Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What the hell are you trying to do?

While checking for bad links on my website I came across something I had written a few years ago, which sums up perfectly my intentions for the "Critical Mass" sculpture to be exhibited in Venice shortly.

"Moreover, unlike many artists who work alone in their studios, my studio practise is a very social experience. I share an open plan studio with 4 other artists and over 60 students. 

Being in an inner city park, we see hundreds of people relaxing, socialising and drinking outside, as well receive a steady stream of often unannounced visitors. 

Both consciously and unconsciously, all these things feed into my thinking and making.  

As artists, we sometimes forget that our sole role is to gift others unique personal and collective experiences. There is a tremendous feeling of liberation when we live solely to create such experiences, rather than to purely make objects (or commodities). 

Visual artists and crafts people sometimes become confused, obsessing narrowly on the image or object, yet it is the quality of the whole experience that distinguishes a good or bad artwork. 

With the advancement of mass production and now 3D print technology, I believe a reminder of our primary role is timely. 

The orthodox art events present singular images and objects for individuals to experience. 

The market encourages individuals to purchase artworks for private enjoyment or to become symbols of their personal taste, wealth or social location. 

However it is the collective experience of art which offer a heightened transcendent experience, diminishing feelings of alienation, by recreating timeless social rituals and social memories of belonging."

source: Graham Hay and Dr Neil Carlin (School of Archaeology, University College Dublin), Translating ceramics: Neolithic to Digital, to Contemporary Social Object, Ceramics Ireland, 2015, 34, p44-46 Copy of whole article online here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Black List

In the past, the personal taste of a very small homogeneous pool of senior Hollywood film company directors directly controlled which scripts were made into films.

"There was no efficient mechanism by which people with talent could even make the industry aware of their talent..." source: 4 Mar 2017, 7:41 the greatest films never made. Alex Wagner AFR p30-32

Change came when in 2005 when "Franklin Leonard surveyed almost 100 film industry development executives about their favorite scripts from that year that had not been made as feature films. This list of scripts became the first ever Annual Black List. Since then, the voter pool has grown to about 500 film executives, 60% of whom typically respond. The Annual List has served to help spotlight scripts which would go on to earn over $26 billion in worldwide box office and to receive 256 Academy Awards nominations and 48 wins, including Best Pictures SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING'S SPEECH, ARGO and SPOTLIGHT, and ten of the last fourteen screenwriting Oscars."  
source: https://blcklst.com/about/ 4/3/17

In the visual arts there are similar bottlenecks:  On an international level every national government tries to control how it is represented, and so perceived, by which of its artists are presented, and the way they are framed by media and publications.  One of the most contentious issues in any country, including Australia, is their past and present treatment of their indigenous people.  In Australia, the federal government's Australia Council has this challenging task.   No doubt Tracey Moffat's participation will inflame debate for this reason, and she appears to be trying to sidestep this:  The ABC Radio National, another federal government instrument, appear to be working both and against the Australia Council in a recent broadcast.  Good luck with that.

My concern is more parochial, addressing a problem that can not really be address by policy or job description.  I have seen it in industry and in the arts:   the human nature to trust more those we see and interaction with more frequently and face to face.  The Western Australian community just do not frequent enough direct social and offical contact in real time and place, to influence the informal and fluid decision making processes that shape Australian's national cultural policy. For an insight into this process read more...

Any exceptions, only prove the rule.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Mission Impossible?

Requirement: I had to write a short piece about my theories on "Art"

Contemporary art audiences question “what is art?” or “what is an artist?” when confronted with demanding work.  So any discussion and debate becomes complex and theoretical.  Miscommunications occur due to language and culture differences.

To sidestep this complexity, I started with a concrete question: 

“Who are the artists? “

This became a two decade long critical ethnography examination of my immediate Western Australian (WA) artists community, informed by tertiary qualifications and experience in education, economics, politics and visual arts, and focussed on collective and individual artistic expression.

Ethnography began as a static, statistical study of culture.  It was an anthropology, then sociologically based field of research.   Early researchers went into 3rd world countries, believing they were objective and that they had no impact on the communities they were studying.  Critical ethnography is more contemplative, acknowledging this participatory and subjectivity bias.  

The unique local physical, demographic, cultural and politics influence my research and art:  WA is equal in geographic size to a combined Italy, Greece, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the UK.  The state capital of Perth contains most of the 2.6 m population so much of the state is unoccupied.  Perth is also the most geographically remote city on any continent: the drive from Perth to Sydney is slightly longer than Venice to Moscow.  Because of the isolation, a strong self sufficiency attitude dominates.  Established as a colony in 1829, a majority of Western Australia voted in a 1933 referendum to succeed from Australia, but blocked by the British Parliament.  The population has doubled since 1977 due to successive agricultural, mineral and energy booms, with over three quarters of the population are of English, Irish, Italian, Scottish and German descent.   Recently most of the major WA galleries have closed down, removing critical support structure for the artistic community.  So I am an artist, studying my peers, in this tiny, remote, isolated, booming, euro-centric and fiercely independent thinking, but stressed community.  

A critical ethnography approach is both pedagogical and political.  In sharing my creative conclusions, I am acutely aware of my subjectivity and politics:  I researched every grant recipient for 30 years and present their names beside a corresponding much greater number of  “unsuccessful grant applicant who vote”.  Similarly I presented a 4 tonne levitating spiral of government documents in the High Court in the national capital. 

For Venice I handmade thousands of porcelain flutes, adding to a 2.5m high supporting circle of figures.  Over 2,000 of the flutes are labelled with the web or social media for WA artists.  The flutes may be used by the early audiences to drink Prosecco, keep as souvenir, and to learn about and contact WA artists directly.  The partial tearing apart of the sculpture will be filmed and replayed alongside the remaining skeleton over the exhibitions 6 month duration. 


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