Category Archives: writing by me

Learning from Experience: in League with the City of Melbourne

The following essay was commissioned in early 2011, by the League of Resonance – a Melbourne artist group comprising Jason Maling, Jess Olivieri and Sarah Rodigari. In this piece, I try to tease out an anatomy of sorts for their particular brand of socially engaged art practice. Much of the underlying information comes from an interview I did with the artists in early 2011 (thanks to Liz Pulie for the transcription yakka)…

lucas diagram screen size
[…a diagram to accompany the article. Click on the image to see it larger…]

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Dinner dates with strangers; excursions to inspect chewing gum stuck on waterpipes in back alleys; groups gathered to cross the road together; chance conversations on street corners: these are among the marginal, largely invisible activities which constitute the current project of the League of Resonance. The working methods which underlie a project like this are not widely understood. This is hardly surprising – the artists of the League employ a set of processes which are still relatively novel additions to the toolbox of contemporary art.
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Brook’s way with kinds, categories and memes

The following is a book review I wrote for Artlink Magazine, Vol 29, No.1, 2009. It’s about Donald Brook’s new book, “The Awful Truth About What Art Is”.

Artlink has published Brook’s book — it’s a print-on-demand number, you can find out more about it, and order it if you wish, here.

And if you every get the chance to meet Donald, as I did a few months ago, do take the opportunity: he’s a national treasure. He writes regularly here. In one of his blog posts, he tries out some of the ideas in his book, to much discussion, consternation and silliness.

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An unReal Estate Guide to Finding Your Own Gallery

photofile header

Here’s an article that was published back in 2004 in Photofile Magazine, issue 70. The issue is out of print, but you can download the pdf of the abridged article as it was published complete with images here [1mb].

Alternatively, the original, unabridged version of the article is here, without images.

The article describes some goings on in the world of art and real estate in the early 2000s: Sydney’s Broadway Squats, SHAC (Sydney Housing Action Collective), unReal Estate, Perth’s Hotel 6151, the Empty Show, and Public Liability, linking these recent activities to the 1970s work of Gordon Matta Clark.

Many of the links in the original article have since gone dead. I reproduce the text below as it was written in 2004, complete with broken links. You may have some luck finding the old websites on the wayback machine.

Interestingly, unReal Estate, the SquatSpace project described in the article below, has, I believe, some resemblance to the more recent project by Marcus Westbury called Renew Newcastle. Marcus was the director of the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle in 2002 when SquatSpace launched the controversial unReal Estate (see a news article about it here).
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Proposal for a (networked_book) about (networked_art), an online network “commissioning and supporting net art” has called for proposals for a web publication discussing recent art projects made possible by computers and networked connectivity. Importantly, the published contributions, being online, will be available for further discussion and additions, which is entirely appropriate given the subject matter.

I figured my blogging-as-art projects might make a useful practice-based contribution to this publication, and to that end, here is my proposal. (You can view others’ proposals here.)

Lucas Ihlein

Blogging as Art: a Framework for the Intensification of Lived Experience

In 2006, I carried out an art and blogging project designed to intensify the intimacy of my connection to my local neighbourhood. I made a strict rule: For two months, I would not leave the boundaries of Petersham, the suburb where I live in Sydney’s inner-west. Each morning I wrote a blog entry about the events of the previous day. The blog, Bilateral Petersham (, developed a large and loyal community of readers and became a powerful tool for framing, participating in, and reflecting on everyday life in my local community.

Bilateral Petersham is one of a series of “blogging as art” projects engaging with different communities which I have undertaken since 2005. In my practice, my starting point is always the inherent aesthetic qualities of everyday conversations and interactions (including those which occur online). Blogging creates a framework in which attention is focused on, and in, these conversations. Dialogue with online correspondents generates a proliferation of new opportunities for encounters in “the real world”. These encounters in turn become the material for tomorrow’s blog postings, which go beyond diaristic reporting or ethnographic record. The blog – an ever-evolving work in progress – is simultaneously a genuine component of “real life” and an extended literary drama.

To demonstrate the dramatic and aesthetic potential of blogging as a dialogical mode of art making, this chapter will examine a series of postings from my blogs. In one particular entry from Bilateral Petersham, “An Easterly Dilemma“, I am confronted with a compelling request to break my own rule and leave Petersham for a family event. This dilemma is opened up to my blog readership, initiating a heated discussion on the ethical tensions between art and life, and prompting an online brainstorming of strategies for future action.

blogging, attention, experience, drama, interaction, art, communicative exchange, relationality.

Three networked writing samples:

An Easter-ly Dilemma“, from Bilateral Petersham.

Cold Turkey, from Bilateral Blog. Having completed several blogging art projects, I am contemplating withdrawing from the internet for a period of one year. This blog entry, “Cold Turkey”, is a discussion of the practicalities and ethics of this “net-death”.

At the Cemetery, from Bon Scott Blog. This entry from the Bon Scott Blog is a good example of the way blogging operates to focus and intensify a series of ordinary/extraordinary encounters. In this post, I tell the story of my day at the Fremantle Cemetery on the anniversary of Bon’s death.

