Reviews

The Blackmail goes offline

by Dion Kagan , 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.

 




marilyn-ulysses

Reading Marilyn reading Ulysses: when celebrities are photographed with books

In 1955, photographer Eve Arnold snapped a now-iconic image of American actress Marilyn Monroe, in her bathers on a Long Island playground, reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the sixty years since, the photo has prompted continual suspicion in those who see literature and celebrity as mutually exclusive – was she really reading it? Read more »

capote-dog

The Outsiders: The early stories of Truman Capote

The recent publication of The Early Stories of Truman Capote – a collection of newly-discovered short stories from the archives of the New York Public Library – reveals the preoccupations of the adolescent Capote, drawn to drifters, exiles, and others living on society’s fringes. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

ROSEANNE - On set in New York - 10/16/93 
Sara Gilbert (Darlene) on the ABC Television Network comedy "Roseanne". "Roseanne" is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems.
(AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC.)
SARA GILBERT

Rebecca Shaw

Out of the Imaginary Closet: Fictional characters who should have been gay

When you are part of a group that isn’t portrayed in the same way (or only negatively, or not at all) you become desperate for that glimmer of recognition. Here are several characters that I loved as a young person, who became stand-ins for the openly lesbian characters I wanted to see so much. Read more »

SPEAR_0014_Edward_Mulvihill copy 2

Lauren Carroll Harris

Eyes Open Dreaming: Spear and the potential for an Australian art cinema

Commercial success has long been prized as Australian cinema’s salve, and the values of that commerce-based vision of success have deeply permeated the national conversation. Spear sets this conversation aside entirely, raising in its stead the possibility of an art cinema in Australia. Read more »

CAROL

You Could Burn a House Down: Todd Haynes’s Carol

For many years, lesbians in fiction were punished for their social transgressions, condemned to a life of solitude, insanity, feigned heterosexuality and/or suicide. Radically, Carol portrays a lesbian love that doesn’t destroy or diminish its subjects, but enables them to transform, to grow and to be free. Read more »

Bowie - The Image  1

The Art of Immortality: David Bowie and The Image

With the news this week of David Bowie’s death at the age of 69 from a long battle with cancer, watching The Image is an oddly reassuring experience: the shared, mass hope that it can’t be true, that he’s not really gone, is played out in this grainy, almost haunted relic now almost 50 years old. Read more »

21EMMYJP6-master675

Killings Columnists Pick Their Best of 2015

As 2015 concludes, we also farewell our fabulous 2015 Killings columnists. They’ve entertained and delighted us all year with fortnightly columns on culture, politics and society, and now they offer us a wrap up of their highlights for 2015 across their respective fields. Read more »

18-gilmore-girls.w1200.h630

Tim McGuire

Progressive to a Point: Homophobia and Gilmore Girls

You can’t watch a TV show over and over again without picking up on a couple of its flaws, much as you might prefer not to see them. In the case of Gilmore Girls, the hamartia I didn’t want to find was a troubling and weirdly homophobic one, layered over with pithy dialogue, pop culture nods, and the small town charm that made the show’s seven seasons such a success. Read more »

PLM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Family Matters: Please Like Me and the Aussie TV family

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, the bouncy titles run over three little scenarios: Josh cooks dinner for his mate Tom and his boyfriend Arnold; his Mum cooks for her new housemate Hannah; and his Dad cooks for his wife, Mae. The three of them stir, sip wine and dance daggily around their kitchens in a neat metaphor for this season’s fantastic, cohesive new trajectory. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Sydney - January 20, 2016: This Is How We Die perfomed during the 2016 Sydney Festival (photo by Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival)

Impossible Futures: Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die

These two shows ask: how hard do we need to listen? In each, minutiae can be discarded, at least in slivers of time. Tomorrow’s Parties and This is How We Die each allow your brain to detach for a moment: to spin off into the different worlds they create, before returning once again, as best you can, to the work at hand. Read more »

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels in Mortido. Photo credit: Shane Reid

Jane Howard

A Shining Nightmare: Mortido‘s Sydney

Sydney is a city of shine and reflective surfaces. The glint of the harbour follows through to city high-rises clad in polished glass, bouncing off the wide windows of the mansions hugging the undulating land before it gives way to the impossibly deep and wide water. But this beauty that can betray the darkness of the city and its people. Read more »

_85072354_hamlet3-pa

Angela Meyer

Outrageous Fortune: Seeing Hamlet as a Cumberbitch

Jazz swells, hushing the audience, and the solid black gate of the theatre curtain opens. It reveals the lounging figure of Hamlet, playing a record, sniffing his father’s old jumper. But what I see first is not Hamlet: it is Benedict Cumberbatch. Read more »