Dark Mofo

I have just come back from Hobart (again – love that city) and immersing myself in the craziness and unearthly beauty that is the Dark Mofo festival. Technically I was there for work – and for those who are raising an eyebrow, I did spend Thursday and Friday in almost back-to-back meetings. Then I had another one on Saturday morning. But… That did leave me with my evenings free to sample the delights of this deliciously wintery festival of art and food that literally paints this city red for two weeks leading up to the winter solstice.

A few highlights…

Siren Song

This is a musical artwork produced by Byron J Scullin, Hannah Fox and Tom Supple that is played out across the city of Hobart every day at sunrise and sunset. It’s almost impossible to describe this ethereal piece, but the ABC as put a sample of it up on their Soundcloud. The only problem is that this recording is tiny and incredibly intimate compared with how it sounds when it is played out across an entire city at dawn and dusk. I especially loved listening to it in the morning, still half asleep, curled up in my hotel bed. It’s a slow wash of music that seeps irrevocably into your brain so that you keep hearing the ghosts of the harmonics for hours afterwards – in the drone of the bathroom fan, the hum of traffic.

The IY_Project

This gigantic, cat’s cradle of laser light based on sacred geometry, is the brainchild of Chris Levine, and is accompanied by an immersive soundscape by Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack and Marco Perry.  They waft smoke through it, and the sheets of light carve out slices of coloured smoke that look like some kind of psychadelic, time-lapse cloud photography. I kid you not, I stood outside in the freezing effing cold watching this for over an hour on Friday night, I was so entranced. Then I went back and did it again on Saturday. Here’s a little sample from Friday.

So this is really fucking transcendental and no pic is gonna do it justice. #ChrisLevine #IY_Project #DarkPark #DarkMOFO

A post shared by Leife Shallcross (@leife.shallcross) on Jun 9, 2017 at 4:22am PDT

And another inadequate snippet from Saturday…

Mogwai

So this was a total lucky dip exercise for me and totally blew my tiny mind. I had no idea what to expect. Anyone who knows about Mogwai will probably read this and go “Duh!”, but it was totally transporting. I can certainly see that to some, this kind of music is the worst kind of white noise, and to tell the truth, I probably couldn’t sit down and listen to a recording. But live in concert? Oh man.

There is something intensely exciting about watching master musicians play live. Their sheer skill is thrilling, and the paradox of they way they are so tightly focussed on what they are doing as to be almost oblivious to the audience, yet at the same time inextricably linked to the way the audience is experiencing the product of their skill is fascinating. On several occasions one or more of the band members turned their backs on the audience entirely. As far as I can remember, only one of the band actually spoke to the audience and that was simply to thank the audience for their applause after each song. He seriously said about 20 words all evening. But the music itself… Wow. It was like being caught in a waterfall of sound. And Mogwai controlled the flow with absolute precision. Each song was carefully crafted around a build up to a blindside of sound that was euphoric. There was one song towards the end where people were standing around me with their heads thrown back and their eyes closed.

Seriously amazing stuff.

Sleeping Beauty

I wanted to see this so badly. This was a production of Sleeping Beauty that combined the talents of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Victorian Opera and the Terrapin Puppet Theatre. Each character in the opera was represented by both a larger-than-life puppet and an opera singer. It was stunning.

Sleeping beauty tree

As is usual with my (limited) experience of opera, I found the story a bit thin in parts. However the visuals and the music were divine. The Tree dude, pictured above, embodied this perfectly. I mean, what is not to love about that image? I can’t tell you what part he played in the story though. Still. It was thoroughly enjoyable I loved the creepy, glow-in-the-dark fairy host. The Good Fairy, too, with her reptilian tail and ghostly vestments was deliciously creepy. It really made you question the King’s wisdom in involving the fay in any capacity (and look what happened, hey.)

I found Sleeping Beauty’s mother, the Queen, incredibly moving.

The Queen Sleeping Beauty

She literally fell apart with grief when the Green Witch cursed her baby daughter. I’ve got a real soft spot for fairy tale queens. They often seem to get a very rough deal. Valued only for their beauty and their baby-producing capacity, so many fairy tales revolve around the queen’s difficulties and mounting desperation to fulfill the second part of this bargain. This queen started off looking extremely young – probably not much older than her daughter was when she succumbed to the curse – but aged visibly during the story. Even the way her skirt hoops are visible under the ragged silk of her dress speaks to her fragility.

The Winter Feast

And to offset all that art, there was the food. Just for context, Hobart is a city where it is supremely easy to find delicious things to eat. But Dark Mofo’s Winter Feast is a smorgasbord of delicious food and drink and smells and music all soaked in crimson light.

I ate oysters and fondue with truffle shavings and canoli and shitake mushroom skewers and dark chocolate salted caramel tarts. I drank hot ginger toddies and hot spiced gin and hot mulled cider and…

So, so delicious.

The Dress

Every now and then I see something so beautiful it almost makes my heart stop.

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*Rapturous sigh*

Here it is again, the Night Goddess dress, from Alice Corsets in the Ukraine.

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Now, there are a million and a half beautiful dresses in the world. I’ve got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them. But this dress, this dress, has haunted my imagination since I was a teenager. It’s like Alice Corsets plucked it directly from my starriest, most fairy taleish dreams. And it’s not just me. When Alisa Perova, of Alice Corsets, posted these photos of her most recent creation, she was flooded with inquiries from people who had fallen in love with it, wanting to purchase it. (She’s currently booked up for new orders until June 2017!)

I asked her why she made it and where she got her inspiration from. Alisa makes a lot of wedding gowns for brides wanting something non-traditional (as well as outfits for other spectacular occasions, such as the Wave-Gotik-Treffen and M’era Luna music festivals in Germany). The idea for this dress, she told me, came when she was watching the 1940s movie Ziegfeld Girl. Instinctively she knew stars were an ideal theme for an alternative wedding dress.

At that moment I understood I was going to position my dress as a wedding gown.

– Alisa Perova, Alice Corsets

Clearly she knows her stuff, because the pictures she’s posted have garnered thousands of likes on Instagram and been repinned on Pinterest over 30,000 times.

sapsorrow-dressIt got me thinking, though, why did I have such a strong reaction to this dress? Like I said, a dress that sparkles with all the stars of the night sky has occupied a special place in my imagination since I was about fifteen. So much so that  I even made my own version of it for a costume party when I was about 20 (seen here modelled by my daughter). (Yep, I’ve still got it, 20 years later…)

I know exactly where I first encountered it (of course it was a fairy tale). But why has it remained such an iconic image for me, out of all the dresses I have encountered over years of copious fairy tale consumption? There are a bunch of universally recognised fairy tale icons: poison apples, glass slippers, roses and thorns, soaringly inaccessible castle towers to name but a few. But the night sky dress is my own particular fairy tale touchstone.

I’ll explore why in my next post. 😉

In the meantime, have some more luscious creations from Alice Corsets to pore over.

 

 

 

 

Fix and make – Object Therapy

A little while ago I found out about a fascinating community art project called Object Therapy being run by Canberra’s Fix and Make Workshop. In short, it invited members of the public to donate broken household objects for artists to transformatively repair. I submitted two “objects”, both of which were accepted. Interestingly, one was all about emotional connection, memory and sentimental value, and the other was all about raw beauty. They were…

A broken rocking horse.

rocking-horseMy grandfather made this for me. I spent hours riding on it when I was a kid, and even as a teenager I treasured it and kept it in my bedroom. It’s not the most elegant or romantic version of a rocking horse you’ll ever see, but it was so much fun.

Add to that, it also doubled as a spaceship/racing car/motorbike if you turned it upside down and sat inside it.

And it wasn’t just me. My kids had a ball with this old thing. My daughter used to ride on it for hours at breakneck speed when she was tiny – barely two. There’s even a great story about how I lost the diamond out of the antique ring my partner gave me and she found it – embedded in the carpet under this rocking horse of all places.

It was well-loved and well-used for probably more than thirty years.

Perhaps that’s why the neck joint finally gave out and its head came off.

A box of broken crockery

crockeryI’m kind of a hoarder.

All these bits and pieces were just so beautiful, I couldn’t bear to think of them as just rubbish, so I put them in this huge old styrafoam box that once held seafood, and kept them for years. I think I was thinking one day I’d maybe make a mosaic or something out of them. In submitting them to Object Therapy, I was thinking maybe someone else could use this raw material to make something new and wonderful.

