Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Carrie Reichardt - Mad in England

Ok, so these are my thoughts on the keynote address for the MAANZ Symposium 2013. From the UK, Carrie Reichardt advised us she is "not a Royalist" and proceeded to share her thoughts on life, art and politics. Her paper was unsettling and overwhelming...but inspirational. Days later, her words are still resonating with me. "The Treatment Rooms" is her studio and her work definately has a message with murals, mosaic, ceramics and screen printed political works her forte. Sporting a "Mad in England" windcheater and a hat rather akin to that of a tram conductor Carrie was never going to be boring. Art college turned her off art. Her tutors didn't like political work or feminist work which translated that they didn't like her. So she finished with art college and did her own thing, which she has continued to do ever since. Her art is autobiographical as is her way of working and from what she told us her art is cathartic and brought her back from the edge. After suffering from mental illness, her art was her salvation. Becoming involved in community mosaic and work with schools enabled her to make a connection to people and she was able to work again, but as she so clearly stated, Council pays you to dumb down the message and take meaning out of the work so Carrie stopped working for Council through public art commissions, and again started to do her own thing. This is where the discussion deviated from mosaic, and for just reason, but her time talking to us was spent discussing issues that at times were confronting, but were very much from the heart. I for one appreciated this. Death row is a tough topic to address and Carrie did it with humility while at the same time making her stance on related issues pretty clear. 3 out of 4 people on death row in Texas are ex military. Thanks to a connection made through the Big Issue, Carrie began a process of writing to someone on death row, and continued to do so for over five 5 years, becoming friends with Louis and engaging in a lifelong relationship of learning and engagement. This process too reinforce the message that it is ok to do your own thing and as a result Carrie began the mammoth task of mosaicing her own house! Louis spent the last two days of his life with Carrie before his execution. His message to Carrie was that her writing to him restored his humanity. Louis died on 20.10.2005. The death row arguement is a tough one - people either agree with the argument or don't. As Carrie sees it, there is limited opportunity for dialogue - unless you make art out of it. The process of creativity for her, has ensured sanity. As such, there is much in the way of subtle, sometimes hidden messages, in much of her work. Through her friendship with Louis, Carrie's sense of justice and law and order was overthrown and overwhelmed. For Carrie, the words of Martin Luther King Jr ring true "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." People are seduced by ceramics and mosaic and as such it is often possible to tell a story that might otherwise not be heard. Her work for Elephant Parade is a good example of this. Commissions for this project were completed free of charge and as such Carrie has final say over what her work says and shows. Her elephant Phoolan is half gorgeous elephant resplendent in ceremonial robes, and half skeletal to show both aspects of elephant conservation. The irony of the private collector who purchased the works intent to "push the elephant against the wall" was not lost. Similarly Carrie's Trojan horse , commissioned by Cheltenham Art and Craft Museum makes a comment on the abuse of horses by man in war, horse racing and abattoirs. Current work is progressing along the lines of utilising ceramic collage, with the ever present opportunity for political comment. Carrie is working on an international mosaic project in Chile in January 2014. Other influences on her work include the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton's statement "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill the revolution" and the concept of "craftivism" as defined by Betsy Greer 27.8.2013

Melbourne cuisine

Plans for tomorrow are all set. Frank is heading back to Bouzy Rouge to learn how to make Suckling Pork with the chef there and I am heading to the MAANZ Symposium. Food in Melbourne has been an epicurean delight. I am happy to say that more often than not we have fluked it and have eaten really well. Even the Chinese Takeaway we had one night was better than average. Our top pick of Melbourne cafes and restaurants include: Bouzy Rouge 470 Bridge Rd, Richmond. We had lunch there today and both enjoyed our meals. The secret ingredient in the Suckling Pig kept Frank guessing for the duration of the meal until he finally conceded that my guess of "cinnamon" might indeed have been correct. As for me, the Portuguese Seafood Stew with rissoni was the ultimate. I happily used the bread to sop up the sauce until the plate was as clean as possible without licking! Euro Patisserie at Kings Arcade Armadale has great coffee at only $3.50 for a flat white. The escargot pastries are to die for and the croissants are not far behind. With good food and dog friendly, highly recommended for breakfast or a casual lunch. The pick of the meals for me so far was lunch at The Atlantic. Although it has built its reputation on the concept of from the "ocean to plate" the braised beef cheeks with broad beans and mashed potato was the ultimate. It was the best meal I have had in a long time. Just for the record, I did have seafood pasta for entree. The salt was also incredibly good. Turns out it was Murray River salt flakes. Famous for their naturally occurring pink tinge I found a supplier today in our travels and brought some to take home. Actually dinner at il Solito Posto was pretty incredible too. We were seated adjacent to the book case, so after choosing between Barbara Cartland's The Very Naughty Angel and writings of Anne Frank, the menu was easy to navigate. The seafood linguine didn't disappoint and we decided fairly quickly that if we lived in Melbourne The Usual Place would quickly become a regular place to dine. Best breakfast so far goes to Caffe e Torta. A little piece of Europe in Little Collins Street. The breakfast was great with substantial portions, so pretty good all around. The decor was fun too with posters and bits and pieces. In general the decor in restaurants here tend to be quirky. Much more so than Brisbane. If they are not classic with white cloths and trendy graphic designs on the wall, they combine an odd array of bits and pieces, not unlike what you would find in the home of a collector, antique dealer or family restaurant in Europe. Point in case the tip bowl at il Solito Posto. A squirrel nutcracker which looked suspiciously like Alessi. I checked it out at close range but couldn't find a mark on it. The bar tender had no idea what it was, and seemed rather bemused by my interest. Interesting thing was we found a similar nut cracker in an antique store in Armadale - priced at $150. Recommendation for pizza? Papa Gino's in Lygon Sreet, Carlton. The best pizza around. All I can say is thank goodness we have been doing lots of walking. This city could have dire consequences on my long term health and well being. 22.8.2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Melbourne Aquarium

A visit to the Melbourne Aquarium was reminiscent of the visit to the zoo. Wall highlights within a visit to what seemed to be a construction zone with all of the noise, dust, impact on circulation and trip hazards one would associate with a building site. Again, signage apologising for the inconvenience and a full entry price of $35 did little to appease. Ok, enough complaining! The highlights were worth the angst and they included seeing both Gentoo and King Penguins. These birds are incredible in real life and so much better than viewing them on tv. Sorry Sir David! The colours were incredible and so intense up close. Watching them walk was amazing with their momentum and gait unlike anything you can imagine. they really do waddle - until they hit the water where they come into their own. As for the Gentoos, how cute are they. Their trick is to build a pebble nest to impress their partner. Security is tight with pebble theft rife as males fighting to attract their own females, thieve pebbles from adjacent nests. The seahorses and leafy sea dragons were amazing to watch with their movement dependant upon the current. Sea horses use their tails to hang on to coral to stabilise themselves. Then on a whim, they release their tail and float off until they reattach onto another convenient branch. The octopus was a true character as only an octopus can be and I spent some time watching him. His ability to manoeuvre and shape shift is inspiring. The tank with tropical fish was good, but not as large or lavish as you would expect with the access to corals, anemones and fish we have in Australia. It was a little disappointing. There were some smaller tanks that were interesting. I loved the Thread Tailled Travelly and also enjoyed watching the Scorpion Fish. Seeing Travelly on the menu at dinner tonight I abstained and went for the pasta! As for the rainforest area, how it fits under the definition of an "aquarium" beats me. We saw our fill of snakes, bugs and spiders at the zoo so I really struggled to get the connection. The shark tank was ok, but was mostly an in the round set up with only two small sections where the sharks, fish and rays could pass overhead. That said, seeing the rays glide over with their "faces" so close to your head was an amazing experience. I think if you lived in Melbourne you would buy an annual pass to the zoo and aquarium and then when you visited and the construction meant you couldn't see what you wanted you could return another time and pick up what you had missed. Perhaps that's the way to do it. Certainly with both of them so close to the city centre there is no excuse not to visit. 21.8.2013

