Light to Dark

Trying to produce the odd oil painting.

Trying to adopt a simple approach – single session, single brush, fairly heavy paint.

Today I decided to begin with the highlights and then work back to the darker tones – mainly to keep my brush light initially.

Seemed to work ok for me – although after a while I ended up moved back and forth between dark and light as I felt inclined, occasionally wiping off my brush with a cloth to make things less muddy.

Discover online that I’m meant to do the opposite – start with the darks and move to the lights. But this creates problems for me. I find it hard to add highlight colours on top of newly painted dark regions. I also like the way darks can be used to lend interest to area of thick highlight colour.

In any case, not much interest in doing anything that creates an illusion of depth. More trying to produce an image that has a diagrammatic aspect, that has a strange, uncertain relation to ordinary vision.

Rear Garden with Previous Painting

Rear Garden with Previous Painting

Subsequently noticed that I’d left a lot of paint on the palette.

Pressed the square of pine that I use as a palette several times on to a piece of paper.

Smeared the paint with a cloth doused in a bit of linseed oil.

Painted around the edge of the smeared central region with black.

Looks a truly bad abstract painting until I hold it up in front of a window – then it becomes like stained glass, with colours and blank portions showing up brightly.

A detail:

Smeared Print of Palette Enclosed in Black and Held up to Light

Smeared Print of Palette Enclosed in Black and Held up to Light

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Triple Diary

Over a few months keep a diary describing three dimensions of being – dreams, bureaucracy and writing.

All three each day entered on a single sheet of paper. A single paragraph for each dimension.

An entry can be filled or blank.

A note about the dimensions:

  • dreams: I typically don’t remember them
  • bureaucracy: this is work – tasks, meetings, emails
  • writing: this can’t be anticipated
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Paint interface

Paint Google
Paint bear idea with different wordings
Paint maps

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So what does it mean to return to painting?

But now without any skill or any sustained interrogation of the conditions of the medium?

Semi-stupidly, in short? [Damn it, that just sets things in train again, reminding me of Duchamp.]

I bought some oil paints and some small, black boards.

I mixed the colours up in a ukelele box.

Which is the painting – the one I discarded or the one I kept?

Who knows.

A Picture as Well as I Can Paint of the End of Time

A Picture as Well as I Can Paint of the End of Time

Discarded Palette

Discarded Palette

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K and I collected Greenstone pebbles on the West Coast of NZ South Island. The seas were wild and foamy and the beaches were dark and covered in driftwood. K was better than me at picking out the little green pebbles from all the other water-washed rocks. Put them in a Chinese bowl when we got back. Couldn’t resist soaking them in ink and tipping them on a piece of paper. Some very direct and fairly indistinct form of printing. Then washed the pebbles and hung the bits of paper up in the shed. The light passed through them in a beautiful way. Took some photographs. Is this an idea? Perhaps.



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Exogenous Paintings

A series of exogenous paintings. Exogenous in that they are directed outwards towards the immediate context. Rather than representing distant things or remaining internally focused, the paintings are deictic – they point to the world (at least until the context shifts).

Stencilled text on a minimal abstract painting that hangs just to the right of a door: ‘The door is just to the left.’

Bright red painting with blue text: ‘The painting opposite is yellow.’
On the opposite wall, a bright yellow painting with blue text: ‘The painting opposite is yellow.’

A painting that depicts the scene directly before it. It is called ‘Vampire Mirror’ because none of the people currently in the room appear. Most evidently, the viewer is invisible.

A painting that directly asks: ‘Who is looking?’

And so on.

