Friday, December 19, 2008

Tito's Vodka

I hadn't done any posting about my favourite subject vodka of late, why? I'm not really sure, I have been drinking it but just not writing about it.

I've gone off my usual dirty belvedere vodka martini with 3 olives lately. I've gone back to one of my other classic favourites, the Vodka Gibson. What's that? Well it's kinda like a martini, belvedere based, spray of vermouth but instead of olives it has cocktail onions. There's something quite beautiful about the Gibson, they way the onions glisten in the premium vodka, the way they run around the glass easily in their spherical manner. I think aesthetically that the Gibson is one hell of a beautiful drink, simple and perfect.

People who know me well know about my ultimate dream, to own a vodka distillery and be one of the first women in Australia to create a perfect premium vodka. I was flicking through a recent copy of Black Book magazine and came across an advert for 'Titos Vodka'. What the hell is that I thought? Tito? Doesn't particularly sound like a good eastern european vodka. Hmmm...

Tito's Vodka

This is Tito and he's dog, I imagine his name to be Yella.

Well, apparently it is made in TEXAS!! Weird. It does have a pretty and simple label, think back to when Zubrowka had a simple, green, black and gold label, it was perfection. I haven't tasted this vodka yet but yes I will give it a go. Maybe I'll even write Tito a letter to see how he went about this. Visit here for more info on Tito's vodka. He has a labrador too, you got to trust a man who makes vodka, who's named Tito and who has a dog. So Texas.

All this talk of vodka is making me think of the stock up I need to do prior to Christmas and New Years. If anyone is thinking of gifts for me, bring on either the Belvedere vodka or Zubrowka. Just bring it on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

tapestry, tapestry and some more tapestry

Listening in: Stasi

melbourne weekly article

I thought that I would finally put up a decent photograph of the Listening In: Stasi tapestry that was completed this year. Also a small article was in the Melbourne Weekly on the show, nice to see that they mentioned the term politics! That's what we like to see.

I've had an interesting week this week, an art critic from the AGE came by yesterday to check out the exhibition for a review, he was going on about how he didn't like the I Wanted To Start A Revolution tapestry, until I told him that it was my work then he kinda back peddled a bit. I'm not fazed by people's critical comments of my artwork, I think I actually get more peeved when people bag out my curating! Artwork is for people to take or leave and generally I prefer them to either be so moved that they hate it than to be indifferent to it. I'm keeping my eyes open for the review, be interesting to see what he says.

I've also been dealing with a serial pest at the gallery. I won't mention names but when you work in the arts you get the joys of many things; artists with delusions of grandeur, visitors who feel that attending the gallery seems to give them a higher social standing and crazy people who come to the launches for free wine and free food. Sometimes you get a combo of all three. I swear that some of them will be the death of me!!!

I'm starting to plan my long service leave for next year too. I think doing the stuff in San Jose and maybe a residency in the USA as well will give my the kick in the butt to focus on my art again before doing a solo show in 2010. Plus my main aim is to be in San Jose for the annual tattoo convention - nice!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Curator as Indiana Jones

I was watching this doco last night on SBS (yep, it's a 2 parter too!) about Hitler's museum. It talked about how he employed a previous gallery/museum director to search for and make a list of all the most amazing artworks in the world that they would then buy for the museum in Hitlers name. I think this was back in the late 1930s.

Then as we all know, war breaks out and instead of buying these amazing artworks, the Nazis decide that they can just take whatever they want for this 'super gallery'. Except they didn't plan on some of the most clever and cunning of gallery curators to tear the works from their frames, crate them up and hide them all over Europe! There was a story of the Louvre packing all of their most culturally valuable works up and taking them to a unused castle in the south of France. They had to find a building that had huge windows and doors so they could get some of the huge sculptures and monuments in. They travelled by night with the works so they wouldn't be found. The most amusing part was that the curator of paintings was in the truck with the works with their most prized work on his lap - the Mona Lisa.

This was something that I hadn't really thought about, I knew about the looting of works by the Nazi's during that time and how difficult it has been to find all the works taken and return them to their rightful owners. I thought it was fantastic, the lengths these curators went to to keep these significant works out of the Nazi's hands! It was a very Indiana Jones, except of saying "this belongs in a museum", they were moving them out of the museum and hiding them for safety.

Can't wait to see the second part of the series, though it did give me weird Nazi dreams last night... very bizarre.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Manipulate: Construct exhibition

Well after much craziness, I managed to get the works up for the Manipulate: Construct exhibition at Town Hall Gallery. (The gallery I manage) Above are some images of my work in the exhibition and I thought I would talk a little bit about the philosophy of the show.
There are 9 artists involved and each artist has a wall and a table to display works. All artists work with woven tapestry but also with other media as well. I took the opportunity to show 3 larger works that have been woven over the last few years. They haven't been woven in sequence but cover an aesthetic and themes that are recurring for me.
On my table I decided to show items and books that relate to me and my work and also influence my practice. Others had small works and drawings on their table but I like the idea of other objects being on display as my studio is full of books, magazines and all sorts of weird items that I've picked up over the years and thought, "that's a cool image" or "I like that font" etc.
I find it sometimes difficult to talk about the meaning of these works, I've always worked intuitively and my works really are an extension of my persona. I decided upon this as an explanation:

This body of work explores my fascination with ideas of strong women and a romanticism for revolutionary ideals. I am an avid collector of military regalia and also read widely about various periods of conflict. After visiting Cuba in 2007, I have been working on creating my own ‘political aesthetic’ that combines my passion for the everyday. The works themselves portray a personal sense of self while situating themselves within this aesthetic.
I like the term 'political aesthetic' my partner came up with that for me as the works themselves aren't politically charged, more take on the looks and are influenced by propaganda posters and Communist regalia. The idea of control v's strength is important to me also. As is my romantic view of Communist life, I like to situate and create my own narratives for these situations.
The exhibition is on at Town Hall Gallery from 3-20 December.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moving on...

Last week was a little crazy, well more than crazy. After being in our apartment for close to 2 years, we received a letter from our Nazi like property managers that they had been notified of the presence of animals on the premises. Yes, our pussy-cat Nina (aka Anne Frank) had been outed to the Nazi's! I had a pretty bad day at work that day and came home to that letter, naturally making me feel much more crap!

We made the decision to move before they officially evicted us, mostly due to the fact that not only was there the cat issue but they now wanted us to remove the 6 small pots near our back door which we grow our yummy herbs. So pussy-cat, impending rent increase and a soul-less and herb-less house was sounding all a bit much.

So the MaMa's are moving on to a much better and bigger place (with a back yard too!) It's all working out, my tapestry is just about finished meaning I can dismantle my loom also my much larger than expected tax return should be arriving in the mail shortly.

I'm expecting this weekend that our car will look a little bit like the above when we collect the keys. We are looking forward to exploring a new area so expect some reviews and photos soon!

I hate moving but I do enjoy decorating a new house.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manipulate: Construct exhibition, yep I'm in it.

manipulate construct poster

I finally decided to curate a tapestry exhibition at the gallery that I run, yeah, after 4 years! It features 9 tapestry weavers, both Australian and international as well as some of my own work.

It will be at Town Hall Gallery, rear, 358 Burwood Road in Hawthorn from the 3 to the 20 December. It's the last exhibition for the year. Hopefully we'll see you there!
For more info go here!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

new hand madey shoes!

some stuff 005

witch style hand made shoes

I picked up my new hand made shoes yesterday, very exciting. Yes, I do like a witchy-point and I'm totally digging the pale grey colour, they will go with loads of my dresses, although they do remind me of old man's shoes? hmmm....

Anyway, very comfortable, very cute. They are even beautiful on the inside too with lovely gold printed lining!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Scandinavian prints

Bold print dress girls

I've been back in the sew, so to speak and have been making loads of dresses out of some wacky printed fabrics. I wore one of my creations on Friday for work and my groovy work colleague Helena also wore her amazing vintage dress that her mum made while pregnant with her!! It still looks fresh and modern, I was very impressed!

We decided that we needed to get a photo of us in our Scandinavian printed dresses looking very groovy at our favourite bar Baranows. Please note that I think this photo is taken after my 5th vodka gibson, so very flushed cheeks!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The amazing Cindy Ray

I've always been quite fascinated by the infamous Cindy Ray who was/is a tattooist and was one of the first female tattooists in Melbourne in the 1960s. I discovered this article and interview with her as one of our artists who featured in the last t-shirt exhibition at Town Hall Gallery created the mural that features in the image above, showing Cindy Ray in her hey day. Marc is also doing an apprenticeship at the tattoo shop.
See below this fascinating article that was in the AGE on December 6, 2007 titled A Life In Pictures.

Talked into her first tattoo at 19, a sideshow attraction by her 20s, a Hall of Famer in her 60s. Maryrose Cuskelly meets local legend Bev Nicholas.
AN INSISTENT buzz, like that of an enraged hornet, drifts out the open door and down the footpath. On a slightly higher pitch, and carried along in its wake, is a strangled shrieking. "I've got a squealer here," is the laconic assessment of the older woman wielding the tattoo needle, the source of the all this kerfuffle. She doesn't pause in her work but continues tracing letters in elaborate script across the lower back of the shrieker, a young woman having her daughters' names etched into her skin for posterity.

In body art circles, Bev Nicholas (until recently known as Bev Robinson) is a legend. She has been described as "the grand old woman of Australian tattooing". Bev was one of the first women in Australia to be heavily tattooed and toured the country as Cindy Ray, "the classy lassie with the tattooed chassis", in the 1960s. That was decades ago. Most of her working life has been spent tattooing others.

In 2005, Bev was inducted into the Lyle Tuttle Tattoo Art Museum's Tattoo Hall of Fame in St Louis, one of only about half a dozen people judged worthy of the honour. Not that she goes in for that sort of stuff much. She was gracious enough to attend her induction but all that attention is not really her cup of tea. "I don't like people making a big fuss of me," she says. Kenny McPharlane, who took over Bev's Moving Pictures Tattoo Studio in Williamstown three years ago, reckons she's probably more famous internationally than she is in Australia. "She's an icon. We get a lot of tattooists from all over the world coming in just to meet her. I think any self-respecting tattooist would know who Bev was."

Bev turned 65 recently and the grandmother of two still works most Sundays at the studio in Williamstown, the suburb where she was born and grew up with her brother and three sisters. She remembers a much different place, where the rifle range was still open and hardly anyone came near the place at the weekend. Her father was an engineer, working for the Myers' Maintenance Department in Footscray. One of his regular duties was installing the city store's famous Christmas window displays.

Bev's not sure what it was that convinced photographer Harry Bartram that she would be up for his money-making scheme, or for that matter, why she let herself be talked into it. He spun the 19-year-old key punch operator a tale of the fortune she could make as a tattooed woman touring the country. Despite the fact that no one in her family had tattoos and that getting tattooed "just wasn't done", she got four on the first night. Her parents were disgusted, although some time later her mother did allow Bev to practice her tattooing on her. "My father hit the roof," Bev recalls, and the little duck tattooed on her mother's arm was hidden forever.

Bev's still self-conscious about her own tattoos, and will cover up if she's out. "I've always got something in the boot of the car with long sleeves no matter how hot it is." She thinks it has a lot to do with her late father's attitudes to tattoos. "He was always saying, 'Put a long sleeved jumper on. Don't let anyone see them'."

Back then, the brazenness of the young women today who casually display their large and elaborate tattoos was unthinkable. "They're gamer than me," Bev says. She admires much of the more contemporary style of tattoo, "If I did decide I was going to get tattoos done again, I wouldn't go for all the coloured stuff. I'd go for the wash work (a style of tattoo that uses only black ink). I think that looks really lovely."

Occasionally Bev will find herself discouraging potential clients from getting tattoos. Like most tattooists she's very reluctant to tattoo anyone's hands, necks or faces and she's always sceptical of anyone who comes into the shop with a pack of friends. "I think, 'Hmm, peer pressure'." If they tell her they've only been thinking about getting a tattoo that day, she tells them to go home and think about it some more.

Bev is now tattooing the squealer's sister, who keeps jerking backwards, making it almost impossible for Bev to finish the outline of the tattoo "That one's a wriggler," Bev says, "every tattooist's nightmare."

"Don't suddenly do that jumping business," she scolds the woman, who complains its worse than getting an injection at the dentist.
"I don't even have injections for fillings," Bev says. "I can't stand that numb feeling."
She applies more anaesthetic gel to the woman's lower back. It takes effect and the woman visibly relaxes, allowing Bev to repair the uneven outline. "Thank God you can fix a stuff up," Bev says out of the corner of her mouth. A bit later she muses, "I wish I'd felt like that when I first got tattooed; I would never have got any."

Yet three weeks ago, Bev did get another tattoo, her first in 17 years. She pulls up the leg of her tracksuit pants to reveal a simple design of just three words above her knee: "My Son Craig", and beneath it the dates of his birth and death. He passed away in July after a long battle with cancer. Bev, who also has an adult daughter named Leah, plans to have a pair of hands added: one reaching up to another reaching down to meet it. "I fell in a heap," she says, recalling her loss, but she continued her regular Sunday tattooing shift at Moving Pictures. "At least it's getting me out of the house one day a week." One weekend, about four weeks ago, Kenny rang ahead with a warning, "Now, don't yell at me when you walk in the shop. There's a surprise down there."

