Monday, October 12, 2009

highlights of This Is Not Art

The three-hour group reading of Gertrude Stein's Stanzas in Meditation began in the park and was still going strong when I got there, about an hour before it was supposed
to finish. Later we moved indoors, out of the rain. There was no chance of getting through Stein's work in its entirety within the allotted time, so having got maybe a little past half-way, we opted to read the last two stanzas to round things off. I'm fascinated by Stein - for me she represents a pivotal moment in experimental writing. Stanzas wards off any attempt at cursory reading (or extended reading for that matter) through Stein's characteristic use of repetition, ludic syntax and pronoun-play. An intensive group reading of such a text was, for me, perhaps the best way to approach it, especially given the opportunity to discuss it afterwards. It was an honour to be able to play a small part in this event. Pictured (l-r): Tim Wright (sitting), Michael Farrell, Aden Rolfe, Ella O'Keefe, Jal Nicholl, Penny Duff (sitting).

Landscaping Aesthetics: an experiment which involved artists working more or less independently within the same space, responding to the environment and each other. Maybe it was a loose concept, but it definitely raised possibilities (at least in my mind, and in the chat I had with Derek Motion about it). Derek was incorporating whatever was going on and being said into the poem he was writing on his laptop. Dion Kagan was working on an editing project - perhaps something to be approached differently within such an 'arty' atmosphere? Also 'working the room' were a photographer, a sound artist and a cello player. Creative vibes, creative rushes. What makes a space (potentially) 'creative'? Interesting, interesting...

Tom Cho's reading from
Look Who's Morphing at 'Bless Me Reader, For I Have Sinned'. Go Tom!

The Contemporary Poetics (Looking In) panel on Saturday morning, which I blogged about here.

Frame Up, on the place of the arts, was probably the most spirited discussion I witnessed the whole time I was in Newcastle. Hats off to Scott Brewer for facilitating such a fired-up panel. One of the thorns was the place of creative writing in universities, a topic which I'd like to discuss further here at some point.

Breakfast Poetry Collage Reading with Michael Farrell, Jill Jones, Stuart Cooke, Tim Wright, Jal Nicholl, Duncan Hose and Ern Malley: "I have split the infinitive. / Beyond is anything."

The Contemporary Poetics (Looking Out) panel featured Michael Farrell on 'pre-co
llage and cut-up in Christopher Brennan and Mallarme', Joel Scott on 'translation as exemplary writing practice' and Stuart Cooke on Neruda, Lienlaf and poetic ecology. Three excellent papers, all providing directions for the future which I'm still processing.

I didn't catch all of Constellations: Weather, UFOs, Telepathy and the Cosmos, but enjoyed Jennifer Hamilton's paper on meteorology, its history and representations in literature. Astrid Lorange's paper 'Paronymous Attraction' is available on her blog. It's a must-read: an exemplary, exploratory piece of creative research.

The Launch Pad for Lisa Dempster's Neon Pilgrim and Michaela McGuire's Apply Within turned out to be the 'Giraffe Room' (pictured). I'm not sure the giraffes appreciated the interruption, but they (and we) were treated to excellent teaser readings. Was great to be at the Melbourne launch of Neon Pilgrim on Wednesday. Go Lisa!

The brainchild of Emma Konnaris, Diversity Dinners was an opportunity to share food, ideas and a bit of booze with fellow Critical Animals. I prepared a vegan avocado and lima bean salad under Spartan conditions, which in itself was an exercise in improv and working within constraints. I met some cool people, sampled their signature dishes, and I reckon this event should become an annual fixture.

At the Lock-up Gallery (which itself was a highlight) The Artist as Family (Patrick Jones, Meg Ulman and Zephyr Jones) gave a wake-up call re: waste, permaculture and Future Scenarios in a post-climate change and peak oil world. The talk took place alongside their ten-days'-worth collection of waste from Newcastle's beach and streets (pictured). For me this was another push in the direction of eco-consciousness and eco-poetics. What other direction is there?

Finally, the Newcastle Mattara Art Prize 2009 in St Andrew's Church Hall. This wasn't part of TiNA; I'm only mentioning it here because it came as something of a reality check. I decided to take a look because I had half an hour to kill before heading to the airport to catch my plane home. The paintings on display were predominantly realist or (post-)impressionist. Landscapes, portraits... lots of paintings of flowers, animals, boats and bushland. Amongst the awardees, the emphasis seemed to be on precision of rendering and technical mastery. This was also the emphasis of the one-sided conversation I had with one of the organisers, who was pointing out the use of light and colour in a couple of works from the miniatures section. Maybe I can draw a facetious (and long-bowed?) analogy with what Pam Brown has called the 'new Aussie lyric'. But there were a few leftfielders and oddities in the mix too. I voted for one of the these in the People's Choice Award. Hmmm... This is Art vs. This is Not Art...

I'm sure there's stuff I've forgotten, so I may expand on these or add others later. This blog knows no stasis. (Well duh, it's a web page.)

Thanks again to Aden & Britt for making everything run so smoothly at CA. And shoutouts to all the mad (and not so mad) folk I met up there. You know who you are...


  1. Stu,

    What greater gift than a blank canvas. A pure invitation to action (or thought, or something?).

  2. I loved the sound of the diversity dinner - I sat on a panel with Koraly and thought it sounded great. I wish I knew more about it in advance so I could have gone! I would definitely go next year if it's on again.

  3. TC: Blank canvas? Where?! ;)

    Amanda: It was. This was my first TiNA and I'm definitely keen to go back next year.

    Lisa: Yeah, I would've appreciated one or two more vegan options! ;) But it was great.

  4. Stu, what a lovely snippet of something sadly missed by me -- this makes me feel much more a part of it. I appreciate your kind words re my paper, I had such a marvellous time writing it -- the second half of the composition occurred between a stinging hangover and me giving a mate a haircut. The experience of both seemed relevant, felt, good.

  5. Great round-up, Stu. Despite our different roles, we appear to have had almost parallel festival experiences. There are more Stanzas pics care of Tim Wright here:


  6. Hey Astrid & Aden, thanks for having a read. Glad you both got something out of it.

    Cheers for the link Aden - some cool photos there.