The This Is Not Art festival’s here again, from 11 am on Sunday, 2 October. Newcastle printmaker Christine Bruderlin will be selling prints at the King Street Car Park Zine Fair and Artists Market. This is a great opportunity to pick up a card and print, such as this beautiful gem, Dusk, Boreas Road.
The weekend rain took it all away: the tennis balls, the busted whipper-snipper, the broken bike, the pair of baby-blue crocks, the ten thousand sixty hunred and ten empty Powerade bottles. The creek looked almost naked without the crud, though I know it’ll only be a matter of days before the process of accretion begins all over again.
On the way home tonight I saw the dosser again. He looked wet and filthy and miserable. I said hello but he ignored me.
There’s a kind of halfway house or something on Newcastle Street. Walking past with Jambo, some guy on the verandah tugging away at his pre-dinner gasper, shouted, “Is that a bulldog?” I said, “Nah, it’s a terrier”. He said, “Bull terrier?”, like I might’ve been mistaken all this time. I said, “Nah, mate, it’s a cairn terrier”. There was a pause as I carried on, then I heard him shout, “Looks like a bulldog to me”. You be the judge.
The council’s fixing up the paths around Hamilton North. A couple of weeks ago they sent around crews with grinders to to take off the trip hazards where tree roots had pushed one slab up against one another, then this week they put down fresh slabs.
After the crews knocked off for the weekend they stored all their amber hazard lamps in a big pile next to the surveyor’s office, on the corner of Chatham and Boreas roads. It made a bizarre impromptu sculpture, especially as the lights were still blinking in random sequence. It looked like a futuristic robot graveyard.
I was worried that their batteries would flatten before I could get to them for a night shot (with a proper camera, not my phone) but they were still there, desperately plugging away, slowly dying … dying …
There’s something disturbing about this arrangement, though I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s as simple as the location – a packet of crystals “for slow running drains” (definitely needs a hyphen) – here in Styx Creek, aka “the drain”.
Or maybe it’s the weird placement of the doll’s leg that makes it look as though it could stand up at any minute and start hopping around, like the mutant toys in Toy Story.
Either way, I don’t like it.
There are many pleasant strolling places around Hamilton North, though my perennial favourite is Styx Creek, and from there into the old gasworks. The gasworks site has often been promoted as having the potential for some kind of development, from caravan park to medium-density housing to even the site for the Fat As Butter musical festival, but the contamination of the soil always stymies progress. Which is swell, because it’s one of the few places in the inner city where reptiles and birds and native plants can grow and thrive and die unhindered.
There is, as I’ve mentioned before on here, wildlife of other sorts living unnoticed between the cracks. When they redeveloped the colossus that is the new KFC on Hunter Street a team of archaeologists discovered one of the state’s oldest Aboriginal middens; it was buried by drive thru tat before the report could ever be made public. This midden speaks of a different kind of nomad. I’m not sure what an archaeologist, sifting through in 200 years time, would make of the pills, syringes and fag packets. And, erm, Air Wick.
The gasworks has attracted other kinds of urban nomads, mostly the kids who like trashing stuff, and the street artists. I’ve queried before whether it’s actually street art when it’s not on the street. I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to just to leave their mark, but some of the best graffiti around the gasworks site is tucked away inside the shells of derelict buildings. Who will ever see this stuff?
On the other hand I do love the spontaneous expression of this “love cock”, as pure and confidently executed as anything by [insert name of fancy artist because I don’t know anyone except Picasso].
A photographer friend and I were discussing this issue, that of the unseen graffiti that’s become a real part of urban culture. He sent me this link to artists who aren’t even on the street but are below the street, this time in Paris. (And of course, being French, once they’ve vandalised some ancient catacomb they then have coffee and cakes with sparklers in them. Sacre bleu!)
The gasworks has been hit by the ubiquitous (and adventurous) Cube. The rest vary between moderately interesting forms of expression to angry kids hitting out with paint.
Whatever, I pray every day that the gasworks will remain a contaminated catastrophe, kind of like Newcastle’s Fukushima, because as long as it’s filthy the white-shoe brigade won’t want to know. Given that the EPA has pasted a Declaration of Significantly Contaminated Sites on it I think I’m ok for a while. Vive la pollution.
I sometimes wish that I had a better camera in my phone. There’s a terrible delay function that’s resulted in lots of missed opportunities – things moving or disappearing just as the “shutter” decides to click – and today was one of those days. As I was walking under the railway bridge a clear plastic cup bobbed downstream, bucking and writhing in a peculiar way. As it came next to me I realised that there was a fish inside the cup, a quite large fish about eight inches long, perhaps a carp. It’d obviously swum into the cup, which would have been transparent, and found itself unable to reverse out. It was too far out and moving too quickly for me to rescue, and of course the camera function on my phone was completely out of its depth.
However, my mood was improved on the way back when I came across this lovely little pineapple. I might not be able to save Nature and the world, or do anything about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (see previous post) but I do now have fifty bucks to splash out on fast women and wild living.
Very timely, as Newcastle’s annual This Is Not Art festival is almost upon us. I’m not sure if this picture, found in the old gasworks site, is art defiled, a piece of crap put sternly in its place, a bold social statement, or (d) none of the above.
Greenpeace calls it the Trash Vortex; Wikipedia the less eloquent (but perhaps more accurate) Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Whatever the name, you get the idea: lots of plastic crap lolling around the world’s waterways, little bits and pieces all clinging to one another.
It should have come as no surprise that the same principles that operate in the Trash Vortex/GPGP are at work in my own little corner of the world, but it did. I thought I’d seen the last of the little blue croc that turned up with Princes What’s-her-name, but Hallelujah! Down the creek this morning and not only was the croc back, but so was its pair! And the ping-pong ball/Rover. And the brain!
Honesty notice: I don’t move the things that I find when I photograph them; if they’re in a crap pozzy then so be it. However, I these two shoes were about fifteen feet apart and they really were crying out to be reunited.
Visual artists are a grand bunch, in general. I certainly envy the way that a skilled draftsman can capture a scene or an aspect or an object in a way that doesn’t attempt to copy whatever it is they’re drawing but accentuates and highlights the essence of the thing that makes it what it is, while making a completely new artefact. I admire this ability to understand the mechanics of a thing and then present it to me in a way that makes me see something that I’ve spent my life looking at, without ever actually noticing it.
There are some oddly recurring themes in the visual representations of suburban Australia; at least, the ones that I come across or am attracted to. The geometric designs that power lines make against the blue sky is one. The first time I noticed this (or the representation of it) was on the T-shirts the Ashtray collective was producing in the 1980s. I worked at the Arid Lands Environment Centre in Alice Springs back then and we used to sell lots of Ashtray stuff, mostly Paul Worstead’s Ayers Rock Fruit Salad and Not Passing Through shirts, though one of my favourites was Reg Mombassa‘s power lines shirt. Universally reviled as a clothing motif and almost impossible to sell.
Sometimes we notice things subconsciously but don’t notice that we’re noticing them, even when we’re engaging with them at some level. Okay: change that “we” for “me”. I had pictures of the trees that have been pruned by the council subcontractors, so that they don’t hinder the power lines but, even after having taken them I hadn’t known what to do with them. This one’s on Emerald Street, though it could be anywhere around town.
It’s a bit like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, building mountain shapes with mashed potato and clay but not knowing why. This one finally found its mental “home” when Trevor Dickinson produced this tree drawing as part of his Newcastle series (you’ll have to go to his Newcastle Productions website to view it).
Ah! Thank you, Trevor. I now know what it was that I was looking at all this time and trying to see.