A week in Queensland
I grew up in Brisbane and last week, ventured back to the Sunshine State to celebrate Mum’s 70th Birthday. The best thing about moving away from home is going back later and seeing it with fresh eyes. The worst thing is that it can also mess with your brain. Your home isn’t your home anymore; you live somewhere else now. Everything has changed and is simultaneously familiar and different. New and old at the same time. Just like poo.
Fleeing my hometown back in 1989 (before most of you were born), a Brisbane friend once quipped that this was the same year Brizvegas began firing on all cylinders. These two events: my leaving and Brisbane blossoming, are mere coincidences and I deny any more tangible or verifiable historical links. Corkscrew perms and shoulder pads may have been major facets of younger Natty’s fashion statement, but I wasn’t alone in making indiscreet fashion choices. The stark light of the deep north made everything look worse than it was anywhere else.
It woz Sir Joh who stuffed the natural paradise that was Queensland circa 80s, up good and proper. I’ll get into more detail on the mishap that was Joh Bjelke Petersen in a blog soon. Until then, be on the edge of your seats because you can’t make up shit this outrageous. Joh was real and really out there.
In the mean time, Art was a playful diversion from thinking about the ongoing perils of one’s misspent youth. At Milani Gallery, Morgi was pleased to have a time out from all my looking back too. We checked out Stuart Ringholt’s suite of 5 surreal reconfigured chair sculpture thingos on a monolithic, made-to-order plinth. You sometimes overhear art lovers banging on about museum quality work and I don’t even know what that means. Then again, I’m also confident in saying this is museum quality work, if you can get what I mean.
I confess to having a soft spot for Stuart and his work. It’s not just because, a few years back, he let me crash his nude tour of MONA wearing an elongated fluorescent tampon string dangling between my legs. Though that did help. Feminist clowning: who’d a thunk it possible? If you suggested a gate crash like this to most artists, they’d tell you where to get off right and proper, feminist or no feminist. But not Stuart. He booked me on the tour special like, cause his nude tours book out to capacity so quick each and every time. The punters can’t wait to strip off and look at and talk about art. Sometimes life’s a mystery.
I got the idea for the long tampon string intervention performance from another of Stuart’s performances (not that men bleed unfortunately), the early one where he walked round public spaces with a long bit of toilet paper poking out the back of his trousers. So I’m referencing not one, but two of Stu’s works (lucky bastard). Embarrassment is a strong life emotion. It stays with you but you can train yourself up to withstand its pressures. For me, a lot of Stuart’s work is about mental training.
The best tribute you can pay to an artist, (when you’re skint and can’t afford to buy their work that is, WHICH IS HANDS DOWN THE BEST TRIBUTE YOU CAN PAY AN ARTIST EVER) is to say:
“I see you. I like your art”. So this MONA nude tour, the one I crashed, worked out all Guns ‘n Roses.
It’s a great memory for me and Stu, seeing that we speak the same humanist lingo. It’s also a decidedly better artistic relationship than I share with some other long term male artist comrades. The fellows who like to bang on and on, at opening after opening, about their own practice, but forget to ask me about mine. Most of these clowns have even been making the same shit for the last decade too, (occasionally in a different colour) and they’re always talking themselves up, trying to sell you their schtick. It can get to the point where you’re wondering: is it me you’re trying to convince or your own brains? It’s an easier job lying to other people than it is speaking shit to your inner self. Year in year out.
It was my first visit to Milani Galleries and Danni Milani shared the story of an excellent early feminist performance that husband Josh’s mum had him perform in. Young Josh, dressed in altar boy regalia (crisp white surplice, wide eyes and what have you), marched solemnly into the gallery. He Ceremoniously passed fired ceramic, foetus-like objects up to his mother, she dressed as a druid. The artist mother placed the sculptures onto a plinth, then, with no hesitation, raised a hammer down smashing them to smithereens. Splinters of the art commodity lay spilled, broken on the floor. It’s difficult being an artist and a mother too, especially at school holiday times. This frisson is succinctly expressed within this happening, and I’d pay money to see it re-enacted.
Next evening, GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) opened Q, Contemporary Queensland Art. Half of Melbourne now works at GOMA, taking over the Queens Land one appointment at a time.
A snapshot of what 31 Queensland artists are making now, the night belonged to Cape York artist Aunty Mavis Ngallametta. Upsetting the strict control of Official Opening Address Procedures and Protocols, Aunty Mavis grabbed the mic, stole the show and brought the house down. The impromptu, the unscripted and the improvisational should be included within officialdom more often. If people don’t know what could happen it makes for bloody exciting viewing.
Aunty Mavis showed us the way through though, it’s time to storm the stage and grab the mic people. Artists should speak at arts events sometimes hey?