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it's official

So, regular readers of this blog will know that I went to Interesting in London this year. I had a ball because it was a fantastic conference featuring a huge range of topics, styles and information on anything that was interesting. It was like the real-time, real-life equivalent of a combination of a library, speed-dating and bloglines and I got to meet up with a whole bunch of bloggery, twittery, interesting types.

Now, the southern hemisphere will be hosting its own version, called Interesting South, held at the Bondi Pavillion Theatre on the 22nd November.

And, I'll be speaking at it.

Eep! I'm shit-scared and excited. All at the same time.

Excited 'cos i'm sharing the stage with some awesome peeps, including Dan Hill from City of Sound and Gavin Heaton - Servant of Chaos and Age of Conversation guy and Pia van Gelder, Dork-bot Sydney Overlord. Shit scared 'cos i'm sharing the stage with some awesome peeps.

Although part of me wants the theatre to be completely empty, I'm still going to encourage you to come along. Seriously, there are some amazing people speaking about some cool shit and if it's anything at all like the London shindig, it will be a great day!

And obviously, go to the website to check out more info.

I'm also going to be helping Emily and the Sydney Coffee morning kids out by doing some backdrop/set design stuff, so when i get some images of what i'm doing, i'll post them on here.

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good for a chuckle

not only am i just posting stupid screen captures, links to others' writing and links to other blogs, but now i'm just uploading pics that are doing the viral rounds at the moment! why you bother reading this rubbish blog, i'll never know...

however, these are just too funny to let them pass and i promise i'll write something proper soon.

they do actually relate to study i want to do about the way people interact with their city and for me are an indication of a sense of ownership and (ir)reverence about the place. the modern version of rock paintings, perhaps? but mostly they're just bloody hilarious.

i got sent them on email, so there's no photo/artist credit here, so if i'm contravening your moral/copy rights, sorry.

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looking for new stuff

with all this business of big life changes, it's getting to that time when i take stock, assess and ponder. and go through my browser bookmarks and kill off the old, stale blog link and begin searching for new juicy bits and pieces to check out instead.you'd think i had enough shit to read with all the blogs n stuff i read anyway, but i'm thinking of it as a process of 'refining' and 'redeveloping'.

or maybe i'm just bored and have too much time on my hands.

nonetheless, some i've seen so far that have tickled my fancy include:

bubble wrap: trust me, it's awesome and soooo addictive
hot cross haiku: for when you really need to get a haiku out of your system
the superest: the coolest game thang (thanks to angus) and the site that they hopped it from, TinkerX
postsecret: i know it's not new, but i'm just getting into it again, especially with the one about the secret sperm deal between celebrity and the rich woman.
blackbeltjones: for some reason, it took me a really long time to find matt's blog - even though i loved his presentation at Interesting.

and i'm [stupidly] still looking for more blogs to read. ones about books, art, crafty/making stuff, design, architecture, rekkids and writing - if anyone knows of any that they can't believe i haven't seen yet, feel free to rave about it in the comments section. i know that i should probably use delicious tags to do this, but i'm going be a luddyte and use the old school 'word of mouth' method first. ah well.

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the day job thing.

i wanted to write something about the arduous task of looking for the perfect day job to compliment an arts practice. and then today, there is a great article in artshub about this quandry, written a lot better than i could ever do, so you should read that instead.

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facebook oracle?

This was the harsh reality of facebook this afternoon...



you mean i should probably talk about art?

sometimes i like to call myself an artist. but you wouldn't know that from the random stuff that i've been posting about lately. so i thought, in the spirit of getting back to basics, i might post about some shows i've seen. how's that for a novel idea?

Louise Bourgeois
Tate Modern

I always stumble over the spelling of Bourgeois. I put a 'u' in where it's not wanted and an extra 'e' sometimes. And not enough 'o's - it's all just wrong. And even when i spell it right, i still looks wrong. But then again, in some way, it endears me to her name. In the same way that her uncomfortable images and the squishy, squelchy, fuck corporeality of her sculptures endears me to her as an artist. [see what i did there?]

I went to see the latest survey of her work at the Tate Modern on one of the last days I was in London and I'm so glad I had the chance to do so. Feltbug treated me to a day as her members' guest - including scruptious brunch in the lounge with the amazing views on the 6th floor.

I'm only a recent fan of Bourgeois' work. I'd only ever seen a few bits and pieces - documentation of a few of her cells and the black Cumul piece - and and to be perfectly honest, i wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was about. It wasn't until my friend and co-curator, Moira Kirkwood, suggested practically ordered me to check out her works, especially the Red Rooms, that I came to love this french artist.

The early works of hers I love the most are actually her drawings - they show a conscientiousness and a committment to thinking and process that I admire and respect. The point at which her sculptures really spark my heart are just before she gave birth to Louis, her first child. You begin to see the motifs she uses in her later work and the work takes on a more mature, yet grittier feel.

And from then on, she just rocks. Even when her style or materials take a wide swing, you can still feel that it's on the same path. Works like her Janus, which look like two ends of a penis joined together under a collar, are still clearly part of the same process as the large doorframe installations that are the Red Rooms. She continues to use curves and sex and emptiness right the way through her career and it's this return to these themes, again and again, which give her work a solidity and presence.

Favourite works of mine includeEnd of Softness, a bubbly, jubbly, wobbly work in bronze with a gold patina; the Janus Fleuri from 1968, the white version of the Cumul I and the Passage Dangereux from 1997, one of her first 'cells' and the first one which I had seen and understood its power and relationship to her investigation into psychoanalysis. In fact it looked like a sculptural representation of surrealist work by Tristian Tzara or Frida Kahlo.

After her mother's early death, critical writing of her works always mention the huge influence that her philandering father had on her work and the rage that she had for him. However, it became extremely obvious to me that, in fact, the greatest influence on her work may actually be her child and the act of being a mother. The taboo nature of the body is replaced with a detached pragmatism and unconditional love of the icky bits of the body and the mind.

There was only one thing that annoyed me about the show and that was a piece of wall text that said "fabric has no structure". To which my only possible response was "bullshit". It confirmed what I always thought about wall-text, in that it often has undue influence over the viewer. However, that, my friends, is for another time.

The cabinet of curiosities in the final room of the show is fantastic and nicely concludes the show - like a well written final paragraph. It includes small works from right throughout her career, plus more of her drawings and domestic works and the video documentary outside in the cafeteria was so insightful and lovely, i'll have to find it for myself and watch it all the way through.

Apart from her amazing work, one of the major reasons I loved going to see this show was to have my life as a female artist validated. Louise is still alive at 96, still making work, is still inspiring and her career only really took off in her late 40s. Longevity counts and this show is a testament to that. What a great role model to look up to.

all images pinched from the Tate Modern website. check it out for the room by room walk through of the show



homeward bound and stuck in a stasis

Château de Chenonceau O M e
nicked from here

It's quite strange being home. Or should I say, it's quite strange being almost home.
Home, for me, is a sense, a feeling, rather than a place. A person can feel like home, a smell, a piece of clothing, a website - god forbid. And of course, a place.

And while i feel the most at home than I've felt in the last 6 months, I'm still a little bit out there. I'm living with my folks, who are fantastic, I've got a whole exciting life to start again and if I'm honest, the whole blank canvas-ness of it all is a little daunting. And, add that to the mix, I'm missing some really strange things from my time overseas (otherwise known as my friends.. ha!).

When i first arrived in London, it took me bloody ages to get used to standing on the right of the escalators. I've never stood to the right for anything! Now, I get to go back to what is supposed to be comfortable and it just feels weird. Not to mention they're so slow here, especially compared to Oxford Circus at 7pm!

I'm missing the silence that comes from being in a country in which you don't speak the native language. When i was in Europe I spent a lot of time thinking, listening and focusing on my own stuff. Now that i'm back and emersed in my native language, and even an accent i'm familiar with, i feel somewhat exposed and 'on'. Like I don't take the time to think, ponder or float anymore. I miss it.

And obviously, I miss the people who I became close to and spent time with. I'm laughing at in jokes when I'm the only one in on it, and i can't even ring them and go... 'Oi duneven loik ya!', or 'Fancy fancy club' (see, they're stupid if you don't get 'em).

The other day I realised that in missing home, I also developed selective memory. I forgot how shit public transport is outside the 8 streets of the Melbourne CBD, thanks to the privatisation of the public transport system by Jeff a few years ago - I had a rude awakening when I missed a bus and had to wait 2 hours for the next one, two days in a row. And I'm also being reintroduced to the particular brand of Aussie bogan that I had wiped from my memory. I know that England had 'em and I'm sure all the countries I visited in Europe have their versions too, but for 6 months I haven't had to deal with them and I've got a cringe factor happening right now.

However, the things I am enjoying (and looking forward to) are being back with my family, seeing my best friend again (and living in the same state as them for the first time since I was 17!). Melbourne city still does rock and I'm enjoying discovering little places that I never had the chance to in the past - like the french galette/creperie in Scott Arcade, or rememembering how good mag nation is (Oehmchen, I'm sending you sneaker freaker!)

And I'm looking forward to re-discovering Fitzroy, South Melbourne, North Melbourne and St Kilda as an adult. I've got a list of 5 good places to get espresso and I plan on getting to the markets on a regular basis to get my fill of singing italian provedori. Plus I get to look for a place to live wherever the fuck I want (funds permitting, and all that)! I don't think I've ever felt this way about a place (or my life) before and it is exciting and extremely fucking odd, all at once.

And despite being terrified by the world of career possibilities, I'm looking forward to where it will all take me. I've got the possibility to take up some crazy opportunities that I never would have thought possible and I get to make some really great decisions about where my artwork and my regular employment work will take me. I've currently got my eggs in all kinds of baskets and waiting to see which one cracks first.

I do have to figure out what it is I really want soon (what a fun game that is!), but for now, I think I'm almost enjoying being a little open to the wind and a little indecisive. You know, kind of getting into pondering the big questions like 'should I get a "get-me-through-the-week" job and focus on my art career?' or 'should i completely change careers and go into an industry that i want to make a difference in' or the big ones 'am i good at what I want to do', or 'am i good at what I do?'.

Fun, hey!


when appropriation becomes stealing

otherwise known as: one of the reasons i'm not a creative director in advertising.

there has been a lot of discussion online recently about the new ad by a well-known english advertising agency, for a large asian global electronics company and i'm going to add my two cents worth. just because, you know, i'm bored.

actually, i decided to write about it today because i met the two artists whose work it's "heavily borrowed" from whilst they were slaving away installing their own gallery show. i asked them whether permission was granted to use their motif and concept of coloured bunnies escaping in a de-saturated city, in such an obvious way. unsurprisingly, the answer was no.

the thing is, this isn't the first time that advertising has 'borrowed' ideas, motifs, designs and concepts from visual artists for the purpose of brand recognition or communication and i have to say it's an area that i'm passionate and biased about. in fact, if you're looking for an impartial viewpoint on it, i suggest you read something like campaign.. creative review... horse and hound.

i've always been interested in advertising. my uncle worked on production for tvcs when i was a kid, my mum and i always used to discuss well made ads when i was growing up, i did essays on the dangers of advertising's power in high school, and now i spend way too much time fucking around on blogs written by people in advertising. but it shits me to tears when creatives like the ones on the recent play-doh bunnies ad, the coloured balls ad (same culprit), the japanese car company cog ad (by another well-respected agency) and others like them, completely rip off ideas executed by well-known contemporary visual artists for the purpose of product placement, without due credit.

creatives? greatest fucking misnomer on the face of the planet.

hell, if the idea is so great and you can't possibly come up with another one, despite being paid truckloads to be 'creative', then get permission and/or credit the artist for fucks sake. just like if you use a song by a musical artist, you have to get permission or at least credit the songwriter and at least pay a hefty chunk of royalty.

