Make Art, Not War

Federal Election time in Australia. Meh. We don’t even have a reality TV moron to spice things up – we just have politicians. The real problem is that the two major parties are starting to look worryingly like each other as well. I’m sick of the pathetic knee-jerk slogans – stop the boats, back to basics : the latter always used in educational matters, as if any of these idiots even know what the basics are. Not since Whitlam have the arts even been regarded as fundamental in education. As soon as the conseravtives took over, waving slates and chalk and chanting “back to basics!” the arts have been shoved in a corner, becoming more and more the refugees of Australian culture, thrown  scraps and set adrift in leaky boats. Yet those in the arts retain their grip on our senses, with music, books, art, films and other brave sttempts to remind who we truly are. Imagine what they could do in a society that realises how lucky it is to have them?

But this election year, there is a small glimmer of hope. It’s cslled The Arts Party and it wants your vote to triple funding for the arts and make Big Corp pay up to chnnel more money into our cultural renaissence. It even has a poet in residence composing haiku.

Want one million votes

For the balance of power

Wear an Arts T-Shirt

OK, it sounds more like an ad than poetry but all artists have a sense of  humour that can’t be kept down. And that’s what we need. More art, more humour, more music, more books, more films – more encouragment and a better environment for Australians who want to make art, not war.

You’ll find the Arts Party here I hope they get their million votes, and more, because that is one way to tell these politicians that It’s Time.

 

Halloween countdown: The Trees

The Trees

ghost gums

The trees are driving me crazy. Can’t anyone else see what they are up to? They are colluding, whispering together. Getting closer, I could walk between these two a week ago. Now they block my path, like threatening sentinels.

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Even in the city they creep up, they invade, they terrorise humans going about their business. What do you think these two are up to?

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At night I fear them most of all. They gather around my house, rustling and muttering, shaking their branches and leaves in the moonlight. What do they want? Why are they becoming so bold and intrusive?

ghostly gums

At night the ghost gums come haunting, creeping through the darkness toward the house, drawing close to each other in conspiratorial silence, yet I can hear them whispering to each other, rustling and creaking, and watching us.

I think they are angry. I think they want us to know that they have had enough of us. I think they want to cut us down as we have been cutting them down, to uproot our houses and our lives and reclaim the land from us. I think they hate us because of this…

Note: The idea of this is to use the photos I’ve taken of random objects that have ‘faces’ embedded or have a spooky or weirdly human quality, as prompts for Halloween prose and poetry. Feel free to copy the images and use them as prompts for your own stories. Leave me a link so I can see the results 🙂

Halloween Countdown: How did I get here?

Another Halloween story suggested by a photo in my collection.I spotted this sad eyed stag at a twilight market, and I have been thinking about it ever since.

how did I get here

How did I get here?

Stop. Stop! Don’t just walk past. It’s me! Look closer! You can see it’s me.

Stop sniggering at your new husband. His joke was lame, and you know it. “Oh dear, oh dear. I think he lost his head.” Pathetic. You actually laughed. Do you think it’s funny that I, Antonio, the love of your life, is nailed to a piece of wood? Look at me! Don’t you recognise my moustache?

Oh Laura, what happened to me? Yours was the last face I saw on that night, with the full moon shining in the window, before everything went black, and I woke up on the wall in my father’s house. That huge ornate mirror he bought in Florence was on the opposite wall, and I could see what had become of me. I didn’t realise at first – only after days of staring at that damned mirror did I understand that my head looks like this now. And it isn’t attached to my body.

I have been thinking that my papa mistook me for one of the deer on his estate. These are a fine pair of antlers, I must say. So big. He must have spotted me and shot me, not knowing it was I, Antonio, his only beloved son. For years I hung there, unable to communicate, watching you visit Papa’s estate and take care of him in his old age. Every time you came he asked you the same question. “Have they found my son?”

I watched you weep at his funeral, and laugh when they read the will and he left everything to you. Then the men came, the buyers and the dealers, and everything was sold and bundled out. Including me.

Oh look, the little one is speaking again.

“So, Laura, did you tell him, at the last, of your powers? Or was he still too dazzled by your beauty to know you are a witch?”

“Not a full time witch, Paulo. Only when there is a full moon at Halloween. Then I can do anything I want. Poor, poor Antonio.” She reached over and stroked the dark mark beneath my nose, the exact replica of my moustache. “Come, Paulo, now you have come into your uncle’s fortune, you can afford to buy me a peach gelato, no?”

Yes,” he said adoringly. “Gelato, and diamonds, rubies, anything you want.”

Her laughter tinkled as they walked away. Poor, poor Paulo, too besotted to realise that tonight was Halloween, and the moon was full.

Live Music and Cultural Values

AC/DC Lane
AC/DC Lane (Photo credit: zoonabar)

 

It is really not surprising that Gypsies performed live entertainment as they travelled – making live shows in one place gave you the coin to move on to another place. I was born into that life. My father and his family were travellers. In his time, he was a musician, a magician, a carnie sideshow operator, an actor – whatever it took to make the coin to keep moving.

