A time line. Or just a line that took time

With the open studio now done and ornately dusted, I was ready to embark on a glorious week of museum meandering. First stop, The Museum of Natural History. Wait. No erase that, let’s start before the beginning at the World Food Café in the Natural History Museum. For it’s possible that this place could and should be hermetically sealed as a diorama for future generations to study. Lets get some plexiglass and silicon and add it to the museum map. This claustrophobic sloppy beige capsule was heaving with organic humanesque matter. Packed around each tiny tin table, piled feet high with white, yellow and orange food stuffs were packs of families in matching puffer jackets with puffy ketchup smeared cheeks. Loud mouths, loud clothes and lukewarm food abounded. Some family flocks hunted for a free table, squawking and waving their sodas at the flocks who had forgotten to gather their garbage. The menu, devoid of curries, stir fries or burritos and plentiful in pizza, fries and mac ‘n’ cheese re-enforced the cliché that American culture has devoured the world resulting in the homogenisation of everything. And even though a cliché is only the truth we get tired of hearing, I have a hunch that there is still room for someone to look at this useless eco system and ask if perhaps its time to make just this one museum cafeteria extinct. Obviously a large anthropological study would have to be carried out but my guts (both the intestinal one and my intuitive one) feel that it would not be a loss if a meteor wiped out this particular location and all who inhabit it.

Staring at the museum map, soaked with my neighbours soda and soiled with my own fatty fingerprints, I longed romantically for the awesome sublime of outer space, the wowing wonder of science, the mind-blowing marvel of another kind of mankind and I laid all my hopes in the atrium called ‘The Origin of the Universe’ (please read with a 1960s echoing sci-fi voice over.)  And now in the middle of this paragraph we are at the beginning. Not the “Once upon a time…” beginning of this story, but the beginning of, the beginning of the big BANG. Day One, where time and space begin. Oh, actually, no wait a minute. Firstly I got consumed by a coat check line half and hour long and 3 people deep. Not the space and time encounter I was searching for.

A moment of ungraspable amazement and perplexing wonder, did however emerge when I entered the ‘Universe’ atrium to look at the beginning of time time-line and saw that the target audience was 8 year old children. Which, before I continue, I would like to say I would’ve been super supportive of had even one single child looked interested in the display. But instead of doing that sponge soaking thing small brains are supposed to be capable of, they zoomed and skidded around me like pudgy insects, in groups that multiplied and expanded faster than the universe itself. Yes they have a right to be here but its hard to hold foggy big things in your mind, when small snotty masses occupy the perimeter of your personal space. I looked at them with disdain and wished evolution would speed up and give me a super power – the burning laser eye trick was what I wanted. I would’ve zapped them with one evil look. Pazzap! They’d be piles of ash and smoke and I would walk away wearing black leather. A win all round I say.

I must confess though that amidst my superhuman fantasy I had a little moment of longing for the little people that I do love and with the sentimentality that arose, came a phrase to berate me “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met”. I seriously contemplated the possibility that I would be more tolerant of these kids if I knew them.     Hmmmm      …. ??         ????     … Nope. This philosophy cannot be expanded to include the children of strangers. Evil eyes all around. PZAPP! PZAPP! PZAPP !PZAPP. Poof. Strut strut strut.

Walking away from miniature earthlings I sought refuge reclining amongst stardust light years away from earth. In order to reach the Planetarium I had to enter the chattering, oozing, sweaty, heaving corridors of humanity. Men women, children and waisted intelligent life forms, pulsed and bumbled lethargically like a sluggish river through the bowels of the museum. I imagined a graph at the museum entrance pictoralising the amount of visitors to the museum each day, by equating the number to the population of small lesser-known nation.

Sunday 17th February
Number of visitors to the museum = the population of Van Diemen’s Land.

It was 1:00 NYC time and the next Planetarium session was at 1:30.I queued to buy a ticket for the next session. There were 2 people in front of me. 20 mins later, still 2 people in front of me. I was stuck in a black whole, waiting, waiting,  w  a   a   a   a   i  t i n g.   Time  s t  o    p      p        e          d        .

It’s fair to say I’m impatient. I confess this openly as a weakness of my DNA. This will of course eventually destroy my descendants or if Brittany graduates soon enough and finds a cure it will assist us in conquering the world! I tried to stand still. In a resting pose I withdrew my consciousness from the world around me and took it down deep into my body to rest in a padded cell where it could scream “What’s taking you so long???”

