Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Eamon Flack
Written by Paul Andrew   
Tuesday, 22 February 2011 21:04

Eamon Flack's 2010 production of Beckett's The End at Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre, starring Robert Menzies, was hailed by critics and audiences alike. In 2011, the production has just opened at Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre, as part of a mini Beckett festival in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA).

Eamon spoke to Australian Stage's Paul Andrew about beauty in unlikely places.

Eamon FlackDo you have a favourite Beckett quote from this play?
I don't, simply because there's a new one every time I watch Rob perform the piece. The beautiful thing is that, even after working on the piece for over a year now, it's the most unlikely and unexpected lines that end up moving you.

What do you adore about these words?
Oh the stunning simplicity and concentrated power of every sentence. It's like Shakespeare or Sophocles: a sort of pure clarity of meaning. It injects itself into you. It's an extraordinary quality.

Tell me something about the background to this production with Robert Menzies?
It's very simply the combination of Rob and the writing, really. He's a scarily committed actor and he seems to be a pig-in-shit with this role. I think perhaps what we did well in that original production at Belvoir was to cleave everything to Beckett's text. Rob sits very much at the centre of the writing in the most basic way and the very few production elements are there simply to draw very gentle, very simple attention to the emotional pulse of Beckett's story.

Beckett is described as bleak, yet in the east his outlook – beauty found in the fragility of human existence – is ancient, what do you absolutely love about Beckett and his role in Western Theatre?
To be honest I don't absolutely love Beckett's plays, at this still youthful stage of my life I find the precision of them a little disconcerting – I quite like a bit of chaos on stage, Chekhov and Shakespeare are more my absolutes – but I do find myself referring to Beckett more than anyone other an Chekhov when I'm working on different plays. He discovered this way of using a performer inside a single image which kind of broke open the boundaries of what theatre can do. And then his kindness and compassion are exemplary.

And what do you absolutely love about this play?
That it wasn't written for the theatre, actually, that it was a private exercise in the form of a novella by a then little-known Irish expatriate, but within it are a series of brilliant, brilliant discoveries about form and composition and performance that pave the way for his switch to theatre in middle age.

Next to the prison, the asylum is such a recurring motif throughout modernism. Tell me about this production's take on the asylum as a setting?
Hmm, we don't have one, to be honest. The piece begins in what may be an asylum but may in fact be a hospital or a prison or any number of institutions. We're more interested in the way this piece moves in an almost blasé way through time and place and yet seems utterly fixed in some kind of terrified moment of reckoning.

Eamon FlackLoneliness – a recurring Beckett theme, tell me about one of the most palpable images of loneliness found in The End?
Actually the most palpable image of loneliness for me is Rob having a cigarette before the show and preparing to perform this little monster on his own. He brings himself on stage with nothing to hide behind – it's an intrepid and lonely feat and I marvel at Rob every time he does it.

Beauty in unlikely places is astonishing – what do you feel is the most quotable quote from The End about beauty found?
"We followed the quiet, dustwhite inland roads with their hedges of hawthorn and fuscia and their footpaths fringed with wild grass and daisies." A brief little tunnel of peace in the mind, really.

The End by Samuel Beckett, directed by Eamon Flack, starring Robert Menzies is now playing at The CUB Malthouse until 11 March, 2011. Further details»

Image credits:-
Top Right - Eamon Flack
Bottom Right - Robert Menzies. Photo – Jeff Busby

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sunday Reeds - INTERVIEWS

Screaming Feedback Dark Fuzz Goes Pop

Paul Andrew gets a peek into pop fuzz with front girl, musician songwriter, Romana Ashton from The Sunday Reeds about their name and their new EP, Dark Rainbows.

Who are the The Sunday Reeds?

The Sunday Reeds were formed by myself (vocals, bass) and Drew Jones (the guitarist for the band) in 2008. We spent a lot of time songwriting and once we had an LP's worth of material that we liked we started looking around for a way to release it. We eventually hooked up with a UK indie label called Squirrel Records who released our first album Drowning in History in 2009. We got Andy Dawson on board to play drums at live gigs after we released the first album. Essentially though, we are a duo.

Your band name is a nod to those art patrons of 1930’s modernist painters known as the Heide Circle?

True. I first heard about Sunday Reed when I was studying for my PhD. I came across the book Australian Gothic by Janine Burke as I was studying the Gothic in Australian culture. The book talked about Albert Tucker's art but also explored the Heide circle too. I thought the name Sunday Reed was very poetic and it reminded me of going to church and also oddly of Ophelia being dragged down by the reeds in Hamlet. I decided it would make a great band name.

What inspires you about these visionaries John and Sunday Reed?

I admire John and Sunday Reed's passion for Australian art, their fostering and support of Australian artists. I love going to Heide too, walking around and thinking about the lives that they led. Sunday Reed intrigues me, the love triangle that Sunday had with Sidney Nolan and John Reed interests me no end. There are just so many great bohemian stories surrounding Heide and the circle of people that frequented it.

Dark Rainbows is an evocative EP title?

