the cafe

i feel like i’m some kind of 19th century flaneur, writing this down, but it has to be done.

i’m writing about The Cafe.

i’ve been frequenting passenger espresso regularly again. they’re coffee is great, it’s affordable and i’m now a regular. it doesn’t even matter that it’s a 30 minute round trip bike ride. exercise AND caffeine = win win.

and every day that i’m there, i read a little from their magazines and hear something great their playing on the stereo. every day.

in the last week or so, i’ve discovered the chances with wolves blog (i know, i’m so far behind) and their excellent radio program (the one with Talib Kweli as a guest got me through an all-night application-writing session); the soundcloud mixes of maart roux and a cell of one, plus charles mingus’ chazz! album (well, rediscovered). i’ve taken the time to chase up the links, downloaded tracks from those mixes or  tagged them on whyd.

i’ve followed the trails of music and incorporated new sounds into my life. it has been expansive.
just like i did when i was a teenager and i went to school and my friends shared music with me – they made me mixtapes and i read zines and ordered distro catalogues and ordered new stuff. it’s exciting and i feel invigorated by continuing to expand my taste.

and the same thing with the magazines – i’ve read great articles in magazines that i don’t have a chance to own, or would never have found otherwise: it’s nice that, frieze, 032C, der greif and datacide. i discovered cabinet magazine in a similar way in london.

now, i know that for those of you who are hipsters, trying to stay on top of the Next New Thing, or my fellow Music Snob brethren from back in the day, this will be quite passe. But I don’t really live that kind of all-consuming life anymore. I spend a lot of time separate from a TV or traditional radio programs. I livie quite a nomadic lifestyle and am often more consumed with my own art production, or keeping abreast of current affairs or reading fiction.

I have loads of friends, but they’re all spread out over the world and I don’t really have a posse close by who will say – hey, check this shit out, or lend me their latest issue of Frankie. Even the facebook like/share thing is not really so music/literature focused, but political (which i like, actually – replacing the newspaper).

so, this means that i don’t get to hear as much new music as i used to. i can’t afford to buy it all the time, or lug records’n’shit around for the old good stuff.

and i don’t have loads of space or money to buy new magazines, or space to lug new shit around. the good stuff isn’t all available on zinio or ebooks or newstand, and i don’t want to read all my stuff electronically. i’m a luddite at heart.

and new music, new magazines are important for keeping me stimulated with new ideas. sentimentality and familiarity are great (biggie smalls on a daily basis is a wonderful thing), but i also want to keep my mind expanded with discovery.

and i think i’m not alone here. although loads of the middle classes in australia and england are planted in front of TVs and radios, i think most peeps my age and younger than me (although not so young that they’re technically ‘yoof’), have a similar deal: not necessarily in situations that facilitate the discovery of new ideas in an accidental fashion. and i could be wrong.

regardless, i feel like the cafe is a really important site for this.

it’s the place where you can slowly ingest. even if you’re intravenously consuming your coffee like i do, you still get to slowly ingest the literature, or the music. you get to discover, without the committment of it having to be good, or even the time committment of having to do the discovery. you avail yourself of it.

and it’s still communal enough that you can chat and share with the baristas and other regulars about your taste-discoveries, which i think is an important aspect to really opening up your taste. that reinforcement thing in a meaningful way (ie: more than just a like or a single play).

the cafe is an important ‘incubator’ (to use a more stringent term) for culture, in the way that the library can be for books, that the agora/soap box/newscast was for politics.

i know it sounds oh-so fin de siecle modernity, but perhaps it is a similar state: the cafe then was the site where you could discuss politics. you could interact with The City, you could observe change and acquire taste – usually fashion/clothing/food, but still – taste. and in real time.

obviously the internet is a melting pot of taste, that you can find ANYTHING there. but sometimes it’s too much and it’s slightly abstracted and two-dimensional. it doesn’t fulfill all my desires for chance.

whereas i think the cafe is making a resurgence as a site to fulfill that purpose, augment the amazness of the internet and deal with our ghastly caffeine (as opposed to absynthe) addicitons.

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(Or Neon in Germany).


It’s not a wild insight of mine to notice the resurgence of neon/fluorescent colours at the moment. I think you’d have to be colour blind or wearing blinkers to not pick up on the bright fashion, the nails, the accessories, Doc Marten shoes, web-graphics and printed posters all in bright bright colours.

It’s that 80s recycled thing again and on one hand it makes me crave the odd socks i used to wear: one neon yellow, the other neon pink, carefully rolled down to my white espadrils with short jersey shorts. On the other hand it has me pondering exactly what the significance of this resurgence might be.

If it was just an 80s redux in fashion thing, I probably wouldn’t take too much notice. But the point that sent my analytical mind into a bit of a spin has been the use of neon/fluorescent colours in Art. Capital A.

There was a show in Melbourne recently that featured 5 or 6 artists who use fluorescence in their work (that didn’t include  some of the others i know like Dell Stewart and Anita Cummins, for example).

So i thought maybe it was just an Australian thing, until a few weeks ago, i walk into  the Christian Nagel Galerie in Berlin, a fancy pants commercial establishment. The large abstract expressionist paintings by Stefan Müller all had significant elements of fluorescent in them. And not in a graphic ‘kapow!’ pop kind of way either. But in a subtle, abstract, touchy feely kind of way.

Of course, it could be just an artist riding on an aesthetic trend for commercial gain, but I kind of doubt it. Especially not at the kind of price point these paintings sell at.

I might suggest that financial crisis might be linked, if the fluoro bombs from the 80s weren’t before the 1987 wall street crash.

It could be a reaction to neo-conservatism: ‘hey! look! there’s other, useless and fun stuff in the world, not just boring elitism and econonomic rationalism’, but the US is currently floating a supposedly progressive system, as is Australia and France (although admittedly only just), Germany is, well, technically not progressive, but comparitively is.

I can’t find anything formally written about the theoretical significance of fluoresence in art and a few google searches link to either art galleries that are under blacklight, or connect to the link between fluorescent spores in bacteria (careful when you include the word ‘culture’ in your keywords, kids).

The first wave of fluoro fashion was probably also a boast at new technological advancement: pigment developments –  ink and dye techniques that could be used in plastics and fabric so they almost glowed. But this recent wave isn’t about boasting or flexing innovative muscle – they’ve been available for 20 years or so.

In biology, fluorescence (or bioluminescence) is used to attract mate or prey, and perhaps this is an explanation, as a result of tightening belts (prey) or declining populations in rich western countries (mate). Now i really think i’m reading too much into it.

**If anyone reading this has anything properly insightful to add, or a reference I obviously should have read, 

image: mark grubb at hermit concrete in london

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it could have been me a thousand times over

if you’re australian, especially from melbourne, you probably know about the jill meagher case. if not, here are a few news/comment links.

body in a shallow grave
Rape & murder charges laid as police find Jill Meagher’s body

can everybody please calm down about this jill meagher case
if like me you thought your information was inconsequential..
how many meters can i walk on my own at night?

it has been all over the social media (esp facebook) and the shit that passes for broadcast media in melbourne (there’s a media rant coming – you can feel it, can’t you). i probably shouldn’t post too much for legal reasons (although it’s unlikely i’ll be called for jury duty).

but it has been a case of news that spread really quickly. probably because she lived in an area that loads of my friends live in, everyone i knew posted her missing person’s FB post (i didn’t, because everyone i knew already had) and it was front page almost immediately. i must admit to being a teensy bit annoyed that every woman who goes missing doesn’t get this amount of attention, but nonetheless, i kept an eye on the case, even from berlin.

she is a 30-ish smart, confident woman who walked from her local bar towards her home at 2am. a distance of about 100 meters, if that. like she always probably does. in that time, a guy allegedly abducts her, rapes her, kills her and dumps her body 50kms out of town. he apparently lives in the next suburb over.

it could have been me a thousand times over.

i could still be me a thousand times more.

i am a 30-ish, smart, confident woman who walks home at night. i always have. i grew up believing in my right to my own safety and the smarts to carry that out. i have been accosted by dudes asking for handjobs, flashed at, sworn at, called slut/lesbian/whore/showusyourtits, been followed. its a fucking jungle out there.

but i will continue to walk home at night on my own, thanks very much. the only rights we have are the ones we use and if i don’t enact my right to walk in my cities, on my own, without the threat of violence based on my gender, i cease to have that right.

of course, the australian broadcast media, being the minefield of misogynist offal-bags passing for journalists and ‘media personalities’, have naturally used this case to highlight a woman’s choice to walk home after drinks at the local bar as proof that she is a drunk-whore-who-should-have-stayed-at-home-with-her-husband-and-that-she’s-asking-for-it-because-of-it and that’s-what-happens-when-you-don’t-live-in-the-suburbs-and-all-women-should-stay-at-home-from-now-on.

and of course you know what i say to them: get fucked.

you know, if i was in town, i would propose a big fuck-off reclaim the night street party as a memorial to jill (may she rest in peace) and as a middle finger salute to the men who decided that they still need to rape women, and equally to the chauvanist pundit motherfuckers who continue to blame the victim because they have yet to accept that men rape women.

guys, it’s quite simple: if you see a woman walking home on her own at night, don’t rape her.

if you have been raped, here are some peeps you can talk to about it:

rape crisis centre UK
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Rape Crisis Center (US)
Rape Crisis  (ZA)
Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (CA)
Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (CA)
Rape Crisis Programs (NYC)
The Turning Point (LA)
NSW Rape Crisis Centre (AU)
Centre Against Sexual Assault VIC (AU)

 And if you have any further information on the Jill Meagher case, call Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000

UPDATE: to the person coming here after searching for ‘jill meagher dress like a slut’, you might wanna check yourself. hard. maybe against a wall.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

stand-up comedy and craft

i’ve been working on some drawings lately – which is kind of funny after a month of performance-focused work on time, body, heavy social issues, etc, etc. perhaps it’s my come-down.

anyway, they’re pretty small, laborious little works about hip-hop and whilst i’ve been doing them, i’ve been watching/listening to stand-up comedy hours – specials from HBO by chris rock, eddie murphy, louis CK and george carlin, etc*.

of course, they’re funny. and it’s nice to laugh whilst you’re scratch, scratch, scratching pen across board. but i’ve also really enjoyed learning something from them too.

my friend rob often talks about using comedians for insight. and it’s their particularly warped way of looking at the world that i like, and relate to. these particular comedians are observant – they feed you back ideas about the world in a way that you never would have seen it before. but they’re also master performers – they can embody ideas, convey through mere expression, impersonate others and use their voice –  not just telling stories, but to push your way of thinking in directions you don’t want to go – in a way that is masterful.

i’ve been watching or listening to how they ‘dance’ across their images, and how much control they really do have over an audience, even when they don’t.

i’ve also taken to watching interviews with some of these actors on inside the actor’s studio and a great special produced by ricky gervais called talking funny.

and in these shows, i get to hear about the craft of comedy and comedic performance (which is heavy on the timing, but has halmarks of performing arts). these guys talk about getting out there and doing it. and paying attention to if it’s working – being honest to the bit and their life, but not ignoring that it’s covering a joke – it is artifice and experience in perfect measure (and everyone accepts the measure).

comedy is a tough gig and you suck at it for good while before you have a successful career (like art), which is about longevity and determination. these guys talk about just doing it. and continuing to aim high because they want to ‘be one of those guys’.

i enjoyed the honesty in that statement, because unlike art, it’s ok to want to be part of that crowd;
to have success and reach people and command something. and that obviously in the process of becoming one of those guys – honing their craft, they’ll be good and have something worthwhile to say and it will become honest.

*and i have to thank my friend Bonnie Davies who totally got me back into comedy by being one of those right funny bitchez, but also for giving me George Carlin to listen to during the OK Gallery performance.

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art and alienation

a couple of days ago, @ABCArts tweeted

‘street art is cool, but does it alienate some people?’.

the sentiment behind this tweet made me incredibly cross, for several reasons.

arrogance about the place of art in society.

i believe art is an incredibly important part of society – it has the capacity to revolutionise the way people see and experience the world – on an individual and collective scale. it has the ability to present a world above and outside the system of capitalism, politics, media, or the systems that produce alienation in people’s daily lives.

but there are much greater things that have a direct influence on people’s lives (and have the power to alienate them). employment, love, political freedom, community, purpose/meaning – these are loose terms for things that have an incredible sway on people’s lives. art can be part of them, but ultimately it’s not above these things.

if someone feels disempowered, they will feel alienated by more of the world than a stupid tag on a wall. of course that will piss them off too, but it won’t be because of the tag. it will be because they don’t have a job/finances, are being beaten, feel discriminated against or don’t belong, can’t express themselves freely or are worried about their physical safety. or a host of other things.

actually the residency at Collingwood Housing Estate drove that home – autonomy, currency and agency were more important than art. art helps instigate a desire for those things and can reflect that potential, but ultimately it’s more important to have people fed and sheltered well.

the use of alienation

alienation is more than just pissing people off, not liking something, or feeling uncomfortable. it is a condition that is deep-rooted in the anti-social – not feeling part of the community or the human race as a whole. it is the lack of purpose in ones life, a disempowerment to achieve freedom or a sense of self. it’s on the scale of violence, in terms of the negative effect of a persons’ wellbeing.

i’m really doubting that street art, even if it’s not to people’s taste, really alienates people and the use of that term in the tweet feels inflammatory; superfluous, rather than a proper understanding of what alienation is and why it’s a real concern.

if ABCArts is really concerned with alienation, we should be looking at how the arts influences policy and social behaviour on a larger scale, in what ways economy and the arts are complicit, how street art influences the mental health and well-being of youth identity and community culture. etc.

i realise that i’m being slightly picky and pedantic, given the amount of shit troll tweets out there on a daily basis, but as someone who occasionally makes art in public (on the street), and who has a real interest in street art/culture, it pissed me off.

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some feedback I received about the work at performance space was that, rather than being separated from the audience by playing a character, i was inaccessible by “being elsewhere”.

even though i was very much present in the space, the act of being blindfolded and with headphones on   not only isolated me – pushing me into my own world of intense audio overload and survival, but also  isolated me to visitors and the audience. my presence was called into question.

this presence/liveness is a topic of interest for the artist laura hindmarsh and she has been focusing her mentorship with lucas ihlein on it – what is the role of presence in performance and/or live art? how does site connect with it? how can process be performed and exhibited? what is documentation? what is ‘live’? etc, etc.*

she has included me in an exhibition about presence, absence, performance and process that will be opening this week at sawtooth gallery in launceston: appearing-as process

if you’re in the ‘hood, do go. i’ve sent through an instructional piece and i’d love to hear about people’s experience of it.

*laura, boni cairncross and i also have an ongoing collaborative research lab about it, that is currently split across a stack of media, but will be collated and presented at some point.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx