Fiona Hall's Wrong Way Time

Recently I’d been thinking about significant contemporary Australian artists and concluded that Fiona Hall is at the top of my list.

I think it was 1991 that I first saw her little sardine can sculptures at the National Gallery of Australia. That was when I went on a school excursion with my girlfriend Karen and she drew my attention to them, which led to a surprise in seeing genitals within them. It made an impression on my 17-year old self.

That visit was also the first time I heard a line often uttered at art galleries, “I could’ve done that.” It was a fellow student evaluating the colour cut-outs Matisse made late in his career and Karen was quick to rebuke, “Yeah but you didn’t.”

Karen’s line comes to mind often, as the prompt for the series of thoughts about the most significant contemporary Australian artist came via work that often leads me to think ‘I could’ve done that’ and then conclude ‘yeah but I didn’t’.

Fiona Hall’s work is always surprising and inventive and playful. A couple of years ago I walked into a room at the MCA during the Sydney Biennale and saw one of her pieces I hadn’t seen before and was comforted to find her name attached.

After that I added her name to the list in Google that trigger ‘Alerts’ so I could read about her activities. (There she joins Brian Eno, David Hockney and Alan Moore.) When the Venice Biennale came around there was a little flurry of mostly Australian media and I wondered if I could visit it but decided that wasn’t likely to happen.

So I was really excited when I saw the ‘Wrong Way Time’ exhibition was coming to the NGA in Canberra. It took a few attempts to get there but I did and was richly rewarded with viewing one of my favourite exhibitions since 'The Big Americans' show more than a decade ago, also at the NGA.

My mum had a copy of my aunt’s notes for Hall’s show. These were a series of bullet points she prepared in her role as a volunteer guide at the NGA. I read them and could see a lot of information that had been in articles I’d already read about the show via my Google Alerts but she also had details gleaned directly from Hall and the curators.

Despite all I’d read, ‘Wrong Way Time’ surprised me with it’s morbidity. There’s a lot of death imagery balanced with a little of life. It’s a theme that becomes more pronounced when you walk into the second room that’s a retrospective of Hall’s earlier artwork.

You move from a dimly lit room with black walls into a more brightly lit one with white walls. The result is that Hall’s more recent work and its preoccupation with death, ranging from the obsolescence of consumer items through to extinction of species, becomes contrasted with her earlier themes like morality and sex.

I couldn’t help conclude that ‘Wrong Way Time’ shows Hall is thinking about her own mortality but perhaps I'm reading too much into the preoccupation with the death in the clocks, extinct animals and large number of skulls.

I'd be interested in learning more about which creative processes and motifs she's revisited because there are earlier works on display too.

The symbols of death were offset with a few inferences of life, such as the sperm added to banknotes featuring dictators. There were also works that reflect Hall's botanical interests but I think most were earlier pieces.

Another style of representation on banknotes was 'Leaf Litter' 1999-2003 with leaves painted on the currency of the country they share; as well as 'Tender' (2003-6) where US dollars were made into bird nests. The former poses a kind of comment on the line that 'money doesn't grow on trees' when it is often made from paper, which is produced from wood. The latter seems to me a kind of play on the line to 'feather your nest' when making a profit.

One corner was filled with 'Kuka Irititja (Animals From Another Time)' (2014), a collaboration with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers that I think represented extinctions. It would've been good to have more information as very little interpretive text was provided.

One wall was mounted with driftwood, which I thought I overheard a curator explain had come from a South Australian beach but my aunt says is from New Zealand. The curator shared an anecdote that Hall had joked she'd taken her favourite beach to Venice, which strikes me as being the sort of idea that would appeal to the artist -- that driftwood could float to the city famous for its water.

Another skull motif occupied the middle of the darkened room with 'All the Kings Men' (2014-15), a collection of macrame-style figures hanging and turning slowly on their wires. I really wanted to get in among these for that sense of them surrounding me but had to settle for walking around them.

There was also this painting that featured skulls. I hadn't associated painting with Hall's output prior to this exhibition.

And, as you enter, there's also this gorgeous skull.

The retrospective room was a revelation for me. I hadn’t seen a lot of Hall's early work and also benefited from overhearing a tour led by curators at the NGA.

I learned that Hall’s early art career had been in photography before she started creating scenes with tin to photograph using a large format Polaroid, long before creating sculptures like the sardine tins that had first made an impression on me as a teen.

I mentioned morality but themes in her earlier works were clearly biblical, such as the marionettes representing the seven deadly sins. Shown here is lust. (Now I think about it, this style of puppet seems a bit like those hanging in the other room.)

