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- I like abstract art, or more or less representative art using weird shit (sometimes literally) as media. Or just random stuff thrown together and labelled as "art".
- I like modern classical music with its dissonances and weird time signatures. Stockhausen launched a thousand WTFs? from the critics.
- I like annoyingly-egotistical abstruse jazz.
- I like electronica that just consists of strange beeping sounds or disconnected samples with no rhythm.
- I like confronting mixed media art and performances that might consist of people cutting themselves and filming the results and playing the video and hanging up the bloody bandages as part of an installation.
- I like awkward theatre that might consist of accosting people in the audience or the streets, with varying degrees of method performance, unformed scripts, yelling and odd physicality.
- I like architecture that is challenging and odd and makes you wonder how it can function as a building. Or wonder if the prison plans got lost and got inadvertently turned into actual residences or commercial buildings.

Would I like to personally consume all of these things myself? Frankly, no.

I love Pollock and Rothko and Hotere, but I think the whole 90s Britart scene was utter wank. Not to mention Picasso. I listen to some musique concrète, but just the stuff with rhythm, and a bit of something "going on". Zahar Hadid's architecture is like the equivalent of glossy souless Helmut Newton fashion photography. I wouldn't live in a Corbusier building, but Habitat 67 is fucking awesome.

So why do I like all the things? Because they fertilise the arts. They mix it up, they oxygenate, they inspire others to riff off it to create their own (possibly more palatable to more people) creations.

Imagine what it was like when the Europeans broke away from the monks' plainsong by developing polyphonic songs and music. We've heard of the impact of the Impressionists over and over and over. Stravinsky had run-ins with the police because of his music.

If it weren't for the people way out on the fringes, the arts would not evolve. I certainly don't situate myself on the fringe at all, in terms of what I like to consume, but I'm glad it's there.
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Well, I was going to post up a pic of me sitting very self-consciously on my car de coolness, but I'm having Goddess Visitations of Hell, and my normal l33t pic-shrinking skillz are not working. So, another day.

[ profile] saluqi and I attended a very groovy exhibition at the NGA on Asia/Pacific photography from 1840-1940 - Picture Paradise. It covered a wide geographical area, from India to the west coast of North America, and all stops in between. This is appropriate because of the roving "crews" (whalers, sealers, sailors, gold diggers, pirates) who created a Pacific economy as colonialisation got underway. And, of course, Northern European colonialisation of those regions is a shared theme. We remarked on the propensity of the colonial elite to build humungous European-style mansions with their cast-of-thousands coolie labour, cut down all the trees and plant oaks in their newly-created parks just like Home (although having lived overseas for a significant proportion of my life now, I know deeply what it's like to miss one's own native foliage. I do prefer what is native to the actual location though).

There was a good range of actual photography styles - historical documentary, landscapes, romanticised "noble savages", bloody awe-inspiring Ansel Adams, the cultural commentary (look at what those nasty Chinese people do to torture criminals), homoeroticism, eroticalisation (is that a word?) of The Other; cultural imperialism, commentary about the cultural imperialism, and on and on. The only problem with the exhibition was that there was no warning about some of the more confronting images (just a warning that some images may not be suitable for children would have sufficed), nor was there much actual commentary on the themes (like those I just identified and more). I don't like it when an artist/curator needs to write an essay on the "meaning" of a work (I dislike art-wank), but I also think a discussion of historical context and the more obvious themes would be in order. For example, all the nameless subjects - I'm sure the Rajah of _stan (pick any) had a name, but it wasn't given with the picture of him in all his finery. Imagine omitting the name of Queen Victoria in any portrait of her.

Perhaps the book that was printed for the exhibition went into the thematic discussion a bit more, but I wasn't going to buy it due to the shoddy nature of the reproductions. It's not that hard to get reproductions of photos right (daguerrotypes and the like can be tricky because of their nature, but still), and for something produced by the NGA itself, it was unbelievable. Highlights blown out, pictures including the frame and thus cluttering up the actual image, incredibly flaky colour balances...

Blah de blah. If you're in Canberra, do go along to it though, if you have an interest in photography and/or the period and region.

Oh, and it inspired a cheezy joke made up by me, due to a cute pic of a duck:

What do you call a collection of insane ducks?

Sorry about that.

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...but I think we're already there, one way or another. :-)

[ profile] saluqi got inspired by the Lolcat Bible a few days back, and I decided to put some pictures to her words. Unfortunately, the Lolbible site appears to only have kitteh pics, but I've stuck one of ours up to see what happens.

However, since the Byebul is in the Western philosophy canon, I inflicted all of our efforts on the adoring masses at [ profile] loltheorists  - head on over to see what depraved imaginations can come up with!

(Also, can I just say, damn Eve and her curses? Ow ow ow. Sleepy-bye time now.)
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Ganked from [ profile] msss and over on YouTube. Fab animations, and really excellent sound effects - my favourite part is the Channel crossing. And I really like how the comet was done. :-)


Dec. 31st, 2006 04:16 pm
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A conversation with [ profile] saluqi the other day reminded me that I intend to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains some time, and part of my agenda is to visit the Norman Lindsay Museum while I'm there. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't put together the fact that the chap who did all those lovely etchings of naked ladies, and equally charming sculptures, ditto, was the same as the one who wrote The Magic Pudding (the pudding that liked being eaten all day long, hee!). Oops, how embarrassing, but yunno, I'm a foreigner.

I'm currently tossing up whether I want to visit the Louvre collection of Egyptiana (links to extremely wanky Flash front page) which is on at the NGA at present, but it might be expensive and a scrum. Still, next week it's probably going to be less scrum-like, and I'll probably kick myself if I don't go. The only other thing there that's appealing (other than the regular collections, which I should troll through again) is an exhibition on "The Birth of the Modern Poster", and that's not starting for a couple of months. Also upcoming is one on Aussie printmaking, 1801-2005, which could be worth a look.

Finally, I think I'll probably go along to check out the exhibition on photography and war that's on at the Australian War Memorial. I hope it'll be less irritating than the one about "Anzacs" in France, 1916. The statement "It is April 1916, the midpoint of the Great War. Australian units have begun to arrive in France. For the first time, the men of the AIF find themselves at the main battle front of the mighty conflict." might summarise my issues with the exhibition. [Hint: AIF (Australian Imperial Force) and Anzac are not synonymous, although one is a subset of the other.]

So, that's my kultcha for the upcoming week! One good reason for holidays, enforced or not, after all.
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Teh ghey, it burns us! [NSFW - although there are no completely naked naughty bits]

This is a public service announcement for the perves in my flist; see what I do for you all?
trixtah: (Default)
I went to the National Museum of Australia yesterday to see the exhibition on Cook's Pacific Encounters. Frankly, I was a bit meh about the whole thing. It's actually the Göttingen University collection of Cook material - while it's great that they let all this stuff go travelling, it could have done with a bit of mix-and-match curating, from my perspective.

I admit to being probably quite fussy about Pacific collections. When you've seen the Māori and Pacific collections that the Auckland Museum has, you realise the breadth of what there is to cover. The British Museum has an excellent collection as well. So, it wasn't for the actual material they had that was specifically interesting to me - other than its age - it was the context of Cook's voyages that was the interesting part.

So, ok, you got an anteroom with a once-over-lightly description of Cook and the voyages, and a couple of potted biogs of Banks and Solander, with a few portraits - mainly reproductions - including the Dance one of Cook and one or two bits and pieces from the voyages, such as a spyglass used by one of Cook's lieutenants, a sextant, a botantical collecting bottle, a couple of printed volumes. And really, that was about it.

Then it was onto the main collection, which was admittedly large and diverse, but it had no context. The only theme appeared to be that all objects of a common type were chucked in together, but with no attempt to compare and contrast. While you can do a bit of that visually, things saying that "Tahitians used pieces of mother-of-pearl from oyster shells for fishing lures while the Maori used paua in similar instances" would have given more information. All we had was a description of the object (eg. kahu muka, flax fibre cloak) and where it was collected from (eg. New Zealand). There was no attempt to place items in context of the voyages - something saying, "Collected by Furneaux in 1773 in Dusky Sound, South Is, NZ, possibly from the Ngatimamoe tribe" would have been really nice.

Of course, that kind of provenance might have been difficult to put together, although my understanding is that the University of Göttingen acquired the collection very early on, from a very limited number of dealers and direct endowments. An alternative could have been to excerpt some log and journal entries that related to various objects, even if not identified specifically. Such as, say, about a headdress: "Besides the common dress some of these people wore on their heads ^round Caps made of birds feathers which were far from being unbecoming" (from Cook's description of the Endeavour's visit to Queen Charlotte Sound). By the way, Cook's, Banks' and Parkinson's (the artist) Endeavour journals are online at the National Library of Australia.

It's a shame that no-one appeared to think of doing something like that, although it's possible that the printed catalogue ($40, so I didn't buy it) gives more background. I strongly think, if so, that that kind of information (even condensed) should be part of the exhibition proper. The trend of essentially expecting you to buy a catalogue for the context is one that really irks me - it certainly appears to be getting more common in various institutions. Still, I wished I picked one up for a look to see if that was the case.

A nice alternative would be if the collection had been used as a basis for tracing the changes in Pacific art over the last 300 or so years, in which case you would need very little reference to Cook, or no more so than the other Pacific explorers of that time and subsequently, such as Wallis, de Surville, Du Fresne, etc.  Doing that for the whole Pacific would be a big job, though.

Still, it was interesting enough, and it's always groovy visiting the museum, which is a funky building, although the flow from one area to the next is kind of lacking. I like it despite that.

Pretty pics

Jul. 9th, 2005 06:10 pm
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I like the [ profile] cityscapes community, it's really a virtual travelogue. [ profile] yurikim is my absolute fave contributer, and this pic is just perfection.
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There's an exhibition on at the Jewish Museum in New York: The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and Their Salons. From the introduction:
The salon was an important and radical vehicle for the "democratization of the public sphere," providing a context in which nobility, artists and thinkers exchanged ideas across barriers of class, gender, nationality, economic standing, and religion, while society was rigidly defined along these lines. Salons enabled women and Jews — whose participation in official public life was restricted — to play a prominent role.

I've always been fascinated by the concept of salons, since reading about Madame de Staël, Natalie Barney and co in that era. It was an interesting exercise of a kind of power by individuals who were members of marginalised groups: women, women of "ill repute", Jewish women, lesbian women.

As well as the delightful clothes and witty conversation one associates with salons, the salon environment nurtured the arts and intellectual discussion in a way that would hardly have been possible in any other mileu at the time, in terms of salons breaking many social boundaries. And was certain women who were able to surround themselves with the interesting, intelligent and creative types of the time. While these women perpetuated plenty of prejudices themselves (Natalie Barney was fairly keen on some Fascist ideas before WWII), they provided a place where a fairly wide variety of people - including women - could meet and exchange ideas. And gossip, of course. There were plenty of male "social lions" who deprecated the salon setup, but who were launched on their way or had their careers enhanced nonetheless.

There is a pretty good round up of the exhibition in the Guardian Arts pages, with a wider discussion of the phenomenon as well. The exhibition's own site is interesting, with a virtual stroll through the gallery and some interesting info on some of the characters concerned.

Another quote from the Guardian:
[Fanny] Hensel's case [as a musician and composer who was woman and a Jew, last century] explains why all salons were run by women: women could not vote, were not economically independent, nor regarded as being capable of intellectual reflection or artistic creation. No wonder, then, that some of them withdrew into their domestic spaces and created there simulacra of better societies, ones where people of different economic standings, religions, rank and nationality could exchange ideas and be recognised both as individuals and as part of common humanity. Even if it meant having to listen to men witter incessantly about their sexual insecurities and career goals.

I love dinner parties and the like where you end up having those fascinating discussions with your friends and their friends; how liberating (in the fundamental sense) it must have been to be able to experience that kind of cross-fertilisation in those times.

Arguably, even if salons are overdue for a revival, it would no longer be necessary for women to preside over them. Unless, that is, you believe that the desirable qualities for a salon host - agreeableness, tolerance and indulgence - are not just stereotypically female ones but really so.

A revival would be good, but the whole aim of it is to encourage that exchange of ideas across boundaries. We think of salons as middle-class and up groups of people, but in its day, of course, it was fairly radical having the aristocracy mixing with the commons, not to mention the mixture of sexes and religion. How would we achieve that kind of cross-fertilisation today?


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