The Art of Fatigue

I’ve recently had cause to contemplate the impact of fatigue in our modern lives. I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill tiredness here. I’m talking ‘my body and mind has ceased to obey me and it’s decided to turn my world upside down until I stop’ type fatigue.

As serendipity would have it, this series of photographs titled Let the Poets Cry Themselves to Sleep, by Adrian Storey, found their way into my inbox. The photographs capture exhausted Tokyo commuters who have fallen asleep in all manner of poses/in all manner of places, overcome as they are by sheer exhaustion.

The images are a salient reminder of the pitfalls of the contemporary hamster wheel life. They’re also a reminder of the huge gap that exists in the portable pillow market.


Creative Classy my —!

Anyone working even remotely near the cultural policy world, will be familiar with Richard Florida’s contribution to the creative cities debate. In a nutshell it goes like this…ship in the hipsters, the geeks, and the gays, then add water, stir, wait for a wee while and your city will be basking in economic growth!

OK, so that may be a simplistic reading but nonetheless it’s been refreshing to be finally having a very public debate about Florida’s ideas – ideas that many policy wonks have adopted wholeheartedly and often without any robust analysis of their own. For an alternative view of Florida’s world, take a look at this article by Frank Bures titled The Fall of the Creative Class. While it does have a ring of ‘sour grapes’ about it at times, its publication at the very least signals that its time for some decent debate of Florida’s theories.

You can also view Florida’s response to the article here. And if you’re still not tuckered out from all that reading, here’s Bures’ response to Florida’s response. Not sure if Florida has responded to Bures’ response to his response yet…

Home Town Boy Comes Good

Nice to get a bit of PR in the Geelong Advertiser for Cultural Value’s recently launched mini-documentary titled North Shore: Geelong’s Boom Town 1920-1950. It may sound cliché but as someone who spent their formative years in Geelong, the experience of making this work has been enriching in ways that I had not anticipated.

Feelings about one’s home town are rarely neutral; they can evoke emotions of pride or revolt depending on our experiences. My most prominent memories of Geelong are of being a self-conscious misfit teenager, of trying to come to terms with complex family dynamics, and of establishing an early adult identity.

Re-immersing myself this environment, beyond a family or adolescent context, has been an integrative process. A wealth of new stories, knowledge, and relationships has given me an altogether different experience of my home town. One that is less charged with memories of my own past, but enmeshed with those of the participants I journeyed with in the making of this work.


Eastern Beach (ca. 1954). A place that my mother tells me I used to blissfully sleep the hours away. Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

Chichu Art Museum

Designed by the Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, the Chichu Art Museum represents the most incredible merging of art and architecture you are likely to ever experience.

Constructed in 2004 on the re-imagined Japanese ‘art’ island of Naoshima, the Chichu Art Museum has works by Claude Monet, James Turrel, and Walter De Maria on permanent display.

The art works are integrated so seamlessly into the buildings design, it’s difficult to know where the architecture ends and the art begins. You can understand why people consider the building and its contents to be one site-specific art work. The building’s subterranean design maximises the use of natural light, so your experience of the art works will be different depending of what time of the day you go, so it’s definitely worth more that one visit.

I’m not sure what a religious experience feels like but I’ve got to say, I think I came as close to having one in this museum. Naoshima is definitely worth the schlep if you are visiting southern Japan, if not for the art, for the opportunity to sleep in a yert!

“Pumpkin”, by Yayoi Kusama, Naoshima, Japan. Photograph by Peter Ghin, 2011.

Entrance to Chichu Art Museum. Photographer: Peter Ghin, 2011.


Internally landscaped spaces. Photographer: Peter Ghin 2011.

Internal corridor Chichu Art Museum. Photographer: Peter Ghin 2011.

Helmut Newton Pics

In researching Cultural Value’s North Shore documentary project, I stumbled across a collection of photographs taken by renown German/Australian photographer Helmut Newton.

It seems Helmut Newton was commissioned by Royal Dutch Shell to photograph the construction of its North Shore oil refinery in 1953. Newton, German by birth, was interned by British authorities while in Singapore, and was sent to Australia on board the Queen Mary, arriving in Sydney on 27 September 1940.

Newton is best known for his fashion photography with the likes of French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. And here I quote Wikipedia: “He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylized scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts.” Indeed. Not a lot of that going on in the Shell photographs I have to say, not unless you’re really into exposed piping.

A treasure trove of his photographs of Shell’s construction is available to view and download is available from the State Library of Victoria’s collection.

Woman sealing barrels of Shell Talpa oil.30, at Shell Oil Refinery, Geelong. Helmut Newton, ca. 1953-61.

Unloading and positioning of absorber tower prior to installation, Shell Refinery, Geelong. Helmut Newton, ca. 1953.

Hand in Focus, holding seeds. Helmut Newton, ca. 1952-58

J. H. Velders, Managing Director, Shell Refining (Aust.), Helmut Newton ca. 1952-58.

Reminder to tread lightly

I came across this this little animal protection protest while walking through Royal Park, Melbourne. It reminded me of Buddhist Jain monks who sweep the paths before them as they walk, lest they take the lives of any hapless insects going about their daily business. Not quite sure I’m ready to go there but I thought it was a cute reminder to tread lightly.


Darwin’s Rhea

The story goes that Charles Darwin heard about a type of rhea (a flightless bird similar to an ostrich) that was smaller and rarer than the ones he’d previously come across in his Patagonian travails. After a time searching for the rare bird, he gave up until he found himself eating one over dinner.

Shocked, surprised and delighted, he collected the remnants of the bird and sent them back home to Cambridge for analysis.

What gets me about this story is the synchronicity of the event and its catalytic role in helping Darwin to build an evidence base for his theory on patterns of replacement, central to the development of On the Origin of Species and later, The Descent of Man.

Call it luck, divine provenance, universal confluence…whatever it is, I’m sending big-ups to this sacrificial bird. It’s barbecued bones helped Darwin send shock waves through the establishment and remove any doubt about the extent of our human connectivity and our intractable bond to the natural environment that gives us life.

Big-ups rhea…for helping us take our heads out of the sand.

p.s. extraordinary drawing of rhea done by yours truly.

To Risk or Not to Risk

In a few humourously succinct minutes author and playwright Michael Gurr manages to capture the torment that is the grant application process. While he focuses on the experience of the artist, the pain is just as inscrutable for any creator (be you scientist or educator) attempting to quantify the often unquantifiable.

One of the tragedies of our governments’ adoption of market based economic thinking has been the loss of a capacity to support the development of ideas without the need to insist upon a bogus language of publicly defensible outcomes. While governments have an inalienable right to justify public expenditure, I can’t help but question how public value is really being achieved through a funding process that has, at its heart, the fear of creative risk-taking.

Governments are just made up of people of course, so if we delve a little more deeply they can be a useful mirror to our own selves – perhaps those parts we most detest and wish to disown. So when I put it that way, what is it about creative process that I’m so fearful of? that makes me want to lock it down into some kind of certain outcome that I can defend?

Well…I guess in choosing to embark on a creative process I really have to let go of the illusion of control and the fact that I don’t have all the answers…and that’s kinda scary. What if my idea turns out to be a turkey? or worse, what if I end up my wearing my insides on my outside, my vulnerability and failure exposed for all the world to see??

So if I follow the logic of government I can diminish the risk of a creative process by locking it down with a prescribed outcome – genius! There is one problem with this of course…risk is not the only thing that’s diminished.