Friday, July 30, 2010


Academic writing is so dreadfully slow, sometimes it's like doggy-paddling through molasses. I often wonder if a creative writing thesis would have unfolded a bit quicker.

Then again, probably not.

Not many words happening around here lately. I've got masses of writing to do in the real world at the moment. About zombies mainly. And vampires. Very bloody.

And, yes. When the going gets tough, I do like to imagine myself incontinently rich. With a discreetly pregnant Brazilian boyfriend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where You Bin?

I looked down today and saw this.

In fairness, the Wagon Wheels are NOT 'original' size. They are much smaller than I remember them being when I was a kid. Or maybe my hand is bigger. Anyway.

Just the regular post-grad diet.

You see what this blog has come to? I'm taking pictures of my rubbish.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Living Dead Blog

I've heard Rob Zombie songs many times over the years, but somehow never realised how incredible his music videos are. Consider me chastised, because they are a Gothic wonderland.

Love. It.

Can you tell I'm writing on zombies right now?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Individuated Aggregate

So, I promised I would say a few things about the Imaging Identity symposium. If I leave it any longer I'm going to forget everything, so here is my attempt.

Disclaimer: I took copious notes throughout each day, but (predictably) these notes make limited sense now. I scrawled down the phrases or ideas that jumped out at me in the moment - so my description of their meaning should be considered as 'interpretive' rather than a verbatim reproduction. Many of the papers were filmed, so perhaps they will appear on the net at some point and people can watch them in their full glory. I also had an hour or less of sleep on the red-eye flight from Perth, so the first day is a little hazy.

Didn't take many photographs. Loved this blobby thing by James Angus though.

And the hanging lights on the gallery roof.

The technical set up of the main room is also worthy of high acclaim. A good lectern is worth its weight in gold - especially for people with wobbly hands and flapping pages. Likewise, the enormous screens that made my slides look so nice. ALL conferences in the world should be held in this room:

The first paper was one of my favourites (full details of abstracts/papers here). Melinda Hinkson talked about the idea that we, as humans, actively "create ourselves" on a daily basis. She quoted Zygmunt Bauman: "we are all artists of life - whether we know it or not." Self-making, or the link between action and identity, was the theme of my paper on video games; so this seemed a very auspicious beginning.

She also examined the question: what work do we expect images to do for us? In relation to paintings, she argued, we desire a text that is autonomous of technology - one that reflects the work of human hands rather than the operation of digital technologies. Sam Leach's now notorious prize-winning reproduction was her example of this phenomenon, and the extreme disappointment felt when a painting fails to provide the expected 'authenticity.'

Hinkson also discussed John Durham Peters, and his argument that technology has resulted in the distant becoming clearer, while the immediate becomes more difficult to represent. This is a very interesting dichotomy. I'm not sure if I completely agree, but it's worth thinking about.

David Campbell introduced what would become a popular phrase throughout the event, when he commented that images often represent "the individuated aggregate": an individual, who nonetheless 'stands for' a larger group. Examples included "the soldier" or "the rape victim." He talked about this in relation to the dynamic of distance/closeness and object/subject in war photography, where the image simultaneously constructs a distance and gives 'face' to pain and human suffering.

My notes for Michael Desmond's paper go like this:

surface tension
depicting the quivering inner being
dismembered self-portrait
distortion of bodies
as expression of inner turmoil of artist
flesh as meat
paint as flesh
second-hand experiences
slow art
takes time to experience
the mask reveals as
much as it conceals

Kinda poetic, eh?

Photographer Refi Mascot talked about his Bautanah street gallery, which involves turning the Jakarta footpath into a display space open to anyone and everyone. When it rains, they simply throw clear plastic sheeting over the paintings. Very cool.

Didier Maleuvre's keynote was another of my favourites. He talked about identity as socially constituted, and the "humanising gaze" by which "others give us our soul." Identity, he argued, "hangs by the thread of recognition," it "awaits confirmation" in the eyes of others.

He argued that photography is not portraiture, because it is "forensic and archival" rather than descriptive or creative. Paintings allow us to "enter the orbit of another's perception," while a photograph "records, it does not represent." Photographers are "hunters, not interlocutors." This argument proved contentious, and there was quite a bit of snarking during question time. No wonder. When I wandered out into the gallery later on, I noted that photographs and paintings were given equal weight as 'portraits.' Should they be? It is a question worth asking, although it seemed to trouble many of those present.

I loved how Maleuvre described the painter as one who pursues "the journey from object to subject," as one who "subjectifies" others.

Tangent: all the talk of portraits and self-portraits made me think about a painting I did in high school. I always denied that it was a self-portrait, but this event made me think about it again.

Without going into too many details, at the time I painted it I had recently been diagnosed with a serious illness. The prognosis wasn't good, and it was touch and go for quite a while. There are few photographs of me from those years, and certainly none that convey the intensity in this image.

Taking up Maleuvr's point about the painter as a "subjectifier"- I wonder how/if the painted portrait allows individuals to 're-subjectify' themselves in contexts where their identity is overtaken by forces beyond their control? I'm not a huge fan of 'art therapy' (mainly because of the 'therapy' bit - just call it art and maybe more young people will want to do it). But perhaps painting allows individuals to escape the sense of being an "individuated aggregate"? And can this experience be replicated by digital technologies? Or is it a special 'painting thing'?

Questions, questions.

Apologies for the lack of grotesquerie. Gotta branch out sometimes you know.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I found this jewel in the National Portrait Gallery shop. When I finally publish my thesis as a book on the grotesque, it MUST have a title like this.

For now, this book makes me very happy.

These pics aren't all that great, but you get the idea.

It's a huge book, divided into different themes with introductory essays. Love it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bag Lady

Back from the Imaging Identity symposium in our nation's capital: the cold and foggy Canberra. It was a really great event, and I will talk more about it once my thoughts are in order. First, let me just show off the success of my 'one bag' strategy.

Here is my luggage, in its entirety (next to a boot for size comparison):

Small bag, big hotel room. That's just how I roll.

I was presented with another bag upon arriving at the symposium. All attendees received a collection of loot, which I shall now proceed to gloat over in the usual fashion.

From the bag, to the catering, to the timekeeping and technical elements, the event was extremely well organised and a credit to ANU and the Portrait Gallery.

I only wish the man sitting next to me on the plane home was so well put together. After his 9th beer (yes, really) it seems I was starting to look a lot like Scarlett Johansson and/or a young Pamela Anderson. HE, on the other hand, was smelling a bit ripe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Imaging Identity

I received these in the mail last week.

Imaging Identity: Media, Memory and Visions of Humanity in the Digital Present is a symposium being hosted by the Australian National University and the National Portrait Gallery. I am presenting as part of the lecture series and will be flying off to Canberra tomorrow. It should be a very interesting few days. Not sure if anyone from our capital city reads this blog, but if they do they should definitely check out this event! It starts on Thursday. You can access the program, abstracts, and all other details here.

Did you know The Crystal Method did a song dedicated to the humble PhD? Well, they did. It's quite good, so long as you don't Google the lyrics. Although I appreciate the sentiment.

Now I'm going back to packing. Trying to do the trip with one bag. We'll see how that goes...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

On The Inside

I don't have very high expectations of our newspapers here in Perth. Even less the 'health and beauty' style articles, which inevitably revolve around what products I am required to purchase in order to fight off the daily scourge of pimples/age/hair/life in general.

But this made me choke on my bran flakes.

That's right. Not only does disgusting fat coat the outside of women's bodies, it fills us up from the inside as well. Secretly. Insidiously. Internally.

Even skinny girls are fat; are literally made of fat. Women are so gross.

I had to laugh at the juxtaposition of these pages.

Paging Dr Hypocrite!

And there is more, since we are on the subject. All in the same 'body and soul' lift-out.

Mind, body, face. Even our ears are grotesque. Ritual cleansing time!

But, wait... What about men??


Do it better, Perth.