existence shall cry, sis.

the painful thing about the residency i’m doing at collingwood housing estate is that it throws into question my purpose as an artist, in a way that none of the other recent residencies have.
i reckon i’ve had at least three grades of existential crisis in the last two weeks, the deepest last weekend, rescued by a fellow artist who reminded me that i actually don’t get a choice over the future and what it thinks of me and my art. all i can do is be as attendant to the workliness of the work as possible (paraphrasing heidegger in his origin of a work of art).
going to too many openings, or other people’s shows is too much for me when i’m in this state – i get caught up in my own sense of ridiculousness, so i have to pare it back.

having said that, i was able to check out two visual art shows and two sound art shows on the weekend and enjoyed myself immensely.
stephen palmer has a wonderful sense of putting shows together and the group show at light projects at the moment is a testament to that. the show focuses primarily on ‘simulacra’ and artists who replicate daily objects with such alacrity that we assume it is that item, lest we look closely, plus a light-hearted ‘huzzah!’ work by clare rae. in fact, her work was so unlike the others, that what it did state was ‘this IS real’. which i liked.
the other exhibition is at dear patti smith – a gallery after my own heart. their brand hock show, in loving memory of amnesia is amazing – sculptural and narrative and slightly unnerving choices of symbols. i would even say feminist. it’s well-crafted, well-lit and just exudes ‘we are here’.

after both those shows, i attended two separate sound art gigs: one curated by nic tammens at the NGV studio, as part of his interesting collaborative residency there. we stood amongst oh-so-placed objects – attempted simulacra but to my mind were a bit, well, contrived.

clearly i was sinking in my own cynicism and i was too up-to-my-eyeballs-in-my-own-garbage to really enjoy most of the music, although it was nice to see some peeps and nic’s band at the end was a great intense cello/violin/guitar distortion build and expressed my own mounting tension.

on saturday, after i had mostly dealt with my own internal combustion, i was able to really enjoy the embedded gig, presented by ben byrne and avantwhatever. all similarly toned bands (deep frenetic bass/low freq chaos
and a counterpoint of super-high pitch/frequency overlay), i enjoyed the different processes and instruments on display: upright bass, sub-bass actuators+40gal drums, jim denley‘s water-filled sax, trombone, accordion and alice hui-sheng cheng‘s vocal intensity.

the whole crew there were great and i felt really welcome at art beat – exactly the kind of art space that i believe melbourne needs a whole lot more of.

brand hock #2 (sorry, i chucked away the room sheet and can’t remember the title)
new music series 001

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interaction, part 1: goodbye.

Excellent goodbyes

i may be writing a bit about interaction in the next few weeks. primarily because the project i’m working on sits pretty firmly in the ‘interactive’ camp of arts practice. but also because i’ve been reading a bit about the philosophical aspects of interaction have been thinking about the dynamics of human interaction – listening, conversation and relationships.

counterintuitively, one of the first things i’m interested in unpacking a bit about is the interaction of ‘goodbye’. i recently wanted to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to a stack of peeps in perth after spending much time in their tribe. sadly, and for a stack of reasons, not many people were able to make it, and i left wondering about the ritual of saying goodbye.

even though ‘goodbye’ is the end of an interaction between characters, it is also the beginning of a new interaction. it has its own set of variables and etiquette, rarely discussed in white, australian culture. the country of the laid back ‘g’day’ are also not so formal with their goodbyes. ‘see ya’.

perhaps because i move around a lot, or because i’ve spent time in cultures for which the goodbye is given (linguistically and culturally) more weight, i’m finding that casual-ness a bit unsatisfying.

in schlock pseudo-psycho terms, there is no closure.

it’s a metaphysical sentence that has no full stop. and when there’s no punctuation, there ceases to be meaning. there also ceases to be intent. and therefore no beginning of the next interaction – the one of ‘still friends, but separated by distance’ or something.

in coding/system term, there’s no } – no end to the instruction, which creates errors, which means you don’t have an interaction. in not saying ‘goodbye’, one nulls and voids the interaction at all.

ok, so that’s abstracting it and perhaps creating an analogy that simplifies things too much – human interactions are far more complex than a missing }, / or . but i do wonder if we lack consideration of the deeper sides to human interaction protocol (HIP) in the same way as we now do our other forms of interaction.

