Nite Art-Wednesday

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Just a quick post to remind you all about ‘Nite Art’ – happening all around Melbourne tomorrow evening. Check here for more details!

Nite Art

On Storytelling…

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An amazing array of artists came together to deliver Elemental at the Planetarium last Thursday evening. You may have had a chance to experience it in Bendigo on Friday night if tickets are still available. Otherwise…I’m sorry folks. Alicia Sometimes, narrator and poet,was a co-writer for this production of all things Universe and Infinite. I hadn’t been to the planetarium since a child,technology sure has come a long way since then. The animations and visual effects were sensational. I lay back and the storytelling began; through voice over, live music performance and the ongoing visual animation on the domed ceiling above.


On the subject of storytelling, I just viewed episode 5 of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery Service on ABC where she interviewed John Safran. I cannot but help warm to John. Known by many as an ‘agitator’ he is a true artist. He describes himself as taking an ‘Insider/outsider’ approach to what he does (in terms of his research practices-he certainly does this) and a storyteller. Here is a man that truly understands his own character and knows what he has to do. He has also recently written a true crime novel. Not your ordinary crime novel of course!

Wheeler Centre- ‘Art and Us:Art and Science’

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By Celeste Hawkins


Presenters: Briony Barr, James Saunders, Leah Heiss, Alicia Sometimes.

Many intriguing questions and issues arose from last night’s discussion. Each of the three artists being interviewed by Alica Sometimes, have ‘embedded’ themselves and their practice within the scientific world.

So what are the similarities between scientists and artists in the way that they deal with their practice?

Actor James Saunders was relating to a relationship he had with a neuroscientist, discovering that they both had an interest in philosophy and art. He also commented on the research aspect in both fields, there is a sense of a continuum in each. Scientists also have a sense of wonder and creativity, as do artists. He remarked that his play ‘Fugue’ based on a controversial psychologist; Harry Harlow- emerged much richer in ideas from these interactions with his collaborators-neuroscientists from Monash and Melbourne University.

Briony Barr, regularly collaborates with an astrophysicist and microbiologist-to produce large scale drawings (using tape to build the form), that ultimately become an even larger collaborative piece involving up to 30 people. Through the building of patterns involving interactions and a set of instructions; such as ‘draw a line 10 centimeters long…’ and ‘…make the line on a 60 degree angle’, it becomes its own complex system-like an ant colony. She said that these complex systems would ultimately need a mathematician to try to make sense of it, and even then that would be a huge challenge. She said that artists could be like scientists in that they tend to ‘make’ and ‘remake’-in this way they are solving problems and can end up with varying results.

Experiment three-Briony Barr

‘Experiment three’- Briony Barr

Leah Heiss has used an amazing array of substances and technologies to create often-beautiful works that can be used in the Medical field. Nano technology, magnetic liquids and chemicals are used and manipulated in her practice. She described her field as a ‘trans disciplinary’ one-where there is a need to collaborate. When ‘fusion’ or collaboration occurs with herself and her colleagues (scientist and doctors), things of value are created. As an artist/designer, she believes these ‘things’ can create empathy between people and technology. In relation to her own practice, Leah said that the artist is often asking the difficult questions –such as the ethical questions or the possible impact of what they are creating.

The need to have an outcome in Medical Research was one that the panel agreed on and it seems that through these creative processes, artists can ask the challenging questions and encourage more trials in research. Also the language that both groups use can perhaps merge and be developed further to expand on the collaborative process. James Saunders remarked that a neurophysicist had explained something scientific to him as a metaphor in order for him to better understand. I believe it to be a very exciting prospect, that these collaborations could soon become a normal part in the area of innovation in all areas of the scientific world.

Joan visits Meeniyan

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Holidays are upon us. Well, at least for some.

I had the opportunity to see New York act ‘Joan As Police Woman’ at the Meeniyan town hall on Saturday night. You may have passed through Meeniyan on your way to Wilsons Promontory. Joan was one of the incredible acts that so often frequent this space. The acoustics in the hall are captivating, reverberating throughout to create an intimate and unforgettable experience. A major part of a good night out isn’t just the performance alone. Other sensory elements intertwine and wrap it all up in a perfect package for your memory to unpack and recollect at a later time. This has ensured that each act I have seen has been an unforgettable experience!

You can see a former line up of the bands here. And a review here.

Joan as Police Woman- Meeniyan Town Hall

Monuments in the making-A cultural art adventure with Mia Salsjo

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By Celeste Hawkins

Multi skilled artist Mia Salsjo is currently putting works together in her Collingwood studio based on an exciting cultural art adventure to the unknown, Indonesia. During this time she dowsed away spirits, came to grips with her ideas on consumer culture and immersed herself as much as possible in her surrounds. The six-week project entitled: ‘Seniman Perjalanan Landskap’, occurred during October and November 2013, and was the result of a grant funded by the Australian Indonesia Institute. Mia and fellow artist Sophia Hewson took part, as well as Art Critic Ashley Crawford and International Arts Project Manager, Steve Eland.


 Mask on face – Lombok

What were some of the challenges of being in Indonesia in terms of your art making processes?

I had to find new ways to deal with concepts when taken out of my comfort zone into another country. My thinking processes had to be geared around a different culture and environment. It was also very restrictive in terms of materials and I didn’t have the studio environment that I am accustomed to. And an obvious language barrier!


Pillow for fly screen and beach resort room-Lombok

What materials did you end up using?

I hadn’t bought any objects or materials to work with, apart from the basics. So firstly, l went out into the tropical landscape of Ubud and started with drawing anything; rocks, leaves, cracks, shapes between plants and trees. I did this as an exercise to try and overcome a blockage, as I was feeling a bit stifled to make art within the realms of another culture and landscape. Through this process l began to relax and realise conceptual ideas that l wanted to develop culturally and artistically. So, in terms of materials l discovered great importance and significance in a long round pillow l was given to sleep with in the first private arts villa we were accommodated at. It was a place owned by a very well known QC from Australia and run by a team of “servants”. So this is where l began the first part of my projects puzzle in cultural hierarchy and religious beliefs and so forth. The pillow became my monument and mystic connection, almost like a religious icon. It kind of seemed ridiculous but it made more and more sense once l placed it in context of the sociocultural and monument adorned Balinese landscape. In contrast, I’m coming from a culture that is pretty much faithless. In the West, we have faith in a ‘nice cup of coffee’; or if you can afford it, you can have a designer health retreat, where talking to horses is part of the spiritual connecting! The pillow itself is fabricated, cheap and mass produced. That was my offering. I also used it to reinforce an idea of a lack in spirituality.


Garden pillow monument with stone deity-Lombok

So, it seems you really felt and embraced this fundamental difference in our cultures?

It is such a contrast to being at home. Over there they make offerings to the gods. Hindu statues, burning incense and people splashing holy water are a constant presence in daily life. I was also constantly questioning my status there. It felt wrong having servants. I tried to clean up but then realised that it was their livelihood and it was ‘okay’.


Pillow monument for roadside-Lombok

Mia says she was anxious about creating there, as it was her first professional international art project and away from her normal art environment. Responding to her surrounds, it proposed a big challenge to confront the challenges of putting her work into the context of another culture.

In Lombok, I purchased a large glass vessel in a big shopping mall. I also played around with some self-exploratory ideas, even placing a g-string over my face as a mask! The glass vessel, was documented as performance in the mediums of video and photography.


 Morning Vessel-Lombok

Mia went and collected seawater and other debris from the ‘illegal grounds’ where the land was being cleared and people were being driven from their homes. They were making way for five- star resorts. She took the opportunity to utilise this moment to document the experience.

illegalgroundslombokIllegal gounds ritual-Lombok 

Would you say the vessel became a ceremonial tool?

It was essentially a collection unit to hold and ultimately trap make believe forces from which it slowly released energy. It became my belief system. It became a ritual .It had significance in the way it could protect or shield. The idea of it being seen through was that it was something that could be contained, yet still transparent. The ash was from people’s homes that had been destroyed by fire. The vessel contained their ashes and this was my offering. These make believe forces contained within the vessel were there to symbolise that these people had no power or choice. It also served to highlight the order of society and those who get left behind.

Pillow deity for traffic bank up

 Pillow deity for traffic bank up-Lombok

Mia had the opportunity to observe and participate in the ‘Galungan’ Festival.The Galungan Festival celebrates the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is ‘Kuningan’, when they return. The date is calculated according to a 210- day Balinese calendar.When the spirits return of past relatives it is said that the; “current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings.”

cremationBurning cremation dragon -Ubud

Being amongst this highly spiritual time in Ubud was a beautiful experience alive with decorations and decadent offerings but also a little haunting. I was involved in a very traditional ceremony especially made for Galungan at the residency property l was staying at in Ubud. I was doused in holy water. We had a priest chanting and the ladies were sprinkling rice, holy water and colourful flowers on all of us and over the land. Every prayer was conducted in a full circle so that all the spirits had directed energy at all corners of the property. It was a very moving and intricate ritual to be part of that continued for three hours. I felt a kind of light and fuzzy state come over me. At the same time a very unique and huge event was occurring; the Cremation of the Queen of Ubud. The entire town of Ubud was involved. All the family men carried a gigantic purple velvet and golden necklace adorned Dragon down the main street of Ubud. When they arrived at the cremation grounds, the Queen’s dead body was funnelled down an enormous slide leading directly into the belly of the dragon. It was already a surreal experience and then they started to light the dragon into a raging fury of flames! Meanwhile the cyclic energetic ‘Gamalan’ music was rolling in a rhythmic urgency and progressing in speed to the burning of the dragon and the Queen. It was a hugely rich cultural period of time to be amongst this very significant spiritual event.

Bed head

Bed Head -Lombok

This isn’t the first time that you have put yourself into a challenging situation for yourself on a spiritual level. Do you feel this to be an important part of your practice?

In 2010 I trekked for 27 days to Mt Everest Base Camp and back on my own. I had a guide and a porter, but they walked 100 meters ahead. I had no computer, no mobile phone, nothing. I daydreamed a lot and spoke to myself. I chanted. And there was always something amazing to look at. One day, there were eagles. And another, I saw one of those flimsy; hanging bridges with a guy on a tiny horse, bolt across the bridge. Huge boulders that looked cartoon like loomed over me. It was all so surreal.

Personal Analysis-LombokPersonal Analysis-Lombok

Mia says that she likes the feeling of being isolated and immersed in another culture to examine the extreme parts of her being and that it helps ‘to filter and decipher between the good and the bad’.

And she’s off again! Mia is off to Indonesia to create a body of work for her next solo exhibition in December at Mars Gallery in Windsor, Melbourne.

Mia Salsjo is represented by Mars Gallery.