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Category Archives: 126 ~ The self

Let’s talk about racist jokes

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Chris Lilley’s latest offering has been aired on television and the result has been a backlash on social media with the hashtags #MyNameIsNOTJonah  #ChangeStartsHere and #ProudPoly. See the the following article for a background ~ Chris Lilley facing social media backlash over ‘racist’ Jonah From Tonga.

Firstly, I need to state, I support the challenge being made by people questioning the representation presented by Chris Lilley. Australia has a long history of comedy where people from a class of privilege are making fun of people from backgrounds of which they do not come from. Think of the Comedy Company, for instance, on air from 1988 to 1990 and the infamous character of Con the Fruiterer.

The polemics around this issue are important and further discussion around issues of representation, who creates representation and what meanings are imbued in these representations are pivotal to understanding how power and racism are intertwined and reinforced with stereotypes as represented by people who are not from these backgrounds.

Not being from the background is a crucial point in this discussion. You see, when I’m sitting around having a yarn with my cousins and joking about ‘our wog life’, this is very different to when a ‘whitefella’ uses the term ‘wog’ in his/her jokes. My cousins and I are proud of our backgrounds and our jokes are not imbued with a malice or derision of our ways. Instead there is an affectionate understanding of what it means to grow up in this country from a specific vantage point.

The invocation of stereotypes, by people who are not of that background, comes with a derision and malice. The tone of these representations is a put-down. Essentially, it is a position that looks down on the ‘other’, something to be ridiculed and laughed at. It comes from a position of superiority, by the class representing the ‘other’, and reinforces concepts of erasure of cultural identity whilst preferencing ideas of integration. Racist jokes end up being statements to the ‘other’ that we should become more like the dominant class and culture because they are better.

…ok so this is a start. Let’s begin… let’s talk about race and racism in all it’s manifestations because talking about it is better than pretending it doesn’t exist…

 

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A break from social media ~ reflection

After I took a week off from social media, one of the first posts I came across on Facebook contained this video. The post was followed with a series of comments about the use of phones and our loss of connection with being ‘in the moment’. Prior to my break from social media, I would have agreed that the phone is the issue but after my self-imposed break, I discovered that without the lure of social media, I rarely reached for the phone. Instead, the phone lay dormant on the table attached to the charger for hours. My break from social media, indicated it was the lure of social connection and interaction that kept that phone close at hand.

I have come across a few articles recently, debating the negatives and positives of social media. One article highlight’s narcissism, and self PR campaigns, in the individual use of social media as a misconstrued need to display a sense of constant awesomeness. On the other hand, this debate in the New York Times points to the virtues of access to an audience, self publishing and instant interaction as presenting opportunities for individual growth.

Interestingly, being without social media is not all positive, just as being constantly connected is not all positive. A friend (from my social media world) joined me in my mission to abstain from social media for a week and we shared insights about the experience via SMS. He shared this article ‘I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet’. What is interesting in this article is how the writer chronicles his personal experience of taking a year off the internet concluding that the positive/negative divide is not straight forward.

I decided to switch off social media for a week, beginning just two days before New Years Eve 2013. Celebratory times often attract increased posting, so it was going to be a challenge. The decision was spontaneous and partly based around my perception that my contributions were tired and felt somewhat laboured in the month of December. You see, I had been online since the end of 2011 diving into many social media apps including; Instagram, Facebook, Momentage, Backspaces, Twitter, Vine, Picyou, Eyeem, taada, Streamzoo, Wattpad, lightt, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Pheed, Scoop.it…

and the list goes on…..

The majority of these apps were a process of trialling for evaluation purposes, so my presence was short lived. However, my presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine have been constant. I’m not certain how much time I spent online with my phone, but it was definitely daily and on all four platforms. I would check each app every morning and participate in conversations, contribute content, check events, click on posted links and read/view content shared, read collated stories from Zite, share to targeted and appropriate social networks and so on and so forth… I’m pretty sure that was just two hours in the morning. I haven’t calculated time throughout the day nor the relax time after the evening meal when the kids are in bed… To say the least, four hours of online engagement may be an underestimate….. if I was being honest… (jaw dropping to the floor in realisation!)

I was feeling socially exhausted and needed to retreat, to think and refresh. The need to question the value of my contributions, the purpose, my connections and interactions seemed quite strong both online and in real life. Even with interactions IRL (in real life) I often feel the need to retreat and gather strength so that I can be social again. I suppose the virtual world had reached that point too.

Without social media, it became apparent quickly how few my connections are. SMS, email and phone are definitely much less active and interactions come from fewer people. The world felt somewhat silent. On a positive note, I relaxed more and just took time out. I even finished a novel in one night (it was a short novel). My time with my kids was less interrupted and seemed more positive. More than anything, my kids loved how unhurried I appeared. As a qualifier, this was the holiday time so relaxation was on the menu regardless. I actually started to feel relaxed and recharged too.

I found my thought processes seemed less hurried and distracted. I could think about what ‘it’ is about social media that is positive and consider the benefits of social networks online. I certainly missed my interactions and conversations with people that I connected with online and was looking forward to the time I could interact again. I discovered finding articles of interest, with no-one to share, made the conversation and knowledge construction seem far less interesting and rewarding without the social media platforms.

Without social media, the web is very static. Just reading articles and not contributing to conversation and adding to knowledge is something I tire from quickly. I suppose, knowledge is constructive and involves conversation. Social media has enabled this. With the networks that are formed, based around communities of interest, we are able to obtain various insights and access to information that is pertinent to specific interest areas. This helps to build on our thoughts, triggering connections with ideas we have come across and prompting further sharing and knowledge construction. In my social media networks, my communities of interest have developed around street art, writing, information access, arts, filmmaking and activism. With these areas I’ve connected with groups and conversations specific to these areas. Not all the people I connect with are connected with each other. Instead communities exist as various circles of interest that sometimes intersect but mostly remain distinct. Ultimately, this is what I view as a positive aspect of social media alongside the possibility of extending online relationships to real life relationships and vice versa.

So in 2014, one of my key resolutions is to increase my collaborative creative efforts with people from my social media world with a focus on improving both online and ‘in real life’ interactions. It is this aspect of social media, over the past couple of years, that has provided the most rewarding experiences. Clearly, this is the ultimate positive enablement of virtual communities.

Another resolution is to take breaks from social media. After a week’s break, I came back feeling refreshed, filled with ideas and wanting to contribute again. I’ve identified social interaction in the virtual world as no different to social interaction IRL, in terms of the need for retreat to replenish… in my case anyway. Just as I need a break to recharge IRL I also need this in the virtual world. Otherwise, I start feeling exhausted and unable to contribute.

 

 

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Reflections on a blog

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Self-refelction

I started this blog at the beginning of 2011. Initially, it was a part of my studies in the Masters of Information Studies (MIS) which I have been completing part-time. My posts are often musings related to studies, tangents spurred by thoughts related to the information sector and even divergences based on personal interests. Quite broad really, but as the first blog it proved a great place to dive in and just swim.

Now, as I am nearing completion of the MIS, with just one subject left, the question of ‘where to’ with this blog has arisen. Once the overarching studylink disappears, what will the focus of this blog be?

You see, this is not my only blog, I have other blogs dedicated to different purposes including creative writing and arts practice blogs. Alongside these other blogs I actively create content and share with other social media platforms. Clearly, there is plenty to keep me engaged and contributing.

It appears with social media, many take an approach of cross-posting the same information across numerous sites. It’s similar to marketing strategies where the aim is to reach as many audiences across as many platforms as possible. However, whilst I cross-pollinate some of my posts, as iterations across different sites, I have tended to take an approach that seems to be more compartmentalised in approach.

I tend to separate my focus in content contribution for different purposes to enable connection with distinct audiences/communities in some sites that do not exist on other platforms. I appreciate that some communities of connection in the virtual sphere are based on specific interests. For instance, with my arts practice, it is a distinct and specific focus. Some of the people I have connected with are only interested in my paper cutting and linocuts. With my writing, yet again it may be a different connection and so on. Not everyone that likes my street-art documenting, for instance, will be interested in my experimental videos or my writing and vice versa.

I’m acutely aware that my interests shared, are dispersed in such a manner and seem to focus more on maintaining smaller communities of interest instead of amalgamating into one broad group. Whether this approach works or not is difficult to fully gauge, but it suits me for now.

On this blog I have probably incorporated the most diverse musings and the structure is loosely held together with a focus on the sharing of information. Obviously, some of my study musings will dissipate over time but what else….

In reflecting, I’ve decided this blog will function as a blog of reviews. By reviews, I will continue with technology reviews, book reviews and my personal musings on arts. In the end I’m still sharing information but adding a more focussed approach. It seems to suit me just fine.

Maybe, Ill even revamp the look of this blog too…..

 

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Will Coles: an appreciation

I first stumbled upon the street sculptures of Will Coles in Sydney, in the May Lane area of St Peters. The first work I noticed was the balaclava clad face. It looked familiar and I was somewhat sure I had seen it in Melbourne, though I didn’t feel certain. Then on the opposite side of May lane I noticed the baby doll, ‘context’.

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‘Context’, May Lane St Peters, Sydney.

‘Context’ was new to me, making me pause and stop for quite some time. I looked at this doll and wondered why it was there and what it meant. It was lying on the ground with mangled body looking as if it had been left by a child who no longer wanted to play with the doll. Maybe it had fallen out of a pram whilst in motion, and parent and child didn’t notice. There it was near the gutter in a laneway, looking unloved, out of context and even disturbing. Of course, I had to move closer and discover the word ‘context’ written on it as well as some paint marks over its face. The paint marks on its face were additions and yet they reminded me of how my children would draw on their dolls faces. I knelt closer and had to touch it. I had become curious. What was it made of?… It was cold hard concrete and the coldness seemed to emanate another dimension to the meaning it seemed to evoke within me. This work seemed to elicit a few responses from me yet, what resonated was the memory I had of my childhood when I accidentally left my doll that could sing (as it had a little record player in its back) out in the backyard. That night a heavy storm started with thunderclaps and rained heavy drops all night. The next day my doll could no longer sing. She was broken and I was sad. After crying for some time she was then discarded by my mother, who has never been a hoarder. I somehow loved my doll less once she was broken. As if voiceless she was no longer alive. That became one ‘context’ of the meaning for me. How easily the doll was discarded when she seemingly had no use, was broken and then lifeless. This mangled doll on the ground before me looked lifeless.

Leaving this work behind me I suddenly started to notice other Will Coles works. I stumbled on what appeared to be a crushed can that had the word ‘work’ inscribed on it and then some more…

At this stage I did not know who Will Coles was or the body of work on the streets and in the galleries. However, it did not take long to find out. With the help of the virtual sphere and the benefits of the hashtag I could seek out more information. Posting photographs of the sculptures to instagram, it wasn’t long before someone popped into my feed and informed me that this is the work of Will Coles… and so the discovery began.

Looking at the #willcoles on Instagram I was able to see photos that others had posted in Melbourne and Sydney. Since then, finding a Will Coles work has always been exciting. Researching and reading about the works of Will Coles has added further insight. Seemingly, there is no end to the layers and meaning and I discover more and more all the time.

Back in Melbourne, I started to look out for the works of Will Coles on the street and in laneways. What I discovered about his work is the placement often appears hidden. Sometimes, I have spent hours just trying to locate a work so I can take a photograph, as I did in Canberra. I knew Will Coles had some works left around the gallery and other places in Canberra. However, they were not easy to spot and I walked for two hours trying to find them. Luckily, just as I was about to give up the work appeared before me…

The works seemingly become part of the environment. With so much detritus strewn around the streets and in lanes, a sculpture of a crushed can with a word on it becomes hidden or seemingly part of the detritus. As a concrete sculpture it often melds with the concrete surrounds and yet taking on the form of our discarded lives it seems to be part of the rubbish just lying around. However, I learnt to look in gaps in walls, on little ledges, on the ground near poles, up high, over and under places and with time the works start to materialise. Once you start seeing a Will Coles sculpture, they just start to appear everywhere you look.

Following are some links that provide more information about Will Coles and his work.

Will Coles | Sculptor and Freelance European the artist’s website.

Interview with Will Coles by Invurt

Will Coles at Brenda May Gallery

Mr Will Coles’ photostream on Flickr

Artist spotlight: Interview with Will Coles by The Flying Room

Will Coles as documented by Dean Sunshine on Land of Sunshine

If in Melbourne, you can see the works of Will Coles in his first solo exhibition in Melbourne that is currently on. This was the first time I saw the works of Will Coles in a gallery context and I have been four times already. The last time I had the pleasure of perusuing through a document with statements on the works by Will Coles. This added further insight into the works, the thinking behind the works and the intentions.
Details of the exhibition are in the poster that follows:

aposter

Finally, here are some photos I have snapped of Will Coles works on the streets of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

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Whimsical Be Free

I first discovered the art of Be Free on the Corner of the Tin Pot cafe where a little girl was pasted on the wall dropping a deck of cards onto the ground in front of her. This image immediately appealed. It invoked a sense of letting go of order and restrictions whilst enabling the mischievous sense of freedom to take over…. and just to be free… mix up a deck of cards, scatter them on the ground and risk losing some from the deck… This whimsical nature is what is appealing about the character of the little girl depicted in the art of Be Free.

In other artworks the same character can be found splashing paint across walls, jumping in puddles, watering plants, having a tea party and sometimes she is crouched under an umbrella, with a pensive expression, as rainbow rain washes over her. Be Free is almost always captioned or signed near the artwork.

The invitation to the child within is felt strongly when a work by Be Free is encountered. It is easy to relate to the child within. It is someone we all conjure up easily as the experiences of childhood have remained within. Emotions and impulsive actions are the first experiences we encounter. However, throughout life, much of our growing up journey is about pulling this freedom back and accepting the order applied from the world and other social forces. It is the whimsical spirit of letting go, the permission to be naughty, impulsive and playful against the rules, order, and restrictions that is very enticing indeed. Whilst an adult can easily relate, I have found children drawn to this artwork too. Clearly relating to the childhood represented is appealing to all ages.

The little girl, depicted in the Be Free artwork, is an incredibly recognisable character and when a new work appears there is no doubt who the work is by. I have had great pleasure documenting the artwork via photographs and sharing them through the virtual sphere. Alongside the works of Be Free are collaborations with other artists. Two notable collaborations are with the artists Suki and Erin Greer.

Interestingly, it is the artwork of Be Free, amongst the vast collections of street art I have been documenting, that has been commented on most extensively across the international virtual sphere. Clearly, the whimsy of Be Free is one we all relate to.

The saying ‘Once a child always a child’ echoes strongly in the work of Be Free. Following is a gallery of some of the photographs I have taken of the works of Be Free from my Flickr feed. Be Free from Preprint Flickr

Be Free will be having a joint exhibition with Erin Greer called “Monster and the girl’  at Egg Gallery in Collingwood. The exhibition opens February 8, 2013 and runs till February 22, 2013. Following is the promotional video. The gallery is located at 66a Johnston st, Collingwood.

 

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Evolving Street Art: Be Free

Having grown up in Sydney’s innerwest during the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was privy to the developing graffiti scene around me. Initially, it was tags around train stations, on trains and around the industrial areas that were experiencing a decline.

I lived up the road from the Pye Television factory during my childhood. This was the first factory that my mother worked in when we arrived to Australia. She was in the production line, putting together television sets. However, that factory shut down leaving the building uninhabited for the many years that I lived there. All the kids in the neighbourhood were curious about the empty factory buildings and we would ride our bikes to them to have a peek in to see what we could see. The same street had lines of factories shutting down and becoming empty shells. This was Marrickville South, also called ‘The Warren’.

The Warren, bordered the suburb of Tempe. The division between the two suburbs was marked by a train line. On the Tempe side was a cliff edge, a great big blank wall of concrete, with housing up the top. On the Marrickville side were the industrial buildings. This became the face of graffiti in the area. As I remember, it started with tags and then tags started to transform to larger pieces on these walls bordering the train line. Watching the transition always fascinated me and continues to do so….

That was a long time ago… since then the transitions have continued and my fascination has intensified. This is the reason I started documenting art on the streets. I love watching the changes. I revisit places continuously to observe changes. Now my observations are not only with the eye, but with photographs to document the changes. I sometimes focus on the changes that are a result of different lighting, other times it’s the changes as a result of the elements weathering the art, or art being capped, buffed, tagged over and so forth.

However, there is one piece in Fitzroy North that has captivated me with the interactive changes and evolution over the course of a few months. It is the three dimensional Be Free artwork installed on a side wall of a cafe. I love this piece and many times over the past few months elements have disappeared, it has been added to, taken away from and then added to again. The natural elements of greenery have started to grow and weathering of the artwork has appeared too. The following photos are in chronological order demonstrating the evolution of this artwork as I have photographed over the course of this year.

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Puppetry inspiration

This past year has been hectic, with deadlines for assessments, especially as I studied a WISE subject via San Jose State University. This meant there were no breaks between semesters, and often I was working endlessly to meet assignment deadlines. All I could do was forge ahead and not think about it too much… My only respite, to the assignment madness, were my streetart photographic adventures; shared mostly via Instagram.

So… what do you do when your study deadlines slow down and give you some breathing space? Engage your creativity of course, and revisit some past passion. This is just what I did with puppetry.

Luckily, Barek an artist from Brisbane announced a competition via Instagram titled #makemeabarek. The competition was run via Facebook and as my account had been inactive for a significant time, I had to reactivate to participate. What was involved was creating a character and including the signature Barek eyes.

I have never been able to complete a puppet in such a short time-frame but decided to give it a shot. Working collaboratively, with my partner we lost sleep and kept at it until we realised the day before that we were going to meet the deadline… Yippee!

Not only did we meet the deadline but our character was the winner! For our joyful effort we have an original
Barek artwork on the way… WOW!

Apart from the sheer joy of working on puppets again, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into Facebook and finding some of the talented artists I admire there too. I had been somewhat resistant of Facebook for quite some time but not any longer.

Following are some photos of the puppet entry. The inspiration for the puppet technique is Japanese Bunraku puppetry, although we have modified the actual technique and the puppet will be operated by two people without the strict adherence to the traditional form. The scenery is inspired by the talented Melbourne based artist Suki.

I’m now working on another character and hope to create a short video demonstrating the puppets. Stay tuned 🙂

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