Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bubble n Squeak

For a moment I toyed with calling this post 'Rain and Bird shit' as a way of registering my irritation with some of the comments over at The Orwell Prize blog. In particular I'm talking about those comments which express dismay that things Political didn't occupy Orwell's thoughts all the time. On this point, that many of the comments take the liberty of referring to Orwell by his birth name, Eric Blair, rather than his pen name, strikes me as especially ironic. What after all are the expectations of the personal diaries of a man with whom they presume such familiarity? It seems to me that there's a mordant fear of banality, in the sense of something trite or trivial, evident in the comments. It's as if the commenters are convinced that if they betray any interest in someone interested in the change of seasons or the ripening of various fruits and crops or, yes, the colour of the local birds' shit, then that will somehow reflect upon them in such a way that is incommensurate with their sense of themselves as people who only think Important Thoughts.

One can only hope, on their behalf, that Orwell's perspective on the outbreak of WWII will prove to be a suitably interesting contrast to all that terrible banality. Hmmm, isn't that an old Chinese curse?: 'May you live in interesting times'.

I suppose my irritation with these comments arises from the fact that I have a less fractious relationship with banality. Meaghan Morris reminds us that banality also means 'commonplace'; it is the ordinary and everyday aspects of life that many humans have in common. When banality is understood as a 'common place', then it is a place to arrive at rather than flee from. This is much of what cultural studies is concerned with. So, on that note, I will say that it's also getting warmer here in Brisbane as Spring is officially but a couple of days away, and the shit that concerns me most right now is that of fruit bats: why do they have to splash it all over the side of house?


I eventually decided upon 'Bubble n Squeak' because, although you wouldn't know from that diatribe above, this was planned as a kind of bits and pieces post. I have a few things to mention that probably warrant dedicated posts, but I don't really have the stamina to write all the posts I want to, or think I should be writing, right now. As well, I can't resist a culinary pun when there is one to be had.

So, I'm sitting here, with a glass of red wine in hand--my first since my sister scared me with all her talk of fatty liver disease--and munching on vitaweats with hummus bi tahina and roast capsicum, trying to figure out how to make my thoughts concise and orderly.

Even as I say that, I have to go off on a tangent immediately to tell you that I did have a glass or two of white wine last Friday when I went over to Clare's new house-sit. There, I was commandeered as a pillow by the cat of the house. All was going very well until even this cat-deprived cat lover had to go to the bathroom and so disrupt said cat's slumber. Who needs LOLCats to interpret the language of cats? It was a very clear message: 'Pillow. Ur doin' it wrong'.


I wrote some notes on the way home, on the back of a template for a mask I picked up from the kids section of the 'Picasso and His Collection' exhibition, to remind myself of the things I wanted to tell you. Let me go and get it.


I pilfered the 'Make A Mask' template to give to my niece next time I see her. I did the same with the Kids' Activity book from the Andy Warhol exhibition that GoMA hosted earlier this year. She had a fun time with that. Now, whenever she says something is boring, I ask her 'What did Andy Warhol say?' She's never terribly impressed by that come back.

These exhibitions, along with the Meaghan Morris lecture I linked to above, are definitely events I think I should have blogged about, not here so much as over at Sarsaparilla. I haven't posted over there for a while, and I do feel some responsibility to represent Brisbane and Queensland since I'm the only contributor from these parts.

Anyway, just briefly, I enjoyed both exhibitions. I liked the way the Picasso exhibition placed the artist so firmly in the context of his influences, making the point that he was able to make something new because he was an avid collector and admirer of other artists' works. Like writers who read, he was an artist who was better because was literate in his chosen medium.

Overall, I think the Andy Warhol exhibition was better as an exhibition. Perhaps that's due in part to Warhol's own marketing savvy (certainly the gift shop offered a better range of merchandise). It felt far more dynamic than 'Picasso and his Collection'. I'll make special mention of the time-line in the Picasso exhibition, which was just so wordy and cumbersome, a blockade in the middle of the exhibition. I decided I could read about Picasso's life in the exhibition's catalogue that I would inevitably purchase.

I suppose one could argue that the equivalent of the time-line in the Warhol exhibition was the cabinets jammed with the ephemera of Warhol's shoe-boxes, but perhaps because it was ephemera and not an historical time-line, I was happy to take a far more aleatory approach to the material.

It was good to see some works by Henri Matisse that I hadn't before. What colours!


Looking at my notes, I seem to have been a bit crankier on the way home than I am now. I've noted that while looking at the exhibition there were a couple of times when I hung back to let a few voluble 'experts' move ahead of me. I like silence when contemplating pictures, or rather I like the head space to think things through. A ridiculous expectation to have in a public art gallery, I know.

I did have to laugh when one young boy was acting as a guide to some younger children, pointing out the various anatomical features in Picasso's more abstract works so they could make sense of the figures.


On the way home, I walked across the Victoria Bridge and saw the preparations for the Riverfire fireworks tonight. There were people waiting on the bridge, up to 2 hours before the fireworks began. That's committment.

On the bridge, there were tubes filled with those plastic bread bag seals, accompanied by signs that said some extraordinary number of them had been fished from the river. I've forgotten the number. The statistic that stuck in my head was the one that said if they were stacked on top of one another the line would extend 1km.

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