What happened…

Fast forward a few months, and yesterday I got to be reunited with my objects! Just last week I got a little sneak peek of what happened to my crockery. It went to artist Halie Rubenis and I’m kind of in awe of the innovative approach she took to transforming the objects. I’ve only seen three of them (there are apparently a few more), but…wow. You can get your own preview on Halie’s instagram site. What blew my mind a bit was how she not only used the broken crockery in the artwork she produced, but also the styrafoam box and even the old plastic bags the bits of crockery were wrapped in.

I think the plate in this photo is my favourite. I love the contrast between the formal, almost prissy design of the old plate, and the organic jumble of coral-like growths (former styrafoam box!) now oozing out of the crack.

In addition to giving me the heady rush of contributing to the creation of new art, this project has also been extremely thought-provoking. In the reuniting interview, I got asked a lot of questions about how this project made me think about waste and recycling/reusing/repurposing, and also about whether how I valued the objects had changed. That value question is so hard to answer. It’s easy to look at a finished piece of art and value it for the materials gone into making it. The time and sheer human creativity and ingenuity that have gone into it are much harder to quantify. What do you count? The time working on the actual object? The time brainstorming (and weighing up, and discarding) ideas? The answer is, all of this counts, of course. But it can be hard to justify.

Which brings me to this thought-provoking video I saw at a conference earlier this year in a presentation all about valuing creativity.

 

And what about the rocking horse?

Spoilers!

(It’s beautiful. It’s mended and whole and just stunning. And I’ll tell you all about it after the exhibition on 14 October at Hotel Hotel in Canberra.)

More things that make you go “Hmm…” – Ganymede

I have been doing some research on pre-18th century paintings of Greek myths lately, and I came across this interesting description by the Museo Del Prado of the Peter Paul Rubens painting “The Rape of Ganymede”, which is in its collection:
Jupiter was so taken with Ganymede´s beauty that he transformed into an eagle to carry her off to Mount Olympus, where she became his cup-bearer. Rubens drew this story from the classical poet, Ovid´s Metamorphoses (X, 155-161). He depicts the moment when the eagle catches the young shepherdess and lifts her into the air.

GanyrubnUh…just one problem. Ganymede was a bloke. The story is otherwise bang on.

 I am fascinated as to how or why the Museo Del Prado has fluffed this one up. The fact that Ganymede is male is key to the enduring fascination with this particular story. By all (other) accounts, the Ganymede myth was held as an expression of the acceptance of homosexual relationships in Ancient Greece.

And it’s not like you could actually mistake the Ganymede in Rubens’ painting for a girl. It also doesn’t look to me like Rubens was tiptoeing around the core element of this story. I mean, look at the placement of that quiver, for goodness sake.

It’s all very strange and a little bit hilarious.

All the Strange Little Girls

SLG-promo-cover2

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!

Hooray! As of 4 days ago Strange Little Girls is a real, live book you can hold in your hands (or on your kindle) and read and marvel over! For a little taste of exactly what is inside this treasure box of an anthology, head over to Belladonna Publishing for a delicious teaser of each of the stories.

I’m so in love with the cover art of this book, and the interior art is just as sumptuous. If you pick up a copy, I’d love to know what you think!

Awesome words – elytra

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Cetonidae: Eudicella Gralli Orientalis, by Mike Libby

Elytra is the plural of elytron, a word that refers to the hardened forewings of some insects, such as beetles, which cover the transparent hindwings, which are the ones used for flying. In the sculpture above the elytra are striped green and orange.

Why is it an awesome word? Just is. Beetle wings are awesome. And elytra sounds utterly mystical. I didn’t know they were forewings. I didn’t know they were wings at all. If you’d asked me what that bit of the beetle was, I would have said “carapace” or “shell”. I only encountered the word for the first time today in this article about a new art pavilion being built at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Robots are weaving a moving canopy for the Elytra Pavilion, based on the “fibrous structures found in the hardened forewings of flying beetles”.

Speaking of art and elytra, check out the incredibly beautiful and just plain cool sculptures from artist Mike Libby. I’ve seen his steampunked insects around on Pinterest for a while now, but the crab “Ludlow” is… well… I mean he has interchangeable claws. Holy hell. I’m itching from wanting.

Ludlow