Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DAY10 on Day292:Straight feedback

It might seem like I am excluding again by pushing the transcription of the straight feedback to a blog site all its own. But at approximately 19,000 words (40 pages) it would out-weigh the rest of blog. Maybe you need the blankness of a white curtain for a rigorous and relentless discussion to ensue. There are only a few names mentioned so it’s really a mass of unidentified (closeted?) voices (joke). But really, the discussion was long, amazing and articulate and such a valuable contribution to the project. Well that’s until I answer some questions at the end and become ‘like’ an ‘um’ insecure ‘like’ ‘you know’ mess of words. That’s the thing about professional transcription – it captures almost everything recorded. I got the feedback session transcribed (very affordably) by a woman named Sue who often transcribes the unidentified conversations of focus group for companies and their products. Interesting parallel. Thanking those who contributed.

Read full transcript


Mashing drag – we need more practice

In regards to group conversations - maybe as a small, disparate community we’re out of practice. Maybe there was a need for more audience feedback, to give the interaction some space to breathe with the ideas and gestures presented by Gary Carsley (convener), Scott Redford, Alex Martinis Roe, Sue Dodd and Phillip Brophy. Maybe the topic of the forum was too broad and at times misdirected. Maybe we (the audience) needed to put our ideas on the line like some of the panellists.

I continually got the impression as I was sitting near the back of GCAS (Cate Constadine’s log in my face) that the panellists weren’t talking in the same neighbourhood. I agree with Alexie Glass (director of GCAS) at the conclusion that there was no need for consensus to be reached - but this still left the punters wanting. Probably due to the topic (DRAG/MASH) that was so loaded but at the same time was being hollowed of its political queerness and replaced by a series of processes eerily reminiscent of those described by Nicolas Bourriaud in 'postproduction.' Not that anyone has naming rights to series of artistic tendencies that are old but new again. I guess Carsley was describing appropriation and hybrid theory not on as a representational by-product but as a performative process used by artists. “Drag as a verb not a noun…. Drag that doesn’t take hostages.” What was a curious decision (after the de-queering) is that Gary Carsley used drag as his example for DRAG/MASH – albeit some would say of the more radical variety created by Leigh Bowery and Pauline Pant-Down – popular amongst those ‘Trotsky’ triple J’ers. Martinis Roes provided the forum with a simultaneous rigour, clarity and abstraction through her exploration of the constitution of a critical artistic practice. Footy dads dragging as mere strategy that use representation as a vehicle for objectification and the critical drag that is tactical (cheers Certeau) and deals with performitivity as opposed to performance. “Two singers doing the same karaoke song…who they are… where they are, makes a difference…” (That was a real bad ‘mashing’ of Alex’s presentation – quite apt really). Redford used an example of his high school collage to compare with his collaging technique 30 years later. “There’s no difference,” he pointed out – to the sound of laughter in the audience. “I see it in a book and then rip it off.” Carsley responded to Redford’s use of the world guilty. “Originality as a form of violence…. guiltless position of drag…not interested in canonical interpretation.” Dodd hilariously narrated a Chinese ‘New Idea’ and provided a moment that contrasted with her presentation, which was on the whole in keeping with her ‘Gossip Pop’ performance work. “There’s a moment when looking in the mirror…when one needs to escape the vision before you…” Phillip Brophy had all the moves – or the words for a person who denies being an artist but is continuously being validated by art institutions and stands for the visceral and the bodily but has had an academic moment or two. Maybe he should have commented on the Kingpins and his feminist (?) perspective on the conventional definition of drag at the same time as his sharp musings on pop emptiness/fullness and before the antagonistic questioning from the floor - that created a tension to say the least. I felt protective of the forum. For a predominantly straight (or there abouts) audience, drag needed to be critiqued within the realm of camp Commercial Rd but at the same time given a space. This should be a delicate operation – unless you want the weight of a homophobic backlash to strike again. I felt the anger expressed in “can you give any examples of DRAG/MASH…the Kingpins for example…or do only gay men do it?” as a result of a jaded and justifiable suspicion of gay male chauvinism. But it was an over reaction and probably more a by-product of the failures of coalitionist politics (between lesbians and gays) than the fault of Carsley, Redford or gay men. Thanks very much Janet.

On the whole I found listening to the vast differences between the presentation worth while – not as a rumination or critique of DRAG/MASH but as an exploration of how as artists we represent ourselves in professional and peripheral activities like artist talks, slide talk, feedback sessions and interviews. We need to do this more. Not only describe how we do it as artists but how we represent ourselves as women, queers indigenous etc.- the what, the where and the whys.

Comments really welcome on this.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reply to Robert Schubert

Dear Robert,

I am responding today because BAD GAY ART was/is on my mind. This post/open letter is more tribute to the show rather than a response to your generous comment in late January. Of course this is threaded through my personal recollections of that show - presented by the Sydney’s Mardi Gras in 1997. You probably also have to imagine that this email has been sent by ship (a slow ship with wharf disputations at both sides of the exchange.)

Continue reading letter to Robert

Sunday, November 05, 2006

DAY 9 on Day 282: Queer feedback

Should I post six months after my last post and not mention my hiatus? Maybe nobody is reading… Regardless – I made a commitment to tie those loose ends and adequately document the last few activities. After all isn’t - prompt completion - adhering to timelines and creating a manageable project within the boundary given privileging something archly conservative…blah blah blah or something. Did I mention the burning bridges or the river’s ecology - I am slowly building some pontoons. Lets see how we go…

So I have at last spell-checked the first feedback session but have left whole lot of (not-so-right) syntax unchanged. This was the feedback for the queer identifiers. I invited the Midsumma Visual Arts Committee, artists and writers. I haven’t gone through the normal clearing procedures so I won’t name them explicitly. (They did know the feedback was being recorded) Jeff (curator) facilitated the event. Jon (my partner) kindly transcribed the whole proceeding because I had some mini-disc recorder malfunction. So there are parts where he couldn’t hear what the participants were saying. Don’t worry the straight feedback is recorded and being transcribed by professionals. Their words are like… What is that saying? (Bridges Spiros – remember the bridges.)

Descriptive Feedback

John: This is really full on. Seems like there is a whole lot of platforms. Made of raw pine sort of screwed together varying heights. When I looked in the window weeks ago, all of these components were in one cube that was sort of closed off form from the outside. Now they’re sort of open and each component of that cube has a function in this space in different ways. Over here where Jon is typing on the apple Mac, it’s a low height which is quite a broad square area, black painted with wood panels on the surface and this is sort of like a messy number I can’t really say what its like. On top of this surface is a smattering of stuff, wine, paper, books whatever. But the interesting thing for me is the other things and how they’re all functioning. Here it’s like a display unit with this higher table, and on the unit are these geometric volumed shapes with shapes cut out and the holes filled with different coloured cellophane. The forms look like they’re cut and glued together with a glue gun. There’s a jumble of them that fills the whole surface. There’s a really nice a2 or a1 poster in brown paper with lettering in red saying 'groups do it better.' Over here there’s another display table it's like a little pop-eye village or something with all sorts of paper forms, some of them are volumed dimensional objects. There’s chimney shapes in burgundy paper, there’s Mattise shapes in (the leaf, I can't say the leave shapes) there’s spirals that are unfurling in the space the chimney continue in the lower rungs, the colours are gold and yellow and red and brown as well as the burgundy I mentioned. One thing I really like is the cube shaped forms that stand about 550 mm. high, they look like they have a solid plane on the base and the topside. The solid planes are painted black and the other legs are uncovered pine. There’s probably 10 dotted around the room and they look like they might function as a stool not sure I’m allowed to say that either but someone is sitting on one. There’s other seating arrangements too that look like the corner of a cube. Again it’s the black plane and the structural pine screwed together. Both have beanbags secured to them so its corner styled seating arrangement. Someone’s sitting on one. Over here there’s a box which is the same as the upright stools but its laying on its side and there’s 6 cones sitting regularly that look like they have been rolled into a cone. Above it are further cones but they're not pure cones like the ones underneath. To describe them…. they are party hats. (All laugh). - With lots of squiggly bits of paper that are stuck on them - a witch, black piece of paper that pierces one of the cones, they’re gathered together in a particular arrangement and the arrangements is strung up by a nail through the wall. But the mass of the 6 cones is much more playful than the cones underneath. The colour really has an impact in this ensemble. The cones are also pointing down which is sort of interesting. There’s one materials strung up against the window and coming out from the window on an orange nylon cord that leads up to the lighting rack and over here to one of the surface tables. Sheets have been pegged to these cords. This might be a valance. In the sheets and valances there are holes, numerable holes cut. Smaller in the brown larger in the red valance, and small hole in the yellow sheet. Over here there are more of these boxed stack in quite a different arrangement from anything else in the room into a little wall. It becomes over here a little tiled freestanding wall, When I look around it's empty from the back. The shelves go across on the 4 levels. Here there’s a big poster made of card with male and female paper doll cut outs repeated in 4 rows. I say there male and female but I'm not entirely sure that’s true. Some wearing boys clothes some girl smocks some international symbols. There are little ring party garlands or paper chains and I have a feeling that the paper of the paper chains comes form these midsumma programs. This looks like a work desk to me there's a slide knife notebook, stapler, guillotine, little staplers, empty film cartridge a few glasses, vinyl lettering saying without Spiros Panigirakis there's a tripod a camera. There are four paper garlands that have been strung up. Some of them just trail off and finish. Some trails off in to this pile of garlands spilling off the worktable. There’s a ladder next to storage - always difficult to know where to put the ironing board. We have more supplies of brown cardboard, some paint.

Edwina: Cut up bits of paper left over from the workplace. There's a big pile of Midsumma catalogues on a black box sitting at the workbench. There are also two containers on the grounds with amounts of alcohol. There’s a bag with photocopied texts from the 90 s about 30 pieces of papers. There’s a 'They shoot homos magazine' – I thought it was a Benetton catalogue. There’s a strip of negatives hanging over one of the corner alcove fittings with the beanbags. There’s the interior of the screens. From the inside of the space looking out we have a semi transparent view of the street whereas from outside our view is completely blocked.

Responsive Feedback

Charlotte: From outside the screens remind me of shops that have been done up or changed ownership and have screens to block the view. Rather than just screening the inside they negate the idea that there is something inside to look at.

Jeff: Knowledge that you can’t see inside from outside changes the way you feel in the space. And creates a kind of cheekiness for me and the idea that you can see without being seen. Does that affect the way you feel meeting with this group knowing that it’s blocked.

Charlotte: There’s the mystery of whether there are people in the space but also of whether there’s something here. It does remind me of those transitional spaces that are in process.

Edwina: I think I associate those screens with rear screen projections. It makes you curious about what is going on.

Charlotte: With window text it almost looks like a guerilla marketing campaign because the white space reads easily as slick interior design.

Fiona: To me the material reads as very domestic. There’s a whole idea about suburban design and renovation rescue in the back garden. It appears to me to be like of a shade cloth material. To me it's significant and carries on into this sort of Ikea dismountable objects

Charlotte: Carries on into the kid’s craft feel of the object.

Jeff: I think that’s what I meant when I said it felt like a secure space, with the helmets with semi shoddy glue gun construction. Craft based work renders it a more comfortable space to exist in. Is interesting to contrast that to what you say that you saw a couple of weeks ago.

John: It’s much more profuse. It’s not just like the things open it’s that it’s exploded. The materiality is what enables that explosion

Fiona: It’s also the activity.

Charlotte: People came into the space and felt comfortable to take ownership.

Edwina: The pieces that are lying around have a routine or used feel like an artists studio.

Jeff: It definitely has that aura of informality and sense of messiness and something less formal.

Edwina: I think if the screens were up you’d have a different experience of occupying this space.

Michael: Part of the relaxedness of being in here is that it’s not about seeing or looking at stuff. My subjectivity is probably affected by having taken part in an activity. It is just about being it’s not really about looking at anything. It doesn’t have the intensity that I normally feel in a gallery even when its set up to be an experience. I don’t feel that distance. That might also be about my familiarity with Spiros.

John: What strikes me about outside and get a minimalist pleasure or minimalist fantasy. That’s the work or what’s presented to the world. In here its about artists work and when you put out to the world its this nice thing but in here its about the sweat and toil. This is really all about activity.

Charlotte: It seems like a very manicured activity. Each activity has been given its own workspace. Even the stuff on the floor is obviously generated from one activity rather than from activities layer on other activities. There’s also a kind of order that s generated through the quite limited palette. The Midsumma catalogues, different covers. There’s quite a lot of visual order. It’s a manicured and ordered work environment.

Edwina: When I first came in it was like there was chaos and then I noticed order and found comfort in that.

Fiona: The dismantling of the cube structure is like an infinite explosion. Is also quite reductive. Becomes more and more explosive. Here is Bauhaus, there children. Material paradigm... white cube routines. Seen as more reductive but in fact more expansive, the elaboration of the interior and what is contained and excluded in that.

Jeff: Interesting because each grouping on each bench is quite discrete from the other. So there’s like a condensation of time. Makes me wonder if what we see is a presentation of the outcome as well as evidence of the activities. Wonder if these things are happenings simultaneously or if they happened at different t moments.

Charlotte: The neat order with which things have been placed precludes you from picking them up and disrupting. Even though there’s chaos there's a lot of things telling you not to pick them up and play with them.

John: That’s particularly so with that display on the wall. Something about exuberance, and particular... I think you tend to do that in all sorts of situations.

Jeff: To me that configuration for the hats is the most traditional museum display and it makes me wonder about the museological display, if there’s an audience, why do that in this private space.

Michael: It’s to create a photo for the blog.

Fiona: I’ve been following the blog. It looks very different on the blog. That’s the function of the photographic medium. You don’t get the idea of the seepage that’s coming out of these objects. They seem much more presented and people are wearing the hats. I mean its very engaging and looks very beautiful. But it doesn’t have the same idea of the.... well the kind of... The chord that blocks access to that part of the room, and you need to look across that to the museological assemblage. And then you have to think about receptacles, and I don’t want to go there. You don’t get that feeling on the blog. Everything seems much more presented.

Jeff: What the blog self consciously does is it kind of 'narrative-ises' it. There’s much more of a sense of a presented narrative rather than this more oblique process.

John: Except for the text that raises all sorts of issues. Especially about queer art, identity whatever. And I thing that’s interesting. So there’s a visual thing which is happening her and on the blog, and there’s an argument which is happening.

Charlotte: This is the first time I’ve been into the space, but because I've followed the blog I came here with a lot of knowledge. That gave me some power coming into the space through those manicured shots that enabled me to assume some familiarity with it. Virtual experience of something is just a virtual experience; it gives you some ways into something.

Jeff: Did you disagree with John’s objective description because you came in with that knowledge?

Charlotte: No it was more things like interpretation of the cones as party hats – I came into the space and looked at them and it took me a few second before I’d seen them on the blog as party hats. So when Jon described them I remember that I identified them as party hats because the blog had told me.

Edwina: I didn’t have time to go the blog - to me they were geometric objects made of crafty materials. I didn’t see them as helmets. That you can put them on your head is fantastic. Puts one on head.

Michael: Something about reality TV and that’s what the show has been doing.

Jeff: Is that what you felt like when you were in here participating in the activities?

Michael: Yeah, you don’t feel observed but Spiros is going around taking photos of you that will later appear on the website. Another thing I’m aware of is you often come to Gertrude Street and you are aware of other things going on.

Jeff: Issues are being raised about blog and being in a reality TV show that people follow on line. One thing that really struck me on the blog was the voice of Spiros as the artist with neurosis and issues really persisted and linked the narrative thread.

John: Spiros used the term pussy and I thought wow, and there’s something very revealing.

Jeff: You got to know Spiros Panigirakis.

Charlotte: I participated in a lot of online community things – by and large the people whose blogs I read are people I know or have some other point of contact, so there’s quite different community base.

Michael: Seems to me because there is this kind of artificial set – talking about blog.

Jeff: It anchors in something material that exists

Michael: Seems like more of a performance, a performed identity.

Charlotte: I have read someone’s blog lately though myspace – send each other material artifacts. No real life meeting as in Canberra. He’s become part of my community. Those ideas of virtuality, performance, and online space relate to real life situations and materiality in compels ways as they often feed into each other.

