Monday, March 10, 2008
Light, Space and Democracy
Mischa Kuball, Refraction House 1994
Hubertus Birkner, Köln
Space, Light and Democracy, COFA UNSW
On Friday, I attended a Symposium at the College of Fine Arts entitled “Space, Light, and Democracy”, in which three artists spoke on their work, and notions of, public and private light. It was hosted by the CCAP and Artspace.
Mischa Kuball, a German artist from Koln, discussed his light pieces, which included the manipulations of lighting in a riverside officeblock, and the illumination which emanated from a refurbished synagogue in Germany. It was interesting to note the ways in which light was able to engage the public with the work themselves, until they became part of the piece. For example, the neighbours living around the synagogue were themselves illuminated by the bright incandescent light, becoming exposed by it, and gradually entering into a kind of protective role of both the building and the lightpiece.
The image of the small synagogue ablaze with light was compelling, both visually and conceptually.
The other speakers, Merilyn Fairskye and Ashok Sukumaran
both use light to engage with the urban public. Merilyn’s work can be seen around Sydney in the Devonshire St Tunnel and at Sydney Airport. Ashok used strings of interactive lighting in the streets of Mumbai to create feelings of elsewhere.
I can relate to that.
Archibald Prize Opening
Del Kathryn Barton
"Self Portait with Kell and Arella"
Archibald Prize Winner 2008
I received, later that afternoon, an invitation to the Archibald Prize opening Party.
Managing to extricate myself from witching hour Chez Fifi was no mean feat, but I managed it, liking a party and all.
I was wearing a black bond's tshirt, a skirt made of upholstery fabric and workshoes-a-la-studio. Across the road from The College of Fine Arts in a shop window was a dress calling my name and I walked out of the shop wearing it. (The girl said I looked nice, the dress matched my eyes, can you believe. I believed her when thousands wouldn’t have)
I sat at the entrance of the Art Gallery of NSW between the sandstone columns,watching the crowds roll in. I must say, it struck me how rather badly dressed everyone was. Lots of immensely high heels supporting bare tottering legs.. It was certainly an odd crowd, not what I would call an art crowd, mind you. Nothing like Barry keldoulis’ openings with the cheese biscuits and interesting looking persons. I honestly don’t know where half this lot came from. Perhaps they had all received text messages late in the day, like me? Perhaps they were all remarking on that woman at the entrance with the bad hair and dirty mary-janes?
Inside, we could barely hear above the noise of the crowd, I just make out Del Kathryn Barton’s name during the speeches. Figures. I had been teaching about her a few days ago. I have liked her work when she still exhibited at Ray Hughes, when it was dark and scary and fetishist. Since then she has burst into colour and bloom: good on her. Its a very engaging painting, and with no loss of integrity. Everybody loved it.
I liked this one. It seemed to be made of little teardrops.
Moving around the show I felt she was possibly one of the few artists who hadn’t sacrificed their own integrity in making a portrait. Portraiture brings out the worst in people. And a lot of the works seemed muddy: all the usual suspects were there in a festival of snotty boogerishness: Nicholas Harding, in a typical painter/subject repartee, produced a scumbly dull piece. As did Ben Quilty. It seemed as if everyone has developed eye problems in the last year. Perhaps I have developed eye problems and evrything was in fact bright and clear: who knows?
I made an effort to actually enter the Wynne Prize this year, but as I left things to my usual last minute panic, I was unable to frame my watercolour. Well, actually, I didn’t have the money for a new frame, so I was meant to swap it with an already framed one. Naturally, I missed the deadline, as I so often do.
There was only one other watercolour in it, so it won the watercolour prize. It was also a HUGE piece, and just happened to be John Wolseley.
The party was fun. Lucy Culliton was racing around in a state of excitement: "I love this party!" she shouted.
Since I have just had business cards printed, featuring said watercolour, I stood for a while with my tiny business card positioned on the wall next to the Wolseley. It looked so very funny, but at least there I was in the show, making myself laugh till no sound came out. Which is my usual habit at openings. All the high-heeled girls just didn’t get the joke.
Surf Club Nipper Presentation Day
Sundays cultural offering? Ian McEwan at the Sydney Opera House. However...a far more cultural event preceded this:
the Surf Club Nipper Presentation day which involved about one hundred and fifty children wearing funny coloured swim hats all performing their version of a rescue and then squashing themselves in to the e clubhouse to hear the champions called out. Bedlam. Oh, a baby lifeguard is called a Little Nipper.
A spectacular blue day, not a breath of wind. Barbecue, rolling sea. Even skinny little Tilly managed to rescue her patient.
Ian McEwan at the Sydney Opera House
I take my leave from this bucolic scene, and head for the ferry.
There is a powerboat race on Sydney harbour, and ferries will only run till 3pm. Hmm. Millionaire motorboats have hijacked my route to the city.
I cross the Harbour, meeting my friends when I get there. It is surreal, that in the bright glare I will be listening to Ian mcewan perhaps talk about the darkness of the human psyche.
It’s sold out, he place is packed. I run into a whole heap of people, gallery directors and art lecturers I wasn’t expecting to see, My old bookshop friend John. I strike up a conversation with a lady eating chocolate. Outside the sky is th most hard and brilliant cerulean blue.
I was a bit disappointed with the talk. McEwan read excerpts from his books, following each reading with letters he had received from people pointing out his mistakes. For example, that Orion is not visible from Venice in summer(Comfort of Strangers), that the Mercedes driven in Saturday would never have a clutch because those models are all automatic. What he was alluding to, I gather, am how the actual intrudes ion the imaginary, and how the imaginary intrudes on the real, and they pass backwards and forwards. I was waiting for this great marvel of words, and I felt it was "light entertainment" in a way. I mean, it was still good, just not what I expected. It seemed so surreal, the setting, the people, the light of the day.
I realised this week that I have read every Ian McEwan book, and I read the first one in 1990. What drove me to choose it? It was "The Child in Time". I would have bought it in Ariel at paddington, probably because I liked the cover. I know I chose "Enduring Love" entirely because of the Odilon Redon etching on the front.
I think, of all his novels, Black Dogs is the one I felt most resonated with me. Although I probably enjoyed Atonement and On Chesil Beach more, Black Dogs articulated something serpentine in my own nature that I possibly would never had identified.
Outside, the surface of the the Harbour sliced by the bow waves of the nasty powerboats. The noise was terrible, the spectacle ugly, and the boats huge, hunched and monstrous. Why on earth such a thing was held in the middle of the Harbour is beyond me, worlds were colliding all around. Not to mention that these screeching creatures were standing between myself and home.
On the other side, in Circular Quay was moored a ship which in size completely dwarfed the Museum of Contemporary Art, named the Albatross of Nassau. Its white bulk filled the landscape, and I wished it away. We drank champagne and looked at the harbour in its haze of heat. Below the sails of the Opera House people crowded to watch the gargantuan monsterboats roaring around and I wondered what Ian McEwan thought of all this as he sat signing books in the foyer (no dedications, please!) Folks wandered around looking comparatively civilised.
On the left is the MCA. On the right is The Albatros
It is interesting to consider all this in terms of light, private and public. We do here have a very democratic sharing of light, in fact, one can scarcely avoid it, both natural and artificial. Here in the glare, are we illumined? This apportioning of rights to the harbour, I felt, was very elitist. Most undemocratic...