Tuesday, June 24, 2014


So because of a combination of illness, poverty, and family stuff, I was unable to spend much time visiting Dark MOFO this year. This is not to be taken as a criticism of ticket prices, as they seemed quite reasonable considering what was on offer. No this is much more a comment on my own inability to look after myself. Surely a topic for later essay.

I did get to see the Memoriam by Amelia Rowe, which I wrote about here.

If you lived anywhere in the area you were able to see the light installation Articulated Intersect. An artwork by the Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Living in Dodges Ferry we could see the dancing beams of light from our back yard.

The family went to Okines Community House to take part in the Okines Community Gardens Winter Feast. This too could be seen as a festival of light. Hundreds of glass jars were turned into lanterns and decorated by the local children. The kids paraded down to the the aptly, if unsurprisingly, named Okines Beach. Local husband and wife duo Serena and Andy How killed it with a cover of “Ramble On”, while later Bigger Than Bill played. In the distance, searchlights danced and intersected in the waning crone moon solstice darkness. Fairy lights hung, like a failed spider web, from gum trees. Fires burnt in 44 gallon drums which had holes punched to create intersected patterns of rusting metal and flame. Light was all around; candles and flashlights, mobile phones, the flames in the hand built, bread roll baking, oven. And the light that was brought to life was overwhelmed, while teasing and dancing with the endless, bottomless, darkness of the sky, of the ocean.

In an interview with the Guardian the light installation artist noted that search lights were used as propaganda by Nazi's as part their infamous Nuremberg Rallies. As I was wandered, with the children, about Sullivans Cove, we chatted about the use of search lights in other situations. I noted that search lights were used by the Red Army in the climactic, apocalyptic battles which ended the rule of Nazi Germany. Red Army Commander Zhukov described the use of searchlights in the famous night attack by the First Byelorussian Front. “We concentrated a huge striking force on the bank of the Oder: the supply of shells alone enough for a million artillery rounds on the first day of the storming. To stun the German defenses immediately, it was decided to begin storming at night with the use of powerful searchlights. Finally the famous night of April 16 began. No one could sleep. Three minutes before zero hour we left our dugout and took up places at our observation posts. To my dying day I will remember the land along the Oder, blanketed in Aprii fog. At 500 A.M. [0300 Berlin time] sharp it all began. The Matyushas struck, over 20,000 guns opened fire, hundreds of bomber planes roared overhead. . . and after 30 minutes of fierce bombing and shelling, 140 anti-aircraft searchlights employed every 650 feet in a line, were turned on. A sea of light swept over the enemy, blinding them, and pointing out in the darkness the objects of attack for our tanks and infantry.”

We meandered along the waterfront, and stumbled upon the work by Chinese contemporary artist Yin Xiuzhen, [URL] Washing River 2014. Blocks of ice were made from the polluted water of the Derwent River. Passersby were invited to, using a variety of cleaning implements, clean the water, as the ice melted and the water returned to the river, to the barren ocean. This artwork highlights the need to clean the river.

So, after my Okine and my MONA experiences, I thought a lot about light, and noted the many relationships with light and dark and colour. As I walked around the city I noted the reflections of the traffic lights in the windows of the ships and offices, and how this light was distorted by the imperfections in the glass. I noted how the light smeared and spread in the puddles on the ground, in the darkness of river stretching out, how the lights of the houses on the mountain spread up the ridge, and then fell away into the deep frightful darkness of the unsettled forest. I noted the dust and small insects flying in and out and around and about the bright searchlight beams. And the light warming my hands in front of the burning fire in the oil drums.

Omnia quae sunt, lumina sunt. Eriugena. All things that are, are light. And I thought of light and how much we depend upon and are light. From the burning of the sun, to energy converting single celled algae.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


So my partner got some disturbing news -- the old fashioned way, by letter -- and was suitably distressed. So I thought I would take the children out to give her some space to think and arrange herself.

So I gathered up the three kids and we all went to Rosny Barn to view the exhibit Memoriam, by Launceston artist Amelia Rowe. This was described on the Facebook Event page as “bringing together of taxidermy and personal narrative. Transforming Rosny Barn into a walk-in memento mori, into a place to contemplate the relationship between humans and animals.” In this, Amelia Rowe succeeded admirably.

The first thing to ask my children then was, what is taxidermy? From the Greek taxis (arranging the battle order) and derma (skin) - taxidermy is the arrangement of skins. We discussed the various uses of taxidermy, for example in a museum, if a beloved pet has died. Like in an episode of New Tricks, where the greyhound trainer had the bodies of her champions displayed in her office.

It occurred to me that with all the death littering the sides of our roads my children have seen, for example, more dead wombats -- two on a recent trip to Nugent -- than wild wombats.

What is meant by memento mori? We warmed our hands over the wood fire brazier. Misquoting Tertullian in his Apologeticus (33.4) we get "Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!" This is the chant a slave would whisper into the ear of the triumphal general. “Look behind you! Remember you are mortal, remember you must die.” - More or less.

And we wandered about -- Would you like this or that piece in the house? -- and talked about Victorian traditions, postmortem portraits, black ribbons, mutes, and more. All these crystalline jet Victorian mournings were most likely the source of my association of the work Tinkerbell with the Lewis Carroll Duchess and Pig poem.

Speak roughly to your little boy
and beat him when he sneezes
he only does it to annoy
because he knows it teases.

I greatly enjoyed a piece called Stolen Memories. This image of the ancient, wise, cunning, majestic Crow rising skyward, carrying a trail of stolen nests, an egg in her mouth, allowed the viewer room to add layers of meaning. Trickster crow, or the crow as an omen of death?

And many of the works whispered covert to me, requesting my touch. I abstained.

When I stood in front of “A rose to remember”, I thought of Lucian's description of the place of punishment on the Isle of the Damned: “for on this ground daggers, razors, spikes, stakes, thorns everywhere bloomed like flowers.” Two rainbow lorikeets arranged on a dead, trimmed, painted rose bush.

So we talked about the art works, the youngest girl ran outside and made friends with some other girls and they played their follow the leader games. We read through the catalog and we were surprised at times by the distance between the ideas that came into our heads looking at the art, and the descriptions by the artist.

This thinking about things can be a way of looking deeper into the art work, it is a type of taxidermy, in the sense that the viewer is forced to order, to arrange, their skin in response to the art, the raw and the cooked. For art can make one a seer, a type of divinator “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”

But we agreed that in the same way that art can be more than the traditional practice of oil on canvas, or pencil on paper, so to the viewer is not constrained by one single manner of seeing.

And then we got ice cream and drove home and my pal was, after a hot shower and a glass of wine, feeling better.

More information and contact details and etc can be found on Amelia Rowe's blog.