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art and isolation

a while ago, a friend of mine sternly told me that i should watch that amazing TED video by Brene Brown on vulnerability. it took a few days, but on a cold, gloomy day in Berlin i sat in bed and watched.

i cried and i laughed. i laughed, like she said, in a knowing way ‘oh god..’

and apart from hitting some personal nerves, i loved what she says about humanity’s need to connect. actually i believe this need built into our cell.db – but even if it isn’t, history has consistently presented to us our need for connection and the damage that is done in isolation.

Mauer Monument

having said that, when i was in berlin, it was the first time i got in touch with a level of isolation (and therefore vulnerability) that i hadn’t experienced before and i thrived.

i was removed from my big group of friends, my sense of complacency about navigating public space/the shopping experience, my command of language and even the outside world for a couple of weeks (i spent a week only going downstairs to get coffee and then coming back up to the apartment).

but there was something about that ‘outsiderness’ that enabled me to really get to know myself, my work and my place in the world. sorry. i can’t believe i just wrote that either.
what i’m trying to say is that i discovered the complexity of isolation. it turns out i needed a little something of ‘removed’ in order to have the space to be.

obviously, i’m a modern young lady/geek, so wasn’t completely isolated. i was still checking into blogs i hang out on, twitter, facebook, e-newsletters and phone calls to people. and, to be honest, the fact that i was in germany and within a culture that doesn’t reject art-making kind of helped.

cut to: perth.


isolation is a thing here.

the population is actually small (as opposed to the rhetoric of small population as excuse for poor public service. another rant), the feeling of being closer to jakarta than the canberra is palpable and unless you live within walking distance to work like i do (ha!), it takes bloody forever to get anywhere. it feels like time slows down here.

so, it’s little wonder that there is a combination of intense frustration and intense production here. the artists that are here are super generous, fruitful and really focused on making work that is interesting, engaging with technology and pushing boundaries. i think there’s a reason that there are more art schools in perth than in melbourne, that anyone interested in working with bio/body/electronic art comes to perth and that the state of WA was the first to implement a percent for arts scheme.

perhaps in the same way that iceland is a feminist country – there’s not the overbearing bully neighbours to tell you what to do, so you just fuck it and do it anyway.


i could go on and talk about the link between isolation and space for shame, that enables people to act freely. and i could go on about space/time for contemplation too.

but the other aspect to being separated from the rest of your pack is that you feel vulnerable.
and lonely.
and there’s no room for complacency.
sometimes being complacent is a wonderful thing, even for an artist.
not having to fight for your right all the time can be valuable.

how can technology and the internet and the rest of the world help meter your isolation, so that you have just the right amount of “come here and go away.”

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i think i mentioned it in this post but i’m reading a collection of essays by martin heidegger. i’m really enjoying thinking about metaphysical ideas of being and nothing at the moment; concepts that, when i try to wrap my small human mind around them, i feel like i’m sucking on one of those super sour warheads that came out in the early 90s. my brain kind of pulls one of those contorted faces and probably looks like a suckerfish, were i to scan it whilst reading.

here are some questions that have yet to be answered*  – which it seems is the purpose of philosophy: to blow big gaping holes in your preconceptions about life.

why did life choose life?**
i’ve read recently that the cell and its code for life (respire/reproduce/communicate) has been around since the beginning of life – only a few billion years after after the big bang. the same big bang which separated space and time from nothing. and heidegger talks about Being – as in the ‘thing’ in life/beings that makes them being (and not nothing). but what i haven’t read anywhere yet, is why.
what is the impetus for life? why did life decide to live (ie, start respiring/reproducing/communicating) – rather than just stick at time and space?