The surprise was a huge mural on the back wall of the studio based on a photo taken of Bev when she was Cindy Ray, "the girl who put the oo in tattoo". It shows a young, pretty blonde woman, a shawl draped modestly around her shoulders with a winged woman tattooed on her upper chest.

Kenny commissioned the mural as a tribute to Bev; a way of paying his respects and to ensure her name and reputation carry on. "It's probably been the highlight of my tattooing career to have met Bev and to have actually worked with her. To buy her studio was just the icing on the cake." There's just one more thing Kenny would like to do. "I have to get a tattoo done by Bev. That's a must."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The C word - Collaboration that is!

I just spent the last 2 days at a NETS symposium with the title "The C word - Curators and Collaboration", or something like that!

It's always nice to get out of the office and catch up with colleagues, many from rural galleries and talk about what we've been doing and what exhibitions we have coming up. In reality most of the work usually happens over coffee or later at the bar, when we come to the realization that we all come across the same situations.

This year's symposium was interesting as we had lots of speakers from the Melbourne International Arts Festival. This is always a great opportunity to hear direct from artists, many who are international that we never get to hear from.

One of the speaker highlights for me was Chris Doyle who has created a film work/projection/installation outside the National Gallery of Victoria. I get what he does, he is a fantastic speaker and I'm familiar with some of his work in New York which helps when you know what people are talking about!

At the end of the second day we went on a bit of a gallery tour to catch up on some of the shows that speakers had spoken about, but also just to take time out to see what's going on. We all get so busy that often we don't get an afternoon to see stuff!

Some of the exhibitions that I saw were:
correspondences: víctor erice and abbas kiarostami
which is on at show at ACMI. This would have to be one of the best installed and most poetic and touching exhibitions I've seen at ACMI. I'd definitely suggest catching it before it ends in early November. I loved the way that it had been set up with the gallery space being divided into 2 with one side for each film maker/artist and their collaborative work at the end, so you could enter from either side.

Lynette Wallworth

I then went to the Evolution of Fearlessness by artist Lynette Wallworth, here as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Lynette had spoken at the symposium and her discussion of the work made most of it want to go and see it. It's an interactive piece in a dark room where who are invited to walk up some steps, and put your hand on a small pulse of light. When you do this, a woman emerges from the dark, places her hand on yours and stars into your eyes. Nothing is said, and nothing needs to be said. It's incredibly moving in a way you can't describe. The 11 women's stories are also captured in a book in the room that you can read also. I'm always amazed at this type of interactive works that rely on the viewer to take part for the work to be created - the image of the woman won't appear until you put your hand there, it's just a small pulse of light in a black room - amazing work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stasi Tapestry in progress

Stasi tapestry in progress

Yes, I finally got my butt back into my weaving after hitting a bit of a hump on this tapestry. I'm weaving it the right way up (the way that you are seeing it) which is quite different for me. Now that I've finally got a good start on the figure, it's all going quite quickly. Other than my fingers getting super sore and bleeding from the rubbing on the warps.

I can't wait to get this one off the loom to start some new works that are in a square format (something that I'm a bit addicted to at the moment). I also need to get this one finished for the Manipulate: Construct exhibition that I'm curating in December. Yikes!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Art Stuff that I'm Following

I realized that I hadn't made a post for close to 2 weeks! When flicking through my diary I realized how crazy the month of October was looking and it's all revolving around a wide range of arty stuff, which is good but mad!

I thought I'd give a bit of a run down on what I've been doing and art stuff I've been following!

Public programs for Ugly, Drunk and Stupid exhibition.

For starters, we held a Melbourne Fringe Festival exhibition at Town Hall Gallery for one week featuring a whole bunch of Melbourne Comic Book artists. The exhibition titled: Ugly, Drunk and Stupid was curated by Jo Waite and Bernard Caleo and was lots of fun. I think one of my favourite activities was the Ugly draw off where everyone was drawing on 'beer coaster shaped' paper. Visit our flickr to see the final results.

I also went and saw one of my all time favourite bands The Futureheads play at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. It was a fantastic evening and I have to say that I haven't had so much fun at a gig for a very, very long time!! I think that I even had sore legs from bopping along way too much!

I've also been organizing our annual Get Into Art day at the gallery which will also include our zine fair. This is all happening on Sunday 26 October from 11am -4pm. A big shout out to the wonderful Candace Petrik who has been a superstar in helping me get it all together - she's a gem!

Also, I'm curating an exhibition which will be held at Town Hall Gallery from 3 - 20 December called Manipulate: Construct. It features 9 tapestry artists (me included!) and will be focusing on contemporary tapestry. Needless to say that this exhibition has been making me VERY busy!! I got my butt into gear and did a whole heap of weaving over the weekend to the point that my fingers were bleeding - again. I'm hoping to have possibly 2 new tapestries to show for the exhibition, without killing myself first! We'll see how that goes, currently I have one tapestry that I showed in Florida earlier this year which has now seemed to have gone missing on it's way back to Australia. Very frustrating as it means I have to weave more! I guess these things do happen though.
I will post images of the tapestry in progress for the show soon also! Maybe when October has finished.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Russian Film Festival kicks off again soon!

It's on again! The annual Russian Film Festival begins at the end of October and will be screening at the Como Palace cinema in Toorak. I always get excited to see what's on and I'm loving their graphics for this year as well.

To see the program go here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Miss Showgirl...

Miss Goulburn Showgirl 2008.

With the Melbourne Show finishing on the weekend, it made me think about my childhood in regional Victoria. I used to visit the local show, enter craft and cooked items into the displays, even take my pets to win $2.50 for a first prize for the cutest guinea pig. I then began to wonder if the Miss Showgirl still existed, or was it passe and not politically correct?

Though after some googling to find the old regulations of 'Miss Showgirl', I discovered that it is well and alive. Here are the regulations for Miss Showgirl Mildura.
The Award is conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria Limited and Victorian Agricultural Societies Association Incorporated to select the winner of the Junior Show Ambassador Award.
These rules and regulations apply to all aspects of the Award. Applicants who enter the Award are to be bound by the rules and Regulations for the Junior Show Ambassador Award and to abide by all decisions of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria Limited in relation to all matters in connection with or arising out of the Award.
Entrants must:
• Apply and complete the application/entry form
• Provide an article on their hobbies which are relevant to the competition and their
current involvement with Agricultural Shows.
• Be available to attend Regional interviews, State Final interviews and announcement
of Awards at the Royal Melbourne Show.
• Aged between 17 - 20 years inclusive at the time of their local Show.
• Enthusiastic and knowledgeable about rural life and affairs, and Agricultural Shows.

