Writings belong of David Finnigan

All The News We Hope To Print: article on Rhizome

April 17, 2014 on 3:15 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

Salon_de_the_facebook_4
Photo of Salon de Thé Facebook, Tunis, shared on Twitter by @WadhahJebri on February 16, 2011 and recirculated with the #16juin2014 hashtag

This week Rhizome published a piece of mine on the topic of Experiential Futures and the idea of newspapers reporting from the future.

It sounds, at first, like something out of H.G. Wells. On February 16, 2011, a person opening a Tunisian newspaper or website might have come across an article dated more than three years in the future.

Following the Sidi Bouzid Revolt in January 2011 which ousted the president, the country experienced a national strike which halted economic activity, and the transition government swiftly lost the confidence and goodwill of the people. A Tunisian ad agency, Memac Ogilvy Label Tunisia, embarked on a campaign to convince Tunisia’s media outlets to join together for one day to report news from 2014.

‘We needed to find a way to encourage the people to get back to work and start rebuilding the country we had all fought for… So we decided to show everyone how bright our future could be if we all started building it now… During a whole day, the media acted as if it were June 16th 2014 and presented Tunisia as a prosperous, modern and democratic country… The media content spread to social media via 16juin2014.com and people began to imagine wonderful futures and called everyone for action. #16juin2014 hashtag was n°1 top trend topic on Twitter all day long. At 6pm, the debate was everywhere on TV, radios, blogs… Getting back to work quickly became an act of resistance.’

The idea of Experiential Futures comes from futurist Stuart Candy, whose influence looms large over both this article and the research I’ve been doing recently for my Churchill Fellowship.

This article is also heavily indebted to Rhizome editor Michael Connor, who pushed it a whole lot further into applying a thoughtful critique and opened up new areas of analysis. Very grateful to both these gentlemen for making this thing a happening thing.

My Churchill report digs a lot deeper into the subject of Experiential Futures, as well as the relatively new field of Systems Gaming – consider this a kind of teaser, p’raps.

Santa-Ste.la_1
The Procession of Stanta Ste.la at Lecturas de Cruce

You Are You Are You Are You Are You Are Festival

March 18, 2014 on 10:05 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off


image by adam thomas

Being back in Canberra and immersed in the You Are Here festival, while for the first time in four years having nothing whatsoever to do with the You Are Here festival, has provided a weird opportunity for reflection. In particular, Anthony Hayes printed up and distributed the third in his series of pamphlets critiquing the festival’s corporate affiliations. Or maybe not – the 2014 pamphlet is titled You Are Nowhere, but other than the provocative title, it only references the festival pretty obliquely.

I’ve had trouble with these missives in the past, but not particularly because of the critique. In fact, we always did our best to provide a platform for Hayes and anyone else who we felt had a worthwhile criticism of the festival philosophically, because these are conversations we were having pretty constantly within the festival team, and it was great to see them being had more broadly in the community. My problem has rather been that Hayes’ messages were somewhat laden with Marxist language and therefore a little difficult for me to decipher. This one is no different – I haven’t spoken with Hayes directly, and I’m wary of trying to debate him because I fear I may be misconstruing his argument.

With that in mind, the following is not a rebuttal of Hayes’ pamphlet, nor is it even really a response – just that he has prompted me to scribble down these loose thoughts, for which I’m grateful.

This year maybe more than ever before, coming along to the Money Bin and seeing the festival cracking along in full swing, it’s hit home to me how much You Are Here – how much maybe every festival – is about relationships. At its core, creating a festival is about building and maintaining relationships with artists, with organisations, and with audiences. Every one of those is a real and serious relationship that needs to be thoughtfully honoured and maintained.

‘Maintaining relationships’ sounds like corporate speak, but what I’m talking about is love.

People think that YAH has a sponsorship relationship with Canberra CBD Limited whereby we provide them a service in exchange for dollars – and yes that’s part of it, it must be – but from my perspective what we really had was a relationship with one or two people in that organisation. We hung out, we talked about what we wanted, what they wanted, we shared ideas, we introduced each other to different people in our networks, we collaborated to make things happen.

What do you think that the property manager CBRE got out of letting the festival use the old Fletcher Jones shopfront last year? From a corporate standpoint their gift probably ticked a few boxes, but really, the reason that it happened was that one of their agents met with us, chatted with us, we were on the same wavelength, and they wrote a bunch of emails and did a bunch of lobbying at their end to make it happen.

This is at least partly true: YAH is people, and those people form relationships with people in organisations, not with organisations.

Money is obviously crucial for a few things – equipment, insurance – without which the festival cannot exist, but the main thing money buys you is time, and what you do with that time is build relationships.

There is a sense in which everything is commodified within the world of the festival – because everything takes time, and time costs money.

For example, it’s not an organisational guarantee that YAH offers its partners, whether they’re artists, property owners or audiences, it’s a personal guarantee from the festival team: ‘We promise that we have the capacity to deliver on our promises
•    To take care of your venue
•    To provide you with logistical support and take some personal care with your work
•    To provide you with a program of activity that adheres to a certain quality standard.’

All those promises require that the people behind the festival have time to follow through on all their commitments, and a certain set of skills and capabilities (that took a serious investment of time to develop).

Of course the festival operates within the system. Putting on gigs in public spaces (legally) requires a huge amount of engagement with a lot of people who have suits and desks. Being the interface between a few hundred artists, a few thousand audience members and maybe 50 different service providers involves a huge amount of negotiation, and on occasion, thoughtful compromise. I don’t believe that compromise is inherently bad – I come from a devised theatre background, where compromise is the lifeblood of creative collaboration, and often results in the most exciting creative decisions – but it is an extremely delicate enterprise, and a responsibility that no festival producer I’ve ever met takes lightly.

I think one question it’s worth asking any producer – or any artist, for that matter – is: When have you compromised? When has it worked, when has it gone wrong?

Personally I’d never assume that compromise happens unwittingly or accidentally. Every decision has a story behind it, and there’s always something to be learned from those stories. There’s the general philosophical statement that we’re all implicated in a capitalist system (which I think is definitely true) but I think it gets interesting when you go beyond that and ask, how are we co-opted? Where is there space to make beautiful shit happen within a corrupt structure? Where do you draw the line and where do you bend? The general principles are obvious and maybe even trivial – it’s the specific examples which really prove where you stand. Is You Are Here closer to Skyfire or the old Canberra Festival of Contemporary Art? Art Not Apart or Enlighten or the Multicultural Fringe? And how?

Working within the system doesn’t require huge resources or big corporate partners, but people’s energy, effort and love. Putting on a gig in a public space in Canberra isn’t necessarily expensive, but it requires a huge amount of negotiating red tape. Risk management plans, public liability insurance applications, TAMS, Roads ACT, liquor licensing if you go that route… The main factor is knowing what information all those people require, and being able to give it to them in the form that they’re familiar with. Other people – the Centenary of Canberra team for example – shared that knowledge with us. They give us their templates from other, similar events that they’d run in the past. We shared our templates with other groups wanting to do similar things. Producing is a skill that isn’t taught in schools, it’s learned on the ground and shared between groups, between communities, generously and with love. This is how it happens.

Important to note, though, that this type of dealing with bureaucracy favours a certain demographic – white, middle-class, university educated artists, people who have the time to sink into learning these skills. Every additional 10-page form that producers are required to submit eight weeks before the event disadvantages community groups, people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds…

If there’s one criticism I’d level at the You Are Here festival, it’s that there’s still a long way to go in terms of engaging with people from diverse backgrounds, artists with disabilities, artists from CALD communities, though it’s certainly better than it was when I was involved. Worth noting that 2011, the year in which I curated like 80% of the program, was by far the most narrow in terms of representation. This is a serious point that I wish was getting more traction at all levels of debate.

What I wish – speaking as far as I know, only for myself – is that there were more groups doing what YAH does, occupying vacant spaces in the city. We never intended YA to be the only one of its kind. Art Not Apart started in 2012, and it has its own weird flavour, informed by but totally unlike YAH. The Multicultural Fringe is doing its own weird dance, circling around its own strange attractors. I wish there were 50 rival arts festivals in this town, collaborating, competing and laughing at each other.

In the meantime: bless Mr Hayes for taking the festival to task, even though I feel if he asked more questions of the festival crew he might have more tangible stuff to critique. And bless the festival team, the hundreds of artists, all the enablers, and the thousands of people I’ve seen at the festival this last week or so. Doing it with love. Sharing their time, their energy, their feelings, all that ridiculous jive, with love. lovelovelovelovelovelovelove

But David, that wasn’t an argument, nor was it a coherent case, it was more like a dream journal of disconnected vague thoughts.

I KNOW.

Aight, no more faffing around: some gorgeous Adam Thomas photos from the festival fer yer enjoyment.








the first three months of 2014

March 12, 2014 on 4:18 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

What’ve you been doing, Finig?

I have not been making, I have not been writing, I have been learning. I have been traveling on a research fellowship funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, looking at arts-science practice in Honolulu, Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Stockholm, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.

What have you learned, Finig?

It’s too early to say, I don’t know, hard to tell, not sure, maybe nothing, it’s complicated, difficult to answer right now, too soon.

But I did learn a new way to say Yes

and that’s surely not nothing

The Surrender is not the anal sex primer we were praying for

February 16, 2014 on 10:18 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

This is not a review, let’s not pretend it’s a review – this is an ACCOUNT, of a thing that happened.

It’s a New York fairytale, or, if you will, it’s a journey from innocence to experience, or maybe it’s a cautionary tale about how Jess Bellamy and I nearly ruined a great collaborative partnership before it began. It is TONI BENTLEY’S THE SURRENDER and let’s get amongst it.

So Jess and I were in New York for different reasons, and because she is a virtuous playwright who sometimes attends theatre, she picked up a copy of New York’s Time Out magazine, featuring listings of plays. As soon as she saw the blurb for Toni Bentley’s The Surrender, she emailed me – one glance at the website and I was in.

Next, we invited our friends and new collaborators Ira Gamerman and Siobhan O’Loughlin to join us at ‘the anal sex play’. Ira, sensing something was amiss, managed to have a prior appointment, but Siobhan, trusting naively in our good intentions, agreed enthusiastically to come along.  It was only a few days later, when the tickets had been booked and there was no backing out, that Siobhan realised we had no expectations that the play would be any good – in fact, quite the opposite – in fact, that was the point.

So Saturday afternoon. New York. Falling snow. Times Square. Theatre Row. I arrive first and stand in the foyer amid a crowd of what look like Americans in the final stages of life’s journey, clustered in tour groups, in the Big Apple for a few days and keen to catch a bit of the theatrical life the city is so famous for. Aside from The Surrender, there are posters for a range of great-looking shows:

BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE: Accept… If You Dare

INTIMACY: A Comedy About Sex

NEWSICAL: A Musical  (which bore a quote from the NY Daily News, whatever the fuck that is, describing it as ‘A hit with gays, straights and everyone in between!’)

and play called REHAB where the letters are spelled out in glowing red trackmarks on a black and white photo of a wrist.

At this point Siobhan hasn’t shown, and we’re wondering whether she’s calculated the pros and cons of keeping the friendship with the Australians vs seeing The Surrender and made the right decision, but then she arrives and the three of us make our way into the 150-seat auditorium with the six other audience members, all of whom are over the age of 50, and we settle down.

