Category Archives: Uncategorized

Place, blogging, links

At the Right to the City Symposium yesterday, Jesse Adams Stein organised a panel on “Place Blogging”. I wasn’t able to make it, as SquatSpace were co-ordinating our wiki-workshop at the same time, but it certainly sounded like it could have been interesting. In the publicity material for the panel, my Bilateral Petersham project (carried out this month FIVE years ago!!) was mentioned as an example of place blogging. Strangely enough, this is the first time I’ve heard this term used to describe blogging within, and about, one’s hyper-local area – but now that I have heard it… wow, check this out!

Jesse writes a blog about her local neighbourhood, Ultimo. Also speaking on the panel was Meredith Jones from Marrickville, Matt & Polly Levinson from Darlinghurst, and Linda Carroli from Brisbane.

Here’s Jesse’s spiel about the panel discussion. I’ll be interested to hear how it went.

Also at the symposium was a panel on walking, organised by Performance Space, and expertly chaired by Bec Dean. I spoke, along with Jo Holder and Stacey Miers, about a collaborative project that Big Fag Press has begun called “Green Bans Art Walks”. (I’ll write up a description of that project soon).

Accompanying us on the panel was Karen Therese, whose wonderful project Waterloo Girls premiered this weekend; and Jennifer Hamilton, who is planning a walk in the rain along the Cooks River.

I’ve recently become a big fan of Jennifer’s blog… It seems that – contrary to my assumption that facebook (and whatever other shiny new things) had taken everybody’s minds off good old fashioned blogging – that this humble medium is still going strong, especially amongst those who want to think a bit more deeply about the place they live. Here’s another example.

The Right to the City – Diagram versus Wiki

SquatSpace are currently involved in an exhibition at the Tin Sheds Gallery called The Right to the City. We decided to start plumbing the depths of our own history, based on the idea that, “after a decade of ratbaggery, if we don’t write our own history, who the hell will?!”

The exhibition has a large blackboard diagram beginning in 2000 (when we began) and continuing into 2012 and beyond. On the chalky diagram, we try to map a bunch of activities by protagonists from SquatSpace, as well as those in our nearby networks. I’ll put a photo up of the diagram soon – it looks a bit like a pebble dropped into a pond, or a weather map, or the circular rings of the cross-section of a tree.

The good thing about these big diagrams is that they give a kind of “world view” – in a glance, you can get the sense that “a shitload of things have gone on” in our world during the last decade. This visualisation of “a lot of things happening” is an end in itself, quite beyond the more detailed understandings about what those things actually were, that can be discovered by zooming your attention into the diagram.

But no matter how detailed, a two-dimensional diagram has limitations. First of all, the problem is that if too many connections are drawn on the diagram, the whole thing becomes a tangled mess, and ends up not communicating much at all (except the rather obvious fact that “there seem to be a lot of connections”). And as I’ve observed when making these sorts of complex diagrams in the last few years, when actually drawing up these diagrams, there’s a clear relationship between the amount of space on the page, and the flow of ideas in the brain. I’ve noticed that at the beginning, content and connections flow fast and thick, while towards the end, when the amount of “page real estate” gets more limited, my ideas start to slow down too. How could we go beyond this spatial limitation?

Well, in the case of this particular project, we decided to try out a “post-digital” method – to combine the old-skool analogue chalkboard with a new-skool digital tool of pedagogy: the wiki. The good thing about the wiki is that it is infinitely expandable: there is no end to the amount of stories, and versions of histories, that can be added, and the links that can be made between them. The limitation of the wiki is that you only ever see one detail at a time, rather than the whole world view. (And based on our experience so far, although the learning curve is not steep, it takes a surprisingly long time to craft decent wiki pages…) So the chalkboard and the wiki walk hand in hand.

SquatSpace is inviting anyone who was ever involved in our stuff (or we in yours) to contribute – as well as those whose work was influenced by us, which influenced us, or which seemed to coincide with what we were doing in a coincidental zeitgeist kinda way. The wiki is here.

Predator

predator
[Predator: image lifted from here…]

Every now and then I remember Predator.