Entrants must wear smart, casual, tailored clothing and will be judged in accordance
with the following guidelines:
Community Involvement = 5 points
Country Show involvement = 25 points
General & Rural Knowledge = 20 points
Personality = 10 points
Ambitions/Goals = 20 points
Communication Skills = 10 points
Style, Grooming and Deportment = 10 points
Public Presentation (3 Minute Oral Presentation = 20 points
TOTAL . . . . . . . . . 120 points

I remember seeing that all applicants must be 'single' as well, was this a hang over from having to be a virgin? hmmm.... I wonder why I never got involved in such contests?!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

After watching the film 'Reds' again recently I have been wanting to find out more about Americans who decided to leave America to go and be in Russia during communist times. After reading this article on the Moscow Times, I'm very interested to get a hold of this book!
The Soviet Dream
Tim Tzouliadis bears witness to the thousands of Americans who were swept up in Stalin's Terror.
By Pang-Mei Natasha Chang
Published: September 19, 2008

Hindsight -- especially historical -- is twenty-twenty. Knowing what we do today, we can easily forget the glittering promise that communism held out to a world gripped by poverty and high unemployment in the 1930s: food for all, a worker's paradise. A new, well-researched group biography of Americans who left the United States for the Soviet Union during the Great Depression highlights the extent of the attraction. It also underscores the tragic timing of their choice, as these same hopeful Americans became captives of the Soviet system and were killed in the whirlwind of Stalin's terror.
In "The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia," documentary filmmaker Tim Tzouliadis takes us on the sorrowful but engaging journey of the thousands of Americans who were first let down by the American dream, only to perish in the Soviet nightmare. Adding to the tragedy, not all of the Americans who came to the Soviet Union in the 1930s were political fanatics. "Few paused to distinguish whether they were being pulled by an ideology or pushed by their need," Tzouliadis writes. "Theirs was a reaction to the actuality and future threat of poverty, and to understand them we must place ourselves momentarily in a similar position of unknowing: when the idea of the Soviet Revolution was still filled with hope, and only the most perspicacious could discern the truth that lay beneath that promise."
In the early 1930s, Stalin was rapidly industrializing the Soviet Union, largely according to an American design. Upon arrival, most of the Americans -- among them, African-Americans accustomed to being treated as second-class citizens in their homeland -- were given jobs in factories. They settled not only in Moscow, but also in places as far-flung as Gorky, where the Ford Motor Company had built a giant auto plant, or Stalingrad, where the Detroit architect Albert Kahn had built a mammoth tractor factory. Set apart by their accents, novelty and the quality of their clothing, most Americans enjoyed quasi-celebrity status. Whereas back home they had been "regular assembly-line Joes," they were now welcomed as "experts" to fledgling Russian industries, and gave lectures on the United States -- usually the evils of American unemployment -- to Soviet factory clubs. They also pursued familiar expatriate activities -- reading their own English-language paper, the Moscow Daily News, sending their children to English-language schools, singing in the Anglo-American chorus and playing baseball. But any change of heart about coming to the Soviet Union brought a realization of how difficult it was for them to leave.
Tzouliadis tells of one group of American factory workers who were told upon their arrival in December 1931 to hand over their passports for registration, given registration forms to fill out, and then "abruptly informed that they had all become Soviet citizens." Others accepted working contracts in the Soviet Union only to be accused of espionage and required to take up Soviet citizenship to clear their names. Before November 1933, the United States had no diplomatic presence in Russia, and the main recourse for "captured Americans" was the power and pressure of the foreign press. But the revocation of U.S. passports was a touchy subject among journalists facing censors and expulsion, and this issue was among many that were under-reported. Even the existence of Ukraine's mass famine, which killed millions in the early 1930s, was in question for such reporters as Walter Duranty, the longtime New York Times Moscow bureau chief who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his reporting.The U.S. Embassy opened in 1933 to a deluge of requests by Americans desperate to leave. But many of the would-be emigrants no longer held U.S. passports, or had become Soviet citizens, forcing diplomats to turn to the labyrinthine Soviet bureaucracy for answers that never came.
Through extensive archival research, including internal embassy memorandums, correspondences and files, Tzouliadis shows how hundreds of Americans were essentially forsaken by a government unable to protect them. Although the State Department had information concerning the theft of U.S. passports for the fraudulent entry of communists into the United States, and was aware of numerous reports that the Soviet authorities were issuing residency permits for ever shorter periods to force Americans to accept Soviet citizenship, Tzouliadis writes that its staff did little to negotiate with the Soviet Foreign Ministry even in the "honeymoon" years. By 1938, many Americans were simply being picked up by secret police officials just outside the embassy gates. A young officer by the name of George Kennan, later the architect of the U.S. policy of "containment" of Soviet communism, attached the following note in 1938 to the file of an American stuck in the camps. His ideas fell on deaf ears:

The Soviet Government has the administrative power to arrest and hold incommunicado indefinitely any American citizen in the Soviet Union ... Should this person have at the time of his arrest only American nationality the Soviet authorities apparently have only to notify us that he has been admitted to Soviet citizenship in order to create a situation in which under our usual practice we would not press further representations in his behalf ... The upshot is that in reality no American citizen resident in the Soviet Union has any assurance that we will be able to help him in case the Soviet authorities should take repressive action again him. The situation is such that these people are virtually at the mercy of the Soviet authorities ... Logically we should refuse to recognize the naturalization of Americans in the Soviet Union as voluntary and valid in the absence of confirmation of the voluntary character of the act on the part of the person concerned ... An alternative would be to give publicity to the real situation, with a view to relieving the Department and the Embassy at Moscow of further responsibility for the protection of our citizens resident in the Soviet Union.

Reading "The Forsaken," I was reminded of a comment that a Russian girlfriend of mine once made about the "naivety" of Americans, who "have values and think they can live by them." Oftentimes, history is more powerful than the people caught up in it. Perhaps Thomas Sgovio, who survived 16 years of imprisonment, most of them spent in Kolyma, relays this idea best when quoted at the end of Tzouliadis' book. Having learned from his newly-released file that his American sweetheart in Moscow had informed on him, Sgovio said, "She was not a very courageous person. It was a frightening time for everyone."Pang-Mei Natasha Chang is the author of the memoir "Bound Feet & Western Dress." She is currently writing a book on expats in China

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Questions about me!

