Scars Have the Strange Power to Remind Us that Our Past Is Real

"Scars Have the Strange Power to Remind Us that Our Past Is Real" by Kader Attia


One of the highlights of Burning Seed this year was seeing Red Earth Ecology establish itself on the paddock

Jo’s been developing this project for years, undertaking activities around Matong and introducing Burners to the local ecology.

I’ve seen the crowds for her bush walks grow and in that time she’s been joined by a number of people with expertise — particularly Brian Jones, Ash Blackwell, Diego Bonetto and Peter Ingram.

There’s a good level of interest from visitors wanting to know more about the environment in Matong State Forest and many years have seen additional walks added to the program.

This year we were awed to see around 60 people show up for the walk.

It was also exciting to see Jo’s art project start to take shape this year, after she struggled last year before being taken off site in an ambulance.

GEO//GRAPHOLOGY uses the Cut-up Technique to reveal hidden meaning from local histories and, as someone who has worked as a curator at a local museum, I feel there is a need for a fresh perspective in this area.

Orwell famously wrote that “history is written by the winners” and it’s increasingly clear to me that reconciliation in Australia will require a truth-telling, much like the hearings that took place in post-apartheid South Africa.

It’s desperately overdue as more Australians identify as Aboriginal.

Jo has been using the Cut-up Technique in local exhibitions for a number of years and it suits her conceptual approach to art-making.

It’s a great way to review and reinterpret historical narratives, hopefully prompting a reevaluation of meanings drawn from records — which at times used euphemisms to hide the extent of the Frontier Wars in the Riverina.

That’s a small part of a much bigger picture but an important one given the Wiradjuri drove almost all the Europeans out of the area west of Ganmain in the mid 19th Century.

Jo's activity of selecting fragments from histories and pasting them together is a social one.

Really enjoyed being part of the conversations and making art with friends.

Looking forward to seeing Red Earth Ecology continue to develop on and off the paddock.


Spotted this coolamon-shaped scar on a tree outside Coolamon

Banned again

I posted this image of a hand resembling Hitler and was banned from using Facebook for a week

Apparently it constitutes "hate speech," which led me to wonder if Mel Brooks has a Facebook profile.

The situation is ridiculous.

Posting an image of a hand resembling a Nazi does not seem to infer support for the extreme views propagated by right-wing organisations.

However, blocking that image does seem to protect Nazis from ridicule.

Sunday nights

On Sunday nights I force my family to sit together in front of a single screen

We share turns picking a film to watch and sometimes I bribe my kids to sit with me by buying snacks.

It’s not always easy but it’s great sometimes.

The film has quickly become secondary to sitting together.

It’s good to throw my arms around the kids.

And it’s magic when I lock eyes with Jo and feel surrounded by love.

Considering musicals

Two of my kids saw a production of Legally Blonde at Griffith Regional Theatre earlier this year as part of their high school excursion

My son has been involved in a number of large musical productions and didn’t say much more than “it was okay.”

I didn't really pick up at the time that my daughter Neve said it was her first musical.

If I had I might’ve been prompted to remember seeing Pirates of Penzance while in primary school and adoring the songs.

By year seven I was acting in a high school musical in Canberra, which won a peace prize and was attended by the Governor General.

Anyway, last week I noticed Neve was watching Legally Blonde on Youtube and it turns out she's been watching it a lot.

This led me to realise how little opportunity local kids have to see a variety of arts in regional NSW and appreciate that Griffith City Council are creating opportunities for students outside of their shire boundary.

Neve and I have been talking over the weekend about musicals and last night she asked “What does it mean when people break into song in a musical?”

The magic realism of those moments — music realism? — led me to remember the wonderful musical episode of Buffy, in which a curse means the characters can’t help but to express their innermost thoughts through song.

Within the musical genre music is a method of exposition that is part of a tradition going back to the choruses of ancient Greece.

I wonder if musicals also illustrate the creative expression that people often describe as a benefit of the arts.

This leads me to remember this wonderful observation about poetry from Harrison Young:
Poetry is full of metaphor, and metaphor is where one thing means another, it is saying two things at once. And this to my mind is like reality, there are often two aspects. Or more.

The role of the arts seems to be diminishing in contemporary society and I worry it will be to the detriment of our abilities to hold a range of views and see issues from other perspectives.

Art has an important role in building empathy as the viewer assumes the perspective of the artist.

Holding the front page

Years ago I was excited when they ran my photos on the front page, so I was stoked to find myself on the cover this week

You can read their story about the Big Guitar recordings here.

Another good piece on that project was on this German website.

Fathers Day

Another year as a parent and I'm prompted to reflect on my role as Fathers Day passes

Many years ago I learned that to be a father was more than donating biological material to a child.

I'd had this idea to write a sensational article about the opportunity to donate sperm and even pitched it to the editor of the student newspaper as important because educated donors could raise the IQ in the general population.

She wasn't impressed, telling me that was eugenics, but encouraged me to write the article.

It was interesting experience and a little unsettling when the hospital told me my sperm count wasn't high enough for them to accept my donation.

Then years later when I fell in love with my partner, I convinced her that we should have children.

The results have been amazing but I won't dwell here on our offspring, because I am convinced that it is an important step in personal development.

There's a shift in one's thinking to accommodate others, that leads to letting go of some ego and opening the heart.

There is also a profound shift in revisiting experiences of the child-parent relationship but this time as the parent.

For me that has involved shifting a lot of resentment that developed in my teenage years.

Those experiences where I felt slighted and even neglected took on a scale proportionate to my self-centred young mind.

In more recent years I've been able to look back and reconsider what might have been going on for my parents at those times.

They were separated and doing what they could.

I can see that my father's emotional distance might have reflected his own relationship to his father.

And now I find myself kinda marvelling at how calmly he managed various situations.