Chapter 1 (The Festival State)
The last few weekends of running around looking at all the bright lights of the city, keeping up with social media, looking for networking opportunities and jobs, preparing applications, reading for university and for pleasure, keeping up with an exercise routine and just generally getting re-settled in my home city after a long time away have come as a bit of a shock to the system.
In an overwhelming tide of reality, I’ve been washed over with so much beauty and so many incredible happenings in the past month that I’ve hardly had time to sit back, relax and just think about it. I mean, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s much better to be out and about than sitting at home wallowing over lives that once were or could have been, but over-working yourself can be just as harmful.
The main thing that’s kept me afloat this past month (and yes, it has been a month since I left Europe, I have to keep telling myself that to believe it) is that Adelaide is currently bubbling and seething with some great energy, roiling around in a pot of art and culture. When Adelaide goes off, it goes off with a tremendous bang.
BANG!.. and then all was quiet
Let’s see, this month I’ve visited and/or covered the Adelaide Fringe, the Adelaide Festival of Art, The Biennial, various city-wide pop-up events, two major music festivals, Adelaide Writer’s Week, all while keeping up with Electric Holy Road as best as I can and figuring out where to place my feet on the next steps of my career (and life).
Today my focus has been on the stunningly colourful and eclectic Biennial exhibition at our State Library, called “Magic Object” after the tradition of the Wunderkammer. This gallery-wandering did give me some quiet time to reflect and appreciate… and what I realised was that all this was screaming at me!
In the short space of two months out of each year, Adelaide becomes the “city to be in”. It’s as if our “vibrancy quota” of the year must be fulfilled as soon as possible and with as much veracity and explosiveness as we can possibly manage. It’s great, it’s wonderful, it makes you proud to be an Adelaidian, but at the same time it can feel like a bit too much. I’ve attended events recently that I’m sure no one would ever know about because they’re just too hidden among the tumult. The average working family doesn’t have the time to focus their attention on the Clipsal races, the Fringe and The Biennial at the same time.
My weekend has been a flurry of activity, running between lectures, shows and exhibitions, just barely having time to say “hola” to some friends and write what needs to be written. I’ve always considered myself someone with fantastic time management skills, something I love to tell employers, but there are only so many hours in the day.
So I guess what I’m saying is that Adelaide needs to become The Festival State proper, 24/7/365, with its grand events spread over the year rather than just at the start of it. Sure it’s nice to make use of the great warm weather, but running around, sometimes in headless chook fashion, in 30 degree plus heat to get to your next show isn’t going to be very appealing to the tourists bringing in the foreign dollars.
But then at the same time, our arts sector (and general job sector) needs a desperate injection of money and energy. To see the Fringe and Festival get bigger, more grand, each and every year is a brilliant sign, but we’re still get swamped by Melbourne and Sydney, overlooked as the place to plant yourself and start an arts career. Outside of Festival season, there’s just not much incentive for artists to establish themselves in our promising soil and much fear for us young ‘uns who are looking to put our talents to good use. Adelaide could be, and I’m sure it will be in a short time, so much more! It’s a capital absolutely packed with creative thinkers and brilliant minds. They just need to be more secure in their job-hunting prospects, and to stop having everyone telling them “ooh, you’re probably going to need to move interstate, you know. No hope here for your kind”.
In the end though the best way to start driving this change, something I’ve been an advocate for since the beginning, is just getting out there and making art. Having young Adelaidians self-publish and self-exhibit, helping each other out along the way with connections, venues and even financial support, will draw people, cash and hope into the sector. We all need to be the drivers of change, ignoring the doom-saying that is so prevalent in our fair state. Everyone wants to move to Sydney or New York or Berlin… we could make our own city just as important with positivity, elbow-grease and (as much as I hate to say it) much more support from artist-advised government and council.
Chapter 2 (The Astounding Beauty of Everything)
There was a time a while ago now when I was listening to some song I can’t remember and was just struck by this feeling that everything was suddenly there, like, I could experience all this pain, love, fear and hope that was floating around in the atmosphere. I was overwhelmed to the point of wanting to cry. It was like some biblical epiphany played out with iTunes and shitty laptop speakers.
Over these past year of preparation stress, travel and return I’ve gradually been coming back to feeling this astonishing feeling again. I’ve come close a couple of times, every time in the vicinity of art or monuments of culture. I felt the quivering in London’s British Museum, more strongly in Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and almost unbearably in Madrid’s Museo El Prado. Being in the same room as Bosch’s otherworldly, holy “Garden of Earthly Delights”, slapped awestruck by true bleakness among Goya’s Black Paintings and taken to some absurd, mathematical part of the mind by the exhibitions in the Tate Modern, London are experiences that will stick with me for my whole life.
Art in all forms, music, painting, sculpture, video, literature, has this tremendous power to transport and transform. We can use it to become something better, or something much worse but much more grand. Artists are devils and angels both.
Confronting Angels and Devils in Adelaide
It’s a pleasure to be overwhelmed by art, but it’s one of those bittersweet ones that can leave you drained depending on your state of mind. As Adelaide burst to wonderful techni-color life (no, stronger than techni-color… day-glo) I’ve been reminded about this amazing power that art has to sweep us along and even drown us. I’ve definitely felt under the waves for the past few days, being absolutely blown away by the paintings and sculptures currently living (and I mean living) in the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Kate Rohde’s psychedelic decorative art is absolutely the sort of thing that gets my blood running hot. Kaleidoscopic messes of hot colours and magnificent creatures are what brings me the most joy in contemporary art. I love this almost shamanistic worship of the unreal, even if it’s not what the snobbier among us would call “high” art. Similarly, Nell’s spooky little, Japanese inspired characters resonate with me. I want to hang out with them and produce my own little clay people to visit them. Heather B. Swann’s Banksia Men are also creatures I’d love to party with.
Everything is seemingly alive in the Magic Object exhibitions. This idea of the “Cabinet of Curiosity” is one that I absolutely adore. As a collector and exhibitor of the strange and wonderful myself, I find it very impressive how the curator and team behind this show have managed to capture the essence of the private Wunderkammer while still opening up the magic to the public. It’s almost impossible to take in all the vibrancy on your first visit. It almost burns out the retinas. But it’s a good pain, it’s the sort of high that every can, and should, experience.
But this sort of incredible exhibition is also a challenge, it’s a call to action. I dare any creative type to wander this sort of hall and not want to get working on some new and fantastic invention when they get home. Honestly, I think that’s probably why I’ve been writing so much now! I just need to let it all out. I need some metaphorical blood-letting to rebalance my humours.
And that’s the point I wanted to reach with this article. Aaaahhh, the relief!
Chapter 3 (I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream)
The greatest pain as an artist is to have all the inspiration in your veins and all this hope and not being able to do anything with it. We need time to let it flow out of us. Or for some of us, we need space to explode brilliantly. Most of us, I’m sure, also crave an appreciative audience to our, which is one of the hardest things to come by as an emerging creative, especially in a city much smaller than Melbourne, Sydney, New York or Berlin.
I’m incredibly grateful to every human being who has ever checked out this blog. Even if you’ve only read a tiny bit of it, you’ve seen a bit of my mind, touched some reflection of the essence of “Me”. If you’ve read my travel posts, you’ve hopefully been entertained, informed or inspired. If you’ve read my more meditative posts or stories you’ve hopefully been swept along in the same way that I have. But most of all, I’m grateful to have the platform. Even if it’s not a “professional” one, so to speak (I’m hardly getting paid to do this, am I?), it’s still something I’m just a little bit proud of. It’s allowed me to share the stories and feelings that might have gone unnoticed and sour within me, and also allowed me to practice the art that is closest to my heart; that act that feels most natural to my body and most nourishing to my soul: writing.
This magnificent explosion of mine over the past half-a-year has put me on the path I want to be on. The Electric Holy Road has proved a fruitful one so far, but I’ve still got millions of miles to go. Who knows what or who I’ll meet on the road? Who knows what branching paths will open and opportunities will arise?
If you’ve read this blog for a while now, you’ll know that this hope for an absolutely uncertain future is something that underpins my writing practice. It’s something I embrace, repeat to myself like a mantra and use to defeat the anxiety that looms ahead of all of us. Even if there is a stifling blanket over hopelessness over my city at the moment (covered with a fine gloss, of course), it seems to be lifting. Even if, right now, Electric Holy Road isn’t making headlines, in the future it could be referred to by some new wanderer as a sparkling digital bible. We just don’t know until it happens. We don’t know until the Bang!
What would help, of course, is a bit of sharing love now and then. If you think the Electric Holy Road is one people should follow, or if it’s one you’ve enjoyed following so far, be sure to let your special ones know. It would mean the world to me, as it would to any fledgling writer. It would give me a mouth to scream bloody, colourful hell with!
And if anyone’s following a creative road of their own I’d love to know about it and share it with you! The journey is often more pleasant with company, or at least a few fellow travellers to cheer you on and guide you.
The Slideshow above guides you through a touching experience I had at the Art Gallery today. In Gareth Sansom’s “Miss Piggy’s Brush With Mortality” there is a small corner with a very Bavarian looking street drawn onto it. I recognised it immediately: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the last places I visited in Germany and one of my favourite tourist destinations.
Looking into this painting, seeing the little representation of the street I had once walked down, I felt a tremendous sense of connection with the artist and the world. I felt like I had walked through this painting, that I had one of these world-changing experiences on this fairy-tale street and not even realised it. It made me really thankful for the Electric Holy Road, and all the beautiful places it has led me.