Art -01

Greg Taylor
Interview with Elizabeth Mead
Hobart, 2011


Mona: home of the Great Wall of Gina.

-Harris Sari, Facebook

Breathing in, breathing out
Marina Abramovic

Art -02

The balls
By David Walsh

Christ died on the cross for our sins. So the New Testament tells us.

Hopefully I'll do something worthy of his sacrifice one day. I've got real potential when it comes to sin.

Marina Abramovic seems to operate for all of us. Her sins, her excesses, her minimalist egocentric actions define the boundaries of what it is to be human.

I would do the stuff that she does if I had the balls. And the brains. And the desperation to understand.

I'd rather be represented by a sinner than a saint.

Decadrachm of Athens
Athens, Greek, 465 BCE


The fiasco fizzled

By David Walsh

I bought this decadrachm ten years ago, before I knew how important provenance is. That means: we don't know who found it and in what context. Removing context removes most of the archaeological interest.

A bit remains; we can use die matching to deduce sequences, mints and quantities, which might give us some info on the state of the economy, for example. Except for this all we have is an art object. Fortunately, even in that capacity, it is remarkable.

One of the big problems that a lack of provenance generates is knowing it really is what it purports to be: a large, rare, high denomination coin of 5th Century BCE Athens. There are good reasons to fake these coins. I paid, I think, $250,000 for it.

To verify that this coin is genuine we engaged the assistance of some experts. We called Dr Kenneth Sheedy from Macquarie University,

who has kindly assisted us many times with numismatic conundrums, and he, in turn, enlisted the help of Dr X, whose expertise in this very specific field is such that he has written a book on this specific coin type. This is such a narrow field that Wikipedia does not yet have an article on it, perhaps I should fix that.

Dr X confirmed it is the real deal, the genuine article, in a most dramatic way. He matched our highly (over) cleaned flan with that of a coin that was stolen in an armed robbery in 1996. Clearly this was an important and dismaying discovery, and he contacted Kenneth, who communicated it to us. Many interesting facts emerged: the coin documented in the robbery was uncleaned. Was the reason ours was so bright and shiny an attempt to conceal its proximate origin? It all made sense. It was, all round, a shitful situation.

A number of emails scampered around from those of us at Mona who are concerned with coins and whether we look like bastards to the larger community. I thought we should give it back, a matter of honour and also appearance. My senior staff, together with a solicitor of repute in international cases, quickly ascertained that there was no one to give it back to. The key players are dead, or should be.

Anyway, after the drama generated a satisfying feeling of desperation, we received another email. Two months had elapsed. X had changed his mind. It wasn't one of the coins taken in the robbery at all. He provided pictures of both flans with details that made it obvious they were different. Of course everybody claimed to have known all along. I'm sure no one did. The fiasco had fizzled.

I must admit, I'm a little disappointed.

From 'Les Jeux de la Poupée' - The Doll's Games
Hans Bellmer

Art -04


by Elizabeth Mead

Thomas Wylde (who's no one you should know) wrote, on a blog by Dan Cass (ditto), that Mona was like 'public self-psychoanalysis done on a literally monumental scale'. It made me think of this photograph, by Hans Bellmer, which seems to me the perfect manifestation of the fetish, a Freudian novelty of course. (In fact 'fetish' holds specific meaning in different systems of thinking; in Marxism, for instance, commodity fetishism is the objectification of human relationships and identity. But the Freudian variation holds particular popular currency, in our currency at least; and it is what sprung to mind).

The thing about Freud is that he fetishised (pardon me) male sexuality, so that his theories preclude the possibility of alternative realities and, in fact, project the narrative of masculine sexual maturity onto the dark continents of sexual and racial otherness.

What this means is: in Freudian psychoanalysis, women and 'primitive' (ie. black) people become a backdrop to the white man's psycho-sexual drama.

You see, the purpose of psychoanalysis is to lubricate the stilted process of psychic maturity, to isolate the spots at which the subject has been blocked, stopped. Think, for instance, of the fetish: this notion, which we (we) have accepted and absorbed into speech and imagination, comes about - and Freud's quite literal on this matter - when the male child spies the brutal non-existence of his mother's penis. Yep. He sees her naked and knows, in an instance, her difference to him; this painful separation prompts the hapless child to fix his mind on the last object spied before the gaining of traumatic knowledge. A shoe, perhaps, or his mother's long, brown hair. A doll. The fetish is a monument to forgetting.

It's so sexy, psychoanalysis, in the sense that it can seduce you into total and totalising knowledge; but it's also pretty silly. Like religion - if you believe it, it explains it all.

Panticapaeum, Greek,
c. 320-250 BCE



By David Walsh

This thing, this gorgeous thing, was found squashed flat. It is Scythian, a group of drunken marauding nomads, quite common in the second century BCE. Both drunken marauding nomads and Scythians.

Anyway the Scythians were generating some serious wealth, but being nomadic, and not fully trusting banks presumably, they had to carry their wealth with them. So Greek goldsmiths made them cups.

The weight of this kantharos, and its gold content, leads to the inescapable conclusion that it was made from 100 melted-down coins. The coins (and cup) are from Pantapakaieon, now Kerch, in the Ukraine. We have one. Nah na na nah na.

This kantharos is not mine, it's my mate Zeljko's. Thanks.

Personnes derrière
une serre
Léopold Rabus


Léopold Rabus
Tarzan yodel
Neuchatel, 2010

Dishonest, divorced
By Elizabeth Mead

Leo Rabus lives in rural Switzerland with his wife, Anna, baby son, and mum and dad. His brother Till is younger, and lives down the road. The whole family is good-looking and talented (Leo is the best I think, I think most people would agree); we own work by them all (not including Anna or the baby, obviously). They are also weirdly friendly and happy, weird in the sense that I couldn't, really couldn't, detect any meanness, unease or competitiveness between them, and they frankly, confidently, treated me as a welcome guest first, and then as one who might have power to influence a rich collector, say, to buy their work (a largely false assumption). This seems like a boring story but they really are the most charmed and charming family.

I almost forgot to mention that they speak no English at all and I, no French. We employed a translator, a friend of theirs, who was no help because she was enjoying the

discussion so much that she forgot about me. What I wanted to know was (all sorts of things, including): do you, Leo, know you are a great artist? I asked the question, and heard it asked in French; he looked more than perplexed. I wish I could have understood his answer. I also wanted to imagine Till was jealous but he really wasn't.

Anyhow, we went on to dinner; Renate, the mother, had made the most amazing five-course meal in honour of my visit. It was all so lovely. I had to eat meat though (I'm a vegetarian): it really didn't seem necessary or appropriate to warn them, from Moonah, Tasmania, via email, that I would not eat meat, should they happen to prepare a five-course feast to welcome me to Neuchatel.

There's something about the painting and the life that surrounds it that resonates quietly for me;

I think it's the working-back of fantasy that was prompted by my meeting with the family. I saw the painting here, at home, and fantasised that the artist could be, like, really seriously very good, and how would I know? Would I pick it? Then to meet him and - whether he's seriously good or not, and he's probably not - he's just... doing stuff. Walking in the woods near his house and seeing things that wind up somehow in his paintings; talking to his wife and things. Then we look at the painting, in our gallery, say, and deduce his intention, his claim on the world. What's he trying to say to us, we might think, for instance. Well, this is one instance, probably the only one, where I look at his painting hanging there and it seems wildly out of place, dishonest, divorced: a falsely coherent unit of intent.

By David Walsh

Léopold Rabus' paintings are dark and miraculous. I wouldn't want to live in the worlds they portray but they aren't escapism. As Elizabeth suggested before, he has nothing to escape from, nothing dark and sinister in his soul.

I also visited him at his home in Neuchatel, basically to beg him to sell me some stuff, which he did, as can be readily seen. He also, later, donated an installation, apparently because he thought my engagement with his work lopsided.

I often feel uncomfortable in an artist's studio. Just being there is a hubristic declaration that I am qualified to judge the work of the artist. Thus fuelled by narcissistic inadequacy my gaze inadvertently alighted on a shelf with hundreds of CDs and those CDs were all yodelling. This darkly austere yet sensitive artist has another interest. I expend a great deal of energy meddling with my mental makeup but apparently I still need to be reminded that I am not simply a vessel for my meagre talents. And an artist can't be known simply by knowing his art.
We all are icebergs.

Van gogh with
bandaged ear
Brett Whiteley


Brett and Vincent
By Jane Clark

From the mid 1960s Whiteley produced a number of portraits of his artistic heroes - including the painters van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Francis Bacon, and poets Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Bob Dylan. He was especially fascinated by 'those who had, as he perceived in himself, addictive personalities'. His wife Wendy once commented that he was 'in love' with Vincent van Gogh - both as a character and as an artist. Whiteley had first encountered the 19th-century Dutch artist's work in a book of reproductions, as an unhappy thirteen-year-old at boarding school. 'It was wonderful', he recalled, 'Every page was just amazing. It was the first time I had heard of, much less seen, anything of van Gogh. I had never believed anything like that could exist. I almost felt that I had done it, or part of me had. . . I understood it, it was right'. Later he wrote, 'The thing that fascinates me most about van Gogh's pictures is their speed. The speed and the energy that hits the nervous system

is quite unlike any other visual fiction'. His paintings in tribute to van Gogh became part of an intense, on-going imagined dialogue. This portrait, in which blood-red currents encircle, constrict and electrify the tormented face, refers to the tragic moment at the end of 1888 when van Gogh cut off the lobe of his own ear after a quarrel with Gauguin. He had been living in Arles, in the south of France, for fifteen months and painted more than 200 canvases there - including the sunflowers, chairs, sunlit fields and starry skies that became so famous after his death. But he also suffered from depression and psychotic hallucinations and this crisis resulted in long-term hospitalization at the nearby asylum of St-Rémy-de-Provence.

Whiteley would have seen van Gogh's Self-portrait with bandaged ear in the Courtauld Galleries in London (where he lived in the

early '60s); and he knew that van Gogh himself had often made copies - van Gogh called them 'translations'- of earlier artists' work. Van Gogh's Self-portrait with bandaged ear is comparatively calm and cool: the injury secondary to the self-depiction of a thoughtful artist at his easel. In contrast, Whiteley's 'translation' is discordantly coloured and violently agitated - perhaps reflecting his own drug-inspired hallucinatory experiences. The wound is unmissable and the stained bandage is 'real'. Van Gogh shot himself and died in July 1890 at the age of 37. Whiteley made it to 53 and died 'due to self-administered substances' in a country motel. For both, remembered - even disproportionately lionized - by posterity, a word from Whiteley is apt:

Art is the thrilling Spark that beats death - that's all.

Family of the future, 9
Oleg Kulik

Art -08


Elizabeth Mead: Surely it's wrong, because the animal can't consent. Sex should be between two
consenting, um, people.

Oleg Kulik: How do you know?

EM: Because they don't have the intelligence to consent.

OK: You don't need intelligence to have sex.

EM: You need intelligence to understand consequences.

OK: No, you need intelligence. The animal doesn't. If you are treating the dog right it will smell like honey.

EM: So you have sex with your dog?

OK: You have a husband, but you don't go around telling people you have sex with your husband.
That's your private thing. Do you kiss each other on the mouth, or on the ear? Do you pull each
other's tails?

-Moscow, September 2010

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