In my notebook is scrawled WHY IS THE SET ALL RED? WHY IS ANYONE ELSE HERE?

The usher tells us to turn off our phones and ‘unwrap all lozenges’ before the show starts, which already made me smirk. This was bad, we were in the third row and there was no-one in between us and the stage, and I was already on the verge of giggling. And then the lights out and then our performer, Laurie Campbell, strolls out on stage in a black silk dressing gown, a bustier and high heels, and opens with the lines: ‘I once loved a man so much that I stopped existing. No me, only him.’

Without any preamble, she launches into an explanation of how sex between equals is futile – equality can’t go anywhere. She’s tried sex lying on her side once or twice: it’s no good. Just no good. Forget about it. One person has to be on top, and that person is in charge. And then she turns to meet our eyes and says while wiggling her eyebrows like a crazy person, ‘But my journey was not from top to bottom, but from bottom… to BOTTOM.’

At this point I notice Siobhan is having some kind of seizure next to me and Jess is making weird tiny huffing noises, and for a second I think they’re both having medical emergencies, but without doubt I look no better – I’m stifling laughter by desperately biting my own face. I know for a fact that Laurie Campbell can see us shaking with silent mirth two metres away from her, but professional that she is, she merely gives me a quick glance that spells death and then refuses to meet my eyes for the rest of the show.

Now she proceeds to unfold her main thesis – she is going to tell us about ‘the joy that lies on the other side of convention’ through her journey into the realm of having a lot of buttsex. With the benefit of hindsight – ‘or should I say, BEHIND-SIGHT’ (more eyebrow waggling) she will convince us all to ENTER THE EXIT: PARADISE AWAITS.

So the story starts with Toni Bentley as a young ballerina in search of spirituality. She is raised an atheist, but has some religious pangs, which she transfers into her dance career. ‘My pink point shoes became my fetishistic ally – my crown of thorns.’ (metaphor) Then at some stage she gets into reading and falls in love with Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and SOARING KIRKEGAARD (sensually rubs her own neck).

In case I haven’t made it clear, Toni Bentley’s script is so wildly turgid and overblown that she cannot say a single thing without stapling a really awkward adjective or a surreal metaphor to it. On top of that, the director has made the choice to hit every line with so much forced affect that Laurie spends the whole play desperately mugging at the audience to make sure we don’t miss any of the incredibly unsubtle subtext. When she says the line, ‘Fidelity will render Casanova’s cane… limp, and Cleopatra’s Nile… dry,’ she holds up a cane to represent a wang and lets it flop forward as if it has lost its erection, because Theatre. When she explains that she was having RELENTLESSLY SAFE SEX and that she became the Queen of Condoms, she puts on a sash made of a strip of condoms, because Condom Queen.

Somebody is responsible for this play being produced and tickets being sold in return for actual money. Whoever that person is, I want to meet them and ask them questions.

Anyway, the young ballerina Toni meets a man and enters the world of sex (‘He had big hands and handled me like a piece of meat… PRIME’). It doesn’t work out, and after they divorce, she coerces an unfortunate masseuse into having sex with her at the risk of losing his job (‘Over the next few hours I learned that his tongue held the same magical current as his hands’). She discovers more about her own sexuality and while in a way it’s beautiful to track her taking ownership of her sexual self, at the same time it’s fucking grating because she is overwhelmingly narcissistic (‘I was a mythic goddess, coming for all womankind’).

At this stage in my notebook is scrawled a quote which I have forgotten the context for: ‘There were plenty of discarded bodies in the moat around my castle.’

Anyway she goes through discovering threesomes, and explains it in really confusing logistical detail that leaves you unsure of which person was inserting what into whom, but whatever – at that point I was distracted by the soundtrack, which was a mixture of Leonard Cohen and sexy muzak that sounded like an elevator stuck between floors.

I tuned back in again when she described a particularly wild encounter with a man where he stuck his dick into her ‘vertical mail slot’. And then she pauses and says, ‘And I mean, my actual vertical mail slot. He stood outside my front door with his penis poking through my mail slot and I knelt in my front corridor and sucked it.’ And I just thought, why? Maybe I’m missing some kind of exciting door-fucking kinkiness, but to me that seems like acting out the fantasy no-one’s had or ever wants.

BUT THEN: I learned something! As Toni explains that whenever she is preparing for sex she puts makeup on her face, and then ‘on my lower face… my real face’, and I was like, do girls usually put lipstick on their clit? Is that a real thing? Maybe I’m an ignorant dude and I’ve just never noticed that dames is always painting up their vulvz? But according to Jess and Siobhan: Not A Thing. So, now you know.

Toni, Toni, Toni. I really wasn’t sure about writing this blog post, because I feel quite confident that Toni Bentley is going to read it, and her feelings are going to be hurt. But then I thought, dammit Toni, that ticket cost me $50 USD, and I don’t even have a job, plus you got an incomprehensibly good review in an actual newspaper, so you can deal with it. But also, I’m not actually pissed at you – you needed a good editor, or maybe a therapist, or maybe just someone to talk with you in real terms about what was and what wasn’t right to share under the banner of ‘empowerment’. But then, who am I to tell you how to do female empowerment?

These are real conversations we can have, Toni: get at me.

Okay so now we get to the core of the play: our narrator meets a man who has anal sex with her, that is his thing, and she’s into it, and now the play stops being even slightly about anything that isn’t buttsex. As Toni puts it, ‘the impossible had come to pass… IN MY ASS.’

I can’t even tell how I’m supposed to feel about lines like this.

