Monday, June 17, 2013

Sydney Culture/Cultcha

17 June 2013

We've been getting some Sydney culture (pronounced cultcha, because, as with most British and colonial accents, the ending R sound is lost somewhere in the universe).  A play, a museum, a try for the zoo.

We saw Shakespeare's "Antony & Cleopatra" in Newtown, the artsy neighborhood - it was a cooperative effort by several theatre companies, and was extremely well done.  It took a while to get used to the Aussie accented Shakespearean English, but after a while our ears acclimated and we were able to follow.  The  dialogue was traditional, the dress modern, the set and props minimalist.  (White dividers, two chairs, a rolling tea caddy.  A few knives, a sword, a machete.  Oh, and a briefcase for the adders.)  Antony and Cleopatra were excellent, there were a few interesting additions (a pas-de-deux between two actors as they discussed some unseen actions), and all in all it was very enjoyable.  Of course, being a Shakespearean history, half the actors were dead by the end of the play.  Hollywood it wasn't.

Today we tried to go to the zoo.  We actually got on the ferry, and were heading out to the zoo (which is on the opposite side of Sydney Harbour from the central business district) - then we thought to ask what the cost was to go to the zoo.  Price was well beyond what either of us were willing to pay for a zoo.  (Put it this way - it was double the price of the Adelaide Zoo.  It was almost double the price of the Singapore Zoo including the Night Zoo.  Price was crazy.  Might be wonderful, but we just weren't willing to pay that much for a zoo.)

So it was a pretty day, we enjoyed the rest of the ride, got off the ferry at the zoo, immediately got back on, and went back to the CBD.  What can I say, it was a lovely day for a ferry trip!  

On the way over, I started chatting with an adorable and very funny little boy who had the most gorgeous curly hair - he looked absolutely cherubic.  Chatted a bit with the parents, too.  I told the boy I wanted to have hair just like him - he told me he could cut his off and I'd need a lot of glue to stick it on my head.  Anyway, turns out the family is from Perth and travelling, on their way to the US - including Seattle.  I said I used to live north of Seattle, in Bellingham.  Turns out her best friend went to college in Bellingham, met a guy, got married, lived there for a while.  (Now divorced and back in Perth.)  But wow - just one of those "it's a small small world" coincidences!)

Okay, hopefully this lines up with the close up of the bridge - you see how the flags are blowing in the wind?  How windy that is?  Yup, you see it.  And you see those little bumps below the flags, gathered around the flagpole, standing on the bridge?  Those are people.  People who paid to walk up to the top of the bridge, on a windy day, and look at the view.  People who are wearing all kinds of safety harnesses so they don't get blown off the bridge.  Or fall.  Or something.  
Richard and I discussed how much money we would need before we'd be willing to go on this bridge climb.  I'm thinking $10,000 might do it.  No less.

I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art -  Amazing place.  This is what they did for their Vivid Sydney lighting - imagine your local museum doing that!  Wow, huh?

One of the featured exhibits was photographs, or cinematographs, by Jeff Wall.  He calls his photos
cinematographs because they tell a story that is encapsulated in that one image, one moment in time caught and memorialized.  And most of his images are actually transparencies shown on huge light boxes, so that the entire piece is maybe 5 x 8 feet or so (or 1.6 x 2.2 meters) - which of course gives each image even more luminosity.  They were amazing!  

I particularly liked this piece, "A Sudden Gust of Wind" (after Hokusai) - it's whimsical, narrative, and the trail of paper and leaves is just wonderful!  I also liked this detail from an artist at work - I loved that his materials include Crayola crayons (the 64-stick box no less) and a roll of toilet paper.  Just another moment of whimsy, caught forever.

