Wednesday, April 25, 2012

hungrybum internet

Oh, my poor neglected blog. I'm so sorry.

I spent a couple of weeks -- which, of course, were my uni term break -- being horribly ill alongside of Best Beloved who was also horribly ill. Our colds, using the same delightful germs, maybe picked up from the Folk Festival, maybe picked up from my plague-rat students, who knows, mutated in completely different directions. I spent the worst part of BB's grumpiness down in the studio trying to ignore my streaming snot, and by the time it really hit me with a cloudy head and painful throat and chest, he was back at work. Best possible outcome, really.

Then I've spent the last few days deeply immersed in the labyrinthine wastes of Wordpress, updating my work bloggy websitey thing. Why on earth? Because I have been published in The Blue Notebook (thank you Sarah) and am having an article written about me for Matrix journal, and I thought I'd better clean out my cupboards a bit, so to speak.

Of course, I've emerged from that today feeling like I've had just about enough of internet interaction, and then in the shower I realised that it's been weeks since I blogged. *sigh*. It's not you, it's me.

While I collect my thoughts, here are the cats for some light entertainment.

Boyz on da hood. They do this a lot, it's very cute.

We had Easter a week late, and thoroughly enjoyed our cheap easter eggs. Padge even laid one for us, he was so excited about all the festivities.

He especially likes the authentic 1960s mohair cardigan I bought at the festival.

We also hosted Bumblebee's 15th birthday party, which was an evening filled with exquisitely unknowingly beautiful teenagers who had intelligent airs of wisdom and the sweetest innocence. They spent most of the time playing Truth and Dare, refusing to eat BB's too-fancy homemade pizza but wolfing down sausages and bread (some things never change) and cake. The T&D was hilarious, ranging from icecubes down the pants to licking the cat (Padge didn't mind, really) and various forms of kissing. We roamed discreetly between the kitchen and the loungeroom, trying hard to keep straight faces and occasionally biting our knuckles in glee.

Pooter made friends with a balloon, although it took a little while for him to warm to the idea:

We found the balloon, days later, looking sadly neglected and small, so perhaps it wasn't a lasting thing.

All the kids young people went home flushed and happy and B's heart seemed healed (oh yes, first love broke up) and now he's got his eye (and, after yesterday's drama camp) lips on another girlie. He blushes at the mention of her name, so lovely.

Last weekend I forced myself to stick to plan and go up to the Blue Mountains to visit the Wayzgoose Press again. I'm so glad I did, they are such fun and full of good conversation about letterpress and production and libraries and design and whatever else. Plus, when I did get to bed (about 3am, they are nocturnal creatures), I slept with Dr Sista Outlaw's new kitten, Pip, on my head. Afterwards I felt strangely better, so maybe Pip has healing purrs.

He'd like to think so.

And now, if you'll excuse me, nice peoples, I'm going to go for a walk up the mountain with my boys as a nod to the public holiday we've been given. We haven't spent much time around each other lately!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dear ACT Greens

Letter mailed to each of the four ACT Greens MLA on Tuesday 17 April 2012.

Dear Ms Hunter/ Ms Bresnan/ Ms Le Couteur/ Mr Rattenbury

On the weekend I received an email from Christine Milne requesting that all Greens supporters band together in the face of Bob Brown’s resignation and show the rest of Australia that ‘we are greater than the sum of our parts’.

As a Megalo supporter and frequent user, I would very much like the ACT Greens to prove this. A vague decision has been announced today about the Fitters Workshop, condemning it to be a barely-used community hall. This is a weak and spineless decision that will come back to haunt the Greens if it is implemented. The Fitters Workshop is only fit for a few kinds of music, and any attempt at speech in front of a group is completely lost in a baffle of noise. The government will pour money into its fit-out, only to have it under-used and eating up valuable resources. Is this sustainable? Is this sensible?

Alison Alder, Director of Megalo, has always made clear that once Megalo is in the space, they will always welcome interactions in the gallery area between themselves and the kinds of small music groups that want to use the acoustics (which will still exist). That is surely a very good way to use the space to its best advantage?

I am one of two Canberra representatives on the Print Council of Australia; I am an artist and I teach at Megalo and the ANU School of Art. Quite often during classes we talk politics and the issue of Megalo arises. Many of my students are young and will be voting for the first or second time in the next elections, both ACT and Federal. These young people are ripe for the Greens to pick, but they are shocked when my colleagues and I mention that this Megalo issue is not just a Liberal Party action but also a Greens action.

You are doing your party and your national reputation great damage through this intervention into Megalo’s future and the use of the Fitter’s Workshop. I urge you to reconsider your stance and support Megalo’s use of the space – well before the next election. This would make the Fitters Workshop into a community-spirited printmaking hub that will be the jewel of the Kingston Arts Precinct, and also prevent the acute embarrassment that will revisit whoever is in power in a few years when it is realized that the ‘multi-arts Fitters Workshop’ is a big useless resource-draining space.

I think the Greens have done good work in the ACT but your actions regarding Megalo are very disappointing. Please, as Milne requests, do show us that you are a party worth voting for.


This is the response.

Dear Caren

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the Fitters Workshop, as ACT Greens spokesperson on the Arts I am responding on behalf of the Greens MLAs.

As you may be aware, the Assembly Committee inquiring into the future use of the Fitters Workshop tabled its report on Monday 16 April. You can see the report at

The report recommended:

· that the Government re-consider its decision to install Megalo in the Fitters Workshop;

· that the Fitters Workshop be used as a multi-use arts and performance venue;

· that the money previously appropriated for Megalo’s move to the Fitters Workshop be used to provide alternative accommodation for Megalo within the Kingston Arts Precinct.

The ACT Greens fully support the recommendations of the Committee. As we have said repeatedly on the public record, the ACT Greens believe the Government failed to perform due diligence or adequate public consultation with regard to this project, and that the Assembly inquiry has provided the level of scrutiny and public debate that had been denied the project earlier.

As the Kingston Arts Precinct Master plan is still being considered, the ACT Greens believe now is the time to deliver a better development that accommodates more Canberrans’ visions for the area.

Thank you again for your correspondence on this matter.

Caroline Le Couteur MLA

There you go. Well, this post is my public prediction if they go ahead with the multi-arts space: it will be a major embarrassment for ALL the ACT political parties because it will prove totally unsuitable for multi-arts use. And BTW, it's bullshit about the 'inadequate public consultation'. There was the normal amount of advertising and public calls for suggestions, and both the music groups and Megalo had followed all the proper tendering applications. Humph.

For a REALLY GOOD angle on the situation, go to iconophilia.

Monday, April 02, 2012

art attacks

I've been trying to write a blogpost since Saturday, but my weekend and early week just keep going and going faster and faster until here I am, and it's lunchtime on Wednesday. My art attacks, let me share you them.

Friday: Robert Guth at CCAS
Saturday: Material World at ANCA, plus some jazz
Sunday: Guerrilla printing day with Angela
Monday: Edible Books & farewell Lynda
Tuesday: Running away with ourselves
Wednesday: Remember to breathe

I'm actually not much of a one to go out on a friday night except to the movies but my ukulele group was invited to play towards the end of an end of a PhD event at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space. Plus it was a chance to catch up with lots of friends from art skool. So we went and won some odd things at the auction (and lost some wanted things that were outbid) and ate the yummy kangaroo doner kebabs and the endless hot fresh sugary donuts that kept pumping out of the donut machine and eventually the uke group found each other, dragged some chairs into a circle and had a play. We're not a very forward group, we fly under the radar a bit. No leaders, lots of attitude, unable to finish a song at the same time, but happy and jolly and with good taste in music. Well, we think we have. We played some Billy Bragg, Lou Reed, the Breeders, the Cure, Johnny Cash... you get the idea. Fairly Gen X, us. Most of the crowd had gone home by the time we started, but we played for the cleaner-uppers.

A lovely visit to the Farmers Markets to buy yummies, into the studio for some Making time, and then my friend Angela Gardner arrived from Brisbane to spend a night and a day with me. Angela is a printmaker and poet, and byrd and I used one of her poems for our Demolition piece at Print Big a few years ago. We nattered for a while, and then it was time to go to ANCA for the opening of Material World, the show I'm in where we all had to make site-specific works with found objects. It as a wonderful opening, one of the best I've been to, mainly because it was low-key, friendly, there was heaps of food & wine and a band, and at 7.30 the lights were turned out for Earth Hour and we sat around the fires and looked at the candle-lit art and talked to each other happily. Narelle Phillips, one of the curators, writes up her experience here. She's an ace chick, and working with her is always a pleasure.

I enjoyed people's reaction to my work, once they found it. All you could see on the way in was the dangling bookmark ribbons, but if you went outside for a glass of wine and a bit of cheese and then walked back in, there it was, obvious as hell. Many people just assumed I'd filled the girder with intact books, because it looked very natural and un-artlike. Another friend came up to me and said that it frustrated him because there seemed to be no logic to the shelf arrangement. When I told him that it wasn't mean to be logical, and that the books were often in conversation with each other, he went back and spent TWENTY minutes looking at it. When he'd finished I asked if he was happier and he just shrugged, which I guess means NO, but... win for me, it engaged him for TWENTY MINUTES. How many other works of art can do that? Bless.

Afterwards we dragged ourselves away and over to a fabulous party close to our place, where some friends were farewelling their son as he flies to Berlin soon to complete a Masters in jazz. So there was more food and more wine and a stage where he and his mates got up and played a storm for us. We left at about 10.30, but apparently it all didn't finish until 3am. Who says Canberra is boring?

Angela and I had a hope that we could have a play in the studio together before she left. She had a 5:15 flight, and in our favour was the change back from daylight saving, which gave us the feeling that we had an extra hour. We left the party at a decent time, despite the good jazz, to give ourselves a fighting chance of a solid day's play. So we awoke, and talked about texts for a while as BB made us a big cooked breakfast. We sat out the back and ate the big cooked breakfast and talked ideas and then hit the studio.

We worked with a new poem that had been brewing for a few weeks. I didn't grasp the meaning at first (sometimes takes a while with poems, don't you think?) which dismayed her, but once we discussed it and I talked about finding and creating a graphic starting point for the meaning, we were off. We set and printed an editioned letterpress broadside in one day! Mind you, the type is still sitting on my press today (I'll dismantle it once I finish typing); it was crazy fun. We're a good team: she arranged the wood type into cloud shapes while I tore up the paper (working out the dimensions as I tore, changing our minds once or twice) then I locked the wood type on the pressbed while she started setting the poem's text. She printed the embossed woodtype while I was her clean-hands assistant, then I set up the metal type while she put away the wood type and mixed the ink. We printed the last layer and finished with time to spare to look at a few other printed things and get to her plane. Phew! Here are a few photos:

Upside-down clouds!

emboss deet
Embossed clouds.

detail, pressbed
If we'd had more time I would have got this curve much smoother, but I did the best I could in a hurry.

swung weight
The final work, drying on the rack.

Angela on the press
Angela, working the press.

Happy, tired ladeez.

Over at Angela's blog you'll see the same photos and similar words from a different angle. I'm glad she liked listening to Dig Music with me. I've become quite addicted to it, and yesterday came home to discover that I've won a double CD of blues & roots music in a small competition they were running. Yay!

As well as teaching my normal class, I'd wrangled the students into making some edible books as part of the annual International Edible Books Festival and bringing them in for a 'lunch'. It was pretty rough and ready, since neither Ingeborg (the other teacher) and I had time to organise plates or tablecloths or such things, but the works themselves were delightful, and the ones that could be eaten (some were hypotheticals) were delicious.

I was very fond of these bananas. Have a look at my flickr site for the full range, many put a lot of effort into it. I loved being able to eat a miniature 'Animal Farm'!

Monday evening was spent, as usual, at my ukulele group, but this time we were farewelling a steadfast member who is moving to Melbourne. She is a beautiful singer, and there was much discussion about who could be 'the voice' now. We made her sing all 'her' songs in the songbook the group has compiled; she does a rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'A Case of You' that is almost better than the original and definitely better than any other cover I've heard. We also played 'Under the Milky Way Tonight' by the Church in honour of Jimmy Little, who'd died that day (or the day before?).

Tuesday I spent some time with a cousin of BB's, down for the Renaissance exhibition and when I dropped her at the bus back to Sydney, I kept going in to the uni and caught up with a dear friend to talk about life, the universe, and doing some work together. We had lunch and started talking about things that got very intense, and I finished by suggesting that we just drop everything for a few hours and go to the uni bar and play some pool. We giggled like schoolchildren as we played, completely invisible to the 20-somethings playing around us, except for the moment when T, a pool shark in her youth, got up on the table to do a particularly impressive backwards shot. That got their attention. It was tremendous fun and I went home afterwards feeling quite revived.


BB's lovely cousin took this photo of Padge.

So here I am, sitting in a quiet moment, ready to get back into the action again. More printing, some Folk Festivalling on Friday and then I'm going to the Blue Mountains for two days to celebrate a 50th birthday and to meet Dr Sister Outlaw's new kitten. I'm looking forward to Monday, pure sleep-in time, and maybe a movie date with my nice cooking man. Did I tell you that while Angela and I were printing, he was in the kitchen making cake, fig & pear paste, something else that I forget and spaghetti for dinner? My, this house buzzed last weekend.