Hall's background in photography made a lot of sense when I saw the concertina-style peephole books she’d produced that are viewed through a little eyehole at one end. I really like this technique for directing the viewer and also creating a sense of spatial depth in an artwork.

This style of presenting a perspective was refined in the black room, where a wooden box marked ‘Fox’ flickered with flashing coloured LED lights. When you leaned in you could see a chaotic scene with wordplay like “The Whinge of Change” leading toward a noose and then an eye looking back.

I wondered if the word 'Fox' on a box like an early camera was a reference to William Henry Talbot Fox, a pioneer of photography. The title of the work is 'Hack' (2015), so maybe it was just another of the many car model name badges attached to cabinets in the darkened room.

Click the video below to have a look in the peephole.

It was one example of another kind of retrospective as artworks seemed to be mirrored in the exhibition. The two rooms, being black and white, offered interesting contrasts in their contents. The peephole-style works are one example, another is the sardine tin sculptures in each room.

The inclusion of clocks in ‘Wrong Way Time’ really appealed to me as they would tick and occasionally chime, adding the element of sound that isn't usually a consideration. So often galleries focus on visual stimulus and I really like it when sounds but also touch and scents are included in exhibitions.

It's worth sharing a few more photos of the many clocks, so you can see the pessimistic messages they wear.

In some ways these doomsday-style clocks, like the money that grows on trees, illustrate the kinds of metaphors that Fiona Hall invokes in some of her artwork.

One of the things I like about her art is that there is wordplay in it. Sometimes it's generated between the objects and the title of the piece, other times it involves literal messages.

It really tickles the word nerd in me.

This playfulness in her work is exemplified in the sculptures made from bread, which are placed on maps to provide interesting insights -- such as the slingshot on the Middle East. It's a rich image for me, inferring David and Goliath, Palestine and the Arab Spring. That's a stack of references leaping from a fairly simple context!

These small sculpture works are called 'Crust' (2014-15), a title that links bread and the surface of the planet. It's another example of the lateral thinking you can see in Fiona Hall's artwork.

The National Gallery of Australia was a great venue for 'Wrong Way Time' as the foyer to the exhibition overlooked 'Fern Garden' (1998). This landscape is yet another demonstration of Hall's ability to move between mediums. It's also been one of my favourite parts of the Gallery and I have many memories of visiting it late at night.

I adore the gates to the garden, which are shaped like female reproductive organs.

Anyway, I won’t attempt more interpretation of the exhibition as I feel like I need to return and soak it all in again. It’s a wonderful experience and one I recommend.

Across the park

When I was a boy I took Tae Kwon Do lessons at Woden Library on Tuesday nights.

As my mother was also looking after my sister and my baby brother, she'd ask me to walk home after the lessons. The Library wasn't far from the apartment we were living in at the time, however as the days shortened it became a scary walk in the dark for this boy.

One spot in particular used to frighten me and that was the Melrose Drive underpass. I was thinking about it recently when I walked through it and took these photos, which don't convey much menace during the day.

Back in the day, or night as it were, there was a lot of graffiti that led me to think there were gangs that would hang out in the underpass.

As well as being devoted to martial arts, I was obsessed with hiphop and the craze of breakdancing. So I had seen a bit about the gangs that inhabited urban spaces like the inner-south of suburban Canberra.

Anyway, my mum had a more balanced perspective on the likelihood of me being assaulted while walking home in the dark wearing a martial arts uniform. She was of the view that all I needed was something to take my mind off the idea of being attacked.

So I came to memorise Hist! by C J Dennis after being offered $5. I can still recite a large part of the poem.
Hist! . . . . . . Hark!
The night is very dark,
And we've to go a mile or so
Across the Possum Park.

Step . . . . . . light,
Keeping to the right;
If we delay, and lose our way,
We'll be out half the night.
The clouds are low and gloomy. Oh!
It's just begun to mist!
We haven't any overcoats
And - Hist! . . . . . . Hist!

(Mo . . . . . . poke!)
Who was that that spoke?
This is not a fitting spot
To make a silly joke.

Dear . . . . . . me!
A mopoke in a tree!
It jarred me so, I didn't know
Whatever it could be.
But come along; creep along;
Soon we shall be missed.
They'll get a scare and wonder where
We - Hush! . . . . . . Hist!

Ssh! . . . . . . Soft!
I've told you oft and oft
We should not stray so far away
Without a moon aloft.

Oo! . . . . . . Scat!
Goodness! What was that?
Upon my word, it's quite absurd,
It's only just a cat.
But come along; haste along;
Soon we'll have to rush,
Or we'll be late and find the gate
Is - Hist! . . . . . . Hush!

(Kok!. . . . . . Korrock!)
Oh! I've had a shock!
I hope and trust it's only just
A frog behind a rock.

Shoo! . . . . . . Shoo!
We've had enough of you;
Scaring folk just for a joke
Is not the thing to do.
But come along, slip along -
Isn't it a lark
Just to roam so far from home
On - Hist! . . . . . . Hark!

Look! . . . . . . See!
Shining through the tree,
The window-light is glowing bright
To welcome you and me.

Shout! . . . . . . Shout!
There's someone round about,
And through the door I see some more
And supper all laid out.
Now, Run! Run! Run!
Oh, we've had such splendid fun -
Through the park in the dark,
As brave as anyone.

Laughed, we did, and chaffed, we did,
And whistled all the way,
And we're home again! Home again!
Hip . . . . . . Hooray!

These days parents would probably give their kid a mobile phone to carry in case of emergency but this poem really did assist in alleviating my fears. I'd walk alone through the dark reciting rhymes and when I got to the end, I'd start again.

More recently I recorded a version of C J Dennis' classic as part of my 2013 video presentation to conclude the centenary of Leeton. I offered my eldest son a financial incentive to learn the poem and we recorded him reciting it.  

Hist! was then added to a soundtrack composed from sounds recorded at a nearby playground, click hear to see it.

Framing in peeking

Peeking as a cultural instrument, must have come into its own with invention of lacework balcony. This not only affords the aforementioned screen for the observer, but allows him such a variety of metal frames for the object of observation as to keep the game fresh. A fat woman in a mustard-colored dress viewed through any one of the four right angles of an iron cross, appears symbolic, dignity in every scallop of powdered flesh, a champion of all fat women who own mustard-colored dresses. But the same women in the same dress, viewed through a series of interlocking circles of iron…appears ludicrous and entangled, drowning in iron ripples.
From Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze.

A career in nursing

Catherine Lane came to Griffith in 1961 to work as a nurse in the District Hospital's operating theatre, bringing this copy of Pye's Surgical Handicraft.

The text was in its 16th edition in 1952 and it seems incredible to see it was first published in 1884. Nurse Lane's own career saw her move to the Griffith Base Hospital's surgical ward before she retired in 1994. Just like the editions of Pye's manual, she would have seen many changes to operating procedures in her time.

Catherine Lane (nee Tweddle) started her nursing career on 1st January 1956 at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. It was a four-year course and students could not marry until after graduation. Nurse Lane became a midwife at Royal North Shore Hospital in April 1960 and at that time the Hospital was one that dealt in adoptions.

After arriving in the Riverina in 1961 to work in the Operating Theatre at Griffith District Hospital, she soon progressed to the role of Sister-in-Charge by October as no one else wanted the role. “I did not have a choice,” wrote Lane when donating these items to Pioneer Park Museum, as Matron Fox ruled the Hospital in those days “and she was the law!!!”

In 1985 Catherine Lane worked in the Surgical Ward at Griffith Base Hospital and she retired in 1994.

Catherine Lane’s sphygmomanometer was used to measure blood pressure. The inflatable cuff inflates to restrict and then release the flow of blood in an artery in a controlled manner.

The word comes from the Greek sphygmos (pulse) plus the scientific term manometer (pressure meter). The device was invented by Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch in 1881.

Scipione Riva-Rocci introduced a more easily used version in 1896, and then, in 1901, Harvey Cushing modernised the device and popularised use within the medical community as means of identifying tension and other ailments.

Magpies through European eyes

This morning I was prompted to think about magpies.

The Australian magpie is a member of the butcherbird family and is distinctly different to the Eurasian magpie, which is a member of the crow family.

Australian magpies got called a magpie because a European saw their black and white markings and thought they looked like a bird they knew from another country. Wikipedia discusses their taxonomy.

There are many Aboriginal names for magpies, as a result of there being many Aboriginal languages. So it occurred to me that the fact we call a local bird by the name of a bird from the other side of the world is a result of colonialism.

It's interesting to look at art made by early Europeans in Australia and see how they drew gum trees that look more like European trees. It's a bit funny the way they represent the landscape in a manner of another landscape.

They painted the Australian landscape and made the scenery like that of Europe. The Trees don’t look Australian and the natives presented clothed.