Fiona: I would like to pick the up on the comment that in a way we don’t see the gist. This is always the condition of the Midsumma program. One thing I like that the blog is the way he addresses that – wanting to get away from the homo as window dresser. Something about... (not audible)

John: This is like Spiros in his bedroom Video he made of him singing in a private performance space. That’s what’s extraordinary about the web the way people put themselves out in a private participatory space. Even the hanging is like Spiro's private bedroom hanging. Is not window dressing in that sense.

Jeff: There is an element of connoisseurship in curating – about colour.

Charlotte: Another fag stereotype. There does seem to be that kind of 50s domestic performance where you prepare for the party, you make your cakes etc. I’ve been making layered cakes and they have the same sort of aesthetic order that people impose on quite domestic private occasions – when they want people to witness their wedding or come to their party. The kind of very neat presentation does seem like 50s sponge cakes. The same kind of temporary feeling that something has been neatly manicured to be taken apart once the event has happened. So rather than it being about curatorship which are about public …

Fiona: Does it links i to a public paradigm.

Jeff: Is interesting what you say about the domesticity of the space. Constantly there are being cookies backed, or coffee brewed. It really ties into what you’ve been saying about domestic preparation.

John: When I came in he was putting chain up – like preparing for the party.

Charlotte: Like notions of hospitality but not quite.

John: Is by invitation...

Jeff: What’s your experience?

Michael: One thing is that it all kind of made sense. Before I didn’t really understand even though Spiro had been talking to me about it for weeks. When I came in that night I really got it. Is sort of like a mix of public and domestic, friends and strangers or colleagues. It’s about this balance.

Edwina: Hosting a party is like that also – old friends and new blood.

Michael: And the question of whether they turn up.

Fiona: I found interesting on the blog the aspect of in what way, or what level people are prepared to participated. Chronicle the disappointment, and does it look good. Even the number of comments on the blog – I thought there would be a lot more. It’s raising really interesting discussions – particularly the last few days. The whole hand job thing was great. How do you exhibit as a gay artist, and how do you exhibit queer work and how its located. That’s the role of this space and how it’s being worked with and…works totally celebratory and also critical.

Charlotte: Takes on the normal exclusionary door policy of art galleries and bends. Quite often-exclusionary spaces on class and educational basis. Way in which to have an exclusionary policy.

Edwina: Does say by appointment.

Charlotte: Reinforces exclusionary…similar to the lairds door policy or something.

Michael: Like idea of the serious buyer – do you want to buy into this – to make the phone call, to subscribe to this, are you going to read enough of the blog to work out what’s going one. The text outside is not exactly encouraging people to read...

Fiona: And also wants to read another blog…take it or leave it

Charlotte: Comments on blog – people who comment are other bloggers... as a performance

Jeff: Different levels of engagement.

Charlotte: Because in midsumma program brings in an audience that isn’t normally part of art community.

Jeff: Also random access and people from other blogs.

Michael: Was pretty mixed crowd at opening…spiro's friends…was aware I went to a Midsumma event and spent most of my time talking to straight men.

Jeff: I thought it was a really 'Midsumma' crowd.

Fiona: re Michael – The work set that up. Drove past the cube sitting in the window and thought oh god its Gertrude St boys show. And then when I found out what it was that was sort of great. And in terms of an objective is great. I thought I just don’t want to know whose work it is. And that was great about the launch was about the whole dismantling of that paradigm and scenario. I’m not surprised that there were a lot.

Michael: The activity I came to –there were 3 lesbians and 3 gay men but none of us where volunteers. Want to know the gender breakup.

Spiros: For the reading group I was trying to be quite balanced, but people always drop out. 4:3 boys: girls
Volunteers: 3 females
Rainbow network: 1 female worker and all male participants
Activists: 2 female one male
jerk off – no one.

Jeff: Obviously the process of exclusion, but there’s also the inclusion of the invited groups. Do people feel that it’s a representation of queer culture, or is it weighted in terms of gender, sexuality?

Charlotte: Midsumma bills itself as being gay and lesbian. Definitely excludes people and a lot of people I know.

John: What excludes you?

Charlotte: I don’t identify as gay or lesbian, Have been to a lot of midsumma spaces in the past, but I often feel that I don’t fit into those spaces. That’s what I liked about the idea of the arts scene and the gay scene and they way they operate as exclusionary spaces.

Fiona:(inaudible) – something about happiness...

Jess: (inaudible)....Assimilation and something gets co-opted rather than included necessarily.

Jeff: Did you think the space operated as a kind of critique?

Charlotte: First though was that it didn’t – to make that phone call or being invited in you needed to feel some kind of connection. I think reading the blog and seeing Gertrude Street space does work critically.

Edwina: Obviously limited no included into physical space but also connection through the virtual. Not sure how inviting that is. Obviously a gender and class difference about who feels comfortable.

Charlotte: Strength is not that it breaks down those barriers, but says that they are here and you can use them in different ways. Use them to create a safe space for a bunch of queers. The way you have the exclusionary door policy to allow things to happen inside that can’t happen in other spaces.

Spiros: Is that a question – I think I can only respond to questions.

John: I’ve got a question – is that a question – what’s the question.

Charlotte: Do you think your door policy is exclusionary?

Spiros: Yes, I have been exclusionary with door policy but it hasn’t worked. I’ve set this space up in the tradition of a university queer room. Women’s room s has probably been around for the last 20 years. I was going to use those to create a kind of barrier for the staff and I kind of dropped it, and I’ve got friends who are studio artists here. So staff and visitors saw the show. So it was always compromised to begin with.

Michael: You don’t see it unless you take part in it.

Fiona: How?

Spiros: What gave me a good impression about Ulanda was that she’s been walking past for the whole duration of the show but she still asked permission to ‘have a look.

Fiona: That’s a different idea of looking – you should put that on the blog.

Spiros: There was another scenario where a friend of mine had no idea about the show, saw the window and rang a studio artist and kind of worked her way in. I heard about it – then one of the studio artist said I was discussing it with _________and we really think you should bring up the blinds.

Fiona: You also ask people to identify themselves as heterosexual, which is confronting because normally they’d just assume.

Jeff: Identifies homosexual as the ones who’d come and look at the space without the knowledge. If you came to see the show as midsummer viewers would have came and there would have been nothing to it.

Edwina: Shows that have a specific focus – if people stumble across it they ask is it ok for me to have a look around.

Charlotte: Isn’t necessarily about identity, you can queer everybody who comes into the space. Also about opening heterosexual people to the possibility of identifying as queer. I always find when you’re in a straight space that it is a straight space because it’s not safe to come onto people or to act in way that in a queer space are permitted.

John: question…The material impetus of the activities that you have don't in the space the chains, thee hats… I get a sense of how the whole space is working in terms of what we’ve been talking about but id love to you to talk about the objects themselves and how they are operating in terms of the whole.

Spiros: I guess each activity is different in a way. So my attitude to the objects in each piece is different. Each pedestal designated to an activity. Midsumma volunteers things was like a thank you for them participating so I was celebrating.

Michael: Was like a conceptual thank you not a real thank you.

Spiros: There was work involved in the party –

Jon: Fun kids know how to squeeze a bit of enjoyment...

Jeff: Sort of idea of communal labour

Spiros: Conversations about what do you do, and how many things you volunteered for...

Jeff: Making things that weren’t for us – different view of process of labour.

Spiros: Two of the volunteers hadn’t volunteered for anything else – so some volunteers volunteered for this...

Michael: To be thanked.

Spiros: Gemma had volunteered for 3 or 4 things – she is a professional volunteer and had been there for 12 hours at the Midsumma launch and other hadn’t rocked up. The hats were almost like portraits. Wanted them to style them in an individual fashion.

John: There is a relationship between the objects and other things that you’ve done.

Sprios: I’ d done that formula with a group of friends and acquaintances. Show at clubs was 3 couples, and everyone had shape they… can’t be bothered writing…I’ve used that formula in high school.

Fiona: In the way you wrote about it on the blog it seemed like that.

Spiros: In terms of doing it with a gay and lesbian youth group I took it different.

Michael: It is important this teacher identity aspect. We need to align you with teacher art not just gay art.

Spiros: With this the difference being that at year 7 or 8 level, trying to communicate at forms and 3d forms. With the adolescent kids – age range 16-19 – when I’d say form they didn’t get it – I wasn’t trying to be pedagogical, so I’d just get them to draw a shape.

Jeff: What were your hopes for that group?

Spiros: I wanted it to be a fun activity for them to think about the construction of something. Some of the participants didn’t quite know how to make a form, didn’t bother about pestering them – asked permission to interpret that. When they came together my attitude to answer there questions – and this came from Michael and when they ask questions you’d say yes – and I found that confronting because as a teacher curriculum to fit into etc – and I took your model of just saying yes to anything. So my attitude was yes.

Michael: So you were sort of getting away from the control of the show.

John: The primacy of the outcome yes.

Spiros: So I set up this theme that I was first going to do this archway…16 year olds arch is not interesting – grand boulevard, but not interesting. So I was thinking of an older play area for older people – your space.

Fiona: You’ve always done that in your work. The idea of ceding control.

Spiros: There’s a lot of control at the start.

Fiona: And then you just work out a mechanism.

Michael: Probably have to ask Jon that question.

Spiros: This is not a result – talking re helmets. Went into detail asking them in an email but not many people responded. They gave me broad parameters and I tried to fulfill that. When I gave them the reading material before Christmas I asked them about what they wanted for the helmets and something about their presumptions. XX works like Russian constructivists.

Fiona: That’s all very referent to that.

Spiros: Was confident about hers because...

Fiona: Did they read the reading material?

Jeff: Was like back to uni – a lot of people who hadn’t read enough but then quite fruitful discussions came out of that...

Spiros: The first discussion was awkward.

Jeff: Reminded me of that first day at uni where people are trying to sort out their positions. Suss out expectation of the group and where people are coming form .

Spiros: There was too much reading at the start, it was too ambitious.

John: Do you feel that the whole project is so big – do you feel like people have moved along with you or have you sort of had to drag people along. There’s a level of altruism.

Edwina leaves

Jeff: Post after post on the blog in this personal confessional mode on the blog. In a way, not as a criticism, quite neurotically.

Spiros: A lot of people can’t be bothered – I mean the blog is too much. There are a lot of things stopping access. Revisiting number is much smaller than the people who visit.

Fiona: I really enjoy the intensity - it’s the most enjoyable idea that you can put something out and people will follow it. I mean it’s going to end tomorrow, but it’s actually not, because it’s set up so many things that will actually track.

Jeff: Hopefully blog will stay alive.

Spiros: Haven’t finished.

Fiona: Seems really clear that you’ve placed the project in that way. In terms of the reading group that you’ve revisited queer writing and shows form the 90s and how that’s situated now. Something about art toys that I went and had a look at them from Monash. So that’s really great to locate that – in a way a dialogue/critique of the space and the whole broader context.

Spiros: In the blog I’m always aware of precedents and things that have happened in the space or in my thinking. I’ve been conscious that I want to write about the teahouse in the front room. Talk about Bianca Hester having dinner with a lot of people e for a show called fame. Something Serepentine. All these shows that I want to talk about.

Jeff: Something about tangential - other directions.

Spiros: Want to continue that for the next month or so.

Jeff: Maybe we should wrap up. Drinks or dinner?

Postscript: Reading through this transcript I realise there are few comments that have not been recorded. The lovely Jon was typing furiously but sometimes there would be competing and overlapping voices. Charlotte commented at some stage that the colours and the abstract nature of the work could be representative of other political positions...replacing the Midsumma catalogue for one relating to black empowerment...Something about the curtain whiting things out... The pendulum swinging the other way... Fiona and Charlotte also discussed the threshold of the space and its bodily connotations. I guess the detail of these comments have been lost. Will discuss with Fiona when she comes back from overseas.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Out of time

Well it's April. I am procrastinating about having a vague plan for the talk I'm giving about this blog (tomorrow) - by actually blogging. Something had to get me out of this lazy stupor of a mood I'm currently in. This was actually my deadline for resolving a few components of the project. Let's just say I'm not going to make that deadline. So in the tradition of apologies translating into action that this project has engaged in, I have decided to post a few pics and talk about my (Greek) Easter weekend.

a.Tried baking tsourekia. Tsoureki is the singular - but it doesn't make sense baking one for the effort it takes. It's such a cutthroat business. I had passed the first hurdle by gaining acceptance at Mum's house on Sunday morning (3am) and was quietly (maybe not that quietly) confident that they would hold their own during the extended family lunch. Their were a few contenders vying for the family's attention unfortunately my tsoureki wasn't even presented at the table - my cousin had achieved a killer bake. My euphemistic consolation was that they it had a good aroma.

b. Went to Brunswick church on Friday night with Jon, Ben, Nikita and Ruth. (Do I need to make a disclosure that Good Friday night mass (Greek Orthodox style) is a cultural event rather than a religious one for the vast majority of attendees?). Ben overheard someone comment that there were too many poofters here tonight. Well I'm glad we're so welcome.

c. My other cousin discussed how couples with children are more grounded than those without.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Ok it’s been a while and there has been enough excuses both online and in person. There will be no ‘Dear diary’ catch-up and hopefully I won’t step on any toes. March is about positivity and…well um posturing. So here it goes.

WITHOUT has tumbled into its second mini-manifestation in "Five Minutes to Midnight" – a show hosted by Victoria Park Gallery and curated by the ever generous Meredith Turnbull. It’s made up of work by Sarah Haq, Marcus Keating/Salote Ana Tawale, Bridie Lunney, Steven Rendall and Stuart Ringholt. I was a bit drained after Midsumma/Gertrude and really couldn’t commit to a new line of work – so I decided it would be a good opportunity to actually finish the posters that I was making for the activists and try to present/launch them in some way. Hang on, I thought the point of the posters was that were engaging with a street as opposed to a gallery ‘public.’So I decided to pin the posters to black pin boards and for the opening surreptitiously begin the relocation process. I was thinking of those darn context driven ‘M’inimalists withdrawing from group shows the night before the opening, the cliché of the precious artist tearing down ‘his’ work on opening night and those labels you see in national institutions advising you that your ‘favourite’ Renoir or Roberts has been borrowed by another gallery in Adelaide or Philadelphia.

I thought while I’m at it why don’t I present the reading group helmets and ask the readers to pick up the helmets during the opening as again I really made them as a token of appreciation for their participation not as a display driven object. This snow balled (thank-you silver clouds) into presenting the actual reader atop a bean bag + out loud reading on my day of minding (Thursday). (What else are you meant to do whist minding?)

I enjoy participating in group shows because your work/practice grates, rubs and/or talks with other work thus creating refreshed meaning and dialogue. My friend Louise thought it was a type of artistic merchandising or PR… I was aiming for performative posturing with a dead black (vacant) tree at it’s centre.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


What was with the last post? Enough sentimentality. I want to plough through the administrative phase of the project and my life. I'm moving house, being hassled by centrelink... Which is all distracting me from responding to comments made via blogger and through my email. All in good time I suppose. (Robert- I will respond once I post this text.)

Right now I'm collating the queer reader's bibliography. I feel like I need to justify the selection of texts I made and (come to think of it) the artworks I continually refer to. I am consciously referring to art that has been framed in some way by Gertrude Street or by my experience as a member of an audience. These ideas feed the project in a no less significant way than the result of collaboration with different communities. Oh I guess it's quite different as the collaborators have agency within the framework of the activities and the artworks create an incidental or conscious intertextuality - partners in dialogue, references, influences or down right derivations.

Regarding the reader- I am in the deep end (Jeff, where are you?) but I'll start treading water now. I'm no queer theorist and it might even be a stretch to call me an "amateur" within the context of net. As this usually means I'm very aspirational and I'll end up on some mainstream porn site once I get more buff and shave my testicles. (And not be afraid to show them... And maybe that was a bad analogy.) While it seems the bulk of the reader is dominated by a particular period in the life of Art + Text magazine, in fact this was the brief and light(er) relief that I dispersed amongst the Butler, Sedgwick, Halperin, Tyler etc. My aim wasn't to document (and centralise) a period completely but to provide a sketch from my own position - a position that didn't exactly engage with the art and theory first hand but from afar, as a sometimes-engaged student from Melbourne. So I guess there are holes and the consolation is that the reading group will continue through the year and those holes might be filled or deepened. Suggestions are very welcome (Thanking Scott for reminding me of the late David McDiarmid's work. Who could forget those rainbow-ed witticisms that punched faggot in your face. His prints alongside Matthew Jones's pre-Stonewall newspapers seemed to be on continual institutional rotation at the time...probably deservedly so.) As for Art+Text - it was arguably the dominant Australian art magazine of the period and it was quite a revelation to see article after article after review that related to queer theory/practice in the period between 1990 and 1996. I knew it was boom time for queer but the abundant exposure made it hard for me to choose between the Aurthurs and Marthas. But maybe choosing isn't the point. I'm going all pan-sexual...


Chris Berry and Annamarie Jagose, "Editors Introduction: Australia Queer." Meanjin 1, (1996) : 5 - 11
Judith Butler, "Against Proper Objects." differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (Feminism meets Queer Theory) 6-2/3, (1994) : 1-26
Douglas Crimp, "AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism." OCTOBER Winter 43, (1987) : 3 - 16
David M Halperin, "Normalizing Transgression." In Transgression and the Culture Industry, ed. Jenepher Duncan and Denise Robinson. Australian Centre For Contemporary Art, 1995.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Epistemology of the Closet." In The Lesbian and Gay Studies reader ed. Abelove, Barale and Haleperin. Originally published in text the same title, p. 67 - 90, Univeristy of California Press, 1990.
Carole-Anne Tyler, "Passing: Narcissism, Identity and Difference." differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (Feminism meets Queer Theory), 6-2/3, (1994) : 212 - 245
Dean Kiley and Robert Schubert, "BAD GAY ART" catalogue - Raw Nerve Erskineville, 3 - 15 February, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, 1997.

Art + Text

Nicholas Baume, "Janet Burchill - Strange Juxtapositions." Art + Text 44 (1993) : 62 - 67
Juan Davila, "Deathwatch: AIDS & Silence." Art + Text 40, (1991) : 33 - 34
Jeff Gibson, "Deej Fabyc: Artspace Sydney October 19 - 2 November."Art +Text 53, (1995) : 69 - 70.
Dave Hickey, "Apropos: Straight Talk." Art + Text 53, (1996) : 40 - 41
Amelia Jones, "Lari Pittman's Queer Feminism." Art + Text 50, (1995) : 36 - 42.
Catherine Lord, "Comment: DOWN THERE : Toys in Babeland." Art + Text 46, (1993) : 30 - 33.
Chris McAuliffe, "Scott Redford: Untitled (the critic decamps)." Art + Text 49, (1994) : 61 - 65
Catriona Moore, "The Art of Political Correctness." Art + Text 41, (1992) : 32 - 39
Marcus O'Donnell, "Matthew Jomes/Neil Emmerson: ACCA Melbourne May 25 - June 27." Art + Text 46, (1993) : 80 - 81
Robert Schubert, "Fiona Macdonald: ACCA Melbourne June 1 -5." Art + Text 49, (1994) : 78
Robert Schubert, "John Meade: The Basement Project, Melbourne July 14 - August 6." Art + Text 52 (1995) : 80
Simon Watney, " ART AIDS NYC: Interviews by Simon Watney with Gran Fury and Douglas Crimp" (respectively) Art + Text 38 (The AIDS Crisis is not over) (1991) : 59 - 98

PS. I've become one of those bloggers that posts other blog's posts.
PSS. Probably more importantly is Noel Tovey's story which is conveniently abridged, broadcast (and downloadable) from Radio National

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I am not finished with WITHOUT. While I am due to bump out tomorrow from Gertrude CAS, the cataloguing and framing of this project via the blog will continue. My priority is to complete the posters for the activists and present a series of flashbacks of the events that were scheduled during my time in the space. I feel like a librarian’s assistant – with a trolley of text I kinda don’t want to get rid of. As I have learnt from Eve Kosofsky Sedwick, being framed by the closet is inevitable. I suppose I'm happy with the potential that this closeting device I have designed for the project has enabled. I am excited and apprehensive about presenting the meat of the last two reading group sessions and the two fantastic CLUBS feedback sessions that were held on Friday and Saturday. I am not saying this project will run indefinitely. This project had leaks and I just want to follow some of the flows outside of 200 Gertrude Street.

But today I am allowing a post Brokeback Mountain, Anthony and the Johnsons and nearly-end-of-project emotion to wash over this post. That was not a neat segue into Michael Farrell’s poem ‘luke & henrys storyline.’ He publishes his work widely and his 2002 anthology ’ode ode’ is published by Salt publishing. FYI those inverted commas are mine – Michael uses traditional punctuation more judiciously than those last few attempts. He performed this along with a couple of other poems for the Midsumma volunteers session last Monday. He made a comment about this being written way before Elton John got married. This poem was first published in Verse (US).

luke & henrys storyline


they met while scratching in the dirt of their
last relationships Stuff remains of their hearts maybe
you seem bigger up close luke Said you seem smaller
like a specimen said henry in a jar
& luke felt About to be prepared for
a slide something arctic like a lettuce or fox perhaps he became
Confused jellyfish against a wall back to facing he wasnt sure but
he didnt let go The string the farm was
so lets get in there where
its warm possibly youre what holds them Together god
knows its not the weather
what kind of dirt was it anyway sexual
favours regretted later Within without the apoetic has no
limit thats the way it went thats the way it goes lack
of resonance with
The others memory those cast off
ibsenite figures do you think youre one or
are You more comfortable
with luke the divorcer hysteria in with henry a regular shit & political with it
it hysteria in the family
theyve both achieved that mild pornographic notoriety nothing commercial though towards Evening
we get to see it those who stayed who were
committed to the commitment ceremony No doctors involved
luke kissed a woman didnt he
get it
this was all to make henry feel more
Of a man this & the big dog
we might as well go home Sure we can outdo
anything they can dream up hardly x rated was
it they may as well have
tried The romantic approach though would that be any more
convincing yet why be so
unkind lukes Not
so bad & henry well
when he told us earlier of The trips hed made
into the bush & naming trees & chasing
birds there was almost something spiritual about it His pale relaxed face for
not trying to win something or even trying to Be impressive
or radical & the way he went up to
luke & picked him up he was flat on his Back


settling into each other without us their friends getting in
the Way henry thinks they should try & live without tv so luke
starts making his Own tshirts &
a funny noise luke didnt know Was
in him the fridge becomes a silver cave there
are lots of dots in their dialogue lots of entering & Exiting &
it seems one drinks a bit more than
well they made it To christmas ok
& they were convinced they
were both nicer than any Of their brothers luke owned far too
many shoes it seems every time the weather changes henrys mum
rings now your sisters got skin cancer & Shes having
an affair with her doctor just to let henry know hes got competition
he gets nervous
luke starts wondering whether to leave the lights on or not To say
how was the day how was the year My nose bled
water polo sometimes the line
got so slack they
if they should do anything about it Themselves were they fishers
or fish washers or washing henry sits in darkness
trying to remember if Luke likes flowers &
if so which ones maybe delphiniums or are
they too old Lady or
is that a good
thing at least he knows how sick luke gets on fried food & thinking
cigarettes &
no tv are whats Needed down time but then wouldnt gym work
as well too distracting luke has sewn koalas
On his chest you have to be with someone
Special he tells his mother which was as good as a cup of
whiskey with tea in It for a while it all sounds quite promising
doesnt it but any sudden movement could break lukes
Mariah carey statuette or henrys focus
some meanness ensued but gradually they forgot
how people
In soaps behaved hasnt the dog been quiet up till now felix for
will out purred between
them sleepy or horny
you Find out slowly
luke undresses vision of love hes ready

Friday, January 27, 2006

DAY 7: The Handjob project

The hand job project – a how to guide for introducing explicit sexuality. (a series of contexts and inverted commas)

a. You don’t want to be known (they mean marginalised) as a gay artist. You can be an artist who is gay and that’s no problem but don’t go representing your subjectivity or community – unless of course it’s cloaked or sublimated into a form that adheres to the formal and process based protocols of the day. In fact – sexuality, relationships and sub cultural communities are no go areas in general at the moment. Unless of course you titillate or expose the edges of your middle class audience with something ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ – think internet dating, hippy-folk-cult spirituality or a stylistic representation of punk or…something. Be warned this audience is voracious in its appetite for the new ‘theme’ and will move on once it’s had its feed. It’s also a savvy audience so don’t go underestimating their critique of the relationship between the muse and the artist. We’ve been there and done that – once is almost always enough.

b. Some art shown at a gay community festival always features work that represents lots of cocks and asses usually in bright painted colours or photography that would feel more at home on the net. The art world cringes and distances itself from these practices. The art world’s representatives in these festivals then seek out work that is concerned more with the cultural or political identity and/or embodiment or maybe even makes these issues private by including gay artists who make ‘normal’ work. But since one of their agendas is to avoid marginalisation, this work must represent the ‘diversity’ of our community and collapse some stereotypes – it’s quite easy to create a rationale for any group show. It could be said that these group shows are trying to redress the balance, address and contribute to an important and evolving political discourse and show an expanded perspective (all good). Just don’t go mentioning affirmative action.

c. These two dynamics create a balance and this pleases both the general punters and the art world. Sometimes the taste of these two worlds collide and everyone is happy and/or gay.

d. I guess my project is hosted by the artworld and a few days before I turn the lights on, pull the blinds up and have a crisis over where the fuck I’ll store all this stuff – I want to dabble on the other side. After all, my taste for cock is the reason I have this gig in the first place. Now this isn’t unfamiliar territory: There’s was always a literal erection in my art as a high school student; at uni I video-punned with Nauman’s ‘Blue Balls’and recorded (and enlarged to mammoth proportions) the trajectory of ejaculation as a critique of painting and an illusion to fountain sprays. I realised only yesterday that this could be interpreted as quite a violent and territorial act. Was I relying on the audience to queer the work? Although my mum thought the sprays were plants. So there you go.

e. Now here’s my disclaimer: By putting the cock back into the equation I am exploring a territory that has historical and theoretical baggage - to say the least. I would love for my project to include some pussy. But for starters I don’t think I should be bandying around the word ‘pussy’ let alone represent it. While all activities in with-out have included a coalition of women and men up until now – the dominant vehicle for the representation of this project is via this (at times quite personal) blog and by the activities I have framed. So I am going to explore the action of sex via, you guessed it – me. A gay white male with ethnic working class roots who has coopted middle class values and has had some (to a lot) of experience on gaydar.

f. Now consistent to the home handy craft that has the been the end product or back drop to most of the activities in the space – I thought hand jobs would be an appropriate counterpoint to the paper chains, collaged posters and the dinky party hats. Handjobs: avoid the whole penetration issue; bypass any concerns regarding STIs; require as much dexterity as using a hot glue gun or wielding some sharp fabric scissors and have something quite fraternal about them but also on an individual basis masturbation connotes either an empowered state or a pathetic one.

g. So I was thinking Vito Acconi’s seedbed, Marina Abramovic’s recent remaking pivotal performances pieces, Linda Erceg, Annie Sprinkle, Carolee Schneeman, Austrian Actionists and a beauty of a painting by a UK artist (whose name I cant recall) who depicted an outdoor circle jerk. But the “where am I” in all this would only be resolved by brainstorming a few ideas such as: I host a jerk-off party in the space – after all Midsumma usually includes the Melbourne Wankers group meeting in its program (where is it this year?); I provide a service and jerk off people who volunteer to be relieved; I jerk off the curator – although this would be tied up to a discussion on the power dynamics of the art world (al la Jemima Stehli) and I think I have a policy not to have sexual relations with (most of my) friends or acquaintances; I participate in the hosted jerk – as this would be consistent with not only the framing but participatory role I have been taking with most of the activities. .

h. So I set up a gaydar account and for the last couple of days have been trying to muster support with a lot of time spent in chat rooms. It is so time consuming and I’m sure there are easier ways of getting some action.

Here are the responses:

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 00:28
1. It's not possible to see your picture yet as it has not been classified.
2. I love you and wish we could have our own jerk-off.
x j

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 00:28
very interesting. i wanna go. is it gonna be with an audience, i mean people watching while we jerk-off ?

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 00:31
Thanks for taking the time to send me a message, but I don`t think our profiles match.
Good Luck with your search though.
This is an Automated Message.

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 00:33
hiya ... I dont seem to have got any propositions from you?

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 00:41
Hi there, ive just read your profile, wow, sounds interesting but i dont think so... im a pretty quiet one- it was embarrasing enough for me years ago when XXXXX from Sydney sketched me and one of the sketches was used for the gallery launch- face, body, dick and all... so I swore never again.. I wish you the best of luck tho! Will have a read of the blog shortly... thanks again for asking .. cheers, XXXX

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 07:50
good morning spiros,
that messages has cut-and-paste written all over it... 'great pics'... anyways, clearly you didnt recognize me from the pics. its XXXXX.... yeah we go way back, louise XXXXXX.... XXXX XXXXX is my main squeeze at the mo...
i love the jerk-off idea, but it seem to be quite a full social calendar... we'll see if i can squeeze it in.
good luck,

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 09:50
04XXXXXXX5 so you can text me location

You would think there would be a group in some of that support but gaydar is a tricky (and not mention) addictive beast and after some follow up chatting I have only one taker planned for the night. That’s ok. I have taken it to ‘a’ community and sometimes they’re just aint that much interest out there. (I have been to an opening where only three people have rocked up) Anyway the conversation with Mr Interested goes to the mobile phone text format.

Me: Hey spiros from gaydar, hope you are still interested in tonight, the address is 200 gertrude st, no one else has responded yet…but should be fun regardless…Lets meet at 10:30 tonight…maybe a drink before we get going?

Mr Interested: Thanx mate. C u 10.30 on location

Me: We’re still good for 10:30…looking forward to it….

Then as Jeff is opening the door…

Mr Interested: o, o…bf drama cant go! So sorry. Hope thers gonna b a next time

So there you go – almost predictable really. But not to be dissuaded Jeff the professional and consummate curator, encourages me to get back on the gaydar horse and look for jerk off crew there and then. Got a few bites – but again after 45 minutes of chatting and drinking – all potential falls through the net.

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 11:40
hey buddy still lookin for people ???

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 22:35
is this on tonight

Sent Wednesday 25 January 2006 22:36
am vry interested. please tell me wat i should wear. hw many people will there be n wat age group?

So I’m quite drunk at this stage and I suggested to Jeff that if this had a narrative arc I would just go into the room and have wank in a solo capacity. Although thinking about this a day later – there would be another narrative arc that the net would explore –but we wont go there. So I could go into the room and have a wank but I could also lie about its actual occurrence. It could be Jeff and my little secret. I was tired and with the stress of the project my libido is way down – so it would be a chore rather than a pleasure. After some banter I get Jeff to take some faux myth-making photos in the designated hand-job area. I think I saw a glimpse of real pornographer potential in these few moments but he’s already got a day job and we quickly lock up the gallery and head out to the witness protection program. There I continue to lie about the end result to a couple of people. Then this morning, I get this message:

Sent Thursday 26 January 2006 01:41
What a shame, I would have done it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

DAY 6: Reading group

Today WITHOUT actually felt like a lived project for the first time. It’s not like I’m asking people to pose for ‘process’ photographs (well apart from this gorgeous shot of Solate and Marcus in their helmets) or asking them to do anything they’re not comfortable doing – it’s just that I wasn’t being the usual anxious host and that the reading group’s familiarity with the space, activity and dynamic was instilling a sense of ownership over the proceedings. There was the usual paranoid ‘did my utterances make any sense’ reflection at the end but I’m beginning to think that these discussions are (or should be) a space where we practice verbalising those uncharted thoughts that are filed neatly away. Some sentences will invariably make no sense – but I think that’s ok – not in a pedagogical “we only learn from our mistakes’ kind of way but in an active pursuit of experimenting with verbal language in its potential to communicate in these garbled and fraught states. The reading group met in the afternoon and this time we concentrated on two texts: Judith Butler’s “Against Proper Objects “ in Differences – A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (Feminism meets Queer Theory), Volume 6 Summer – Fall 1994, Volume 6, Numbers 2+ 3 and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s “Epistemology of the Closet” that was sourced from the Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (Edited by Abelove, Barale abd Halperin). It was originally printed in a book by the same name, p 67 –90, University Of California Press, 1990. I am really running out of steam at the moment – so here is the second day that I put off an extended reflection.

