Friday, August 26, 2011

JUNKY TO FUNKY





Where else could you jump on the bus to head to work, only to find someone break out into an operatic aria on the journey. You might wonder at the individual’s sanity, even feel a little uncomfortable at this deviation from the norm, but when seen in its context you can simply relax, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Have never been wildly creative myself, but I love seeing people engage with artists and their works when art is brought to the streets during events like the Junction Arts Festival, currently on in Launceston. Covering a broad range of artistic pursuits, music, dance, drama, literature, media, visual and installation art at venues all around town, not only do the artists have a great forum for their passion, but onlookers get the opportunity to participate instead of merely observe.

Relaxing with a coffee at the Wild Willow CafĂ©, where all the furniture is made from willow by local artists, you can have a crack at making something yourself while being entertained by the ruckus in The Hub next door. Visited the ABC Open PhotoBooth and recorded an online photo message. ABC Open has interactive projects where people from regional areas in the country can connect and share their stories. Today’s photo messages reflected “something my parents told me.” Go to abc.net.au/open to see all their other projects. Well worth it.

The Junky to Funky Arts Trail has 21 art installations around Launceston, all created from recycled materials. Checked out a few, really liked Re-Record, a vast display of old LPs saved from landfill and transformed from their former life of audio art to their present visual form. Also Spring Cheer, a garden within the garden at the front of Pilgrim Hall, The Giving Tree, a very festive interwoven conglomeration of old bikes, assorted paraphernalia and wrapped boxes.

From established artists to local school kids, from the sublime to the ridiculous, events and displays bring art out into the streets, bringing life to the city and a smile to the face.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

PICKING UP THE PIECES

Watching the snowball effect of the UK riots became a nightly episode of disbelief, as suburb after suburb, city after city, came under attack. Besides the level of violence, destruction of property, and complete disregard for anyone’s safety, one moment I found disturbing was a radio interview on the streets with some teenage girls who thought the whole thing was great fun. Their forays into the night were netting them some free booze which they seemed to think they were entitled to, no matter whose it was or where it came from.

For them it seemed to be something of a Robin Hood paradigm, robbing the rich to give to the poor, except in their case they saw themselves as the worthy recipients, while blaming the government for the whole mess and distancing themselves from their own culpability.

Talking with friends in London they are the first to admit the chasm between the social classes in Britain is vast, with a growing underclass viewing a bleak future where they believe they will never have the chance to crawl out from under and live any other sort of life than what they know. So, given the right circumstances, it’s not difficult to see how a situation where some seized the opportunity to “redistribute some wealth” quickly escalated into a free for all mob mentality.

The ‘have nots’ are not necessarily dreaming of a life rolling in money and instant pleasure, but one where they have some sort of worth in the society in which they live, even if they’re unemployed. Taking some responsibility towards achieving that isn’t always simple, especially if you come from a dysfunctional family or one that may be second or third generation social security dependent. Many see education as the ticket out, but not everyone has the ability to see it through, so the possibilities shrink more and more as life grinds on relentlessly with no change in sight.

Hope is lost, despair sets in, and inevitably that despair will manifest itself in anger and violence as someone is found to blame for their misfortune. Whether those who become the victims have anything to do with their plight can be irrelevant, as the UK riots clearly showed.

What did encourage me though, were my friends reporting that more have come out of the woodwork to help with the clean up than came out for the riots. Using the same social media networks that spurred on the rioters from one region to the next, those of good will identified the areas which needed help and also came out en masse to show their support and start picking up the pieces.

How does a nation learn from such an event? How do those in high places with power and influence work to create a more just, inclusive and equitable society? I guess if we had the answers there’d be a lot less strife around the planet. The powers that be can formulate policy to stimulate employment and economic growth, better social cohesion and all manner of things, but I think it comes down to individuals and neighbourhoods to bring about real social change.

The authorities may bring things under control, but it will only be as we take the risk of getting to know our neighbours, participating in community events, believing we have a role to play in creating a sense of social cohesion where those who feel on the outer can be included, that individuals will feel hope rise. To be encouraged to dream, to reach your potential, to be affirmed as you achieve things and care for others, will all go a long way to uplifting someone’s self esteem, no matter how fragile.

A friend had this Johann von Goethe quote on his blog this week which I’m borrowing as it felt appropriate.

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.

Friday, August 12, 2011

GREAT WEATHER FOR DUCKS



Find it fascinating that in a week where my neck of the woods in Tassie has had only about 15ml of rain in the past week, flood prone areas have once more succumbed to a thorough drowning as heavy rain in other regions has caused river systems to swell and work their way downstream. Farmers are lamenting the damage as fences just replaced after the last flood a few months ago are gone again, crops just sown are washed away, and people’s movements are at the mercy of the flooded roads and bridges.

On the up side, a constant stream of cars has been heading up the road to Launceston’s Cataract Gorge where locals and tourists alike have been treated to yet another watery spectacle. I missed the peak yesterday so the water level had receded somewhat, but it was still worthy of a few shots. Somewhere under all that is a swimming pool and picnic area, but not exactly much happening in the playground today, the only ones in their element were the ducks.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

FILTERING THE TRUTH

I have long been familiar with the phrase We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.

In any given situation, be it an argument, a car accident, the witnessing of a crime or whatever, those present will all report their observations from their point of view, resulting in a diverse presentation of events, what happened when, who did what and who was to blame. Piecing together the various components to arrive at a clear picture of actual events is often a complicated process, something which keeps our legal and justice systems thriving, and even then not necessarily arriving at the truth.

We can be convinced that what we see or believe is the truth, and find it difficult that what someone else sees or believes could also be true. Admitting to that puts us in the vulnerable position of having to accede that there may be more to the picture than our own perception of the truth. That can be pretty threatening for some, resulting in family, workplace, racial, and religious tensions just to name a few.

So is it even possible to see in such a way that we can recognise we are looking at the world through the filters of our upbringing, our home life whether it be nurturing or dysfunctional, our education or lack of it, our job fulfillment or lack of skills and employment opportunities, our ethnic background, our economic status, our moral or faith basis or lack of spiritual nourishment, our concern for the world beyond ourselves or the assumption that we the individual are of prime importance.

Have just finished Tracey Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, a fictionalised account of the creation of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting of the same name. From a Protestant family, Griet, the subject of the painting, feels uncomfortable in her new position as maid in the Vermeer household in the town’s Catholic sector. The visible signs of Catholic life unnerve her, as do religious paintings, but as her relationship with the artist grows she feels bold enough to ask him about the ‘Catholic’ paintings in churches and his response is not one she was expecting.

It’s not the painting that is Catholic or Protestant, but the people who look at it, and what they expect to see. A painting in a church is like a candle in a dark room – we use it to see better. It is the bridge between ourselves and God. But it is not a Protestant candle or a Catholic candle. It is simply a candle.

I can sit on the edge of the village here looking down into the valley below, watching the valley floor gradually reveal itself as the morning fog lifts, while the person beside me concentrates on the reflection of the sun on snow covered Ben Lomond in the distance, another notices the amount of dead branches and stripped bark littering the area after the recent storm, and another wishes we could remove a few scruffy wattles to improve the view.

We will always see things a little differently, and giving each other the space to do that without judgment will go a long way towards acceptance. The truth is out there, but there just may be more than one way to illuminate the path to get there.