City, and to invite you to join us.

The event is Gaff on the Green, and will take place on Saturday the 1st of December in Kibble Park. It is part of a series of contemporary art activities collectively titled “Click Here” organised by Brown’s Cows Art Projects and carried out in conjunction with GAFF (Gosford Art Flux Forum) incorporated.

We will be joined for Gaff on the Green by eO incorporated, the Central Coast Contemporary Art Initiative.

Gaff on the Green, as part of “Click Here,” is supported by a Cultural Grant from Gosford City Council.

Marie Andrews, member of state parliament for Gosford, will open the GAFF at 3pm.

The directors of Brown’s Cows and GAFF are working to bring art and cultural activities into the heart of the town; to contribute to its regeneration and redefinition as a vibrant regional capital, and to involve local emerging artists in practices and issues at the leading edge of art.

For Gaff on the Green, a tent will be erected on the “hill” in Kibble Park, where discussion groups and forums will take place in the afternoon, with a visually illustrated seminar, “at the Still Point” scheduled for the evening.

Discussions will canvass a number of issues concerning local artists including:
Resources for contemporary practices.
Priorities in infrastructure support planning.
Future art.
Keeping and nurturing emerging artists in the region.
A “Creative Gosford” action taskforce.
The Spaces and Places Framework Report.
The Creative (?) Industries
Provision of education for contemporary art professionals.
Etc. BYO
If you have any issues you would like to have added, forward them to us, or bring them along on the day.
Outcomes from the discussions will be taken forward appropriately.

Schedule at this stage:
2pm. Artists and artists groups Open Discussion.
3pm. Short addresses by Maries Andrews MP for Gosford, Gosford Councillors and Debra Schleger, Manager Art and Culture.
3.15. Key note address. (Surprise guest)
3.30 –4pm. sessions for future plans and strategies as a consequence of ideas emerging from previous discussions and conversations.

In the evening we will hold a “seminar” presentation on the subject of live art; performance, body work, dance and hybrid forms. It will take place after dark so that video projections can be used to complement the discussion.

For further information, contact:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Interupted service

After being out of commission for the past week due to the quality of Telstra’s service (or lack of it), Back Page is operating with a cobbled together dial-up connection and a very long cable to a neighbouring phone.

Sorry for the scarcity of updates in the lead up to Gaff on the Green.

More soon.

Election 07. Liberal

Liberal’s Arts Policy.
James Larson, Jim Lloyd’s Press Officer, assured us Mr. Lloyd would comment on it when it was released.
That the Liberals have no interest in including the arts in any future plans, they might have, is comment enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Election 07. Greens.

In response to our invitation to candidates for the seat of Robertson in the Federal Election to share their arts policies with us and to comment in relation to the Gosford region, we received the following letter from Mira Wroblewski.


The Art and Culture Policy for the Central Coast should be based on the cultural and artistic needs of our community, its talent and the attraction of tourists to the region. This would entail an integrated approach to cultural infrastructure planning for Gosford. There is a need to embed arts and cultural development into the life of the city and the community. Art and cultural development are a necessary and integral part of the redevelopment of Gosford as the regional capital of the Central Coast.

The development of a cultural precinct and a regional cultural facility are crucial to the animation of the city and the generation of local talent and local jobs. There is an urgent need in Gosford to develop a critical mass of arts and cultural development activities and amenities in the city for the community and the greater region. This precinct must be close to the foreshore area and compatible amenities such cafes, restaurants, public open space and importantly, public transport. An emphasis must also be placed on the importance of outdoor cultural spaces. We need to create a vibrant hub of cultural activity that is accessible to the public.

Such a cultural arts and performance precinct must include a mixture of uses to complement the diverse range of artistic and cultural performances and talent we have in our region. A cultural and performance precinct of this kind will invigorate the cultural sector and achieve the cultural objectives that are necessary to create quality living, recreational and social environments that are both appealing to the wider community and visitors. This will attract and stimulate investment around the precinct. Above all else a cultural and performance precinct for Gosford must incorporate the community identity, aspirations and the spirit of place which must include the indigenous community to ground art and culture within an area that allows for the growth of artistic talent and its performance. This place must feel neutral and central to everyone gathering. Such a place will have historical and cultural meaning for the whole community on the Central Coast.

Gosford needs a world class facility as part of a cultural and performance precinct that meets the growing need of art and cultural performances this would include a venue for musical and operatic performances, rehearsal spaces for music and dance, spaces for environment and art. A cultural and performance precinct will allow for and enable the greatest variety of art forms within the region with an emphasis on indigenous culture, community arts as well as 'high' arts such as classical concerts, art exhibitions sourcing local and travelling exhibitions. Drama and dance included.

The emphasis is on a cultural and performance precinct that celebrates our natural heritage and expands on the artistic talents that abound in our region."

Mira Wroblewski
Greens Candidate for Robertson

Many thanks Mira for providing us with the Greens Policy, and for the attention you have given to addressing the specific circumstances facing the future of the arts in the Gosford region.

Some specifics of the overall policy for the 2007 election are available, and we will discuss Gosford issues further in the next week.

As with the state election, the Greens have researched the substance of matters relating to art and culture as they directly impact the community. Their demonstrated commitment to listening to input, and addressing specific objectives, is greatly appreciated.

Election 07. Labor.

In response to our invitation to candidates for the seat of Robertson in the Federal Election to share their arts policies with us and to comment in relation to the Gosford region, we received the following letter from Belinda Neal.

"Thank you for your recent enquiry regarding Labor's Art's policy.

Federal Labor have release a detailed Art's policy recently launched by the Shadow Minister for Arts, Peter Garrett MP. A copy of this policy can be found at -

The Central Coast is a unique region with many people choosing to live here to take advantage of the relaxed coastal environment. I am very supportive of measures that will add to this lifestyle and this includes advocating for additional entertainment and increased participation in all forms of Art.

Labor's Arts Policy 'New Directions for the Arts' includes an extra $10 million for the Australia Council over four years, with an emphasis on funding for projects in regional areas, including the Central Coast.

In addition to this Labor has promised to establish new arts innovation centres, of which one may be located on the Central Coast, along with greater financial support for indigenous artists.

I trust this information is of assistance and I am determined to be a strong advocate for our region in a future Rudd Labor Government.


Belinda Neal."

