November 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The year’s most anticipated exhibition at GOMA is from a truly global artist whose dramatic installations and explosion events have made him one of the most innovative figures in contemporary art. Over the past 25 years, Cai Guo Qiang has held solo exhibitions at some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York. Following recent exhibitions in Qatar, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro and Venice, QAGOMA is excited to present ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ — the artist’s first solo exhibition in Australia and a GOMA exclusive.
‘Falling Back to Earth’, presented by Tourism and Events Queensland and Santos GLNG Project, features three major installations, including two newly commissioned works directly inspired by the landscapes of southeast Queensland, which the artist visited in 2011. The centrepiece of the exhibition — Heritage 2013 — features 99 replicas of animals from around the world, gathered together to drink from a blue lake surrounded by pristine white sand, reminiscent of the lakes of Moreton Bay’s islands. The second installation, Eucalyptus 2013 responds to the ancient trees of Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast hinterland, while the third — Head On 2006 — is a striking installation of 99 artificial wolves leaping en masse into a glass wall, on display in Australia for the first time.
Promising to be both spectacular and meditative, and presenting a beautiful, thought-provoking vision of our relationship with the earth and with each other, ‘Falling Back to Earth’ is the must-see exhibition of the summer.
‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ is not a timed ticketed exhibition. Visitors may enter the exhibition anytime between 10am-4pm daily, with the exhibition and Gallery closing at 5pm.
23 November 2013 – 11 May 2014
November 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
From The Guardian:
Australian television has been deprived of Aboriginal characters, but the ABC’s drama is exploring broader Indigenous identities.
Growing up in the 1980s, I don’t remember seeing many portrayals of Aboriginal people in Australian television drama, save the miniseries The Harp in the South and its sequel Poor Man’s Orange.
Both series featured an Aboriginal man Charlie Rothe, who married Roie Darcy; the eldest daughter of an impoverished Surry Hills family. At the time, I was shocked by the racist language Roie’s mother used to express her concerns about the pairing. Later, I was shocked when I found out that Charlie was played by a non-Aboriginal actor.
The 90s and 2000s weren’t much better. I remember seeing Heath Bergerson playing Reuben in Breakers and reading about how great it was to see an “incidentally” Aboriginal character. Years later, I’m still trying to figure out why, in one episode, the writers had Reuben walking into a cafe carrying a joey. In Bondi.
In 1999, for nine whole episodes, Home and Away featured a teacher called John, a member of the Stolen Generations who copped racism from students and was handed a “Sorry Book”. Many other televisual depictions of Indigenous people followed a similar pattern – only the odd one or two such as Kelly in the Secret Life of Us, seemed reasonable.
There were Indigenous-focused shows that came later, such as SBS’s well-regarded The Circuit, which attracted rave reviews, and Remote Area Nurse, which featured a central white character in a Torres Strait Islander community. But when it comes to dramatic Aboriginal depictions, there has been a gap on air.
So to see Aboriginal actors starring in an Aboriginal drama series, written by Aboriginal people is amazing. And because Redfern Now, currently in its second season, is set in Sydney, it also explores the perils of walking between Aboriginal and mainstream society in a big city.
I see people I relate to. They know a “family gathering” is not just four people sitting around a dinner table. They know that workplace and community responsibilities sometimes conflict. They sit during the national anthem. Then there’s the “Koorioke”. Redfern Now briefly transforms my TV screen into an Indigenous space. That it has also been popular with the mainstream audience is a bonus.
This is not to say it is perfect. Some people, especially those with long connections to Redfern, feel that it doesn’t go far enough in depicting Redfern as a place of strong community importance and struggle. And there have been a couple of moments where it felt as though certain aspects of these Aboriginal lives had been made more palatable for a broader audience.
The first season lacked the intersectional identities that you find in Aboriginal urban-based communities. So I was pleased when the first story of season two featured a gay couple and their daughter. Organised groups of black LGBT people fighting for rights and recognition have been a fixture in some cities for decades; black queer culture is frequently celebrated. It is good that broader Aboriginal identities are being explored in Redfern Now.
It also showed, from commentary that followed this episode, that homophobia can be an issue within our community just as it can in the mainstream. I hope that the show creators, and all involved, were buoyed by the strong community counter-reaction to these comments and continue to include characters that have complex identities. I want to see them delve further into the unique struggles faced by these people in both the black and white worlds. These stories are not only reflective of our communities, but they give Aboriginal actors and writers opportunities to explore their crafts in ways that they have rarely had before on the small screen.
After years of what only can be described as sensory deprivation regarding Aboriginal characters depicted on mainstream television, the ABC’s drama is welcome and long overdue. It gives us a glimpse of an important urban-based Aboriginal community, and tells everyday stories in a way that’s gripping, engaging and identifiable.
There are many more stories to tell and I hope that Redfern Now explores them, pushing more boundaries whilst they’re at it. But more than anything, I hope the show expands the horizons of our mainstream television producers when it comes to depictions of Indigenous people. Tokenistic tales should be buried in the past and diversity should be embraced.
November 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
‘California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way’ will introduce Australian audiences to a broad spectrum of industrial, architectural, commercial, fashion and craft design from California.
Organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and curated by Wendy Kaplan (Curator and Department Head), the exhibition presents over 250 objects, encompassing furniture, ceramics, metalwork, fashion and textiles, architecture, industrial design, and graphics.
Pre- and postwar Californian designers introduced numerous innovations to the design process, and exploited the availability of new materials such as moulded and shaped plywood, fibreglass, wire mesh and synthetic resins — materials and techniques, which, in many cases, grew out of the defence and aerospace industries and defined modern American material culture. Objects by the acclaimed designers Charles and Ray Eames, Henry Dreyfuss, Dorothy Wright Liebes and Raymond Loewy all feature, while the household names Levi Strauss and Mattel are profiled through displays of fashion and children’s toys.
This exhibition reveals the iconic designs that emerged in mid-20th century California, from the innovative furniture of Charles and Ray Eames to the original Barbie doll and the classic Levi’s 501 Jeans.
The exhibition will be displayed until February 9th, 2014.
Adult tickets: $16.50
Concession tickets: $13.50
October 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Alice Munro, the renowned Canadian short-story writer whose visceral work explores the tangled relationships between men and women, small-town existence and the fallibility of memory, has won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.
As a child “books seem to me to be magic, and I wanted to be part of the magic,” Munro once told The Guardian.
Ms. Munro, widely beloved for her spare and psychologically astute fiction that is deeply revealing of human nature, appeared to be more of a purely literary choice for the award. She revolutionized the architecture of short stories, often beginning a story in an unexpected place then moving backward or forward in time, and brought a modesty and subtle wit to her work that admirers often traced to her background growing up in rural Canada.
Frequently compared to Chekhov and Mansfield for the deft originality of her short stories, she had always been among the favourites to win, alongside novelist Haruki Murakami and Belarusian investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich.
It is a victory that has delighted many of her literary colleagues as well as her devoted readership – to whom she has always seemed something of a cherished secret. That she has been frequently omitted from conventional lists of the greatest writers of her age is perhaps because of her chosen form, the short story, as well as the apparent narrowness of her palette, since most of her works explore the warp and weft of small-town life in Western Ontario.
Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, issued a statement praising Ms. Munro as the first Canadian woman to win the Nobel in literature. “Canadians are enormously proud of this remarkable accomplishment, which is the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant writing,” he said.
Ms. Munro, 82, explained that she had decided to stop writing because she had been working since she was about 20 years old.
“That’s a long time to be working, and I thought, maybe it’s time to take it easy,” she said. “But this may change my mind.”
October 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The little park where he played as a boy in Swansea has had a facelift, and a bronze statue is to be erected outside his childhood home. Manuscripts and rare photographs have been borrowed from an archive in New York, and his quotations have been liberally applied to council vehicles. Wales is preparing to embrace once again Dylan Thomas, its errant son, 100 years after his birth. Next year the poet who was too “English for the Welsh and too Welsh for the English” is finally to receive the full accolades many feel he has long deserved.
Announcing that £750,000 would be made available for the “DT100″ festival, the Welsh government hopes the centenary will boost tourism, but first minister Carwyn Jones said the festival would also be used to raise the status of Thomas, and Welsh tourism minister Edwina Hart called for “resurrecting” a passion for the poet.
There are strong feelings that Wales, and the rest of the UK, have neglected Thomas, allowing his work to be overshadowed by a conception of the man as a drunkard, scrounger and womaniser. His admirers want to use the occasion to debunk the myths and rediscover the poet who in his lifetime was dubbed “Britain’s finest” – the poet who worked so hard that there are as many as 200 versions of the same poem, and whose reading tours were gruelling.
Thomas made an unlikely hero – a short, curly-haired, tubby man, usually in a borrowed suit, with a cigarette permanently cushioned on a fat bottom lip. But he is the man who inspired John Lennon to write songs, put the Dylan into Bob, took the girlfriend of Augustus John to bed (and had him pay for the hotel room), hung out with Salvador Dalí, was feted by Charlie Chaplin and photographed for Vogue by Lee Miller. He is even credited with opening the west’s literary doors to black African literature by promoting, in this very newspaper, Nigerian Amos Tutuola’s novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard, and with starting the spoken voice LP. Thomas was one of the first to recognise the huge cultural potential of radio and TV.
Yet he is not on academic curriculums, and even Welsh schools are only now being encouraged to examine his work. There has never been a complete works, and academia has snubbed him. Dr John Goodby, of Swansea University, said Thomas has been “airbrushed” out: “Thomas fell from grace. There was a whole slew of books in the 70s … and then nothing. It was as if in Wales there was this inwards, more nationalistic, discourse, which Thomas didn’t fit. He didn’t write in Welsh, for a start.”
Although some later works, such as Fern Hill and his play Under Milk Wood remain popular, it is the kind of popularity that makes academics suspicious and his reputation has declined, said Goodby. He said that Thomas fell between the cracks because he was hard to pigeonhole and his work had such an embarrassing richness when plainer, anecdotal poetry was being critically acclaimed.
Goodby said Thomas would never have been able to write anything if he’d been as drunk as people said. He represented a spirit of freedom. “But things are getting better,” he concluded. “Swansea was in denial of him for a long time but now they see he could be a moneyspinner and do for Wales what James Joyce has done for Dublin.”
In Thomas’s day middle-class parents discouraged their children from speaking Welsh for fear it would stunt their career prospects. His schoolteacher father even sent him to elocution classes. He himself didn’t want his poetry to be “regionalised”, although his love of Wales is undeniable.
“He echoes what a lot of us feel: sometimes you love to hate Wales,” said eminent Welsh poet Menna Elfyn, “I once wrote a poem in the shape of a boomerang because that’s how I felt about Wales – ultimately you are pulled back to your roots in a search for a quiet spot.”
Jo Furber is Swansea council’s literature officer, based at the elegant Dylan Thomas Centre, an arts centre with an exhibition devoted to the poet. “We have so many people coming in to learn more about him. They sometimes don’t arrive as an admirer but leave as one. He has probably suffered because he is difficult to categorise, both in his life and his poetry. He was a man who didn’t go to university yet was incredibly well read. He loved the classics, but was happy to read detective stories in the bath, eating jelly babies.”
She is applying for funding to put the centre on the literary heritage map. “We’d love to expand. What we’d love the most is to find some moving footage of him; there has to be some out there somewhere. Perhaps the centenary will bring that out of an attic somewhere.”
September 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Queensland Art Gallery in South Brisbane in fine weather. Though always a stimulating experience, to say the least, I derived particular enjoyment from this visit when I discovered several paintings by William Robinson, a Brisbane artist. Later research informed me that Robinson, now in his seventy-seventh year, is a two-time Archibald Prize winner. He is, however, most widely recognised for depictions of Australian landscapes. I was utterly taken with the intense, surreal nature of these paintings, as well as the unique sensitivity with which Robinson evoked deeply Australian sentiments (the transcendental qualities of the land being, for me, the foremost example; an intricate theme which Robinson has unpacked with care and beauty).
I refer you to the Queensland Art Gallery website’s entry on Robinson’s painting ‘Dark Tide’ (above); an eloquent thematic description:
“Dark tide, Bogangar 1994 is a melancholy seascape depicting the turbulent Pacific Ocean silhouetted against a pale sky.
“It records the multiplicity of nature’s moods through an entire day. The scene unfolds from left to right: a dark tide rises up against the morning light before sinking down under the evening sky. Swelling against the writhing horizon, the sea appears not as alien to the sky but as an interdependent element.
“William Robinson knits together intersecting perspectives, near and far, above and below, before and after. These juxtapositions ultimately consolidate to form a single image. However, the scene is perceived from an indeterminate vantage point, suspended between sea and sky, and not subject to the laws of gravity.
“This ambiguity lends further uncertainty to the spatial dimensions of the painting, and serves to articulate its metaphysical aspect. The shifting perspective created by planes which recede, tilt and plunge reinforces the feeling of a vastness in nature which is impossible to express or experience from a single viewpoint.”
I highly recommend to anyone yet to visit the current exhibitions to do so. The paintings of William Robinson were a truly enriching experience which have whet my interest in an artist whom, prior to last week, was unbeknownst to me. I hope you’ll have a similar experience.
September 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is among the world’s most important literary awards and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers. Last Tuesday, 10 September, the field of books eligible for the prize was narrowed to a short-list of six.
As Commonwealth prize, the shortlist reflects the common wealth of many nations, many imaginations. It registers not only a multicultural world, but its migratory visions.
The six books on the list could not be more diverse. There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeko). The oldest author on the list, Jim Crace, is 67, the youngest (indeed the youngest ever shortlistee), Elanor Catton, is 28. Colm Tóibín has written more than 15 books, The Luminaries is only Catton’s second.
The dark requiems of Tóibín and Crace; the comical philosophical acrobatics of Ozeki and Catton, and the heartfelt protests of Bulawayo and Lahiri form a marvellous list of books; perhaps the best shortlist in a decade. The selection does what it is meant to do: advocate for new fiction in general, and these superb books in particular. As the chair of this year’s judging panel, Robert MacFarlane, explained when announcing the shortlist: “We were drawn to novels that sought to extend the possibilities of the form… We wanted novel novels.” And that is what they found, six books that resist generic categories and divert from formal expectations.
The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013 is announced 15 October.
The Man Booker Prize Short-list 2013:
- The Luminaries – Elanor Catton
- The Testament of Mary – Colm Toibin
- We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
- The Harvest – Jim Crace
- The Lowland – Lumpha Lahiri
- A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki