Saturday, May 22, 2010

time to think

I have been missing the regular task of writing - I do a lot of it at work and also in a thought documenting kind of way, but in terms of improving the way I talk about the work I want to make - this is one practice place.

So I have been knee deep in something I do as my day job, but it just dawned on me today when I was happily at work for 7 hours on a sat that in fact this thing I am making is totally part of my new practice area. I have essentially researched, consulted, talked, thought, invited, programmed, curated, managed, logistics-ed a conversation piece together.

I have been talking about the importance of conversation since 2006 when i considered this a main part of my work.

This work is called Changing Habitats

I have focused on unpacking one key question Are children and young people democratising culture? i realise now after more and more research how problematic this question is.

speaking of one culture - goes against my beliefs
Using the word democratising - confuses people

I like that it is a question that is based on people's own opinions, confusion, experiences and understanding of the world and the words used.

then I have put together a program of physical spaces, visual experiences, oral experiences, interactive experiences, conversations and
discussions, presentations, meetings, lectures, food, performances, music, art, literature, physical activity, humor, etc etc etc I think i just started salivating - how funny!

Anyway what is amazing about this - is A) i get paid to do this as my job and B) i am able to bring my arts practice to my day job and C) I have tried to democratise my arts practice by having so many people have their input into my work, to take criticism, to share things, to let people's opinions be important to me, rather than think that somehow I hold all the answers as the producer, curator and facilitator.

Being engaged in other people's thinking and vision is important to me, as it is also important for my work to explore contemporary arts practices, social, cultural and other trends that I see around me and start to ask some questions about. I also think it is the nature of my work to turn up the heat on some questions or lines of enquiry and also to relax on other areas...

This has meant that I have done some preaching to the very staunchly not-converted and that has been hard and good for me simultaneously. It also means that when this baby gets placed in the raft and set off down the river (so to speak) I will in fact be letting 200 other artists tear my ideas apart, re-shape it in their own minds, tell me where I have gone well and where i went very wrong, challenge each other, pat each other on the backs, begin new conversations with new people and hopefully feel the confusion of learning and exploration kicking in.

I am not sure this is my best piece of work, but is a fully integrated moment across a broad range of my interests, skills and experiences. I hope the time with this little 2 and a half day process, in turn gives me some of your ways of thinking and i am not stuck down in the basement washing dishes but that I can also engage with people and see what you all think.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

some reflections from week 2

So Monday and Wednesday's is the undergraduate class and Tuesday all day us the master's class.
Also on monday night there is the Portland State University Masters of Fine Arts Monday Night Lecture Series, then there are a bunch of other meetings and things I can attend as part of the Master's experience.

Having the time and space to think about my own arts practice and new ideas I am having everyday is such a privilege and yet I think this is what I am supposed to be doing on a Fellowship. Again big thanks to Brisbane City Council.

So what is making me think this week.

Firstly Paul Ramirez Jonas was the guest at the lecture series and his work was amazing, great to listen to and very engaging ideas...

Paul got me thinking about "going with reality" when a project or an idea is not working go, with that is happening, stop resisting. This has been my learning also from practices such as Yoga and Midwifery. The concept is to stop pushing or pulling and just let go, breathe, let things flow, go with reality.

 I saw Harrell speak at PICA on sat about the People's Biennial and i was struck by his project which was documenting people's photos that they kept in their wallets. This is a dying art form, as now everyone has phones that show photos more easily. So I started asking myself about NOSTALGIA and what this means to my generation, or that of my collaborators and how cares, if we are yet to have a real sense of the past?

Today we went to a major gallery in town for a project the students have coming up later in the year and i was again totally surprised when the collection director said that he was worried that some of the students work might "embarrass" a painting. I feel like i know what this means in terms of not destroying a painting and I also understand that an art work could be presented in a way that reveals its integrity, but embarrassing it... I am still working on that idea.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

making sense of the city from the outskirts

These are all nature photos taken by me on short road trips around Portland. Sometimes you need to get out of the city - as suggested by Cindy the Korean Massage Therapist - to really understand what is happening in the city.

This photo is the image from the Goonies a childhood movie

Museum of Contemporary Craft images

These are images of the dividing wall coming down form the show Gestures of Resistance.

These two artists worked for two weeks building the exhibition base don instructions from one another. But only speaking through a tiny little hole in a wall. then at the end of each day, checked in to see how different their sides was. this is like the game called Chinese Whispers we play in Australia and in the USA they call it Telephone. This was the day they cut out the wall between the two pieces of work. Then over the next 5 months different artists come in and use the space to do different things. One artists will use a bicycle to power up a sewing machine, another will make queer posters for the town of portland.

The Peoples Biennial

Saturday, February 6, 2010

great exhbition

Friday, February 5, 2010

My first week at PSU

Well I have completed my first week of my  at Portland State University with the Undergraduate and MAsters students who are investigating Art and Social Practice, with Harrell Fletcher.

It has been a really interesting week. I have sat in on 3 classes, 2 X undergraduate and 1 X masters, also a public lecture series this week featured George Kuchar prolific video and film maker from Sam Fan.

I have written down a lot of notes and have myself lots of questions, and am saving some up to ask Harrell. But interestingly the undergad's are working with applied participatory research as their focus, with some set assignments and art groups they need to research and do a class presentation and the post-grads basically meet like a group of collaborators, do some admin, share their latest work with each other, do some physical activity - like play a game, and then work towards group showings.

Harrell has an interesting teaching technique he did say who his inspiration was, ill find a link and he is very knowledgeable. I am looking forward to being able to talk with him about his work and his process of making his work.

The students have been very generous and kind to me especially the masters and also friends of friends, who have graduated the program.

This work is making me realise that i do like intention in my process and outcomes and I do like to engage the people I am working with as the drivers, and sometimes I think this means explaining what I do is hard to do. Will keep working on this concept.

Also playing around with concepts of The Good Suburb and also the Boogieman in terms of my bigger project - if anyone has any good material on that stuff please email me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

kind generous Portland

I have only been here for a few days and was greeted by the best ever welcoming party - Heat and Colyn, great day of eating, cracking coconuts, cutting pineapples and adjusting.

This town is so friendly - evidence:
1. the cars stop for pedestrians everywhere
2. check out folks actually engage in meaningful conversation
3. I have been given a lift to university and met by my host to guide me back home
4. The classes im attending, take dance and mini leisure breaks during class, its part of the curriculum
5. people smile
6. the bus driver helped me totally get where i needed to go without having a map
7. waitresses make me laugh
8. I have really cracked up everyday
9. people love their town
10. they have student cafe's - all you can eat for $7.50

some interesting things a blog and service by one of the post-grad students Zach Springer also by the same student - a great project with first grade students the first trans female cheer leader a 3d model drawing program   Harlem Kids' Zone     radio program, lots of people love this and download different stories and segments depending what your interested in

Starting at Portland State Univeristy

So today is day two of my visiting PSU and the Masters of Fine Arts, Social Practice students and teachers.
So far I have attended an undergraduate class
A public lecture and film screening by George Kuchar
A post-grad class

I have also met a bunch of really interesting people including Harrell and Jen who run this course.

Ill be posting stuff up for those who are interested.

It is really good to be back in a thinking space, it feels very luxurious. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Border towns

I ventured down to the university art gallery today and found the Border Stories exhibition by Bruce Berman, his stuff can be found at

Lucky for me he is doing an artist talk in an hour so I will find my way down town.

El Paso has about 800,000 people living here and literally in the town next door Juarez has 1.5 million people but there is this a massive bridge, and fences and a river between the two. 

Here are some random shots of where I am. My Uncle and friend Jeff we went out to this great Italian and were enjoying the biggest dessert ever for $4, the desert from the air. Two little shops in the down town, that push up against the border and of course the cowboy at the Museum of Art.

Mary spoke to me

 I went into the Musuem of Art in El Paso yesterday and apart from the fact there was actually very little art in the two story building, i was struck by these painting os Mary, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, on tin, or another light metal. The card said Anonymous and in about the 19th century. 
The painting of a woman holding out what looks like a bed sheet with the image of Mary on it, is my favourite. Just ordinary Mary on a bed sheet. This was very popular because it had been painted about 5 different times over several centuries.

If anyone knows why this work is so important please let me know.

Mary is one of middle names and I always think paintings of her look somewhat angelic also somehow kind of devious.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

some strange southern way

wed 27 - 1- 2010 was about the longest day I have had in a long time.  From Brisbane where i boarded the very comfortable V Australia flight which made the distance in a record 12 hours to the 8 hour stop over in LAX to the bumpy flight to El Paso. This is the part where I visit some of my favorite people in the world, who also happen to be my relatives.

They have done the very brave thing of leave their previously loved community of Tyler, Texas and move to this intriguing desert / border town El Paso. I wonder where that church is from the Kill Bill movies?

Anyway I wanted to write about my amazing array of experiences in Los Angeles Airport, mind you there are 9 terminals t negotiate, its like a small city - so i imagine it is easy to have some great experiences.

First I should point out that I am always a little cautious when traveling in the Deep South, the people are super friendly and always very kind to me but I sometimes wonder if  this little thing called religion can in fact interrupt the possibilities of someone like me and someone else having an great interaction. Not because I have a problem with religion but because most religions have problems with people like me.

Anyway with that in mind who should be sitting next to me on the 12 hour plane ride but an evangelical preacher, a young man from Australia who travels Texas and other places preaching. Anyway in that very ozzie kind of way he turns out to be a great conversationalist and has some ideas about changing the world which i agree with  and I do appreciate people who have found a way to live the kind of life they want to, also he was a pretty opened minded kind of guy. Anyway as the conversation evolves into some of the questions I have also wanted to ask an evangelical preacher such as  - has ever met those people who handle snakes as a reflection of biblical verse and he says no, but he does stay with a guy who has a zebra shooting range in his front yard etc etc, we realise that he is in fact the brother in law of a very old friend of mine - what are the chances?

We arrive 2 hours early, I am exhausted and unable to check in for my next flight, however under the advice of a local LAX staff member i negotiate my way across about 6 lanes of traffic with my suite cases to find my way into a Deli - she told me "it will be cheaper than the airport food". Anyway i eventually find his and her toilet doors and a third door saying "yes we are open" so i back in with my trolley , hoping this is the "deli" to find a cafe full of airport staff. I am the only non staff member. Its weird, i think I am like baby from Dirt Dancing, but sans the water melon.  With the glances I am getting I can tell I have breached some unsaid rules about guests and staff.  Anyway I am greeted with more kind people concerned for my financial well being.

"if you buy it in the cup its cheaper and you can get refills"

"this water is $4 is that ok, cause I can get you another water for $3.80" 

I am beginning to wonder how hard the global financial crises hit the States.

Anyway a bit of food and some trashy cafe tv and I am off to negotiate south west airlines they do not book seats in stead they give you a standing position in a cue and when you board you choose your own seat - there were only 25 people on the plane so it was quite easy - but imagine the anarchy that could happen. The woman on the loud speaker was insane enough, here is a text example of her speaker announcements

" ok everyone, we only have twenty of ya going to el paso, so we gonna make you wait out here, and we will board around 1:10pm, so don't worry just rest and wait and ill tell you when to board" this was the professional voice over for this airline - should i be scared?

After all of this fun i stumble out of the airport to get some sun as I do have another 5 hours to fill up with something, when a woman accosts me out the front of the airport because she and I are wearing the same jumper. What is strange about this, is that I have my one and only ultra comfy jumper on, that i picked up either in the Perth or Kalgoorlie airport I can't remember, but it was back in march 2009,  i was heading to the desert and realised i needed a jumper, so i bought this red thing.

It was the only thing in the airport that was desert appropriate and its was an oversized Surf Life Saving Club logo-tised jumper, and on the rim of the hood, it says "swim between the flag".
It has been the brunt of many jokes, so you can imagine my surprise when someone from the other side of the world is wearing the same jumper and standing right in front of me.

It gets me wondering about people and clothes and the journey we take and what we wear when we are taking it - possible project idea wrapped up in this idea.

The longest day in my life ended with a quick tour to the mexican border town, and a chilli pasta dinner with my Aunt, Uncle and a visiting friend of theirs. The best part of this was when Jacob the visiting friend said a prayer prior to dinner and in some strange southern way closed the day for me.