Today, I visited Jill.txt, a blog by Jill Walker Rettberg I’ve been following for a few years now, which explores blogging as a form of research and fiction. In this post, Jill discusses disease blogging.

She writes, “blogging about your illness is to take back control over your body and your life by owning it, by expressing it yourself, on your terms”, and she linked to a few key examples of folks blogging about their struggles with cancer.

I felt moved to reply with the following:

One of the most powerful disease blogs I have ever been priveleged to read, is by an old friend known as Predator, who died in late 2003, early 2004, which tracks the progress of his cancer.

He did not believe in fancy mysql platforms underlying blogs – he published .txt files directly via ftp.

Predator did not make it – his last blog entry is particularly poignant.

Sadly, it seems his blog is no longer hosted, but I found a copy on the internet archive, here.

For someone like Predator, who had a fiercely scientific mind, coming to grips with his own impending death was something he needed a regular, public / private forum to think through. It just did not make rational sense to him that his body would soon give up on him, and this is something he grapples with throughout the blog.

Lucas

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to download from somewhere a PDF copy of Predator’s blog, combined with a whole lot of his other writings. It’s called “pred.txt: The selected rants of Michael Carlton”.

It no longer seems to be hosted online anywhere, so I’m going to post it up again here (about 11mb).

Long Live Predator.

For me, you will forever be visiting our squat in Pyrmont late in the night, with an unfeasibly large hot water system strapped to the back of your motorbike. And installing it. And making it function. In a building without (legal) power.
Long live Pred!

– – –

I also found this: Predators manifesto on drain exploration, which is exhaustively detailed and riotously funny. It’s worth scrolling down to the end for the legal disclaimers. What a hoot.

Shows, Shows…

the sham george paton

Latest stuff…

I’m in Melbourne at the moment, for the launch of The Sham exhibition at George Paton Gallery. It’s to be an adaptation of my Bilateral Petersham project for the gallery, which I first did in 2007 at Artspace in Sydney.

The exhibition will launch on Wed 29 July, 5-7pm. The show runs from Tuesday 28 July 09 – Friday 7 August 09 between the hours of 11:00AM – 5:00PM, and I will be in there most of the time minding the gallery. Which is George Paton Gallery, second floor, Union House, Melbourne University. So pop in and have a cuppa eh.

All the fine details are here. I’ll also be doing a couple of talks while I’m in town.

The first is at Victoria University, at the invitation of Jason Maling. 12-1pm on Thursday the 30th of July. It’s at the Flinders St Campus of Vic Uni, 300 Flinders St, Melbourne, 17th Floor – Art and Design department. It’s be a general artist-talk about my stuff for the lunchtime lecture series at the uni art school.

The second will be at the Centre of PostColonial Studies. It’s specifically focused about the functioning of my blogging as art process. All the details are here.

Look forward to catching up with Melbourne friends at any of these events!

louise, guy, lucas

If you’re still in Sydney, this week is your last chance to catch Imprint, an exhibition curated by Anneke Jaspers at Artspace. In the show, I’ve collaborated with Louise Curham under the banner of the Teaching and Learning Cinema (TLC) to re-enact Guy Sherwin’s 1976 work Man with Mirror. You can see details of the progress of this work over at the TLC blog. I’ll update it with more notes soon, and a downloadable pdf brochure/poster about our piece too!

(the above photo shows Louise and Lucas with Guy Sherwin in the background at the exhibition launch in Sydney…)

A Homeless Kid?

paddy the goat

Following on from all the recent goat-excitement… A few days ago, Steph from Sugargum Farm forwarded me a goaty plea from the suburbs of Melbourne.

Maja, a goat owner in the council area of Kingston, has been hassled by the council to get rid of Paddy (pictured above), a cute little goat she rescued. Her plea has rocketed around the online goat communities, as she asks sympathisers to sign her petition to let Paddy stay.

Here is the spiel from Maja’s petition callout:

We have 2 miniature goats as pets in a residential suburb of Melbourne. We have a permit for one of them, Pedro, who we have had for nearly 2 years. Our other boy, Patrick, was not purchased intentionally. We found him at 2 days old in a paddock near my work and his mother had abandoned him due to his being savagely attacked by a fox. He was distressed and in a lot of pain so we rescued him. 

Our vet had him on antibiotics for 2 weeks as he had pneumonia and nasty wounds from the fox attack. After about 3 months of 6 time a day feeds and many a hot water bottle filled to keep him warm as well as lots of love and care we have hand reared him back to health and he has become part of our family and an important companion for Pedro. 

We did the wrong thing and didn’t notify the council as firstly we didn’t know if he’d make it, and also we didn’t believe the council would understand out position and the seriousness of Patrick’s condition and make us re house him. Someone in the neighborhood has notified the council that we walk 2 goats in our area off a leash and this has prompted our local council to issue us with a notice to comply and remove Patrick within 2 weeks.

So far there are over 50 signatories urging the council to save Paddy!

I emailed Maja to let her know I was interested in anything to do with “goats-in-the-burbs”, and to ask for more details about her battle with the council. She sent me the story below, and a set of great photos of her two goat buddies.

Hi Lucas,

I just had a read through your website!
Love it!

We got goats because my husband has a similar obsession to you. there is just something about them that he loves! Next time you’re in Melbourne we’d love to have you over for a drink!

I have attached some photos of the boys and would love any help if you could offer it.

We are in the process of battling with the council at the moment. Pedro our eldest has a permit which we got by getting our immediate neighbours to sign a petition.

There are members of the council who seem compassionate about our situation but the young man who is dealing with our case directly seems to have it in for us so isn’t helping at all.

There is no law about keeping 2 goats. It just states that no domestic animal is to be kept in a property under an acre without a permit. 

We had some noise complaints when Pedro was younger but he grew out of bleating 🙂 and now I think its because someone said we walk them off a leash, but they are so well behaved they just run after us…

Thanks so much for contacting me, I really appreciate it and I do hope that any exposure about this will help us!

Kindest,
Maja

paddy
Here’s young paddy being led for a walk by his flatmate, Pedro. Aww, cute little fella, how could you turf a kid onto the streets, mean Mr Councilman?

Performance Space Flier Schermozzle

[the following was first published in The Lives of the Artists (sometime in early 2003) edited by Liz Pulie, Sydney. You can order a copy of the magazine by emailing frontroom_gallery@yahoo.com.au ]

Dear Liz

just wanted to let your readers know about a “schermozzle” that happened with the Performance Space late last year. You might have seen the A3 posters which advertise upcoming events at the space. The design is by Suzanne Boccalatte, and during 2002, the front of the poster always featured two groovy looking people, in their coolest clothes, posing in a grungy inner-city location … its an Aussie re-take on the “Fruits” concept – the Japanese fashion photography book. (The “Fruits” exhibition is actually in Sydney at the Powerhouse Museum right now).

Anyway, in October, Fiona Winning at The Performance Space gave Mickie Quick a ring. Apparently, the two “models” they had lined up to do the shoot fell through at the last minute, and so they were asking me and Mick to pose. We fell about laughing, ‘cos we felt about as far away from that fashion stuff as possible. We agreed to do it anyhow, fascinated and perplexed as to why they had actually asked us … apparently they liked Mickie Quick’s “Refugee Island” street sign alteration which had popped up during the BorderPanic conference, so they were keen to have that in the photo too.

We showed up for the shoot with the Refugee Island sign, and two t-shirts from an ongoing project of mine entitled “Event for Touristic Sites” – t-shirts emblazoned with national stereotypes, in this case “All Australians are Arse-Lickers” and “All Iraqis are Guilty”. We dressed up as daggy as we could, tourist shorts with heaps of cargo pockets, long socks, backpacks, green-n-gold umbrella. Frankly, we were hoping to use the Performance Space poster as a way to place art and politics in the same sphere, and (of course) to promote our own projects via the path of parasitical publicity. (And ok, we admit it, to intervene weirdly in the Performance Space’s “too-cool for school” fashion photo series.)

The photo shoot took place in Redfern: in some side streets out the back of the Performance Space; a funny little concrete apartment block courtyard; and on the traffic island near Space 3 at the corner of Regent and Cleveland Streets. This last location meant that the photo had the racist t-shirts and the Refugee Island sign in the foreground, juxtaposed with the Redfern’s TNT “twin towers” in the background. Suzanne, and Mikala from the Performance Space anticipated that these images might be a bit controversial, so they took a few extra shots in which Mick and I wore our backpacks back-to-front, and with the umbrella pointed to the camera – so that the text on the t-shirts could not be seen … a safety net in case the more hard-hitting images got rejected…

A week after posing for those photos, the “Bali Bombing” happened, and the Performance Space had to call an emergency meeting of its Board of Directors to decide if they could go ahead with using the images from our photo shoot for their publicity poster. You guessed it, they decided that they could only use the watered-down shots with the text on the t-shirts covered up.

Mick and I protested (although without much hope of making them change their mind). First we said that the references to Australia and Iraq on the t-shirts were quite un-related to the specific events in Bali (the Board’s fear supposedly being that their publicity campaign would be read by poster viewers as a direct comment on the Bali situation.)

Then we thought that to go ahead with the image might, in fact, be a courageous (and timely) tactic that the Performance Space could take, by deliberately juxtaposing national stereotypes, tourism, terrorism and refugees. Fiona Winning, the Performance Space’s director, was very supportive of our position. While disagreeing with the Board’s decision herself, she wrote:

“It was the weekend events in Bali which provoked a different position (if only we’d got it to the printers last week!). We talked it through and it’s clear to me, that the weekend events and the image are not related (ie. terrorism and the intensification of anti Muslim fervor) but as they pointed out we don’t have the opportunity to talk through with the viewers of 10,000 posters that are essentially a publicity tool for our program.”

and

“Also there was a feeling that the composition was not careful enough…. (which is Suzanne’s deliberate aesthetic) The twin TNT towers in the back kind of bagging the idea that we are vulnerable to terrorism […] Interesting how much semiotic scrutiny this image came under. Which should not surprise me in some ways and I admit to a level of naivety about not having expected that.”

(One wonders whether the board went as far as humming the words to the old AC/DC song “T-N-T… it’s DYNAMITE!!” as they were debating the semiotics of the shots…)

We respectfully withdrew our consent for them to use the watered down photos, a move Fiona had been expecting anyway. So we left it at that, and the Performance Space organised to re-shoot the poster with new models: two groovy looking kids on a bright yellow motor scooter.

*****

[I contacted the PVI (performance, video, installation) Collective in Perth, having heard that their “Terrorist Training School” project planned for October 2002 had been similarly canned due to the Bali Bombing. Actually, it was only postponed, but the story is similar, and I thought it was fascinating that these two events happened simultaneously on opposite sides of the country… Below is an email reply to my enquiries, from PVI’s Kelli McLusky …]

*****

hey luca

yeah know of your t-shirt project! [wonderful pieces] – we were part of the tis exhibition in perth too, so got to check out some of them there, although missed the public happenings with them.

but, sure, of course happy to talk about the situation and have attached a presser & pics of the work to give you an idea [theres also a write up in this month’s realtime mag, if you wanted more info], but basically the situation goes like this……deep breath…..

the artrage festival commissioned a piece from pvi for the 2002 festival planned for sept 2002. the piece was originally called terrorist training school [yep, nice and subtle] and involved a long period of research into the history of terrorism and its relationship with the media – the company is a core group of six so we get to cover a lot of diverse ground when we get stuck in to a new work. for example, two performers infiltrated the ranks of the local army reserve to gather info on the mindset of a soldier, another joined a terrorism and the media class, we recorded most sight seeing tours around the city – i guess what i’m getting at is that we’re keen for the work to be well grounded before we start to devise. anyway, we wanted the work to be a bus tour around the city, visiting local hotspots and for interventionalist acts to be happening outside at these spaces during the tour. we organised a 22-seater bus, we kitted it out with on-board media [tv, sound, mic and pvi ‘tour guide’] and we started to develop a piece that seemed v focused on generating a growing sense of fear and unease within a familiar surrounding – we mixed factual info on sites such as the belltower with complete fiction, always comparing with american counter-parts, so the belltower became perth equivalent of the statue of liberty, known as perths penis and taking the contemporary design of a cockroach mounting a syringe…you get the idea – ended up a v abstract piece in the end…anyway i’m waffling..our original publicity showed four member of pvi on a local bus with ex-american presidents masks, we used a caption from a seminal book called ‘terrorism’ written in the 70’s which was:

“terrorists will always have to be innovative…they are in some respects the super-entertainers of our time”

initially we received good responses from the publicity.

one week prior to opening the show the bali bombing occurred. artrage started to receive an increasing number of calls stating that the work was in ‘bad taste’ and should be removed from the program – we provided artrage with info on the work stating that it was v much anti-war, but using the structural device of satire in the work. the viewers and listeners association began lobbying the arts minister to have the work banned. one of artrage’s sponsors [the west australian paper] requested that their logo be removed from anything associated with the work [after they had two days prior to bali proudly published the tts ex-presidents image in the arts section of the paper, but actually refused to print the name of the show alongside it, as far as i’m aware]. things got worse with the phone calls as artrage staff members were now in tears from relatives of bali victims phoning up and abusing them for supporting the work [we fielded a few ourselves and also received some prank calls], mostly people were offended by the publicity and the quote about ‘super-entertainment’

artrage called us in for a meeting to see what we wanted to do about it all and they then received a phone call from the arts minister ‘requesting’ that we ‘strongly consider’ postponing or removing the work from the program out of respect for those who had lost loved ones. i have to add at this point that artrage were totally with us and willing to stand behind any decision we made, but we were acutely aware that we were making their life really unpleasant and felt v guilty about that. also anything we seemed to say in retaliation was coming across as defensive, so it seemed to us that we would do more harm to the work by putting it on at this point. we got advice but basically had 45 mins to make a decision before the minister released a statement to the press about it. we were advised to contribute to this statement as it could help to ease the situation, we were also advised at this point that if we wanted to still show the work then the minister could be put in a situation where she have to raise it in parliament in response to pressure from lobby groups – we were worried the work may get banned at this point, which seemed ridiculous as nobody had seen the bloody thing yet! [we were later informed that you cannot ban a work without it having at least one public showing]. anyway our decision after two hours in the artrage office and advice from board members and friends was to postpone and re-mount at a later date.

which we did.

the final work wasn’t at all different in form or content from the original, the only differences being we abbreviated the title to tts, were able to bring the sound artist over to work on-site on the soundscapes and hired a bouncer to ride with us on the bus in order to ensure the safety of bus passengers.

it was a huge learning curve for us, we have had problems b4 with previous work – we did a car sticker campaign once on how to steal the three most popular cars in australia and did a weekend hit on all these cars placing stickers with step-by-step guides on how to carry it out, [what tools to use, preferred clothing etc…] and had a visit from police, fingerprints on file etc.. but in terms of being prepared on how to respond when the shit hits the fan and also the negative impact of publicity and the fact that no-one [i’m talking press] seemed to want to hear our side of the story at all, was a real eye opener. we now want to take tts to every australian city and are in the process of applying for funding to do exactly that – so fingers crossed eh!

sorry its been a long one, hope its not a rant, but that was the upshot of events from our perspective. The deal with the perf space sounds a great shame. We know fiona does a bloody fantastic job and that must’ve been a really difficult call. been chatting to steve [from pvi] about this and you have to wonder if your publicity had gone ahead a week earlier [as fiona mentioned] if you guys would’ve experienced a similar situation to us, our feeling is yes, we think you probably would. it was equally as provocative, if not more so with the direct reference to iraq. my gut feeling now, looking at the image that did come out on the perf space program is that I would like to have seen that original image and make my own mind up about it, not to have board members do that for me. this is an easy stance to take though, we have had people saying to us that we still should have put tts on at the time and in postponing it, it made us seem to be buckling under external pressure, but ultimately for us it was about trying to reclaim some control over the situation and the work – to stop, evaluate, strategise and come back prepared for it as best we could.

take care and look forward to hearing back from you soon 🙂

cheers!
k

[see also www.pvicollective.com and http://www.realtimearts.net/rt53/khan.html]