Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A day in the life of the Biennale

Dateline: Friday 11 August, 2006.

0530 Fattest cat sits on chest, purring like a tractor. Can't go back to sleep. Lie in dark restlessly.

0600 Alarm goes off. Get up hastily, dress in clothes gathered the night before, sneak out of the house.

0625 Ride into the university on my bicycle. The clockometer outside the ABC Studios says -1 degree. My fingertips feel frozen.

0645 Arrive at art school. Colleague is practising driving the minibus around the carpark as she hasn't driven a manual car in years. She runs over the kerb with the back left wheel. Tempted to go home.

0700 The first student arrives, takes back seat of bus. Deadline for leaving was 0700. We discuss a quorum, which will be six students.

We have 7 students. The roll lists 9 names. One sends a message that he can't make it.

0720 We decide to go. We need petrol, but can only use Caltex or Ampol. We discuss options. we think the last petrol station on the way out is a Caltex.

It isn't. Go back 2 squares to Dickson, Do Not Pass Go.

0745 Petrol tank filled, colleague does first driving shift (along long, straight highway). Bus only plays tapes. Colleague brought Sting, EBTG and Eric Clapton.

0930ish Arrive at Pheasant's Nest. Swap drivers. I put on hastily made tape of Arty Fufkin/DJ Moule mashups. Conversations start to revolve around topics like At Which Point of his Career did Michael Jackson Go Wrong.

1100 Drop students and colleague at Museum of Contemporary Art. Parked car up Argyle Street near Lower Fort Street. Lovely walk back to MCA. Rediscovered bits of Biennale that I missed on last visit. MCA top pick: Calin Dan and Mona Hotoum.

Lunch: fish & chips on the grass outside the MCA, listening to the tuba busker play My Sharona at least three times, surrounded by private school teens. LOTS of Jaime lookalikes.

1300 Walk back to the bus to refresh the parking meter. Discover a long line of FEDEX vans stretched out behind the bus and what looks like a courier convention in the strip of parkland next to the vehicles. People in uniform sitting on the grass and on upturned milkcrates, eating lunch. As I walk closer the group broke up and started returning to the vans. I ask a jolly-looking younger man what was happening. 'Just eating lunch' was the reply. When I asked if they did that every day, the answer was yes. How delightful!

Sydney putting on her winter finery

1305 Walked down Lower Fort Street and the Stairs to Wharf 2/3 and met up with the others who had walked under the Bridge. Sydney is a complete attention hoor on a sunny winter's day.

1315 Wharf 2/3 full of fabbo things. Best major venue for the Biennale, I think. Refreshing to see lots of REAL things, not just video. Gormley's Field spooky, empirialist yet endearing. Adrian Paci's Noise of Light bringing home the smelliness of beauty. Top pick: Hamra Abaas.

Hamra Abbas: floor
Part of the Hamra Abbas installation: strips of paper printed with 'DO NOT STEP' arranged in an Islamic pattern on the floor. The walls had illuminated manuscripts and texts in Latin, Arabic and English. Just gorgeous.

1415 Back to the bus and a quick drive over to the State Gallery. I dropped the students at outside to start walking down to the Gunnery Artspace at Wolloomooloo, then drove down towards Mrs Macquarie's chair to find a park. Saw two spaces in a row, which was perfect for someone who had never done a reverse park in a minibus. Took the front space of the two. Another person tried to park behind me, and as I got out to pay for a ticket, I saw that I'd parked overhanging about a foot into that space. Of course I got back in the bus and moved it forward. At the parking meter, the woman who had parked behind me thanked me for moving the bus so nicely and in such a heartfelt manner that I realised that Sydney parkers must generally be a pack of curs.

1430 Artspace is a great venue too. Fell in love all over again with Elina Brotherus's photos, but was really taken by Ujino Muneteru's The Rotators, which wasn't working the last time I visited about a month ago. It's a room of sounds, rhythms -- music -- made from customised machines like tools and home appliances interacting with customised turntables and vinyl records with pencil stubs attached to them to play like old-style musicbox chimes. Funky and innovative. Nice video here too, by Tacita Dean.

1530 Back up to the State Gallery. While everyone else went straight down to the Biennale, I took a quick detour down to the Research Library to see the display of Noreen Grahame's personal collection of Artists' Books. That's a hidden little thing worth visiting. Unfortunately you can't touch the books, but there's enough variety in the pages shown to admire the fact that Noreen had an prescient appreciation of art in a book form long before it became popular in Australia. Many international books that I've read about but never seen for myself. Then I revisited the Biennale, especially Kei Takemura, who combines drawing and sewing to reflect her world, and Biljana Djurdevic, whose paintings are disturbing in the best way, getting under your skin and making you think about human behaviour.

1700 Time to go home... a busload of weary students and equally weary minders heading through peak hour traffic. One of the students, M, had been chatting to people on the streets all day through the windows of the bus (and at one point had got a man to take a photo of her) and on the way out had everyone making faces at the cars and trucks. We got into a discussion about the art and... I missed the turnoff at the airport. Argh! We ended up in Rockdale, and decided to drive towards the M5 via King Georges Road, but then we got into a discussion about what to call the Printmaking Workshop's upcoming group blog and missed that turnoff! Double Argh! Of course, no place to do a U-turn, so we ended up in Sylvania Waters.

1745 After finding a place to turn around, and then finding a place we could fill up the petrol tank with our obscure university purchase card, we finally rejoined the M5 to find it so choked up with people fleeing Sydney that we calculated that the detour probably didn't take any more time than if we'd stayed on the right road. Much joy all around.

driving back in the dark
Looking back at the busdwellers in the dark

2100 Arrived back at the artschool, totally arted out and dying for a glass of wine. Oh bugger, still have to ride my bike home. Thank god for phones with radios in them. Triple J playing The Black Keys! Yay, pedal energy. Rock on. The clockometer outside the ABC says 5 degrees.


Mindy said...

loving broadband, I can finally see all your great piccys. You sure did take a big detour.

Ampersand Duck said...

heh. blame Sydney roads for having few places to turn around!

Kate said...

The best thing about this very excellent post is that you RODE YOUR BIKE so early and so late. I'm impressed that you had the energy to get home!