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Wayward Titles

A set of abstract paintings with figurative titles (Rothko style black canvas entitled ‘Billy Bends Down to Pick Up 10 Bucks from the Pavement’, ‘Sharon Cooks Dinner Yet Again’, ‘Philip Comes Out to his Work Colleagues’).
A set of narrative-figurative paintings with the standard abstract title ‘Untitled’.
A set of titles for paintings that refer to contextual features rather than to the paintings themselves (‘Next to the Door’, ‘Beside the Yellow Painting’, etc.).
A set of titles without corresponding works (‘Absent Work’, ‘Non-Existent Work’, ‘Stolen Work’, ‘Misplaced Work’).
A set of titles with no text and no works.
A set of titles that express judgements concerning the quality of the work (‘Shit Painting’, ‘Poor Effort’, ‘Excellent Stuff’).
A set of glowing blacklight titles for a set of black paintings in a dark gallery.
A set of large and verbose titles linked to a set of miniature works.
A set of blinding LED white titles.
A set of titles generated randomly on the fly.
A set of titles projected awkwardly on the works.
A set of titles stacked neatly in a small box with no works.
A set of works that are themselves titles.

[PS: I love the way Agnes Martin titled her work – her intricate geometric abstractions are named ‘Mountain’, ‘White Flower’ and the like.]

Agnes Martin, Mountain, 1960

Agnes Martin, Mountain, 1960

Agnes Martin, White Flower, 1960

Agnes Martin, White Flower, 1960

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Job Interview Responses Drawn from the Lyrics of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’

So K had given me a copy of the famous Velvet Underground album with Warhol’s banana on the cover. I was playing it on high-rotation in my car. This was a re-release of the original album and included an additional song – ‘Heroin’. I was singing along all the time, imagining melodies that Lou Reed never bothered to pursue, then I had this thought: a video installation of a job interview in which all of the interviewee responses are drawn from the song:

generic job interview

generic job interview

Why have you applied for this job?
I have made big decision.
I’m gonna try to nullify my life.

So where do you see your career heading?
I don’t know just where I’m going.
But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man.

And so what skills do you bring to this position?
I guess I just don’t know.
Oh, and I guess I just don’t know.

Can you work effectively in a team environment?
I really don’t care anymore
About all the Jim-Jims in this town
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
And everybody putting everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds.

This job involves some travel – are you ok with that?
I wish that I’d sailed the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship.
Going from this land here to that
In a sailor’s suit and cap.

Do you have any questions for us?
You can’t help me now, you guys
And all you sweet girls with all your sweet talk.
You can all go take a walk.

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100 Ideas

Returning to the 100 ideas concept:

The first idea, which falls outside the overall set of one hundred ideas, is to assemble one hundred ideas for art projects. A very limited conceptual-aesthetic filter applies. If an idea registers, even for a moment, as faintly worthwhile then it will be described. I’m acknowledging of course that very few of my wayward ideas are ever realised, so why not document them here instead? They are most likely better in minimal form than inflated into actual works. In many instances they may have been better forgotten altogether.

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Mt Keira boulder

Mt Keira boulder

A small well-chalked boulder problem from March 2013. What an utterly long time ago. Just a few moves, but at my limit. Could scarcely believe it when I finally succeeded, grabbing for the good horizontal break and clambering up on to the slab. Now the chalk will have disappeared and the moss and lantana will have returned. I was there for such a short time. I am so completely gone.

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Fieldwork (the aesthetic)

A common critique of the aesthetic involves delineating its social implications. The aesthetic, it is argued, has served within modern capitalism as a means of naturalising aspects of class difference. As the old explicit delineators of social difference within the feudal system broke down new systems of difference were required. Amongst other means of differentiation, the emerging bourgeoisie distinguished themselves from the working class via dimensions of taste – experiential and consumption preferences that demonstrated affective subtlety, refined sensibility, etc. In this sense, the aesthetic – a sensitivity to the aesthetic – is positioned as a pseudo innate capacity, which provides an ideological alibi for social differentiation and economic inequality.

While this argument retains its force, the aesthetic cannot simply be positioned in these terms. Cast as taste, it certainly has an aspect of naturalisation, but there is also the sense that taste must be trained. The breeding of good taste is not simply a biological process, it requires social cultivation. The phenomenon of the European Grand Tour provides an explicit example of efforts to develop and train aesthetic taste. Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794) also positions aesthetic sensitivity as something that must be explicitly and deliberately fostered in order to reap socially integrative rewards.

