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self-absorption is the new black

warning: some of this may not make sense 'cos i'm still workin' it out.

on monday night i went out to dinner with a friend to her cousin's place - we had a great time, chatting, etc and during the course of the night, one of the gals got out her camera and took some shots while we were talking. it didn't bother me in the slightest and i think in one of them we all posed - nothing spectacular.

but therein lies two interesting thing for me about being part of the image-ready generation and that of the self-absorbed.

what I have to see

i remember the days when taking photos were a big deal. you all posed or, if you were super shy, you disappeared. and they had to be set up well, everyone had to be looking their best - i remember my mum would always have lipstick handy whenever a photo was being taken, because it was a big deal.

and now it seems that our relationship with our image has changed. taking a photo is no longer a big deal - there isn't the expectation attached to it because, more often than not, we can screen and edit it to our liking. and we're used to seeing ourselves reflected back onto ourselves more often.

i now have an inordinate amount of control over how i think people should perceive me - i have a profile where people see pictures of me all the time! i am now a public person without trying too hard. and having that, i'm also constantly thinking about how i can change how people perceive me. and all of us are fare more visually literate than our grandparents. we observe things in images all the time, so do we now think of objects, situations, relationships in terms of their potential screen resolution and how they will be perceived in 1024 x 864 pixels through a firefox browser?

and then there’s what I have to say.

I love blogs. obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t bother having one - they require love and attention. and I use myspace. I have pics on there, I’ve been working up to having flickr for a while and am going to get myself a website. and all of these things require content, which is no big deal ‘cos I write regularly, document my work and am not afraid of taking photos of myself. but that’s I think my point.

I now live my life according to what I will present on my various forums. when I take a photo of myself, I wonder whether I will upload it to myspace and when I pose in someone else’s photo, I prepare for it being uploaded on the net somewhere.

I’m often thinking of my life in terms of which blog I can put it on and if I haven’t written for a few days, I start to wonder what people might think of me – not in any harsh paranoia kind of way, but I feel the need to please my audience now. I now have an audience.

the thing I find inordinately intriguing and would like to research it some more somewhere, somehow, is that my experience is, in fact, not that extraordinary for my generation or people who have a similar lifestyle to mine. we’re all extremely aware of how we look on screen, how we sound to others’ through our writing. we are self-conscious in terms of our presentation to others, seemingly without my consideration for that.

self-consciousness is good. it can encourage me to really listen to what is happening in my life, to pay attention, not just trudge through the existence. but how quickly does self-consciousness become self-absorption?

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mr and mrs smith

mr and mrs smith has such a nice ring to it, don't you think? that's good because i think i'm going to have to marry sam smith.
it's been decided.
not in any real way - hell, i'm sure he's a nice guy, but i don't know him from a bar of soap - but his artistic concept, craftmanship, technique and production is so hot that on an artistic level, i think i'm in love.

sam smith, video camera[hdw-f9000/3]
thanks to the grantpirrie website

so i went and checked out the sam smith show at grant pirrie yesterday morning, obviously.
plus i revisited the anne landa award at AGNSW to sit down and watch as much as i could of Monika Tichacek's The Shadowers, which Sam edited. (Not to mention his rockin' work on the Soda_Jerk stuff I already raved about on this blog a few months ago).

The grantpirrie show was amazing. The video work when you first walk in is too much to handle as an intro, but head into the main nave and the three wooden sculptures are instantly divine. I'm so into finely crafted wood at the moment it's ridiculous, but Sam's pieces are amazing. Made from ply (maybe even marine ply?), there was a huge video camera, dripping green-ness, a cathode tube (with an actual tv screen attached) and a miniature tv/film set with a surveillance camera attached. (Plus 2 video works on the walls and a relay screen - although i'm going to come back to them later). Even without the references to the video work in the rest of the show, these sculptures are amazing pieces of art, aesthetically beautiful and poignant in their displacement/realignment of accessible objects.

I know separating the two is not how the show should be reviewed, but i just had to have a bit of a drool over the craft first.

But it's the combination of the craft of the pieces and the exquisite sharpness of the video works that really make Sam Smith's show a killer. The seemingly opposite ends of the technological scale make for a balance that supports the theoretical investigations in his work. And those are beautiful as well. The video works really highlight the pervasiveness of video technology and analyse the idea of transportation through the video medium - superimposition, transformation through effects and image manipulation.

The fluoro green and blue of the green/blue-screen make a regular appearance as the signifier of Sam's ideas and he's managed to elevate it to an objective or system in its own right now, rather than just a handy technogical development. The green-screen is the epitome of how modern audiences are transformed through images, no longer through the canvas, welded steel or a nice piece of paper - it's all about being super-imposed.

And after playing with the 'set' of Film Still with its real time feed and what felt like a throwback to Fischli and Weiss sausages, having your perception challenged by disappearing doors, flying streets signs and rising rigs of the amazingly crisp and lusciousStreet Still; then drooling over the dribbling fluoro of Video Camera, then and only then, check out the blue-screen video work at the front, Gallery Split. Not only have you had time to absorb the rest of the shows look, feel and concepts which make sense in this work, but then the irony and tongue-in-cheek aspect of the work (apparently created 2 days before the opening) will become apparent.

The little fold-out catalogue of the show was equally impressive and i'm looking forward to reading the essay by Dan Angeloro when i've got a bit of time up my sleeve.

Monika Tichacek, The Shadowers
Thanks to artspace (sydney)

And just to give a quick glance to Sam Smith's other work that i checked out yesterday, Monika Tichacek's The Shadowers as part of the Anne Landa Award. I had seen most of the exhibition before, but because it was the award-winning work, you couldn't get in to see the work to save you on opening night. And despite it being at Artspace for a month, i hadn't seen it there either, having been too traumatised by the daily screams filtering up to our office. So finallly i had a chance to check out her amazing work.

Given the level of stylised, Matthew Barney-esque sex and violence i think i did pretty well - i'm very squeamish about that stuff, so being able to watch 25 of the 35 minute work is a record! The production and look of the work were amazing! Make up and costumes were fantastic and there was an all-star cast of helpers - Shaun Gladwell helped film, Sam Smith edited the work, performance artist Aña Wojak acted in it and Monika did a whole bunch of acting, filming, directing, make up, etc. If you haven't had a chance to see it, i can recommend it. And if you're a little fragile when it comes to the protrayal of sex and violence, maybe take a friend, or do it in two chunks.



seeing red [sim]

it's not often i vent about the problems with the world on this blog. i usually save that for the privacy of my blog on myspace (isn't that where everyone vents?). but, today, considering that the culprit, i thought it was fitting that i share it with you guys.

some of you may know that i have an interest in branding, marketing, promotion and how the trends in those areas fit into the structure of human communication. and if not, well, you do now.

and today's lesson is on telecommunications.

in australian telecommunications, vodafone were one of the pioneers of marketing their new product specifically to a younger audience: a market with more expendable income, who were tech savvy, didn't mind taking risks, and didn't want all the trimmings of a phone account. you all saw the ads - gorgeous girls with tattoos and that guy from wolfmother before they become the most annoying band on the planet - they did away with images of families and animals and took the pre-paid market by storm. and introduced a colour-based telco brand way better than telstra or optus ever did.

introducing the red sim.

the red sim is pitched to represent freedom (hence the youth pitch), flexibility and value for money. and in real terms, compared to the other 2 major mobile companies (i'm ignoring 3 and virgin for specific reasons - they're late bloomers), they're a lot cheaper for someone who doesn't want the committment of a contract, but still wants to keep in touch.

introducing lauren brown.

[and no, the colour thing didn't really sway me, but it sure justifies my rant on this blog.]

i decided that i was going to transfer my mobile from optus to vodaphone because i didn't want to be in a contract anymore, wanted to save some money before heading overseas and after weighing up options (and getting a little sick of the optus runaround), i decided to go with vodafone, knowing that i could transfer my number over and get a pretty basic pre-paid deal, keep in touch with friends and family before i left - keep it simple.

introducing case 498746: lauren vs vodafone and the red sim.

i bought my red sim on monday. it is now thursday and still not ported over (which i know is a very simple process, as i've done it a few times in the 10 years i've had a mobile for). but according to the 15 (YES 15!!) different people i've spoken to since monday, it should be connected in an hour, there have been problems, it should be connected by the end of the day, there have been problems, i don't know what you're talking about, it should be connected within 3 hours, it should be connected within 24 hours and finally,'i'll text you when it's done. BUT IT'S STILL NOT CONNECTED!

for as long as i can remember, customer service has largely been based on 'the customer is always right' and the idea that having good customer service is vital to keeping customers, business, reputation, etc. and then there's that whole addage about a happy customer will tell 3 friends, an unhappy customer, 10.
considering i get a few hits on this blog per day, there's a particular communications company that are probably wishing they taught their staff a few communications skills.

