Melbourne's NGV is gearing up for its next blockbuster exhibition. One which will see the pairing of current artistic cause celebre, Ai Weiwei with perennial art world favourite Andy Warhol.
You've already been given the heads up on this exhibit due to all the fuss that has been created in the last week or so. For those who have been hiding away from the web, let me help bring you up to speed.
Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei is being billed as a major show which will bring together over 300 works by Warhol and more than 120 by Ai Weiwei, with the aim of exploring their practices side by side. Weiwei, no longer passport less, but ever a parriah in the eyes of the Chinese government, had pitched the idea of creating an installation made of Lego at the space. He said the work would make reference to "Australian activists, advocates and champions of human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of information and the Internet." Presumably, by using a commercially produced object that we immediately associate with childhood and innocence, the symbolism wouldn't be lost on viewers.
Problem is that we don't live in a world where freedom of expression is as straightforward as it seems, especially in the commercial realms. There are always bigger factors at play when you're playing in the big leagues.
The story has it that Ai Weiwei put in an order to Lego headquarters for Lego pieces, with which he planned to create the installation. Lego, declined to fulfill the order, indicating that they were an organisation that steers clear of having their products used for political purposes. A few days later, the organisation announced that they would be opening one of their flagships in Shanghai. Coincidence? Anyone smell a rat?
It seems that Lego toys don't actually build anything despite the old copy lines. There are limits to expression, and not just in using squarish shapes that you have to batter into control with a mallet. Or in quashing expression in general.
But this is an age where people mobilize through social media, and picking up on the unpleasant whiffs that the story was offering, and capitalizing on the attention at the same time, Weiwei attracted a lot of support and sympathy. There were stories circulating of how people were sending him their own Lego pieces to use, and his studio in Beijing became an official collection point.
Well now the NGV, Melbourne's historic art gallery, has waded in. They've announced that as of today, visitors can pop by and donate lego pieces, by dropping them into the sunroof of a convertible which will be parked in their sculpture garden. Melbournians need to celebrate this. Why? Because it's a way of sidestepping the politics or counteracting them? No. Because it's Springtime in Melbourne, and being able to drop off your Lego pieces at the NGV is a fabbo way to get some more spring cleaning done - and to help a brother out. Just imagine it... you'll be able to go around saying that you have some artwork in the NGV!
In the end, Lego's refusal to fulfill the artist's order seems to be a win win. It will render whatever installation Ai Weiwei can fashion from the donated pieces more potent than the simple commercial exchange could ever have done.
And, NGV's support of the initiative will go someway in helping them in their quest to be seen as a contemporary venue, and not the stuffy, historical house that they were traditionally seen as.
I plan on popping by to inspect the end results when I pop over to Melbourne over the new year.
NGV press release here.
When I was at uni, I wrote a thesis on Japanese woodblock prints. You know, the kind that artists like Hokusai and Utamaro perfected and that gaijin like me just loved to bits while the Japanese just scratched their heads and wondered what all the Western fuss was about.
Ukiyo-e which is the umbrella term for the woodblock genre is also a play on the Buddhist word which means the floating world. To simplify things for those not in the know, the floating world was kind of like an allegory for everything that is ephemeral and that often brings pleasure. It was from that Buddhist idea that the old pleasure quarters were often referred to as ukiyo - the floating world - because in places like Tokyo and Kyoto, where rigid social etiquette was already in place, the pleasure quarters were seen as a world of their own. These were places where courtesans, geisha and even kabuki actors were top of the pops. Places where everything had a price and where desires had no limits.
Ukiyo-e (the prints) depicted all kinds of things. They were of artistic and graphic quality, but in a way they had a role in old Japan not unlike that of magazines and the print media today. They were seen as flotsam and although they are now collected and cherished, back then they were often like posters that you'd slap up on your walls to hide scuff masks.
The first illustrated travel guides were ukiyo-e which spelled out the routes on the old Tokkaido highway with seasonal scenes designed in accompaniment. There are some amazing images of old Japan from those kinds of series, but the prints, which will large volume prints, also covered scenes of comedy, theatre and life in the pleasure quarters.
I think one of the things that attracted me to writing a thesis about the woodblock prints was that they often had humourous undertones to them. They often played on words (through their images) and they often left a pretty beautiful insight into Japanese thinking (especially during the Edo period).
One of the other amazing things about ukiyo-e is that there seemed an endless scope of subject matter on offer. Much like magazines today. One of the most popular sub categories of the prints was shunga. The term represents the erotic side of our nature, and so shunga prints were all the rage for the way in which they explored desire and sexuality, often without boundaries. What you often get with shunga are scenes where genitalia are grossly exaggerated and where the figures are often indistinguishable across the prints. My interpretation of that was so that they could be used to kind of project your own identity onto the prints as you looked at them. I remember reading the definitive publication on shunga written by Timothy Screech and thinking, wow, this guy is brave and the Japanese, even from the 16th century were already peerless and ahead of us all.
Well you know how I feel about Japan and how it really is the invincible, superior nation on earth. Except, I'm not so sure right now. You see, I stumbled across an article in which a modern day shunga volume has been published. And what it spells out- i.e that we have regressed to the point where we no longer have the maturity or humour to deal with something that is so innate to our being. Why? Because despite our advancements as people in some areas, we now live in a world where the idea of shunga needs to be censored by clown like emojis, basically stripping them of their value and importance, and robbing us of the opportunity to acknowledge and explore all of the facets of our personality without resorting to childlike, prudish self censoring.
More at the Guardian on the truly offensive item like the one below.
There's no point in commenting on the phenomenon that is Adele. And that song Hello. Adele is review and market proof. Hell she IS the music market. She's gonna single handedly rewrite the book on 2015 in the marketplace. And take about two weeks to do it.
Hello wasn't even released and there were already memes out there for it. The 30 second snippet set the web on its ear and, like, totally changed the world. Within 24 hours I saw unknowns posting to youtube with their accapella versions of the song.
So, 2015's music event has finally been unveiled. Derr, it's Adele's comeback single. And is it just me or does it seem like this album feels like it should be called 28 cos 25 doesn't seem to do justice to the gap between albums.
Really, once could go on for hours on all this and take it in a million directions but Michael K at dlisted just does it so well that there's no point.
There's even funnier stuff on that post. But I'm such a gentleman that I'm only posting the one screen shot.
Kudos to Adele and Michael K especially. He managed to make me feel more nostalgic than ever. But not for Adele. For my old Nokia. I mean, I've missed snake forever, now I'm just thoroughly depressed that my iPhone is not a flip phone. They were great. Especially when you just wanted the satisfaction of ending your phone call with a good slam.
Sara Goldschmied & Eleonora Chiari are two Milan based artists who have worked together for some time.
The Museion space in the North Eastern Italian city (some would argue that it's actually not very Italian) of Balzano commissioned the artists to produce an installation as part of the collateral events for Milan's Expo.
Their response? An eighties tribute. And you know how much I love the eighties.Pretty ingenious idea if you ask me. They imagined the Italy of the eighties and managed to tie in their observations and experience with more than just a bit of social commentary.
How? By imagining eighties Italy as a party or more precisely, as the remnants of a party. Dove andiamo a ballare questa sera? (Where shall we go dancing tonight) is the resulting work. The snapshot of what began to happen the very morning after the party had ended. You know when the guests have gone, and there's no life left at the party...just the left overs that need to be cleaned up and cleared away.
In capturing that moment, Goldschmied and Chiari have effectively acknowledged and paid tribute to the Italy of the eighties that no longer exists today (but whose consequences live on).
What they're referring to was the Italy which was experiencing something of an economic boom, and large scale (unfettered?) reevelopment. This coinciding with Italy's notoriety as being one of the centres of Europe's cultural and party scene.
It was a party that brought with it a lot of fun, but a socio, economical and political mess which is still being dealt with today.
Love the idea, love the concept, and in a way, also love what happened next...and to think I thought it was modern life and not modern art that is rubbish. Check what happens here.
Publications like Rolling Stone, NME, Slant, Spin and Sputnik are experts in music.
When I find free time I love scanning through the endless "Greatest (Pop) Albums" lists that they produce to see if I agree or to see if I've missed something along the way.
As you might know, much of my time has recently been devoted to writing my debut novel. "Vinyl Tiger" is as much about the story of Alekzandr as it is a tribute to pop music, pop culture and to the collaborative spirit that often makes art so powerful.
At a certain point, I started to organise the story into chapters that captured the events and spirit of Alekzandr's life as it changed in and around each of the albums he was making.
Soon, the idea of writing the book became one of imagining it as the kind of pop album I love listening to.
For me a good pop album is full of different things. It can be pulpy or lightweight and still have meaning. A great pop album has moments of fun, its ups and downs, and tracks or moments that pack an emotional punch long after you've finished listening to them.
So that became my working goal as I wrote "Vinyl Tiger" and once it was sent off for editing. To make a "great pop album" that is more than just one thing. And because I can't sing to save myself I had to rely on my words to try and achieve those things instead.
You can get more information about Vinyl Tiger on the Facebook page
or download the first chapter of the novel here. (Just be warned, it's been written for adults, so it's a bit racy people!)
Vinyl Tiger will be released on Nov. 16 via Amazon/Kindle.
Other formats and platforms to follow.
It's available for pre-order here.
Ok I know I am breaking the nerd code but somebody has to do it.
Somebody had to refuse point blank to write about Marty McFly and the fact that the future was set in, what, October 2015? What a shitty and predictable future it turned out to be.
It was a great film but let's get our bearings for a moment. At the time I also thought Short circuit, Splash and Desperately Seeking Susan were also brilliant.
Actually I still stand by the latter two. In my mind I'm still a bit emotional about them- like I'm walking around battery park on my legs and wearing a jacket with a pyramid/eye on the back of it one moment, saying 'good going stranger' and then, whoops, I fall into the water and sprout a merman's tail the next. It's a disaster! Never has a glass of water been so menacing.
Anyhoo, I'm really happy that the world's newspapers have devoted so much space and effort to commemorating the back to the future moment. (not) Personally anything that makes me think of Huey Lewis and the News does not make me want to celebrate, but that's just me.
I say if we're gonna celebrate the future, then 2046 seems like a much more logical year to experiment (even if, and don't hate me people, I didn't love the film). I'm not a film critic, but I love Gong Li (yes yes it's always been all about Maggie), I love Wong Kar Wai and most of all I love an alternative (especially when back to the future is being forced back down my throat every time I open anything on the web).
What's next? Will they pull out the old time capsules they had us bury in the school yard so we can see how primitive we were as ten year olds? Today's ten year olds would eat my former ten year old self alive.
But, if you think about it aside from a general nastiness that has sunk in, and way more electronics, nothing much has really changed all that much since 1985. It's 2015 and we're still talking about a pope, Donald Trump, eighties fashion and trying to work out how long it's going to be until we can finally write Madonna off. Russia and the Middle East are still key players in geopolitics, ray bans are still in fashion and the world's best footballers are still Latinos.
I mean, we're still in 1985 my lovelies. It's like a Groundhog Day only we don't have to listen to Huey Lewis anymore (nothing personal but I just have nightmare memories of hearing his music on a loop- on a five of six hour bus ride: cured for life).
I don't get why we think the future we imagined thirty years ago means anything to anyone today.
Wait another thirty one years and then come back to me.
Note: scroll down to the end of the post to download the Vinyl Tiger introductory chapter/PDF (suitable for adults only!)
Or read on if you'd like a little bit of insight into one of the themes before downloading it.
AUSTRALIANS are pretty well known for their wanderlust.
Young and old, people often feel the need to just get away and live somewhere that's far away, old or unfamiliar.
Some choose places where the language and the customs are unfamiliar. Others places where the history and culture are palpable. Others still choose to pack up and leave to forge a career elsewhere, chasing opportunities that a small country they might love can't otherwise offer.
I'm one of the many Australians who let wanderlust and the desire to follow my heart take me away. As much as Australia is always "home" to me, I've lived and worked for a great deal of my life in foreign places. London, Kyoto, Rome...and now the south of Italy.
As an outsider, you can't ever really predict how well you're going to mesh with a place. The motivations that took you there in the first place can be critical or prove to be pointless when it comes to the people you meet and the life you carve out for yourself.
In Vinyl Tiger, Alekzandr's departure from Australia isn't just the usual right of passage we tend to associate those big scale moves with. His forms part of another category: that of unplanned refuge.
He jumps at the first chance to escape a future that he sees no value or hope in. And so the opportunities and desire to do something interesting and challenging sets him on a journey that will eventually take him to a variety of places around the world.
Wanderlust and the idea of following our hearts- even across the continents and at great, personal cost, - is at the heart of the first chapter of Vinyl Tiger, and I'm delighted to offer you the chance to read it here (by clicking on the attachment below).
So, enjoy this exclusive excerpt - the first chapter from Vinyl Tiger - and use it to discover the starting points of Alekzandr's quest to live an interesting life.
I hope you enjoy discovering how he begins to try and soothe the restless wanderlust that lurks within during his formative years.
If you like what you read, please feel free to share it around with others.
But be warned: Alekzandr's life is a racy one, so this material is only suitable for adults.
Before I start a rant I have a question to ask. If and when hell freezes over does it mean that the end of world will have arrived?
Because if that's the case, I'm not going to be a happy little camper. I have a book that is coming out and that I have to promote. It will be a real shame if hell really freezes over and it's the end of the world as is being predicted to happen in December. On December 12 to be precise.
I mean, it will be really awful if we really do end up living in Madonna's Ghosttown. Firstly there will be no time for emoticons (and I love them). Then people are going to be so focused on buying golf clubs and grills to protect themselves that no one will spare a thought for my ebook, let alone coffee. Nightmare!
Wait, what you didn't hear the news? I'm not surprised, as it only seems to be doing the rounds here in Italy in Italian.
One of the advantages of living in another country for a while is that you gradually start to understand what's happening and what people are thinking about more and more.
There are times when that is really annoying because ignorance (like people's choices of souvenirs or collectables) is bliss and it can be lovely to ricochet around a place without being able to really fully recognise what it is that people are grumbling about. Conversely laughter is infectious and international and rarely needs a translation. Ain't that a great aspect of life.
Thing is there has been a rumour that's been floating around the web (and on Facebook in particular) that Starbucks are finally opening a store in Rome.
People have been getting in a tizz about that news because the novelty of having a Starbucks in the land of coffee is apparently just too strong to resist. KFC finally opened a branch in a Roman shopping centre last year (the first in Italy I think- I don't know I can't be bothered researching that) and apparently more than a few people got their jollies about that too. Like a friend of mine who will remain NAMELESS!
But seriously, SB were being touted to open a store on December 12 in Rome and I can't tell you how many people I know took to social networks to pop open the champagne in celebration. Well now it's my turn. It was a hoax! Haha! Suckers!
I just hope no one perpetuates a similar rumour about Uniqlo or Muji opening superstores here otherwise my heart won't be able to stand the commotion.
Just goes to show we always think we want what we won't have. Okay, I miss using my coffee name (secret) but there's already enough crap, average and really good coffee in this country. I don't think we need Starbucks in the equation. I mean friends isn't even on the air anymore. Move on people.
If you want to investigate the hoax in more detail...actually don't bother. Go and download an ebook instead.
Mainichi is one of the leading newspaper groups in Japan. Their main publication mainichi shimbun (literally Daily Newspaper) is printed in multiple editions daily and the publication group also publishes books, journals etc.
To commemorate Greenery day, (みどりの日), generate a bucket load of publicity, sell a few newspapers and, um, save the world, the mainichi group launched a special edition green newspaper which was widely distributed on the day that was once celebrated as emperor's birthday but has since been changed to a holiday that commemorates nature. I know. Your country is just a backwater in comparison. So is mine. But let's move on.
Well, gimmick or not, the move towards Green Newspaper was kind of inspiring (I did say gimmick, right?).
The idea was that the newspaper, implanted with seeds, can be planted after reading. It's not going to grow any money or that elusive Japanese citizenship I've been craving, but it will contribute to the greening of our world. And the almost five million newspapers that were distributed on that day encouraged a lot of weedy looking flowers, erm I mean greenery to be planted and grown. And not at all at the expense of any trees that may have been felled to print the newspapers in the first place.
It's a cute idea I think, which is appealing and will have struck the right level of novelty value to make an impact with people. There has been a similar idea floating around about cigarette butts (which kinda makes more sense, seeing how prevalent they are on the ground and how expensive tobacco has become) but this is the feel good story of the year.
Thing is when I see trash lying around the streets in Italy, it's not often newspapers. It's supermarket catalogues, mattresses, plumbing crap and, like, food and drink containers that are discarded everywhere. We need to plant those seeds in that stuff and see what happens.
Still, if you need yet more proof that Japan is the world's most superior nation (as if I haven't given you enough proof in the past) then watch the promo video. It's amazing! I love the way that Japanese minimalism has reduced the world's biggest environmental issues down to problems that can be solved by planting a couple of ripped up pieces of yeterday's news printed in sexy kanji and hiragana characters with a touch of green cursive.
Amazing video here.
Some of you may have realised that I'm busy readying my first ebook which will be available next month via Amazon.
I've been on a bit of a learning curve I have to say. Despite having worked in galleries in the past and dealt with promotion I gotta say that I've been finding it tough to crystallise the concept of my novel into a brief blurb and get the PR stuff ready for it too.
And then there's the dedications. In some ways I have to say that these three in particular inspired a lot of my novel...but if I were to dedicate it to them my partner would probably chop my hands off. So let's keep it a secret shall we. Just between you and me.
Doing anything while trying to hold down a full time job (or, like 300 part time jobs) and managing to have some semblance of a social life is no easy feat. My hats off to anyone that goes above and beyond their usual commitments to do something else.
Maybe it's just me, but for me it's been a bit of a struggle to find the right time and head space to write, slash and burn, re-write and then repeat the process again to complete my debut novel Vinyl Tiger.
But my goal has been to write something that's like a good pop album. Something that is sometimes pulpy and fun, but that is also capable of packing a punch and sticking in your memory.
Well, I'm really excited to announce that work on my debut novel is nearly finished meaning D-day(!) has almost arrived.
I'll be blogging as usual here on paperlesstiger, but intend to keep the posts about Vinyl Tiger here to a minimum.
In the lead up to its release, though, I've set up a Facebook page which will include some excerpts, some background information about the book, and information about where you'll be able to find it once it's released.
If you're interested in learning more about the novel I'd encourage you to visit the Vinyl Tiger page on Facebook, and popping a 'like' onto it.
A huge thanks for stopping by the blog, by the way. I really appreciate it.
You can find the Vinyl Tiger Facebook page here.
A FEW years back, I posted about the unfortunate situation here in Italy regarding the management of cultural heritage.
Actually, I have posted numerous times about how due to funding constraints, so much of the sector here seems to be run so poorly, and how the result is that it keeps a lot of Italy's remarkable heritage out of reach. It's really a bit of a hit and miss affair. Some collections and sites are maintained to best practice standards. Others are just laughably, and sadly, mismanaged.
Anyhow, back in the past I noted that the world famous Riace bronzes were out of circulation. Back then, unless you happened to be working in art conservation, or on a guided tour of a conservation facility, you were likely to visit Calabria without seeing what are perhaps its most significant artistic objects.
There's no denying Italy has one of the most spectacular collections of archaeological and artistic patrimony that exists in the world. Certainly, in Europe, there is no country that can match it for the breadth of interesting sites and for the mosaic of heritage that it represents.
I think we often forget that Italy as we know it today was only formally united in 1861: prior to that it was a collection of states who had their own, distinct histories and traditions to call upon.
Once upon a time, Italy was a collection of different nation states that had their own capitals, their own kingdoms, and often their own dialects.
Often, certain swathes of the lands were part of larger political entities or broad, geographic zones.
For artists and archaeologists it means that you have to look at different places across the peninsula in different ways: what was happening artistically and architecturally in one city may have been in complete opposition to something happening just a couple of hundred kilometres away.
The way that most people absorb this idea is through the greatest hits tour of Rome-Venice-Florence. They are so dominant in the consciousness of people because as cities they are exceptionally interesting. I don't know anybody that isn't astounded by how amazing and different they are to each other. But so few people venture further afield because we tend to think that significant and eye popping history is only found in these particular clusters because there isn't enough being done to manage and promote collections further afield where what's on offer is just as extraordinary.
Truth is that we can link a lot of Italy's history with larger, broader movements that occurred in the wider area. Beyond the greatest hits there's a wealth to dicover among the Roman empire, Byzantine capitals (including Ravenna), the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the Renaissance (hello central Italy) and the Vatican (there we are again, back to Rome and Vatican City)
If Italy had a greatest hits album, those would be the shining hits. But there's a lot more on offer own south. Problem is, people are really tough on the south of Italy. There's a general us vs them mentality that divides Italy unequally into two. There are a lot of problems in some parts of the south that account for this, but on a bigger scale, I think we underestimate the resentment people have in the south because we tend to underestimate how history in a place like Europe can really live on in the minds of its people.
Before the modern day narrative kicked in, where Italy's north triumphed in economic and political terms, it was in fact the south which was the richest part of the lands. Over time, the North's pillaging of the South's riches and manufacturing industries turned Italian society on its ear and into the Italy we recognise today. It's only now that some historians are acknowledging this significant and unjust turn of events. With the complete U-turn of Italy's economy towards the north, a disparity of wealth was created: a giant ghetto of sorts that has still not been addressed despite a lot of measures having been taken to try and promote more investment and interest in the southern Italian regions to redress the situation.
These days, a lot of people are heading South again, simply because the poorer states offer better value for money and because their beaches are amongst Europe's most beautiful. But the South, in addition to having once been the centre of the Italian economy, was also an area which was pivotal for its ongoing contact with the ancient centre of civilization and economy: (modern day) Greece. Amazing how a few thousand years can change things so completely and how a trip here today can make you feel like you're not in Italy but in a former Eastern bloc country.
So, why the meandering, pick and mix history lesson? Because it's important to acknowledge that places like Calabria and Puglia (and Sicily) played incredibly important parts in (pre)Italian history. Those three regions (along with Basilicata) formed the bulk of Magna Grecia, an area that was first settled by the Greeks in the 8th century BC. The establishment of Magna Grecia brought with it an incredible exchange of ideas and economy in the south of the Mediterranean that continued until the Romans eventually prevailed. If you need an indication of how mighty Magna Grecia was, you need only consider that places like Naples and Syracusa were born out of this Hellenic past, and remained Hellenic cities until the Romans prevailed in the 3rd century BC. A visit to any of the southern states will reveal at least some level of the Hellenic golden era.
And it is this vestige that makes the now poorer southern states of Calabria and Puglia (and Sicily) so much more historically important than the stereotype of mafia and crime will have you believe. The problem is, that until recently, economic issues have obscured this and left a giant vacuum of power and economy across the region that has been filled in unfortunate ways.
This is the slower vehicle in the two speed Italian economy, and it's not a coincidence that many people here still see Naples as being their nominal capital rather than Rome, because once upon a time, the southern states here were part of the Two Kingdoms (Sicily and Naples) which, despite the modern day turn, was documented as once being the most socially and economically advanced of the old Italianite kingdoms.
Nothing like a good road trip!
As I have a friend who is working away on a television series in Calabria, used that as an excuse for a road trip over to Reggio Calabria and the surrounds.
Never been before and don't know how likely I would be to return but the Calabrian coastline is amazing and there were some memorable (and out of this world) moments.
The photo in this post was taken at the National Archaeological Museum in Reggio Calabria, Calabria's capital city.
In the past there has been criticism that the restoration work being carried out in Calabria has meant that a lot of art and artifacts have been left off limits to the public. So, when you arrive at the museum, one of the first things you get to see is a beautiful, intricately carved statue which is also undergoing restoration.
It's a smart move and one that has you wondering how many other treasures does this place have in its pocket that it has not yet brought out?
I know a lot of y'all aren't fans of Madge. She's past her relevancy date/she's old/she has nothing new to say/blah blah blah.
Well, fashionistas, last year may have been all about the bolero, but this year it's all about the cape.
And for someone who has baited and borrowed from the Catholic Church so much, it must be refreshing to have them finally repay the favour.
Case in point.
In one of these videos, someone who works in a trashy, showbiz style environment where moral guidelines are murky and questionable is making their grand entrance.
And in the other, Madonna does the same thing.
All I will say is that there are a lot of rebel hearts out there, and you can always count on Spanish fans to bring it! A lovely confluence of the matador meets the church. Thank you Archbishop of Valencia!
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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