The aesthetic represents a deeply ambivalent and uncertain category/capacity/field. Kant describes aesthetics as a species of judgement that charts a relation between the apriori and the experiential. The aesthetic represents a realm of mediation, negotiation and agreement. Our perception of the beautiful and sublime in the natural world comes to affirm an accord between our inbuilt capacities and the nature of the external world. This can only happen in his view from a disinterested perspective – beyond the corrupting influence of everyday human interests (appetites, instrumental goals). The aesthetic describes a perverse experiential mode – at once engaged and disengaged, at once outward looking, but only in terms of discovering analogues for the apriori. Hence all the of the difficulties involved in recognising the proper field of the aesthetic. Does it lie within some notion of what is proper to the aesthetic – within some sense of autonomy – or within its wider articulation with, in and of the world?

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Fieldwork Notes

What is the place of fieldwork within art? Can fieldwork be placed within art?

Art is a field. The field beyond art is a field.

A field represents an area at once open and delimited.

Can there be a field that is primarily concerned with questioning its delimitation, with insisting upon an openness that is at once true and endlessly compromised?

It seems that art would prefer to be something beyond a field while still maintaining a sense of integral identity – grounded in what? The notion of the aesthetic?

Contemporary ‘social practice’ art, for instance, takes shape precisely in terms of this dilemma. Art is not even mentioned and yet we are not speaking about social practice generally, but instead about a very specific genre of social practice that emerges from debates concerning relational aesthetics, socially-engaged art, etc. ‘Social practice’ imagines a potential for aesthetic action beyond the realm of aesthetics per se and beyond the institutional system of art. Yet at the same there remains a lingering desire to assess works of ‘social practice’ aesthetically/artistically, not simply in terms of their social efficacy and embededdness. The question is posed, how are these works to be judged? What separates them from the wider field of efficacious social action itself? And here is where the difficult problem of conceiving the field of aesthetics and art remains.

We have then a field which insists upon its openness, while equally insisting that there is a distinctly aesthetic field.

Some rough notes from a day or so ago:

Standard distinction between fieldwork and lab work. Malinowski – anthropology and fieldwork – an academic field that includes the apparently wider field as a vital part of its identity. No lab without the field.

And what sense can the aesthetic make of itself without the field? Starting with the senses, the confusion of openings to the world. The aesthetic is not innate but must be developed (Schiller). The Grand Tour as fieldwork and as studio – their necessary intimate relation.

The field is not simply what lies beyond the studio, but what lies beyond the conventional understanding and context of art. Art itself is a field (field as enclosed space of disciplinary operation), but art necessarily reaches beyond its institutional limits and autonomy (Adorno). The field is everything beyond art as well as art itself (Rancierre). Autonomy/Breach is constitutive of art. No art without the field’s encounter with wider fields.

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Complex Fields

Jeff Wall Fieldwork. Excavation of the floor of a dwelling in a former Sto:lo nation village, Greenwood Island, Hope, B. C., August, 2003. Anthony Graesch, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California

Jeff Wall Fieldwork. Excavation of the floor of a dwelling in a former Sto:lo nation village, Greenwood Island, Hope, B. C., August, 2003. Anthony Graesch, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California

Jeff Wall’s ‘Fieldwork’ (2003) depicts archaeological fieldwork in British Columbia.

Two fieldworkers excavate the remains of a Native American (Sto:lo Nation) floor, now part of a field. No longer an interior, the floor has passed outside. The walls and roof have gone. There is only the floor, which is now largely indistinguishable from the ground.

What field? Has this place always been the field? Are fields always resolutely outside? Could they also contain interiors? What is the interior region of a field? How can it be conceived? And what of the forest? Is that also a field? Don’t forests lie at the edge of fields and isn’t entering a forest like stepping into a room? How is the general shadiness and interiority of a forest to be understood?

Actually the ancient floor is now a tiered hole with an archaeologist kneeling before it taking notes. He kneels on one of four mats that are arranged on each side of the square hole. The archaeologist is out in the field but immersed in his fieldwork. He fashions his own delineated space within the field – a space of private observation and writing. He attends to a discrete, excavated area within the larger field and fashions his own field of observation and description.

Another fieldworker stands at the margins. He watches the working fieldworker, while himself simply standing there beneath a lofted branch, his feet shoulder width apart, his hands in his pockets. He is immersed differently in the field – distractedly, inactively, within the prosaic tedium of slow, deliberate archaeological fieldwork.

They have a bunch of stuff lying around. They have created a little dirt track. They have colonised a little bit of the wider forest and turned it into an archaeological field. Once again, the exterior is shaped as an interior.

There is another fieldworker as well – the photographer. Wall photographs the fieldworkers each day. He conveys a sense of the culture and context of archaeological fieldwork in carefully composed formal-aesthetic terms. It is as though a painting of a Renaissance forest scene has been updated – no longer full of cavorting centaurs and nymphs, there are instead two archaeological fieldworkers; who despite themselves, despite their level of distraction or methodical calm, somehow still manage to summon up the memory of an earlier mythical field (accentuated by the subdued, meditative, untimely light). How is this enabled? It is perhaps at least partly by fashioning a relation between interior and exterior space – elaborating curious openings, borders, thresholds and rooms within forests and fields. All of this suggests the complexity of fields and fieldwork. Fieldwork involves much more than simply stepping outside.

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Small Grand Tours

Walk to major Australian galleries through areas of nearby bush or parkland. Preferable if this involves crossing a high hill. My clearest example: walk across Canberra’s Mt Ainslie to the Australian National Gallery. The aim is to mimic aspects of the European Grand Tour in miniature and alienated terms. We are not passing across northern Europe and the Alps to Italy. We are ascending a small eucalypt-covered hill and then wandering across parkland to the gallery. Can all manner of major Australian public galleries be approached in this way – through a preparatory journey that negotiates a relation between everyday life, natural space and art? My concern is to make explicit the often unstated relation between art and a complex exterior – and to explore this relation in playfully classical experiential terms.

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I’m Kiki Dee

Video piece (or maybe just audio). All manner of people lay claim to being Kiki Dee. They say simply “I’m Kiki Dee”, although of course they are not Kiki Dee. Kiki Dee is a British soul singer best known for her 1976 duet with Elton John, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. Kiki Dee is her stage name. Her real name is Pauline Matthews. The name begins as a fiction – a distant memory of a fiction – and then is resurrected through further fictional claims to identity.

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100 Ideas (earlier)

One hundred and one ideas. I shall not judge them. I was tempted to call them dumb ideas, or DAFT ideas (Dumb Art Fantasy Tasks), but it seems preferable to leave them in their nascent, utopian state. No point in dismissing them quite yet. Allow them at least a fragile moment of expression.

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Some Contexts of Fieldwork

Artists as ethnographers – social practice
Artists along with scientists – artists on ANARE trips to the Antarctic (Mawson Station), etc.
Artists pursuing procedures rigorously in the field – sampling, systematic observation and documentation, etc. (affinities with science, but with an aspect of irrational fascination)
Artists walking (and more) – aspects of performance

the social field
the field of everyday life
the urban field
the environmental field
the disciplinary field (rethought as transdiciplinary)

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‘Field’ is a complex term with a wide set of meanings.

Etymologically – and most concretely – it refers to an open area of land. Yet this openness is complex. A field is less an entirely exterior wilderness than an area of grassland, paddock or pasture. It is at once open and bounded. It may be surrounded by hedges or fences. Or it may be circumscribed by other geographical features – forests, mountains, swamps and rivers. The combination of openness and determination shapes our experience of going into a field. We have stepped outside. We have stepped out into the world, but at the same time we recognise the limits of this exterior. A field represents a delimited expanse. Its vastness is never absolute. It is not the sublime vastness of the the sea or outer space.

It is perhaps because of the determinate character of a field that fieldwork is possible. One can fruitfully move within this space. One can keep animals, plant crops, conduct research, produce art, etc. Yet the appeal of any field lies not only in its potential productivity and domesticity, but in its openness and risk.