We would like to thank Belinda for taking the time to respond, and to note with gratitude her respect for the arts community in doing so at this busy time.
Peter Garrett's policy statement has been discussed already on this site, and details about "innovation centres" has been released. We will talk more about this in the next week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Common Ground

One more before we go on.

“Shall we go on?
Yes, lets go.
They do not move.

Before Shifting Ground.

“Estragon: Recognise! What is there to recognise? All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud! And you talk to me about scenery!… Look at this muckheap! I’ve never stirred from it!
You and your landscapes! Tell me about the worms!”
(Waiting for Godot, Act Two.)

Having commented on the relationship, using an overly simplistic dichotomy, between the image and the word in Irish art, it must be acknowledged that even before the Celtic Tiger was a cub, contemporary Irish art was producing leading edge practice, particularly in the field of socially engaged work.

Reflecting this development, in 1995 I invited Ailbhe Murphy (Unspoken Truths Project, Dublin), Marie Barrett (Artlink, Buncranna, Donegal) and Ailis O’Baoill (Catalyst Arts, Belfast) to the Chimera Conference in Sydney. In 1998, Dun Laoghaire, near Dublin, was chosen by Ian Hunter (Projects Environment – now Littoral) and the Critical Access group (Mick Wilson and Martin McCabe, Dublin) for an international conference, Critical Sites: Issues in Critical Art Practice and Pedagogy. This conference, Chimera, and Littoral (Salford, 1994) were important in identifying the new area of practice later to be theorised as Dialogical Art by Grant Kester in his book Conversation Pieces (2004).

Another group in Ireland, Ground Up Artists, has been doing some interesting projects with rural issues and the changing nature of non-urban life.

Fiona Woods - Ground Up Artists Collective.

The rapidly emerging world where urban experience is the default for contemporary life leads to a weakening capacity for people in rural communities to define their own lives and retain their physical and cultural heritage.

Mangrove Mountain, where my family have been farming for generations, and which is still a rural district, is now designated a suburb of Gosford in the City Council planning instruments. At a recent ‘community consultation’ meeting we were asked to describe the “scenery” or “landscape” that defined where we live.
I wanted to tell them “about the worms!”. They did not have the language to ask a question that could be answered meaningfully.

So congratulations to Ground Up Artists for important work (and a great name).
Do check their website.

Monday, November 12, 2007

SPI Vehicle in town.

On Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of November, Sydney based artist Astra Howard will be bringing her SPI Vehicle to Gosford city centre. Astra regards her artwork as action-research. She mostly works in public places where she can engage in “conversation” with people about things of interest to them.
So if you see Astra in her mobile SPI Vehicle, she will be very pleased if you come over for a closer look, and exchange some thoughts.

Watch for Astra and the SPI Vehicle in Kibble park, William Street and Mann Street.

Astra is regarded as one of the interesting emerging artists in Australia. She has worked in major urban centres in Australia and overseas, and also worked extensively with homeless people and other marginalised communities. She has adopted a social science methodology in her art practice with a goal of calling for greater recognition of the dynamic and interactive relationship formed between individuals and external urban environments – collectively envisioning a vibrant and vital public space.

Astra Howard’s SPI Vehicle is part of “Click Here”, a series of art projects organised for the Gosford City centre by Brown’s Cows Art Projects together with GAFF (Gosford Art Flux Forum). It is supported in part by a cultural grant from Gosford City Council.

Romantic Ireland Part 1

Kiera O’Toole’s exhibition “Romantic Ireland’s Dead and Gone” opened last Saturday and gave rise to a few thoughts, as did her accompanying text. Apologies for the length of this post, but it contains a few notes I promised to some of you.

Part 1 this week.

The relation between the written and literary forms of art on the one hand, and that of imagery and the visual on the other, has long been a matter of conjecture in art.

While it is common to have some text or catalogue essay accompany an exhibition, these are often merely explanatory of process and technique, or of the exhibition’s conceptual underpinnings. Frequently they contain gratuitous biography, offering an explanation for the origin of the “inspiration”, and give voice to the exhibiting artist’s self interpretation and theoretical contexturalising - however as Freud warned us, artists are not reliable in representing themselves outside their work. There are exceptions of course, Mike Parr being an example.

Kiera’s graphic images, based on bluebottles, show a refined drawing technique and feeling for materials. The organic drifting shapes are metaphors for the dispersal of the Irish people around the world.

In the exhibition Kiera also uses literary text in a powerful and evocative way. A poem by W.B.Yeats, September 1913, from which the title of the exhibition, Romantic Ireland’s Dead and Gone was taken, is presented together with the drawings, but the relationship is not one of illustration or the expression of parallel concepts, but of a concurrence of values and emotion expanding out from that passionate centre; back into the history of Ireland on the one hand, and on the other, forward into the familiar world of globalised consumer culture and (collateral) forced migration.
Kiera has managed to link Yeats’ dark and cynical view of commerce driven culture and its extinguishing of the heroic and romantic shared Irish cultural identity, with drawings based on the organic forms of bluebottles; those little drifters on the tides of chance and circumstance, who like the Irish and others before and since, have washed up and been grounded on the Australian shore.

Australia, being as it is “girt by sea”, has always been a haven for those displaced and adrift who, like the Irish, are "beyond the pale”. [“Beyond the Pale” was term for those living outside the Pale of Dublin, the fence around Dublin Castle dating from the 14th century within which the English were supposedly safe from the barbarous Irish.]

Perhaps Australia itself could be the ‘Pacific (peaceful) Solution’. 120 different nationalities were represented at the ABC last week to celebrate the diversity of Sydney culture.

'We must tolerate each other or we must tolerate the common enemy,' [Thomas Davis, quoted by John O'Leary]

The Irish are certainly not now beyond the pale in terms of literary reputation, but the question has been asked why the visual arts have been so relatively undeveloped in a nation with such a rich creative culture. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of cultural tradition, given that both (or all) forms of art spring from the poetic imagination (a common language and structuring of thought processing; a unique and recognisable blend of cognitive, perceptual and affective skills).

Could it be that language is more ‘slippery’ and elusive as a means of communication, these being useful attributes in a society, like that of Ireland, that has been in constant rebellion for so long, and that the printed text is more democratic/subversive, being both affordable, mass produced and transportable?