Natalie Portman Wears (detail)

detail of tapestry "What Natalie Portman Wears"

I had an email from a student at ANU Canberra today who is studying tapestry with Valerie Kirk. She had to complete an assignment on tapestry weavers who use the human image or form in their work. She had discovered me and sent me a list of questions for me to respond to for her assignment. It's always interesting doing these exercises as it makes me think back to why I do this stuff and what I think about.

So here are my responses to her... yes, I did feel like I was starting to write a thesis again!

1. What is your background? What led you to pursue tapestry as an art form?

I have completed a Bachelor of Fine Art majoring in tapestry at Monash University Melbourne in 1998 and have also completed my honours and then a Masters of Fine Art by Research all primarily working in woven tapestry. Kate Derum was my supervisor during that time.

I pursued tapestry mostly as I saw it as a challenge. I had previously worked in painting and printmaking and had initially thought that I would major in one of those disciplines at university. I had seen tapestry but had thought I knew how to do it to major in it! However after a discussion with Kate Derum out in a corridor who claimed that my work and style would lend itself to tapestry well, I decided to take the plunge and move into a new discipline. I should mention that I had always had a strong history with textiles. My parents owned a Singer sewing machine store, were boot makers, milliners and pattern makers so I had always worked with textiles, even when I was printmaking, so it seemed a natural progression for my work.

When it comes to being an artist, in particular an artist working in woven tapestry, I love being part of a very old tradition but showing contemporary imagery. I also like the fact that it’s a skill based art that not everyone does, so it makes it a little special - it has a bit of ‘wow’ factor. When it comes to motivation and inspiration, the everyday is what inspires me. Now that I don’t have much time to spend on my artwork, I make things that I want to make and that I feel strongly about or have a connection with. I don’t make work that is controlled by what may sell or what other people want. The imagery I create is made very intuitively but the selection of what will be woven is selected on aesthetic basis and because it has something to say, either about me or because there is a narrative I want to share. I’m heavily influenced by artists such as Karen Kilimnik and Elizabeth Peyton with whom I share a love of figurative works that have a quiet narrative and who also put the viewer and artist into a range of characters.

2. Do you practice other art forms, and if so, what would they be?

Although I primarily work in woven tapestry I do work across a wide range of media. Most of my tapestries have a collage starting point and mostly I will work on paper, either collaging, mixed media or drawing. Often I will work with objects as well and during my honours year I was making 3D dolls to add to tapestries and also bags that held objects and tapestries, primarily looking at new ways to display tapestry as well as ways to get my ideas across.

I still work on paper constantly, mostly as my tapestries are big and it’s a quick way to get ideas down. I am still working with objects and the idea of the doll as well as creating artist books of images. I’ve always been very interested in artist books as I’m heavily influenced by popular culture and fashion magazines and liked the idea of creating my own.

3. I notice that your work features young, attractive women. Is there a particular reason for your work taking this direction?

I have always worked with the figure and when it comes to what inspires me to create my imagery I stick with things that I know and that relate to my own personal experience. More and more now I find that I am intuitively drawn to selecting figures (or characters) that seem very much like me; that they become the vehicle of my statements within the tapestry. Although it seems very egotistical to say that I am a ‘young and attractive woman’, the works are very much about my view on the world or an imaginary character that I would like to play at some point. The works for my Masters thesis titled ‘Outfit’ talked about our obsession with celebrity and the role of the fan. I can relate to the role of the fan and in some ways idolise and fanaticize about the role of celebrity.

I am interested in the notion of ‘people-watching’ and find it an important inspirational tool to capturing the essence of the everyday for me and my work. I think that people watching can be used for static forms such as magazines also and that this crosses over into my work whereby the images created through weaving are static. I also enjoy the strong history of portraiture in art and think that most people are obsessed with looking at others and situating themselves within how others appear.

Often viewers have asked if the girls in the tapestries are me. From a resource point of view they are not. The original images are often found from fashion magazines or advertisements. Though I think even when I was still painting and creating portraits and figures, they inevitably ended up with qualities similar to my own. Now, they have dark hair, big eyes and a fringe, which most people would say are my own features.

4. I'm interested in the career paths that a Fine Arts degree can lead to. I see that besides being a practising artist, you are also the curator at the Town Hall Gallery in Hawthorn. Could you comment on your choice of career in the arts field?
I usually describe myself as a full time curator and part time artist these days.
I always had an interest in how exhibitions were constructed and the role of the gallery in educating, inspiring and challenging people. Becoming a curator is something that I fell into. I started working as a volunteer in a regional art gallery at a very young age and then was mentored by the Director. I had been given the opportunity to curate an exhibition in my final year of VCE and found that I loved the balance of creating my own work and working with other artists and being inspired by their ideas.

Although I had always thought that I would do a Fine Arts degree, I continued with curating and being heavily involved in the behind the scenes in exhibitions mostly as I felt that it allowed me to become a better artist. Many curators have gone on to do Museum or Arts Management studies, though I believe that the continual hands on work has allowed me to become the curator I am today, along with being an artist as well, gives me insight into dealing with other artists, their aspirations and when they will panic!

Being a tapestry weaver and a curator also has allowed me to continue with my passion of tapestry being seen as a contemporary art form. Working in the industry allows me to push the envelope, so to speak and to put it into a critical context with other works. Most people say that I’m very lucky to work within the arts but I think that the curating and creating feed off each other in the way that I think and approach both my works.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There is hope for my dreams


"Ending months of speculation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art reached into its ranks on Tuesday and chose Thomas P. Campbell, a 46-year-old British-born tapestries curator, to succeed Philippe de Montebello as director and chief executive. The appointment, effective January 1, was approved in an afternoon vote of the museum’s board of trustees after a suspenseful eight-month search that began after Mr. Montebello, 72, announced plans to retire after 31 years in the post. "

For more information go here.

Ah, there is some hope for me still to be a head honcho at one of my all time favourite galleries/museums, the Metropolitan in NYC. It is fantastic to see that a tapestries curator has been appointed to lead the way at the Met. Though he is quite young, I wonder how long I would have to wait to take over (wink, wink, nudge nudge!) I do expect some fantastic tapestry exhibitions and hopefully some new, innovative and contemporary works!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sometimes I don't know where the time goes...

Pretty often the weeks fly by for me and I had realized that I hadn't made any posts of recent times. I may of been recovering from Mark's birthday party!