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Fieldwork is a form of research. It involves leaving the lab and going out into the world. Fun to leave the lab, but also important. Research must be extended beyond the artifice of the lab. In this sense, fieldwork is pursued seriously and diligently. It follows a determined method and aims to provide fruitful insights. But what if I go out into the field in a less focused way? What if I have no clear plan in mind? What if I pursue a fanciful method or no method at all? What if the possibility that I am engaged in research never crosses my mind? Then what am I doing in the field and what can I discover there? What is the perverse value in not pursuing deliberate research?

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Grand Tour

Rough notes.

Aesthetic experience may conventionally be associated with the so-called higher senses – sight and hearing – but it is intimately connected also with the lower senses – touch, taste and smell – as well as with features of experience that are difficult to decompose, which come in a larger, holistic form, involving not only the sensing of something external, but also active engagement, motion, duration, etc.

What is the European Grand Tour, for instance, if not a complex overall experience, in which the understanding and appreciation of classical culture is structured in terms of the contours and rich intricacies of a journey. I am particularly interested by the journey across the Alps that precedes almost every grand tourist’s experience of Italian culture. How does the experience of wild, mountainous nature provide a necessary precursor to journeying through Italy? How is the experience of the Alps positioned? How does it provide access to the aesthetic?

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Survivalist Camps

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Survivalist Gaming

Mitchell sent me this:

Here’s a good article on survivalist gaming – – but
it doesn’t mention my favourite, called A Dark Room – a review:


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Flat Pack Feral

A fantasy of alienated feral existence is rendered in a concrete, neatly packaged and participatory form.

A wooden palette of cardboard boxes is placed at the edge of an area of Bundanon forest. Ikea style instructions explain that viewers should move the boxes up into the forest and then open them to explore their contents. The boxes contain bits and pieces of the detritus of a feral existence – a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, cooking gear, trash and pages from an incoherent journal. Additional instructions inside the boxes explain what to do with these items – how they should be arranged.

The campsite is assembled in the morning, left up for the day and night and then returned into the flat pack boxes and placed back on the palette early the next morning.

The aim is to play up contradictions and subterranean alignments between the disorder of a marginal existence and the regularities of commodity form – between entropy and systematic procedure.

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Have released a new album out on bandcamp. It’s called Whenever.

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Kim, Lucas and I follow creeks up from the beach to the escarpment.

Lucas re-enacts materialist film events with Louise.

I bought a banjo last night from Clive in Unanderra. He was in his pyjamas.

What are the implications of following? Where does following lead?
Instead of trying at every instant to do something new.
Instead of commenting wryly on the past.
Instead of feeling stuck.
Instead of lamenting the disappearance of the future.
Instead of attending to a restrictive past.
Instead of strictly following.
Instead of strictly going astray.
Instead of imagining that following is a simple process.
Instead of imagining that following is especially hard.
We follow. We follow following. We follow following wherever it leads.

Please some clarity.

I have recorded three albums of material in the past year. None of it is especially innovative. I am following memories, emotions, sensations. It is not really for others to listen to – or to listen to very attentively. I make it available, but in the same manner that smoke wafts over a fence. I am cooking in my backyard. Unavoidably this will have olfactory consequences for my neighbours. But we are all cooking. The smoke and odours blow both ways. None of us are amateurs, none of us are professionals. In the same manner music circulates through the neighbourhood. I am drawn to popular traditions. I’ll play things my own way. I’ll cut corners and cheat. But I am still following.

Similarly, we don’t try to reinvent the creek bed. We follow the creek. We follow the creek as best we can. This also involves walking away from the creek at times. When the path along the creek is blocked then we follow other ways. Whatever way suits. There is some ingenuity here, but the novel turns emerge from the process of following. Following does not have to be dully scrupulous. Nor does it have to obsessively veer off track.

Lucas and Louise’s film work reflects upon following. It stages a repetition that does not actually repeat. Alongside this there can be a less attentive following, a drifting following, a semi-conscious following. All these different modes of following are valid – not that they really need validation.

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