public (re.titled)

Parekowhai wrapped up P: D. Eckersley
, originally uploaded by cubamxc.

How often do you see a bronze arrive by boat – never! Well, Daphne Mayo’s bronzes would have arrived by boat, but not literally craned from the Brisbane River onto the site.

Despite that the commission commemorates the opening of GoMA and the 20th anniversary of APT, Fiona Foley and recently Sam Watson (Snr) have argued that an Indigenous artist should have been commissioned. Parekowhai’s the wrong kind of Indigenous. And of course the political mileage ensues; as if $1 million would make much difference.

However, the positioning of the work at Kurilpa Point, the significance of the site, is an issue at stake. As I understand, the view to Kurilpa Point from kuril dhagan at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), as well as the seat designed in consultation with Indigenous architect Kevin O’Brien, might be blocked by the underside of The World Turns. GoMA, which obstinately faces the Windmill and its roof extends to claim Kurilpa Point, seems to continue to disregard the distress expressed by Indigenous representatives.

Related posts:
Michael Parekowhai The World Turns 2012, October 19 2012
Colliding Islands: concluded, September 4 2012
Finding Country, May 29 2012


Michael Parekowhai The World Turns 2012, originally uploaded by cubamxc.

There’s been more art-bashing by politicians in the media today. Arts Minister Ros Bates has branded The World Turns a shocking misuse of taxpayer dollars, while insisting her comments were “not a smear on the artist or the sculpture”. Now let’s keep in mind that this is the Arts Minister, someone who’s supposed to be advocating for the arts, not rallying against it!

The Parekowhai commission commemorates both the fifth anniversary of the opening of GoMA and the 20th anniversary of the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT). The work reportedly acknowledges the small “kuril” or native water rat, after which Kurilpa Point is named, as caretaker of the site, who upends the elephant with its cultural and intellectual weight.

Embroiled in a nepotism scandal, the burden of Bates objection was that “more than $1 million was spent on this single piece of art, commissioned by an artist who doesn’t live in Queensland – or Australia for that matter”. It’s described as costing taxpayers just over $1 million, when in fact $750,000 has been funded through art+place, Queensland Public Art Fund, with the remaining $250,000 raised by the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Furthermore, the shortlisted artists were of the Asia Pacific, which appropriately reflects a work commemorating APT’s 20th anniversary.

As Terry Sweetman points out, ‘It was an easy kick – particularly among people who can’t get off the couch to go to the football, let alone patronise a public gallery – but the funding and acquisition of art is long recognised as a legitimate role of government’.

Despite Sweetman’s subjective misgivings of the commission, he acknowledges that the Queensland Cultural Centre precinct had an unlikely godfather in Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and that ‘the precinct’s reputation is not built on government funding alone. It also rests on enlightened and imaginative stewardship that has, at times, been allowed to defy conventional wisdom and tastes’.

Related posts:
Targets, September 19 2012
Rear view: Kibong Rhee, December 29 2010
Face-to-face with Parekowhai’s bunnies, 23 May 2010

Eighty-one-year-old pensioner Cecilia Gimenez’s shocking DIY restoration of the 120-year-old fresco Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Spanish painter Elías García Martínez, in the Sanctuary of Mercy church of Borja, Zaragoza is probably the worst and most hysterical restoration of all time.

Gimenez insists she had permission from the priest to touch up the painting. She told Spanish television, “the priest knew about it. Of course he did. How could I do something like that without permission? I did not do it in secret. Anybody who entered the church was able to see me painting.”

Spanish jokesters have renamed the fresco Ecce Mono (Behold the Monkey); (While others have produced such images). By late August, more than 10,000 people had signed an online petition to retain the botched-restoration, with one supporter describing it as “street art by seniors.”

According to Spain newspaper El Correo […] tourists started flocking to the church. To prevent the disruptive hordes, the Santi Spiritus Hospital Foundation, which owns the sanctuary, started charging a fee to visitors. Within four days, the church raised about $2,600.

Gimenez now wants a cut, to be compensated for her work! And a thank you wouldn’t hurt either.

The image and all variants have been trademarked as well, in order to prevent “improper or grotesque abuse.” Because when you let someone with no experience go at an irreplaceable painting, you want to make sure no one reacts improperly.

The lesson to be learned here is that you can do whatever you want and show the exact opposite of remorse and you won’t go to jail for it as long as you’re old. I can’t wait to turn 85. I’m going to tag every bridge and shoplift bags of onions (for my belt) all the time. And if any coppers give me the business, I’ll just yell, “My food stamps pay your salary!”


Related posts:
finally get Beyoncé’s Single ‘Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’… May 24 2012
Where the wild things are, May 9 2012
Museo Nacional de la Lucha Bandidos, January 1 2006

Yayoi Kusama Eyes are Singing Out 2012, Brisbane Supreme Court Source:
via exhibition I never on Pinterest

The first target was the Premier’s Literary Awards, including the unique David Unaipon Award for unpublished indigenous writers. Noting Doris Pilkington won the award in 1990 for Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, which was adapted for a film.

Within days of taking office, the awards were axed as part of the Queensland Liberal National Party’s (LNP) promised cost-cutting drive. And it’s not the first time the awards have been the subject of criticism by the LNP. Last year, the LNP took issue with the short-listing of former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks’ controversial book for the Non-Fiction Book Award, suggesting any prize money may have to be confiscated under proceeds of crime laws. Then Premier Ms Bligh hit back at critics of the independent panel’s decision, suggesting the LNP’s then arts spokesman Scott Emerson was trashing free speech and “reducing himself to a book burner”. Saying further, “The day that we see Premiers intervening in things like literary awards and making themselves self-appointed judges of the artistic merit… then Queensland takes a step backwards, and it will never happen while I am Premier”.

Author Matthew Condon said the decision to scrap the awards was “spectacular in its idiocy” and described the prize money as a pittance. Suspecting the amount was similar to Queensland mining magnate and LNP benefactor Clive Palmer’s “cocktail onion bill for the year”.

The axing attracted fierce-witted criticism, including multiple comments directed at Dave:
“That’s exactly like going to buy a $14,000 car and going to another dealer to save yourself 25cents!
ch^os |

Or “So Dave, that’s a cut of 0.00053%. Or if you like, that’s $5.30 in a $1,000,000.00. Dave, five bucks in a million is not going to plug any leaks, it’s not even enough to buy a bung.
Eco-worrier | Sunrise Beach

I will happily pay for a literary award, if you pay for the Commonwealth Games.
Scot | auchenflower

“In Newman’s world, writing, bookstores, films and publishing are not real industries? These awards do not grow wealth and the skills of Queenslanders? [This] is not about money, it is about hatred of anyone to [the] left of Genghis Khan. …But a casino for Clive, don’t you worry that, already approved. [Good-on-ya] Ashgrove.
Kfish | Qld

“Once you’ve read the collected works of Ayn Rand, what is [there] left to read? If anything, this doesn’t go far enough. They should announce a new Book Burning Award, abolish libraries, ban the letter ‘T’.
Jimbo |

Then youth music programs took a hit and public art took a lashing. Most notably Andy Goldsworthy’s Strangler Cairn 2011 for the Conondale National Park Great Walk: “An egg-shaped pile of rocks that will crumble into its environment has cost taxpayers almost $700,000 after being built in a remote section of national park near the Sunshine Coast”. Comments are mixed and at the Huffington Post, a little misguided by the description of the location, but include “if they spent that much on a bomb everyone would be cool with it”.

Nor did Yayoi Kusama’s Eyes are Singing Out 2012, installed in the public square facing the new Brisbane Supreme Court, escape criticisms by the LNP and Courier Mail; a newspaper that lost any vague resemblance of impartiality when it proclaimed that it endorsed Campbell Newman in the days leading up to the election. In an article re-titled The eyes have it in $1m psychiatric art attack, Des Houghton alludes to a heart attack while emphasising that Kusama has been living in a psychiatric hospital for 36 years.

