Mixing the NGV’s Triennial and its own collection together as I was decidedly zombie on the day (Paea saw me and laughed), and sometimes not sure where one or the other began or stopped, and saving all the old cruft for a separate post.
Richard Mosse I confused with Trevor Paglen, whose Limit Telephotography and The Black Sites work has been turning up in my reading for over a decade. Mosse is kind of a successor, or working similarly, pushing photographic technology and making deeply political art. Louisa Bufardeci also, though using manual labour to again create something on first view beautiful and aesthetic, which is contextualised into a evidence of and memorial for refugees whose boats sunk at sea off the coast of Australia. Both these works sit uneasily inside Fortress Australia and within the NGV, as Mosse’s second work (which you have to pass through to reach Incoming) describes: the NGV’s former use of Wilson’s security, to whom the government outsourced illegal detention centre policing. (The NGV ended its contract with Wilson’s after artists’ protests, organised by Gabrielle de Vietri and others, though the relationship between arts institutions like the NGV, policing and generations of human rights violations remains largely untouched.)
Onto something slightly more cheerful, or at least I could not wipe the smile off my face watching Adel Abidin’sCover Up! where Marilyn Monroe’s iconic subway scene in The Seven Year Itch is replaced by an Arab man wearing a Kandura (Dishdasha, Thawb) giving me the cheekiest eye as he tries (not very hard) to prevent a flash of leg.
Next to that is Faig Ahmed, with a 21st century Azerbaijani carpet, digitally bleeding and glitching. Hal reminds me of the Afghan War Rugs, cultural memory lossy compression like a jpg, copied and recopied with no line of context to an original, regional signifiers and techniques that say authentic and traditional unfolded as repeating geometric shapes of aircraft carriers, World Trade Centre towers, text like USA and Pepsi, blocks of iconography decoupled from meaning, becoming pattern again.
Timo Nasseri, Epistrophy, op-art cut into the wall like the mid-20th century works of Adolf Luther I saw in Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal. Possibly a new profile photo coming out of that, but not thinking much of it until I looked at more of his work and saw the thread of Islamic / Islamicate architecture and mathematics in it. Good choice for a profile photo, then.
Jumping to the last artist, Nusra Latif Qureshi. She used to come into the VCA Student Union when we were both students. I always loved her art, miniatures in the South Asian tradition (which has connections to mediæval European illuminations, art flowing along the lines of trade as much as trade and commerce), and I was really happy to see her work in the NGV. Again, political, the colonial history of Europe in the unbroken history of Asia-Pacific.
I had thoughts, weaving through the Triennial and the NGV’s permanent collection in my spent, post-festival state. Thoughts. Many. I had. Like, the art that can touch me is always political, because art is inseparable from political, unless the artist has the luxury to be insulated from having political’s gaze turn onto them, so they get to play with ideas and technology and pretend there are no consequences, no urgency, no struggle; they get to live without the violence of history. I see myself in art that is political, even though it is seldom specifically ‘about’ me. I see also a difference between the superficially political, diversity as aesthetic, and art by artists whose lives, by their very existence, is political. I saw the strength of the NGV when it celebrates, represents, amplifies Asia-Pacific and Indigenous artists. This is when it makes sense, not when it assembles an incoherent, contextless junk box of ‘European’ art, manufacturing a phantasmic history of Australia, like Australia was ever located just off the coast of England, or when it divides that into Art and anything pre-Invasion Asia-Pacific into Ethnography. I didn’t see the entirety of the Triennial or the NGV, it’s an awkwardly designed interior space, easy to miss cul-de-sac turn-offs that open to entire wings, more time walking to and from and between than through art. It struggles between competing imperatives, like that of its European fantasy, or oddly misplaced exhibitions that owe more to consular trade and advertising than art and artists. But, see the Triennial? Yes, if you’re in Naarm. There’s good stuff there (heaps I didn’t see, let alone photograph).
There seem to be a lot of Baroque merchant palaces I am visiting lately. Admittedly the centre of Bologna is unavoidable for these; Berlin on the other hand tends more to the vast architecture plus formal gardens. So I was surprised when arriving at a hotel in Wallstr, the façade of which is of that horribly generic post-war German construction that it hid a Rococo gem. One that wasn’t even built on that land, according to the hotel website, but was moved there from its former, 17th century location.
I was there to tie a model for a photo shoot, the photographer Boris Krajl had contacted me via Dasniya. In-between the shibari, I wandered and took some photos. On the walls curiously, were drawings of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s wrapping of buildings – architectural shibari. One of them was the Sydney Opera House.
A train to Antwerpen with no ticket despite my attempts to buy one. Thirty minutes in which I think upon what I like about living in Europe. Sleeping. Thirty minutes to a new city as intriguing as Brussels or… that a short trip can take me somewhere new.
I arrive. Find chocolate. Walk. Admire the architecture, reminding me of Amsterdam, along with beautiful towers of Art Deco and other edifices laced with Art Nouveau. The Centraal Station for example, one of such beauty. Well, me, I do have a fondness for train stations and airports. Bus terminals tend to be the shabby best-left-unmentioned cousins, as perhaps evinced by the name terminal instead of station.
I walk towards fashion. Yoji Yamamoto, with exquisite felted wool trousers, skirts, jackets, Dries van Norten … I look for Anna Demeulemeester, but fail, though wander near the canal. I find Walter van Beirendonck, but struggle to find my way into the old carpark. Later I do, and exit, with a scarf. Thinking of Daniel.
Later still, I find my way east to Troubleyn. My reason for venturing to Antwerp, to see Orgy of Tolerance (I shall try and write of that elsewhere). I exit the toilet and find Ivo standing there. Later again, it rains, a phenomenal deluge turning highways into small lakes, we pass through in hazes of mist and opaqueness.
Ok, so I’m reblogging, get over it. Anyway it’s about Helsinki, the city I almost went to last year for a weekend of smut with a washed-up old choreographer who possibly is reading this and needs it impressed on him that one email in a year isn’t romantic, even by the standards of your barbarian isle. So, back to Helsinki, where bike couriers, who, like dancers possess the innate avant-fashion style fashion aspires to and is always late.
I always miss my bike when I’m not in Melbourne, the closest I’ve come to the same feeling is riding scooters in Taipei or catching a motorbike taxi in Guangzhou. Both these means of transport understand that traffic flows like water, a concept drivers in Melbourne fail to grasp, having similarities with rockfalls and avalanches. A body of moving cars has a language to how it moves, a predictability like a torrent cascading through rapids. That feeling of sliding through traffic, and the aliveness I feel every time I start pedaling, no matter how tired I am, is one of the greatest love affairs of my life.
There’s more to riding a fixed gear than purely the madness of travelling at high speeds in downtown traffic, without brakes. It’s the simplicity of the bicycle and the pedalling movement that makes it special. These guys have a fluidity of movement through traffic which means that they can make really quick decisions.
People who cycle a lot in cities often say that cars seem like personalities in their own right, the person behind the wheel is non-existant. Cars follow their own rules and logic, and by understanding that logic couriers gain a belief and a confidence that they can out-think or out-manoeuver a car. It was this confidence that amazed me, the intuitive trust that a gap will appear in traffic which the courier can slip through without slowing down. Later, when I asked if they ever rode wearing helmets, one of them replied we don’t come to work to crash.