KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Reviews

The Blackmail goes offline

by Imogen , January 21, 2013Leave a comment

OFFLINE is a print edition of The Blackmail. The Blackmail has been dishing out Aussie-centric popular culture, art culture and subculture online since 2009. As with countless other magazines and journals that appear in my RSS feeds and inbox, I can’t pretend I’ve been a completely religious reader. That said, I’ve been clicking through The Blackmail for a while and there is one particular thing that often strikes me when I’m reading it: the internet is a good place to look at art.

Let me qualify that somewhat. I can count the number of visual art and photography exhibitions I attended in 2012 on one hand. I saw numerous theatre shows and films, attended multiple writers’ and performing arts festivals, academic conferences and book clubs. But visual art is my cultural blind spot. That said, when art is delivered to my screen via curators I have come to trust know more about it than me – like the discerning folk at The Blackmail – I’m inclined to look at it. If I like what I’m scrolling though – like, for example, Cara Stricker’s photos of Burning Man in Nevada – I’ll often become curious enough to read more about the processes undertaken by the practitioners themselves.

If you have any interest in the Australian art world, you’ll appreciate OFFLINE’s interview with Callum Morton, one of Australia’s most revered living artists, whose work combines sculpture, architecture and installation. Even I have heard of him. The interviewer, Melissa Loughnan is a regular contributor to The Blackmail and the Director of Melbourne gallery Utopian Slumps, and she knows how to get the job done. She has Morton teasing out the tensions between the supposed order and geometry of architecture on the one hand, and the potential chaos and disorder of art on the other. Morton provides some canny insights into the differing implications of public vs. private arts funding models – for the art itself, that is – which seems to be on the mind of lots of practitioners these days, not to mention independent arts organisations. The impact of MONA is an interesting case in point.

If there is a theme here it might be the impact and the importance of materials to the artists that use them. A personal anecdote written by sculptor and painter Brendan Huntley elaborates this: ‘I usually talk about the mediums rather than the subject matter… It’s like a collaboration between me, the tools and the materials…’ Huntley puts into words a mini manifesto about the magic of tools and processes that, alongside finished products, The Blackmail has always been interested in: what stuff people use to make art, and how people do artful things with stuff.

The wacky histories of the material are also relevant to the world of music. If you fall into the category of people who have become increasingly sentimental about old technologies as music in the digital age becomes less artefactual and more experiential, you’ll enjoy the feature on cult Australian post-punk band Essendon Airport. As well as an account of their curious sonic influences – punk, funk, ‘oddball minimalism’ and late 70s muzak on 3AK – it’s a ripper of a case study about the historical contingencies of music-making, and the way in which odd combinations in technology can create sounds and styles that people come to love and that ultimately become iconic. Fascinating also is the way in which the material histories of music production and distribution brought about the fortunes of Essendon Airport, which was re-discovered by Guy Blackman in an op shop recycle bin before getting re-issued in 2002.

The thread of the material is also apposite in a retrospective look at the fashion and textiles career of Australian designer Rae Ganim. Ganim’s textiles, which can now be found in the collections of the National Gallery and the State Library of Victoria, are so colourful and distinctive that this became a moment when I literally wished OFFLINE was online so I could see her work in colour. The same applies to some of the other art contained in the edition, especially the photography of Samuel Hodge, whose intimate and vaguely voyeuristic work  has featured on The Blackmail in the past.

There were a couple of ill-advised inclusions in OFFLINE that felt like a lazy gesture to VICE-style irreverence, including a one-page vignette about some methadone users eating a bag of prawns. I’ve never understood the ironic centerfold either ­– if OFFLINE’s is indeed intended ironically.

Thanks to the internet, I do see visual art. Which is why I was a bit dubious when I sat down with OFFLINE. Why make what works so beautifully on the internet into a book? This is clearly a question that publishers, editors, marketing departments, writers and everyone else are asking each other more and more frequently. In this instance, co-publisher of The Blackmail, Tristan Ceddia, in his short preface to OFFLINE, goes some way towards an explanation: ‘Put this book in your back pocket. Throw it in your bag. Read it on the train. And take some time away from your screen’.

Summer is a good time to do that. Take OFFLINE to the beach. It’s neat, light and it contains a recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Maui Macaroons. Actually, I rarely get to the beach or bake, but I imagine the small collection of features, interviews, photo essays, illustrations and short stories compiled in this slim volume would be the perfect length for a beachy, biscuity afternoon.

 

Dion Kagan is a researcher and lecturer in screen and cultural studies at Melbourne University. He sits on the artistic programming committee of the National Young Writers’ Festival and the editorial advisory committee of Paper Radio.

 




West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »

BuzzFeed

Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

The Lego Movie

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Nostalgia and today’s family-friendly films

Hollywood has always known the adults are watching alongside the kids, and that to push a film into record profits (as Lego looks set to do with a global box office of $428 million and counting), you need to appeal to ‘kids of all ages’. Read more »

nympho-poster

Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »

planes

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

wifi

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

IMG_3267

Clipped: What would Susan Sontag say about always-on cameras?

As I write this, a tiny camera clipped to my shirt collar is silently taking a picture every thirty seconds. At the end of the day, I will plug my Narrative Clip into my MacBook, and it will upload half a gigabyte of images to the Cloud. … Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »

The Fault with a Sick-Lit Debate (1)

Danielle Binks

The fault with a sick-lit debate

American author John Green’s young adult (YA) novel The Fault in Our Stars has been a bestselling juggernaut since its release in 2012. Green’s book was somewhat inspired by his friendship with Esther Earl, whose posthumous memoir This Star Won’t Go Out was released in January this … Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »

Grandma photoshop

Chad Parkhill

Singing out

My maternal grandmother, Merilai Lilburn, recently died in a nursing home in Katikati, New Zealand, of complications arising from pneumonia. She was 82 years old. At the time of her death, I and the other members of our extended family based in Australia Read more »

Community

Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »