The Beatles by Klaus Voormann

Saw this on DJ Food's blog and liked it so much that I thought I'd share here.

Super automaton

March into the archives : Basin review

Basin by Eastern Riverina Arts

Wagga Wagga Regional Theatre on 23 July 2016
Project playwright Vanessa Bates, writers Marty Boyle, Diana Lovett, David O’Sullivan, John Riddell, Sulari Gentill, Freda Marnie Nichol, Craig Palmer, director, designer Scott Howie, performers Virginia Anderson, Haya Arzidin, Stephen Holt, lighting design Sophie Kurylowicz, sound design: Dave Burraston, textiles Julie Montgarrett.

Basin is a play about a fictional town of that name where a man-made lake has been diminishing as a result of drought and an older town revealed as the water recedes. This happened to Adaminaby, the Snowy Mountains town when Lake Eucumbene evaporated during last decade’s drought such that the foundations of the old pre-dam town became visible. Imaginary Basin town is also reminiscent of Lake Jindabyne, another dam site in the Snowy Mountains and the setting for a film where the lake took on a menacing character, as the Australian landscape does in so many stories.

It’s neat that the title Basin refers to a fictional town but also a much bigger geographic area, such as the Murray Darling Basin. The fluid in this vessel is water, the subject given the project’s writers. Howie’s set design reflects the writing with seven bowl-like basins circling the stage. In the middle sits a rowboat, at first covered with a sheet as though unneeded during the drought but later as a prop for a refugee to tell of her sea journey to Australia.

Basin is populated with a variety of characters reflecting the demography of regional Australia: mostly older people but with also a new arrival, the refugee Lily who provides contrast and holds a metaphorical mirror up to the society. With slight adjustments to costumes—unbuttoning a shirt or adding a headscarf—and subtle changes of facial expression, the capable cast played multiple characters in stories more tragic than comic, including a number of deaths, caused not by drought but by drowning. With set and seating positioned on the stage of the Wagga Wagga Regional Theatre, this touring production was intimate—the actors within a few metres of us and firmly in focus.

If you’ve ever lived in a country town, then you’ll know a difference to living in a city is the feeling that everyone knows everyone else’s business. So it was through conversations between the characters that the stories in Basin were told. Robert delivering meals on wheels to the older residents, such as Arnie and Patsy who gossip about each other. Mary missing her brother Jimmy who drowned, which leads Jake to worry it was because the dammed water was insulted — not such a crazy suggestion if you’ve seen the public prayers that appear during extended drought.

Director and set designer Scott Howie developed the project with Newcastle-based playwright Vanessa Bates. “She had to develop a model which allowed for seven writers to write rather than sit around and talk about what to write,” explained Howie. “By the third workshop none of us really knew what the play was. Then Vanessa deftly explained a structure that fitted. There were pages and pages of writing left on the floor. The workshops included the writing of monologues, but once the characters started interacting, the writers had to let go a little of theirs and let the others write them.”

The ‘water’ theme was realised from various perspectives, but I wanted the lake to feature more strongly and with a more consistent character, like the landscape in Picnic at Hanging Rock. It would have made Basin more cogent. However, the short scenes resonated strongly, both for their dramatic impact and a sense of authenticity. Six of the writers live in country towns and a couple of the names I recognised as published novelists. Basin defies the adage that ‘too many chefs spoil the broth’ with a succinct and well-paced production that reveals concerns that lie beneath the surface of regional Australia.

After its eight-town tour of the the Riverina, Basin will next be performed in Dubbo at the Artlands 2016 National Regional Arts Conference and Festival, 27-30 October. 

March into the archives : On Common Ground review


On Common Ground by The Cad Factory
16-18 October 2015 in Narrandera
Artistic director: Vic McEwan
Creative producer: Sarah McEwan
Project Co-ordinator: Julie Briggs
Project assistant: Kimberley Beattie
Production manager: Michael Petchkovsky
Rigging and production: Craig Hull
Production assistant: Kevin Ng, James Farley, Kate Allman

Last year The Cad Factory left from the Narrandera Common for a healing walk with National Museum of Australia’s historian George Main and friends. This year they’ve returned to the site with many more friends to install sculptures, textiles and other works.

Dozens of artists and many more locals came together to promote different perspectives on the location, and the healing theme continues with acknowledgment of the River’s “long history as a contested site”.

This historical perspective is brought into focus during Haunting on the Friday and Saturday nights. It featured a collection of vignettes from the region with images projected onto the River Red Gums across from Second Beach. Richly saturated photographs streamed through smoke onto pale trunks and eroded banks, as George Main and others provided recorded narration over an atmospheric soundtrack.

Haunting is one work developed by The Cad Factory’s artistic director Vic McEwan during his time as artist-in-residence at the National Museum of Australia. The projection brought together water, earth and branches and made them active in the storytelling, “‘enabling understanding that would be possible nowhere else, under no other circumstances’’” says Main in his introduction (quoting literary historian Robert Macfarlane’s view of the poetry of Edward Thomas).

During Main’s narration he remarks how few look at the fields of wheat in the Riverina and imagine the forest of River Red Gums that existed before the latter half of the 19th Century. The Common is one of those places where Australian gums feel like a forest. Many old trunks are wider than cars and some have scars from indigenous use.

While the trees reflected an older landscape, the projection of static images panning slowly across the River did too. It led me to think on the early days of Australian cinema, when the Limelight Department of the Salvation Army were one of the world’s first film studios.

The idea that art is spirituality in drag makes a lot of sense at a Cad Factory production, as the audience see local stories projected large. However, a sluggish pace is a divisive characteristic. The reverence in their tone and spaciousness for reflection has been described as “ponderous”. The snippets of history were like bubbles on the passing river and the variety of voices helped but sometimes George Main was speaking. So. Very. Slowly.

It was surprising to see police arrive as the audience departed Haunting. Facebook later showed a message from Michael Petchkovsky describing an incident with a local:

“The lout must have thought the bunyips had come for him when Hero Fukutu and I floated Gay Campbell's gorgeous black swan right past him in the darkness and Craig said boo to him from behind. He leaped up and ran screaming from the beach in front of all his friends, giving us all (his mates included) a number of giggles…”

The next day a local artist told me these “boys” were a feature at local events. Perhaps they are performance artists in their own right? She also enthused that the youthful audience weren’t engaged in their usual activities in the Common, reinforcing an idea this landscape remains a contentious space.

On the Saturday night there were introductions from McEwan, Main and local artist Michael Lyons, who performed imitations of wildlife such as “devil birds” (owls) on didgeridoo. It was the first of two musical performances that bookended the night. Local musician Fiona Caldarevic closed Haunting with an operatic vocal in a bewitching outfit. It wasn’t until I looked at photos did I notice the pattern on her cloak matched the huge backdrop.

The huge backdrop was Vanishing Point, an installation across the River that was colourfully lit but still impressive the following day. It was elegant how the narrowing wires form a vanishing point and the billowing fabric serves to reflect the black swans that were driven from the landscape. The team of artists led by Julie Montgarrett drew on the writing of Mary Gilmore, who described the decline of swans as ‘swan-hoppers’ disrupting their breeding.

Swans and billowing fabric were recurring features in On Common Ground. Black swans appeared at First and Second beaches in the works of Kerri Weymouth, on a totem pole, and Julie Briggs, in a formation of paper birds streaming down the riverbank. The title of the latter, Yes Faux Nature is a Real Trend, is explained in the program as referencing Glen Albrecht’s term ‘solastalgia’ to describe the anxiety developed in response to negative environmental change.

Fabric on site took many forms, including kites, quilts and an extensive variety of eco-dyed sheets that were the result of workshops with local artists and Nicole Barakat earlier this year. There were many shades but also beautiful details, such as printing the shapes of leaves and branches.

Emma Burden-Piltz is one local artist whose practise has blossomed through collaboration with The Cad Factory. When I wrote about Burden-Piltz’s exhibition in Leeton, she identified circular motifs as an element from the landscape incorporated into her collections of found and reworked objects. In Tangible Spirit, Burden-Piltz hung eco-dyed fabrics to give form to the movement of air, as well as shaping structures that resembled fishing traps. Up close I spotted hand-sewn circles.

Another local artist was Elizabeth Gay Campbell, whose sculptural works are often seemingly simple figures with a deeper message when you read her statements. For example, Ophelia (2015) shows the figure from Hamlet dying in a puddle surrounded by rubbish. In the program the work is described as acknowledging the contaminated waterways and bush. It suggests dying Ophelia is the only remaining beauty but she’ll soon decay.

While a number of the works in On Common Ground shared pessimism about environmental change, I think the event was beaut for showing appreciation of Narrandera’s magical Common. The Cad Factory’s Vic McEwan often explains their role in creating memories within landscapes and the collection of activities and installations showed itself to be more than Bondi’s Sculpture by the Sea replicated on the Murrumbidgee.

More photographs can be seen here

March into the archives : In the Heart of Our Past review


In the Heart of Our Past
A Drive-in Theatre Experience at Narrandera Railway Station
11.30am Saturday 15 March 2014

Presented by The CAD Factory, Western Riverina Arts and Spirit FM
Written by Kieran Carroll
Based on a concept by Vic McEwan
Directed by Kieran Carroll and Vic McEwan
Performed by Paul Mercuri and Lee McClenaghan and the Narrandera Drive-in Theatre Choir
Music by Fiona Caldracevic
Administration by Sarah McEwan
Live sound by Edmondo Ammendola

Narrandera is one of the oldest towns in the western Riverina, having grown at a crossing of the Murrumbidgee River in the 1860s. The weekend is the 20th John O’Brien Festival and celebrates the poetry of Father Patrick Hartigan, famous for characterising pessimistic farmers in the lines ““we’ll all be roomed,” said Hanrahan, “before the year is out.””

Arriving at the railway station for the first of The CAD Factory’s four performances of In the Heart of our Past, I discover the radio in my car doesn’t work. As the play will be broadcast into vehicles while we watch from the carpark, I’m helped to find another seat for the show. My companions are Jess, Sarah, Claire and Frankie the brown labrador, who’s excited to see theatre for the first time according to a Facebook update on the event’s page.

A group in historical costume await outside the station as a tall figure in a baseball cap speaks into one of the microphones set up in front of them. It’s Kieran Carroll, who wrote the three short plays we’re about to see and hear during a 2012 residency with The CAD Factory. The group in costume begin singing as Kieran saunters away. They’re a chorus joining together in choruses, setting a scene that’s timeless and nostalgic and harking back to radio plays.

Actor Lee McClenaghan strides forward and introduces herself as Shirley Bliss, 20-year old dressmaker and winner of Miss Australia in 1954. She’s off to California to compete in the Miss Universe competition, farewelling well-wishers and then fielding questions from a series of journalists all played with varying accents by a mercurous Paul Mercuri. As Bliss arrives in the US, Mercuri transforms into a sleaze, possibly a film producer.

There are a few technical issues with McClenaghan’s wireless microphone cutting out at few points. I joke to my new friends that it sounds though cuss words were censored from the broadcast. Soon Bliss returns to Narrandera, heralded by the real squeal of a real train on the tracks beyond the station. Added atmosphere and apparently unscripted.

A musical interlude as the chorus harmonise before Mercuri and McClenaghan return in 1909 as Dr Harold and Gwen Lethbridge, who would treat Narrandera for over 35 years. The doctor expresses a desire to collect information on indigenous culture as well as snakes and wildlife. He recounts an old Aboriginal saying they “live in the land, not on it” and expresses a desire to eradicate poverty.

The chorus sing again, signalling the shift to the final act. It’s a beautiful song with the refrain “I shall pass” and lines include “any good that I can do, let me do it now”. The singers are led by Fiona Caldarevic, a local musician who — like The CAD Factory — has contributed to the cultural fabric of Narrandera in recent years.

Mercuri returns, bent over a walking stick and introducing himself as a 115-year old who was nicknamed ‘Drought and Rain’ by the Hanrahan of John O’Brien’s poem on account of association with climactic climate conditions.

“That mob in Narrandera will be blaming me for invading Poland,” says Mr Rain as he recounts leaving town ahead of bumper wheat crops. He finds a wife named Summer and jokes “you heard right, I married the hottest season.” After an affair with an April May, Summer leaves for Hobart and sets the scene for a joke about how Summer was never known in Tasmania. Like the rest of the show, it’s lighthearted material and delivered with aplomb.

The technical wizardry of broadcasting sound to a car-based audience evokes both radio plays and drive-ins of previous decades. Listening to comments from Jess, Sarah and Claire made me appreciate that theatre and movies benefit from being enjoyed in an audience. They delighted in aspects that are lost on me, like the performance of a girl in the chorus and the hat of woman. Meanwhile Frankie has excitedly spied a dog in the house behind the station car park.

Country towns often seem stuck in the past, trying to market history to passing cars in an age of innovation. So The CAD Factory bring a refreshing perspective to local events, interpreting stories into new formats with artistry. It enriches through reflection and inspires through fresh representation.

Bolster is a funny word

Last month I posted about a typo on the website of a regional newspaper.

It was one of my occasional postings about errors but I observed recently that the same site again used a variation of the word 'bolster'. It seems they use it frequently, which reminds me of the line about how every journalist needs new cliches.

Bolster does seem like a good word for headlines though as it's short and is easily recognised as a metaphor or perhaps sometimes as an analogy.