It seems to me that the naming of a local type of bird by the name of another type of bird illustrates how this quaint misrepresentation continues. The use of language demonstrates that Australians still see their country through European eyes.

Scene and heard

While visiting Bidgee Studio in Griffith recently, Kristin Hersh observed that “A scene is something there isn’t much of these days, geographically anyway.”

It prompted me to think about the musical scenes that I'm involved with, particularly the Ninja Tune Forum Remix Chain and the Disquiet Junto and Naviar Records' projects. The latter two might be based in the US and UK respectively but, like the Remix Chain, draw on a community of musical producers from across the world.

What each offer me are creative prompts to produce music and other recordings. For example, the Remix Chain pushes me to find a new way to interpret the work of another producer. These remixes of a remix of a remix of a remix etc. are released under the label Shinobi Cuts, which is a reference to the Ninja Tune label's forum that brought us together.

The Disquiet Junto often offers a new technique and sometimes these are ideas that I would never explore without the prompt. For example, the recent project proposed by Monome’s Brian Crabtree called 'layered sameness' is an idea that I would've have dismissed well before trying it out.

The idea of recording nearly a dozen takes without a metronome and then layering them together would've seemed unlikely to have produced the lush and shimmering result that I got. I liked it so much that I used the idea again the following week when recording music to accompany the hum of my fridge.

In contrast the Naviar Records projects are often less prescriptive. Their principal proposal is to respond to a haiku shared each week and this usually is a deadline for me to record whatever riff I've been jamming on each week. Sometimes I come up with something directly responding to their prompt but mostly I am just prompted to record.

It can be surprising to hear the results. For example, this week the haiku seemed to have such a sense of foreboding that I spent a little while finding the right minor key chords to convey something approximating the poem shown on the right. You can hear the result below.

So I was surprised to hear the incredibly upbeat response from another participant that's embedded below. It was the sort of unexpected result that made me feel a lot less self-conscious about the rock songs I'd recently recorded for Naviar projects, given that so many participants post droning ambient pieces.

Like the musical scene in Boston described by Hersh, each of those I'm involved with offer supportive communities. They demonstrate that the internet has a role in overcoming geography to bring together people with mutual interests. It's something I observed more than 20 years ago when I first started exploring the online world and it's great that sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, as well as Youtube, provide tools to share content like music and video.

Otherwise living in regional Australia would be a lot less interesting for me.

My partner Jo

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”

This section of Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet is popular for wedding vows and, despite not being married, I often quote it when describing my relationship with Jo.

There’s a lot that I could write about my partner but one of the things that I relish about her is her intelligence. There is “a moving sea between the shores” of our souls and it’s one that frequently surprises me with new depths. What emerges are insights from uncharted waters and a sense of being swept beyond the waves where I tread water.

When I first met Jo I was a bit shocked by her views. She challenged my thoughts in many areas and for a long time I resisted her charms. I thought my way into a kind of fortress with battlements of ideology. Then, after a night dancing, we retreated to my bed and I remember touching the smooth skin of her arm and feeling a kind of electric shock. It was then that I had that fairy tale moment of knowing she was ‘the one’.

What followed was a different kind of ideological battle. For a while I received messages like “I’m here for a good time, not a long time” that were defences against my romantic overtures. Over time we began to plan a journey through life together and I remember one Easter where we settled on the idea of having children.

After she fell pregnant I proposed marriage and was surprised by the cool response that she’d consider it. A day or so later Jo told me that she wouldn’t be my wife. She explained that it felt like a betrayal of her values and that marriage was a kind of outdated property exchange. It really set the tone for our relationship as she values independent thought and mutual support, while not conforming to the values of a Western Christian society like Australia.

In many ways I don’t question the status quo of society and accept the dreams that are marketed to us. It’s taken a few experiences to realise that notions like working to create a career don’t offer a fulfilling life. At first I was surprised at the way Jo thought work was a kind of slavery and the way she’d structured her life to avoid it. These days I know that my relationship with her is one of the most satisfying that I have. She’s challenged me but also helped me see the activities that nourish and enrich my life.

In many ways I’m grateful to have a partner like Jo for 14 years or so now. The video above is one I made soon after we moved into the house we bought four years ago. These days the garden contains many more plants, particularly wattles that screen our yard from neighbours and the semi-industrial suburb beyond. It seems a metaphor for what we’ve created and the life that grows within it.

