Melbourne Art Book Fair
If you needed further proof that art loves nothing more than flogging a dead horse, the Melbourne Art Book Fair was a 3-day event of evidence. At a time of rapid decline in book sales and the closure of much loved local book stores the world over, a new mode of doing business with books has emerged. Independent Publishing houses are on the rise, serving niche markets of well-educated hot young creatives. Revive and thrive perhaps, or counter-intuitive impulses. Every hot young creative enterprise now needs a publishing arm, along with a DJ set ready to plug in, a curatorial dream project to co-produce with an arts organisation near you, the skills to edit a feature length investigative documentary for an International Film Festival and an app in development. We’ve got to divest our skill sets in a number of creative ventures and hope one hits pay dirt. It’s the creative industry and the politicians love it, evidently it’s all very exciting.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) hosted the Melbourne Art Book Fair over the weekend, 49 individual booths sharing their love of paper and ink. Some stallholders paid the NGV a small amount for their stall in the Great Hall, some didn’t. It would be best if the NGV threw them all a freebie; linguistically based conceptual art deserves support. They’d earn more cultural cred that way and the Fair couldn’t be criticized as a very elite new hall hire scheme. You don’t charge the creators of culture for a room unless you’re an ARI.
I kept an eye out for my favourite local publisher Morry Schwartz, but I think his wife Anna had him tied up somewhere else. I always look forward to spotting Morry across a crowded pavilion and watching him. He’s like a proud stag, taking a gentle drink from an Alpine stream in the silver light of dawn.
Sometimes I go over and Morry is like: “What do you want Nat?” and I giggle quickly and stare into Morry’s eyes. I’ve read the ‘How to stand out from the crowd’ lists on Artshub, and know I have 2 minutes of Morry Schwartz’s time to convince him of me. It’s conceptual speed dating hopefully with very creative outcomes:
“Morry” I say breathlessly, “I want a book deal with your book publisher Black Inc. When the book launches I want John Clarke to tell jokes about how good it is, I want to be looking hot on the cover of The Monthly to coincide with the launch, and I want a glowing review by little Eric Jensen of my book in the Saturday Paper. I’ll buy an inner city converted warehouse you develop especially for me and my family at mates rates which I’ll pay off with the proceeds of my art and/or writing.”
Poor Morry is looking a bit dazed; the words have been spilling out of my mouth with machine gun rapidity (if that’s a word). I’ve gone in a bit hard. STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID! He manages to ’regroup’ (he really is such a strong being) and kindly asks: “What is your book about?” and I go: “Art and culture and people and power and provocation and shit. It’s like two of Andy’s works- The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) and The Party Book. I use gonzo paparazzi to look at the social side of art. Our book takes as its premise the idea that free speech is rapidly becoming very expensive speech. Like in society in general. I want Adam Cruickshank to design it. It’s sure to be a big hit. People are bored of books about Modernism.”
Morry’s very excited. “That’s good Natty! You’ve really thought it through! Let’s put my considerable resources into gear and make that happen!”
Shaking myself free from this warm dream sequence (with the flush of fake success), I remember the Schwartz’s will be at Venice Biennale, getting hopped up on local Chinotto. I wish I was going to Venice with Morry. Think of the photos I’d get. All those portraits of wealthy swollen feet, busting out of strappy leather sandals. So many parties to crash into. Think of the networks I could archive for all eternity.
Sentences are tricky. They wake me early in the morning. Short, sharp, shocking little sentences. Sometimes I catch them and use them, other times I sleep them off. The ones I like best fly close to the sun.
Words aren’t always fun and games. They’re not always as transparent as Suburban Vernacular being art-speak for Bogan. Words can be dangerous tools in the wrong hands. Take Rupert Murdoch for instance. An Empire built selling us salacious gossip, turmoil, innuendo and topless young page 3 girls. He knew us better than we knew us. The Murdoch family story is gagging for some screen treatment. It’s an epic tale like the Hobbit trilogy by Peter Jackson (too big for one treatment) but with more old goblins and blond model supporting actress roles.
Did you know the swoon worthy son, Lachlan (the Murdoch I should have married) is on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art? I really want to meet his model spokeswoman wife Sarah and ask her if she announced the wrong winner to Australia’s Next Top Model on purpose, or whether they set her up to generate some publicity cause the show had rated so poorly. I really want to know that.
Poor finalist Kelsey woz robbed, poor finalist Amanda woz robbed. The winner became the loser, the loser became the winner and everyone lost. Watch this clip and wonder if there is any way to be meaner to pretty young women on live National TV? Listen out for when Sarah says: “It was fed to me wrong”. True that.
Those Murdoch and Packer kids have got it so tough. Their rich, powerful parents banging on to anyone who’ll listen about meritocracy. It’s undermining all that lying. James Packer hasn’t fared too well. Joining Scientology is really a cry for help. And if he’s introduced the Chinese Triads to Sydney through his latest Sydney Casino venture (like someone on Four Corners suggested he accidentally may have), I’m going to be really angry with him. We don’t need more mafia.
Sentences can get their writers into trouble. Trouble is a great way to feel young without the pressure of expectation of being young. Old Rupert Murdoch knows that. He got himself into one hell of a muddle there for a moment, over the extent that his organisation would descend to. Hacking the phone of a dead teenage girl named Milly (that’s what they did) to write sentences that many people paid cash money to read. And it didn’t even put him out of business.
The Packer and Murdoch family fortunes have been generated from print media titles like the Herald Sun; The News of the World; The Australian Women’s Weekly and Cleo, with it’s sealed male centrefolds and sex tips, yeah.
The other art book I really look forward to ready is The Drumhead by Gerry Bibby, commissioned by If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to be Part of Your Revolution. Gerry is a great dancer and a great writer too I’ve heard.
If you believe that the market doesn’t get it wrong, then the best art made this century in Australia is Sue Dodd’s Gossip Pop performances. Sue looked at what so many Australians were looking at, and what she saw wasn’t pretty. It was funny, but it wasn’t pretty. And the joke was on us girls. I would buy the Book of Gossip Pop. And my budget doesn’t even extend to new books. Art keeps me poor. Proud and culturally rich but poor.