what switches nothing to being?
as an extension to the why of being, is the what. heidegger speaks about The Nothing as everything that is not being, and then some. It’s the not, un and never of everything that is. And is very hard to explain in a blog post without sounding like an idiot. But, if i’m reading things correctly, Being is that which has separated itself from Nothing.
But what switches being from nothing to being? Is it really the binary action that it seems to be?

is there a relationship between sound and being?
i’m going to extend this question into a little essay for a grown-up journal, but this is a pretty exciting question i’ve been playing with. seeing as you (seemingly) either have being or not. and you either have sound or not (which we call silence). perhaps there is a relationship between the physics of sound and silence, and the metaphysics of sound and listening. and if there is a ‘divide’ or action that facilitates nothing to being, then perhaps this is understood by an action that facilitates silence to sound (listening).

all of it might be complete tosh. but i’m enjoying thinking in this way – wrapping my mind around a sourworm and making it think a whole lot differently about sound – perhaps again as the ultimate force of life. how very elizabethan of me***.

*(there may be philosophers who answer these questions, i just haven’t looked yet)
**maybe there’s a massive oversized t-shirt in that…
***bruce smith from USoCal talks about elizabethan english believing that sound was anime mundi, the force of life, because it orients us in time and space

UPDATE: it seems i’m not the only one considering the relationship between physics and metaphysics.

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she sees read

while my laptop was hanging out with virgil in purgatory, i managed to chew through a few books, unsurprisingly. [i also managed to make my own christmas cards, wrapping paper and cookies. but that’s not what i’m going to post about, obviously.]

and i just thought i’d share about these books a bit, because, as it turns out, they’re all linked in some way and all three have effected me in a profound way – existentially. the nice thing is that two of them were gifts too, which means i now have awesome mind-reading friends who know exactly what kind of garbage to put in my brain.

the trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture  lewis hyde.

apparently there’s quite a famous book by lewis hyde called the gift. i’d not heard of it, so this author and his second big title was all new to me. i was a little dubious about that subtitle, but i peeked at the first page and was hooked from the get-go. in fact, i cheated on the book i was reading at the time – ditched it in favour of the first chapter under the covers. ooh er..

basically, hyde uses stories in mythology about various trickster characters, to show that the wiley, crafty and chaotic traits of the trickster are a vital part of society. He then matched those traits in stories/principles with the traits of the artist in modern society, as a vital trickster character that keeps everyone on their toes.

some of the other areas that i found fascinating included place of chaos/dirt/upheaval (or images thereof) in orderly society; the need for shame/shamelessness in social cohesion; and the skill of a trickster to play with perception, whilst holding the order of perception dear.

Hermes, Coyote, Monkey (and tripitaka), Ifa/EshuPicassoDuchamp and Cage (are all referenced as figures that simultaneous understand the lay of the status quo, respect it and yet seek to subvert or circumvent it, whilst offering it back to the quo on a gold platter, having completely reinventing the status. [And maybe because I was listening to the new Kanye album non-stop during this time, I kept imagining that Kanye West would end up in there in the future sometime.]

the actual writing flow of the book was slightly problematic, but the way he teased out his examples, and the kind of stories he chose as illustration was so good, that i could forgive the lapses in writing craft (just like you’re doing now).

there is an admirable element of playfulness about the trickster which hyde kept reiterating (and about which i have a creeping doubt that i have lost recently). it was inspiring to get a bit cheeky, a bit naughty and throw caution to the wind a little. nothing reflects a security in the order of ‘things’ than acting as though they’re not important.

the book was an excellent reminder about the role  of chaos, entropy, mishap, coincidence, serendipity and mistake in evolution, change, growth and innovation. trickster also served as an illustration of the position stories, myth, artifice, imagination and fiction have in society as a way to abide by principle and establish a code of conduct.

ISBN-13: 978-1847672254

the canon: the beautiful basics of science. natalie angier

whilst i was reading the trickster, i had an invigorating discussion about science and religion with a friend who had just finished the canon. we were the only ones in a club in stockholm, laying on a mattress and shouting over 105 rpm techno at 95dbs, debating the importance of scientific thinking and spirituality and everything in between. it was a brilliant moment in our friendship, and the momentum to read this fantastic book.

its premise is to concisely and adroitly recap the main tenets of science and scientific research, to upskill adults in the basics. especially after they have convinced themselves that they know nothing about science.

as a science writer, angier surveyed a stack of scientists and academics for their ‘top 5 things to know about your field’ type information. each chapter covers the principles of each ‘flavour’ of science, distilling the history of its knowledge and how it relates to life, the universe and everything.

scientific thinking, probabilites (maths), calibration (maths), physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, molecular biology, geology and astronomy are all covered – from their history to current thinking. and of course, she covers where religion and astrology clash too. in fact, sometimes her subjectivity around the subjects of religion and even intelligent design, and her outright derision at astrology show her cards a little.

in the last two years of high school, despite being a A+ english student and studying 3 languages, i decided that i wanted to be an industrial chemist. so i moved to sydney and started a science degree. turns out it was much harder than i thought: i was convinced i was a failure (thinking that 72% on an assignment was akin to disaster) and the fact that my week would start at 8am  on a monday with a mathematics class on matrices in a stuffy room, was a recipe for flunk-out. i bid science a swift adios and turned to print and art instead.

i kept a secret crush on mathematics and chemistry through those years and so reading the canon was like falling in love again. all the old lessons came flooding back, with greater links to subsequent experience or knowledge. the picture of how much everything is related scientifically was quickly seen and i just churned through the book.

thanks to a catholic education, my knowledge of the details of evolution had been a bit loose, so this book was a mind-blowing and yet super easy-to-read lesson on how far we go back (like, to the beginning of cells) and same with the big bang theory. the idea that cells’ innate mission has always been to respire, replicate, excrete, communicate and coalesce is mind-boggling to me and is influencing my next read.

i feel like i know more about science now and that i can’t hide behind the ignorance of learning it in high school – it’s part of a general knowledge and understanding about life. in the same way that i feel it’s necessary to understand concepts in philosophy, economics, politics and art in order to be a well-rounded citizen (how neo-classical of me).

and i can see why my friend gave this book to me (and six of his other friends). i feel similarly – like everyone who has let their science knowledge lapse, should pick this up and feel like they know a little more again.

in fact, it was so profound that i ended up in a two-hour conversation with a paleonto-bio-mechanic about his PhD and i held my own! yay me!

ISBN-13: 978-0571239726

basic writings. martin heidegger

i stopped and started with this one. i got distracted by shiny pop non-fiction. but now that i’ve read both of the previous books, i feel like my take on heidegger is going to actually be better prepared. especially after reading about molecular biology and the big bang (which trace the history of the life, the universe and everything, back to the beginning – before there was even ‘let there be light’). After reading about these things, i keep asking myself ‘why did life begin? – what is the purpose of Being..

heidegger’s big area of questioning/interrogation/query (words which he unpacks as a sign of being) is about Being, with his famous work Being and Time (Zeit und Sein). It is the very capital-B being and different from existence and the nature of being. So far, he’s primarily interested in the meaning of Being, and not necessarily the purpose, or the drive behind it. But i’m only a little of the way through so far.

thanks to the simplicity of the english language, there are a lot of being/Being/beings in the text, which are translations from Dasein, Dass-Sein, Was-Sein and Da-Sein. All different relationships to Sein ( the action of being).

heidegger unpacks his questions in a very methodical way, and makes a lot of references to other sciences that tackle existential concepts (which is why i feel like reading The Canon has unexpectedly augmented my understanding of Being and Time). It has been quite interesting to see the history of his thinking around it and the critical ‘evolution’ of such ideas throughout philosophy and ontological research.

on a more egocentric level, are there levels or classifications or even species of Being? what does the Being of an artist translate to and is it fundamentally different to the Being an accountant? or does it follow biological framework – that the Being of a vertebrate is different to the Being of an invertebrate, but has mutual elements of Being, both being from the animal kingdom and eurakyrotic domain. Or is there just one type of Being?

ISBN-13: 978-0061627019

images: all images from amazon.co.uk

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