Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei / National Gallery of Victoria

It’s been a long time between drinks and I desperately need to do a catch-up post, but I’ll save that for another day. As I’ve nabbed a few spare moments, I want to share some photos from my trip to the NGV yesterday to visit the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition.

After what felt like an eternity and dozens of Facebook photos from multiple friends who had already been, I managed to spare some time to get in. With Melbourne’s weather making it feel like we were in June, we spent a good half hour just lining up to get tickets!

I’m not someone who is particularly knowledgeable about art but this exhibition is pretty universal, especially in terms of being colourful and thought-provoking. Also, there was plenty of political content that I understood and was fascinated by. Of course, Warhol’s work is so well-known that half the joy came from seeing it up close. Although my knowledge of Ai didn’t extend much beyond his famous Study of Perspective, I was very appreciative of his work and activism, perhaps even more so than Warhol’s.

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Ai Weiwei / Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2015, plastic)
In 1995, Ai took photos of himself holding, releasing and smashing an urn from the Han dynasty. Here, he has recreated the image by using building blocks, giving them a pixellated look.

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Andy Warhol / Vote McGovern (1972, colour photo-stencil silkscreen on paper)
As a massive political history nerd, this one caught my eye immediately. It turns out that Warhol was asked to create a screen-print supporting the Democratic nominee George McGovern and, instead of depicting McGovern himself, he chose to depict his opponent up for re-election, Richard Nixon, instead. The sickly green of Nixon’s face highlights the “period of deception and mistrust”, reckoning that “truth can be found in appearances”. Nixon would go on to win the election in a landslide, even with the initial rumblings of Watergate. 

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Andy Warhol / Jackie (1964, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on linen)
Similarly, Warhol did a large portrait series of Jacqueline Kennedy in the wake of her husband’s assassination. These images were shown both individually and grouped, suggesting both her solitary experience of grief along with the collective mourning of the country, as well as the effect of the new medium of television on sentiment.

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Just an assortment of Warhol’s famous Polaroids, including Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, Mick Jagger, Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. While I was having a look, I overheard someone say ‘Is that OJ Simpson? Damn he was attractive when he was young.’ Okay….

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Ai Weiwei / Letgo Room (2015, plastic)
This was probably one of my favourite features of the exhibition. An installation of more than three million building blocks, it comprises of portraits of Australian human rights/freedom of speech activists. Each subject featured also gave a one-line statement summarising their philosophy, which are featured alongside their portraits.

My favourite part is that it was supposed to be made out of Lego, but the company refused to provide the building blocks due to the ‘political’ nature of the installation. The subjects include Hana Assafiri, Dr Gary Foley, Peter Greste and my fave Rosie Batty (who I heard speak late last year, it was incredible).

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Ai Weiwei / June 1994 (1994, gelatin silver photograph)
On the fifth anniversary of the 1989 student demonstrations of Tiananmen Square, Ai’s girlfriend (and later wife) and artist Lu Qing lifts her skirt in the square. “While the image of Mao watches over the scene and guards patrol the area, Lu’s gesture – an act of defiance and personal freedom – goes unnoticed.”

Here are some more photos from the exhibition:

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Eternity: The $50 Million Question

(Trigger warning for death).

“Would you like a gift?”

We were heading back to our car on a chilly Sunday evening in Surfers Paradise, having just looked over the markets that seem to never change. Two 10-year-old girls stared back at us, one with her hand outstretched towards us, offering us a piece of paper.

“Thank you!” my father said in that tone you use when you’re being polite to a child, and took the flyer. My mum, ever-curious, nearly tore it out of his hands and poured over it.

What she found was a scare-mongering rant about what we face when we die. ‘Hell is not a place of fun. It is a lake of fire.’photo 1photo 2
I have to admit that whoever decided to do this chose a good spot to remind people of their sins and the consequences that come with them – that is, ‘lie, steal, lust, hate, disrespect God, get drunk, etc. and deserve to spend eternity in hell’. The middle of Sin City, flashing neon lights, where you can do all of these things. Hell, you can do them legally!  The 21st century is truly a wild time.

My favourite part though was at the beginning – ‘Death is a reality that we all must face sooner or later.’ Thanks for this little reminder. It’s not as if my family has faced this fact everyday for the past 4 months since we lost a beloved relative. And it’s not as if we went on this holiday, the first one we’ve had in two years, to take a break from the stress and grief.

I consider myself to be a lapsed Catholic. I still believe in God but some of the differences I have with teachings, the busyness of modern life and the sheer narrow-mindedness of some Christians that I know have made the gap almost irreconcilable.

Perhaps the grandstanding that I’ve heard from Christians that I know recently has been the tipping point, after Caitlyn Jenner’s ‘coming out’ and the US Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Somehow, they’ve managed to twist the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed – as if somehow being told that imposing their morals on others will not be tolerated is equal to the danger, hate and discrimination that people face on a daily basis due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Give me a break.

I think what bothers me the most is that whoever has dreamed this up has gotten two young girls to hand these flyers out at 7pm on a Sunday night in Surfers Paradise. No one, or so I would hope, is going to tell children where to go. How about you show yourselves and face the questions?

For all the hilarity and bluntness of this flyer, believe it or not, people have the right to be left alone and not faced with this confronting and offensive rhetoric.

La Isla Mínima/Marshland (Alberto Rodríguez, 2014)

2000x1231xmarshland.jpg,qitok=0NODb_Z9.pagespeed.ic.ld00LsSqpi(Spoilers ahead and trigger warnings for murder and rape).

I have to confess that I wasn’t planning on seeing Marshland and hadn’t even heard of it. It just so happened that my free pass for Cinema Nova was about to run out, and I have a good friend who speaks Spanish so I thought it would be fun. I’m glad I saw it though, because I feel like it has rekindled my love for both crime and foreign films! And I can finally say that I’ve seen a Spanish film that wasn’t made by the inimitable Pedro Almodovar (I know, for shame).

“The Spanish deep South, 1980. A series of brutal murders of adolescent girls in a remote and forgotten town bring together two disparate characters – both detectives in the homicide division – to investigate the cases. With deep divisions in their ideology, detectives Juan and Pedro must put aside their differences if they are to successfully hunt down a killer who for years has terrorized a community in the shadow of a general disregard for women rooted in a misogynistic past.” – Atípica Films

Winner of the Goya Award, Marshland‘s cinematography was beautiful, particularly its aerial shots, and the wide open land of Andalusia was almost eerily a character in itself, particularly in the climactic scene.La-Isla-Minima-2I thought the two leads, Javier Gutiérrez (Juan, above left) and Raúl Arévalo (Pedro, above right), were great. There was this fantastic tension that grew throughout the film, which was assisted by short, sharp scenes that didn’t drag and kept us on the edge of our seats. Often, a lot was conveyed by the actors without words, particularly Arévalo whose radical and sensitive character I found fascinating. Taking a look around the internet, there have been a few comparisons to True Detective, which I can understand.

There are some graphic scenes and conversations in the film which you can expect from a crime thriller, particularly one about the murders of young women. It could be argued that these scenes crossed the line into gratuitous violence but for the purposes of time I won’t go into that discussion. I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on that topic though.b1f6fa7f1df2466137fb3cc98de69304
I did enjoy the political elements of the film. Juan is accused of torturing and killing dissidents under General Franco, and Pedro is only in the position of being sent to Andalusia because of his outspoken views that are punished by the force. I thought these elements added context and, for me, I generally find the addition of political context to be exciting and helpful to immerse me in the film’s setting. The recurring mentions of ‘democracy’ were reminders of Spain’s political upheaval, and corruption and distrust permeated the film.

I’m not sure how I felt about the ambiguous ending, though. It seemed that we’d wrapped up Juan’s violent past earlier in the film, so it felt a little disjointed to drag it back at the end as the movie was finishing. However, I think it still provided food for thought and left it open for the viewer to decide how they felt about his actions and their effect on the murder investigation. The Sydney Morning Herald review said that this film lacked depth, but I disagree. While minimalist at times, there was plenty bubbling beneath the surface.

I had that moment of re-adjustment after a film when I stepped back onto chilly Lygon St, realising that I was no longer in Andalusia in 1980. My friend and I had an animated conversation about what shocked and thrilled us, and I think that’s the true sign of an engaging movie. If you’re into crime thrillers, particularly those set in volatile historical periods, give this one a watch!

My May

I’ve decided to start posting photos of my month as a nice way to remember what I’ve done. I didn’t take many photos this month though, so they’re mainly of food. This is the part where you’re meant to feign surprise.

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First of all, I spent way too much time on public transport this month. Hopefully with the semester winding down, things will calm down a bit. I love views like this though when the sun is shining and you know you’ve got a great day ahead (this day involved two 21sts and seeing close friends for the first time in ages).

Also honourable mention to the first day of the month, when I interned all day and then went to a friend’s place for fish and chips and watched Collingwood slaughter Carlton with her family. We followed it up with chocolate fondants made by her sister and watching If You are the One online.

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The Penny Black420 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

I’m not sure about June but for the past 2 months, The Penny has been having $2 pizza Monday-Friday from 12-5pm. Very cheap post-uni feed with some high school friends. Sure they’re not particularly fancy but they’ve got some neat combinations. The ‘Crazy Rhythms’ with walnuts and honey and ‘London Calling’ with potato, caramelised onions and sour cream were my particular faves.