“One student ticket for the Planetarium, please.”
“Ticket please”
“T-I-C-K-E-T puuuleeeease”
“No I want to buy one.”
“Do you have your museum admission ticket”
“Yes, but I didn’t pay for the planetarium, so I’d like to buy one now”
“Show me”

I show him.

“Where is the receipt for your admission ticket?”
“I don’t have it”
“Well how did you get this ticket?”

Note the tone of accusation

“My husband paid with his credit card”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere in the museum”

You can see why the queue took so long.

“You need the receipt.”
“ For what?”
“To buy a ticket”
“I need a receipt for a ticket which I have in my hand in order to buy a different ticket?”

I look towards the queue for moral support but they are stuck in the black hole and look back at me blankly

“Yes that’s the system.”

Rationality escaped me entirely now. Poof. Gone with one evil eye stare from the attendant. PZAPP!. It vaporised, drifted above everyone’s heads, floated over the balcony and swooped into the Universe atrium where it spied Jon. And then it yelled “JOOOOOOOOON!” Yes it did. In a big loud voice. “JOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNN. I NEEEEEEEDDDD THE RECIEPT” Um or maybe that was me. As I exited the planetarium I notice that the next session time is now 3:30 and I’m told by a women in the supersized line that she is actually queuing for the 4:00 show. What? Why? THIS PLACE SUCKS!!!!!

… and then oh oh oooooohhhhhh the sweet honey of memory. I’m in New York. I have membership to every major museum in the city and so when push came to shove, rather than fight, I took flight. Located the exit and ran across Central Park to the Guggenhiem. 

Open Studio Prep

Wall Tattoo nearly finished

New sound piece done.

2am cutting followed by 7am dusting

Sorting layout for images from 'Silence of Becoming and Disappearing' for artists talk.


Hundreds of evites, facebook events, phone calls, text messages, notes on napkins, business cards handed out
3 replies advising of typo, 7 attending through facebook (all people who live in Australia), 37 Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
Ready to make a big impact!

Chanting and disappearing

 I thought that perhaps the solution to the ash flocking piece was to just do more.

So a couple of more days were spent facing a wall, and I resisted with all my might heading out to the Al Enatsui exhibition at BAM or the Woolfgang Laib and Dieter Roth at MOMA. The more-is-more approach however drove the work closer towards a decorative feature wall, and still I would look at it a think "So what?".

A different possibility emerged whilst listening to Gregorian chants during music class. Drawing whilst listening I came up with this solution to the composition. It bares no visible likeness to Medieval music and in fact its syncopated chaotic ups and downs and its polyphonic patterns seem more Jazz like, but in some loose way my expanding knowledge of music is providing a pathway to opening up methods of patterning. I was excited about re-working the design and rushed back to the studio to start masking, painting, drawing and radical destruction.

Out came the white paint and I began erasing sections of the pattern and then... there it was, the problem had not been the design or composition of the work but the work itself. Whilst painting over the flocking I began thinking about the Wabi Sabi idea of all things 'emerging from and disappearing towards nothing' and I found a comfort in the possibility that the ash flocking was being erased before it was finished and that this process of erasure was a process of construction, so i kept painting, covering the wall and trapping the work between the wall and new layer of paint. It was there but dissapearing towards not being there.

Nothings easy but everything is possible

So I think we are up to here... the ash flocking. What a filthy mess! But more on its way towards something possible than it has ever been in studio attempts back home. I finished the 4 meter sample on the wall but was surprised by my own disappointment when I realised that it looked very much like a sample, that is to say it looked like I'd stuck it against the wall with all the care of a teenager tacking up a poster, or worse still like I'd tried to do something ‘arty’ with the wall, 'mere' decoration the critics would cry. And whilst you know I'm a can't-contain-myself-fan of decoration and of art against walls and yes even despite my intention to create a sample of different ways I work for the open studio... I just cannot bare its uncertainty, its lack of being the thing I do not yet know it can be. It currently looks like it has no consciousness of the space it occupies, an utter disregard for its place. Something needs to happen to it and I don’t know what that is, so it presently cowers at the end of the studio, trying to apologetically hide is girth and height.

Meanwhile I moved onto other things – a reworking of a pinprick piece. It’s a work I love. No one ever asks me to exhibit this work, but when ever I’m allowed to choose what I exhibit I choose this. 