The title of the EP actually came from a song called 'Scent and Shadow' that we wrote a while ago but isn't on the EP. I like the phrase Dark Rainbows and I had had it in mind for an album title or EP title for a while. I think that it sums up The Sunday Reeds sound. It sounds quite poppy but the lyrics and feeling conveyed come from a much darker place.

Is this a concept EP?

Not exactly....but there is always some kind of structure to our work. Once we decide on what tracks we think work together the best everything starts to take shape. The songs on the EP tell separate stories but convey similar feelings of melancholy and self-loathing. Some of it is personal experience and some of it is fiction. Although, it is hard to tell sometimes where one stops and the other begins.

Dark fuzz pop- tell me about your band’s key influences?

Key influences...Hmmmm, I would say a fair amount of alternative '80s bands and '90s bands, although a bit of everything gets in there. Joy Division, the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Ramones, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, The B52's, Hole, Nirvana, Garbage, Sonic Youth, the Pixies. Recently I've been listening to Iggy Pop and The Beach Boys. I'm not too interested in a lot of what I hear on radio stations like Triple J lately. It's a little too twee and it lacks substance. Too many rich kids still living with their parents.

You toured the UK in 2010- what was the performance highlight of the tour?

We played a great gig at a place called The Hope in Brighton. We played with two other bands, Still Corners and Candy Panic Attack. The show was listed as NME's gig of the week. It was really great to played to a packed room and have people paying so much attention to us. We got a lot of really positive feedback from people and it was the first time I felt really confident about performing.

What songs seemed to resonate most with audiences- why so?

People seem to like Shiver up my Vein and 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' from the EP and tracks like In Our Room , Handgun to my Heart, and Walk Away -from the first album-are popular too. I'm not sure why people like certain songs more than others. I think sometimes it's just that they can't help but bop along to it, or maybe they just can't get the melody out of their head.

Tell me about the last song lyric you wrote, what’s it about, where did it come from?

The last song I wrote lyrics to was a song that is yet to be released and is for a future album. It's about being somewhere that you really don't want to be. I experience that feeling quite a lot. You know, when you're dragged somewhere to be social and you really don't feel like talking to anyone.

Maybe to close a lyric from a song you really from Dark Rainbows?

I like the lyrics for Get Nothing Done.

I get nothing done when I think of you
I get nothing done waiting around for you
I shouldn't care
I shouldn't care

I get nothing done when I'm with you.

Release date for Dark Rainbows- February 21 through Squirrel Records (UK) with Cargo distribution in Europe.

Available directly from The Sunday Reeds through the website for Australians and New Zealanders.

EP launch for 'Dark Rainbows' is at 2am on the 3rd of April at Pony @ 68 Little Collins Street. Copies of the EP and merchandise available too.

See their clip Walk Away


Read another interview here:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Craig Boreham - INTERVIEWS

Queer as Film

Paul Andrew talks to Mardi Gras Film Festival Director Lex Lindsay about this year's My Queer Career Awards. Whilst Filmmaker Craig Boreham discusses his entry, Drowning.

Still from Drowning, actor Miles Szanto as Mik.

Festival buzz for the 2011 Mardi Gras Film Festival is somewhere in the stratosphere right now. This is especially so for one particular festival highlight, the salubrious My Queer Career Awards. For filmmakers portraying Trans, Lesbian and Gay Australia, it’s the Pink Oscars.

The groundswell for this event has something to do with it being a fabulous awards ceremony “with a sense of occasion” that has existed for 18 years; showcasing the best and fairest in queer filmmaking. Awards that open doors, that honour winners with a decent prize booty, but most of all, awards that attract widespread recognition from film industry peers.

According to MGFF 11 Festival Director Lex Lindsay: “It‘s also the very first competition in the world to exclusively recognise the work of local LGBT filmmakers. There are various gay and lesbian film festivals internationally and nationally, for over 30 years now, each with their own awards and accolades, but My Queer Career was the first competition of its kind to be only open to film submissions solely made by fellow compatriots. “

Lindsay concedes that while the prize money is attractive- a booty valued at $15,000 this festival- he is clear that the buzz is largely to do with the storytelling itself, the images created by filmmakers about the way we see ourselves. “It's an absolute highlight of the festival because it is that one event where we get to come together and hear voices telling queer stories on screen. There's an amazing vibe in the cinema each year. There is something so unique and so delicious about the way Australians make films, for queer audiences, this is one of the very few times we will see Australian queer stories each and every year en masse.”

Sydney-based filmmaker Craig Boreham has been a nominee at the My Queer Career awards in recent years and his new short, Drowning, a coming-of-age film, is attracting some buzz of its own. Lindsay suggests that this is partly to do with being nominated for past awards and mostly due to Craig’s long standing service to community media production. Craig has not only made a significant number of exceptional queer short films, like Transient (2005) or Love Bite (2008), he's also worked with and supported so many Sydney queer filmmakers; he's a really central force in this community. “

“ Craig’s films always have a dark and edgy quality to them, an obsession with taboo, shadow behaviours and the grimy parts of our lives, but in truth, that is wrapped around a core of soulful, emotional fragility that always bubbles through in his work. “

“Craig has possibly been a finalist in My Queer Career more times than any other filmmaker. His film Transient took out the Audience Award a couple of years ago, and did really very well on the international circuit. His current short, Drowning, in this year's competition, marks a really beautiful progression in his work. Even though he continues to explore issues around young people finding their feet, there's a maturity and emotional complexity to the way he delivers this story that has clearly developed over his career. He's now developing a feature and a TV series, and was nominated for the Rising Talent Award at IF this year and is our nominee for the inaugural Orlando Award - a national award for a queer filmmaker.”

Boreham himself is quietly pleased with the attention his work is receiving, he reveals his focus is not gaining industry accolades or triumph or bathing in stratospheric buzz, he remains alert and mindful to the truth of the bottom line, the art of storytelling itself. His philosophy for storytelling today, in the digital age of cross platform media- is resolute: “Storytelling is the same as it has always been, I reckon; to inspire us, to show us how to be in the world, to share our experiences and ideas.”

“As a writer I tend to be drawn to stuff I feel passionate about. I like stories that make me feel something. I tend to be drawn into stories about desire, - love, tragedy, the big stuff- that get's you in the heart. As a director it's a different process. It's a lot about collaboration and working with other people's take on it. I love finding new ideas that are born out of working with actor's... or with a cinematographer, or editor... everyone involved in a film has a take on the story and how they think it should be told, and everyone working in this industry is usually pretty passionate and full of ideas. A film is written first as a script, then again on set and then re-written again in the edit suite. I love that constant evolution of a story.”

Boreham is clearly emotive when it comes to describing the origins and script development behind his My Queer Career entry.

Drowning was born out of a personal experience; the death of a friend, the way that affected everyone. There is a lot of other stuff going on in the script and some of that is based on personal experience too, some is just what came from the characters when I was writing it. I wanted to explore the idea of how grief can completely rattle our world, placing you in a headspace where you really aren't in control of your actions. This is heightened by the fact that the central character is only nineteen, at a place in his life where he really isn't sure who he is yet.”

“‘Pitch my film in seven words, no spoilers?’How’s this “his response to the closing question. “The scars of youth create the adults we become."

"Ok that's nine.”

See the trailer here:

MGFF11 details here:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Raised Voices, Raised Hearts

Nominated for five AFI awards documentary for the music documentary Words in the City, Natasha Gadd is set to launch her latest feature about The Black Arm Band on tour, Murundak- Songs of Freedom. Paul Andrew speaks with the Filmmaker.

Philosopher/guitarist Archie Roach says it best: “We used to take our messages to the streets, now we’re taking them to concert halls.”  Natasha Gadd is quoting Roach from a quiet  moment in the film; an elder of aboriginal protest music, a founding member of The Black Arm Band, reflecting on three decades of resistance.

In the small hours of the morning on January 26, 1972 a group of aboriginal protesters erected a small semi-permanent structure on the lawns of the Old Parliament House in Canberra; a vigil set to change the course of Australian history. In the Tent Embassy bolstered with a list of demands including aboriginal representation in parliament, recognition of land rights, recognition of sacred sites and compensation for the damage done to the soul of a people, activists including Roach, chanted their way towards revolution.

It wasn’t for another 20 years - Mabo Day, June 3, 1992- when some of these demands finally became law and even longer still - Sorry Day, February 13, 2008- when Prime Minister Rudd apologised for state-sanctioned violence towards aboriginal people.

Gadd is an adept at setting the mood for her documentary which was four years “and lots of dusty road trips” in the making. 

“The film uses lots of archival material including tent embassy footage juxtaposed with recent concert tour footage of the band as they take their songs from Sydney Opera House to Alice Springs and to remote communities," she says."Many of the songs from this tour were first sung on the streets and protest marches by musicians like Archie Roach, his wife, the late Ruby Hunter and Bart Willoughby. Since then they have become aboriginal anthems, audiences know each and every word. Songs like We Have Survived by No Fixed Address (1978) or Joey Geia’s, Yil lul [I sing].

A "one-off, once-in-a-lifetime concert” was planned for the Melbourne Festival 2006 when a gathering of protest music pioneers decided to take their songs to a wider audience and The Black Arm Band was formed."

Explains Gadd of the band’s formation, “This concert was the result of many conversations between black and white performers over quite a period. Ngarrindjeri-born singer Ruby Hunter is often quoted expressing a long heartfelt need for an Aboriginal Orchestra.”

It was a once only affair that has become “a music phenomenon”.

Gadd alongside co-director and husband Rhys Graham has charted The Black Arm Band during the last four years.

” It’s been great. The friendship, the intimacy, the bonds formed along the way is extraordinary. I don’t think we fully understand the full extent of this journey just yet. It’s been such a joy to work alongside these singers and their communities, to witness collaborations with newer talents like Dan Sultan and Emma Donovan with their songs about love, about hope.”

Directed by Natasha Gadd and Rhys Graham
A Daybreak Films production, presented by SBS, Film Victoria and Screen Australia
In association with Film Camp, City of Melbourne and The Black Arm Band-A JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF ABORIGINAL PROTEST MUSIC
Exclusive World Premiere screening to be held at the Forum Theatre, on Thursday 10 February, 

Followed by Free Public screening at St Kilda Festival, O’Donnell Gardens, on Friday 11 February in conjunction with St Kilda Festival.

PHOTO: Emma Donovan at Fitzroy Crossing

Joseph Beuys and Rudolph Steiner - Inspiration - Curator Allison Holland - INTERVIEWS

Art and Philosophy: Joseph Beuys and Rudolph Steiner

NGV Curator Allison Holland, NGV Curator, Prints & Drawings chats to Paul Andrew about imagination, inspiration and intuition.

One hundred blackboards graced in chalk spirals, glyphs
and equations like ancient alchemical diagrams. One
blackboard features a horizontal figure with a prominent
love heart. The organ is connected to handwritten scribbles
by white dusty threads. Words – rhythm, feeling power,
and movement- hovering above the muscle like encrypted

Blackboards like this comprise German artist Joseph Beuys’
seminal work Richtkrafte (Directive Forces Of A New Society)
1974-1977 a series of intuitive “conversations” between
Beuys and influential thinker Rudolf Steiner. It is the
centrepiece for a groundbreaking Australian exhibition,
examining Beuys’ work across platforms like “social
sculpture”, performance art, environmental art and his
involvement with the Fluxus art movement of the 1960s.

Curator Allison Holland suggests these blackboards are “an imaginal dialogue ”between inspired men – one an artist, one a philosopher - who shared the vision that creativity can change the way we live. “Beuys was a political activist during the cold
war period and a founding member of the Green Party,”
reveals Holland. “He also participated for a period in
the worldwide Fluxus movement, an organisation that
promoted art as an organic and lived experience. Beuys
had a charismatic persona, presenting himself equally as
shaman, mediator and educator – the legacy of his life work
is only now becoming evident.”

“Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 in Kraljevica. A scholar
of Goethe’s writings, Steiner was involved in the mysticism
of the Theosophical Society. In 1912, he founded the
Anthroposophy movement based on his own philosophies,”
she adds. “And in the last five years of his life(1919-1925)
he presented over 2,000 public lectures using coloured
chalk on black paper to visualise complex, esoteric ideas,
advocating a holistic approach to life. This philosophy
underpinned his development of Waldorf education,
biodynamic agriculture, or artistic, musical expressions like

According to the Curator Steiner’s blackboard made an
indelible impact on the young post war artist Joseph Beuys.
Holland reveals that Beuys was born in Krefeld, Germany
in 1921, four years before Steiner’s death. “In 1943, he
went to Italy for military training. Overwhelmed by the
sun drenched Italian countryside he wrote to his parents of
his decision to become an artist when the war had ended.
About this time Beuys began reading Steiner’s writings,
collecting over 120 editions. In 1961 he was appointed
professor of sculpture at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in
Düsseldorf, where he had been a student. In 1972 Beuys
was dismissed from the academy amid great controversy
over his open teaching policy. In the following year he
joined the Anthroposophical Society.”

Today, in an era of inconvenient truth – with nuclear
power debates raging again – alongside global greenhouse
emissions protests, collective apathy towards the Kyoto
protocol and the anti-intellectualism promulgated by
conservative governments, Beuys actions or “Aktionen” are
as relevant today. Holland explains, “He used his Aktionen
to explore the relationships he perceived existed between
the environment, economics, politics and the individual.
This was an expanded concept of art proposing that we are
all artists in ‘social sculpture’, where life is integrated with
artistic practice.”

Holland cites Richtkräfte, as one of her exhibition faves.
“This installation was the outcome of the ‘actions’
from Beuys’ Art into Society, Society into Art held at the
Institute for Contemporary Art in London in 1974. This
accumulation of 100 blackboards documents people and
events that were central to Beuys’ life at the time and his
thoughts on social reform–through creative production."

"During these actions, he placed a blackboard on one of the
three easels while interacting with participants. In chalk he
inscribed basic principles for ‘social sculpture’, proposing
that direct democracy is achieved through political and
legal reforms based on a system of social equality. ”

Joseph Beuys & Rudolph Steiner: Imagination,
Inspiration, Intuition. 26 October 2007–17 February 2008 

Interview with Allison Holland - Curator, Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Victoria

Joseph Beuys & Rudolph Steiner: Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition

Philosophy informs many artists throughout time - what philosophies inspire this duo?

This exhibition is as much about ideas as it is about art. It moves from fundamental questions of human existence and the ability to think, to conceptualise the structure of society and the forces of the greater cosmos. At the centre are two men - Joseph Beuys and Rudolf Steiner – and how they visualised their epistemologies through chalk drawings.

Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition presents a selective glimpse of the work of these two men.  The most fundamental connection between Steiner and Beuys was their concept of a ‘threefold social organism’. This was a tripartite relationship that considered the legal, economic and spiritual or creative needs of the individual within society.

Art History is a brimming with artists seeking a holistic approach to art and life, an artful life that pays attention to the small things where do Beuys and Steiner sit in this context?

