week 4 down, how many left to go?

This past week I did some good things — catching up with the lovely Fiona on Tuesday, and attending the Confined 6 exhibition opening night with Kerry on Wednesday. This was my favourite painting:

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It’s called Echidna Dreaming After The Rain by Dennis Thorpe (2014).

This is a story about my family and me going camping for the weekend. It was a sunny day until the afternoon when the clouds came and it started to rain. So we cooked the fish we had caught and waited until the rain stopped. The next morning the sky was nice and clear and my mother said “We are going to find some echidnas because after the rain you can see the new dirt and follow their tracks”.

I did lots of yoga, as my hip injuries have slowly improved, and I can return to more and more postures, with only standing-head-to-knee pose and toe stand being off limits for now. I realised that because of the injuries I’ve learned to pay more attention in each pose, every movement I make. It’s probably, in a hippy kind of way, made me better at Bikram. Also I started doing my physio! Incroyable, non? I realised I should do the exercises in the yoga studio whilst I’m waiting for class to begin. So far, so good.

Every time I think about going to yoga without Polly, my eyes well up and my throat feels constricted. Today she left — following a lovely breakfast with Graham and Skye, who then drove us to the airport — and I feel so horribly empty without her here. I managed to lock myself out of my flat on my way out to yoga; of course, my spare keys were still inside the flat because Polly had only just given them back to me. Fortunately my landlord was in town and she came over after my Bikram class to let me back in. All of these statements are a bit of a mishmash; I’ll blame it on missing Polly.

That, and I’m kind of not great overall. Despite all the yoga, I had a meltdown at work on Thursday and told my bosses I can’t do it anymore. We’re moving to new offices tomorrow so everything is very hectic at the moment, and they have asked me to reconsider what it would take for me to stay, but it’s going to require so many changes that I don’t see how I could last much longer there. In any case, I have to stay for another couple of months as I am managing a software development project that would take just as long to train up someone else to take over, as it would to see through to completion, and once it’s done, it will be much quicker and easier to train my replacement. It feels good to have put my unhappiness on the table and have some open discussions about how I don’t want to be there anymore, so overall, I suppose my hatred of work is somewhat diminished, but I don’t know for how long. I am at least looking forward to going into work tomorrow to see my new workspace; I’ll try to remember to take pictures!

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things I do when I’m not studying

Last week I was the lucky winner of a double pass to the Melbourne Museum SmartBar. I absolutely loved the event and I am so glad I won the tickets as I know I would have procrastinated and missed it otherwise. The theme was retro-futurism (by the way this isn’t a sponsored post or anything, just me fully nerding out about it):

  • The fourth computer in the world, CSIRAC: an international icon of the digital age designed and built in Australia. Hear CSIRAC’s story and meet the only intact first-generation computer surviving anywhere in the world.
  • Yesterday’s tomorrow… today! Retro Futurism explained.
  • The power behind machines and a glimpse into Museum Victoria’s machine collection
  • Electronic music and the sounds of CSIRAC.
  • The latest in 3D printing technology.
  • My housemate Jen and I had a great time, as it turns out getting drunk at the museum on a Thursday night is nothing short of fabulous. I’m supposed to be writing my essay on silk right now so I will be keeping this brief, but I enjoyed it so much I really wanted to share… Any pictures not taken on my iPhone are from the Melbourne Museum Facebook page.

    Lost in a sea of geeks… we were lucky enough to snag a couch so we relayed between it and the bar for the first 3 lectures we attended. If you have good eyes you can see me! (Pic Source)
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    …and this is what we were looking at! The lecturers stood on the little platform, surrounded by dinosaurs.
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    The Ghost of Computers Past and a curious dinosaur (Pic Source)…
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    Eventually we gave up our seats and wandered off for a stroll around the galleries. It had a strong “Night at the Museum” feel to it, especially in the taxidermy section.
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    We loved it there, as you can tell by the abundance of pictures. But how can you not love it, when you’re a bit squiffy and you come face-to-face with this?
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    Beautiful Jen finds a wee friend.
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    Redder than a Red Panda!
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    We also spent a fair amount of time checking out the 3D printing. I recognised the gentleman doing the demonstrations of 3D scanning and printing, as he happened to give a lecture on digital conservation at school just a couple of days earlier, so I asked more questions and oo-ed and aaah-ed at everything.

    A solution for Bamyan?
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    The inside of a 3D-printed object. So trippy.
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    I realised Jen was patiently waiting for me and was tearing myself away when one of the women doing the demonstrations made my night by calling me over and saying that as I was so interested I got to keep my very own 3D print of an ammonite. Double win! I am chuffed with it as to be honest the printing looks very basic and rough — in 50 years from now, it will be a fossil in its own right (yet another example of how conservation has warped my brain)! (Pic Source)
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    Before we left we had to go visit old CSIRAC… Australia’s first computer, the fourth in the world, and the first to play computer music! I had to pose showing off my binary tattoo, although CSIRAC ran on perforated paper tapes so it really is a dinosaur.
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    A few stats for you: CSIRAC’s entire memory was 2kb… spread over 25 square metres. And run by mice.
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    A big thank you to Joyce for the giveaway, and I already wrote Melbourne Museum a very gushy email about how much I enjoyed my night. I honestly felt it was the perfect night out — funny and entertaining lectures (none of them more than 15-20 minutes long), interesting activities (we didn’t go for the drum-making workshop in the end though) and best of all, the opportunity to ramble through some of the Museum’s galleries with an alcoholic beverage and without children underfoot! I hope there’s one on when James is next in town…

    rosie does ron mueck

    I am backing up files like it’s December 1999, and I stumbled across a couple of pieces of “art writing” from two-and-a-half years ago. They made me smile, despite — perhaps because of — the fact that I sound like such a bitch. Sorry… I am a bitch! And where else should I put them but on this blog? Especially as I have been helping my mother a lot recently with her art history coursework, and of course as I am about to start my degree in Cultural Materials Conservation, so art writing is back on my mind.

    This pretentious little essay was inspired by my visit to the Ron Mueck show at the NGV.
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    I never actually got round to writing about Mueck, because I got so carried away writing about how much I hate everyone else and how I’m so much better at appreciating art than the plebes. Hilarious! It’s unfinished, and that’s probably not a bad thing. I bolded my favourite paragraph — it’s like a synopsis of the overall thing. For a real review of Mueck, read Ella’s piece, linked to below.

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    Before I sit down to read my Ron Mueck catalogue, I wanted to try and get down in words my own impressions and interpretations of the exhibition I saw; something like a test of my own understanding and appreciation of art. If I find my ideas in the collected essays on Mueck’s work, they will be validated and will also prove to myself that I truly “thought of it myself” – once I read other people’s opinions, my own will be so much harder to distinguish from the mass. Otherwise I’m never sure: was that what I originally thought?

    But before I even start writing about Mueck, I want to write about writing about art and experiencing art. I haven’t done so in many years, despite having dedicated most of my teenage and early adulthood to the study of art history and having spent seven years writing about art on at least a weekly basis (this claim to quantity brings with it no claim as to quality, I hasten to add). I cannot even claim to have read much about art, at least not in the last couple of years, since I started working full-time. In fact, since graduating, I have seen very little art, attending shockingly few exhibitions, and in truth seeing very little around me that could qualify as Art with a capital A. The only aspect which has seen an increase is, ironically, my capacity to purchase art, and in the last three years I have bought 3 paintings and a print, all of which have remained in limbo, waiting to be framed, hung and actually appreciated.

    I had to be practically bullied and shamed into visiting the NGV this morning. Several times I almost went, and once even made it to the door, only to discover the gallery was closed for the day. I was originally inspired to visit when reading a review by a fellow graduate art-history student (who continues to be passionate and verbose when it comes to art, unlike my sorry self), which injected me with a flash of inspiration and regret. It had been so long since I had been to a real exhibition, and there were several things I had forgotten about seeing art shows and which came flooding back over the couple of hours I spent in the NGV today.

    I had chosen my time and day carefully, so that my visit would coincide with a minimal number of other people. This was based on the advice of a friend, who told me that you really need to have space around you and the exhibits to fully appreciate their impact. I am doubly in his debt for this advice, because within seconds of joining the queue for the exhibition, I was assaulted by the overly loud, irritating tones of a woman behind me, sharing with the world her overwhelming, compulsive need to see this particular show. “I just, you know, HAD TO SEE IT!” she brayed, “there was something about it which made me just, you know, REALLY WANT TO COME.” “Is that any different from other art exhibitions though?” her companion asked, with a quiet sense of humour that made the whole conversation only just bearable to witness. “No, it was the same with the Dali exhibition,” she reassured her audience, “I mean, Dali is my absolute favourite artist EVER so I had to come.”

    I absolutely loathe people who claim that Dali is their favourite artist, ever. No matter how intelligent and perceptive the Dali-lover, upon further investigation it will generally come to light that they “normally dislike art” and that in fact, they don’t really know any other artists, apart from “Van Go” or “Van Gog” or whatever twisted approximation of poor Vincent’s last name they have absorbed. (As an aside, I also tend to dislike the Van Gogh fans, whose knowledge of his art and life are generally reduced to a couple of Sunflowers, a Starry Night, and the idea that he cut his ear off, a la Chopper. However, a certain proportion of his audience, myself included, is genuinely sensitive to his emotionally charged work, and therefore I will avoid making the same swooping generalisations that I am currently bestowing to the Dali supporters).

    Yes, Dali has his qualities, and I suppose that years of drug consumption have given me an extra degree of appreciation for his work. But those who worship at the shrine of Dali go a long way to explaining the presence of the shops that leave me gasping with laughter and disbelief at their stock of mediocre, over-polished, gold-adorned, uncomfortable, impractical and utterly tasteless furniture. Somewhere along the line, a lack of form or function, wrapped in ostentation, became a substitute for tasteful decoration amongst the masses. I am no minimalist, but you can see where the glass-and-brushed-metal crowd are coming from when you’ve visited one of these gaudy furniture stores.

    Yes, dear reader, you have guessed correctly; I’m a snob and I hate sharing my experience of Art with the common-or-garden general public. I can think back to so many gallery visits that were marred by the presence of a loud, more often than not American, viewer, whose opinions one could not escape. So it was with a wry smile that I noted, amongst the scores of iPhones capturing yet another crappy snap of one of Mueck’s works, an amusing similarity.

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    Alas! the writing stops there, and I guess we will never know what the amusing similarity will be.

    book from the sky, book from the ground

    Yesterday I wiped myself out going hard on the elliptical at the gym, and ended up passing out at 5 in the afternoon. I promised myself upon awakening later than evening, bleary-eyed and furry-mouthed, that today would not involve exercise. In fact, it would involve art.

    Would you believe that just a 20-minute walk away from me is a free exhibition of Xu Bing’s infamous work, Book from the Sky, as well as his latest work, Book from the Ground. When I was studying Chinese Art, Xu Bing was THE MAN (Ai Weiwei is obviously the guy everyone is talking about these days) and I have long dreamed of seeing his masterpiece Book from the Sky:

    So I scuttled off to Eslite Gallery, which doesn’t allow photography sadly or I would have probably taken so many pictures. I did sneak a couple in though (no flash of course)… sorry Xu Bing! I just love what you do too much. I could wrote separate blog entries for each of his works but I’ll try to keep it short.

    The front of the gallery shows off his recent “Book from the Earth” concept, along with his fascinating Square Calligraphy. More on both of these below.

    Book from the Sky consists of a gigantic installation of hand-printed scrolls and books, the content of which is made up of 4000 hand-carved invented Chinese characters. Xu Bing sat down and took apart the existing thousands of Chinese characters and reassembled them so that they look like Chinese but are absolute gibberish.

    The work involved in the whole process — designing new characters, hand-carving the reverse image of each character onto wood, printing by hand — is phenomenal and took him 4 years to complete.

    Xu Bing’s work is fascinating for anyone who loves Chinese characters and language in general. Over the years, Xu Bing developed Square Word Calligraphy, a special way of adapting Roman letters to create Chinese-looking calligraphy. Any non-Chinese-reading person when confronted with this scroll would assume it was Chinese, and yet it’s illegible unless you have a strong knowledge of English.

    Can you read it?
    I’ll start you off: An Ascent – Poem by Du Fu
    The wind so wild, the sky so high…


    …the moody monkeys sorely sigh
    This is a poem by Deng Gao (aka Du Fu) that has been translated in so many ways (this webpage lists 48 translations) — but Xu Bing’s calligraphy makes the translation almost illegible unless you know his trick.

    The last section was about his recent publication, Book from the Ground, which I suppose is why Eslite is offering this exhibition at the moment, as they are the ones selling it. Basically Xu Bing has been researching symbols for the last 10 years, in order to develop a universal writing system that anyone can read regardless of language spoken. The book is a novelization of a 24-hour day and after a while, does in fact become legible once you have worked out the symbols and syntax. It was fun seeing the Chinese people around me being able to read the story just as well as I did, and wondering whether it truly is legible to everyone.

    Xu Bing has even developed a special computer software where you write in your own language and it is transcribed into his “symbol” language. When it was my turn on the computer I wrote “I believe in Chinese Art” — love that he has a symbol just for Chinese art!

    The symbol for Chinese Art is a portrait by artist Zhang Xiaogang. The symbol for just art was the Mona Lisa…

    Oh and now you know the trick to reading Xu Bing’s system, can you see what it says underneath each symbol in my fuzzy picture of the gallery window? Men, Nursery, and Women.

    angel

    I’m finally in London, staying in Angel… The English all think it’s very warm and sunny but of course I’m shivering, as I’m always too cold (except when I’m too hot, obviously). It’s funny how in French we say frileuse and in Chinese they call it pa leng, “cold-fearing”, but of course the stoic British don’t have a word to describe people like me who always want the heating on and worship hot-water-bottles. However they do have the word “bracing” in their vocabulary… I was born to live in warmer climes!

    My flight with Etihad was very good, overall — and thanks to my liberal consumption of Imovane, I actually slept for several hours, which has to make it the most successful flight I have ever taken. When not sleeping I read The Year of the Flood, and it is a credit to Margaret Atwood’s talent that even though I have only very vague memories of Oryx and Crake, it was a great read and extremely engrossing. I think it was a good book for the plane…

    I went to a sort of… performance? last night, with Ollie, which involved a sort of labyrinth set up in an art gallery-warehouse, populated with dancers and actors, and including a tiny little grill-room (where a real skinned lamb hung from a huge minotaur skull over a barbecue upon which you were encouraged to prepare yourself lamb skewers), as well as a bar, where bottles of gin hung from chains and boys skipped up and down ladders preparing drinks for us. The whole place was full of bizarre shadows and almost-nude girls crouching under furs staring at the visitors as we crawled our way through the labyrinth. After traveling for over 24 hours and struggling with jet-lag (not to mention the very strong gin and the smell of the dead animals and the straw) the whole experience was very bizarre!

    It’s been really good to see so many of my friends from uni, and London is still London (although I feel a bit touristy). In a bit I’m going to extricate myself from my bed (where I am engrossed with my book When God was a Rabbit) and meet Ben and Sarah in Covent Garden for a spot of… shoe shopping (what! I need them!). Two more days till James gets here! Three more days till France!