To quote Seamus Heaney in England’s Difficulty.
“I moved like a double agent among the big concepts……

An adept at banter, I crossed the lines with carefully enunciated passwords, manned every speech with checkpoints and reported back to nobody.”

And also from Heaney – “What ever you say, say nothing.”

Many Irish have lived in forced or self-imposed exile yet continued to engage with Irish issues through their words in a way that, in the past at least, images would not have been able to do. Indeed Joyce and Beckett were able to radically change the English literary world from ‘exile’ in France.

Romantic Ireland’s Dead and Gone opened the door for us to the power of the Irish poetic tradition without being overwhelmed by it – the connection between the images and text being almost paradoxical, given the apolitical nature of bluebottles. But the buoyant little bladders adrift in the flux and flow of their watery world, are also grounded in the physical world of pain and death by stranding; a return to the earth.

This connection with the earth, the soil, is a noticeable theme in Irish writing.
To stick with Yeats, he writes in The Municipal Gallery Revisited:

"(An image out of Spencer and the common tongue).
John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil, from that
Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong…."

And Seamus Heaney, (excerpts) from Digging:

"By god, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man."

"The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it."

And in consigning “Romantic Ireland” to the earth in O’Leary’s grave, we come back to Kiera’s quote from Yeats’ September 1913.

(First stanza)
“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were meant to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

[Ironically Yeats was later a Senator of the Irish Free State and chairman of the Commission of Coinage.]

O’Leary, was a poet and Fenian, sentenced to penal servitude by the English and then exiled to France. He returned to Ireland and died in 1907. He wrote:
“It seems a very simple thing to say that the first thing an Irishman should feel is that he is an Irishman. But, unfortunately, the matter is not so plain after all, and certainly not plain to all, for there are many men, not only born in Ireland, but whose ancestors have been there for generations, who foolishly, not to say wickedly, fancy that they are, after all, only some sort of Englishmen.” These days we might say, in agreement with Kiera’s view as I understand it, that they are some sort of Europeans or consumers of global culture.

Next week – Part 2. Some notes on the Celtic Tiger and Creative Industries.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sensibility of Light & Fabric
Meredith Brice and Myung-Sook Chae
Monday 5 November 7:30pm Exhibition OPENING at 'Rewak' The Art Gallery, College of Fine Arts and Design, University of SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates.

A couple of artists known to many of you.
Meredith first met Myung-Sook , when she participated in the Nine Dragon Heads Symposium in Korea. Sandy James, Maumer Cajic and Meredith, as emerging artists recently graduated from the (now defunct) Fine Arts program at the Ourimbah campus, were sponsored to travel to Cheongju for the event.
It is good to see these opportunities leading to new initiatives.
Many will of you will recall Chae, Myung-Sook from the Dawn Light Symposium.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Art spaces and places

Reflecting the extensive and successful lobbying by FOPAP (Friends of the Performing Arts Precinct), background to the CSPF (Cultural Spaces and Places Framework) report presented to Council for approval focussed on a Performing Arts Centre. Those from other professional art disciplines should take some temporary comfort from the recommendations made by the consultants that any progressing of a performing Arts Centre should be part of an integrated plan including all elements of an Art and Culture Precinct.

The following report (edited) was presented to Council on the 2nd of October, 2007.

“(IR 3873107)
Directorate: Community Services and Organisation Development
Business Unit: Arts & Culture

The key finding from this stage one report is that there is broad community appeal for the development of a performing arts facility as part of a wider cultural precinct, warranting further investigation and consideration by Gosford City Council (ie. moving to stage two of the project).

Should Gosford City Council agree with this finding and proceed to stage two it is recommended that the brief for stage two (key objectives, scope of works and tasks) be revised. The rationale/reasoning for this recommendation is as follows:

• The stage two scope of works (brief) focuses on developing a business case / feasibility study for a performing arts facility in isolation. Whilst it is an important element, stage one findings identify that a performing arts facility and cultural precinct are interrelated and integral to each others development, sustainability and success.
They are not mutually exclusive and as such should not be planned in isolation from one another.

• As such the stage two scope of works should be broadened to be a holistic business case which includes all elements of the proposed cultural precinct. A suggested revised scope would include (subject to Gosford City Council agreement):

- A refined schedule of uses for all activities/elements in the cultural precinct;
- Identification and recommendations on the optimum site;
- The development of a masterplan including design layout/concept plans;
- Indicative capital costs for all elements of the masterplan, including a performing arts complex;
- Potential capital funding mix and the identification of private developer partners (joint venture arrangements);
- The optimum model for governance and management of the precinct and key
- A business case for the public elements of the precinct – ie. those components of the precinct such as the performing arts complex owned by Gosford City Council (similar to the existing stage two scope of works).

The key object of the revised stage two scope of works would be for Gosford City Council to understand the total net costs (capital and recurrent) to Gosford City Council to deliver a masterplanned cultural precinct to:

• Achieve Gosford’s cultural objectives;
• Position Gosford as a regional capital offering a diversity of activities to a growing population; and
• Support Gosford’s wider economic and social objectives, in particular the revitalisation of the CBD.


(A ) That a revised scope of works in the brief for Stage 2, as outlined in the consultant report, be endorsed by Council and finalised with the Project Reference Group.

(B) That Council accept the KPMG consultancy ‘Cultural Spaces & Places Framework – Stage 1 findings’ report and proceed with Stage 2 of the project.

(C) That the revised scope of works in the brief for Stage 2 be fully integrated with any planning associated with the Gosford City Centre Plan, Waterfront Strategy, Gosford Pool, Civic Precinct and other elements considered for the establishment of a regional city and incorporate any changes critical to the seamless coordination of those projects.

(D) That Stage 2 of the Cultural Spaces & Places Framework be integrated though the management committee implementing the Gosford City Centre Plan and that the Sunset Committee be retained to provide further input as required.

(E) That Council approach State and Federal Governments to seek funding for the projects.”

The recommendation was passed with the deletion of “as required” in (D).

Artists and others with an interest in Contemporary Art in Gosford and the region are invited to a discussion about these and other issues concerning practitioners in the area, on Saturday afternoon, the 1st of December.
To manage the location, it would be appreciated if you could indicate your interest in joining the conversation via the Back Page email (see links on this site).

More information will be posted when our invited guests confirm.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ripples in the pond

Some ripples in the pond regarding communications between Council and art stakeholders.

Minutes from Gosford Council meeting 30th October.