i can tell you that 9 times out of 10, the artwork would not have been created to be associated with a commercial, profit-driven branding positioning. and once it has been associated with something as facile as a commodity, FMCG, consumer strategy (or whatever ad wank you wanna go with), then the whole concept of the work is lost to the bottom line and the original execution relegated to 'coulda been..' or 'in preparation for..'

and there's the possibility that the artist will be known as 'oh, you're the guys who originally thought of the moving the car parts for Brand So and So', or 'you're the guys who originally did the Brand XYZ bunnies". how's that for a typecast.

and, having said all that, it does hightlight that old 'fine line' again.

within the visual arts, artists borrow from other artists all the time and either incorporate it into the work - like early Richard Hamilton, or recreate work in a different context, or reference (appropriation) - like Yasumasa Morimura. provided that there is enough of a difference from the original work so that it's not a direct rip-off, doesn't solely rely on the original outstanding motif, or that it doesn't adversely affect the artists' reputation, it is considered acceptable*. both within the industry and in a court of law (well, at least in this country).

so what is that fine line between acceptable appropriation, and downright stealing? is it because, even in an era which avoids talking about the 'romance' or 'soul' of art, we still like our arts to have a sense of separation from the grit of our daily (commerce-based) life? are we back to square one on the whole 'difference between art and advertising' gameboard again? am i just getting way to hepped up about this? do i sound like carrie bradshaw from sex and the city, ending my post with all these unanswered questions? god, i hope so.

*see Arts Law and the Copyright Council of Australia for detailed IP and moral rights legislation in Australia.

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time to say goodbye

there’s something really weird about finishing off a trip. a sense of relief, sadness, and something inexplicably warped about it – something resembling inertia.

getting back to London after Europe, everything fell a bit flat. Londoners seemed like a repressed bunch of constricted bureaucrats after the relative easiness of Europeans. And the city itself also felt incredibly constricted with so many roadworks, awkward transport, overbearing architectural mess and I hate to be clichéd and whinge about the cost, but holy crap, after coming back from the euro, it’s fucking exorbitant.

and perhaps I really needed to see all that stuff because I’ve been forced to head home early and there’s something easier about a divorce when all you can see is the crap.

in preparation for leaving, I head back to a few of my old haunts and to make sure I caught up with a bunch of friends I had made here, which was more important than anything.

I went back to soho, drew in the national gallery, popped to the tate modern louise bourgeois show (which I will review later, but suffice to say, it bloody rocked!), went to see control, wandered around chancery lane and discovered gorgeous wine bars near charing cross.

I caught up with as many of my London friends as I possibly could and would formally like to link to (as a form of web 2.0 props) to the following boys and girls , in no particular order, who made my time in London and Europe a fucking awesome time:

Doddsy, Angus, Feltbug, Claire, Charlie F, Charlie G, Marcus, Marita, Paul, Ben, Russell, Helen, Emily, NP, Gemma, Rob M, Sam, Wal, Christos and the rest of the coffee morning/interesting crew.

And of course my little crew of Lauren’s Ladders: Will, Seb and Nina

In fact without these people, who found me through my blog, or others’ blogs, I know that I wouldn’t have had the time I had.

It will probably take me a few days to a) get over the jetlag and b) process the enormity of my trip, but once I do, I need to post about some of the random things that I’ll take home from my trip – those weird little things that will stick with me and influence my life forever more.

Thanks again to all those peeps and now it's time for phase 2 of world domination: the MFA



things I have lost in the last 6 weeks

1. my pair of black sunglasses, probably in hamburg
2. the focus on my camer, in Vienna
3. my black hoodie with a minor threat patch, on the train from Vienna to Venice
4. my essendon bombers football scarf, on the train from Vienna to Venice
5.my black st paulli cap, somewhere between Turin and Lyon
6. two black rollerball pens.
7. my italian tweed gangster hat, in paris thanks to some badly behaved englishmen at the hostel.
8. my blue girls brigade jacket (with the offending anti-nazi patch) in paris.