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Poynton’s Boulevard CafeCnr Vida Street & The Boulevard, Essendon

I’ve been going to this place for years. It’s a nursery on the Maribyrnong River with a nice cafe overlooking the nursery and surrounds. Their walnut and cinnamon banana bread ($6.90) is something that I dream about, with its side of cream and maple syrup. I’ve tried different desserts but I keep coming back to this one.

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Carte Crepes
University of Melbourne, Parkville

Carte Crepes is the place to go on campus when you want to treat yourself. In this case, my friend and I survived a rather testing subject and I decided to grab myself a Nutella and marshmallow crepe. Amazing.

IMG_3749 IMG_3750Top Paddock, 658 Church St, Richmond 

But of course, I couldn’t leave the celebrations at that. My best friend and I had a well-needed catch up at Top Paddock. It’s a little bit fancy but I really liked my poached eggs with broccolini, sugar snaps and avocado ($18.50). We sat outside with portable heaters next to us and it was so cosy.

So, there’s my May! How would you characterise your month?

Four Things You Probably* Shouldn’t Say to Someone Grieving

*from my personal experience. Obviously everyone deals with things differently and maybe some readers will find this list a little touchy or over the top, but this is my perspective.

I know myself that sometimes it can be difficult to find the right words and, of course, 99% of the time aren’t said out of malice. But I think it makes it a little easier for everyone when you gain a different viewpoint.

1) OK so this one technically isn’t grieving but when I found out that there was only a matter of days, sometimes I would explain the situation to people when I was looking a little down or couldn’t come to events. The response, on a number of occasions, was (both in person and over the internet) ‘oh I’m sorry to hear that, hope he gets better soon :)’… clearly not understanding that that was the whole point – he wasn’t going to get better.

2) If the person that someone is grieving was old at the time of their passing, there’s a fine line between comforting someone with reminding them of all the good times they got to have…. and insinuating that they should get over it because ‘they were old anyway’. Hang on, scratch that. It’s not a fine line at all, you’ll know when you’ve crossed it.

3) This one depends on the kind of relationship you have but if you’re at least a little close to someone, don’t tell them ‘I’m going to give you some space’ and then not contact them for three months. Again, it’s not really a fine line and usually people don’t mind a check-in like ‘hey, hope you’re okay, if you need anything I’m here’.

4) Finally, if you do find that you haven’t heard from them for awhile, don’t message them condescendingly asking why they haven’t spoken to you. This is all about tone and there’s a huge difference between someone saying ‘hey I haven’t heard from you for awhile, hope you’ve been okay’ and ‘why haven’t you messaged me?’.

Tl;dr – Go with the flow and your instinct. Be there for the ones you love, that’s the best thing you can do.

Sunday Thought

There’s little that I love more than watching something and being able to say ‘yep, I’ve seen them before!’ The one thing that I love more than that though is being able to recognise where you’ve previously seen them… So here’s one I prepared earlier, to help you out next time you’re stumped.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve recently been indulging in the British alternative comedy scene of the 1980s/1990s. Let me tell you, after watching a few of those shows you start to realise that everyone’s turning up in each other’s programs.

For instance, I was watching the first season of Bottom (1991-95, left), and was surprised to find a nurse in the episode ‘Apocalypse’ was played by the same woman I’d seen playing a radio presenter in The New Statesman (1987-92, right) a day earlier. This actress is Helen Lederer.

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You can imagine my surprise when I’m watching season 2 of Bottom (probably the very next day, let’s face it) and Lederer turns up again, this time playing, wait for it, Lady Natasha Letitia Sarah Jane Wellesley Obstromsky Ponsonsky Smythe Smythe Smythe Smythe Smythe Oblomov Boblomov Dob. She’s attempting to seduce Richie as she mistakenly believes he’s rich.

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In any case, she also played a doctor in the ill-fated Filthy, Rich and Catflap (1987, top left), a prostitute in The Dangerous Brothers and two separate characters in the second season of The Young Ones (1982-84, top right and bottom). Literally all of these shows also star Rik Mayall, but she has also appeared in Girls on TopFrench and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous.

filthyThe Young Ones Season 2 Episode 06 - Summer Holiday[(043375)15-56-32]  The Young Ones Season 2 Episode 04 - Time[(046373)15-54-55]

Anyway, I’m about 98% sure that I’m the only person that finds this particular bit of information interesting. More generally though, it’s great noticing these people in various shows that you watch, but also to imagine the fun that they would have had making them when everyone clearly knows each other. Can you think of any actors that seem to pop up in everything?