Hanging out at TMAG

Today was the last day of the school holidays. Kramstable and I went to the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG).

We started out in the Bond Store and looked at the Tasmanian displays. Kramstable pointed out the Tasmanian Native Hen, which he had done a project on at school recently.

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Tasmanian Native Hen

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Learning about weights and measures

I was especially taken by the exhibition that was there for Dark Mofo called A Journey to Freedom

A Journey to Freedom is a new contemporary art exhibition guest curated by Swiss curator Barbara Polla together with Olivier Varenne and Mary Knights.

A Journey to Freedom explores issues relating to incarceration from a range of different cultural and historical perspectives: from Tasmania’s dark convict past; to ‘doing time’ in the notorious “Pink Palace” Risdon Prison; and the experience of refugees held in camps and detention centres in Australia and beyond.

The exhibition brings together new and recent works by contemporary national and international artists working across installation, sculpture, video, photography and virtual reality with works to be presented across the museum’s temporary galleries and transitional spaces.

International artists include Janet Biggs, Nicolas Daubanes, Mounir Fatmi, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Ali Kazma, Rachel Labastie, Robert Montgomery, Jean-Michel Pancin and Jhafis Quintero. Australian artists include Shaun Gladwell, Sam Wallman and well-known Tasmanian Ricky Maynard.

Shaun Gladwell’s virtual reality work Orbital vanitas will be presented in TMAG’s Central Gallery, providing visitors with an immersive experience of being placed inside an enormous skull that is orbiting the earth.

A Journey to Freedom is presented by Dark Mofo, Mona and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG).

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A Journey to Freedom

The exhibits are scattered around TMAG and we didn’t see all of it but what I did see was thought-provoking and interesting.

I found the work by Ali Kazma on the structures in which people are incarcerated interesting and powerful. “Although nobody appears in the footage, the bleak brutality of the architecture and the constraints placed on the freedom of inmates is evident.”

There was also work by Jhafis Quintero, who had been in prison for ten years and had discovered art as a way of channelling the energy that had led him to crime. His exhibit was ten videos, each representing a year in prison. This was in the basement of the Bond Store building, which is dark with a low roof and has a very claustrophobic atmosphere that matched these two exhibits perfectly.

One work that was particularly interesting was “Prohibition” by Nicolas Daubanes, which is a collection of hundreds of litres of “hooch” he has brewed using prison recipes, using materials readily available in prison—plastic bottles, water, fruit, condoms and yeast. I wonder what MONA will do with this after the exhibition is over.

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Prohibition

Nicolas Daubanes’ iron filing picture of the Isle of the Dead at Port Arthur was also intriguing, despite the smeary hand mark that an over-enthusiastic visitor had, unfortunately, made on it. The TMAG staff member on duty said it had been interesting to watch the picture being made, but he wasn’t sure what would happen to it after the exhibit finishes.

We couldn’t see the virtual reality exhibit “Orbital vanitas” as you have to be 13 to see it and Kramstable was too young, so I’m going to have to go back to see that by myself. Actually, I want to go and see the whole thing again, take my time and absorb it more fully.

The 20th Century Tasmanian gallery is always one of my favourites and something different catches my eye every time I’m in there. This time it was the Hydro-Electric Department poster, which was fitting because of our recent visit to Lake Pedder and the Gordon Dam (more posts on that are coming).

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The Hydro-Electric Department

We spent a bit of time at the Antarctic exhibit and I learned something in the currency exhibit: In 1966 when Australia introduced decimal currency there was no $5 note. That didn’t come until 1967.

I always enjoy visiting TMAG and am glad we have such a great space in our city.

 

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The Needles—Southwest Tasmania Day 1

This week we had a three-day break at Lake Pedder in Tasmania’s southwest. None of us had been before so we were all looking forward to it and had several short walks planned.

From Hobart, we headed to New Norfolk and turned onto the Gordon River Road at Bushy Park.  After a coffee stop at Russell Falls, we resumed our journey. The Gordon River Road takes you past the Florentine, an area I am very keen to go and explore more, and into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The area was listed on the World Heritage List in 1982 and covers approximately one-fifth of the area of Tasmania (1.584 million hectares). It incorporates eight of Tasmania’s National Parks, including the Southwest National Park, where we were going.

Our first stop, about 16 km from the town of Maydena, was the walk to The Needles. This is described as 2-3 hour return medium grade walk. According to the information we got from the motel, “this steep and muddy track takes you to a series of jagged rocks at the top of a beautiful ridgeline known as The Needles. It is one of the most rewarding, and seemingly unknown, short walks in the Southwest National Park.”

It sounds pretty cool, right? The description goes on to say “this steep 3 km return walk offers uninterrupted panoramic views from rugged mountainous terrain”.

Do you get the feeling it’s steep?

I’d read the description and thought the views sounded spectacular so was very keen to do this walk. The word “steep” obviously hadn’t registered in my mind, and when we got there I had to look a long way up to see the top of the hill. The walk starts at the highest point on the Gordon River Road, 651 metres, and the summit point is 1020 metres. That’s a 400-metre climb spread out of about 1.5 km. It looked fairly imposing for a non-hiker.

View from the road

The Needles from the road

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We’re going up there

As we set off it was nice and muddy underfoot. (So far, the description was spot-on.) I was grateful for having bought some new walking boots a couple of weeks ago rather than wear my old non-waterproof shoes that had holes in them when it became apparent the track was more of a watercourse than a track. The tracks I’m used to in my city-girl bushwalks come from the 60 Great Short Walks book. There were no formed paths, no duckboard over the muddy bits and no steps here. Thank you, past me, for the new boots.

It was very heavy going and I was regretting the multiple layers I’d put on in the morning to prepare for the cold. It was a sunny day and climbing was hot work once we got out of the bush and into the sunlight.

The view got progressively better as we climbed.

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Excuse the blown-out cloud there

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Getting to the top

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A  bit closer

Getting to the top was amazing and totally worth the slog. I’m a big fan of huge jagged rocks and here they were in abundance, everywhere I looked.

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Started to climb this. Didn’t finish.

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One of my favourite photos from the walk

The views off into the distance were stunning.

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Seeing for miles

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Snow!

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It was a perfect day for this walk

The sky was gorgeous and I felt a sense of having come somewhere special. The other thing was that it was absolutely silent up there. I don’t know if I can remember the last time I experienced such total silence and I didn’t want to leave. Giant rocks, blue sky, fabulous clouds and the complete absence of noise. I dragged it out as long as I could to soak in as much of this feeling as possible but we had to leave eventually.

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Stunning rocks everywhere

Going down was equally challenging because it was very easy to lose your footing and fall over into the mud. A girl we’d passed on our way up had done exactly that. I had no desire to do the same and managed to retain my footing the entire way down.

This was a fantastic way to start our trip and I couldn’t wait for the next experience.

You can find more about The Needles here.

what to do with the photos

Last year I started a photo challenge on my Instagram account to post a black and white photo every day. It stemmed from a seven-day challenge on Facebook where the idea was to post a black and white image from your life with no people in the photo and no explanation.

I decided to keep doing it after the seven days was over and posted the images here on my blog.

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Once was tree

At the end of 2017, I knew I wanted to continue with the project but I wasn’t sure if this blog was the right place for it. As you can see from my description, stepping on the cracks is all about finding my way out of my comfort zone. Most of my posts on here are writing about the steps I’m taking and they don’t always have photos because often there isn’t a photo that’s relevant.

The black & white project is part of what I’m doing to explore the boundaries of my comfort zone, but the photos themselves aren’t related to the things I write about. They didn’t seem to belong on the blog. It felt like everything was mixed up and incoherent. A bit like my brain in January.

It finally occurred to me that it would make more sense to make a new blog devoted to the photo project—plus a couple of other projects that I’m working on—and to keep the writing here.

So in between going out and actually taking photos, stuffing around with processing apps and Photoshop, working, and doing school holiday stuff, that’s what I’ve been doing. And here it is straighlinesgirl images. Thank you to my sneak-peekers who gave me feedback and encouragement to go live.

Book 2018/01 – Steal Like an Artist

Austin Kleon describes himself as “. . . a writer who draws. I make art with words and books with pictures”.

The book Steal Like an Artist is based on a talk Mr Kleon gave to some community college students in 2011 where he spoke to a list of ten things he wished he had known when he was starting out. People went nuts for his message and he expanded his work into a book, which was published in 2012.

20180130 Steal Like An ArtistI’ve had a couple of people recommend it to me recently so I decided to finally check it out. My local bookshops didn’t have any more copies when I went to get it, but the library did — and an electronic version at that, so I could download it on the weekend and read it immediately. Hooray internet!

It’s a great book for a skim through to get the ideas and let them float around in your head for a while and then to go back to in some more detail, in the spirit of stealing other people’s stuff as described in the book, to find the ideas that you want to take for yourself.

The book has ten “chapters”, or main themes, which are the ten things from the original talk.

  1. Steal like an artist.
  2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
  3. Write the book you want to read.
  4. Use your hands.
  5. Side projects and hobbies are important.
  6. The secret: do good work and share it with people.
  7. Geography is no longer our master.
  8. Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
  9. Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
  10. Creativity is subtraction.

The book then goes on to delve into each theme and explain it further.

The main idea that I got from the book is that everyone is a mixture of what (and who) they choose to let into their lives — “You are the sum of your influences” — and that nothing is original; the idea that all creative work “builds on what came before”. So your job is to collect good ideas, things you love, from people that inspire you, which can then influence the work you produce.

Mr Kleon suggests making yourself a “swipe file” where you can record the things you steal – quotes, observations, passages from books, overheard conversations, ideas, things that speak to you – and when you need inspiration to flip through it.

Then you go ahead and make stuff.

The book suggests that we learn how to do things by copying others who already know how to do it and encourages us to do exactly that. Mr Kleon makes the point, however, to not plagarise the work of others. Rather, he encourages copying in the sense of “reverse engineering”— taking it apart to see how it works”. This is why you need to understand your influences and what makes them tick. You aren’t stealing the style, you are stealing “the thinking behind the style”, understanding where they are coming from. And as you do this, he suggests, you move from the act of copying to “breaking through into your own thing”.

He quotes Francis Ford Coppola:

“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and that’s how you will find your voice.”

The final eight sections of the book provide some practical ideas on how to develop your creative practice, which are nicely summed up by their titles. There is encouragement to just get stuck in and make something, to step away from the screen – because the computer is great for editing idea but not for having them — and to build yourself a world where you are surrounded by things you love. It’s also important to connect with people who love the same things you do and to share things with them, as well as to hang out with interesting people who do different things to you — whether in real life or online.

Once you start putting your work out there, you have no control over what people think of it, so you need to keep making what you love to make and be comfortable with people misunderstanding you, misinterpreting your work and ignoring it. The solution to this is to be so busy with making your work that you don’t care.

By being boring, Mr Kleon means that taking care of yourself by staying healthy, sleeping enough and taking long walks is important if you want to make your best work. He says that you need to stick with your day job but to schedule time in to do your creative work and to do this work every day, with no exceptions. He recommends working with a calendar and a tracker to keep a record of what you’ve achieved. He recommends the Seinfeld strategy (hint: it’s a wall calendar you cross off every day you do the thing you are supposed to do).

What now?

The book says the next things to do once you’ve read it are:

  • Take a walk
  • Start your swipe file
  • Go to the library
  • Buy a notebook and use it
  • Get a calendar
  • Start your logbook
  • Give a copy of this book away
  • Start a blog
  • Take a nap

So if anyone’s looking for me I’ll be digging through my pile of unused notebooks looking for the perfect swipe file. Actually, that sounds like procrastination. Perhaps I’ll go for a walk instead.

The not such a good day

This morning, after I had watched the sun slip over the horizon, I wrote:

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I was feeling great about everything I was doing until yesterday when a few curve balls stopped me in my tracks and I no longer felt like I was in a good place.