In a re-hash by the same author the following day, Attorney-General and Justice Minister Jarrod Bleijie is credited with describing the Kusama as “puerile”. And a quote pulled out of context, “suggestive not only of a watchful public but also omnipotence, enlightenment and inspiration” is described as “breathlessly” “pretentious”. Far-fetched, within context it seemed pretty straightforward really:

Like much of her artwork, it uses symbols that can communicate across cultures. The disembodied eye featured in Eyes are Singing Out is a symbol that appears in many cultures throughout time, for example, in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is suggestive not only of a watchful public but also omnipotence, enlightenment and inspiration. Kusama reminds us that it is through the experience of sight that our humanity and our empathy for others are instigated and negotiated.

A self-proclaimed “traditionalist”, Bleijie doesn’t like the other works either. Despite both being reminiscent of frescos, in a contemporary architectural context, and one by an Indigenous artist.

Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda (aka) Sally Gabori was born during the mid-1920s on Bentinck Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the late 1940s the island suffered a severe drought and high tides. The low-lying island became uninhabitable and the people were moved to Mornington Island: an event so traumatic that no babies were born/survived a generation. As such, Gabori is one of the last remaining speakers of the Kayardild language of Bentinck Island. Her original painting Dibirdibi Country, which brings together four beloved places in Gabori’s life, has been translated to the wall overlooking the Banco Court.

In reference to Gemma Smith’s work in particular, painted directly onto the ceiling, often lying on a platform in the same way Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, Bleijie was quoted saying “White paint would have been good for me”. In another article by Robert MacDonald that reminisces about former Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen he asks “Does that make him a philistine?”

In the latest instalment, the arts portfolio has suffered a number of “savage” cuts including $2.2 million from The Queensland Art Gallery (QAG | GoMA), $1.6 million from the Queensland Museum, and $12.4 million from arts grants. According to Arts Minister Ros Bates funding to the major arts organisations has more-or-less been maintained, and in some areas funding has been increased. Namely, the Queensland Ballet Company has benefited (by just $25,000). Interesting.

Federal Arts Minister Simon Crean immediately appeared the strongest advocate for a sector reportedly worth over $30 billion to the national economy, stating “Governments must view arts and culture funding as an investment not just a price tag” and that it’s “a short-sighted attack on an entire creative generation”.

Crean refers to tourism, one of the four economic pillars for the LNP. But for this incarnation of the LNP, tourism and culture aren’t inextricably linked. Others might argue that the culture of a city is the main attraction. Say New York: The Met, MoMA or both, and in my case a whole lot of other galleries, maybe a band at the Bowery Ballroom, multiple books from Strand Books and something to eat, perhaps Korean. Brisbane, with its causal, unpretentious, benign climate, offers attributes that benefit residents rather than tourists. The city doesn’t offer choices, emphasising the plural, it offers singular institutions and lacks the clash of urbanity. So why specifically tour the city? Again quoting Crean, “This budget from the Newman Government shows they just don’t get it”.

Most concerning is that the cuts reiterate that free and subsidised arts programs may establish a democratic taste for the arts: art is good, it is even good for the public, but it is not something to which the public is entitled. For art dealer Judith Paugh, commenting in response to a piece by Ben Eltham Who’s making money in art? Everyone but the artists for Crikey, art is a capitalist product. Paugh’s clients “take pleasure in the beauty of, or are intellectually stimulated by, the images and ideas in the paintings, sculpture or prints they have bought”. Ultimately, arts funding is supported, governed, dictated, whatever, by the private patrons that can afford it.

But this is just one issue amongst many. Late last month, the 160-year-old spirit of a Westminster public service was destroyed when one of the most contentious pieces of Queensland legislation abolished the permanency of employment. A core principle of a professional civil service in which workers could offer frank advice to political masters without fear or favour in exchange for the withdrawal of other rights, such as the liberty to speak publicly on political issues.

Good-on-ya Ashgrove.

Related posts:
On Trial: Pussy Riot, August 7 2012
They’ve been opening my mail again, August 3 2012
“Free people will always have to guard against repression” May 4 2012

Australian Pavilion 2011 Philip Cox, Giardini, Venice Biennale P. E. Condon, originally uploaded by cubamxc.

I was going to post about this early April. You receive these press releases, which can spark reactions, but eventually you err not to bother. But I happened to re-read this post earlier today and realised, I’ve already written about it: ‘we call it the white box because it’s where the art is and the black box because it’s where the cinema is’ or ‘a white box contained within a black box’, it’s all the same. Yawn.

But to be fair, and update the previous post, GoMA and their contemporary arts programs are immensely popular (and popularist). You don’t need to do any market research, it’s visibly apparent. The galleries are bustling, particularly during the weekends, where masses of children rub shoulders (or knees) with politicians and co. However, this doesn’t really excuse black and white boxes. Yawn.

Other related posts:
Cooling centre: networked infrastructure, May 24 2007
MoMA: Casual Friday Shopping, January 25 2007
Seattle Public Library, January 6 2007

Bob and Roberta Smith and Tim Newton Who is Community? 15:06min, originally uploaded by mxccuba.

Who is Community? imagines a romantic tryst between Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic committee, and Hannah Arendt, a political theorist.

To watch Bob and Roberta Smith and Tim Newton Who is Community? 15:06min

Related posts:
The propensity of things, September 18 2011
Love the Future, May 9 2011
Mierle Laderman Ukele at Armory, February 23 2007

Fwd: New Anthems IV at the Ideas Festival, originally uploaded by mxccuba.

From Inkahoots:
The fourth interactive telephonic cut-up by Inkahoots offers Midnight Oil for upgrade. After rewriting Australia’s official national anthem and several iconic poems, you can now interfere with Beds are Burning: “How can we _______ when our _______ are burning”

New Anthems invites you to play with our foundational texts via SMS. Text 0430 547 035 to add your contribution. Simply enter a word or short phrase for each of the blanks separated by a comma (e.g. ‘firstword, secondword’ or ‘short phrase, another short phrase’). Visit to see a list of real-time contributions.

From Architectural Review (ar. summer 2009/2010. #133):
“While [participant’s] messages are witty, topical and occasionally irreverent, the project itself should be acknowledged for it’s own functionality, design acumen and deft grasp of the medium of interactive art… Visually the work is beautiful, arrestingly clear and intriguingly layered. The graphics are multidimensional and fluid without being wishy-washy, and defined without being obvious… While social content may be the driving impetus for the studio, and witty phrases the memory for the majority of viewers, the idea of New Anthems as an interactive portal for the voice of all is what makes this project so universally relevant. The only pity is that it isn’t a permanent public artwork that drifts from one location to the next as a perpetual stream of conscience.”

Exit Through the Gift Shop, originally uploaded by mxccuba.

“Mr Brainwash is a force of nature, he’s a phenomenon. And I don’t mean that in a good way.” – Banksy

And that about sums it up really. But to elaborate, Exit Through the Gift Shop tells the story of a French-American pork-chop, Thierry Guetta, a shopkeeper come obsessive videographer who, through his cousin Space Invader, becomes transfixed by a slew of street art luminaries, including Shepard Fairey, and finding the elusive Banksy.

Described in the film as the definitive counter-culture movement of our time, akin to punk. It easily becomes apparent that street art, combining graffiti, stenciling, poster and sticker campaigns, is grounded in the subversive, poster art and propaganda. It’s direct lineage tracing to Bleck le Rat, who began working with stencils during the early 80s in Paris and anarcho-punk band Crass, who maintained a graffiti stencil campaign in the Tube during the late 70s and early 80s.

It’s curious that the self-appointed documenter knows so little about art in general i.e. the difference between painting and drawing. Even so and contrary to this lineage, we witness Guetta’s makeover into Mr Brainwash aka MBW. For his first solo extravaganza, at the old CBS studios that sporned I Love Lucy and countless other network hits but is now effectively abandoned, he scrounges Elvis and other cultural icons, including the giant spray-paint can re-branded, à la Andy, as Campbell’s Tomato Spray. Amid the last minute hype approx. 5,000 plus eager MBW enthusiasts line up around the block; Guetta has his 15 minutes. The LA audience pat themselves on the back when they recognise the artist’s work, forgetting that they’re only familiar with it through having seen it plastered everywhere.

While Fairey shakes his head (who surprisingly appears as the so conservative American prep) he’s perhaps the American precursor and certainly a (albeit unwilling) culprit. In a review of E Pluribus Venom, at Jonathan LeVine Gallery for The New York Times, art critic Benjamin Genocchio stated that despite the range of styles and mediums adopted by Fairey, the work comes off as “generic”. Genocchio went on to say that it was tempting to see Fairey’s art as just another luxury commodity.

What I find particularly revealing, through a quick scan of internet descriptions and reviews, is the application of the terms art world and industry. Specifically: ‘consumerist nature of the arts industry’ (Anders Wotzke, cutprintreview); ‘an accomplished ridicule of a flimsy art world… explores the cultural and monetary value of art, exposing the exceptionally fine line that exists between an avant-garde artist and a copycat sell-out’ (Chris Cork, thevine) and ‘regardless of your interest in the art world… it illustrates how beauty and meaning really are in the eye of the beholder and how that eternal phrase still holds true: There’s a sucker born every minute’ (Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald). On the one hand, speaking for the art world and on the other, conveying utter confusion. Very few identify our mindless consumption, ambition, constant exposure and the cult of celebrity; our world at large.

Diverting, I have to share an awesome quote: ‘Bearing witness to the debauched transformation of his character (Guetta) is nothing less than tragic; akin to watching Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader. It’s made worse by his eventual success in (the) commercial art word, attesting to the fact that any talentless hack can become a populist artist so long as they have some knowledge in hype marketing’ (Anders Wotzke, cutprintreview). [Also found this cool link]

And therein lies the cautionary tale. Like all art, there’s a difference between good and bad street art. The best street art is more about the message than the art. ‘Fuck Bush’ isn’t an aesthetic; it’s an ethic. It operates best in relation to popular culture, mass media, advertising and intertexuality, as a form of provocative public art. And it is provocative to force and seize a voice in the public realm, a fastidiously regulated space. Exit Through the Gift Shop inadvertently (I suppose quite consciously through Banksy’s involvement) exposes the imminent fragility of this fledgling movement, to be inevitably subsumed into the establishment. In fact, I don’t recall seeing anything that so succinctly drew a distinction between popular culture and art. Which is a shame.

Last night was Brisbane’s first official Pecha Kucha and it was literally packed to the rafters. Every since I last returned from New York, everyone has been talking about the lack of discussion; talking about the need to talk.

Volume one was some-what formal. A couple of speakers read from pre-prepared notes and everyone talked me-me-me. My understanding of pecha-cha is that one of its real strengths has been that it provides a forum to talk more broadly about research and practice focuses. For example, in Melbourne Mark Dytham (pecha-cha guy) presented his obscure documentation of various kit-kat wrappings. So as an observer, you start to piece together what an individual is informed by, make connections and comparisons. Even more importantly, he was entertaining.

While strong completed concepts are interesting enough, people really responded to the less serious concepts and experimentation, like bubble machines. Once the topic reverted to the more staid practice the interest dwindled, until a bubble machine was re-introduced. Hopefully presenters in the future will pick-up on this overwhelming audience response and aim to be a little less earnest.

DSC02418, originally uploaded by valleygirl2005. 

July has been conference month. Starting with Live in Queensland – design in the world, The Great Leap Forum and then Expanding Cultures in Melbourne, where I was presenting the paper Co-publics: defended territories and citizenship. My presentation there was essentially concerned with an acknowledgment of the importance of processes in delivering more conceptually rigorous public art projects. Specifically, that there are barriers to taking responsibility for critique, but a need for it to be claimed. We really do need to open-up these decision-making processes and proactively invite public critique and debate concerning public art and design planning.

In addition to presenting projects that I’ve been a part of, I also referenced projects where both curators and artists proactively develop and utilise a critique of public art as material. And of course, emphasised that the benefits of working with curators are underlined by the history, knowledge and experience of the arts industry. There were lots of people, lovely people who seemed to be really enjoying the conference. The seminar I was a part of incited some interesting questions and discussions.

Some of the questions raised were relatively practical/easier to address, but of course some were big and require further reflection and analysis. Some comments were even helpful to projects I’m presently working on. Particularly, Richard Holt’s experience re communities appreciate interest and care regardless of which or where the community comes from. Supporting marginal voices was a concern shared by many. From memory, most issues raised came back to allocating appropriate time and research.

It was refreshing to be able to undertake a public critique and sound some of these issues. Even more refreshing that I’m not the only one interested in this kind of resolution-focused discussion; Very positive.

Fw: Banksy style ” art work” at GoMA, originally uploaded by valleygirl2005.

– Original Message –
Sent: Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:04 AM
Subject: FW: Banksy style ” art work” at GoMA

Also, someone nailed a rat to the wall in the new gallery as kinda protest, see below. They accuse them of being a shopping centre sell out – Part of the caption on the attribution labels the institution as: GoMart. HeHe. If only that took a bit more care with the crumpled paper…

-Original Message-
Sent: Thursday, 14 December 2006 8:59 AM
Subject: FW: Banksy style ” art work” at GoMA
Subject: Banksy style ” art work” at GoMA

Please find attached pictures of an inferior Banksy style “art work” installed at GoMA’s River Lounge on level 3 on Saturday morning. It was removed immediately upon its discovery.

—–Original Message—–
From: Louise Rollman
Sent: Friday, 2 June 2006 12:42 PM
Subject: Re: Contention or Consensus

To (…)

I often think about works like Mierle Laderman Ukele’s ‘Touch Sanitation’, where Ukeles shook hands and thanked each of New York’s 8,500 sanitation workers over 11 months; ‘Arte Reembolso/Art Rebate’, which partly underwritten by the NEA during the early 90s, caused further controversy when the project returned “tax dollars” to undocumented immigrants; and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s literal ‘An Indian Act Shooting The Indian Act’, and I wonder why these kinds of contemporary practices don’t seem to subsist here in Australia?

The fundamental similarity between these works is that they envision public art as an engagement of the social imagination, or participatory democracy, rather than the presentation of monumental objects.

In Queensland, the concept of public art is primarily driven by the state government’s art built-in policy, which also sets the benchmark for other public art programs. These policies have provided substantial funds for new work and regular employment for arts practitioners. However, these policies have focused almost exclusively on permanent public art and value for money. A creative process can become bureaucratic, compartmentalised and superficially scrutinised through the approval process, rendering anything intellectually challenging, particularly social and political issues, nonexistent. Unlike the equivalent public art programs overseas, for example Yuxweluptun, a Canadian Indian commissioned by UK based Locus+, these policies only support artists from Queensland.

In late 2005, Adam Cullen and Cash Brown challenged the newly passed sedition laws in their performance ‘Home Economics, Weapons of Mass Sedition’ at MCA, Sydney. The exhibition’s development and presentation was underscored by a number of strategic concerns. Mainly, given that the federal government has undertaken radical social change, arts practices seem to be defending existing creative territory rather than being in a position to address other contemporary debates.

In this environment, arts practitioners (in the broadest sense) are compelled to negotiate with ‘gatekeepers’ and all too often self-censor. Addressing social and political issues is in effect delegated to independent arts practices, where individuals wear the associated responsibilities: the costs and risks of being ‘found out’.

Additionally, socially engaged works are often defined as outsider practices. For example, ‘Art Rebate’ had a very specific audience and acquiring information about this kind of project frequently depends on word of mouth, which can be several years after the event, and or an associated controversy such as the NEA debates.

Consequently, the ability for an arts practitioner to sustain these kinds of methodologies becomes a key issue. If at the very least, arts practitioners could drive creative agendas, rather than government representatives, and facilitate a shift from permanent to ephemeral public art, then we could be in a better position to be both progressive and experimental.

Regards (…)

, originally uploaded by valleygirl2005.

Through my excessive internet wanderings, I’ve stumbled across this today. It’s part of a community cultural development (CCD) project in Hanley Park (UK) called ‘Love Ties’. Essentially, through community sessions, collaborating artists derived the ‘poetic’ quotations. Some of these quotations have been fabricated and installed to somehow improve the landscape of a local park. I vaguely like the concept, but as one would expect there’s some pretty scary elements. Namely, ‘I come down to the park, just for a couple of hours or my head would explode. We’ve been married for nearly 50 years…I’ve been looking after you for twenty odd years’. Or maybe I’m being insensitive in some way?? Most of the comments on love offered through the community sessions were fairly depressing. Of course this doesn’t appear to be reflected in the uplifting installed works.