wow!! I don't want to sound like an idiot, but BOY that was fun!
a slight change of plans saw Jade Pegler, Shivaun Weybury (that's Dr Shivaun Weybury to you) and I jump in the car on Saturday evening and head up to Newcastle for the This Is Not Art festival a little earlier than planned. Turned out to be a blessing and a curse at the same time. Not being able to speed on the highway thanks to double demerit points, i had to chug along at the 90kms my red provisional licence allows me, so we didn't rock into town until 10pm. Which is fine when you're crashing on a couch. Not so fun when you have to pitch a tent in the dark. It was hilarious!
Tent City had officially closed for the night, but thanks to Pat from SC Trash's instructions, I won over the security guard at the gate. And thank fuck for that, 'cos he practically did all the work pitching our tent, while we followed his lead and did our best to not look like the city slicker chicks we are!
After finally getting our tent sorted and putting on a bit of lippy to make ourselves look a little less crumpled after close to 5 hours on the road, we headed back into town to the Festival Club.
As the hub of the festival, the place was pumping! Dance music happening, people spilling out onto the streets, others (mostly my friends) flaunting the 'Alcohol Free Zone' by drinking longnecks (or tallies for you northerners) on the street, people just milling - it was great! A nice way to ease into festival mode.
And then we had to sleep in the tent. Having been ages since i'd slept in a tent, i forgot how fucking uncomfortable they are, and that those blue roll mat things are actually quite useless in preventing the hardness of the ground from distorting your internal organs and re-aligning your back. Jerkoffs threw bottles at our tent and I was freezing most of the night.Thankfully i had earplugs, otherwise it might have been even worse! Although i'm not quite sure how.
Tracey Emin, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With
Nothing at all like our tent
So, after about 4 hours disrupted sleep, i woke up as it started to get light-ish. time on my mobile? 5:45am. Great. Thankfully Tent City (in Sportsground 1) had the best showers in the world, complimented by free soap from Lush. So i dragged myself in there and wasted a ridiculous amount of water, coaxing my body and mind out of a state of shock and back into something resembling a human form. Then as the sun was starting to shine, i lay down on the grandstand bleachers for the best sleep of my life, even if it was only for an hour!
Once everyone else was ejected from their tents by the temperature of 7am sunlight, we all trouped off to Darby St to find a cafe for breakfast. Thanks to the TINA map, we found one that had great coffee and wicked toast.
And I haven't even got to the festival yet! OK, I'll hurry up..
People Not Looking at Art in Newcastle
I'd already had an idea of what i wanted to see, so it made it kind of easy, but after having fuck all sleep and knowing that i had to drive back to Wollongong that night, i knew i had to make a few sacrifices, so here's what i did go to:
Art Writing Art
This was a panel discussion facilitated by Jeff Khan featuring Lily Hibberd, of un magazine notoriety and The Art Life of the artlife blog notoriety and it was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
There were all kinds of interesting factors in it for me. Lily Hibberd is a gorgeous character and her story was one that, for me, related as much to the whole ARI (artist-run-initiative) experience for me as the whole writing thing. She doesn't think of herself as a writer, despite writing a lot, and wanted to actually set un up as an experience for artists who write and an outlet for alternative viewpoints to art criticism. I miss un. I can't wait for it to come back and it was great to hear about the possiblities for the future for that outlet. she seemed to really stress the point of constantly evolving to avoid becoming stagnant and while this will keep un exciting, i'm also worried that it will evolve itself out of the consistency that art publication needs in order to be valuable to a wide range of people.
One important thing that Lily raised for me was the idea of writing by artists being as much an artist pursuit as creating art. I'm sure that writers may have a problem with this, and i had visions of bad art-based writing reflecting the spiritual/feeling-based abstraction that i bloody hate, but i guess at the top level, good artists writing well about other art and critical ideas is really fucking important. in the same way that a good book by a rad musician is just as mind-blowing as a classic literature piece by the masters.
The Art Life also discussed the need to provide an alternative to the mainstream of art critics and talked about the work that they put into it, the opportunities that have come from it and the importance of anonymity and more importantly, the second person pronoun as an important difference in art discourse. Listening to The Art Life's story, i ended up feeling like yet another blogger who writes in the first person and who is doing the same thing as everyone else. It wasn't his fault and i could totally see his point.
Apparently blogs are old. Which is kinda cool, 'cos i'm not so great at being a trendsetter. But between TAL and Lily, I did have to ask myself about this blog. What is it for me and what do i want it to become? Initially, probably like a lot of people, i started it to promote my artwork, personalise my practice, give myself a web-based presence withouth having to navigate hosting, web domains, the cost of both of those things and flash. It has since kind of grown for me to become something more. With regular critical musings and reviews on here, have i become a writer? And if so, should i treat myself more like one? Should i be a little more focused and specific about what i write about? Should i stop using the letter "i"?
Who knows, but it has been great to think about. There were some interesting questions asked, some great discussions started outside the rooms and Shivaun, Jade and I kept referring to it long after the session had finished.
zine fair 3 year ago, you get the drift
The Zine Fair.
After the panel, it was really quite close to lunchtime, we were all exhausted and it was getting very warm outside. While waiting to rendevouz with our other mates, we wandered around the zine fair. There was such a wide variety of stuff, that i didn't even get down one aisle before i'd spent more money than i had planned to and had to back away slowly. it seems i wasn't the only one, i saw Glenn Barkley walking away with a stack of zines and books about half a metre high! The only downer to the fair was the god-awful sound coming from the stage. This Is Not Music! It probably highlights my prejudices, but when i'm wandering around a fair full of interesting text and objects, i just want some music i can appreciate and ignore. Not very PC, but hey - it's what i want. I don't want to have to wince.
After the zine fair, we tried to find some food. We found out that the Hare Krshna place that used to be on Hunter St isn't there anymore so we circled the city, again, and ended up back on Darby St, scoffing down some wicked North Indian tucker. Yum. And then of course, back to Tent City for a nap. Talk about a bunch of nannas - it was ace!
By the time we packed our tents down and had some sleep, it was about 5:30 so we headed back into town for the night time festivities. We wandered around for a while, trying to figure out what time sound check was, who was where and who wanted food and finally decided to descend on The Haven. Apparently world-famous chip shop, but i was stuffed, had a headache and wasn't that impressed with the chips and gravy. Gundagai and the Oxford Tavern in Wollongong do it better Newcastle, hate to break it to you.
We popped into new!shop before it closed to check out the interactive performance/installation. I'm not a huge audience participator. In fact the rebel in me gets triggered really easily in that stuff and i can become quite stubborn. So i just browsed and checked it out - didn't scan stuff or take a free sample of raw onion. I'm sure it was all part of the experience, but i hate that shit in real life, not to mention my art. I could have scanned some objects in, got my fortune, scored a badge, etc, but I really wasn't that into becoming part of the experiment. I know that i'm a consumerist. I know all too well how the whole shopping experience works, i wanted to critique it, not participate. and it's possible i was miss cranky pants with a headache at the time. i did, however, really enjoy the bottles of something with the labels:
my memory is
the same as before
not as good as i'd like it
much much worse
i can't remember anything and it scares me
i feel scared and vulnerable
all the time
or something along those lines. They kind of reminded me of the Radiohead track Fitter Happier on OK Computer with their reference to humanity's inherent vulnerability.
Despite my reaction to participating in the experience, i did find it an amazing piece and a really vital experience to be happening. It was perfect for the TINA festival in its combination of slick and DIY appearance.
Pixel Pirate II: Attack of the Astro Elvis Video Clone.
Screening at the Playhouse Theatrette, it was the second screening of Soda_Jerk and Sam Smith's mega sample feature. After loving Soda_Jerk's Speed flick at MAF06, i was looking forward to seeing their major opus. I was also prepared to be challenged because the film attacks the restrictive elements of Copyright law, especially in relation to sampling. I'm a huge fan of copyright law as an idea, so i'm glad i went in with an open mind and was able to chat with the gals afterwards.
The film was amazing, hilarious, well-crafted and poignant all at the same time. I thought all the mash-up stuff would give me the pips, but not in the slightest! It was quite interesting to notice, while laughing my ass off, who else was laughing with me. At times, different members of the audience were laughing or reminiscing at different times, depending on the splice of film that they were watching. It was a fantastic piece on identifiers as well. Often the audience would identify a film or audio piece from the smallest sample. Like a hook in a pop song, it was interesting to see what were the key identifiers in a film or soundtrack.
Having absorbed a lot of visual and cerebral info, it was time to boogie down. As part of the Lake Cowal benefit, SC Trash were playing, so we headed into the very sweaty Festival Club and let it rip. What better way to end a day of intellectual pursuit than some good ol' fashioned political cuntry rock. And no, that's not a typo. I danced my ass of for about an hour, then we piled in the car for a very long trip home.
Next time, i'm not going to try driving from one bookend to another at 11:30pm. Next time, i'm going to bring a mattress to sleep on, or maybe even stay in a motel/hotel. Next time, i'm going to bring lots more money to spend. Next time, i'm going to plan less and next time, i'm going to stay a little longer.
And just to add a note of seriousness to the whole shebang, i think that TINA does what other festivals don't do - they actually engage the public. There is space at TINA for the literati and the magazine readers, the high-art conceptualists and the 'i don't know much about art, but i know what i like' set and for the serious musician and that guy up on stage that i wanted to throttle. All of this while being neither elitist nor patronisingly populist. This in itself is a difficult task and somehow TINA have managed to balance it, thankfully. I appreciate the irony of such a festival being held in a regional centre. In fact there is no way that such a well-oiled machine could operate in Sydney. Maybe Melbourne - i haven't been to Next Wave yet, and i'm sure it's that kind of festival, but the sweety dahlinks of Sydney couldn't cope with the fraternity of a festival like TINA. So, thankfully for Newcastle, they can.
I just wish there was something similarly vibrant and exciting in Wollongong.
PS. bilateral's flickr pics of newcastle are much better than mine!