So Toni ‘shifts into being a conduit for a pleasure greater than myself’ and so on, this unrelenting stream of not-even-euphemisms for sodomy and her slightly hysterical exclamations about how it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Over and over again. There’s an ill-advised science demonstration with diagrams about how the rectum is actually part of the digestive tract, and even handy tips on douching (they are not that handy, but whatevs).

Anyway here’s where it gets kinda sad. Up until this point, the narrator’s colossal ego and sense of smugness about her sexual escapades kind of kept me from feeling anything for her other than eyerolling weariness. But when we shift into the dynamics of her relationship with ‘A-Man’ (yup), she opens up chasms of sadness that I can’t help but pity.

A brief laundry list:

•     She raves about how he dominates her (‘finally, a man who was not afraid to fuck me in the ass’) and how crucial it is to have a dominant partner for really transportive lovemaking, and yet he comes across less like a caring dominant partner than a really selfish jerk who takes what he wants from her without really caring

•     ‘When he is in my ass I regress to a very young age: I goo and gah’ – I didn’t like this line

•     She waits at home for him, he determines if and when they’ll have sex, and she gets usually an hour’s notice before he comes around, which she always accedes to

•     ‘If we don’t make it to the bedroom in time something always gets smashed’ – spontaneously breaking furniture during crazy passionate sex sounds great, doing it regularly sounds sorta contrived

•     She shaves her pubes pre-sex while reciting a William Blake poem (‘He who binds himself unto a joy’) – no problem with William Blake, but there’s this ‘lady-body-hair is gross’ undertone throughout a lot of this piece that I find a bit meh

•     She calculates how often they have ass-sex in total (298) and how frequently (once every 2.4 days) using lipstick on a mirror – strange and awkward and desperate and also unnecessarily mirror-ruining when there are piles of paper scattered around the stage

Now to give her due credit, Toni is fully aware that she is being super needy and not okay here, and this is the dark underbelly of the play – it’s her coming to terms with the fact that this relationship is not on an equal footing, and eventually she ends it. Her exit from the relationship was as cringeworthy as anything else in the play, but it was nice seeing her stand up for herself.

I guess what made me sad, though, was that the whole show felt like a celebration of a really manipulative, abusive relationship. The sex didn’t sound very hot (I don’t have much of an opinion on anal sex, but anything where ‘negotiation’ and ‘consent’ are dismissed as vanilla is probably not my bag) and the end lesson was something like ‘anal sex is not for me’ rather than ‘maybe ass-sex can be just one part of a wholesome, fulfilling, adult relationship, rather than the single and only defining feature?’

Still, to give her her due, Toni saved up the three best lines in the whole play for the epilogue. After the break-up, she explains that ‘I felt like a pelican…’ (bated breath waiting to see where this might go) ‘…trying to extract itself from an oil spill.’

On future anal sex: ‘I never let anyone else into my sacred backyard… what was once hallowed ground, now a tunnel of despair… filled with ghosts.’

HOT TIP FOR ASPIRING PLAYWRIGHTS: Never describe your asshole as a tunnel of despair filled with ghosts.

Finally, leaving us on an inspiring upbeat note, Toni tells us, ‘I had taken my ass back. He doesn’t live there any more. I live there now.’ And then slips off her robe, moons the audience for a long, awful moment, and then black-out.

And then back onstage for a curtain call, during which she maintains her poise with superb grace and only once shoots me a withering, contemptuous glance.

The End. No Moral.

35 True Things About Hadley

January 14, 2014 on 12:06 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

1. Hadley works at a knife shop as a knife salesman and can’t afford a lawyer to sue me for defamation over this

2. When I first met Hadley we gave each other a disk of scripts, and next time we hung out he showed up with a version of Jack and my play Quiet Time which he had rewritten from the top as a lurid sex-dream of a play

3. Hadley is a forest and in him city folk get lost and in him jaguars kidnap sleeping children and in him the sunlight is broken up and never reaches the forest floor

4. Once when Hadley’s notebook was stolen we formed a detective agency to track it down but the only thing we uncovered was a bag full of someone else’s candy, everyone else was angry with us

5. Hadley is the body double for Moby when there need to be multiple Mobys

6. Hadley and Chrism had a party trick called Slothmother where Hadley was the sloth and Chrism was the tree and it was the worst party trick


image by nickamc

7. Hadley has upped the ante on me more times than anyone else

8. In 2003 with lateforbreakfast

9. In 2005 with ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky

10. In 2006 with A Most Curious Dream

11. In 2007 with Rosy Glowing, Bloody Cross

12. In 2010 with Misery at Pumper House

13. In 2011 with Be The DIY Sex Change You Want To See In The World

14. In 2012 with Fox Groom Broom Bride

15. In 2013 with Sexting Play

16. These are SOURCE TEXTS, these are the wellsprings

17. Hadley says that he won’t be Father Christmas unless you pay him but he will, he will be Father Christmas whenever you want

18. The internet meme about Chuck Norris having supernatural powers is funny, sure, but Chuck Norris isn’t a superhuman. But you know who does have those powers? GOD

19. Hadley has a third nipple and this is why the ladies love him maybe?

20. Hadley was married when he was 17 in a pagan ceremony where the celebrant braided his and his bride’s hair together

21. Hadley is the only person in the world to genuinely be inspired by Tony Robbins


image by nickamc

22. Canberra creates amazing artists and then it spits them out, it doesn’t need to hold on to them, it is not greedy

23. There is a gang of idiot teens in this New Mexico cowboy bar at the table next to me high fiving about how stoned they’re going to get on Friday when Shelby comes through with that quarter and telling the youngest one ‘DUDE the ALTITUDE, it’s gonna amplify the effect by a thousand, you are gonna be AMAZED by ordinary things’

24. Hadley is the bird outside your bedroom window that doesn’t give a shit about dawn and chirps all night until you vow to kill it

25. All Hadley’s lyrics for Mr Fibby were originally raps written to accompany Dr Dre instrumentals for when Hadley intended to be an aussie hiphop star which were then tweaked to fit Emma Sam and Grahame’s gypsy instrumentals

26. Hadley is the call to prayer

27. Hadley is two months older than me, however old you decide to be he is two months older than that


definitely image by nickamc

28. In 2011 Hadley wrote a treatment for The Lion King III based on the plot of Richard III and that text has now been lost so if you weren’t at Roasters on that day you will never know

29. Hadley and Tess live in a mansion, in a tree, they live in a tree mansion

30. If Hadley could be any animal he would be a turtle, but if that turtle could be any animal it would be a knife

31. Once Hadley and I made a facebook page to promote our knife-fighting zine and made all 140 fans into administrators against their wishes and then complained to facebook and had the page taken down for abuse of community standards, I don’t know how many people downloaded the zine

32. Hadley was born in the hole between calendar dates and his star sign is The Nothing


wtf nickamc he was clearly asleep

33. I steal more from Hadley than most people know but you would too, you would too

34. Hadley is a brutal no-holds-barred illegal martial arts tournament, Jean Claude Van Damme did his best to win Hadley

35. Get away from me kid, you bother me

36. Hadley paid me to write this list

37. There is nothing you can say about Hadley that is not true


from left: nickamc, hadley, nickamc

2034

January 11, 2014 on 10:27 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off


image by edward burtynski

hey 2034
I just need you to shut up for a second
honestly, for real, shut the fuck up
I don’t want any more hassle about what we did wrong
what we didn’t do
what we chose to ignore
the problems we planted now blooming like typhoons like droughts like floods like wars like famines
we don’t blame 1994 for our problems (we have no problems)

anyway you, finig
what are you now, 50 years old?
what did you do back then in 2014 to try and turn the tide?
I didn’t see you on the frontlines trying to keep fresh water flowing
there wasn’t enough water even then when there were only 7 billion to share it between
so don’t sneer at me with all your hindsight

it’s 2014 and we’re not ashamed of ourselves
it’s 2014 and we’re not guilty for the deaths of people who haven’t even been born
it’s 2014 and I got to see the barrier reef when some of the coral was still alive

2034 you can’t hate the past cause it’s the past that made you
2034 you owe us because we’re creating you now
2034 I don’t need you looking at me this way
2034 this is history, we’re in this together

Best film trailers of 2014

January 9, 2014 on 6:09 pm | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

So I went to the cinema, I know, don’t start, it wasn’t a good idea, I realise that now. Let’s not talk about the film itself (goddamn movies), the main thing to note is that they screened A NEW BATCH OF TRAILERS.

Let’s go.

Okay to start with there was a short animated logo and a voiceover said ‘CINEDIGM: A NEW PARADIGM IN CINEMA’

And that was the whole ad. That literally is all we know of Cinedigm, and if you know more DO NOT TELL, you’ll ruin it for everyone.

The night really peaked right here with these guys’ less-is-more- approach.

.
LABOR DAY

Next up was a trailer for a film where a young boy is giving a voiceover saying stuff like, ‘Mom was sad after Dad left us, she didn’t like being a single mom, she was sad and lonely and sad, and we were incomplete’

The mom apparently is Kate Winslet getting her sad on, she looks pained in every shot, it is tiring to look at her

Luckily before too long Kate Winslet and her son are kidnapped by escaped fugitive Josh Brolin who forces them to drive back to their house and dress his wounds, he is on the run because he just escaped from jail where he is serving a sentence for murdering a dude, here he is

Anyway while Josh Brolin is holding the mom and son hostage at their house they all start opening up to each other and it turns out Josh Brolin is a little rough around the edges but basically has a heart of gold, and he starts teaching the son to play baseball, and Kate Winslet’s sad face creases a little in what looks like maybe happiness?

So there’s romance afoot and then Josh Brolin’s all like NICE PEACHES THAT YOU HAVE THAT I AM EATING and Kate Winslet shyly says ‘We mostly throw them away before they rot’ and then Josh Brolin says I HAVE A BETTER IDEA

and then there is a shot of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet jointly squeezing peach slices in a mixing bowl in the preparatory phase of what will presumably be some kind of pie

the problem is, and I didn’t include a screenshot of this, that this otherwise-brilliant reboot of the pottery scene from Ghost is actually super gross, and watching romance spark between the pair of them while their hands are squishing around in a bowl of overripe fruit is pretty meh

Then there’s a bit of Josh and Kate dancing, we hear him say the line I WOULD FACE ANOTHER 20 YEARS FOR 3 MORE DAYS WITH YOU and the boy crying when a shot is fired, so presumably it ends well, or it ends sadly, or it ends some other way, but it DOESN’T end with Kate Winslet and her chump son joining Josh Brolin on the road for a life of madcap adventure fleeing from John Law

Would Jess Like It?

YES. Jess likes romance, and pie, so she’s likely to be more sympathetic to the themes of this film than I am. But we can’t be sure, until she sees it.

.
LAST SURVIVOR

Were you jonesing for some jingoistic American war exploits where a few hundred kilos of gym-bred Californian beef dresses in fatigues and engages in cloying bromance while firing at indisciminately evil Middle Easterners? Marky Mark and Eric Bana have you COVERED

The plot seems to be, a troop of US marines have been cut off behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, they are trying to kill a commander of the TALIBAN, something goes wrong, they are up against an unexpectedly large number of enemy soldiers, there is lots of shooting and shouting and fist bumps, at one point someone yells ‘God’s looking out for us’, and judging by the title and the quick cut action shots at the end of the trailer presumably only one of them survives

If I’m not mistaken, a bit over a decade ago we invaded Afghanistan. My miniscule contribution to Australia’s tax dollars helped fund our invading army, which fought the Taliban until 2011 or so. At first we drove the Taliban back and installed a puppet regime. The Taliban moved back in, they once again control large portions of the country, and our troops are leaving. So we lost that war, and frankly, it’s hard to see how they could possibly be worse off than if we’d just left them the fuck alone.

Let me lay my cards on the table here: any US soldier in Afghanistan has my sympathy, and for what it’s worth, I think they were trying to do the right thing. But I don’t give a fuck how tough it is to be a blue-eyed blond-haired yankee marine dealing with the Taliban compared to how it is to be an Afghani in that same situation. Show me that movie instead.

Of course I’m giving this bullshit too much credit – the aim is not to show anything about Afghanistan, the aim is to run around a few desert-trimmed soundstages in a Los Angeles film studio dressed in combat gear, throw in a few explosion effects and a soaring string soundtrack, plant brown-skinned people in crosshairs and make a shitload of cash.

Fuck you guys.

.

NON-STOP

Now this is more like it. Liam Neeson gets on a plane and trades some world-weary banter with the woman sitting beside him – she likes flying, he hates it – and then we discover he’s an ‘Air Marshal’ which is the fancy American word for SKY POLICE.

(if I’d been making this film it woulda been called LIAM NEESON, SKY POLICEMAN)

But THEN, Liam gets a text message saying ‘Hullo Liam Neeson’ or whatever, and he is the shocked and replies

because it’s 2014, we see the text message appear on the movie screen around Liam’s head

the reply exceeds my expectation A Lot:

Yes! From a dramaturgical point of view, the unknown text message has introduced a new element to the film: CONFLICT. Someone wants to kill people on the plane at a rate of 3/hr. Liam (we presume) is going to do his best to stop them. How will this play out?

Like this, obviously.

Goddamn you Non-Stop for having the best idea in cinema of the year already, and goddamn you also for inevitably blowing it, because there is no way a Liam Neeson film can carry off a good concept without descending into inane bullshit. My heart, my heart.

.
Finally, some more horseshit

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

Can’t turn a Tom Clancy book into a film without a lantern-jawed square-shoulder jock dressed in a suit beating the shit out of a foreigner in a hotel bathroom. This clip opens in confusing fashion – the blandly handsome lead is led into his Moscow hotel room by a tall black man with a Russian accent. Okay, sure. Then the black dude starts trying to shoot the hero.

This trailer was trading on its ‘here is a full scene of the movie that we’re sharing with you’ gimmick, so I had to watch the full fight scene in all its inevitable shaky-cam bullshit glory. Our lead disarms the bad guy and proceeds to beat the shit out of him like a real true American

eventually he straight up drowns the dude in a bath with his foot on the guy’s head

maybe I’m being oversensitive, but maybe I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t need to see any more caucasian American heros killing any more non-white foreign bad guys. Maybe that time of my life is over. Maybe that part of history is over. Maybe Tom Clancy is a nightmare from which we can all wake the fuck up now, maybe?

Maybe fuck you guys.

and then in some weird kind of epilogue to the whole trailer experience, we see the hero meet an aging Kevin Costner on a bench

kevin – it’s better your hands are shaking now rather than during

hero – what do you know about it?

kevin – the first person I ever killed was innocent.

hero – what did he do?

kevin – she.

all this and I still had a full feature length flick to get through. fuck movies, man.

2013 Music: Fossil Rabbit, Piotr-Heslin and Future Conduits

January 1, 2014 on 1:43 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

2013 was a rad year in terms of people making rad art. For whatever reason (and I do not care to inquire too deeply into their motives), a bunch of people I like and care about made the decision to create and release all kinds of beautiful new music into the world. I don’t understand how or why it happened, but it happened, and here it is:


cover art by george rose

Fossil Rabbit – Cloudache

My brother Chris is one of my all-time greatest collaborators and an utterly lovely maker of music. Back in 2006 he got hold of an electric guitar, an old FX pedal and a loop station. I remember the sound of his solo jams reverberating from his bedroom, and how they gradually shifted from mildly irritating guitar noodling into weirdly hypnotic ambient soundscapes. Chris positioned his sound somewhere in between Stars of the Lid’s warm narcotic drift and the shoegaze psychedelia of early Verve records, while also trying to capture some of the texture of electronic producers like Burial.

We began collaborating in 2007, first just jamming together, then as members of music-theatre-animation-cooking ensemble Fight Fire With Knives, then as guitar / spoken-word duo Finnigan and Brother. Meanwhile, Chris began playing in bands such as Standing Waves and Prom, all the while continuing to work on his own material, expanding his abilities, refining his aesthetic and releasing a steady stream of new songs via his soundcloud.

Chris’ solo output is released under his Fossil Rabbit guise. The name refers to a famous remark by evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane. When asked to name a discovery that would disprove the theory of evolution, Haldane is supposed to have growled, ‘Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian.’


image by adam thomas

After a couple of years gigging around town and capturing lo-fi recordings of his tunes, in December Chris hooked up with long-time collaborator and experimental music genius Reuben Ingall to record the first Fossil Rabbit EP. Cloudache was released in December at Smiths Alternative.

Chris is an occasional migraine sufferer, and the EP’s title refers to the sensitivity to clouds and stormy weather that sometimes precedes a migraine’s onset. Cloudache the song might be the best thing Chris has produced in 7 years of music – it moves at a quick pace and builds up momentum as layer upon layer of percussive twitches is added, but behind it all are slow, gentle waves of warm guitar ambience. In 4:28, it travels through a whole range of different moods, pulls itself apart and then reassembles itself. It’s magic and it makes me very happy.