The following motion adopted:
COMMITTEE (IR 3934299)

Councillor: Trevor Drake


One of the major outcomes from the Visioning 2025 Project is the recognition of the role Arts and Culture has in creating a sense of place and soul for a City.

The Community placed the focus on Arts and Culture as a high priority and this is reflected in the recent support in the Cultural Places and Spaces review for the creation of a Performing Arts Centre.

At the Meeting of the Caroline Bay Arts Precinct Advisory Committee on 19 September the
Committee recognised the important role Arts and Culture will play in the revitalisation of the City Centre and hence the future role of the Advisory Committee in this strategy.


A. Gosford City Council to have the Community Services and Organisational Development
Directorate prepare a report on the role and functions of the Art Gallery and Caroline Bay
Arts Precinct Advisory Committee taking into account in the historical function, present
functions and future functions.

B. Whether the Committee remains, disband or reforms into another advisory committee to
assist Gosford City Council in the future cultural development of Gosford City.

C. Gosford City Council to develop terms of reference for any Committee it recommends as a consequence of the review.

The motion was foreshadowed in a previous post on the Back Page but the language of the “Background” is interesting, as is the reference to the Cultural Places and Spaces review. Notable is the use of “Art Gallery and Caroline Bay Art Precinct Advisory Committee,” rather than the old "Gosford Regional Gallery Advisory Committee", which probably indicates a potential role that reflects the changing art and culture geography of Gosford.

And of particular interest is “the support in the Cultural Places and Spaces review for the creation of a Performing Arts Centre” as this is not the remit of the Advisory Committee.
In fact a motion adopting the Cultural Places and Spaces Framework Stage 1 Findings, was accepted at the October 2 Council meeting which made it clear that plans for a Performing Arts Centre should be part of an integrated Art Precinct masterplan incorporating other sectors of the Art matrix.

More on the Cultural Places and Spaces Framework is in the pipeline for Back Page.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kiera O'Toole

This looks like one to put in the diary.

Thanks Kiera for the following text:

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone”
W.B.Yeats. September 1913.

As an immigrant to Australia, O'Toole is concerned with the repositioning of Irish Identity in a post modern culture and with issues of negotiating individual identity; the reality of migration; a sense of place and displacement of language and community. Her artwork is an emotive response to immigration and the inquiry into the (pre)conceptions of Ireland and ‘Irishness’.

“Blue bottles, in the Irish imagination, are alien to us. They exist only in exotic places / spaces. They are exquisite in their visual beauty but you can’t touch them. They drift aimlessly, unrooted, uncertain, grouping; gazing in different directions so in case of danger, some can survive. Blue Bottles are not a single organism, but made up of a number of zooids. Each zooid has a specific role and together they function as if it were an animal. These little beings remind me that we all need a safe place/space, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

As an immigrant to Australia, I am establishing new beginnings. The distance both physically and psychologically between the two countries allows me to take “a look at us as Irish people, our displacement, our living all over the world, our history of emigration, our psyche” (Alanna O Kelly). ‘My intention is not fashion sentimentality of a homeland’. (John Moriarty 2007) but to express the private and collective basic emotions common to all immigrants and express my perception of Ireland today.

The poem, September 1913 by W.B.Yeats, is a response to the Lockout of September 1913 in Dublin. Yeats was infuriated by the man who led the lockout, W. M. Martin as he also refused to support Yeats ambition of buying an art gallery in Dublin. Yeats comment in this poem, on the justification of the pursuit of money and the lack of idealism in Ireland is reminiscent of Ireland today.

“What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;”

Over the last twenty years, Ireland has experienced the ‘Celtic Tiger’. (The ‘Celtic Tiger’ is an idiom for the period of rapid economic growth in the Republic of Ireland. (1990s – 2001) During this time Ireland experienced a boom in which it was transfigured from one of Europe's poorer countries into one of its wealthiest which continues to present day.)

Many people in Ireland believe the growing consumerism is destroying Ireland’s culture. Our new economy has created such wealth and affluence that it has desensitized its people. We have, in my opinion, to a large extent, become superficial and depersonalized. Ireland of old, an enclosed, inward looking and conservative country still lies in the underbelly of Irish society. ‘Romantic Ireland is dead and gone’.

Dialogues: Women from Ireland. Katy Deepwell. Published by IB Tauris & Co LTD. P140.
Dialogue: RTE 1. Radio. ‘A tribute to John Moriarty, writer and philosopher, who died at the beginning of June.’ 7th July, 2007.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Moo Media

Final art post from the Country Fair.

Youngest entrant (18 months) wins $2 First Prize in Pre-School Children's "Other" category.

Photography and arrangement (fridge magnet backing on 'calf cradle ' panel) by Claire Berecry-Brown.

Claire considers how to spend the cash.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mangrove Mountain Country Fair

A preview of art at tomorrows Mangrove Mountain Country Fair.

Well done Michael Thompson of Somersby School - too bad about the prize.

On the subject of winners and others. Are the portraits by children at Central Mangrove School an indication of things to come ?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Federal election 07

Continuing The Back Page practice of canvassing candidate's arts policies at election time, the following letter has been sent to candidates standing for Robertson.

Dear ........

I would like to invite you to outline, for the arts community in the Robertson Electorate, your arts and culture policy for the upcoming federal election.

In the recent state election, candidates were invited to have their arts policy posted on the Central Coast contemporary art blog,

This initiate was well received and we have been asked to do the same for the federal election.

We are interested in the overall party policy, but particularly keen to hear your comments with regard to policy in terms of local needs and priorities for art and culture.

This invitation to candidates will be posted on the website.
Responses will be posted as soon as they are received.
Visits to have been steadily increasing over the last year, but peaked during the state election this year.

Your attention to this invitation will be greatly appreciated, not only because the policies are important, but also because the courtesy shown by responding both builds a sense of community and a feeling for a candidates receptiveness to his/her constituents.

Thank you, and best wishes for the campaign.

Intellectual and animal rights

Intellectual property and animal rights

In view of the recent IPR debates, we note the post on the Gosford Times blog about American artist Rachel Berwick who taught parrots a lost language, and wonder if a breach of copyright is possible when the means of reproduction is a living organism.

On a lighter note, take elephants. (with a glass of water)

Information received about an exhibition (cancelled).

"Agency presents quasi-things. Quasi-things fall just inside or outside a category, they move from one category to another or they don't belong to any category at all... In short, things that witness hesitation in terms of classification.

On the occasion of the exhibition series "Faire un effort" of NICC at the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels, agency presents quasi-things that are related to conflicts concerning authorship. Some of these conflicts lead to a lawsuit. As opposed to visitors of an art centre, who usually approach things in a subjective way, a judge is expected to make an objective judgement. For the purpose of evaluating copyright, a judge employs the division between categories such as nature and culture, evolution and creation, object and subject, collective versus individual... Many things are difficult to classify as such.

Take for example Specimen 770. This quasi-thing is part of the German TV film “Zwischen Zirkuskuppel und Manege” that was broadcasted by WRD in 1964 (see picture above). The point of conflict is the copyright of a dance of a circus elephant. The judge has to decide whether the film abused the copyright of this dance. The resulting discussion during the lawsuit questions whether the taming of an elephant can be protected by copyright of dance."
[Information from e-flux]

Elephants in Gosford, 12th October. Left front foot held in raised position while peeing © Nelli.

Monday, October 01, 2007

art and/or culture

Just in passing – a note on art and/or culture provoked by Poli-talk on such matters in election 2007 policy announcements.

“One of the problems with the new administrative reforms both on the Nordic as well as European level, which also resulted with NIFCA being closed in Finland, is that no differentiation is made between culture and arts. All is culture: sport is culture, food is culture, everything is basically culture. Maybe the only thing that is not culture is contemporary art.”

An extract from Between a Rock and a Hard Place – the Possibilities for Contemporary Art Institutions to Function as Critical Political Spaces.
By Marita Muukkonen.
Part of the Public Preparation series for the upcoming Biennale of Young Artists in Estonia, and a document that will form the basis for discussion at Market Gallery in collaboration with variant magazine.

Worth a read.

See also “I reach for my…” tagged posts on Back Page.


Back Page posts this message for those who want to act in response to recent events.

Dear friends,
Burma's generals have brought their brutal iron hand down on peaceful monks and protesters -- but in response, a massive global outcry is gathering pace. The roar of global public opinion is being heard in hundreds of protests outside Chinese and Burmese embassies, people round the world wearing the monks' color red, and on the internet-- where our petition has exploded to over 200,000 signers in just 72 hours.
People power can win this. Burma's powerful sponsor China can halt the crackdown, if it believes that its international reputation and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing depend on it. To convince the Chinese government and other key countries, Avaaz is launching a major global and Asian ad campaign on Wednesday, including full page ads in the Financial Times and other newspapers, that will deliver our message and the number of signers. We need 1 million voices to be the global roar that will get China's attention. If every one of us forwards this email to just 20 friends, we'll reach our target in the next 72 hours. Please sign the petition at the link below -if you haven't already- and forward this email to everyone you care about:
The pressure is working - already, there are signs of splits in the Burmese Army, as some soldiers refuse to attack their own people. The brutal top General, Than Shwe, has reportedly moved his family out of the country – he must fear his rule may crumble.
The Burmese people are showing incredible courage in the face of horror. We're broadcasting updates on our effort over the radio into Burma itself – telling the people that growing numbers of us stand with them. Let's do everything we can to help them – we have hours, not days, to do it. Please sign the petition and forward this email to at least 20 friends right now. Scroll down our petition page for details of times and events to join in the massive wave of demonstrations happening around the world at Burmese and Chinese embassies.
With hope and determination,
Ricken, Paul, Pascal, Graziela, Galit, Ben, Milena and the whole Avaaz Team

More info at.

Federal Election 2007 Arts Policies

Continuing the practice started with the State election, Back Page will be covering the arts policies of the major parties and other relevant political organizations in the upcoming Federal election, with a particular focus on local candidates.

We begin with the Labor Party’s Policy and commentary on it by NAVA in their Media Release.

Summary of -
NAVA Media Release
18 September 2007

Visual Arts Positive About Labor’s Arts Policy

Today the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) expressed its positive expectations of Labor’s New Directions for the Arts policy, launched last Friday.

Tamara Winikoff, Executive Director of NAVA said, “Though the detail and financial commitments have still to be revealed, with this policy most of the main issues for our sector are on the table.”

Full text of the statement is available at NAVA web site, which also has a link to the full text of New Directions for the Arts.

Back Page Editor's notes:
The document, despite employing the planners favourite term “Vibrant” on its cover, a word made almost meaningless through overuse, does contain some interesting policy and useful perspectives.

Like Coalition rhetoric in the past, it makes a point of pushing for greater private sector investment and corporate philanthropy in the arts. This is of course easier said than achievable in the current cultural climate in Australia, and of course the Big End of Town is attracted to larger arts institutions and prestige events. We look with interest for measures to support small to medium scale art projects.
There is also a question over the future of AbaF (Australian Business Arts Foundation) under the Labor policy.

It is good to see, in the section 'Supporting Australian Artists', that there is recognition of “the arts as a significant field of endeavour, worthy of support in their own right”, as well as the arts having a purpose in shaping national identity through art production and the arts sector giving “an immeasurable, sustaining dimension to the life of the nation”.

Labor will develop ArtStart programs to assist young and emerging artists, and to harmonise current Australia Council, Centrelink and ATO rules for income earned by artists on welfare. This is welcome, but the commitment to “CONSIDER” adding “‘participation in arts projects’ to the criteria for employment and community participation in work for the dole programs where it is likely that such participation will improve a persons prospects of gaining employment or private income”, sounds like a “non-core promise”. Without the contribution of unpaid work in the arts sector, the artist-directed and run initiatives that nurture contemporary practice, and hence the whole food chain, would die. Therefore it would be a positive move to support, rather than “consider” this addition.

New Directions for the Arts states Labor’s commitment to equity of participation in and enjoyment of the arts, and in this regard emphasises “the development of arts in rural and regional Australia as well as outer suburban areas.”
It makes a commitment to examine ways to develop regional arts, and to work with other levels of government to identify local priorities.
For Gosford and the Central Coast this sounds promising, but the area’s status (not really regional, rural or outer suburban) continues to confound programs of support, even when expressed in such general terms as in the Labor policy.

