Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ask Away: Why does security love to follow me?

Occasional I get asked for advice via email, facebook and or sms on a great number of many different quandaries relating to the arts about etiquette, applications and proposals, art making, matters of the heart, and over any given amount of time, some questions from numerous unconnected and unrelated people repeat themselves.

Today I received this sms from Albert, who asks a common question:

Aces! I need your advice: every time I go to see an exhibition at the NGV, the guards ghost around me like I'm an art theif or a vandal. What the cripes?
Yours most Sincerely,

Ah yes, you see Albert, the guards at the NGV follow several philosophical, psychological and spiritual schools of thought in unison, one of which is to regard every entity (most of which happen to be human in their experience) that enters an art gallery to be either 'good' or 'bad' (this is of course especially possible if we do away with Spinoza, and instead focus on the duality of the Yin and Yang, and our nations admiration for the equal yet opposing possibly results of a coin toss).

Given that there is no way of determining which patrons are good or bad, or any way at all to even prove of anyone else of even having their own mind or sentient intelligence of their own, the security guards tend to rely on a combination of Murphy's Law and the physical law of entropy, albeit the later is applied to the moral compass of all patrons and not so much the matter of which they are comprised, meaning that by this logic, most people are 'bad' and only a small portion are 'good', and as mentioned, no way of telling one from the other.

The actions of the 'good' simply wander around the spaces, peering thoughtfully at images and objects and rarely unattended cleaners carts laden with sanitizing products and rags, whilst furrowing their brows and holding their chins. The actions of the 'bad' deceptively mimic those of the good, but if unobserved for even a moment, could launch themselves at an artwork wielding a mallet, as was the case in 1997, or could simply nab a work, as in the 1997 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair starring Pierce Brosnan. My advice is to stop looking like a debonair playboy who has nothing better to do than commit opportunistic crimes, such as art theft. 

However, opportunistic crime, such as theft, is most common with the working class, so perhaps you appear less like a debonair playboy and more like a working class lad that has the possibility of looking like an working class opportunistic thief, given the opportunity, that is, if no one were looking.

It may also not help that the guards spend much of their time during their 14 hour shifts standing in one room, with only their own minds to keep them company and thus come up with all many of hybrid philosophies and theories, some of which are detailed above, and thus are overjoyed when a member of the general public strays into their jurisdiction because it means that they, as security guards, finally have some security to be guarding from a possible threat, unfortunately that possible threat is yourself, the humble appreciator of fine art. 

My conclusion is that you can't help a security guards actions, nor what they think, or what their personal convictions may be so simply ignore them or, do as I do, and pretend not to speak english by smiling and nodding blankly when spoken to, and occasionally if needed, creating a couple of possibly russian sounding words in feigned puzzlement and confusion such as 'erh-toh brorshk? brorshk?' or 'nah, burgh hojshk mish?'. Of course this strategy doesn't help me in the slightest because the guards no that I work at the gallery and both speak and understand english, but it may serve you in your shroud of anonymity somewhat better than myself.

Happy art viewing and, as Kimi always says: 'Godspeed!'. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

REVIEW: 'HNNGAHGGHH!'- Quenton Miller

Within the realm of art, there exists a phenomena within the practical making of work known as the 'happy accident'. Sometimes an accidental, unconscious or incidental addition to a work in progress can be aesthetically fortuitous, even though it may have been unseen and outside of what was planned and deliberate.

It could be said that Jackson Pollock (or any other gestural abstract expressionist, because what's the difference in their process, right?) implemented actions within his art making process for the happy accident to occur, because whilst he was selective of the type of paint, its colour and its general placement on the canvas, he relinquished some control over exactly where the paint would fall, especially when compared to a realist oil painter, as there is a large degree of variables as to how the paint might fall, splatter, splash and spill, however, mentioning this fact would be entirely obvious and boring.

There is an interesting friction between the planned and the accidental, and when they occur together or alongside each other, and not just within the act of art-making as this phenomena happens within the wilds of reality also, it allows us to see how fragile the best laid schemes are by their apparent ease to be unravelled by the arbitrary and unintentional1, or seemingly stranger, to be bettered.

Have you ever looked at a cloud and noticed how similar its shape was to a rabbit, or kitten (or any other fluffy animal, because what's the difference in their suggested cuddliness of form , right?) and wondered what the chances are that the accidental shape of a cloud which is informed by complex high-altitude wind currents, temperature, and percentage of water within the air could end up looking like a recognisable shape? Ever noticed how 'monkeys write' is an anagram of 'New York Times'?

Within our lives there is no end to the coincidental (between both the common and opposing), mixed messages, inconsistencies, and similarities; it is within this playground of interpretable data gathered from the world around him that Quenton Millers exhibition 'HNNGAHGGHH!' at Rear View Gallery gains its conceptual fuel.

Miller is obviously intrigued by interpretation, of both image and text and seeks out their limits through inquisitive play, not only in the presentation of his own work, but also by inviting the viewer to participate.

There is a liberal soaking of nonsense to help disparate ideas stick together, and thus become humorous, which can be seen in a drawing that suggests we charge rich mosquitoes when they drink our blood (its funny as insects have no concept of money and therefore cannot be rich or charged for there blood-letting, fool!).

Its an obvious nod to the Seussian School2 and the illogical, non-sequitur humour that is the favored comedic form by many performers (Lonely Island3, the Mighty Boosh4), and popular television (South Park5, Family Guy6, The Aquabats Super Show!7 and Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!8) but Miller steers clear of wanting all the attention for himself by getting others in on the fun and playing out open-ended performances like a party.

Millers work 'A Drawing Bar' exists as an arrangement of objects in the space (drawings, gin, tequila, and plastic shot glasses, placed on a bar stool), but also serves the function of a spatial anchor for people to stand around drinking, telling jokes and drawing during the opening of the exhibition. Just as his wall-work 'L O B S T E R S' isn't just simple giant aluminium letters nailed to the wall but a challenge and invitation for the viewer to contribute to a proposed aptly titled book in the making: 'ANAGRAMS OF LOBSTERS'.

The Lobster of course is an icon from art history and culture, its form being used and reused in work by Hieronymus Bosch, Lewis Carroll, Eugene Delacroix, Albrecht Druer, and eventually, Salvador Dali reappropriated the lobster as a kind of visual-anagram, when he used it as a rotary phone handset because of the similar size and shape that both the crustacean and the handset shared. It is this mastery of unrestrained and absurd thinking that allows Miller to meld almost opposing concepts together.

The cobbled-together nature of Millers jerry-rigged ideas, sometimes ill fitting, carries through in his construction and presentation: photos and images are simply taped to the wall and a display plinth appears to be hastily constructed from found timber; the appearance of these elements used to present the ideas in the work are not what's important. Similarly Millers drawings are rudimentary images that only exist as a vehicle for a punchline or 2D rendezvous point for ideas that would other wise never encounter each other, to meet in the physical realm, just as visitors to the exhibition might do at the 'Drawing Bar'.

Perfection and seriousness and stringent thinking are over-rated and boring, there is no room for exploration within their confines. Artists and musicians have been winging-it, thinking less and urging us to get stupid9 and even retarded10 for years, have a shot of tequila, do a drawing, drop noodles on avant garde Russian reproductions11, or whatever else it takes lose the inhibition, follow intuition and break from tradition12, and Miller, like many before him, is listening and preaching.


1Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men (1937).

2Seuss, Theodor. Wrote imaginative and nonsensical children's books under the pen name Dr Seuss for which he is better known as (1904-1991).

3Lonely Island is a US comedy troupe comprising Akiva 'Kiv' Schaffer, Jorma 'Jorm' Taccone and David Andrew 'Andy' Samberg (2001).

4The Mighty Boosh is a UK comedy troupe featuring Jullian Barratt and Noel Fielding (1998).

5South Park is a US cartoon created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (1997).

6Family Guy is a US cartoon created by Seth MacFarlane (1999).

7The Aquabats Super Show! Is a US action-comedy live-action television series created by Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz based on the mythology of the Aquabats, a real Californian rock band.

8Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! Is a US comedy-sketch television series created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (2007).

9Madonna, Give It 2 Me, Hard Candy, (2008).

10The Black Eyed Peas, Lets get Retarded, Elephunk, (2003).

11Email from Quenton Miller (2012).

12The Black Eyed Peas, Lets get Retarded, Elephunk, (2003).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LINK: A to Z of Contemporary Art

Andrew Frost has a great article on the Sydney Morning Herald site. For a lot of people it'll be 'no new news' and if thats the case just read on and feel affirmed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NEWS: Ellwood returns to NGV

Tony Ellwood, who left his post as a deputy director at NGV to take up the directorship of both the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in 2007, will leave the sunshine state to return for the top gig at NGV.

Despite having said he wouldn't be leaving twin-state galleries QAG and GOMA, it'll be confirmed by Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu tomorrow morning. In his time Ellwood had raised the galleries to be nations most popular.

When comparing the figures, the NGV received almost a million less visitors, 800,000 to be exact, then its northern contemporaries, making it something of a 'renovators dream' for Ellwood. The NGV has also lost some favour with the public for not keeping up with contemporary art, and this was most noticable last year when the NGV did not renew Contemporary art curator Alex Bakers contract who was billed as "a breath of fresh air" for the gallery.