Tag Archives: art

Me write, you act.

I used to be in a writing group. They were called The Lampshades because sometimes they were switched on and sometimes they were switched off.

It was the local TAFE’s answer to the French Enlightenment.

But instead of Jean-Jacques Rousseau revolutionising 18th Century Political Philosophy, we had Alice, who liked to trace pictures of her hand.

Another member was a budding play write. Rachels’ play was almost ready for public consumption 2 weeks after my fateful joining of this mostly switched off group. But after 1 session I sat next to Alice and traced my hand. I dare say if the play had called for a character who liked to trace her hand, Alice and I would have been all over it. But some artists treat their art too seriously, as though they really care about it and the finished product.

The play as I understood it, with my waning attention, was a comedy. It was hard to help write it because no-one else in the group had written a play before, and without the help of Rousseau, or any other of the great minds of the French Enlightenment, it wasn’t a piece of art that members outside of the group would recognise.

Unlike Alice’s hand.

These were hard times. Our lives were bad. The play was hard work and no amount of re-writes got it to the standard Rachel wanted, which was “too at least make some sort of sense”.

Then one day things went from bad to I-wish-I-was-dead bad.

We were told we had to act in this play. There was no option. We were all to become literally, unwilling actors on an unwilling stage; the Leeton Eisteddfod. We didn’t want to be there and I was pretty sure none of the students wanted us there; we were all bad puns delivered through a permanent mode of debilitating stage fright.

Now writers are a unique breed. We like to hide behind words on a page, we don’t like to stand emotionally naked in front of an audience, pretending to be someone else. That’s what characters are for. We decide what the characters say and when and how much they get to drink. We don’t like taking on the guise of another person’s creation. That’s what Jake Gyllenhaall is for. And according to his agent, no, he would not be available to act in the play.

My character was an alcoholic. I don’t remember much more than that, I blocked most of the event out of mind. It’s locked away, in the deepest reserves of the deepest part of the darkest part of my mind. Even Freud couldn’t undo that padlock of humiliation. I do remember doing what any sane person would do in such an insane circumstance. I drank real alcohol on stage. So at least whilst I was being mortified in front of a bunch of school kids, I would be drunk. And I was.

In year 4 I had been in the school play and I knew then it was not something I would ever do sober again. I was a tree. I didn’t have to move or speak and still it was embarrassing. Plus I was facing the back curtain which I later found out was the wrong direction.

In the Eisteddfod of pain and suffering I had one small monologue and I forgot most of it. At one point I was a dear in the headlights, mind blank. Everyone was starring at me with sympathetic eyes. After some sort of time lapse that only a physics major could discern, I picked up from where I could remember and prayed for the zombie apocalypse to break out right then so I could be eaten alive, which would be less painful that the moment I was stuck in.

The little bit of my monologue I did manager to deliver was drowned out by a passing ambulance, sirens blaring, so no-one heard me anyway. I suspect this is was why I wasn’t awarded ‘best actress’.

Needless to say, my tiny foray into a world of adoring fans complimenting me wherever I walked and dressing rooms filled with wine and flowers, ended before it occurred to me it could begin. I liked the character that is me too much to pretend to be someone else.

The play was an experience and as Rousseau wrote, “the person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years but the one with the richest experiences”.

Apparently I am immortal.

Satirical thoughts on art in rural areas

FB_IMG_1468888261355Recently I was awarded an opportunity to speak at a gallery opening. It got me thinking about the role art plays in rural areas. Government funding has been vamped up and there are organisations trying to combat the belief that one must live in the city in order to become a successful artist. So what role does art play in a rural society?

Artists in all their various forms are not important members of society, not like actors. Now these people are the most important members of society. They are the doctors, the spies, the heroes that keep the world turning on an axis so we can understand it. Without actors there would be no health care or heroics. What, you want to rely on ASIO to save us, not Jason Bourne? Honey, you live in a crazy world.

Unlike actors, artists are not real people with real jobs, they usually play in clay and paint and maybe some textiles. This is why they don’t get paid for their work and why they don’t have a lot of friends outside of their own creative circles.

And art is not a useful medium. Some say it makes the world a better place, others say it adds beauty to the planet. Maybe, but at the end of the day, art doesn’t make money and therefore does not contribute to the global economic scheme.  Without the creation of money they are only creating things, like a sculpture or a carving or a book. Not very helpful to keep the world spinning on its familiar axis.

Artists are usually on some sort of psychotropic drug, which explains Andy Warhol’s attempt at art, The Raw Shark Texts (the greatest book ever, you really should read it) and every episode of the Simpsons.

And because being an artist is such an impractical career, artists generally get rich once they are dead.

Edgar Allen Poe died in a gutter of Boston whilst handing out free copies of The Raven. I rest my case. And hopefully Poe has rectified his choice of career he made as a human and is now resting in piece.  Probably not because The Raven is about souls not resting in piece.

The great artists of the generations are not what they seem, if you take the time to look closely at their work.

Michelangelo’s King David, is actually a thinly vailed attempt at porn disguised as a sculpture masterpiece, but we all know it’s just porn.

Melting clocks hanging over a tree is not art either. It’s melting clocks hanging over a tree. Artists use strange terms like surrealism to cover up the fact they took a psychotropic drug and no longer have any clue as to what they are doing, let alone painting.

The Mona Lisa? Boring. I mean she’s not even doing anything exciting, just sitting there looking all smug and dreary.

Fashion designer Vivien Westwood, can be thanked for the grunge trend that dressed the sex pistols. You don’t need to be a hourte cature ‘artist’ to stick safety pins in stone washed jeans.

The most famous artists of the modern world are the “sandwich artists” of subway. They are on minimum wage and are not allowed to be creative unless they follow a specific recipe exactly. This is because artists don’t deserve money and they shouldn’t be given free range to create.

That’s how we ended up with stone washed jeans in the first place.

And of course, there all the bullshit artists too.  Think of all the Australian politicians. As known bullshit artists they don’t have to explain themselves, even if people ask you to ‘please explain’.

But in rural NSW we are very lucky, we have real artists. None of the poncy stuff that Pollock and Picassso and Prince churn out, with no imagination or talent or skill, our artists are real.

We have poets who are really good at spending hours deciding which is the best word to fit into a poem that is 3 sentences long. And it still doesn’t make sense.

We also have trendy art coordinators, who we know are artist because they have tell-tale beards and always wear very peculiar clothes. They always run late and have little concept about how the world actually operates – on time and with money to make it go round.

We are home to some of the most famous Aboriginal Artists in the country. They like to eat witchetty grubs and delight children by showing off the dead goannas and black snakes that lives in their freezers. Perfectly normal behaviour for an artist.

And don’t forget our farmers. They are artists too. It is a myth that farmers ‘sew crops’ and ‘feed the nation’. No, they spend their time and artistic flair making daisy chains and arranging bunches of patterson’s curse to sell to the urbanites who wish they were artistic but are not because their talents are smothered by city smog and uninspiring grey buildings.

The really talented farmers make crop circles.

Most country towns have a plethora of spaces artists can congregate and swap ideas and drink tea.  It’s one of the benefits of being an artist in rural Australia. These are often places like Masonic Lodges that have been renovated, the ‘men only’ energy scrubbed away and the blood of the goats that were allegedly sacrificed in black magic ritual has been cleansed.

If Masonic Lodges are not available, old hotels, railway buildings, empty homesteads, all the representations of industries long since dead, are being utilised to home the once homeless rural artists. And these are the types of places they like to meet because they are different with a tinge of weird. Like any self-respecting artist. Art galleries in the traditional sense, are for wooses and city folk.

With spaces like these there will be little chance of bad art being created, like stone washed jeans, melting clocks and Marylin Monroe’s face in different shades of ghastly fluro. Beautiful old buildings made new again, just like the art of mosaics, crocheting and knitting.

And if all else fails, there is always the option of slaughtering some goats to get the creative juices flowing. And dinner ready whilst you’re at it.