Anyway, the use of the word 'bolster' here prompted me to look for a definition.

And when I looked at idea that bolsters might be pillows, I couldn't help but imagine them literally.

If you try thinking about "out-of-towners" as pillows you get this image of grey nomads in a pile with a bunch of Waggans eating and drinking on top of them.

Try it for yourself!

Picture perfect at Pioneer Park Museum

Among the line-up of complementary workshops planned for Griffith Pioneer Park Museum's 'Action Day' this Good Friday will be photography classes from a local living legend.

Garry Bazzacco has been capturing the City of Griffith for over four decades and will offer assistance to beginners and intermediate photographers.

"The workshops will cater for all interested people, from the novice to the enthusiast, being fully beneficial for all those that participate," said Mr Bazzacco.

The first workshops in the morning will introduce an understanding of camera settings. "Using a camera is basically painting with light and, just as a painter will have different brushes to create effects, cameras have different settings that are good to know if you want to get a certain result."

The second workshop at 2pm will apply camera settings to outdoor photography at the Museum. "There's is so much action on Action Day that I expect we'll be able to explore the real-world application of a few photographic techniques."

"I feel this is a great opportunity for the community to take part, to learn, and to promote the variety of arts and crafts our City has to offer, and what a better location than at the Museum."

Jason Richardson, Pioneer Park Museum curator, said these workshops were an opportunity for visitors on Action Day to improve their skills with a camera.

"These days many people have devices that can record photographs and I expect many will be doing so on Good Friday, so this will contribute toward capturing another historic day at our community museum."

This Good Friday will be the 46th Action Day since Griffith Pioneer Park Museum opened in 1971. There will be a range of activities for all ages, including rides and displays.

The Action Day workshops are 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.

Sandwiches for everyone!

When the Ninja Tune Forum closed they started a Reddit thread and I was pleased to see my last sandwich video still had an audience.

Thinking about making another vegan toasted sandwich today. Got a jazzy tune that needs a video.

Coles Custard Creams

When I was a child I had a scented eraser that resembled these biscuits, so maybe I've a sentimental interest in Coles Custard Creams.

Their smell is how I remember that erasers' scent. There's the same ornate design but this biscuit is larger in size.

The Custard Creams' buttery shortbread exterior encases a powder-y cream, which although sweet has something egg-like like custard.

There are two ways to eat this style of biscuit.

The first is to first dip it in tea, usually three times to achieve an optimal balance between saturation and structural integrity.

The second is to split the layers of the biscuit and place each cream-side down on one's tongue.

Random haiku

About a week ago I posted a haiku on Twitter. It was one that I wrote as part of my plan to write a haiku each day this year.

Then I was surprised when this reply came back within a day or so, which incorporates my middle line into a haiku apparently composed from others on Twitter.

It prompted me to think about the scripts and bots that populate Twitter and where one draws a line with collaboration and begins to call it plagiarism.

Then I remembered something about recent poetry controversies concerning lifting lines from other works in the guise of quotation.

In a Roman Osteria

This Classical Art Meme kept showing up in my social media and a strange thing happened.

Each time I looked at it, I'd spot another detail. As I did, I started to ponder the painting. In particular the question of the role of the viewer.

It seems like the viewer is put into the role of someone flirting with the two young women and who will now have to deal with their male companion.

You'll notice he is armed when you spot the knife handle sticking out of his pocket.

Yesterday when I searched for the original painting by Carl Bloch and it was interesting to learn the artwork is a kind of remix of Wilhelm Marstrand's painting of another Italian Osteria Scene. Marstrand was one of Bloch's teachers.

Another interesting detail in Bloch's artwork is that the patron who commissioned the painting, Moritz G. Melchior, is shown in the background. I'd also been wondering what brief Melchior gave Bloch. Did he say "I'd like a painting like Marstrand's one with the pretty Italian girls"? Or maybe "I'd like a painting where, when I look at it, I feel like I'm desired by young women."

Anyway, one final comment is that I think Bloch's remix is an improvement on the original and it's not just the inclusion of a cat -- although I think that was a very savvy move.

Excuse me


It's interesting to observe one of the local newspapers present the issue of medical marijuana after decades of the 'war on drugs'.

The image of a brown-skinned person smoking a joint is probably one that confirms biases among their ageing readership. It's a strange image for medical applications of the plant, seeing as smoking marijuana can cause health complications.

My understanding is that "medical marijuana" will be refined and presented as a medicine, such as hashish oil capsules or tinctures. Even if I'm wrong, it'd still be better to present images of people eating cakes or vapourising as these are healthier alternatives to smoking the so-called drug.

I write "so-called" as marijuana is a plant and the idea of a drug suggests a chemical that has been processed (like alcohol) or refined (like heroin).

Previously I commented on the apparent hypocrisy on the same news website, with stories on a drug raid accompanying one about medical imports being approved.

Animals could eat you

Another funny pic spotted elsewhere.

This one reminds me of the cute sign reminding people not to tease geese at the National Zoo in Canberra.

Two sides of stereo

Spotted this image on Twitter but, sorry, didn't get a photo credit.

It looks like something Scarfolk Council would produce.

One for the money


Via Instagram

Wagging the dog

Winston S. Churchill is attributed with the line that "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," but it's clearly an idea that is still relevant.

Last week a North American friend commented on Facebook about a search topic that seemed to be trending, the question whether "Obama is planning a coup".

When I read about this on Sunday night it occurred to me that it would probably be a couple of days before the Australian media picked up on the story.

Then on Tuesday morning I heard it discussed on ABC's Radio National, later finding this story online.

While there is no suggestion that former US President Obama is planning a coup, it's fascinating that it's widely a topic for discussion.

And that the Australian media is picking up on the discussion suggests to me 'the tail is wagging the dog,' because this kind of news story is a reaction to unofficial sources.

In the days before the number of PR professionals overtook the number of journalists, one would expect that a news story would contain researched opinions.

These days it seems like media organisations are trying to outpace more nimble and less newsy websites in pursuit of clickbait headlines to drive page views.

Towering over the gods

Flipping through books about Art Deco at the library last week and I saw this design on the Rockefeller Centre in New York.

I like the way it's viewed while craning your neck to look up, which is where you'd expect to find an old god among the clouds. Yet this one is crowded by the building, which seems to be the point.

It's as though it's meant to give the impression that new gods have replaced the old.

This photo by "me9aman" via Google image search.

RIP Ninja Tune Forum

This week saw the closing of an online community that has nourished me over the years.

The forum on the website of record label Ninja Tune was one I've visited since 2001. When I first moved to Wagga and didn't know anyone, it filled a considerable gap in my life.

Then when I bought a computer and started playing with audio software, the remix competitions organised by members of the Forum introduced me to many techniques. For a number of months the stems that made a song would be uploaded and then later it'd be fascinating to hear how different producers had manipulated the material.

Over the years other projects developed as a result of posts on the Forum and many of the best were based on a simple creative constraint, much like the Disquiet Junto that I engage with each week.

The 64-bar Challenge was one of the better-known, which sets a length for a track with an agreed BPM. Results were even prepared by Ninja Tune luminary Keven Foakes, who now handles the DJ Food-moniker that was first an outlet for the Ninja Tune label's founders Coldcut.

(I've recently contributed a couple of tracks to a new Challenge and it was interesting for me as the BPMs chosen weren't those I normally use.)

The Seven-minute mixes were another good project, where the goal was to provide an overview of an artist or band within that time constraint. I enjoyed sharing Beck's breaks, some of Skunkhour and the INXS mix below.

Another project was Cut And Run, which involved a four-bar conribution with the first overlapping on the previous contributor and the last overlapping with the next. The result is brief but gives a taste of the different approaches.

And, finally, the Remix Chain. We're currently working through the fifth of these collaborative projects, where each person remixes the last in a Chinese whispers-style. The title Shinobi Cuts is a play on Ninja Tune but in recent years with conversed more on Facebook than the Forum, so I guess that shows one of the challenges to online communities in recent years.

Always was and always will be

This graffiti of the Australian Aboriginal Flag was one I noticed on the drive to Griffith some years ago. 

Then I noticed it had a cross like a gun sight put over it, then the letters.

It's located on the second of the three rises between Whitton and Griffith. Sometimes the grass has grown and it's hard to spot. I've misplaced it a few times.

I went looking for the spot to take this photo after meaning to stop for many years.

New flags appeared a couple of weeks ago.

This one at the turn to Griffith was cleaned off within a week.

Opposite the Cemetary is another flag.

Within a week it was defaced.

It seems significant to observe that this display of the Aboriginal Flag comes on the anniversary of the state of Victoria beginning treaty discussions with their first nations.

The phrase "always was and always will be" is frequently uttered during the 'Welcome to country' ceremonies, which are now a common part of many official functions.

Exponential growth threatens us all

Spotted here

Make the ordinary come alive

The Parents Tao Te Ching by William Martin