Rudolf Steiner was born in 1861 in Kraljevica, which in the nineteenth century was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A scholar of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s writings, Steiner was also involved in the mysticism of the Theosophical Society. In 1912, Steiner founded the Anthroposophy movement based on his own philosophies, and from the Society’s headquarters at the Goetheanum in Dornach, disseminated his ideas through lectures. 

In the last five years of his life (1919-1925) Steiner presented over 2,000 public lectures using coloured chalk on black paper to visualise his complex and esoteric ideas. He advocated a holistic approach to life, a concept that underpins his development of Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and artistic and musical expressions such as eurythmy.

Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld, Germany in 1921, four years before Steiner’s death. In 1943, Beuys went to Italy for military training. Overwhelmed by the sun drench Italian country side he wrote home to his parents of his decision to become an artist after the war had ended. About this time Beuys began reading Steiner’s writings collecting over a 120 editions, many of which were annotated, in his personal library.

In 1961 he was appointed professor of sculpture at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where he had been a student. However, in 1972 Beuys was dismissed from the academy amidst great controversy over his open teaching policy. In the following year  Beuys joined the Anthroposophical Society for a period of time.

Chalk and blackboard are used to communicate a message. What is the inspiration behind the medium - what is the context – and the message?

As educators both men used chalk and blackboard. However, it was the process of mark making, of making visual their thoughts and communicating them to their audience that was most important. The works were not considered the primary outcome of their thought processes like most drawings, but today these traces have become significant objects for the current generation.   

Some commentators on the Steiner’s drawings state that the works take the viewer into the realm of the inner eye. They are portals into things commonly unseen enabling one to make connections using one’s imagination

What are two of your favourite works in the exhibition, what do they reveal for you, why so?

(Directive forces (Of a new society)) 1974-1977, commonly refered to as Richtkräfte, was the outcome of Beuys’ action Art into Society, Society into Art held at the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) in London from 30 October to 24 November 1974. An accumulation of 100 blackboards, Richtkräfte documents the people and events that were central to Beuys’ life at that time and, more importantly, his thoughts on social reform through creative production. 

During the action, Beuys placed a blackboard on one of the three easels and, while interacting with the participants, inscribed in chalk his basic principles for ‘social sculpture’. Beuys’ theory of social sculpture proposed that direct democracy could be achieved through political and legal reforms based on a system of social equality.  

This equality was interlinked with Beuys’ ideal of sustainable economic forms and the notion that, on an individual level, there was a need for freedom in the cultural and educational spheres.

What do the works in this exhibition help us understand about our world today in an era of environmental chaos and political conservatism and an interrelationship with intellectual pursuits, philosophy, art and culture?

The concepts behind the works selected for this exhibition are encapsulated in two declarations which outline Steiner’s holistic approach to living and Beuys’ insistence on the integration of art and life. 

Steiner’s Appeal to the German nation and to the civilized world (March 1919) was sent to the German government in the aftermath of World War I. Beuys’ An appeal for an alternative (1982) was publicly launched in the artistic forum of documenta 7, one of Europe’s most significant contemporary art exhibitions held in Kassel. 

Steiner, responding to the destruction of the Great War, proposed that to prevent such a recurrence society need to reconsider the balance of power between politics, economics and belief. Responding to the perceived crises in the economical, ecological and personal spheres of society during the Cold War period, Beuys proposed a reassessment of the monetary system which acknowledged equally the worth of individual labour. Both believed that social transformation was only achievable through an evolution of humanity to a higher level of consciousness.

Steiner used coloured chalk on black paper to visualise his complex and esoteric ideas about spirituality - what are some of these ideas and how are they relevant today in our understanding of soul, of metaphysics?

Steiner created abstract, figurative and annotated drawings that visualised his ideas on the different states of human consciousness. The drawings selected for Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition have been loosely grouped to reflect the ideas of the forces of thinking, social renewal, natural metamorphosis, the cosmos and human existence. 

Some commentators on the drawings state that the works take the viewer into the realm of the inner eye. They are portals into things commonly unseen enabling one to have a metaphysical understanding of self which brings about a transformation.

Joseph Beuys's creative endeavour is multi- platform; political, performance, environment, Allison what can you tell us about his  peripatetic approach?

Beuys used his performative art practice, which he called Aktionen, (actions) to explore the relationships he perceived existed between the environment, economics, politics and the individual. This was an ‘expanded concept of art’ where life was integrated with artistic practice.

And specifically about his participation in Fluxus, it's coterie of artists, it's political and cultural aspirations?

A political activist and a founding member of the Green Party, Beuys also participated for a period in the world-wide Fluxus movement that promoted art as an organic and lived experience. However, Beuys had a charismatic persona, he presented himself as a shaman, a mediator, an educator which did not sit well with the core values of Fluxus.

How is Beuys work relevant today and what artists has he influenced?

The legacy of Beuys oeuvre is only now becoming evident. His avant-garde installations and performative actions have inspired many German artists, such as Anselm Keifer, Jorg Immendorf and Sigmar Polke. Amongst the current generation of international art stars, Marina Abramovic, Felix Gonzales Torres, Matthew Barney and Maurizio Cattalan have all made reference to Beuys in their works.

What do you feel may be a standout or showpiece in this exhibition for newer audiences to the work of Beuys, why so?

The exhibition has been selected to give a sense of Beuys performances. There is a film of Beuys’ Trans-Siberian Railway which while be screened continuously on the mezzanine level of the Gallery. An audio component of Beuys and two colleagues in conversation will be played in the gallery space at 11.30am and 3.30pm daily.

What do you feel artists will love about visiting this exhibition?

The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to experience a seminal installation by Joseph Beuys and an extensive selection of Steiner drawings, none of which have been seen in Australia before.

This exhibition will immediately appeal to artists, academics and those interested in German culture especially those who are already familiar with the works of Beuys and/or Steiner. For others it will be an exploration of how thought and creativity can be communicated through a visual medium.

Christian Marclay - Fluxus Leftovers- INTERVIEWS


You have never heard art like this before – a survey of pioneering turntablist, musician and video artist CHRISTIAN MARCLAY is a summer exhibition highlight, PAUL ANDREW writes.

Herald of the punk revolution Patti Smith once described
the legendary New York rock venue CBGB as more than
just a club; she said it was a state of mind. 

During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s that seedy dive with sticky carpet on The Bowery was the crucible for sonic revolutionaries like The Ramones,Talking Heads,
Blondie, Television and for Smith herself who
transformed rock into hypnotic chaos. It was also the
stamping ground for video artist and musician Christian

Punk was the quantum shift that helped us to hear
music differently, and it is through this same state of
mind that Marclay helps us to see and feel music differently. He has orchestrated an extraordinary body of work comprising
turntable performances, videos and music sampling
spanning three decades. Magically fusing music and image,
whether it’s spinning discs, destroying discs, videoing discs
or making a symphony from gunshots.

According to the artist, “MTV is dead.” 

Marclay himself draws from art history, rather than pop music when it comes to “seeing sound”. He counts the Fluxus artists like Joseph Beuys and performance artists John Cage, Laurie
Anderson, Dan Graham and godfather of video art Nam June Paik among his key influences.

As a young art student with a passion for collecting vinyl
Marclay relocated from Switzerland to New York with
his parents during the mid 1970s. The punk scene was
nascent. He cut his teeth at new music venues like CBGB,
preferring the raw energy of iconoclastic beats in small dark
clubs rather than the staid white tenor of traditional art
venues, museums and galleries.

“To me the new music at this time was punk. Seeing
people making music and sounds happen in small clubs
and experiencing music through their bodies. It gave me
the opportunity to make music myself, I thought, if these
people can make music, I can make music too. You didn’t
have to repeat the music of your parents; you could turn
rock‘n’roll upside down. It wasn’t the fashion, it was the
sounds. I never had a Mohawk or safety pins; I could go to
clubs like CBGB, DNA, and MARS and see bands.

“When I started using video I was interested in the way
that sounds could look, I used turntables to cut up sounds,
used samples from films. I used vinyl records as objects
that could make sounds themselves, not just the sounds
recorded. Breaking them, smashing them, walking on
them, bending them. And video allowed me to document
these sounds.”

“After I moved to New York I was surprised at the amount
of vinyl I could find very cheaply, at thrift shops, absolute mountains of it. I had grown up with records, collected them treasured them, they were sacred to me. Yet in the States no
one seemed to want them anymore. Vinyl was disposable. So
I started collecting. I used vinyl in my performances and
video. It was a time when music was being mass-produced,
and vinyl seemed to be losing its sacred, magic quality.
In 1979 when I smashed vinyl it was a big thing, it said
something big. Not so much now.”

Fluxmix (2005) is a recent work that plays on this idea of
breathing life into objects. And Marclay is chuffed that it
has been included in the Melbourne exhibition. “There
wasn’t enough room for this huge piece in the recent Paris
version of Replay. It’s very large scale, 160 objects, 16
monitors in a circle, like a ceremonial circle."

“I had the opportunity to work with the leftovers from Fluxus
performance art preserved at the Walker Art Centre. But
in this museum situation, I had to use white gloves to
handle all these objects, which were now fragile, precious
and behind glass. Commodities rather than inexpensive,
everyday objects they once were. He says humbly, “I was
able to make sounds from these things, and for a moment
put some new life into them”.

Replay is on at ACMI until 3rd February

Exhibition Finished


Monday, February 07, 2011

Melbourne - Bollywood Diaspora - INTERVIEWS

The Bollywood Diaspora

Paul Andrew speaks with Laurie Benson, Curator International Art, National Gallery of Victoria about Cinema India:  The Art of Bollywood.

Laurie, how and when did the term Bollywood come about?

"Bollywood" is an amalgam of Hollywood and Bombay, the heartland of Bollywood. According to legend, it was first used by reporters in the late 1960s or ‘70s and it has stuck. Some people in the industry in India accept and use the term, and others hate it. Apparently it is in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Laurie what do you love about this huge exhibition?

