Tag Archives: education

Getting it straight

water levelling

The two things which have stuck in my mind most since last week’s Permaculture class are: water levelling, and the role of “apertures” in landscape formation.

Sounds heavy, eh! And indeed, gravity does have a role to play in both!

Our practical exercise of the day was A Beginner’s Guide to Surveying. You’ve all seen those TAFE students out in the park with their Hi-Viz vests holding those funny looking devices on tripods? Yep, we got to play with that stuff! (but not the vests).

It was quite fun. There were laser levels, telescopic levels, and – my favourite – water levels.

The water levels (among the most ancient and low-tech of the levelling family) are based on the extraordinary (but perfectly logical) idea that water in a closed system always reaches a level. So if you have a long see-through hose filled with water, you can stretch it out as far as you like, and the top level of the water at both ends will be the same.

The same holds for a hose which is connected to a large water container – as in the demonstration Nick provided in class. He even coloured the water with blue dye to dramatise the effect. Here’s a few more photos of the process.

The main “learning outcome” from all of this watery-levelly business is that no matter how flat a piece of land might look and feel, it’s almost guaranteed that it slopes in one way or another! This comes as quite a surprise: the raw feel and instinct of experience versus the empirical evidence of measurement.

If you’re not careful with your existential stability, it can quite powerfully throw into question the relative up-ness and down-ness of our occupation of the planet. Take for example, this amazing sci-fi picture of a space station Torus thingummy. How would a water level operate, if its length was a significant proportion of this Torus’ curve?

Come to think of it, the Earth is curved! So how can anything be “level” (except relative to the human scale?)

Injecting Resin into an Ant Hill

chaos creativity

Last night at yoga, I bumped into Paul, one of the guys in the Sunday Permaculture class.

Paul: “I’m not really sure what I’m learning in that course.”

Me: “That’s a strange thing to say.”

Paul: “Yes, I suppose it is”.

But he’s right. I’m not really sure what I’m learning either.

That’s not to say I’m not learning. In fact – if by “learning” you mean the acquisition of new concepts, I’m brimming over with the pesky buggers. But what a strange breed of concepts these are! To what use can we put ’em?
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instructional artworks

in preparation for a workshop accompanying the erwin wurm show at the mca, i am compiling a few links for "DO IT YOURSELF" and/or instructional artworks.

the DO IT manual:

and erwin wurm's contribution with some cute drawings:

101 Art Ideas You Can Do Yourself, by Rob Pruitt:

fluxus performance workbook, compiled by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith and Lauren Sawchyn (315kb pdf document, to download right click the link and "save target as" or "save link as"):

any suggestions to add to this list welcome!
margie suggests:

Henry Bursill's  Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall [Originally published by Griffith and Farran in 1859!!]:

and also from Margie:
assignments galore (and they're fun) from Miranda July et al:

Robert Morris lecture at Whitechapel Gallery

Morris gave a lecture entitled [something like]

Notes From a Chomskian Couch – The Imperialist Unconscious

(on 19 Nov 2003)


Morris spoke on contemporary "image making". Specifically, his point was about how (what he calls) the "mega image" ( or "megig") is complicit with the American project of cultural imperialism. According to Morris, this was the case with large abstract painting through the 60s, and in earthworks, and through to large "multi-screen-video-installations" (or "muscrvit") today.


Very few (famous) artists escaped Morris' web of "the imperialist unconscious" he slammed the big video men – Bill Viola, Doug Aitken, etc, the big painting men – Pollock, Barnett Newman, etc. His exceptions included Jasper Johns – he maintained that Johns always maintained a resistance to American imperialism, (and what's more, Johns' paintings were small) – and Ad Rheinhardt also, who, apparently, "was at every peace rally, every anti Vietnam march". (How does going to marches change the nature of his work though, I wondered, since it still looks like monochrome painting?)


Morris presented the text of his lecture in the form of a psychoanalytic encounter between himself (the patient) and Naum Chomsky (the analyst). "Chomsky's" role, however seemed rather minor, and his comments and interjections were only punctuations within Morris’ tirade. They helped, certainly, with maintaining the attention span of the audience, since otherwise the talk may have seemed somewhat monotonous.


[By the way, Morris’ said that his performance pieces from the 1960s were originally conceived as “dances”, in a La Mont Young vein – where the ordinary movements and actions of everyday life might be regarded with the same level of interest as “expressive” movements usually associated with the work of trained dancers. This is the context of his piece  "21.3", where he lip-synchs a lecture by Erwin Panofsky called "Studies in Iconology"…apparently, all the minor movements (a cough, a sip of water, shuffling papers) were "choreographed" in advance, and noted on the "performance script". I felt that the Whitechapel presentation of "21.3" was a bit unconvincing in its realisation, as a video recreated by somebody else (an actor re-enacted "21.3" for video in the early 1990s). I wonder why he did that, rather than videotaping himself doing it.]


At the end of the lecture, Morris stated that he would take 10 questions. He then proceeded to re-enact a performance by John Cage from the late 1940s or early 1950s (?) – at the end of a lecture on chance, Cage took questions from the audience, answering them with pre-scripted texts pulled at random from a hat. In Morris’ case, the audience played along marvellously, their questions moving quickly from the serious ("you mentioned you were going to present some exceptions to the project of imperialist unconscious as embodied by image-art, but I must have missed it, can you tell us what those examples might be?") to the absurd ("what will you have for breakfast tomorrow?", "did anyone ever tell you you look like Sigmund freud?", "how many questions are left?")

This humourous end to an otherwise pessimistic lecture lent a certain lightness, (what relief!) since, within the lecture itself, Morris had not left much room for examples of artwork that could escape the net of the "imperial unconscious" (or "impunc").