* travelling is great, but when you're moving every 3 days and you leave shit behind, it's fucking annoying.



paris part ii

this post is about a week behind, but I still needed to post it, just to finish off the trip.

A few months ago I went to Paris with my Nanna and had such a great time that when I was planning my trip, I decided to spend almost a week in the French capital to finish off my trip. However, instead of living the high life in numerous galleries, museums, tourist attractions, I had the most amazing time doing close enough to pleasantly sweet fuck all.

On the Saturday night I got there, after I sorted out some groceries, I met my two room mates - American gals who were enjoying some travel after finishing college: Steph and amber. Steph was well keen to hit Paris, so she and I sourced a cool club and went dancing until 3am at Fleche D'Or the club that was open until 6am and free! it was fantastic – played a great mix of brit-pop/indie stuff, dropped with French techno, perfect for dancing on the stage, which is exactly what we were doing. Bloc Party and Outkast have never sounded so damned good. Didn’t get home until after 4am (the night buses are good, but take forever) and was not looking forward to having to be out of the room by the regulatory 11am.

With absolutely no money to my name, I set about on my mission to enjoy Paris for free (which sounds a hell of a lot like the mission of half the American male population too). I spent a quiet Sunday in the lobbies and bookshops some really cool places, largely enjoying the great architecture (new and old) of Paris. I went to the pantheon and drew the amazing neo-classical architecture and inside frescos, then I went to the Institute du Monde Arabe, an amazing building, built on the basis of Islamic tile patterns. Each panel is made up of a series of smaller square panels. Each of the circles is made up of an aperture, which opens right up or closes right down, depending on how much light you want to let into the building, which is fantastic! After that I walked along the banks seine checking out the Tino Rossi Modern Sculpture Park. That night, the American girls and I went looking for a place to go out, but thanks to some hinky guide book suggestions, ended up around the Moulin Rouge, which is the red light district. Rather than clubbing, we ended up checking out the sex shops, brothels and erotic museum of the area, avoiding the crowds of Irishmen drowning their sorrows after a loss in the rugby to Argentina.

The rest of my time in Paris was spent just hangin’ out and chillin’ out. Some of this may have had something to do with having used up having 30 euros to last 4 days. This also had to do with a much cooler reason, which was the fact that one of my awesome friends, Jem, was in Paris with his girl. They were staying in an apartment in the 11th, on their way to a few months in the Netherlands and we just relaxed and hung out with each other, just owning Paris..

On the Monday we wandered around the Bastille and the11th Arrondissement, catching up and wandering about. We stumbled into the coolest café on Oberkampf, where the guy who made us our espressos was obviously a performer and who gave us the most charming performance we’d ever been given – he reminded us of Dominique Pinon from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen/City of the Lost Children and Amelie fame. It was a surprise but an absolute joy – easily the highlight of our trip. After that, we went to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the one that Val Kilmer Jim Morrison happens to be buried in, but rather than search for him like the rest of the people there were doing, we sought out the monuments to Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde, which were surreal and lovely at the same time. For me it was all part of the process I had been going through since the beginning of my trip to the northern hemisphere, which was the realization that people from history were real people, who not only created amazing things but lived and died too. You know, like proper humans, rather than just a name on a book, and in some ways it actually made their greatness greater.

I didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower this time, but on Tuesday night we did walk down L’Avenue de Champs Elysees and head to the Arc de Triomphe. All of us were rather rubbish on our French history, getting quite confused between out Napoleons, French Revolutions 1-3 and the other wars, but we spent a long time there, absorbing (I believe) the true symbol of what it means to be French and certainly Parisian. It’s this political and democratic pride that inspires me in Paris and something that Jem, Sophia and I all wanted to learn more about.

On Wednesday, following on from the heights of triumph, we disappeared into the depths of carnage by going to the Catacombes, where we spent a large amount of time avoiding American tourists and trying to piece together French signs and historical dates. It was absolutely mind-blowing and we felt strangely defensive of the dead. There were a few stupid idiot French juveniles there, taking pics with flash (despite the clear signage) and singing Thriller. Usually I’d be laughing, but something about thousands of bones from years of revolution, disease and war takes the edge of it.

Later that evening I went to the Centre Georges Pompidou and saw the fantastic collection of modern and contemporary there. Initially I headed up to the top floors of the centre to not only see the temporary (but uninteresting to me) exhibition, but also to check out the most amazing view of Paris. The sweeping view from the Eiffel tower to La Defense and everything in between. The great thing about this view, as opposed to the one from Sacre Coeur or the tower is that it was relatively low, so you could see all the big sights, but also appreciate the maze of rooftops and side streets of Paris. In fact it was living proof the building ordinance laws, which restrict the height of city buildings inside the ring road, are bang on. Paris is a beautiful city and while they may be in an economic slump and a political vacuum, the French can be proud of the place.

While I could have spent loads more time in the Pompidou, I concentrated on the Modern art that I really, really wanted to see and a few of the Contemporary pieces. Given that I had seen a whole bunch of contemporary art, i didn't feel too bad about missing out on half the permanent collection.

I absolutely loved seeing a whole room of Matisse paintings, a whole room of Malevich works, including his metropolis sculptures, two rooms of Phillip Starck design works, large Yves Klein and Marcel Duchamp works, some Rothkos (although the paintings in the Tate Modern are way better) and the Jean Tinguely kinetic work. I also really loved hanging out in the the Joseph Beuys' felt roll room, although quite puzzled why him and Cy Twombly were lumped together again, as they are in the Tate Modern - the link seems tenuous, but i guess that happens sometimes.

Time to return to London to begin the trip back to Australia via a ferry ride to Dover, I caught the train from Gare Nord to Calais – a beautiful trip that zipped through the flat and foggy plains of northern France farming land. Unfortunately, I was already having a bad day and when I got off the train at Calais Feymuth instead of Calais Ville and was >< this close to missing my train, I lost it. I burst into tears in the middle of the station and cried like I’ve never cried in public before. If I wasn’t so upset I would have been completely embarrassed, but the people on the station just let me cry, thankfully minding their own business and a wonderful station worker helped me find my way to the ferry terminal, god bless him. I made the ferry with about 2 minutes to spare and enjoyed the really lovely trip back to the island, chattering with a couple of Australians who ended up knowing a whole bunch of the same people I knew (you know, small world and all that). I got back to London, feeling strangely familiar, yet filled with the buzz of being away and having experienced so much that was unfamiliar.

Despite what may or may not have come across on my blog (well, Paul Colman thought I was having a shit time from the constant ‘disappointment’ I seemed to express here), I had an amazing time in Europe. I have to spend a little more time digesting it and I’m dying to post a random post about some of the things I learned, highlights and random tidbits from my trip. I’ll even try to scan in some of the sketches I did of the art and architecture I saw.

But for now, it's back to bed.

PS i've made the pics small 'cos they sometimes look better that way. they still look pretty rubbish, but be patient, i'll get the camera fixed as soon as i can.

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Well, Lyon Biennale was the last one I’ll be going to for a while, and to be honest, I can’t say I mind. I’m coming to the end of my travels in Europe/UK, and I’ve seen so much art that I think my brain is exhausted – time to sit back, take stock, process it and make some work of my own.

And perhaps I’ve been to too many biennales, exhibitions, art festivals and museums in the last 4 weeks, but the pervading feeling for me about the Lyon Biennial is frustration. To be fair, it’s not all the Biennale’s fault - I had a really frustrating time in general in Lyon – it was my first port of call for France, for French culture, French language, so I was having a major culture shock, and it rained for 3 days straight.

day 1: fondation bullukian and the musee d’art contemporain
I started off my lyon biennale experience getting the good deal of a 2-day pass for €29, which included entry into all the places (which were about 5-10 each anyway), plus transport for all those places. good deal. my first stop was the fondation bullukian, which technically had only 2 works in it, but one work was the art video rental library containing over 100 video works. In Australia, phat space started something like this a few years ago, so it wasn’t a completely new concept to me, per se, but it was done with way more rigour, funding and organisation than phat space ever did (nothing against Danielle and Jen at all). As I was going through the collection alphabetically, I came across, yes, you guessed it, Magical World by Joanna Billing – the third time in as many weeks. I got so excited and was telling the attendant about it, so she put it on the big screen (that was playing works from the library), so I got to hear it again! yay!

after that great experience, I wandered around rain-soaked lyon looking for replacement moleskine (wishing I’d them in italy when I’d seen them) and then headed out to the musee d’art contemporain to see the works there.

I made my way slowly up the three floors of the gallery and as I went up each floor, my level of frustration rose. the lower floor was a collection of artworks that had originally featured in a publication called zoo and was a really wide range of works, materials and feeling, all under the essence of only their ‘channel’ being the common idea. some of the work was pretty lame and I felt that a lot of it was crammed in, or misplaced (ie, you made narrative assumptions between work when there was none). the best work was actually three little architectural models for foodstuffs by Sammy Engramer– a pavilion for a kilo of noodles, looking like a Bauhaus block, a house for salami and something else – they were sharp and witty, why can’t the storage of our food reflect the way we shelter ourselves.

there was also quite an interesting sculpture made of mirror and draped in zhuzy purple feather boa, which, if it is a representation of a stockmarket graph (in 3d form) and a reflection of the superficial nature of market-driven focus, then I like it. But I also have a habit of intellectualizing and overanalyzing, so I’m just not sure if that’s what the work was actually about that.

On the second floor I was really quite looking forward to seeing the Ranjani Shettar “a little bit more’ work that I raved about at the Sydney Biennale earlier this year. In the chapel at NAS (which just happens to be my old uni), it looked fantastic, mystical and transcendental. In the huge white room with the blonde floorboards at the MAC, it looked like a shaggy piece of netting hung up in a high-school indoor basketball arena. It was completely lost and the lighting was just lame – it was either too bright or not bright enough.

The final icing on the frustrating cake for me was the work by 3 artists which was preceded by a security guard checking ID, as the work was ‘unsuitable for children’. I went in there, steeling myself for a range of offensive works, and all I saw was a glass structure, 3 coloured neon lights and a set-up which seemed to be about the idea of reflection (which, by the way I’m sick of in work and think it’s just bloody laziness). I asked the attendant what the work was about and whether it was this work that had the ‘offensive material’ and she didn’t speak English, and I couldn’t ask it in French and so I left, feeling duped and like I’d just walked in on the biggest fucking artwank in the history of the universe. I asked the ID-checking guard at the beginning of the room why, and she just answered ‘comme-sa’… fuckers. I was bloody ropable by this stage and none of the other work in the museum really did anything to restore my faith in contemporary art. I felt like I was part of an industry or whatever, that was the biggest load of bullshit I’d ever scene - and I have a degree in the shit and can cope with stretching the boundaries of art theory wank!) – I couldn’t imagine what someone without all the prior knowledge felt. in fact the whole show seemed to be about having prior knowledge and conserving the idea of exclusivity.

What wasn’t clear to me instantly, which became slowly clearer as the day went on was the ‘rules’ of the game. The accessible information about the show was all in French, which is fine, seeing as it’s in France, but fuck-all in English, which was very frustrating. A lot of the information about the biennale in English referred to the game and the players, but didn’t really elaborate and it wasn’t until I read the English catalogue at the end that any of it made sense to me at all, which was really, really unfortunate, as the premise of the exhibition was interesting. Similar to Selekta at West Space in Melbourne, this biennale had 2 ‘rounds’ of selection – firstly, a bunch of curators, writers and directors were asked to choose an artist who was doing some interesting stuff and who had been around since the beginning of the decade. Then a bunch of artists were asked to create works that best described the decade and some of the key ideas. The whole concept of having multiple ‘curators’ interested me to no end. where the idea falls down is that the theme or the focus of those selections is on something actually reasonable facile and is not all that enlightening about that much. in terms of a decade, 7 years in (well, actually 6, with the works/artists having to be chosen well before this biennale) is quite a silly place to be making statements about a decade, either in looking backwards or forwards. And, in the whole grand scheme of history of humanity and the breadth of ideas, what is the purpose of looking at a decade anyway? It just reminded me a little of Herald-Sun type news-grabbing themes to me.

There were still some great works to be seen and some selections by some fantastic people, but as a whole concept, I’m not so convinced about the Lyon Biennale.

day 2: institut d’art contemporain and le sucriere
I decided to give the other venues the benefit of the doubt and not judge all the works by a select few. L’institut d’art contemporain is so different from the le musee d’art contemporain that it’s quite astounding and I wonder if this is what classifies an ‘institute’ [my only experience with such things being the Australian institute of sport and of course the Ponds Institute.]

The work here was far more ‘mature’ and considered and site-specific. The work was able to actually say some important things about human nature, habit, power and creation. The highlights for me were the works by Dave Hullfish Bailey and especially his 3D ‘map’ of history, Pull Me From the Wreckage. It was a tableau of occurrences, with pieces of wood being the linear links between ‘events’ and those being signposted with small wooden stakes and handmade signs. It was at once powerful and adorable.

Simon Starling’s Work In Progress:Particle Projection was a beautiful piece about process and transformation. The image projection, from 16mm film (a beautiful format), was of a particle of Silver Gelation, a sample taken from a film still which was documenting the archiving of a film work (if I remember rightly). The rotating image itself was so peaceful and the documentary work gave it a context.

The other great work at the Institute (although I did get a bit depressed by it, because she was a year older than me and in an international Bienniale), was the work by Mai-Thu Perret, a swiss artist who created a ‘blue room’ from chroma key and project images from London streets and then a sound narrative which took you through the process of looking at a work and reflected to you the questions, fears and assupmtions you might have when experiencing that particular work. It was a little unnerving at times, but in a good way.

Later in the evening, after a well-earned disco nap, I went out to la sucriere, the artspace on the docs, which was reminiscent of Wharf 4/5 in Sydney. This venue was easily the best of the lot and I got a lot of out loads of the works. The ubiquitous Charles Avery and his island mythology was there, which was nice to revisit and Urs Fischer’s sculptures, well chosen by Massimilano Gioni (a favourite curator of mine) were great – a broom held upright by a balloon and an office chair tied with a floating cannon, all defying gravity.

The absolute hightlight for this venue and in fact the whole biennale for me was Cao Fei’s Nu River project. Apparrently part of a wider project to trek to the Yunnan province of China and to document the process, this video installation was all that resulted after untold ‘catastrophes’. This video, however, was hilarious [although, strangely, I was the only one laughing because I think the French either didn’t quite get the nuances of the English subtitles, or they just didn’t find it funny]. The work was about journey and travel, with little reminders about Kerouac’s On The Road, Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a little bit of Stand By Me and of course an unavoidable relationship to Mao’s Long March. There was the right amount of solemnity and poignant illustration of Chinese provincial life/poverty, sprinkled liberally with warped humour and stupidity. There is a scene where they replicate old school Chinese film (and a whole lot of monkey magic), with the ‘special effects’ of panning across two people and when the camera pans back, one person has ‘disappeared’ (ie, ducked out of view) and then on the pan back, ‘reappears’ (ie, stood up). That explanation doesn’t sound hilarious at all, but believe me, it was great! I also realised, as an Australian, how much of an influence the Asian warped sense of humour and cultural influence I have and how much I had been missing it here.

I’m in Paris now, having run out of money, and checking out what I can on the cheap/free, and on the way home. I’ll probably spend a bit of time taking stock, so there may be a few sentimental posts on here in the coming weeks, sorry about that J

UPDATE: i've got a really shit net-connection, so the bad pics will have to come later :)

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