A journey to freedom

After Friday’s visit to TMAG with Kramstable, I said I was going to go back to take in A Journey to Freedom more fully.

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A Journey to Freedom

I often say I’m going to revisit something and never end up doing it but this time I felt I really had to. I don’t know if it was the lure of the virtual reality “Orbital vanitas” exhibit that I didn’t see on Friday because Kramstable was too young or whether I wanted to get more fully absorbed in the works by Jhafis Quintero and Ali Kazma in the Bond Store, but this time I went back and took my time.

I’m glad I did.

I went to the Bond Store first and was the only person there.

As I noted on Friday, the low ceilings of the basement gallery added to the feeling of being imprisoned. The ten videos by Jhafis Quintero were looping so I could hear different parts of them at different times as I was watching them. This time I watched all of them. I was especially moved by the video “All the way” which depicts a journey from prison to a hospital and is one of the only ways a prisoner could get to see the outside world.

20180722 AJTF-19 Bond Store edit

Bond Store

Being alone in here with these videos felt very creepy and, adding to this claustrophobic atmosphere, I could hear footsteps from the people in the gallery above me, as well as the music from Janet Biggs’ piece “Carpe Diem”.

I don’t know if this was deliberate, to be able to hear the strains of Pachelbel’s Canon alongside Jhafis Quintero’s pain at being incarcerated, but I found it very moving and it added a different perspective to the videos.

Janet Biggs’ piece, juxtapositioning a tethered eagle against an American football team, was interesting and the vision of the eagle was one of the most disturbing pieces for me. It clearly wanted to fly away.

The remainder of the exhibits were in the main museum building, which I had seen on Friday but this time I had the chance to take my time. I experienced the “Orbital vanitas” virtual reality exhibit, which was very cool but kids under 13 weren’t allowed to see it so we hadn’t done it on Friday. The artist, Shaun Gladwell, says, “You are placed inside an enormous human skull that is orbiting above the earth. The atmosphere reflects my current mood in both political and philosophical terms — which is very dark indeed.” The content wasn’t anything that I’d consider unsuitable for an under-13 year old so there must be some technical reason younger kids can’t see it.

I watched the 11-minute video “A Guard’s Story: at work inside our detention centres” by Sam Wallman, which is the story told by a former Serco employee at a detention centre. It sounded horrific.

“It is still nightfall” (C’est encore la nuit) by Mounir Fatmi was a series of photographs of the underground Qara Prison in Morocco. The photos were of the ground-level air vents that were the only source of light in the prison. It was disturbing to think that such a complex held thousands of slaves in the 18th century who were shackled and forced to work on building projects.

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It is still nightfall

Closer to home was the “Prison cell” exhibit by Jean-Marcel Pancin, which was a cell door from Risdon Prison mounted on a concrete slab the same dimensions as the original cells. Jean-Marcel Pancin has made other versions of this work in other places, and its aim is to “draw attention to injustice and suffering caused by confining people behind prison walls”.

20180722 AJTF-32 Jean-Michel Pancin edit

Prison cell

It was positioned alongside Sam Wallman’s wall of drawing, which included commentary on detention centres, convicts and prisoners, as well as the statistic that imprisonment rates have increased by 39 per cent in the last ten years. “Some people,” it says, “consider prisons holding cells for the poor.”

Ricky Maynard made his series of photos of Aboriginal men in prison, “No more than what you think” in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which noted, among other things, that Aboriginal people are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people. He says the photographs “carry messages of our survival, not only of man’s inhumanity to man, but a feeling of what it’s like to be born black”.

20180722 AJTF-30 Rachel Labastie edit

A journey to freedom by Rachel Labastie

It was very thought-provoking. The exhibits were moving and powerful and made me reflect on how fortunate I am to live where I do and not be in a situation where I’m likely to have my freedom taken from me. I’m glad to have taken the time to go back and revisit it.

20180722 AJTF-20 Robert Montgomery edit

What becomes of the broken-hearted by Robert Montgomery

The exhibition is open until 29 July so you still have a few days to see it. I highly recommend it.

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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

20180720 TMAG 09 Kramstable with the weights edit

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).

20180720 TMAG 17 A Journey to Freedom edit

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.

 

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 new year

I posted a different version of this post on instagram this morning with a non-sunrise picture of the beach. You can see a bird if you really look.

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I was going to do it a couple of days ago, before the end of 2017, but I’m not good on this type of deadline and ran out of time to think everything through and write it down. Actually, I do that a lot because I always overthink things, start to write it all down and never finish it. But now I have actually finished it so I can check this one off the list.

2017.

I moved to a different suburb after almost 12 years living in the Derwent Valley. This was a huge change, but one I have no regrets about at all.

We got two new chickens and my favourite chicken, Isabelle, died.

I discovered that loss in one area can lead to positive things somewhere else in my life.

I had to let go of something I enjoyed doing very much (I wrote about this all the way back in May), which made me cry, but after thinking it all through I realised it has started to open up new opportunities to explore what I really want to do and to learn more about myself.

I have found new ways of looking at the world, discovered beauty in unexpected places and have started to sing with a group that has just started up. (It’s true. It’s on YouTube.)

I have gotten to know some passionate, inspirational people who make beautiful art.

I left a job of 12 years, which was scary, but which I needed to do because I was feeling stuck and uninspired where I was. I’m still slightly terrified and bewildered about the new job, but it’s all good.

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I am grateful for everything that happened in 2017 and the experiences I had because I have learned and grown so much.

I’m grateful for the support from my little online community, whether I originally knew you IRL, or if I only know you online, or whether you’re an online friend who has become a real-life friend. Thank you all for being there. I said at the start of the year I was going to try to be okay with how I was feeling, to not squash my feelings, and to accept that not being okay is okay. I think I’ve made progress there.

Thank you for the lessons, experiences and new perspectives, 2017, and welcome 2018.

I know I say this every January, but I do want to write on the blog more regularly. I think the black & white photo challenge will help with that. I’m posting most of those photos on instagram, and when I get enough I repost them all here. I also made a separate page (here) where I’m putting my favourite black & whites so they’re all in one place.

 

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Not actually B&W but I like to break the rules. They’re my rules and I can break them if I want to.

 

I didn’t find using the blog as accountability for my health habits was working particularly well because it kind of relies on people calling me out if I don’t stick to what I said I was going to do. And it wasn’t very interesting reading. So I think I’ll consign that to the bin for now.

I’m not sure if I want the blog to focus more on photos or more on writing, or if it’s capable of being about both, so my intention is to post at least three times a week with one or the other or both and see what happens. It might become obvious over time, or I might have to make a decision, but for now, I’m just going with the flow.

I’m excited about 2018 and the possibilities for me to have new adventures in my everyday life. I want to focus on learning something new and finding something to be grateful for every day, making more photos, writing more, staying active and seeking out and appreciating the beauty that is around me. I also want to become clearer on what I really want to do and to let go of things I don’t want to do but am doing because I think I should want to do them or that I wished I wanted to do. (Gretchen Rubin puts it like this: “you can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do”.)

Happy New Year and may the coming year be good to you and your loved ones.

Art from trash

Two years ago I was lucky enough to go with Kramstable’s class on an excursion to, among other things, the Art from Trash Exhibition.

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It’s an annual event run by the Resource Work Cooperative at the Long Gallery in the Salamanca Arts Centre, which “encourages the reuse of discarded materials in the production of amazing visual art”. I didn’t go last year, but found out about this year’s exhibition in time to make sure I set aside a lunch hour to go and check it out.

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Toolbox by Scott Fletcher, made from recycled tools

It was fascinating to see what people can turn stuff that might normally be thrown away into.

20170601 Art from Trash 02B - 20th Century Dolls by Pirjo Juhola

21st Century Dolls by Pirjo Juhola,made from rusted wire, electrical wire, rock and other discarded materials

20170601 Art from Trash 03 - Tennis Racket Ukulele 2 by Mark Lleonart

Tennis Racket Ukulele 2 by Mark Lleonart, made from wooden tennis rackets and Huon pine scraps

20170601 Art from Trash 04 - Three Bags Full by Irena Harrison, Liz Toohey, Bec Williams The Three Weavers

Three Bags Full by Irena Harrison, Liz Toohey and Bec Williams, made from single use plastic such as pet food and coffee bags, and remnant leather

I really loved these bags (there were three of them) and the way The Junk Weavers have used old scarves on the handles of this one.

There was a separate section for schools and some wonderful artwork by primary school students.

20170601 Art from Trash 10A - More Than A Rooster by Grade 2 Albuera Street Primary

More Than Just a Rooster by Grade 2 Albuera Street Primary School

This piece recognises 2017 as Year of the Rooster and was the result of the students integrating their studies of Chinese, sustainability, art, science, maths and visible wellbeing through the inquiry questions “what happens to our rubbish?”, “how can we reduce, reuse, recycle, or rethink our daily actions?” and “what materials make up our rubbish?” They asked further questions on the disposal and decomposition time of plastic and decided to collect their plastic waste and create a rooster.

20170601 Art from Trash 06 - Our School by Grade 5-6 Lenah Valley Primary

Our School, by Grade 5 and 6s, Lenah Valley Primary School, made from coloured pencils

20170601 Art from Trash 05A - Bitsabot by Grade 5-6B Albuera St Primary School

Bitsabot, the class robot of 5-6B at Albuera Street Primary school, made from bits and pieces from electronic devices and appliances. 

This is the most creative use of a vacuum cleaner brush I have ever seen!

20170601 Art from Trash 07C - All That We Share by Young Migrant Education Students Tas TAFE

All That We Share, by the Young Migrant Education Program TasTAFE students, made from recycled paper bags and other assorted recycled materials

20170601 Art from Trash 08D - Mirror of Maleficent by A TAste of Togetherness Mosaic Support Services

Mirror of Maleficent by A Taste of Togetherness Mosaic Support Services, made from a mirror and old toys (Creepy!)

20170601 Art from Trash 09 - Necklace by Jeka Kaat

Necklace by Jeka Kaat, made from washers, jumprings and clasps

Ever wonder what do do with old Christmas cards you feel bad about throwing out? Wonder no more.

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Ghosts of Christamases Past collage by Jen Duhig

If you get a chance to call into the Long Gallery before the exhibition closes on Sunday, it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s lots of very cool and interesting art on display, and creative re-use of materials that were probably destined for the rubbish heap.