the thing is, that no matter how much technology changes, what trends rise and fall in marketing and the level of value we expect from products, consumers still expect to be treated like people when they're in trouble and that includes making us feel like we're being taken care of - not shunted between people and having to ring up a hundred times. i'm not of the generation that expects silver service for all my capitalist needs - hell, i'm quite self-sufficient. But no matter how big, tech-savvy, gen XYZ focused your company is, keeping the customer happy with a quality product is still the bottom line.

now, vodafone, from one red brand to another - connect my goddamn phone!



subjectivity is the new black

after a bit of discussion across the blogs over the last couple of days, i think it's time i put my foot down and made my position clear, only to undermine myself at the next turn-off. a while back we (that is, Skanky Jane and I) discussed the question of objectivity vs subjectivity in blogs, especially after the forum at tina at which the art life spoke.

after some umming and ah-ing (or is that arring) here is the official she sees red on 'to i or not to i':

i'm sticking with the i.

it may be garishly unfashionable. it may expose my absolute lack of decorum, knowledge, talent or discipline. it may throw me back in with the rest of the subjective bloggers, whinging and whining about their boyfriend dumping them, instead of raising me to the level of über critic. but dammit, she sees red is all about the anti-critic. there are centuries-worth of overly objective art writing and debate and plenty of libraries filled with the fantastic stuff and an amazon catalogue full of it. this blog has never been about the well-spelled, grammatically correct, culturally refined, meticulously accurate art criticism. and it's bloody well going to stay that way.

as ampersand duck said, subjectivity is the new black (or red, as the case may be).


public protection

has anyone else noticed that Brett Whitely's Matches outside Agnes Wales have had some 'work' done?

shit photo of the matches, protected by a blue tarpaulin, unprotected by copyright. taken by my crappy camera phone as a test for moblogging, which doesn't work for me yet

here are my speculations for why the 'used' match looks the way it does:
1. it's been wrapped by a very cheeky artist so that the match looks like a dick wrapped in painful 'protection' of sorts, to draw attention to safe sex.
2. it's been wrapped by the sydney festival as a shithouse way to include the work in the festival as a way to appease visual artists who have been ripped off by a shit program this year.
3. it's been wrapped by council types to avoid further damage from something or other, in the interest of 'public safety'.
4. it's been wrapped by a cheeky artist-type to draw attention to public art and the purpose it serves in our day-to-day living.

to protect and to serve



clearing out the studio

OK, so regular readers will probably be up on the gossip that i'm moving back to melbourne and heading to the UK for a 6-month jaunt, both within in the next couple of months. With such a big move comes the inevitable clean up. And the inevitable throw out. And the inevitable nostalgia and the inevitable hayfever.

What i didn't really prepare for was how hard it is to clean out your studio! I mean before this house (where my studio is in my garage), i've never really had a studio that wasn't at uni. Rooms full of stuff and a whole bunch of stuff on my computer, yes. But no actually separate room, with workspace and power tools and a dodgy CD player, etc.

And cleaning it up has been tough. I've had to be as ruthless with the stuff in there as i have been in the rest of the house and it's like pulling fucking teeth. One of my rights as an artist is to keep shit that is good for nothing else, but the potential to be part of an artwork, one day. Yeah, right.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, i think i've grown up in the last couple of year and my practice has started to refine. Refine? Maybe more like 'become less random' and that means that i don't really have the excuse of collecting random shit. I know what i need with my artworks now and it's actually a pretty limited amount of things. And these days, it's usually the stuff that i've already used up anyway.

So there's been a bit of a killing spree in the studio. Thankfully i'm having a garage sale and will be able to offload lots of old paper and materials, stretchers, etc to friends (jade? are you prepared?) so it's not quite as traumatic as it could be. but it still hurts.

Another hard lesson I've learnt has been about actually having a studio. Living in Wollongong, my house has a garage, so i put my studio there. Plus, there aren't that many artists' studios kicking around down here. But, being in a garage, it's also really fucking dusty so i've learned a valuable lesson about having a garage studio - don't have one. In my next life (ie, when i get back to melbourne), i'm going to graduate to the land of the real artist and actually have a studio that doesn't accumulate a layer of crap within 24 hours (aided by the proximity to the steelworks). And i'm going to have one with a bunch of other artists too. Being within spitting distance of the house has been great, i can go out there from 10pm until 2am, or at 6am in the morning and it hasn't been too much of a chore, but i've kind of lost out on that sense of inclusion that comes with sharing a studio.

So, farewell trusty garage studio of wollongong, here's to greener pastures.



tate.. ah, tate

While in melbourne, i had intended to buy the current issue of frieze, but couldn't, for the life of me, find it anywhere! not even in mag nation! so instead, i indulged in buying a UK art mag i had never seen before, but noticed it had some really interesting articles.