Melbourne Zoo

I have always been a supporter of ethically sustainable care and conservation of animals and am generally in support of the work of zoos. In the last twelve months I have been fortunate enough to visit Taronga Zoo, Tiger World in Thailand, the Bali Birdpark and Singapore Zoo. Singapore has an international reputation and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately Melbourne didn't live up to expectations. For me, Melbourne always came in ahead of Taronga. That has now changed. We visited Melbourne Zoo yesterday and while we still had a good morning, overall we were disappointed. The site is looking tired and run down, which probably explains why there was also a lot of renovation and empty pens happening. Signage advised patience while awaiting the new and improved look, but with entry fees remaining the same it was frustrating to say the least. The thing for me that impacted most was the reduced number of animals. Even species like Ring Tailed Lemurs and Capuchin Monkeys which usually live in large social groups had reduced numbers. Three lemurs just doesn't have the impact required. That said, there were two small troops of meerkats which was good. The new Orangutan area was nice, but not nearly as good for viewing as Singapore Zoo. Not in my opinion anyway. The key difference, other than the reduced number of animals, was that in Singapore you can walk the boardwalk up and around the apes, so that at times you are above them, sometimes on their level, and other times they are above you. It really as an immersive experience, but one that is respectful of the needs of the animals. They are free to move around unimpeded. It really is an incredible way to see Orangutan. That said, seeing the large male seek warmth on what was a cold day was interesting. He used palm fronds to line the concrete and found a spot out of the wind against the viewing window. That was, until the female came and removed his palm fronds. Every one of them. As for the juvenile? He decided a blanket was all that was needed and promptly utilised the jungle gym equipment to string the blanket up into a tent like device which he promptly crawled into and snuggled out of the wind. Perfect solution. Although the elephant enclosure was a huge improvement on what was previously available, having seen elephants at Patara in Thailand it was hard to see them so confined. With 7 animals in the herd there was some element of group comfort for this social animal....but again we valued having seen these animals as close to in their wild state as possible. With a 150 year history, the Melbourne Zoo needs to work to bring things up to the interim, lets hope that they retain their loyal supporters and client base....and fit in a quick visit to Singapore for inspiration as to how things should be done! 20.8.2013

National Treasure

I met a living legend today. This gentleman, Mr Evans, should be a living National Treasure. In Japanese culture he would be treated with the respect of an aged artisan. In Australia, few would recognise his expertise. Mr Evans runs a quaint, old style shoe repair business located in the Royal Arcade. The Royal Arcade has been in existence since 1870 and from what I can tell Mr Evans has been part of the package for almost as long. For more on the Royal Arcade go to their website at In Brisbane, I was told my boots were unrepairable. They could not match the leather, they did not have the same crepe soles etc etc. On a hunch I brought them to Melbourne with me in the hope that I would be able to find someone that could repair them enough to enable me to continue to wear them. You know what it's like when you have a favourite pair of shoes - the sentimental value over rides common sense. I got these boots on the first trip Frank and I made to Sydney together. We discovered Evans Leather Restorations the previous day so I decided to venture in and see what they said. Not having the boots on me at the time, I described as best I could what the problem was ie a blow out in the crepe heel that made me walk like a landlocked sailor. The girl in the shop wasn't sure, but told me "if anyone can fix them Mr Evans can" and suggested I bring them back in between 8.30 - 1.00 the next day when Mr Evans himself would be in the shop. So we did....and he can! He talked me through the process. Based on his inability to supply a ready made unit, he will construct new soles and heels for my boots. Yes I could buy a new pair of boots for the price, but realistically there is nothing like them around, and they will be good to go indefinitely. So for the experience, and to get my boots back I think it is worth the investment. So, my boots will be repaired, then will be posted home ready to wear again. Got to be happy about that. As for Frank, he came up with a payment plan for cost recovery of the repairs. Spying a shoe shine kit complete with box, he decided he could set me up in the Bourke Street Mall to clean the shoes of passers by, thereby earning the money for the repairs! 20.8.2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