In other ways the video is unrepresentative as it was a time when Jo was growing her hair, rather than wearing her usual mohawk. And an interesting postscript is that she reckons Khalil Gibran is “the most cliched shit” to describe relationships. I argue that a cliche contains a kernel of truth (which is a cliche in itself) but this also seems a nice demonstration of our differences because I think The Prophet is romantic.

Art Deco money clip

Gorgeous Art Deco money clip that I found tucked away at work today.

Vintage computers

Wild art from Mat Brown

Illuminating Workshops at Museum

Griffith Pioneer Park Museum will host workshops demonstrating video projection-mapping techniques on Saturday and Sunday nights of the upcoming long weekend, 11-12 June.

“The sculptures recently created by international sculptors at Pioneer Park Museum will serve as canvases for this exciting technology,” said curator Jason Richardson

Artist Scott Baker has been developing video animations that will be projected onto the sculptures.

“Scott has experience teaching multimedia in university and TAFE classes, as well as amazing audio-visual performances using the moniker Abre Ojos,” said Mr Richardson.

“His work has been seen at festivals and also distributed internationally on commercially available DVDs. Have a google of Abre Ojos to see his astounding work.”

“Scott will be sharing his experience in projection-mapping as well as detailing the creative processes involved in producing the visuals that will be mapped onto the gorgeous granite sculptures.”

The workshops will run from 5-8pm on Saturday and Sunday nights, 11-12 June. Over the two evenings there will be discussion of setting up projectors, creating animations and introductory lessons for the software used to create and map video projections.

“On each night we’ll be mapping video animations to the sculptures and recording the results. We plan to allow workshop participants to gain experience in projection-mapping software, with a number of computers and projectors available to ensure everyone can gain hands-on experience.”

“I’m looking forward to learning techniques from Scott,” said Mr Richardson. “In addition to offering a new medium for storytelling at Pioneer Park Museum, I hope to develop my skills in running projection activities, such as the events I’ve run in the Riverina in recent years and also new artwork I'm creating for projection at Wagga Wagga City Council later this year.”

This project is supported by Arts NSW’s Country Arts Support Program, a devolved funding program administered by Regional Arts NSW and Western Riverina Arts on behalf of the NSW Government.

Hand-crafted model plough

Jeff Weigand taught at TAFE in Griffith for around two decades.

He was sent here from Sydney to teach construction skills after gaining experience as a foreman.

“My boss told me to pack up and move to Griffith in 1975. I said ‘where’s that?’ He said to get $200 from petty cash and to get going.”

Many people have moved to Griffith for work and some have traveled great distances, such as those migrant stories in the Italian Museum.

When Jeff’s father died in the early 2000s, this model plough came to Griffith.

A medallion from Shoalhaven Agricultural Show reveals the plough was awarded first prize in 1885, a result of the work of Jeff’s great grandfather Harry Weigand.

Harry established an Iron Foundry at Nowra and this handcrafted miniature plough is a testament to his skill in producing agricultural items.

I think this plough complements the many that are located around Griffith Pioneer Park Museum, as well as illustrating the migration of people to the region for employment.

Red cedar desk

Earlier this year Griffith Pioneer Park Museum was offered a desk that had been bought at an auction of items from the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission (WC&IC). I was astounded to find it dated from 1879.

This desk was a sort provided to Australian Government employees in the 19th Century. It is believed to have been brought to Griffith for use by WC&IC staff who were based at the Court House, which opened in 1919.

The letters “V R” with a crown on the side of the desk refer to Victoria Regina, Queen of the United Kingdom and colonies including Australia from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. Below these is the date November 1879, indicating when the desk was constructed.

It is constructed from red cedar, a timber that grew widely in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland but was extensively logged by the late 19th Century. Red cedar had become popular very early in Australia’s colonial history and by 1798 it was the country’s third largest export, as well as used in local houses.

Liu Yang's sketch

Another detail from the International Sculpture Symposium at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

I like this sketch of Liu Yang's sculpture that's on the base of the piece, which is now obscured as the artworks were all placed into their upright positions today.

One interpretation of the sculpture is that it shows the weirs on the Murrumbidgee River that allow water to be fed into the Irrigation Area.

I've been wondering if it might also reflect a combination of elements. Granite being earth, the River being water and the cut-out sections showing air.

Other side of 'Eternity'

Previously I posted a photo of Tobel's sculpture 'Eternity' as a work in progress.

It's finished now and I rather like the limited view of Scenic Hill that's presented looking at it from the opposite direction.

Interesting juxtaposition

Andy's Humber Imperial

My late uncle Andy owned a Humber Imperial that had been part of the entourage of Queen Elizabeth's coronation tour of Australia in 1954.