Short CV and biography of Lucas Ihlein.

SHELVE – notes from the archive

shelve at cross arts

In April 2006, SHELVE (a sculpture I made back in 1997) was included in an exhibition at the Cross Art Projects called “Art Language – Every Publishable Place”. The page about that show is here:

A few more pictures of the work are here. Ruark Lewis who curated the 2006 show at Cross Art, asked me to answer some questions about the work.

So here are my thoughts. Rough and unedited for the sake of the archive- Continue reading

Bilateral Blogging – Essay about Bilateral Kellerberrin now available

Bilateral Kellerberrin Screenshot

An essay I wrote about my blog-as-art project Bilateral Kellerberrin has been published in The International Journal of the Arts in Society. (You can download a pdf here or here.)

To give you a broad idea, the essay is about blogging as a new(ish) form of artmaking, requiring us to think in new(ish) ways about its ethics and aesthetics. It also involves a bit of thinking about some of the ideas in Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, particularly the idea of micro-utopias and the difference between art that occurs in -vs- out of an art gallery context. I’m following John Dewey’s concerns (from Art as Experience) that art should not compartmentalise itself into special architectural spaces, but try to find ways to co-exist with every day life on its own terms. I claim that blogging (as I used it in Bilateral Kellerberrin) has the capacity to do this.
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Mental Sculpture by Dennis Tan

dennis tan dreaming
[Dennis Tan dreaming – photo taken by Lisa Kelly during her Singaporean trip of 2007. Not from Mental Sculpture exhibition as described below, but it looks pretty similar! Actually this is from the work Mind of a City by Judy Cheung – read about it here.]

Back in 2000, while I was waiting for the Olympics to finish before returning to Australia, I stayed, for a long three weeks, at the home of Singaporean artist Dennis Tan. During that period, Dennis was working towards an installation and CD called Mental Sculpture at the Substation Gallery, and I was lucky enough to be around while he was mixing the sound work. We became great friends, and I was such a fan of Mental Sculpture that I wrote a fairly wacky catalogue essay about it. I had forgotten all about that piece of writing until I stumbled across it the other day over at ArtSingapore . I reproduce it below.

(By the way, rummaging around I found three tracks from the CD, which I’ve posted online for your listening erudition: track 1 , track 2 , track 3. They’re all MP3 at about 1MB in size.)
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Beginning Bilateral Petersham

[nb: the following is the first blog entry for the project Bilateral Petersham. For the rest, head on over to]


The clock ticked round to midnight and I sat in the kitchen watching it. When all the hands pointed to twelve, I took two photos. Without the flash, the clock looked yellow and blurry. Flash-frozen, on the other hand, it looked like it had been caught in the act. Embarrassed at having been sprung doing something vaguely shameful but essentially harmless.

That’s how I brought in the third of April. The beginning of “Bilateral Petersham,” aka “my Petersham project,” aka “The Petersham Lockdown.” There was no tangible difference between one moment, where I was not “on the job,” and the next, when the “project” had officially begun. No fanfare, no ribbon cutting, no glass of champagne. I went to bed and read a bit and then fell asleep.
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the air in darwin

Tuesday, nine am. I’m just about to head back to the air-con-bedroom with a coffee when I bump into a woman in the hostel kitchen. She’s a job search broker from New Zealand. She’s doing her washing up from breakfast. She asks me if I’ve “seen everything there is to see in Darwin”.

No, not really, I say. I think of the crocodile farm, the cyclone simulator at the museum, fishing boats down at the harbour, trips to Litchfield, etc etc. People say you should see them, but we haven’t done these things, and we’re running out of time. Two weeks is not enough for Darwin.

There’s not very much to do here, is there? she says. And the heat. Your hair is constantly dripping: drip drip drip drip drip I can’t stand it. You just never get comfortable.

She is a large woman. She’s probably having a hard time of it. I sympathise with her about the sweat. The air in Darwin is like a gentle sauna. I feel moisture in every crevice. The back of my neck where my collar touches the skin has developed a stinging roughness which I can feel with my fingers, but I can’t see it in the mirror. Is this “heat rash”?
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Coffee Stains in Bed

[The following was first published at the Fusion Strength Blog]

Thursday, nine am.

Each morning I set my alarm for 730 or eight. The idea is that I’ll get up and do some study. I have discovered that the only way I can study here is to sneak out of bed early, before the others wake up, tiptoe to the kitchen, and make myself a pot of black coffee. While the coffee is on the stove, I put on two slices of toast. Just before the it pops up, the coffee boils, and I take it off the element. Then, almost immediately, the toast pops. I butter it with vegemite, pour two cups of black coffee, stir sugar into one of them, balance the whole ensemble on a dinner plate, and go back to the air conditioned bedroom. Jason is still sleeping. My clatter makes him stir, however, and he opens his eyes a crack, laughs quietly in that way that he does and says “I smell coffee!” “Wake up and smell it,” I say. Thankfully, this is probably the lamest joke I’ll tell all day.
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