Gentle Sentinel

Yesterday I had an urge to write a song and the following lyrics arrived on the page

As river red gums placed on the plains for many centuries
my life as a eucalypt that knows the river flows across a wide red land
in squiggles of creeks, still of billabongs and in hills of sand
waters have wandered and cast aside the few sentinels that stand

Along these ways Gugabul the mighty cod is known to journey home
over one hundred kilometres to a river bend they know
do the fish know sometimes we seek a truth when the answer will wait
at a place we've known and in absence has grown my love
absence has grown my love

Gentle sentinel
standing through time
roots laid in the dark
holder of the heart

In darkness of the soil our roots are intertwined
through the vastness of the ground I found a reservoir await
with my fingers I create the boundary of my physical state
cupped as a vessel sailing the curves of the hills we overtake

Hot winds blow with the hard light of the sun
the excited chatter of birds that know no one
don't let jealousy tremble your limbs as a leaf would shake
you only need to fear what the axe can take my love
fear what the axe can take my love

Three Body Problem

I keep waiting for somebody to joke about a ménage à trois in the Netflix adaptation of Three Body Problem

Let me say how much I enjoyed the books and the Chinese TV show.

The Netflix version reminds me that, like Avatar, they're not afraid to change scenes up.

In this case the result seems a bit like Friends, but they're attractive physicists who argue about working for the military industrial complex and don't have threesomes!

Actually, I think it's obvious the American version has removed everything Chinese except the bits the Chinese originally buried in the book to appease censors.

In particular the scenes from the Cultural Revolution are foregrounded at the expense of detailing the character that starts an alien invasion.

The Panama scene was everything I hoped to see, but the opportunities to show phsicists grappling with questions of science has been diminished.

It's not surprising, they've shrunk 30 hours of the Chinese adaptation into eight hours for the Netflix version and ended up covering ground from the second book.

New art

The theme for the Leeton art competition this year is "dust and rain"

I find their themes irresistable and, unfortunately for me, there's was a change of plans while making my artwork and it ended up being disqualified from competition.

It's great to be part of the exhibition.

Nova Lisa

This image appeared in my Facebook Memories today 

It was shared six years ago but I've got a new appreciation for this dissection of Da Vinci's masterpiece after reading a biography of the artist last year.

Leonardo spent years working on the Mona Lisa and during that time he also made a number of discoveries about the human anatomy. 

The artist might be Hannes Kreuzer and I appreciate the way he's captured some of the diversity in Da Vinci's output.

Are you being served?

David Henry Taylor recently returned to the counters at Taylor Brothers Store in Griffith Pioneer Park Museum

This building is a replica of the first business in the main street displays many of the items that were sold during the early days in our city.

It's a reminder of the times before self-service supermarkets and a recent visitor shared their recollection of working downstairs to package stock for sale.

Avatar the latest story bender

There's a lot to like about the live-action Netflix adaptation of The Last Airbender

The show feels like a remix of the original cartoon story.

It works for me in a way like the Zelda games all begin to blur as the story is retold over and over again.

These days that deja vu-like telling is explained by a conceit like the multiverse, but I wonder if it hints at a Dreamtime sense that these things have always happened and will always happen.

It might be that dramatic arc that's laid out with Sozin's comet and other celestial movements that accompany the arrival of the Avatar.

The story always had a grandeur beyond the Nickelodeon format back when I first started watching the animated series with my firstborn son nearly two decades ago.

I've revisited the series with successive children and there's been a pleasure in rediscovering the characters who populate the universe of the elemental kingdoms.

My kids didn't take to the Netflix series but I thought the action sequences were a massive improvement on the animation.

They bristled with sacrilege in the mergings of half-hour stories into the new hour-long episodes.

Yet every reworking of the characters seemed to make sense within the grander scope of the live-action drama.

At first the casting of Katara felt wrong and then I realised it made more sense for her to be closer to Aang's age.

Likewise Uncle Iroh took a little getting used to but, in the subtle details like when he handled the game tile, I gained a new appreciation for the role of Pai Sho in the Order of the White Lotus.

I didn't think I'd like the Netflix version after being horrified by the film version, yet now I want to see a seriousness taken with the political subplot in the Earth Kingdom.

And now I want to see the Library in the desert fully realised and there are so many other stories that I can't wait to see retold.

Meta won't save journalism

It seems ridiculous to expect Facebook to pay media companies for content that's published behind paywalls

I can understand the importance of news organisations but most of the commercial ones are just republishing PR and media releases anyway.

Meta were stupid for giving money to them, since now every other government are asking for millions to pay for media companies that couldn't make the leap to a new paradigm.

When classifieds went online, the business model for journalism broke.

It's a serious concern for democracies and evident that no one is watching some areas of government.

Yet you've got to wonder if that's any of Facebook's business?

Everything exists in history

As I neared the end of my first degree, it became obvious that I'd missed an opportunity

Many of my friends at ANU were majoring in History and I began to realise the scope it provides.

My favourite major at the time was Cultural Studies (it was the 1990s!) and that subject was liberating for the breadth of analyses and interests, yet history encompasses all subjects.

"Everything exists in history," I said to my mates and it's a realisation that few seem to have noted.

(I recently googled the phrase and there was only one mention other than my own.)

Now that I work within a museum, I often wonder why more institutions don't act on the opportunities available to reflect this broad scope.

So yesterday I took the opportunity to present the Southern NSW Heritage Group with a survey of creative projects from around our region.

These are public outcomes that engage with history in various media, both inside and outside of museums.

I began with some context by outlining my background and interests, particularly a key lesson from my career working in public relations that human interest stories are effective and often affecting.

A lot of my work as a curator at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum involves putting a human face on history.

People can't help but look for faces and it will often bring into focus experiences as a way of giving context for an item.

My curating role is part-time and I shared with the Group that I consider myself a full-time creative who has achieved some recent success in writing.

This includes poetry and it's a style that provides an example of how writing in museums could be done differently.

There are many layers of meaning available in poetry and I often think back to this quote from Harrison Young.

(As an aside I noted that not many people have heard of Mr Young, who left the Board of the Commonwealth Bank and no longer gets mentioned in the Australian Financial Review for writing erotic fiction. I think the latter is great because everyone should have a creative outlet!)

 

One project that brought creative writing to regional museums was the Encounters program run by Orana Arts.

They recruited a group who were mentored by Ruth Little to produce a book that includes a range of styles, from an essay to poetry.

Ruth crammed a huge number of consideratons into our heads during a two-day workshop at Port Macquarie and the photo shown here was taken by project coordinator Andrew Glassop.

I thought it would be easy to write about Pioneer Park, having worked there for a couple of years, and my creative non-fiction piece led me back into the role of curator.

Another project I shared was Leeton Memories, which I developed for the not-for-profit organisation Red Earth Ecology.

We commissioned a series of oral history recordings and recruited Leeton-based artists (and writers) to interpret the conversations as displays in the local community op shop windows, which have an excellent location on the main street of town and faces the zebra crossing.

Shown here is Cynthia Arel, better known for her work as a designer for stage and screen, who interpreted the memories of Julie Maytom.

You can sorta see the sign in the lower left-hand corner that showed the QR code which linked to the recording of Julie.

I was surprised how often I'd pass the Leeton Memories displays and find people were listening to the recordings at these links, but it's clear that audiences are more familiar with this technology since COVID-19.

One other example of an artist working with local history is the work by my partner Jo Roberts called "Geo/graphology," which was part of the Ngurambang exhibition at Griffith Regional Art Gallery last year.

This used the Cut-up Technique to investigate hidden histories, providing an interactive exhibit that blurred the line between artist and audience while gently questioning perspectives.

I gave couple of examples from my work at Pioneer Park, such as the current exhibition based around Gugabul and my 2016 photographic exhibition to celebrate the Museum's 45th anniversary.

The latter presented images from the past in the present day locations around the Park's grounds and coincided with Griffith's centenary celebrations.

To conclude my presentation I gave a couple of examples from museums in our region, including the "Old is New..." project recently run by The Cad Factory at the Parkside Museum in Narrandera and the "Old:New" exhibition curated by Kate Allman at the Museum of the Riverina in 2020.

Kate made an observation that it can be a challenge for museums to engage audiences:

“Maybe we read a little about it and think about that object’s place in history but putting an artist’s perspective on it adds a different layer.

“It can make us think about some deeper themes, some deeper connections to history, and I think that’s what this exhibition does through the stories it tells us.”

It was fortuitous that on the morning of my presentation I read that people will spend "around 27 seconds" reading the information accompanying an exhibit.

And it was wonderful to be introduced at that time to this cartoon by Lynda Barry that I quickly incorporated to conclude my presentation.

I think it shows a connection that can be rewarding when visiting an exhibition and believe this is something that curators should aspire to achieve.

There were lots of questions afterwards and I had an opportunity to tell the crowd from regional museums to "embrace the freak" when a weirdo like me comes along with an idea.

And, any artists reading this, please consider reaching out to your local history group as you might find it advantageous to have the support of an incorporated community group when preparing a funding application.

I'd rather knot

Spotted this old-fashioned fencework outside Stuart Town

It was outside a house that appeared to be a wattle and daub construction, so probably old as well as old-fashioned.
 

Birdlife at the Museum

One of the things that surprises me most about working in Griffith is the variety of birds

As someone who grew up among the Brindabellas, there's a deep sense of satisfaction about seeing the hills rise around me on the drive to work.

It starts with three gentle crests along Irrigation Way after one turns north past Whitton.

Scenic Hill is another of these increasing landmarks and from there I can see they become mountains like Binya, Bingar and Brogden in the nearby Cocoparra National Park.

Griffith Pioneer Park Museum's grounds on the Hill feature a mix of older grey box trees and younger cypress pines, which provide shade for the gardens maintained by a group of volunteers.

On these branches and among the flower beds I get glimpses of communities of birds.

There's a family of magpies and over recent months I've watched as they teach an offspring to be wary of me.

Mallee ringneck parrots have also been breeding and they used a hollow in the grey box near the Goolgowi Train Station for a while.

Earlier this year I observed a parent showing their bird where to find a meal from a succulent, which might've been a pigface.

In previous years a college of noisy apostle birds could be heard making a mess by tearing off plant limbs.

This season might be the first that the Museum has been visited by white-browed babblers.

My manager Jenny reckons she'd never seen them at Pioneer Park before and it was good to have assistance from Jo and her bird books to identify them.

These babblers seem to share their call with the grey-crowned variety, which Wikipedia notes has earned them names like dog-bird, barker and barking-bird.

They will share a cute "ruff" sound excitedly with each other, so I found myself describing it as a canine-esque noise.

You can hear it in this short video I made when a babbler got lost in the Wine & Irrigation Museum building 
 

Another recent observation was a trio of tawny frogmouths sitting in a cypress pine near the Griffith Hospital building.

It's great to see such a variety of birds and so different to those at home in Leeton, although I'm often frustrated by my inability to get a good photo using the mobile phone supplied by Council.

However, this iphone has been great for recording my duets with pied butcherbirds.
 


You can see more of my photos at https://shotwildlife.blogspot.com/

 

Ducks in a row

"Ducks in a row means having everything well-organized or fully prepared before taking on a project or anything else."

A friend pointed out the ducks' shadows seem off and it prompted me to observe that sometimes the ducks appear in a row, but sometimes it's an illusion.

Sometimes things are a lot worse than they appear.

FM3 Buddha Machine

I've had a couple of these machines and they proved most useful when trying to sleep at Burning Man's regional events in Australia

You can probably guess how the soothing drones from a couple of Buddha Machines will interact and help with sleep when confronted with multiple sound systems shaking the earth and vibrating air molecules.

One of the best lessons my father taught me was to put on a radio when nights were too noisy to sleep.

The FM3 loops provided a sound to focus on, rather than having my ear wandering the paddock and becoming annoyed by the sound systems that drift in and out of time and gratingly never agree on a musical key.

It was surprising how well my partner and I slept as the ground rumbled and people partied through the night.

I ended up buying one for my mother out-law and she used it to sleep on her travels.

The latter editions of the FM3 Buddha Machine had the advantage of being louder and adjusting pitch, but mine didn't seem as robust as the earlier model.

I'm hoping to buy a replacement whenever they are stocked in Australia again.

 

Rotating

This week I was invited to speak with Yenda's Rotary Club and outlined how my background as a writer and artist informs my work at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum

It was good to share a meal with the group and encourage them to be part of the Museum's Action Day event on Good Friday.

(They seemed a bit deflated when I said the Lions Club look after the sausage sizzle!)

It was an engagement that followed from talking at an event celebrating the centenary of Rotary's sister organisaton Inner Wheel last month, although at that one they asked I discuss Griffith in the 1920s.

Today I was surprised to see in my Facebook Memories that I spoke with Griffith East Rotary Club seven years ago.

There have been a series of events that make me feel as though I'm returning to events from 2017 through returning to the role of Curator at the Museum.

As the song says, "it's all just a little bit of History repeating"!

Invasion of Australia Day

Thirty years ago the 26 January became a public holiday

It was an awesome moment for an entirely different reason and that was the incredible line-up at the Big Day Out concert in Sydney!

In recent years the celebration of Australia Day has been met with increasing recognition that the continent had owners prior to becoming a British colony.

Today I'm pondering if Australia Day would be called Invasion Day regardless of the date because the question of sovereignty remains unanswered.

I believe it's this question that was not satisfactorily addressed in the referendum last year, as many First Nations weren't assured that legal recognition in the Australian Constitution was tantamount to accepting the legitimacy of the document and undermining the need for treaties.

My recollection is the increased funding for Australia Day events saw a rise in patriotism.

Over the years the Big Day Out began to be characterised by people wearing the Australian flag like a cape, for example.

I seem to remember that was one reason given by the concert organisers to hold the event on a different day, but it had also grown to be two concerts in Sydney.

As the population of Australia increasingly recognises a First Nations identity, I expect the question of sovereignty will become louder.

There is a need for our country to reconcile the national narrative, but it will always mean different things to different people.

For me it always was and always will be...

Stay out of trouble

RoboCop was one of my obsessions in high school 

While I can appreciate the sentiment here, his original advice to "Stay out of trouble" should cover such simple activities as those stated here.

Anyway, now I should go wash the dishes so that I can cook lunch!

Heavens opened

 


Jason Richardson artist bio

Late last year I was asked for an artist bio and must've been feeling like a smartarse, as I wrote:

In the year 2023, Australia is a totalitarian state where the favourite television program is “Married At First Sight” -- a game show in which a group of strangers participate in a social experiment and are forced together by experts. The idea is rapidly applied to other media and group exhibitions, team sports, compilations and anthologies abound.
Having been described as an interdisciplinary artist for his restless imagination and inability to stick with one medium, the textual deviant Jason Richardson is maligned as a poet through refusing to use punctuation. Although artists have little opportunity for being employed, he takes the chance to propagate ideas by accepting deadlines and produces strange passive sentences while dreaming of escape from Leeton.

Eight arms to hold you

Not sure I'd leave the couch with this blanket keeping me warm!