'Arts Education Policy' section of the policy is good in recognising the importance for individuals of arts education beyond the curriculum categories, and of its instrumental value, but does not mention the intrinsic values of engendering the expansion of cognitive faculties and the “technique” of art as a way of knowing.
The strategy of encouraging “artist in residency” programs in schools and universities is useful.

The topic of “Creative Industries” gets considerable attention. There is recognition, at last, of the importance of this sector of the Australian economy in the global mesh, and makes clear that Labor realises that there is a lot to do to catch up internationally.
While there is considerable attention given to Digital Content and New Media, there also seems to be an understanding that these 'creative' industries are built on a necessary foundation of speculative art practice. To quote: “Creative research is central to the growth of arts and innovation, and increasingly draws across disciplines and incorporates emerging technologies.”
In the policy document there remains the usual blurring of the important differences between cultural entrepreneurship, creative industry and art (there are many who think that art is in opposition to the intentions of the others). But to the extent that the Creative Industry argument feeds art funding, it should be welcomed.

In conclusion, New Directions for the Arts, contains many welcome initiatives, and is worth reading more closely. It also has the sense of in insider’s understanding, so one can assume it was well researched in consultation with art industry folks.

Everyone will discover some shortcomings for themselves, as I did, so we look forward to Policy statements by other parties for comparison.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Click Here


Brown's Cows Art Projects have been awarded $10,000 in the recent round of the Gosford City Cultural Grants.
The grant is to conduct Click Here, a series of art activities in the Gosford Town Centre.

In this project Brown's Cows will work together with Gaff (Gosford Art Flux Forum).

Watch this space for more information about the project and activities planned.

Caroline Bay Watch 19th Sept

Caroline Bay Watch.
Highlights from the Regional Gallery Advisory Committee – 19th September.

After two years of waiting, the catalogue for the 2005 Dawn Light Symposium has been distributed. Problems with the final product have been passed on to Tim Braham for attention.

In response to a paper tabled by Neil Berecry-Brown designed to redress problems with the functioning, roles and responsibilities of the Advisory Committee, it was decided that the following motion be put to Gosford Council by Councillor Drake.

A. Gosford City Council to have the Community Services & Organisational Development directorate prepare a report on the role and function of the Art Gallery and Caroline Bay Arts Precinct Advisory Committee taking into account the historical function, present function and future function.

B. Whether the committee remain, disband or reform into another Advisory Committee to assist Gosford City Council in future cultural development of Gosford Council.

C. Gosford City Council to develop a terms of reference for any committee it recommends as a consequence of its review.

This is a draught of the motion to be put, and may be amended on reflection by the members of the Advisory Committee.

The final form of the Cultural Spaces and Places Report should be available soon, so the reformation of committees will be interesting.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gosford Art Flux Forum

“The flux of art is a cultural and intellectual commons, and is the vital foundation for all creative engagement as well as being a playground for imaginative and critical conjuring with possibilities.”

Gosford Art Flux Forum is an initiative of Brown’s Cows Art Projects. Gaff was incorporated to provide a legal entity to facilitate the development of contemporary art within the Town Precinct of Gosford and places within the City’s ambit.

An objective of Gaff is to be a catalytic art presence in the town centre; promoting creative processes of democratic engagement in the production and presentation of socially engaged, collaborative and temporary projects for non-gallery situations where context is integral to the meaning of the work.

Gaff will also operate as a street front venue in the CBD serving as a focus for contemporary art and a locus for the presentation of art projects, the provision of information resources, and a coordination place for work in the public domain,

GAFF will conduct art research through praxis of Gosford itself as a process of contemporary art and encourage projects in which the people of Gosford can be part of the invention of “Gosford”, gaining both understanding of its emergent identity and its place in the world.

We recognise that autonomy is an essential part of the culture of effective contemporary practice and, at the same time, that art can play a role in creating the context in which it functions. GAFF will work to address its context by developing infrastructure for sustainable contemporary art practice in Gosford City through discussions and partnerships with various stakeholders, including all levels of government, artists and artists’ organizations, educational organizations and business.

Gosford Art Flux Forum understands itself as part of an international network of artist directed organizations and groups that share a number of attributes. These include a culture of open enquiry, a sometimes alternative and critical position in relation to civic and commercial art operations, and an interest in playing a catalytic and engaged role in generating an immediacy of experience in contemporary cultural and social issues.

In order to engage with critical issues and new ideas and practices in contemporary art, and to place local artists within the ambit of developments internationally, GAFF will support the development of contemporary art in Gosford by building partnerships, linkages and exchanges with other organizations beyond the region.

Gosford Art Flux Forum seeks to reinvigorate the urban ‘commons’ with imagination, the poetic, and an enjoyment and enthusiasm for contemporary art processes and practices.

GAFF has a program of activities scheduled for 2007 and is currently working on the programs for 2008 and 2009.

GAFF Secretary:

Sculpture in the Vineyards

Opening event - 20th October, 2007.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dispatch From the Front

Feed-back from the Cultural Spaces and Places Framework process.

The consultants engaged to make a report to Gosford Council gave a progress presentation to some of the “stakeholders” at the Laycock Theatre on Monday, prior to it also being made to Council today.

The general response to the presentation was very positive, with agreement that the consultants have listened well and integrated most of the community’s comments into their report. It was also clear that they have brought insights gained from other places and situations to balance the pressures from particular lobby groups who understandably are pushing their own agendas.

This “dispatch” is in no way meant as a summary of the multifaceted presentation and workshop at Laycock. The process has many phases yet to go, and while stage one in still not finished, but there were a few highlights that might interest contemporary artists.

Not surprisingly "Performance Spaces" head the list of facilities required, with specifics for a major Concert hall/Theatre of 1,000 seats with rehearsal rooms etc., and a “Black box” multi-functional space of 250 seats accommodating everything from Arthouse cinema to new media, dance, comedy and cabaret.

The next listed “Element of Gosford’s Cultural Precinct as Regional Capital for the Central Coast” is a Contemporary Art Gallery of 1,000 square metres, followed by facilities for Artists’ Studios and Workshops. At this early stage the specific functions of these spaces relative to each other and to existing facilities needs some further work, but it is gratifying, not only make it onto the radar, but to have the critical role of contemporary art presented to Council as a central part of the cultural life of the city, at its own expense.

Given the high cost of building the “Performance Spaces”, and the inevitable squabbles about the Theatre’s siting, it seems to me that it will be a long time before we see any major infrastructure projects funded for contemporary art. So life goes on - “You can stand for a long time on the side of a mountain with your mouth open waiting for a roast duck to fly in”

There will no doubt be modifications to the report before it is completed at the end of the month, and a chance for public comment, but it is shaping as a useful document with Council elections due next year.

There were other areas in the presentation including public art, residential and commercial uses and a 3,000 capacity sound shell, but the purpose of this dispatch was to keep you in the loop about contemporary art issues from a personal perspective at this interim stage, not to make a definitive report.

Neil Berecry-brown.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daniel Dancer video

For those who wanted to see the video Daniel Dancer made and were frustrated by the lack of information about screening location, you can check it out here.

"5 Lands Dreaming by Daniel Dancer
NSW Australia, 2007.
This short film documents a yearly event called The 5 Lands Walk
which is a 10 kilometer "walkabout" along a coastal path that knits 5
communities together via art, culture and music in a celebration of
nature at the height of the annual humpback whale migration
northward. This completely non-commercial event seeks to honor and
reconnect with the oldest culture on Earth . . . that of the
Aboriginal people of Australia which dates back 50,000 years. An Art
For the Sky humpback whale was created as the finale for this event
and involved music, dance and movement through the image at a
spectacular location."
Quote from web site.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Wind Prayer/Brides of Khan

A couple of artists, familiar with some readers, will be performing at the Ku-ring-gai Art Centre on the 17th August, 6.30 pm. Jieon Lee will be dancing, and Boyd (with Sam Golding) will be playing.

Wind Prayer is a production of
Brown's Cows Art Projects,

with support from
the Korean Culture Foundation,

Gosford Art Flux Forum
Contemporary Art Gosford Incorporated
The Ku-ring-gai Art Centre

Stretegic development space 2

Update, and response to Jillian’s comment in the previous post.

The visit was a field trip by Kim Spinks in order to be shown around the Central Coast to assess the arts and culture situation.
At least that is what I could glean from her comments at an afternoon tea she had with the Regional Gallery Advisory Committee. Her intention is to write an internal report.
It seems that she spent most of her time with local government people (Wyong and Gosford Council employees) as well as holding some meetings with groups organized by Christine Bramble (Wyong Council). Contemporary art groups were not amongst those included.
The report will not be public, but will be available to local government staff.
Her take home message was that a Central Coast arts strategy will not come from ArtsNSW, but that they would support a unified, and politically backed, strategy if one could be developed in the region.
The impression I had was that ArtsNSW preferred to deal with local government as the representatives of the community. It will be interesting to see how the Councils move forward, if they do, given that they have no communicative structure with contemporary art groups at this time.

As it was, so it will be.
In contemporary art it is “D.I.Y. or Die”, as a New York group recently put it.
(Remembering the positive aspects of autonomy in this statement)

These are just my personal observations of the meeting.

The next official “Arts Futures” event will be feedback to stakeholder groups meeting, on the 6th of August, by the consultants employed to carry out the “Cultural Spaces and Places Framework” report.

Neil Berecry-Brown

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Stretegic development space

There is some progress to report in the campaigns to implement strategies for developing sustainable contemporary art practice in the region.

Kim Spinks from Arts NSW will be in town on Monday in relation to the development of a regional arts strategy for the Central Coast.

However given the speed at which strategies are developed, and then maybe implemented when and if funds are available, we will continue to work at filling the space rather than watching it.

Caroline Bay Watch

The prize season is with us again!
Gosford Art Prize 2007 exhibition “the highlight of the exhibition year” (GRG copy), opening Friday the 3rd of August.
This year GRG is offering a guide to the art prize industry from the Gallery’s perspective. Explaining how to use the competition to promote, market and win, how to chose which competition to enter, and the judging processes. Unfortunately it will be held (on Tuesday 28th August) after the opening of the exhibition, but it is good to see GRG start to address some of the issues in its programming. We hope it will be more than a “how to”. Contact GRG (4325 0056) for information.
One could start with:
The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value by Jim English. (review)

Young artists at NAIDOC market. No prizes, just for fun.

Prize to GRG for committing programming to indigenous culture and reconciliation.
The NAIDOC market event on the 8th of July was fun.

Also announced from the GRG is Wamberal to Wagstaffe open studio tour scheduled for the 8th and 9th of September. In the running for art tourism/business advancement Prize.

Prize for the worst coffee.
The coffee shop at Caroline Bay must serve the worst coffee, at the highest prices and with the slowest service, anywhere on the Central Coast.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Masque of Zero

We welcome a new era for Performance Art in Gosford with the installation of state of the art equipment by Gosford City Council.

Launched last Friday the video equipment and installation, costing $320,000, makes possible forms of practice previously associated with larger cities abroad.

Pat Naldi and Wendy Kirkup, using what now seems primitive equipment, made some ground breaking work in the UK as early as 1993, and the Surveillance Camera Players in New York (and now San Francisco, Italy, Sweden, Turkey etc.) are synonymous with the genre.

Game on.

Image – Fiona Romeo, Curator of the Science of Spying exhibition currently at the Science Museum, London.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Daniel Dancer

Daniel Dancer’s work at yesterdays 5 Lands event, prompted some extension of thoughts begun with the Watanobbi post; his is work in which the central conceptual concern is with engendering a transformative experience for participants. The aesthetics of the final production, as art, is important only so far as it gives authenticity and authority to the process.

Terrigal, June, 2007.

Making large scale interventions in the landscape as art, was pioneered by the Land/Earth artists of the 1970s, such as Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Richard Long etc., and James Turrell, who, like Daniel Dancer, is also interested in the sky, although his Roden Crater Project is infinitely more enduring physically. (Watching video of Daniel photographing his 'drawings' from a plane, also conjured up associations with Smithson who died in similar circumstances – The Icarus myth is a recurring theme in the artists’ psyche).
Daniel Dancer’s projects are concerned with accessing insight (sky sight) through direct bodily experience, possibly reflecting his education in Child Psychology, and do not address themselves to modernist and post-modern, questioning of the of meanings of form, process and theoretical context.

Big Horn Sky, Bishop, CA 2005 - 950 Kids and Teachers.