Some common themes have been occuring in my last few weeks. For starters I've played the role of 'art critic' by being the judge at two exhibitions; one at a posh girls school and the other for a mosaic exhibition at the my gallery. Being a judge is always an interesting experience. I think that I'm super quick and look for works that jump out to me immediately, that are innovative and interesting and also well executed. Judging the mosaic exhibition was a little more challenging as I haven't really had to judge the medium before, but I just approached it as any other contemporary art - hopefully the mosaic folk were happy with the results!

I also went to Brisbane (Brisvegas as many know it as, we call it Brismoe now) to see the Picasso and his collection exhibition. It had been a while since I'd visited the sunshine state and was glad that I wen't with my fabulous two husbands! In a nutshell, the food was kinda crappy, the art was great, the markets so-so. Though we went on ferries and walked around. I ended up getting sore feet and had to buy a pair of very patriotic thongs at a souvenier store. (see below)

I did get 'gallery envy'. Both the State Library of Queensland and the galleries were fantastic, very beautiful architecture, easy to walk around, great feel as a curator and patron. I will definitely go for other shows for the weekend!

I also went along for the first time to Baranows Whiskey Tasting evening. They've had quite a few but I haven't managed to make it until now. I'm not a huge whiskey drinker, naturally I love my vodka but it was a very informative and fun night. And I didn't get too tipsy after sampling 8 whiskeys!

Now I just need to get my butt into some weaving... so stay tuned!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fidel Castro & Miss Mollie Moscow party on!

Mark's  bday Nat's pics 002
Fidel Castro & Miss Mollie Moscow

It was my partner's birthday on the weekend and we decided to party on at our favourite local bar, Baranows which is also a great (although non-smoking) cigar bar. It never really was going to be a fancy dress party but it ended up with the theme of Cuban/communist/ or dictator like. Mark with his impressive facial hair decided to go as Fidel Castro and me, as my made-up Russian communist character, Miss Mollie Moscow.

Mark's  bday Mardis picture 001
The Cigar Cake!

Much organization went in, with me making the claim that I was going to make a cake in the shape of a cigar and also the time that went into making our outfits. I went back into a sewing frenzy making Miss Mollie's dress as well as decorating Mark's Fidel shirt and making the Castro cap for his 'largish' head!

Mark's  bday Nat's pics 010
Our Comrades, Miss Mollie Moscow & martini, Lenin, Mao supporter & Fidel

A great night was had with the last people (Miss Mollie, Fidel and our SS officer Miss Nat) all going to bed around 6am the next morning. I think even our cat Nina had a hangover!

Now all I have to decide on is what I'll do for MY birthday!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Matryoshka Dolls

matryoshka tarten family

I've been experimenting with creating Matryoshka (babushka/nesting dolls) dolls as a way of making objects again alongside my tapestry works. I managed to get my hands on a few sets of blank sets to works with and have been playing with adding collages at first to see how they turn out. They've been a little tricky but quite rewarding. It's taking some time to get the feel of the object themselves and how they work. I'm hoping as I get more of a grasp of them as an object that I will explore the use of tapestry elements as well but just now, they are pure collage/paint numbers.

So why Matryoshka's? Well obviously my obsession with Soviet and folk arts has played a role in this. As a child, I remember a matryoshka doll that my nana had from USSR from the early 1980s. It used to sit on the mantle piece and now that she is gone, it sits on my mantle piece. I love the use of narrative within the nesting doll formula and also the metaphor of various sides to our personality, life-cycles etc. They can be very loaded.

matroyska 007

I've been working on 2 sets today. One a small set of 3 and the other a set of 5.
The first one is a bit of an anarchist, stirring trouble theme. It shows 3 girls with the text on each: "going against the grain", "you're a red-blooded anarchist" and "it's time to be counted". All things that could be 'living life motto's" for me!

The second series plays with this great D&G advert that I love where it has all these family members in tartan dresses and head scarves. I've added the girls onto the dolls and the final one has a boy and a girl, bit of a fairy tale fantasy but with a bit of an edge. The last one will have a landscape scene as well.

These works are purely in progress at the moment, much finishing, lacquering and painting to be done but I'm happy with how they are looking and hope to have them for an upcoming display case exhibition soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Team Up exhibition opened

The Team Up exhibition at Town Hall Gallery that I am involved in opened last Thursday evening. It was a great evening, a few sales and my pal David managed to snap this picture of Miss Shannon in front of my tapestry taking a look at my other works. I had to add it as she managed to step in front of the tapestry at just the right time and looks like she is the girl in the tapestry. Very much like a live collage! Other photos from the evening can be found on the gallery blog.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

MIFF - Revue & Dead Daughters

My second and third films were Russian films. The first Revue was a stunning collage of various Soviet films used for propaganda and support for the Communist regime from the 1920s to 1940s. The films filmed in black and white were broken up with music and dance scenes that had me tapping away to the oompa music in the cinema. Very quiet and beautiful and a fantastic opportunity to see this type of historical footage on the big screen.

Dead Daughters was shown at 11.15pm at the Capitol theatre. There were huge cues so it looked like it was going to be popular. The story was "three young women, murdered by their mother, return from the dead to take revenge. Anyone who comes in contact with these spirits and commits a sin within three days will suffer their wrath. With this in mind, five Muscovites attempt to remain without sin - though sometimes the greatest sin is inaction."

The film was entertaining, though I think I would of enjoyed watching it earlier in the evening. It reminded me of films such as The Ring with the group of friends banding together as they each get picked off by some supernatural force. Yet again, the MIFF audiences were there in their annoying state. There were so many people walking out throughout the film it was incredibly distracting! I know that it was late but are we that picky these days that we can't hang around for 2 hours to see how a film ends... not matter how bad we think it is?!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

MIFF - Bob Marley and Lee Scratch Perry

Heading into the last weekend of the Melbourne International Film Festival saw me doing 3 films in one day on Saturday 9th August, the only triple session I had done this year.

It started at 10.45am with a mad dash to see the Bob Marley doco and Lee 'Scratch' Perry doco. I had read on Richard's blog that the Bob Marley one was pretty disappointing so I didn't have much expectations and Richard was pretty much right. After going to Kingston in Jamaica late last year, I recognised the scenery but the doco didn't deliver anything new or exciting. The Lee Scratch Perry on the otherhand was very intriguing. Described in the guide as:

"Some people call Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry a prophet; others claim he’s a madman. Seeing him in the opening scenes of this documentary – spinning in circles in his plaid shorts, oversized sunglasses, spouting the praises of Jah Rastafari – you could conclude he’s a little bit of both. Kicking off in rural Jamaica, Upsetter looks into Perry’s youth before segueing to the days of his musical peak in Kingston, where he mentored a young Bob Marley, shaped the reggae sound as we know it today, pioneered a new genre called ‘dub’ and invented what would become ‘the remix’. A documentation of music culture and a unique character study, Upsetter uses archival and contemporary footage, interviews, concert and music clips, and dramatic recreations to detail Perry’s influence across the globe."

After watching this doco, I have a new found respect for Mr Perry who has always been so inventive and incredibly original. I have also found my continual lack of love for MIFF audiences! I'm sick of people laughing at inappropriate parts, people coming in and out half way through films. Where did film attendance etiquette go?

Friday, August 8, 2008

IPOD shuffle

I got this from the fantastic Richard Watt's blog and thought I'd give it a go myself. How it works, there's a list of questions, you then put your ipod on shuffle and keep forwarding to the next mysterious song for each answer, some of them are a bit freaky!

Here's my responses:

1. What does next year have in store for me?
Evolution (song by Catpower)

2. What’s my love life like? The losing end (song by Neil Young)

3. What do I say when life gets hard? Emptiness ( song by John Frusciante)

4. What do I think of on waking up? Ta douleur (your pain) (song by Camille)

5. What song will I dance to at my wedding? Dream on (song by Depeche Mode)

6. What do I want as a career? Caught in a whisper (song by Moloko)

7. My favorite saying? The bright light (song by Tanya Donelly)

8. Favorite place? Panama (song by Van Halen)

9. What do I think of my parents? Flesh and blood (song by Johnny Cash)

10. What’s my porn star name? Besame Mucho (song by Xavier Cougat from Cuba)

11. Where would I go on a first date? Falling away with you (song by Muse)

12. Drug of choice? Memories (song by Madness)

13. Describe myself: Ode to Isis (song by ...and you will know us from the trail of dead)

14. What is the thing I like doing most? Benga – Zombie Jig (song by youngsta and hatcha – dubstep)

15. What is my state of mind like at the moment? Breathing (song by Kate Bush)

16. How will I die? Friday night (song by Lily Allen)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

MIFF - Surveillance

I've always been a fan of David Lynch, so when there was the opportunity to see the latest film Surveillance by his daughter Jennifer Lynch, I was most definitely in! My only recollections of Jennifer's work was the fact that she wrote the Laura Palmer Diary that was the book accompaniment to the Twin Peaks series. Though thanks to google, I discovered that she also directed one of my favourite films, Boxing Helena.

Described in the festival guide as:

“A twisty thriller with an unabashedly nasty streak and an almost theatrical taste for excess.” – LA Times

After a 15-year hiatus, Jennifer Lynch (daughter of the notorious David Lynch) follows up her controversial filmmaking debut, Boxing Helena, with another violence-laden bombshell.

stars Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as FBI agents who ride into a small desert town on the scent of some killers involved in a mass shooting on the highway. Surviving witnesses are hauled into the police station to recount what they saw, but the individual pieces of the puzzle fail to fit together.

-esque in its presentation, Surveillance is seasoned with plenty of midnight movie flavour and dissonant genre notes, giving credence to the old adage: ‘like father, like daughter’.

This film had a all the right ingredients, goofy cops with too much personality, interesting flashback scenes and a series of twists that are amazing! Although there is a lot of violence, I feel that I'm more immune to people being shot dead than the type of bizarre sexual violence that I saw in Cargo 200! Bill Pullman was fantastic in his role as FBI agent. I don't think that I've ever seen him act in such an interesting way and also with such conviction. A real credit to Jennifer Lynch. Surveillance is another film that will go into my library of great films alongside Blue Velvet!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Final works for Team Up exhibition

Stop, What are You Thinking?, paper collage on canvas, 10 x 10cm, 2008

Capture Revolution, paper collage on canvas, 10 x 10cm, 2008.

I Love You, Me Too (green envelope), woven tapestry, 2008

Looking Back, woven tapestry, 2007.

Check Black, paper collage on canvas, 25cm x 25cm, 2008

The Used, paper collage on paper, 25 x 25cm, 2008.

Counter Intuitive, paper collage on canvas, 25 x 25cm, 2008.

I Love You, Me Too, paper collage on canvas, 25 x 25cm, 2008.

I Got So Lucky, paper collage on canvas, 10 x 10cm, 2008.

Team Up exhibition - questions

With the exhibition looming (we install in the next 2 days!), all of the teams are providing answers to the following questions to give viewers a bit more of an idea of what we do!

Below are my response - not that I really thought about them too much!

1.Who are you? What is your background?

I’m Mardi Nowak, curator at Town Hall Gallery and also mentor of Jessamy Gee. My background is quite varied. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Art majoring in tapestry at Monash University, then completed my honors year and a Master of Fine Art by Research in about 2004.

I usually describe myself as a full time curator, part time artist and I find that they both feed each other in positive ways. After working as a curator for over 10 years now, I don’t think that I could go back to being an artist full time as it can be quite isolating and insular. Working with other artists allows me to trial new ideas in the gallery and be in touch with new ideas, media and ways of working which I love!

tapestry in progress, this will be in the exhibition.

2. What do you like best about what you do? What motivates/inspires/influences you?

I always look at things on two sides, as a curator I love working with a wide range of artists and seeing their exhibition ideas come to fruition. That’s also one of the reasons why I decided to do this exhibition and take part as a mentor. When it comes to being an artist, in particular an artist working in woven tapestry, I love being part of a very old tradition but showing contemporary imagery. I also like the fact that it’s a skill based art that not everyone does, so it makes it a little special - it has a bit of ‘wow’ factor.

When it comes to motivation and inspiration, the everyday is what inspires me. Now that I don’t have much time to spend on my artwork, I make things that I want to make and that I feel strongly about or have a connection with. I don’t make work that is controlled by what may sell or what other people want. The imagery I create is made very intuitively but the selection of what will be woven is selected on aesthetic basis and because it has something to say, either about me or because there is a narrative I want to share. I’m heavily influenced by artists such as Karen Kilimnik and Elizabeth Peyton with whom I share a love of figurative works that have a quiet narrative and who also put the viewer and artist into a range of characters.

3. Why did you choose the medium you are currently working in? How does this differ from mediums you have worked in the past?

Before studying tapestry, I had worked in painting and printmaking. However I come from a strong family tradition of textiles, so having the opportunity to work in a medium that I love and have an affinity with the right thing for me. As tapestry takes a reasonably long time to make, especially the large works, I generally work in other mediums as well, especially collage which allows me to create images and designs and ideas quickly. In the past I have worked in installation with the tapestries as well as going through a stage of working with PVC! Even now, I still go through stages of making or playing with objects as a break from weaving.

4. What patterns emerge in your work? Is there a pattern in the way you select materials? Why?

There’s no specific patterns to my work other than the pattern of my work process which is:

Idea/collage – black and white enlargement of collage – potential cropping of enlargement – cartoon – tapestry.

5. What has been the most beneficial aspect of the mentor project? What is the most important thing you learned from your mentor/mentee?

For me it has been great to see what Jessamy has been coming up with over this time, though I feel that I’ve been involved in some way with everyone’s partnership! I was lucky as Jessamy and I have known each other for a couple of years through the gallery so I was familiar with her work. Though I have seen it develop over the last 3-4 weeks greatly and she has become very experimental. It’s hard to say what the most beneficial part has been, I’m sure that more will come to light during the actual exhibition process as well and it won’t end with the exhibition. I’m sure that the teams will continue into the future in some form or another.

MIFF - Somers Town

Described in the Melbourne International Film Festival guide as...

“An affectionate tribute to cross-cultural friendship and the rapidly changing landscape known as Somers Town” - Variety

Leaving the Midlands behind, 16-year-old Tomo (played by This Is England’s young star, Thomas Turgoose) escapes from a tough and lonely life, but finds that living in London’s Somers Town district can be just as harsh. Teaming up with teenage Polish immigrant Marek, who spends his days in isolation while his father works on a construction site, the two boys make money where they can and share their affection for local French waitress Maria.

Somers Town mixes filmmaker Shane Meadows’ (This Is England, MIFF 2007; Dead Man’s Shoes, MIFF 2005) trademark gritty realism with a more comic and tender touch.

I'm only half way through my film festival selections but I am prepared to say that this is the best film that I have/will see at MIFF this year. It was beautifully shot and even though it could of been incredibly grim, it is funny, tender and makes you remember how small things can make you so happy. Thomas Turgoose is again fantastic. I loved This Is England and seeing him continue with fantastic characters and acting (though I often feel he IS the character!) was delightful. Even when you think the worse is going to happen, it all turns out ok and made me feel bad for thinking the worst of people... something that our contemporary life has led us to do. I really can't say how much I loved this film, I honestly walked out of the cinema smiling.

MIFF - Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

Melbourne Film Festival guide described it as...

“If I’ve learned anything from big budget action movies it’s that complicated global problems are best solved by one lonely guy.” – filmmaker Morgan Spurlock

Having lost the weight from the fast food experiment that was Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock returns in an attempt to track down the Western world’s arch nemesis, Osama Bin Laden. On the news of his wife’s pregnancy, Spurlock reacts how most men would – he heads straight to the Middle East; not in an attempt to escape his responsibilities, but instead to find Bin Laden and make the world a safer place for his child.

Travelling through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? tries to discover how the world’s most wanted man was created, and just what makes him tick.

Last night we went and saw Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden. Film maker Morgan Spurlock introduced the film with a very cringe worthy, "Aussie Aussie Aussie, OI OI OI!" Why, I'm not too sure. The film was entertaining with it's animated Osama Bin Ladens dancing to You Can't Touch This and had lots of pretend game sequences but for me, it pretty much feel short of being anything cutting edge or educational. While it looked briefly at the USA's history of propping up international war lords when it suits them, it pretty much was Spurlock going around the world asking people "How do you feel about America and where's Osama?" and also lamenting on the fact that his wife was having a baby.

His series, 30 days was far more informative and hard hitting and made viewers think about the bigger picture whereas Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? was pretty much a whole heap of jokes and subtitles. The only real amusing part was the huge cue for the film which was a sell out and staff yelling out "If you're here to see Osama Bin Laden, here's the cue!" a bit like an old fashioned freak show - nice.

Friday, August 1, 2008

MIFF - Asterix at the Olympic Games

Described in the film festival guide as....

"Gallic mischief-makers Asterix and Obelix once again take on the entire Roman Empire in their third live-action adventure.

With the Olympic Games approaching, Brutus has hatched a plot to overthrow Julius Caesar, dominate the games and win the heart of beautiful Greek princess Irina. But Brutus didn't count on Asterix and Obelix, who are enlisted to help young Gallic athlete Lovesix compete.

Features a star-studded cast - including Alain Delon as Caesar and Gerard Depardieu as Obelix - Asterix also features cameos from sports stars such as Tony Parker, Amélie Mauresmo, Zidane and Michael Schumacher.

With the biggest budget of any French film to date, Asterix brings to life the books of Goscinny and Uderzo in a brilliant spectacle that stays faithful to the unique humour and style of the original 1968 comics."

Unfortunately I missed out on seeing Red Like the Sky, due to getting some flu like illness, but I did work myself up to seeing Asterix at the Olympic Games. It was packed with school groups unfortunately and I had to hold back from smacking one of them as they made continual noise and took forever to get out of the cinema, though it was worth it for an afternoon of cheesy fun. One of my favourite parts was seeing how they put their cameo sports stars in (basically in a montage like scene at the end!!) though the one involving Michael Schumacher as an amazing chariot racer was hilarious, especially the pit crew scenes. All in all entertaining and giggle worthy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

MIFF - Katyn

Described as: "A monument to one of the darkest secrets of the Soviet era.

For filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, painful events from his own past have been resurrected in Katyn. The film dramatises one of the last major acknowledged crimes of World War II, where up to 20,000 Polish officers died at the hands of Joseph Stalin’s secret police. Wadja’s father was one of them. Highly moving in content, Wadja still manages to adroitly unfurl events like a master class, rather than steep his story with sentimentality and exaggerated emotion. This is powerful stuff, and it clearly touched the hearts of the Polish people, taking a sizeable US$14 million at the box office. Nominated for an Oscar in this year’s best foreign language category."

Katyn was a sell out last night for the Melbourne International Film Festival. I went into the film not knowing much about the events in Katyn, a forest where thousands of Polish officers were systematically murdered in 1940. Beautifully shot with fragments of real footage from the 1930s and early 1940s, the movie allows you to see the frustration of the Polish who had it tough from the Soviets and the Germans. Once the massacre had come out, both the Soviets and German propaganda machines went into overdrive, blaming each other for the murders. This left the Poles, many knowing the truth, to keep quiet or be taken away if they spoke out about the Red Army.

The last scene which shows exactly what happened to the large group of POW captives is quiet, graphic and very moving. The last scene of the bodies being covered with dirt, fades to black with a Polish prayer/song then is quiet for several minutes as if the audience is giving their respects. Probably one of the most moving parts of the film. It was also a film that no one clapped at the end (I hate film festival clappers!!), however due to the film starting late, we all had to be shuffled through the exit doors at the screen at the completion which was a little POW camp to me after such a film. I hope that it gets the Oscar for best foreign film, definitely a contender.
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