Sounds and the sublime

There are too many things to do in NY to waist time tolerating mediocrity. So after sitting through one half of a contemporary dance show which was more Rock Esitedford /So you think you can dance than our Sandra Parker or Jo Llyod, and my silent laughter turned to visible shaking at the ‘troubled-yet-passionate” dance to Hallelujah in which the couple kept running away then towards each other, him with his open shirt fluttering around his bare chest, her with her flexed footed leaping, we legged it out of there. Caught the L across to Brooklyn and after getting lost, getting lost and getting lost again found a gallery opening at 10 o’clock on a Friday night. And in a compressed night which covered the ridiculous to the sublime, we listened to a sound piece generated by the movement of the audience transferred into vibrations which then passed an LPG bottle. The amplified micro movements were at first perplexing then quite fascinating as it revealed an unseen world of minute particles busying themselves with the flow of travelling through air. It made me think of how full the empty space of air is.

Later that night we became the recipients of noise rather than the emitters of sound at new club in Brooklyn. In the blacken bunker space we were slammed on all sides by a crescendo of repetitive beats. (My history of music professor tells me I shouldn’t be intimidated by Italian words, and I can simply say “the volume gets louder” but I think that the sound of the word ‘crescendo’ feels a lot more like you head has been crashed between two subwoofers and four turntables, so in this instance I’m going with that.) We had been told that “this room had the most sophisticated sound system anywhere in the world tonight!”. And whilst I’m learning to find the exaggeration of Americans endearing, grains of salt still get sprinkled. To my great surprise they could have this time been right.  The music was felt through the floor, through the bar, through the air, through the bodies of the masses dancing and yet we could talk to each other without shouting, we could hear each other without lip reading. Although I should confess when I mentioned this to our friend who had built the sound system he said “What?” and then I had to repeat myself 3 times, which comically disproved my compliment to him.

Contact with Higher Beings

There is a saying that if you wake up in NY you have already spent $20. J also added that if you walk out your front door, it cost you another $100. Personally I think its both money and time, that are siphoned from you by this city. You go out for a dinner and before you know it its 4am. You hop on the subway, accidentally get an express to Queens instead of the Upper West side and it takes you a good hour to retrace your footsteps. You leave the loft to go to MOMA find out its snowing, MOMA closes and your still walking the streets in wonder at the transformative softness of snow. You go to Kmart to get contact, realise your near The Strand book store, 18 miles of books and there goes another 3 hours.

The pursuit of contact actually occupied an entire day. Having decided to start my work all over again due to the crappiness of the barely sticky contact, I thought that I could go out, pick up some more, spend another day or so transferring the drawing and I'd only be 2 days behind. It turned out that in all of Manhattan not a single Office or School supply store, Target, Kmart or any other Megamart or Art store had contact. Towards the end of the day as night was already near I located a stationary supply store at Columbia University. As with so many distractions in NY I didn't mind the detour. I like to walk around college campuses, they feel so full of possibility and wonder and brilliance. All those smart people in one place - its dangerously exciting.

Standing in the queue at the stationers I noted the tweedy professors and the mix of international students buying blank notebooks in which I imagined big ideas would soon emerge from there big brains. It reinvigorated thoughts about my own thesis, or at least my own desire and ability to complete my thesis. At the cash register I handed over my supplies and was rudely stripped of my idealistic musing about knowledge when I was told that if I 'Liked' the stores facebook page I could get 15% off. Great I want 15% off... but I don't know how to 'like' a page. I leaned across the counter, lowered my voice and confessed my deep ignorance to the cashier (careful not to pollute the atmosphere around the other highly intellectual beings). "Sorry Mama, I don't know, I just work here". I turn to a woman behind me, showed her my phone and ask for assistance. She didn''t know how to use the fb mobile app. The next person didn't speak English well. And pretty soon my romanticism about University campuses was clubbed to death by the reality that there is so much to learn and learning is an awkward and slightly embarrassing activity requiring you to first have to confess what you do not know. Sadly I had not absorbed any knowledge by strolling around the hallowed halls of neo-classical colleges or the large domed library. I had learned a lesson the Rumsfieldian way - clumsily and without a trace of elegance or eloquence.

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." D. Rumsfield

A good idea is just the beginning

The first of the 3 works that I want to install in my studio is a large and more resolved version of an experimental piece I have attempted in Melbourne. It involves cutting patterns out of contact and using ash to flock a design directly onto the wall. If you don't know what flocking is, think of velvet-like wallpaper.

I started with a drawing.

I traced the drawing onto lengths of contact.

I stuck the contact to the wall.

I began cutting away the pattern to make a very large stencil.

The contact then started peeling itself off the wall. 

I walked around the corner to the worlds largest art supply store - 5 floors!- and had a lengthy discussion with the glue department - on the 5th floor.

I brought a temporary spray adhesive and started the processes again with no improvement. I think it's the heat, the hissing knocking radiators which make this studio positively balmy, are softening the glue/s. I tried anyway to flock the wall. This requires a plastic bottle with a hole in it, which you squeeze in quick repetitions, like CPR, to exhale the ash in the bottle into a puff into the wall. Its very unpredictable, but not usually as abysmal as today's results.

Like I said its just the beginning.

Tick tick tick

A week passed. It just went by. 7 days like that and what have I done? Not enough, not nearly enough. The days got stolen from me and I have let them. Meandering around our neighborhood and catching up with friends and 'settling in'. Seriously  - settling in! This is not what you do in NYC, you don't arrive and let some stationary and sedimentary non-action take its own time with you, you don't suspend yourself patiently waiting for your previous life to stop rushing over into the whirl pool of your new life. You don't softly softly ease into NYC as if you are lowing yourself tentatively into a cool pool of water, pausing to brace yourself against the shock of it, waiting for your body to adjust. No no no - you dive in!

So a week passed and I realised I had not made a single list. There is no time to explain this irrationality and uncommon behaviour, I'm moving this snowplough of life forward. So first things first -J made us a calender. Now, rather than leaving our we-should-do-that-intentions in front of billboards and subway posters and in copies of Time Out and mixed up among conversations, we can lock it in Eddie.


Secondly I made a list, documenting what we had done since we arrived. And then I crossed everything off the list. So satisfied. It went like this:

  • Cocktails with the Missy family at Dorothy Parker and the Round Table groups Algonquin Hotel.
  • Lace show at The Met
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art - Most extensive collection of Conceptual art work I've seen.
  • Day trip to Philly -  Museum of Art to see Cunningham, Cage, Rauschenberg, Johns work in realtion to Duchamps 'Bride Stripped Bare...' inc Cunningham dance piece and Film on there collaborations
  • Shoe shopping
  • One whole day at Century 21 shopping for winter
  • Exhibition opening and Schmoozing at Australian Consulate
  • Food shopping, which required assistance and advice from a Homeless man on how to navigate the subway with a trolley
  • Watched 4 episodes of Girls and 3 episodes of Newsroom, while I recovered from a bug
  • Started Tai Chi
  • Practiced Tai Chi walking across the acres of studio space
  • Dinners, lunches, and coffee with various friends
  • Art material sourcing in the Garment District, J found my special pins that I cant buy in Aust
  • $10 Martinis at our local
  • Watched creative developement of several contemporary dance pieces
  • Got 70% off at Body Shop - Lipstick $4!
  • Various landmark sightings
  • Finished drawing for first installation
  • Recieved exhibtion offer from Chashama
  • Rearranged houseplants, then reaaranged whole loft
  • Did a little dance
  • Had Aust. Council director over for coffee - nice bloke
  • Bumped into Aust Attorney General on subway
  • Long conversation with our Chinese landroumat about our smalls
  • Surrvived a burgulary attempt on our building
  • Grew a beard
  • Lied awake listing to our frieght elevator and heaters knocking all night
  • Slept in
  • Waited for snow
  • Walked in our door everyday and went - WOOOOOW this loft is amazing

European Lace at The Met

Down into the Spring St subway, along the screeching screaming 'green 6' line to 75th St on the Upper East side, brisk walk beside central park - coffee in hand, past the hotdog stands and souvenir photos vendors, skipping up the grand stone stairs of The Metropolitan Museum, inside to the echoing crowded Great Hall, through the members queue, passed the Medieval Art collection, walking walking walking still walking through the Medieval collection, turn right down a small marble staircase into a softly lit room the size of a large living room to the "Gems of European Lace ca. 1600-1920" exhibition. Where I spent 2 hours alone with a small collection of the most exquisite pieces of handmade lace I have seen. The threads on some works were almost invisible to the naked eye. It made me rethink the level of intricacy and fineness of my work.