Friday, March 14, 2014

A passing strange Friday ...

How fares the world? As always, passing strange, passing strange ...

The martyrdom of St Andrew continues apace, though as a correspondent kindly noted, there are those who want him to stay, Don't go, Andrew Bolt! You're the apex predator of our media landscape. Though it wasn't entirely flattering, beginning with this gambit:

Ah Fox News, the eternally giving part of Fox that allows other Fox workers the delusion they're not working for Fox and Chairman Rupert ...

.St Andrew himself kept lathering up his martyrdom with How today's "anti-racists" are exactly what they say they condemn, and as usual, it was the comments section that was most revealing.

There were cries that the police had to be involved, instantly and forthwith, or lawyers at ten paces "sue, sue, sue", and action taken under 18c, instantly and forthwith, and chummy chit chat of the usual kind - you know, like "feral leftard mate's vomit".

As usual, the comments section turned into a feral cesspit of bad feeling.

The handy way to track all this is to head off to the twitter feed tracking Bolt Comments, though the hapless deviser of this Herculean task is a day behind. Even so the gems keep flowing:

And so on, and tediously on.

But enough of the martyrdom of the Bolter. The pond suggests that somewhere in the study he should hang a copy of Andrea Mantegna's portrait of St. Sebastian (click to enlarge):

Which naturally brings us to another matter, the difficult business of useless artists stirring up trouble, and as another correspondent kindly noted, reducing generally grumpy Paul Sheehan to a foaming, frothing frenzy in Biennale board gutless in humiliation of Belgiorno-Nettis family.

Now the pond understands the contradiction between targeting a public company working for the government, while possibly still taking money from the federal government, but equally artists have the right to withdraw their works and their labour from anyone they like.

Some deluded artists even think that art has consequences and can change the world, though the capacity of art to prevent follies like war has, over time, shown to be a tad limited.

Nonetheless, there are artists who take their art seriously, and who think they can change perceptions and alter attitudes and produce new insights and understandings of the way the world and people work, and good on them. This isn't necessarily ideological, but hey if you insist on scribbling messages on your art, it's your right, and the pond has the option - frequently exercised - of walking on by ...

Behind it, as an alternative, is that curious phenomenon which the pond has always called "furniture art".

It's that nice stuff that you can hang on the walls of company boardrooms, in museums or in Malcolm Turnbull's and Paul Sheehan's lounge room, and everyone can murmur how evocative, or how provocative, or how insightful or how well done, and then move on to cocktails ...

The pond has been in the homes of millionaires and seen many a fine example.

In fact the pond once met a genuine specialist furniture artist. She had a contract to supply abstract oils to Myers and David Jones and similar stores, and she turned out a fine range of authentic, completely meaningless designs that nonetheless, like any decent piece of furniture, perfectly complemented room designs and colours.

She was also making out like a bandit and living in a nice McMansion in an inner Sydney beach side suburb.

What's truly extraordinary is the way that pompous ass George Brandis has responded, by threatening the Australia Council and requiring them in turn to threaten artists and bring them to heel. (George Brandis threatens Sydney Biennale over Transfield 'blackballing')

Now the pond has long thought Brandis a bear with very little brain - despite an elaborate library collected at taxpayers' expense, there's not the slightest sign that Brandis has discovered the first clue about the arts or the artists from burrowing through said books.

In fact this morning on ABC radio, there he was blathering on about how the Biennale was an "entertainment" and by extension, no doubt artists are mere "entertainers" ...

Yes he did, and you can hear the bully getting agitated in Brandis defends art funding threats.

Is there any irony in the way that Brandis reflexively reacted as a bully and a verbal thug, in much the same style as bully boy verbal thugs like Paul Sheehan?

Of course there is, and we revert to that Q and A program which set so many hares and Bolters running:

''In a free country, people should have the right to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or wounding'' 

Presumably that would apply to artists, and boards responding to artists, and artists pointing out the bleeding obvious, which is that Australia runs a couple of gulags, but not in the irony free world of George Brandis.

About the best that can be said for Brandis is that he inspired Richard Ackland to write George Brandis' knot-twister over free speech.

Ackland takes Brandis to the cleaners (and so does Michael Mucci's portrait of Brandis's twisted tongue), though that isn't too hard.

That's not the laborious bit, it's the job of ironing out all the wrinkles and monstrous stupidities that takes the time ...

Inter alia, Ackland remembers the days when the ratbag right wing didn't care about free speech. Indeed at one time Australia was one of the most censored countries in the world - alongside South Africa - and it was conservatives that led the way, with a uniform suspicion of artists and their Norman Lindsay bohemian ways.

So the wheel turns, and so we return to those days, and Ackland settles down to considering the fuzzy, peculiar logic which sees some free speech as good and some free speech as bad, and in truth, how in this allegedly free country, there are certain people and institutions who  aren't allowed to say things that others find insulting, or offensive or wounding.

So the Bolter can be insulting, offensive and wounding, deliberately and in error so, and yet if others lash back, they should be censored and shamed.

And if the ABC runs a satirical skit, why it's a river too far:

''Isn't Tony Abbott being a complete hypocrite for criticising the ABC's Chaser program for defending itself against Chris Kenny?'' 
Surprisingly, Brandis didn't think Abbott was being a hypocrite and he wanted the ABC to stop defending the case and just apologise (presumably with a bag of taxpayers' money). The position of the government and News Corp is this: by all means in the name of free expression cast a few slurs at people based on their race, but whatever you do, don't satirise a columnist from the Murdoch stable. 

Indeed. Instead on a daily basis you cop this sort of stuff:

(By the way, isn't Akker Dakker in his new portrait looking weird and worn? Speaking of art, is that picture of Dorian Gray finally coming to pass?)

You won't see this government, or Brandis, or Sheehan, or the Bolter writing impassioned pieces about the rights of artists to be hypocrites and fools, in the way that Brandis, "Magic Water" Sheehan and the rabid Bolter are routinely hypocrites and fools.

It seems it's simply not seemly for anyone to have a dissenting view, or put it in a dissenting work of art, or take a dissenting stand. Yep, we're back in to the culture wars, and Brandis is such a goose, he doesn't understand that there's no way of winning, that those who want to comment on gulags will find a way (and might even hold a strange variety of views, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did).

But the human comedy did allow Ackland one final thrust in relation to the matter of Kenny v. the ABC:

Interestingly, Kenny did not plead another meaning that arose from the satire: that he's a bore. That could be readily defensible on the grounds of truth.

Amen. The pond can only dream of writing lines like this, but at least reprinting them provides some humble satisfaction.

Meanwhile, if you head over to the Biennale of Sydney site, you can read this sort of nonsense:

The exhibitions and programs provide a counterbalance to traditional institutionally driven exhibitions and programs, and act as a cultural catalyst by encouraging innovation and experimentation. They also offer major opportunities for artists, facilitating cultural interchange and global connections. 
Since its inception, the Biennale of Sydney has provided an international platform for innovative and challenging contemporary art, showcasing the work of nearly 1600 artists from over 100 countries.... (here)

Challenging? Is that a grand way of saying you're providing great entertainment for tourists?

Speaking of bores, what a narrow minded bore George Brandis is. The pond pleads that's readily defensible on the grounds of truth ...

Finally the pond has been thinking about a segment devoted to "with friends like these ..."

There seems to be a tremendous field available:


Grasp the nettle? Clean the slate? Is Gra Gra "Swiss bank account" Richardson suggesting Shorten summons up the courage to tell Gra Gra he can take his cliche-laden bullshit and dump it in a foreign bank?

How fares the world? Passing strange, passing strange ...

And so to David Rowe. You can see the full cartoon here, before the faraway tree moves it along tomorrow, but the pond just wants to relish this detail, like a bore in the Louvre pointing out a delicious detail in the corner of a painting:


  1. Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, head of Transfield, is also the founder of the think-tank "New Democracy", perhaps he sees himself a Berlusconi type saviour.

    1. If Berlusconi is salvation, can someone point out the road to Hell?

  2. Thanks for that Chris Cooper. I had quite forgotten the connection. How on earth can a person who expresses such a keen concern for our system of government make a business decision to run the Manus detention camp? We must wait and see how those detained there are treated in the care of Transfield. If we hear about it. On the face of it new democracy and being implicated in government secrecy over the unlimited detention of asylum seekers does not fit well.


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