Tate, Etc, apart from being an art mag with the worst title ever, is a surprisingly good read. it's got a nice mix of pretty pictures and the articles are fucking great! they're not so heavy that you get lockjaw from chewing through them, but not so light on that you might as well have bought who?, hello! or OK!.

Some of the higlights for me have been the articles written by external writers, artists, musicians, scientists, etc about their experience of works in the Tate Collection called MicroTate. Plus, there are also 4 different perspectives on works by a master - this time it was Hans Holbein the Younger, with Chuck Close, writing about Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Other top articles included one on erasure and the various ways in which the erased, absence or censored is treated in contemporary art. Writer Brian Dillon looked at a survey of artists, from Aleksander Rodchenko and his blacking out of executed leaders of Communist Party from photographs, to Idris Khan's overlaid images of the Koran and Chopin's works creating a superimposed nothingness. He also referenced Ignasi Abalif's correction fluid works, Correction and Big Mistake as well as Michael Gondry's film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as works about what's underneath the apparent erasure. And this of course lead to an article on Robert Rauschenberg's Erased de Koonig Drawing as an amazing performance of erasure. Two articles on the same topic, from different perspectives! Amazing!

David Smith has 3 articles dedicated to him and his work - two of which were written by his daughters. This was related to an exhibition being held at the Tate, but instead of it feeling like an outright plug, they use the mag to further investigate some of the ideas, to present different aspects of the artist and his work, and delved a little deeper than the media release.

Fischli and Weiss get a look-in, as do the Chapman Brothers' treatment of Goya - and whose exhibition will still be there when i get there in May - yess!!

Plus there was a freakily synchronious article by Will Self on the art of fiction. Self looks at how artists are portrayed in fiction, which i always find interesting because i actually read fiction too - not just art mags! and not only does he mention Dorian Gray (the book i've almost finished thanks to leaving it at home before i went on holidays), but refers to JG Ballard, who i've now heard mentioned at least 3 times by different people and have decided to check him out. The interesting aspect that that article (apart from said synchronicity) was his thoughts on having to be somewhat 'in the know' when reading about art/artists in books and the mistake of writing about artists as a character of art, rather than a character. OK, so it's hard to condense, and i'm not so articulate when it comes to reviewing articles, but it's a worthy read, OK.

Other big surprise was that there are a few ads in the mag, but they don't take up pages 1 - 69 and 80 - 153 (unlike frieze), and it's a variety of commercial and non-profit ads, plus the usual subscription boost for Tate.

I get the sense from reading this mage that these brits actually engage with their public art galleries and the collections within. And that the public art galleries expect a certain level of interest from them in return. There was no hint of patronising or populist exhibitions in the way that some of the galleries in Australia do.(If getting a bunch of people that aren't writers to write about art is populist, well, i can deal with that.) There's even an article about a writer getting to check out the Tate archives and channeling Paul Nash through his paintbox!

Man, if Agnes Wales let me at some of their archives, i could write pages!



shows she didn't see in melbourne

Apart from that quick foray into the halls of the NGV, I got to see hardly any shows while i was in melbourne! So instead of having a private whinge about it, I thought i would celebrate it. In the spirit of anti-criticism (which i secretly think is what she sees red is really about), here's my list of shows..

Howard Arkley at NGV

Howard Arkley is actually a really intriguing artist to me. I'm not into decorative arts much, but i dig his stuff. I'm not really into the glorification of suburbia, but his painting of the 'burbs rock my socks. His early minimalism, i've been told, i will love.

So why didn't I go? Cost too much, the NGV are being stubborn about giving discounts to NAVA members and i ran out of time.


Both times I went to see shows in Melbourne, I've been to ACCA. They also have catalogues of those last two shows that i wanted to buy and a kick-arse installation by Mike Nelson I would have loved to see.

So why didn't I go? South Melbourne wasn't within walking distance and i ran out of time and money.

Eyes, Lies and Illusions at ACMI

I've already seen this, but wanted to dedicate some serious poring time so that i could totally lose myself in the wonderful displays and artworks.

So why didn't I go? Time, money. Did i mention that i ran out of time and money? Hmm.. i'm seeing a theme here.

Tezuka: Marvel of Manga at NGV
Ho hum. I kinda like manga, but not enough to pay cash for.

ARIs or commercial gallery shows
Well, they're all shut aren't they!!


Photography on both sides of Swanston St

So much for being the intrepid reporter this holiday season.. what started off as good intentions to write regularly, quickly decended into a severe case of icouldntbefucked within about an hour of hitting melbourne city (as opposed to the space, expanse and leisurely pace of my folks' place in the country).

i did, however, dedicate about two whole hours to checking out both NGVs - International and Ian Potter Centre. Although, instead of the intensely thoughtful and mind-altering experience i had in Brisbane, i decided to just go the scenic route and scooted through the exhibitions at a fairly decent pace, even managing to not read wall text or go to the paying exhibitions.

NGV International
Sneakers: Classic to Custom and After Image: Social Documentary Photography in the 20th Century.

I've always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes, so both of these shows were an exercise in commentary for me!

sneakers, pimp
thanks to the NGV website

Sneakers was held in the fashion/textiles section of NGV International, like a museum display, with appropriate cataloguing and everything! Hundreds of sneakers were displayed on plinths and ranged from early canvas Chuck Taylors, probably made by well-paid American workers then to plastic-coated shiny silver Nike Airs, continuing to be made by underpaid Asian sweatshop workers. sadly, it wasn't quite as good as it could have been. sneakerpimps have been doing shows about sneakers for years, and i think their take on the cultural impact of the humble runner is far more engaging and savvy, but for something like this to feature at the NGV, i guess it's not too bad. if you're way more into the sneaker way of life than i am, sneaker freaker is probably right up your alley - they recently transformed mag nation into a condensed ghetto for all the hanging sneakers!

Robert Capa, Death of a Soldier
thanks to the NGV website

After Image was a surprise gem for me. As a photo major, all the godfathers of photographic history were there and i was able to see the originals of some fucking amazing works, some important works and even some works that i based a really crappy appropriation project on! ha!
All the big guns were there: Robert Capa, Weegee, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans - PhotoHistory101. I didn't really feel like making love to the works, so didn't stay long, but have still been recommending it to all and sundry since.

Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia
Light Sensitive: Contemporary Australian Photography from the Loti Smorgon Fund

So after the history lesson, i wandered across the road to Ian Potter to check out Light Sensitive. From the 20th Century to the 21st in one easy move!

Featuring a great range of current photographers from the NGV collection, this show was solid and satisfying - props to Isobel Crombie. The who's who of current photographic practice was there and it actually restored my faith in Australian photography, given the boring crap i've been seeing lately. According to the wall text, media releases and the NGV website, "Light Sensitive comprises five themes and ranges from the 'uncanny' which includes evocative camera-less images called 'photograms' and surrealist-inspired images; 'new portraiture' which takes a time-honoured subject into fresh creative areas; a distinctive examination of physically (but not psychically) vacant spaces; documentary work that considers reality in provocative ways; and photographs that explore the complex nature of social groupings in our modern world."

Petrina Hicks, Lauren 2003
thanks to the NGV website

Trad processes like cyanotypes and photograms ("evocative camera-less images") were represented by Sue Pedley and Anne Ferran as well as a really large panoramic photogram by an artist who i can't remember but it would have been done on a drum enlarger - old school as!! "Documentary work and [those] that explore the complex nature of social groupings" included work by Brook Andrew, Darren Sylvester and Darren Siewes, although i felt like Darren Sylvester was under-represented and his artists' statement sounded like it was written by the girls in the photo, rather than an articulate and sophisticated artist. But then again, i hate artists' statements, so i may be biased.

Scott Redford's Urinals were a surprise inclusion, but i guess you could think of them as 'vacant spaces'... Other notables to get a guernsey included Pat Brassington, Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Cherine Fahd, Selina Ou and although i loved Paul Knight's panoramic shot of the titty bar, i would have loved to see his most recent Samstag-winning work in there - the ol' ducks would have loved it!

I took my mum to see the exhibition a second time and really enjoyed the chance to get to the back section (especially the dramatically lit empty domestic spaces) and soak in the Lauren work by Petrina Hicks, which is the image of the show and the cover of the catalogue. I love that image, which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that it's from the Lauren series of work. Although the show was based on works from the Smorgon fund, I was surprised that there weren't more works in the exhibition by Petrina Hicks, as I think she's really taken contemporary portraiture and photography to a new level - extending it beyond the Thomas Ruff/Thomas Struth style photography and subverting the Bill Henson neo-gothic photography into its own creepy lightness.

And speaking of the catalogue, i didn't get a chance to buy it (saving for trip to london still - tattslotto failed me again), but it's a fucking gem. Exactly what you want from a catalogue. Or what I want from a catalogue: Big glossy pics, nice paper, all the images from the show, essay at the front that doesn't take up half the book and an affordable price: $30!!

What more does a girl need from her catalogue?!