DAY 5: Midsumma volunteers

I'm finishing the reading I need to do for this afternoon's reading group (will post bibliography soon - I promise). So here are things I need to mention about about Day 5:

- Afternoon meeting with Shannon (They Shoot Homos), Georgia and Shona who helped me prepare for the night's proceedings.
- 12 volunteers RSVPing sometimes means 3 lovely volunteers turn up (Gemma Demarco, Ines Bowden and Emily Hardy.) So in this exercise Jeff Khan and Michael Farrell join in. Well, Jeff volunteers his time for the Midsumma visual arts working group and Michael has had many years experience performing in the festival - so all apt inclusions really.
- Michael Farrell performs a reading of his work.
- We drink, make paper chains from the Midsumma catalogue and decorate our own party hats.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rainbow network

When I got a call from Felicity on Thursday regarding some of the participants not being able to rock up on the Friday for the Rainbow Network sculpture session I thought I would need to invite another group to utilize the blocks designed by YAK and EGG respectively. But the good thing about catastrophising everything is the other side of the drama. When four YAKers and one EGG rocked up I think I was beside myself. (This is all a separate post really, which I’ll title “Relational Neurosis and the Role of the Party Planner.”)

Perhaps I need to go into the background to the production of the paper block sculpture. Well: 1. It involved a group of gay and lesbian youth from the Rainbow Network. Each separate participant commissions me to produce an edition of 15 paper blocks. By ‘block’ I mean any form that allows card or paper to become 3 dimensional. 2. I go away and make the blocks, usually in a restricted colour palette and for this occasion the choice of anything within the spectrum of brown, red and yellow was given. 3. Participants get together and with trusty glue guns construct a more unified structure using all the blocks and working out a way to collaborate and share blocks. I create a theme and physical framework (a pedestal) for the participants and the rest is up to them. I am there to answer questions, help out with construction and support the process as much as I can.

I was initially thinking that a structure to provide thematic orientation for the sculpture could be an arch way for a street PRIDE parade. But after I discussed this with Bunjey who arrived early and was keen to help out with the set up - we decided that a design of a playground/a hang out space for adolescents like themselves might be a better idea. Now, when I’ve conducted version of this project previously, the theme has only been an active consideration for the first half of the construction process. Then a type of formalism washes over the group as the macro view of the sculpture emerges. My facilitating role isn’t to redirect the project towards the theme but to try instill a partial ownership of the project. Since I don’t want my role to be pedagogical I work hard to adopt a yes-man / cheerleader persona. Can I glue the shape anywhere on the table? Yes. Can I use the glue gun to decorate the cardboard? Sounds great! Can I cut up the blocks? Sure, whatever…

Saturday, January 21, 2006

DAY 4: Rainbow Network

"A model of our playground with Ben Pokidin, Cliff Fowler, Bunjey Spillard, Tristan Harrison and James Dunn." Assisted by Elise Willersdorf, Mark Camilleri and Felicity Martin.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

DAY 3: Some of my closest friends...

Some of my closest friends are two dimensional.

The other night while I was downloading some shots I had a read of Helen’s blog. I’m still on my blog-training wheels and I suppose I should have been ready for the moment when someone would read and misunderstand me. But it was a strange disappointing shock. I’m not blaming Helen at all for this – my writing is often unclear, flippant and clumsy. But, I guess this is a medium made for miscommunication – so public once it's written, yet so private in its conception and without the aid of the immediate feedback that helps us construct meaning in real-life interaction. (I have had so many misconstrued msn 'chat' conversations that have ended in quite a bit of huffing)

Anyway Helen says:

Have been thinking about the pictorial, the two-dimensional, how it is perceived in some circles as inferior.. triggered by Spiros’ terminological coupling of ‘fictional narrative’ and ‘dumb art’[NB. For a later discussion... isn’t this problematic in the same way as a blanket dismissal of Relational Aesthetics]

Now what I meant when I said that some late 90s work was ‘dumb’ was that amongst a handful of other tendencies, some work played dumb - it used the age-old artists’s guise of disingenuity. Whilst it was rich in historical and theoretical references it pretended to be guileless. Think Warholian cool but transposed into the 90’s. Like when Tracey Moffatt said something along the lines of “I used the nuns in the photo because with their habits they looked like mountains” – as if the place of the nuns in Australian race relations was lost on her. Or like David Rosetsky’s understated presentation of a gym mat (was it baby blue?) which with such a light touch stood for a parody of minimalism, played with site and interrupted space, was drenched in the sweat of writhing muscle and critiqued ‘lifestyle’ from within its own vocabulary. And I know I bang on a bit about Mathew Jones in this blog – but in 1998 he did curate a show called Dumb, which featured work by Erik Hanson, Micah Lexier, and Diana Lopez. It was a perfect (and funny) title for a show that included photographs of Bowie sounds, photographs taken by children under the age of 10 and 75 photos of a David aged between 1 to 75. By the way, when I referred to ‘fictive narrative’ work I was not only talking about much of my own work (i.e. from sprinklers, the hedge burner to the poster project in this show) but the work of my peers and the work that influenced and continues to influence me. (Matthew Barney – well then anyway, Eliza Hutchison and Sean Kirby). I wasn’t meaning to dismiss either…just contextualise a period in my development that I kinda forgot to literally 'read' in.

I agree with Helen about the problem with tribalism, and the tendency for everyone in the art community to feel that our work isn’t valued outside our own micro-systems. I’ve also been thinking about how careful we need to be with each other – and feeling quite guilty about one earlier post where I got carried away with writing and rammed home a point in an insensitive way. I’ve edited that post now so it’s closer to something I’d stand by. Suppose that any time we publish we have to be prepared to accept critique. This goes both ways.

I wasn’t very productive today. Although I did get a phone call for my first appointment next week. I also got a disappointing phone call regarding the Rainbow Network – more than half the young–uns aren’t coming. Here's hoping the other two rock up. Group work minus group. OK...

DAY 2: The reading group

After last night’s curtain fiasco I just felt like going all-foetal once I got home. I was tired but after re-establishing my diet cola addiction also a bit twitchy. I was planning on doing some reading while baking my cookies for the reading group but gave up and planned to wake early. (It felt like I was a 2nd year student again.) I had acquired my recipe (peanut butter with milk chocolate and walnut) from that covers anything sweet, fatty and American really well. I wasn’t planning on talking about those curtains again but I arrived at Gertrude Street with cookies in hand able to see right through to the office. You guessed it; the curtains hadn’t just frayed off the rod but had completely collapsed. Alexie (Director of GCAS) had kindly laid them flat and Michelle (friend and GCAS studio artist) suggested I give up on the sculptural integrity of the rod and staple gun the shit out of them. It worked. It got me thinking prematurely about this blog and its positioning within the project. While production of the blog is a by-product of the issues of access and exclusion – it’s becoming art talking about art – in a confession booth. Is any discrepancy, false move or undermined position justified or OK if I come back home and spill the beans?

Well with all that I was seriously under-prepared to host the reading group but was keen to deflect this shortcoming by making organization of the discussion into a group issue. I so didn’t want to be seen as the tutor – but I had compiled the reader so it was hard to dislodge all expectations that I’d provide a type of leadership. I thought we’d start with the articles that were reviews or features on queer art produced from the mid 80s to mid 90s because I got the distinct feeling that most in the group (and this definitely included myself hadn’t finished with the theory). I did try to structure the beginning by an attempt to share ‘our’ first impressions of the reader. I felt it was a major error by omission that I hadn’t include any written reflection on Juan Davila’s practise. Although I did include a review he wrote on Matthew Jones “Silence = Death. There was a claim that I definitely had an agenda with the choice of text, (who me?) and maybe it was all a bit overwhelming. All in all, this strategy didn’t work too well and while I spent the hour after the group reflecting on every garbled and mumbled phrasing that came out of my mouth - by the end of the session there were two competing and weaving conversations going on so I think the group is cooking nicely.