I think it can be seen in the picture on the right, which shows the Queen's visit to the Civic shopping precinct in Canberra.

Below is a video my parents made showing Canberra in the early 1970s.

My parents had an 8mm camera and I've been digitising some of these memories for a while now.

My uncle Peter writes:
My fondest memory of the car was a bunch of us being chauffeured by Andy, resplendent in chauffeur’s cap, to a restaurant in Bondi Junction. Passers by were fascinated as a seemingly endless stream of patrons disgorged from the car. The Humber had a pair of jump seats as well as the front and rear bench seats, I think there were about twelve of us (before the days of seat belts) on that occasion.

Yes, my understanding is Andy’s Humber was used in the Queen’s coronation tour before he bought it.

Sculpture in progress

'Eternity' by German sculptor Tobel.

He's one of seven international sculptors creating public artworks for the centenary of Griffith. They're currently working at Pioneer Park Museum.

Work is life

Detail from a poster at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

An evening with Kristin Hersh

This week I was fortunate to meet the singer of bands Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave, as well as solo recordings. Kristin Hersh was bright-eyed and attentive in conversation, making time to speak with every one of the dozen who attended the night.

During a talk she recounted the scene in Boston near the start of her career, mentioning how important it had been that the bands had an “idiosyncratic sound”.

It was funny to hear her mention that for a long time she’d thought that Black Francis of The Pixies was a lesbian. Hersh mentioned that they’d talked often about how it was to be different.

“We were supported by this scene that allowed us to sound strange,” she’d said ahead of explaining a “glowing garbage” analogy where it was beautiful to be different.

“Pretty music is never going to resonate except in a superficial way,” she’d stated. Hersh discussed how she’d ask people why they liked the music. “They’d say ‘I wasn’t alone’” she recounted, which reminded me how much grunge had seemed to unearth an alienated generation. She described her music as “unattractive, but I had to make it.”

While she acknowledged how important the Boston scene had been to her career, Hersh didn’t see the support network as something that was as important these days. “A scene is something there isn’t much of these days, geographically anyway.”

Hersh was critical of her former label Warner Brothers. She mentioned the advice for songs offered by major labels amounted to “If it blows, it sells.” There was a pursuit of the lowest common denominator that had led to losing early followers. As a result Throwing Muses had found themselves excluded from the Boston scene. “Imagine the losers at your shows if you do what the major labels ask?”

In addition to disparaging the accounting practices of some record labels who would claim that an album was still in debt after paying itself off, she went even harder on the fashion industry. Hersh described that she knew all her physical flaws from appearing in photo shoots, as this industry relished in pointing out shortcomings.

When the opportunity arose to ask a question of her songwriting process, I was dumbfounded to hear Hersh describe it as a case of transcribing aural hallucinations. I’d known that misdiagnosed mental illness had been a theme in her career but didn't think I'd have so little scope to ask about creative processes.

“There’s something about the songwriting process that makes you want to die,” Hersh said later on. “The song exists and it says ‘go away now’.”

Other musicians in the audience asked questions on how to develop and she offered “You have to find your vocabulary to move people.”

“You’re not allowed to be relieved, that’s the listener’s job. You’ve got to crucify yourself. I know a lot of rock stars and they’re ridiculous… I know more successful homeless people.”

It seemed clear that she’d found more contentment outside the world of a recording artist. She explained that she’d been cured of aural hallucinations and no longer wrote songs. Writing books was now her focus and a story was shared about her moving on to editing proofs after performing a concert the night before.

I thought Kristin Hersh was thoughtful, honest and thoroughly charming. The two songs she performed were great, although the acoustic guitar sounded brash with bright new strings and over-powered her singing.

Dreamy soundtrack

This week my body has been fighting a viral infection, which has required a lot of sleep and led to a number of vivid dreams. Dreams are weird, as I've observed here and here.

On Monday night I dreamed I was walking around a town on the Murray River at night with a guitar. I saw these scars on the large River Red Gums that looked kinda recent and realised they were doorways.

On Tuesday night, after an angry email to an authority figure, I dreamed he was showing me a crypt and telling me it was mine.

Then this afternoon I awoke with a song in my head. It was a simple arrangement, a light guitar chord with a bass groove. Anyway, it took me a little while to remember it was a song I'd recorded earlier this year.

Where's my badge-sewing badge?

Sewing patches for the first time since I stopped buying them for my favourite metal bands circa 1990.