AFL Queen

Who would have thought I would end up at the MCG watching Carlton play Richmond - and enjoy it so much? Certainly not me, but I think being at the game puts a whole new light on activities, and I really had fun. TV coverage seems to focus on the immediate close up action - and don't get me wrong, they do a great job of it, but seeing the entire field of play actually provides different insight to what is going on. As for the punch ups, there is always a tussle happening somewhere. It did actually remind me a little of Gridiron in that I wasn't always able to spot where the ball was....although in Gridiron I know that where the huddle is, the ball will be elsewhere. On the whole, AFL players seem to be better looking, and younger?, than their rugby counterparts. Either that or I am getting older. Tall and thin, and boy do these guys run. I had no idea how much ground they cover in a game. It was pretty impressive. Another benefit of being at the ground, it is huge! I am sure there are statistics somewhere, but trust me, it was big! The crowd was in the vicinity of 61 000 - actually, 60 825. All very well behaved, with lots of fans sporting all sorts of team colours and crazy outfits. From those in the more traditional jersey in team colours to the woman sporting tight leopard print pants, leopard print shoes and black and yellow striped socks. The number of families where Mum and one child supported Carlton, and Dad and the other child supported Richmond (or variations therein) was amazing. Even though Darren and Jackson support Carlton and Deena and Samson the Brisbane Lions, it didn't strike me as being noticeable until I saw it in such numbers. Split supporters within family units is the norm. Darren has been a Carlton fan since he was little - perhaps 5 or 6 years of age. We have a photo of him in his Carlton jersey at around this age. Uncle Ron on the other hand was always a diehard Richmond supporter! Richmond have been around since 1885. How incredible is that for team history! Any single Melbourne women should hang out at the AFL. It was suit city, with many men in attendance dressed and looking pretty spiffy. As for the dress code for the members, the rules stated no beach wear or overalls. With the wind that was whistling around I don't think banning beach wear was much of an issue. As for the security guys, they had their job cut out - keeping an eye out for illegal items when doing bag and esky checks. No video cameras, no glass and wait for it - no cooking utensils! I kid you not. As if you would have time to throw a snag on the BBQ while the game was on. For a first game it was the perfect introduction - with the score being quite close, and Carlton as the under dogs actually coming through to win the game. Oh, did I mention the view from the Jim Stynes Room? Going corporate was pretty special! 17.8.13

The Lieutenant

Book club attracted some heated discussion last night. We read The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville. A deceptively quiet little tale, all the better for knowing that she based her work of fiction on the papers of a real early settler of Sydney Cove. But it wasn't the fiction/non -fiction debate that got us going, instead it was a discussion of language, culture and how we learn. The differences in learning language as a child versus learning a language as an adult. We got onto teaching styles, and what works and what doesn't and how teaching styles vary and how they change over time. For me though it brought up memories of those teachers who made such an impact that they remain part of your make up long since you left school. My top teachers list would include: Mrs Clarke Year 3 at Neutral Bay Primary School. Mrs Patricia McKenzie Year 5, Mr Keith Williams Year 7 at Burleigh Heads Primary School. Mrs Jane Van Hoeyen, Art Teacher, and Mr Bruce Ingham, Ancient History at Miami High Sate School Ms Barbara Piscitelli at QUT - early childhood educator extraordinaire...who taught me to listen to and value what children will share of their world. Combined, they established a lifetime love of learning within me, and for that I have to be grateful. 6.8.13

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island The island is starting to grow on me. I think the trick is to look beyond the tourists and the hype. As you start to explore and settle in to what is offered then the natural beauty of the island takes over until it is almost overwhelming. This visit we have remained on the island with close to perfect conditions. With little or no wind, ocean looks like a sheet of glass. Certainly the extreme opposite of conditions the weekend we went sailing. That said, I can imagine just how spectacular sailing might be in good conditions and look forward to venturing out again when the opportunity arises. We had a wonderful dinner Friday night, with six of us dining beach side. Tapas and celebratory champagne at the waters edge with candles to light our way, before moving in to the restaurant for dinner. The food was wonderful and the service five star, so with the conversation of friends and a glass of wine, it was a perfect evening. With the topic of conversation being related to Hamilton Island Race Week, which kicks off in about two weeks I extended my vocabulary to include some yachting terms. I discovered that a Volvo is not a car and an Oyster is not food. Both are very expensive yachts - one a racing yacht, the other a cruising yacht. Go figure! 4 August 2013