Some interesting questions popped up during the tail end of the discussion that I think will be more valuable addressing now rather than later. The big one is: how am I going to record the discussion? My goal is to find a mode of light documentation that preserves all the informality of a reading group. A video or audio recording or web-cast might make people uncomfortable. Since the publication device I’ve chosen for the project is the blog I decided this was the best way of documenting the reading group – simply my summarised impression of the meeting with all the narcissism and distortion that comes with the bloggers territory. If I’ve misrepresented the discussion I’d love reading group participants to respond in the comments. I should take more notes…

What I found most exciting about the meeting was that people seemed to be into having another two sessions. We made a commitment to read the four theory essays by next Tuesday. It felt as though today’s session didn’t scratch the surface and the reader has too much content (nb: should listen to my boyfriend more). Maybe some of us will want to meet again beyond the two weeks of the Midsumma show. If so, I’d count that as some kind of success. Anyway, here’s a list of thoughts and ideas that we covered. The discussion was held with Rob, Alicia, Marcus, Alex, Andrew, Jeff and myself.

Some uncredited ideas: Queer theory is dead (Is it? No. Isn’t it?); queer art as stagnant force; queer as a historical period; queer as interpretive framework; queer as a definitional device for the ‘other’; queer as a masculinized identification; queer as stylisation and an affectation which has probably resulted in it’s credibility loss. There’s definitely a lack of support or an institutional demise. Queer as a politic in response to the urgency of HIV/AIDS – Australian art institutions have ‘done’ AIDS with the NGA’s ‘Don’t leave me this way.’ Part of the art world short attention span – queer/HIV as another passing fad. Meanwhile the dire situation re: AIDS in Africa and South East Asia - probably no more urgent a time to respond to these issues than now. Issues surrounding individualistic versus collective gain and gay marriage: Prioritising the white, the middle class and the male. ACT-UP and Gran Fury – talked about but can’t recall what we came up with. Is an artist’s personal life important to the reading of the work? No and Yes. What about in an extended catalogue for a retrospective? Mostly yes. Should artists stitch their ‘queer’ identification on their sleeve? Yes and no. Aren’t we other things? Considering a historical artwork not only for its photographic documentation but the text, the gossip and/or discourse that surrounds the work. We talked about Fiona MacDonald, Janet Burchill, Scott Redford and Mathew Jones’ artwork via the reviews/features written by Robert Schubert, Nicholas Baume, Chris McAuliffe and Juan Davila respectively. Fiona MacDonald: the punctum and the prick; the flaccid phallus; power play; discussion on the accompanying landscape; the rubber fetishised frame; unhinging of representation; who owns what; most recently hung in a ‘spare room’ corner of ACCA’s ‘Orifice’ show; why hasn’t an institution acquired it? Janet Burchill: replicating or performing the veiled representation of 1960’s gay artists – or using a fictive device that parallels Gertrude Stein’s positioning in the ‘Autobiography of Alice B Tolkas; fucking with the suburbs. Chris McAuliffe: talks about himself subjectively talking about the subjectivity of Scott Redford – replicates in his writing the false equations represented in Redford work…till he’s blue in the face – till we’re bored; enacting a type of a marginalisation, (maybe.) Maybe the BAD GAY ART show wasn’t so good in retrospect – yes it was – Dean Kiley’s writing – knows his theory so much better than his art – even then - product of its period – cultural theorists writing about anything with authority. Talked about the Midsumma visual arts program –the official curated program and the community centred ‘all in’ bit that replicates the ‘really’ bad gay art that Robert Schubert ends his piece on. Matthew Jones: really too obvious; too oblique; did he need the slogans; I stupidly said that without the slogans the work at Gertrude’s is a bit like Jon Nixon's (regret) - but what’s the difference between Jan Murray’s canvas turned to the wall and Jones’ – if not for the contextualising slogans(?); there’s an obvious reference to the hospital; to two bodies; to the feminine via the draped material. Judith Butler: not that hard; a psychological barrier that we need to transcend by the next session. Conversation regarding structure of next week’s session. That’s all I can muster – I guess we did cover a bit of territory.

I’ll write up a bibliography during today’s poster production. Don’t have any appointments so if you have the ‘right’ inclination give me a call.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I've decided (in the tradition of making a decisions on the run) that I'll need a 24hr turn around to really reflect and then post. But just this once – here it is live. The launch went well - I think. The audience response and the performative action of Jeff and myself dismantling the cube (which I haven't subtitled) and pulling down the blinds all gelled to a good consistency. Except for those darn blinds. Not only were they not sitting right - like they were in the dress rehearsal but by the time people had 'Coconut Palmed" (Vietnamese restaurant with too many interior revamps to mention) and 'Unioned' (pub) I was getting calls and texts to tell me that the blinds were peeling off their rod. I thought the heavy-duty double-sided tape the hardware assistant suggested wouldn’t be enough so I beefed things up with gaffa. To no avail. Ahh - it was the last thing I needed and it felt the like this incident was undermining the whole project. Jeff and Jon were really supportive with my “I need to go into space and fix it now" (at midnight) suggestion, so we have spent the last hour gaffering it some more before tomorrow morning’s more sane reappraisal. David and Sarah joked that the work was trying to break through and find an audience – or perhaps I sabotaged it because my inner homophobe needed some mainstream cooption.

Photo credits: Bianca Hester (top group); Jeff Khan (middle) and Jon Symons (bottom).


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

An Invite and a phone script

As I haven't filled my two week program in the space I thought I could open the space to appointments for visitors wanting to participate in some of the ongoing activities planned for the inside. This might include discussing the poster project, finish constructing the paper blocks for the Rainbow network kids, having a read or a scan of the reader and beginning or finishing some of the tasks set up for the volunteers . I am also encouraging a type of visit that focuses on active participation rather than an opportunity for a personal tour. While I do love being a tour guide and also understand the importance of experiencing the spatial qualities of a essentially sculptural project - I also need to prioritise the projects already set. (I just got an exciting call from Alex Vivian from New Zealand who has agreed to meet in the space during the second week of the project - I want to make a video for one of his tracks. More on that later - but if you want a peak into his practice and life check out his blog)

Now there are strict conditions to these visits and these conditions need to be adhered to otherwise the gallery staff will thump me. As I keep repeating, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces is closed for the summer and the staff aren't hosting the space (in a literal sense) - I am. (I have discovered that Midsumma hires the space off Gertrude CAS and this opens up a few more issues for consideration) ANYWAY - You need to call me (on 0434553717) to arrange a time for an appointment - this is to ensure that A. there is no clash with a pre-existing event and B. to ensure that all entrants are queer (or at least non heterosexual identifying). (I know, non-heterosexual identifying is using a heteronormative value system and that queer is an umbrella term that is defined by a non-heterosexuality and rejects the binary relationship between homo and hetero). But I am having resistance (from some quarters) with the term queer and with the request for a type of sexual identification as a prerequisite for participating in the project. So I relented only for a moment but if Midsumma is about one thing (apart from a celebration. a protest and a type of collectivity) it is about some sort of public conversation about sexual identification...I don't want to be the judge and jury - I am playing a game or at least trying to have a conversation.

A potential telephone conversation.

Me: Hello - Spiros Panigirakis speaking for WITHOUT
Caller: Ummmm, hey
Me: Access to WITHOUT is reserved for those identifying as queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or at least non-hetrosexual identifying. Do you believe that you belong to or have an inclination towards one or more of these categories?
Caller: I guess I am... (If caller is on the queer side of the fence)
Me: Great when would you like to make an appointment...(Continue conversation)
(If caller is heterosexual)
Me: Unfortunately you only have access to the project via the blog - it can be found on www dot with hypen out dot blogspot dot com. Thanks for enquiring about the project - you can also leave any comments or enquiries for me via the blog. (End of conversation)

This is an invite that Jon (partner) sent out to his friends:

Hey all, this is more a notification than an invitation because there's no arm-twisting to attend involved...Spiros has a kind of opening this Tuesday 17 Jan (6-8pm) at 155 Gertrude St (just near Claypots which was previously Growlers).

Spiro's show is at 200 Gertrude street, however the launch is based at nearby Seventh gallery at 155 Gertrude St. Also Spiro's thing is more a closing than an opening - his show involves creating a private queer space and the opening consists of him closing the curtains so that you can't see anything - not necessarily very exciting. However if you want to feel the icy breeze of being excluded by Spiros directly - you are more than welcome to join us.

Xx j

Bianca has kindly posted another invite on the CLUBSproject Inc website. Where you can also peruse our archive which includes some of my other projects ("WITH" in 2005 and "There's a Hole in the Bucket" in 2004)