So today I need to be kind to myself and do good things for myself and not give in to the temptation to go off the rails and start drinking and staying up late and eating crap food. Because I’ve only just started to reel that in from New Year.

And I have to remind myself that it will get better.

I need to remind myself that the first thing that’s upset me will happen no matter how I feel about it and there is nothing I can do or could have done to change that. I need to accept that and acknowledge my feelings, but not dwell on them. If I let myself get too upset by this, I’m going to end up miserable about something I can’t do anything about and I don’t think that’s a good use of my energy.

The second thing is in the past and I can’t change that either. I need to remind myself that I did the best I could with what I had at the time, that I’m older and wiser now and past me would not want now me to hold myself back because of things that happened years ago.

The third thing hasn’t even happened, and might not, and worrying about it now will not make a bit of difference to whether it happens or not. Arming myself, talking, and learning to recognise signs that it might be happening are practical things I can do, but worrying serves no one. Least of all me.

The fourth thing might be nothing so, again, worrying doesn’t help. It will most likely be sorted out today and that should be the end of it. It was just unexpected and it threw me right out when I was already feeling miserable, so of course, I latched onto the worst case scenario instead of looking at it realistically.

Now all I have to do is to convince myself this is all true and that the best thing I can do is . . . well, I’m not sure what to do. I’m still learning to deal with days like today. I can’t out-logic my feelings, so maybe I just sit with them a bit, have a cup of tea and read a good book. And stay away from any news sources.

So what did I do?

I already had the day off work, and I had been looking forward to doing some activities with Kramstable, but one of the things that happened put a stop to that and I had to change my plans.

This meant I hung around at home all morning, sorting some papers and tidying my desk. The floor looked appealing and I was tired and I lay down and went to sleep. I’m sure my osteopath wouldn’t have approved and I’m not sure that the money I’m spending to get my back fixed is being well-served by me doing this. However, what’s done is done and I needed the sleep.

I could have done lots of things today. I could have had that cup of tea and read a book. (I don’t actually drink tea. But liquorice spice, that’s my thing.) I didn’t. I could have got out the drawing exercises I want to go over again and practised. I didn’t. I could have started work on one of my photo projects I have a hankering to do. I didn’t.

I didn’t do anything that would’ve had any impact on anything I really want to do. I basically wasted the day. It was hot and, by the time Kramstable and I got back from the appointment about the thing (which is all fine, by the way, nothing to worry about), I was exhausted. I watched him do some acting. I went through some emails that have been sitting around for weeks. I fell asleep on the couch. I really felt like all I wanted to do today was sleep.

Part of me is saying, “Good. You obviously needed rest. You had a day off and you had some rest. Good for you.” And part of me is saying, “You’ve wasted an entire precious day off. What were you thinking? Think of all the things you could have done today. You can never get that time back again.”

So now I feel half-good and half-bad and I don’t know if I feel any better than I did this morning, just that I’m another day closer to having to go back to work.

Only sitting here now on the deck, as the air cools down and the sky starts to darken, listening to the wind in the trees and the occasional cluck from a chicken (or whatever the hell sound it is the Dorkings make), I can’t help thinking I’m being a real sook. I have so many good things in my life. I mean, I have a deck with water views that I can sit on in almost silence and think and write. How great is that!

Last year was, for the most part, brilliant and I think I started things that I will have opportunities to explore more, things I will learn more from and things that will create more adventure in my life. This year is going to be exciting.

Some things will always upset me. Some things I will always worry about. Some things I won’t know how to handle. Life’s like that. It has its good days and its bad days. Today was a bad day, or perhaps just not such a good day, and that’s okay. I’ll have those days. And you know what, I’ll get through them. There might be tears and there might be napping, but I will get through those days.

I hope that, next time I feel like I do now, I’ll remember sitting out here looking at the clouds and the water, hearing the birds and thinking how lucky I am, how grateful I am, to be exactly where I am. And I hope that if I do remember, it will help me to get through that time, just like it’s helping me right now.

I’d been hoping for a glorious sunset photo to round off this post, like the one I missed last night, but it wasn’t to be. So, this instead.

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Here’s to a better tomorrow.