 

I grew up listening to him playing the and the banjo. I heard Chuck Berry and Sonny Terry and Barnie McGee on the radio when he tuned into the American Forces Network to learn new songs. Later my own children were similarly brainwashed with blues and rock and roll. We regard busking as an honorable profession (because my dad was a busker in Dublin before and after the war). My daughter Lucia is the lead singer with A Girl’s A Gun. One of the highlights of my writing career was being entertainment reporter for a Western Sydney newspaper, and meeting people like Adam Rawson of Normal Day and The Australian Music Industry Forum, who is passionate about creating more live venues for Western Sydney bands. Yeah, music means a lot to us.

 

More than that, more than what it means to my family, live music and entertainment are an essential part of the cultural life of a place. I get angry when developers and newcomers move into a city area and demand that the life and zest of the place be changed to suit them, as happened at AC/DC Lane in Melbourne. I detest it when people claim live music is dead. Sit at Brisbane’s South Bank with me and tell me that. There is plenty of live music in Brisbane, and plenty of people who want to listen. Only culturally lazy people say,”Yawn, no one wants live music anymore, we have the Internet…” Rubbish. Couch potatoes and Internet Heads are excluded from this conversation. While you are glued to your screens, people are out having a good time and looking for more places to go.

 

So when PM Kevin Rudd says he is going to fight the good fight for the Australian live music industry, I am waving my cultural flag in support. Some may think it pales in comparison to saving other industries but Australian music has been very profitable for this country and deserves the same respect and support as every other. It provides employment, not just on the stage, but in many other areas of Australian working life. It is something Australia can be proud of – we know Australia’s got talent. Just give it somewhere to be heard, and keep party politics out of it. I don’t care who does it, as long as it gets done.

 

 

Living your life as a work of art

TheWheelHouse1-640x402Image from Where Cool Things Happen

I have always admired people who make art of living, but Jeni Bernard and Barney White have created a living work of art that literally rolls around the world. They do not travel in a house on wheels, their house is a wheel, a single wheel set in motion by their own acrobatic movements inside.

Acrojou has created and performed six different shows in nine countries, and it is an incredible spectacle, as this extraordinary circus rolls into town and people gather to watch the acrobats. It is an incredible physical feat as well, propelling the wheel house around Europe.

Here are some more links to stories about Acrojou and the wheel house:

Acrojou Circus Theatre in Sideshow circus magazine

The Wheel House at JunkCulture

Living is Queasy in a Circle Wheel House (Quite the pun, ABC News)

 

Face to Face

Thanks to NetGalley, I get the opportunity to review some gorgeous art books. The latest is a photographic essay, Face to Face, by Alison Wright. Ms Wright is a superlative photographer, and you can see her work at her website.

Face to Face is simply a gorgeous book.  A timeless facebook, is how it is described in the introduction – and yes, faces are timeless but this book goes far beyond mere social media. These faces are unforgettable, from the very young to the very old. Wright has spent a lifetime trying to capture the elusive human spirit in her portraits, in many parts of the world. She seeks the unguarded moment, and often touches something deeper, like the seemingly casual portrait of the Dalai Lama reaching out to touch the hand of one of his guards – a hand that is holding a gun. The loving expression of compassion makes even the weapon seem inconsequential. What power does it have over an uncorrupted human spirit? Yet it is there because of the corrupt human spirits who seek to harm others.

The other images are no less arresting – a young Cambodian monk in his saffron robe is a vivid contrast to the ancient stones of the Bayon Temple; the expressive eyes of a Tibetan monk; a beautiful Tibetan child gazes anxiously as the camera gazes at her; a Nepalese girl carried her sister on her back. All of these portraits, right at the beginning of the book, set the mood. The colours are deep and rich, the light has a Rembrandt quality, and the subjects encompass humility and humanity. These are not camera wise fashion models, they are people reaching through the lens to connect with the viewer.

From the Himalayas to South America to the African Continent, these are the faces of our brothers and sisters on this world. Their faces tell their stories if we could only read the expressions in their eyes, the curve of their mouths, the body language they unconsciously express. It isn’t really about where they come from, if they are rich or poor, if they live in places that look like paradise to us, or a city, or a geisha house – they are us, they are hopeful, wise, apprehensive, calm, direct, joyous and restless. Wright focuses on the eyes, in almost every portrait, and reminds us that eyes truly are the windows of the soul.

Through the lens, they come into our consciousness and we enter their world for a moment. This book is about the power of the lens to bring us all face to face, unable to avoid the fact of our common humanity. Notion of, and preconceptions about, beauty fade from the mind – confronted with character, and beauty that is utterly natural like the portrait of Goite, the first in the book, we study each face for the clues it gives to the soul behind it. This is truly a life’s work to be proud of, and a book to treasure.

Face to Face is available from Amazon.51HDi4aODfL._SY300_