I’ve always wanted to work with a goat. I don’t know why, I just like ’em. 14 years ago, my mate Mick and I bandied about a bunch of ideas about performing with goats (or rather, goats doing the performing for us). These were kinda agricultural demonstrations exploiting the inherent qualities of the goat – eating a perfect circle in the grass, parading about, that kind of thing. (This was not the first time Mickie and I had thought sculpturally about agriculture… We also once proposed growing a crop of wheat at the Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park in Perth, high enough to totally obscure the view of the rusty sculptures which are so characteristic of that particular locale. Sadly, this idea never got off the ground).
Anyway… I was invited by the lovely Open Spatial Workshop (OSW) folks in Melbourne to participate in the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennial. This is a show which will take place over several weekends from late March 2009, in various backyards and sites around the Melbourne Suburb of West Brunswick.
The “Triennial” is a bit of a nod towards (or a friendly joke about) the Mildura Sculpture Triennial, which was a landmark event in Aussie art history. As this interview notes, “Minimalism, non-objective art, performance art, earthworks, environmental art and feminist investigations all found their moment at Mildura”. Which is no small thing, within the historically rather conservative art scene in Australia. (I seem to remember reading about Tim Burns, the genius-madman of Aussie non-objective art, doing some kind of installation involving the planting of land mines in Mildura. An arch anti-war statement, it was pretty provocative at the time, as I believe it still would be now.)
When I visited Melbourne for a site visit last November, and saw the backyard of a particular suburban plot in West Brunswick, the goat came back to me. The Goat! All I could think about was the goat, not that I know exactly what to do with it, or even where to get one from. I suggested the goat to the OSW guys. I don’t think they were exactly thrilled with the idea putting a goat in their backyard (what would the landlord say etc) … but look! Goats, according to this permaculture site, are just perfect for the backyard gardener…
Since November, goats have come up quite a lot in conversation. Someone texted me to say they had seen a lady out for a walk with a goat on a leash in the streets of Redfern! My old testament friends Chris and Mindy mentioned Leviticus and the scapegoat, and my cycling friend Mick Douglas from Melbourne sent me a message about an African author whose childhood nightmare rite of passage was to slit the throat of a goat. Goats are priapic, they’re not afraid of their appetites, of whatever sort. They’re horny. As Bon Scott sang, they’ve got “the biggest balls of them all!” And if someone “gets your goat“, you aren’t likely to be very happy.
Then, last week, when I was cleaning out my cupboards, I found this great book, “Australian Goat Husbandry” by Pat Coleby, that Mick gave me for my birthday many years ago. (I’ve pasted a picture of the inside cover complete with inscription at the beginning of this blog entry). Here, for your delight, as Mick suggests, is page 131, where goats and aesthetics are brought together at last: