Broken tokens

This tweet prompted a lot of thought

I found myself confronted by the sexism and aghast that one might evaluate music on something other than its intrinsic value; then resigned that 'the personal is political' and consumers should vote with their purses.

Still wondering whether my efforts to balance the music I write about for Cyclic Defrost are token.

A kick in the arts

The decision of the Morrison Government to remove the word “art” from a department title has drawn widespread concern from the cultural sector, yet for years artists seem to have been avoiding the term

In 2014 I heard a panel at the Dream Big conference acknowledge that art wasn’t a word they used to describe their activities.
Casey Jenkins opted for the term craft and Katherine McLean said her organisation CuriousWorks makes digtal media. "Males, from our experience, don't see art as something they can engage with," said Narrandera-based artist Vic McEwan. "Sometimes we hide the word" he added, acknowledging that sometimes they felt they had overstated art on their posters.

Earlier this year I found myself relieved to be described as a “culture-maker” as Griffith Regional Art Gallery promoted my exhibition.

Sure it sounded like I made yoghurt, but it still seemed like I had something to offer!

The label art seems past its use-by date and I wonder if it’s the connotation with the artefacts created by people now deceased that often appear in galleries, rather than describing a process of creating.

As a result art has become something kinda out of reach, either because one can’t afford to own it or your own creations aren’t sought by cultural institutions.

Artist and commentator Grayson Perry has observed that art has alienated itself:
"There’s a section [of the art world] that has somehow over the years equated performative seriousness with worth. Gradually they’ve upped the obscurity of the language [used to describe art] and the difficulty of the art."

However, there are a few reasons why I think art should be embraced.

For a start, it’s difficult to think of another term than can encompass a wide variety of activities and products and still function as a superlative.

Then, when you think about it, art promotes nuance, particularly through the use of metaphor.

As former Commonwealth Bank director Harrison Young observed:
…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.

Art audiences also gain skills in developing empathy, as they must learn to see artwork through the eyes of the artist if they hope to understand its meaning.

And, finally, art can be what you want it to be.

The line "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" captures a sense of the individual relationship an audience creates when they consider an artwork.

That speaks to the stimulation we find in the diverse activities recognised as art.

This goes some way to explain why, as journalist Michaela Boland has reported, 98% of Australians engage with the arts, through ”regularly going to gigs, seeing plays, reading novels, attending festivals and listening to music.”

Or, to quote Andy Warhol, “Art is what you can get away with.”

(Un)Usual activity in Lismore

Recently I had a week in Lismore to collaborate with my friends at RealArtWorks on events that formed their festival

I've been working with the renowned heroes of postdisability arts for around five years and been part of their exhibitions as a result of being invited to join them on excursions in the Northern Rivers and Riverina.

When I arrived we discussed some possibilities, including developing art for their vending machine and recording Spinks Park for the Trail of Light and Sound and curating sandwiches.

There was also an instrument they hoped contact microphones would make possible to play live.

Within a day we'd expanded ideas to collage posters for display in the Lismore CBD, which gave me the opportunity to work with Matthew Daymond.

I've been a fan of Matt's surreal collages and it was awesome to be part of a frenzied process of unrolling advertising and identifying potential material.

It took me a draft to loosen up my designs and embrace the ridiculous.

"Fresh germy fabulousness" was my third attempt.

I recorded Spinks Park twice, then had a few attempts at revealing the music that resides within the play equipment.

Their vending machine gained digest versions of my book Earthwords, complete with covers made from repurposed firehose.

And I was stoked when I friend shared this picture from the networking event that I was unable to attend.

You can see that RealArtWorks identified a variety of ways for me to contribute and it's an interesting process to reflect on, as I feel I've learned something about my own creative practises.

200 Junto videos

Small milestone on the weekend as I uploaded my 200th video for the Disquiet Junto.

The (Un)Usual

Short video I've made to promote Real Art Works' event in Lismore.

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