The form of his imagery is ancient; transcultural. Like many Land Art projects, it raises questions about the phenomenology of perception, which I think have been insufficiently interrogated in contemporary practice. This situation seems to be changing however, as the advent of GoogleWorld, the ready availability of GPS technology, ubiquitous CCTV and the 'Mobile Phone That Ate the World' have opened our eyes anew (while blinding us).
Daniel asks us to understand that we need to see the “Big Picture” if we are to make decisions that will give the world a future. Working often with children, he keeps the message simple, but the cognitive principle is sophisticated – although perhaps more accessible to the imaginative young mind of children (and other playful people). It means that we must reawaken our ability to experience the world from two places at the same time – to experience the material world, earth and body, while seeing the view from above – the “sky sight”.

In April, 2007, the Community Independent School in Pittsboro, North Carolina formed this nearly extinct bird in a pasture near their school with 100 participants and lots of clothes.

This reminds me of what has been told to me about how aboriginal people always live in a geography that is simultaneously the material world, and a “Big Picture” of story and myth by which to “make decisions that will give the world a future".
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
But perhaps this intelligence is an ability we are born with, and sometimes lose, and rather than focusing on surviving the dissonance we could think of a creative synthesis. This seems to me the paradigm Daniel is working with.
The Art for the Sky projects each produce a video for presentation and so live on as representation. They do not critique the Society of the Spectacle as put forward by Debord, although they want to give primacy to the immediate experience – perhaps it is impossible to avoid the S.O.the S. However to some degree it could be argued that many of the threats to the environment that Daniel Dancer seeks to change by resurrecting an holistic ‘living with the world’ are contributed to, if not largely caused by, the alienated, consumer driven S.O.S.
Any ambiguity of the position does not diminish the contribution he makes, anymore than the commercial compromises to the Burning Man event completely negate the power of the experience felt by attendees.

Eyes in the sky - Terrigal.

Perhaps we will see Daniel again, lets hope so – his arriving by balloon would be nice.

And lets hope next time that Gosford is a bit better organised. Preparation looked rather underdone on Saturday, and although Daniel will be presenting the video on Monday (tomorrow), no one knows where.

[Images 2 & 3 above are from Daniel Dancer's web site, Art for the Sky, linked above.]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Watanobbi (Y with a W)

Recently there was the, still to be adequately explained, closure of an exhibition at the Gosford Regional Gallery as a result of complaints to someone in Council, now we have a few individuals taking it upon themselves to have a work of community art, dubbed the big “W”, removed at Watanobbi.

Sharyn Walker has drawn our attention, on The Gosford Times blog, to the derelict condition of the fountain in Burns Place, Gosford (also, no acknowledgement of the artists on the information plaque), the Charles Sturt sculpture in Rumbalara Reserve has been cruelly vandalised, and we all know the saga of the Wondabyne Stones.
It is unfortunate but not uncommon for public art works, and most other things, to be vandalised, and it is understandable that not all individuals in a community will share the same taste in aesthetic matters, but there is a responsibility on the part of civic authorities to respect, protect and nurture the endeavours of artists to enrich the culture of the Central Coast.
If we respect the unique skills and creative abilities that artists contribute to the community, and exhibit their work, or commission them, and by doing so put trust in their artistic integrity, we owe it to them to stand by that commitment.
Controversy is never far away from art in a conservative community, but even so it has been surprising that the work has caused any fuss.

It seems that a local resident, who did not like the big “W”, started a petition to have the poles removed, as reported in the Wyong Shire Sun. In a large community project there will always be a few who feel excluded from the process for some reason, this is almost impossible to avoid given the complexities of social, political and personal characteristics.

So what is it that has riled the resident?

I quote the Wyong Shire Council Press Release:

“Four timber ‘totem poles’, shaped like a W, with a native bird habitat box at the top, is being built near the approach to the town, north of Wyong. It’s part of Watanobbi’s Community Art Project, developed by Wyong Shire Council; the local community centre; residents; schools and a host of local organisations. More than 300 people, under the direction of community artist, Margrete Erling, helped create the habitat boxes, which are decorated to reflect local history, indigenous heritage, and Watanobbi environmental issues. The aim of the community art project is to foster community pride; promote closer relationships between local organisations and schools; and highlight the work of the Watanobbi Community Centre.”

While community art projects are sometimes difficult in terms of process, and questions of authorship and aesthetic control, they can be very powerful tools of community building regardless of what one thinks of the “art” outcome. At the time of writing I do not know about the process from inside the project, but as an artist with over thirty years experience, and a university lecturer in art for about the same period of time, I think the big “W” is a credit to Watanobbi and to its many creators.

I sympathise with someone who has to look at art that they do not appreciate, but if it is really the art that is the problem, I think there is plenty in this work for someone to learn to appreciate and enjoy.

I also sympathise with the 300 or so people who gave their time and creative enthusiasm to the project. Participants in such community art project become emotionally invested in the work they make for others, and it can be cruel to trash their best efforts. It is hard enough for professional artists to endure heartless criticism, no matter how well intentioned, but that is part of their vocation, we need to build esteem not undermine it in community art projects.

I have heard that the placement of the poles is a bit of a conundrum for some, as the configuration is not seen simply as a big “W”, but from certain angles could be an X, a couple of Vs, or maybe something from an “alien” alphabet. I would have thought that this was a dynamically interesting aspect of the work, being a constantly changing tension between potential and resolution, and therefore an interesting metaphor for continuous community development. This flipping between focus and dispersal is an aspect of the mature work of American sculptor David Smith, whose metal sculptures in the 1950s were notable, and now part of the Art History cannon, for the way they set up relationships between the component parts of the works as well as the setting, moderated by the viewer’s trajectory.

Although I have not seen the Watanobbi work yet, the idea of it changing perceptually and in interpretation, as a result of movements by the viewer, would suggest an addition to the mystery and ambiguity that every successful art work needs.

A decision was made to have an art piece, and that is what they got. If they would rather have a conventional sign, and a society governed by the ethics of commerce, profit and prejudice, free from the humanistic values transmitted through culture, good luck to them, they will need it.

Perhaps something similar to a recent work erected in China could be suggested as an alteration to the disgruntled Watanobbi resident.

The 30ft totem, named Sky Pillar, stands at Longwan Shaman Amusement Park in Changchun City, China.
"It is a totem of Shamanistic culture, which originated in this city," says the president of the park, Cheng Weiguang. Shi Lixue, director of the China Folk Culture Association said: "It symbolizes our ancestors' pursuit of happiness and prosperity."