The other four pieces are also lovely – Raver is one of the most uptempo compositions in the Fossil Rabbit catalogue, and it has a certain propulsive underbelly. Sentimental is an old favourite of mine – this is the soundtrack to lounging around on a lazy afternoon, watching David Attenborough nature documentaries and writing a few sketchy lines while the sound of the guitar slowly and casually builds until it has become a huge wave that lifts you up and carries you effortlessly with it.

The EP is $5 from Bandcamp and comes with a lovely and blissed out remix of Deficit by Brenton K. I recommend. For the also, here is a live clip from the launch gig at Smiths, recorded and edited by 2xx Local and Live:

.

Paul Heslin and Derek Piotr – Piotr-Heslin

This is a stunning collaborative effort between Poland-born US-based sound artist Derek Piotr, and my great friend and another amazing collaborator Paul Heslin.


image by derek piotr

Piotr-Heslin is seven tracks of surprisingly tender music underpinned by a scaffolding of grinding, surging glitch. Beats stutter into life at odd moments, waves of harsh noise wash across the tracks, but mostly what sticks out for me is how melodic and tuneful this record is. Derek and Paul sing on this record, and it’s quite beautiful. Granted, the vocals are digitally treated in every way possible, but still, these songs aren’t just cleverly produced soundscapes – they’re songs, and they stick in my head, and they make me feel all kinds of feelings.

The headfuck for me with this record is that Paul and Derek have never actually met in person – somehow they’ve managed to create this really intimate and personal experience without ever being in the same room. Fair enough that’s the world we live in in 2013, but seriously, listen to this record; it is an extraordinary achievement.

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Future Conduits – Teen Beach Movie / Wedding Vow

Okay so this isn’t exactly of the same calibre as the two records previously mentioned BUT, it’s a pretty exciting release from my point of view because it’s the first batch of music released by Nick McCorriston under his new Future Conduits alias.

Nickamc is one of my closest collaborators, and a superb musician and producer. For the last couple of years he’s been producing and performing a strain of electronic music that doesn’t fit under any of the other projects he’s involved with, including performing live using a hacked Nintendo Powerglove. This material is now being gathered together under the Future Conduits banner, which Nick will be touring in 2014.

Future Conduits’ first two song burst came out of a collaboration between Nickamc and in November. We set out to create a short set of two and a half minute songs using an array of samples Nickamc had collected from Kiss, Atari Teenage Riot and Marilyn Manson.

Wedding Vow is a fairly simple blast of ambivalence towards the idea of marriage, from a person who is not interested in ever getting married but yet is delighted when his friends who do believe tie the knot. Nickamc really sculpted this into shape, finding a way to fit the words to the loop and then fleshing it out with other samples and textures.

Teen Beach Movie is a cover of a tune from Disney’s 2013 straight-to-TV masterpiece Teen Beach Movie, set to a fairly brutal ATR sample. The original tune is a virtuoso Disney effort that looks at how gender roles and male-female relationships have changed since the early 1960s and doesn’t waste a single chance to hit the listener with another lurid costume choice. Don’t even argue, just get amongst the videoclip NOW.

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There was so much music, so much of it was good – how is it even possible to appreciate it all?

Rizal Fountain Raps: Penrith X Edition

December 30, 2013 on 12:41 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

When the original Too Many Weapons crew (me, Georgie McAuley, Sam Burns-Warr and Jordan Prosser) came back to Sydney in October 2013 for the final season of Kids Killing Kids, our first priority was to hit the streets and carparks of Penrith to scout locations for the fourth edition of our spoken-word series The Rizal Fountain Raps: Penrith X Edition. The spoken-word pieces that we wrote and recorded over this week are possibly my absolute favourites out of the entire Rizal Fountain Raps canon.

Jordie, Sam and Georgie’s pieces contain some of the best writing and most captivating performances I’ve seen from each of them, ever. Each poem has moments of humour and sadness, lightness and intensity, glimpses of autobiography wrapped up in gorgeous imagery. Was a weird feeling going out into Penrith that night – the night before performing our last ever show of Kids Killing Kids, the night after bushfires tore through the Blue Mountains destroying hundreds of houses and threatening countless lives – and watching three of my favourite collaborators perform kickass solo performances in empty carparks was exactly what I needed.


Jordan’s 7000 Cigarettes is an epic monologue tracking the inner turmoil of a bitter, guilty, angry and vengeful ex-boyfriend as he stalks, and eventually steals from, his former lover. Recorded on the Westfield Mall rooftop carpark as Jordan paced in slow loops between streetlights chain-smoking and relentlessly delivering his incredibly intricate and detailed and text from memory. It was a virtuoso performance but at the same time, hard to watch. It’s a conflicted, ambiguous story and it unsettles me, still.


Georgie’s Rachelle is a homage to a former office colleague from her 2013 stint in the Canberra public service, but more than that, it’s a beautiful evocation of a time and place, a gently moving depiction of office work-life in all its beauty and tedium. Georgie’s tiny descriptive details about Rachelle and her vignettes from the day-to-day doldrums of data entry (sneaking into the toilets to dance to Azealia Banks on headphones!) conjure up these beautiful flickers of familiarity in me, and as the piece evolves slowly into a brutally frank and honest explanation of her state of mind, it gave me the shivers. Also Georgie’s performance – swigging champagne from the bottle as she wanders out of the carpark and into the park – is totally rockstar.


Sam’s Deckchairs On The Roof is possibly the most beautiful of them all, and also probably the most intimate, honest and direct writing I’ve ever seen of Sam’s. About halfway through our week in Penrith, a close primary school friend of Sam’s passed away. At the same time, a massive bushfire front tore through the Blue Mountains towards Penrith, devastating Lithgow, Blackheath and as far east as Springwood. In Sam’s poem, the Blue Mountains bushfires evoke memories of another fire, ten years ago, that the two of them experienced together. Deckchairs is simple and to-the-point; no theatrics or melodrama, just a sad, lovely story told well.

My piece is called You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Be My Girl, and it’s a pretty lightweight piece of excitement, springing off the back of a week-long obsession with Prince’s Kiss and One Direction’s Kiss You. Mostly I was trying to get my head around one of those funny contradictions in the way we (well, I) think about romantic relationships. Does everyone else feel this tension? Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. But that’s this piece.

Rizal Fountain Raps: Quezon City Edition – Song For Baby-O, Unborn

December 27, 2013 on 2:51 am | In Uncategorized | Comments Off

The third entry in The Rizal Fountain Rap series – The Quezon City Edition – was a pretty epic undertaking. While in Manila in August 2013 for Sipat Lawin’s LOVE: This Is Not Yet A Musical, Too Many Weapons decided to invite a whole host of other artists to record their own Rizal Fountain Raps. With the help of cinematographer Shane Parsons and sound engineer Nick McCorriston, myself, Sam, Jordan and Georgie were joined by Daniel Darwin, Nick Delatovic, Simon Binns, Sarah Kaur, Nikki Kennedy, Sarah Walker, Nick McCorriston, Nathan Harrison and George Rose.

Over just two days, Shane, Sam and Nickamc recorded no fewer than 15 spoken-word performances in 15 different locations around Quezon City, Manila. There are some extraordinary works in this bundle – and holy shit, the variety.

There’s a breakdown of each of the different pieces on the Too Many Weapons tumblr – go, dig, absorb – but because this is my blog where I talk about my practice, I’m gonna take a self-indulgent second to ramble about my effort: Song For Baby-O, Unborn.

The name (and inspiration) comes from New York poet and Beat Generation fellow traveller Diane di Prima’s poem addressed to her unborn child:

Sweetheart
when you break thru
you’ll find
a poet here
not quite what one would choose.

I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted
breaking
globe

but I can show you
baby
enough to love
to break your heart
forever


from beatmuseum.org

Terrified of being shown up by the wealth of talented people contributing to this edition, I decided my performance needed a whole bunch of irrelevant bells and whistles. To whit: I insisted on reciting my poem while travelling through the LoveNOT health spa / swimming pool venue AND roped in Simon, Nick D, Nathan and Sipat director JK Anicoche to choreograph a back-up dance in the pool while I performed. My ridiculous grand vision made life very difficult for Shane and Nickamc to film and record, but the results! The results.

The results. Well, see for yourself:

If you’re interested, these are the words I wrote:

.

SONG FOR BABY-O, UNBORN (AFTER DIANE DI PRIMA)

dear baby-o, unborn
I guess when you’re ready to come along you’re gonna want to know what sort of world you’re getting yourself into
but what can I say?

it’s wet.
prepare to get rained on.
prepare for floods
water tears and blood

be ready for eyes to follow you down the street
long nights spent holed up at JK’s house reading erotic fiction
for the water to fall so hard it bruises your shoulders
be ready to get sick

you’ll be held against your will
someone will need you to hold them

I don’t know what it is about this world
but people here need each other so badly
you’ll think you can cut loose from that for a while
but you’re implicated from the moment you’re born
there’ll be moments choking alone in the back of the taxi
and moments hugging someone on the dancefloor so hard it hurts

there’ll be moments sweeping gravel from the sidewalk in the hot sun
there’ll be phone calls before dawn and car accidents and sickness and suicide
and there’ll be cups of tea and mango shakes and holding hands

the good things will evaporate
the good things will evaporate
the good things will dissolve under your fingers and leave you with sticky useless hands
but then there’ll be roads and airports and the freedom of loneliness
the loneliness of being free

you’re gonna be so scared, I promise you!
your lover will look you in the eyes and say no no no no no not you not you notyou
you’re gonna be so lost!
you’ll wander down adriatico at 5am turning in circles in the flooding street
you’re gonna be so trapped!
knuckles clenched fixed smile telling a man in a suit how much you want what he can give you
you’re gonna be so stretched thin!
what you need to do is so much more than what you’re capable of

but baby-o I promise you
you never need to be a passenger
there’s only so much you can do
only
there’s so much you can do
you have so little say
but what you say can turn the world around

so when you get here
I want you to look at this place with fresh unbiased eyes
tell us honestly and truly with no fronting
the world that we made
this world that we built up and now are handing on to you
how fucked up is this world?

cause the honest truth is, it’s gonna be a rough ride
you got cyclones hurricanes monsoons typhoons
droughts bushfires floods
rich people with guns
tanks through the churches
tuberculosis
so many people
no clean water
a generation of grandparents who just won’t fucking die

you’re gonna need to pull it apart piece by piece
you might need to put a gun to the head of a politician on camera
I’m not gonna lie to you
you’re not gonna get no satisfaction

when the man comes on the radio
when the ads come at you sideways
when the liars sign off on your behalf

when they get right under your skin and make you question your own self
they make you hate because it’s easy to make you hate
you were built to hate
and it’s simple to hate
it’s so fucking hard to love

when they get you shakey and wired and uncertain and hungry and scared
when they get you rushing and burning and heavy and running and cold
when they get you singing and screaming and sunny and rainy and wet
when they get you lying and chasing and frozen and curled up and shot
it’s so hard to see through it and remember

but I promise you

if you come into this world with your eyes open
there’s enough love in just this one room
there’s enough love in just one cupped hand holding water

to break your heart forever


image by sarah walker

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