It is fantastic to do a exhibition based on a film industry, a first for the NGV. Bollywood is a great subject because of the amazing colour, artistry and sheer beauty of the posters. There is a huge range of emotions and expression in the posters which make them unique. And they always tell you what is going on in the films, especially when romance is at the heart of the movie.

Romance is an underlying theme to all Bollywood film- what type(s) of romance does it represent?

Some Bollywood movies can have three or four love stories happening at once, so there is great scope for all sorts of dramas. Many are about relationships which for reasons of class, wealth, caste, religion and racial background are often not meant to be. In Bollywood though, love usually, but not always, triumphs. Filmmakers often use the star-crossed lovers theme to expose the sadness of the many divisions in Indian society.

Bollywood portrays glamour and celebrity- what does this exhibition tell us about the Indian cinema star system?

A really interesting thing with the posters is that the stars names rarely appear on them. Everybody knows who all the stars are so it is unnecessary. And today, there are so many fanzines and web-sites devoted to the top stars that you can practically learn what they eat for lunch. India is obsessed with their film stars and some are revered like gods.

Salam Namaste was shot in Melbourne- is this film a part of a growing tendency towards Indian diaspora filmmaking?

Salaam Namaste was totally set and shot in Melbourne; it is very rare for a Bollywood film to not at least be partially be set in India. Usually with love stories, somewhere along the line the families of the lovers intervene and try to influence whether a couple stay together or not. And the idea of a couple living out of wedlock would only occur if they were "bad people" who would undoubtedly come to a sticky end. In Salaam Namaste, Nick and Ambar are young independent professionals who eventually decide to live together, although they are aware of the possible consequences. Ambar inevitably becomes pregnant, and much of the film is about how they handle that. Albeit in a very light hearted way. Filmmakers are definitely targeting the Indian diaspora as a financially viable audience. The trend make movies about the diaspora really took off in the late 1990s and it is continuing to grow.

When I visited the exhibition I was seized by the large number of Indian families gathered around the Salam Namaste installation?

Salaam Namaste is a contemporary story about the life of two Indians in Melbourne so it would not be surprising that it is a popular part of the show. The clips we chose to accompany the poster and costume in the exhibition are dance numbers set around well known Melbourne landmarks. The image of Preity Zinta's character, Ambar, who moonwalks on the steps of the GPO and dances around Docklands while eight months pregnant is one that does seem to strike a chord. Dazzlingly Bollywood.

Bollywood film is widely known for its singing dancing and colour- they are musicals on the scale that Hollywood produced many decades ago- is this why there is such popular western interest in the form- particularly now in the current era of war and terror?

While Bollywood is all about escapism, it is probably the more western style music such as hip hop, contemporary costume design and choreography that is making them more accessible to western audiences rather than our current problems. While the underlying themes of romance and action are still very Bollywood, the look of many Bollywood films are more western oriented.

Bollywood has been influenced by Hollywood blockbusters and MTV- what are some examples?

Since the first films were made in India, American cinema has had a huge influence on Indian film, and many many Hollywood movies have been remade by Bollywood by setting them in an Indian context. Jungle Princess, a Fearless Nadia movie from 1936, is based on Tarzan, although it is centred on an Indian girl who was shipwrecked near a jungle and raised by lions. In terms of style though, a most obvious one is Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), a hugely popular film outside India which features the almost mandatory nightclub/disco scene. The style is very upmarket and the focus is very much youth oriented. The style and choreography is very MTV, but the story is pure Bollywood.

Bollywood is also commercial Hindi cinema with strong moral points of view ?

The most talked about moralistic feature of Bollywood cinema is the treatment of sex. Until the 1980s, kissing on the lips was banned by censors in India, so filming a sex scene was obviously out of the question. However, today the boundaries are being pushed and Salaam Namaste for instance has a controversial and fairly steamy sex scene. But still today, not every star will kiss on screen. Romantic love was played out in the fantasy world of the song and dance number, rather than the standard physical expression that has always been part of western movies. Romance is integral to every Bollywood film, so virtually all the posters in the exhibition reflect that.

Do you think audiences are looking to morality tales again?

Film history is about swings and roundabouts in taste and what filmmakers put before the audiences, and there seems always to be some demand for morality tales. If that is a motivation for a non Indian filmgoer to see a Bollywood film, I hope a lot of the fun and fantasy rubs off on them.

Do you feel that Bollywood has become (or is becoming) a major influence on Western cinema today?

Undoubtedly as more non Indians see Bollywood films, their influence will become stronger. I guess it is easy and fun to look at a Western film and say, ‘that looks a bit Bollywood”, or you get direct influences such as the Bollywood inspired scene in Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge, but Western filmmakers never seem to get it quite right. Bride and Prejudice was kind of excruciating and cringe-making as it missed the Bollywood mark so much, even though it had Bollywood stars in it and part of it was set in India.

Two things struck me about the exhibition- firstly, the highly inventive, colourful and unique nature of Bollywood graphic design?

Elements that are instantly recognisable in the design is the lack of text, you usually only get the title of the film, the production company and the name of the Director; the images clearly and unambiguously indicate the narrative of the film; the colours and drawing styles are extremely bold, strong and acidic, so they stand out clearly; and at the heart of the image you can always see the hand of the artist who drew or painted the poster. I think it is this combination that makes the Indian film poster unique.

Secondly the actual exhibition design in the NGV spaces - what can you tell me about this beautifuly designed exhibition?

Although the show came from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, it was indeed specifically designed here for its run at the NGV. Our very talented designers Allison Young and Daniel Jacobsen were given the brief to make the show cinematic and fun. We wanted to bring the posters to life by showing a lot of film clips, some projected as big as you see at the theatre, so that was a challenge to all involved. It is a very dynamic and exciting design and Allison and Daniel have created a really enjoyable place to be in.

How and why did this exhibition come about at the V&A in London?

The exhibition was curated by Divia Patel of the V&A, who had written a book on Indian film poster art with her colleague Rachel Dwyer. The idea of the show grew from that book and Divia drew on the V&A’s extensive collection of Bollywood film posters that the V&A has been collecting since the 1980s.

Tell me about the large scale hoarding we see when we first enter the exhibition?

That was painted by three artists from the Balkrishna Art studio, the very last firm in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) who still make large scale hand painted hoardings. The work was commissioned by the NGV for the exhibition with its basic design being created by the NGV. However in true Bollywood style, it was totally Bollywoodised by the artists. They were flown to Melbourne and painted the 6x3 meter canvas in four days. They did it in public view in Federation Court at NGVI, part of which was transformed into an artists studio. It was tremendously exciting and great to watch a quite historical event. We have filmed them at work, which is a great document to have.

A potted history of Bollywood film?

The very first moving pictures were shown in Bombay in 1896 by staff of the Lumiere Brothers, who were actually on their way to Australia to also show the same films here. Shortly after then, cinemas popped up in the major cities in India, mainly screening American and European silent films. By the 1910s a small filmmaking industry was developing in India, centred on Bombay. Interestingly it was strongly affected by German technicians, camera operators and lighting people, who were brought to India to train filmmakers. Gradually, Indian stories started to be told by filmmakers, coming from India’s rich literary and stage traditions. The industry grew and grew and grew not just in Bombay, but in every region of India which consequently has their unique film history, traditions and styles, expressed in all the different languages across the country. Today, about one thousand films are made there each year, with Bombay based Bollywood contributing around 200-250. Not all of these are major productions, there is a very structured hierarchy of films made in India, and not all are targeted for nationwide release. Many films are made quickly on small budgets, made specifically made for smallish often rural-based audiences.

How does Bollywood compare to the Hollywood industry in scale and output?

Bollywood produces far more films than the major Hollywood studios, but it is very small in terms of budgets spent on each film. I think Devdas (2001) still ranks as the Indian film with the biggest budget, of around AUD 20 million. And the average time spent making a film is much less than Hollywood. That is slowly changing however.

What are the major social, political and aesthetic changes that this exhibition represents in Bollywood since it first began producing films?

All good film industries reflect the society from which they come and the Indian film industry is no different. India has undergone major historical, social, cultural and economic changes this century. It only gained independence from British rule in 1947. It is a rich and massively diverse culture, characteristics which permeates the films. Because of that diversity, and the huge number of films that are produced in India, it is very hard to pigeon hole it. However, each poster in the exhibition tells us something about this history and the time it came from.

What are the major themes presented?

Some of the themes treated include films made before and after Independence, with many films made before 1947 looking back romantically on a time before British rule, which are clearly expressions of the desire for self-rule. Movies of the ‘50s look at the growth of the cities, which often symbolise immorality and corruption compared with the nobility of rural and village life. The films of the 1970s show some of the frustration at the slow economic and social advancement of the post Gandhi and Nehru years, with anger being directed at corruption rife in the cities. All these themes and more are reflected in the posters made to advertise the films.

According to the exhibtion timeline, the very first film was screened in Bombay by the Lumiere Brother's on their way to Australia- what was this film and was it a catalyst for the Bollywood industry?

On July 7, 1896, six silent short films were shown in Watson’s Hotel in Bombay. A Demolition, Arrival of a Train, Entry of Cinematographe, Ladies & Soldiers on Wheels, Leaving the Factory and The Sea Bath. They were advertised by text based ads in newspapers.

Independent film in India is also burgeoning, I'm thinking of queer cinema we have seen emerging from India during the last decade. Even without the big Bollywood budgets, do you think that Independent film is making an impact on mainstream Bollywood filmmaking?

The structure of the industry in India is complex and extremely fluid. There used to be an old style Hollywood studio system which disintegrated in the 1950s. Production companies since then come and go, often making just one film before disappearing forever. Funding is critical of course and it is a struggle to get a film made there. While independent cinema exists in India, only a handful of independent filmmakers have really made a telling impact on the industry. Amir Khan is one person who is making a strong impact, as he retains a high degree of creative control over all aspects of his films from writing to post-production. This is very rare in mainstream cinema in India.

Exhibition Season finished

9 March- 20 May 2007

National Gallery of Victoria
180 St Kilda Road Melbourne VIC 3004 Australia
Telephone: +61 3 8620 2411
Fax: +61 3 8620 2555