There was also a wonderful piece by Robert Owen, called "Sunrise."  This piece is different in every museum in which is is shown, because it's an installation - not that it is a piece that travels there and is installed.  No, each time "Sunrise" is shown it is PAINTED on the actual wall of the museum.  And, depending on the size of the wall, the blocks of color might be contracted or stretched, to fit the dimensions of the wall.  The actual proportions is always be the same - but the actual sizes will differ each time.  (The artist usually will oversee the painting of this piece at each installation, although sometimes an artist will send directions and specifications, and not even attend.  Just X size of ABC color blue, then Y size of EFG pink.  Can you imagine being the people doing the measuring and painting???)

The artist is using the blocks of color to simulate folded paper, so that this is his interpretation of a sunrise rendered in origami, except in paint.  Confusing, I know.  But if you squint, you can kind of see what he was getting at - sea, land, sky, sun coming up, sky and sea changing color from the sun, clouds pink - only, everything is rectangular.  Cubist.  Something.  Conceptual art is kind of weird, but, well, also fun.  Especially if you don't take it too seriously.  

Also, this is the first time this piece has been attempted on two walls, going around the corner of a room.  So it's not only unique, but a new and innovative interpretation of a piece that is constantly changing.  

Another piece I really liked was by Rebecca Baumann - I finally remembered to take photos of the names of the artists!  (Oh, and most of these photos are from online.  The museum is okay with people taking photos, as long as they turn off the flash.  My little camera doesn't do well with close ups and no flash - so I just found some photos online and voila, here they are for your viewing pleasure and to brighten up the blog.)

Anyway - this is called "Automated Colour Field."  Another abstract kind of colour.  And, also, constantly changing - but not from location to location.  No, nothing like that.  

This is comprised of 100 mini flip-signs that are pieces of colored material (coverstock? plastic?) on little timed flip-clocks - so every few seconds or minutes, the color flips.  Of course, all the timers are set differently, so everything doesn't flip at once.  No, one or two here, a few there - with a quiet little click as a page flips and comes down, and sometimes a new color is exposed.

The whole is constantly changing, evolving, morphing from a quiet cubist landscape to a sparkling garden to a cityscape.  Or maybe a patchwork quilt of paper blown by Jeff Halls sudden gust of wind and changing again.  Different every minute, different each time, never to repeat itself.  

Sort of paint chips with ADHD.

And hypnotic in their own strange way.

Okay, just one last artist.  Because this one was really special.  Wangechi Mutu (pronounced Wang-EH-shee MOO-too) is a Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based artist.  She works in collage, drawing, sculpture, video, and installation.  And the Museum of Contemporary Art had several of her installations.

One was a room with mini-volcanoes scattered around the room, made of packing tape - I have no idea how they stayed upright.  The "lava" on top of each volcano was fake hair - as in the hair used for extensions.  (Hair is a major issue in African/African-American/African-Caribbean culture - women spend hours having their hair done, or doing their hair - that African hair isn't the wash-and-dry kind of hair much of the time.  So the hair extensions were a major symbol in this installation.)   

The volcanoes continued around the edge of the room and up the walls, creating a unique landscape, with a few trees, and a giant collage of a moon - made of ceramic pieces, fur, and found objects.  The wall was "decorated" with gashes and fur - seeds flying from the trees and landing in the mountains.  Weird and other-worldly and gorgeous in its expanse and meaning.

Another room was filled with a tree (made of felted blankets or pads) hung with, well, calabashes?  Home-made soccer balls the way children make them in Africa.  Wadded up plastic bags tied with twine.  Again, a massive and involved installation with layers of symbolism and meaning, but also just aesthetically beautiful to behold.

Anyway, you can tell I enjoyed the museum.  It was a huge building full of some interesting, some not-so-interesting items.  (I didn't even get started on the Aboriginal artwork!)

Amazing place, and definitely go here if you are in Sydney!

Other than that, well, we're just enjoying city life, in Sydney!

One last little funny bit - Richard took me to this wonderful gelato place - people in this area swear it's THE  BEST  GELATO  EVER.  (It was very good!)  Anyway, they rotate new flavours - today, one of the featured flavours was called High Tea - yup, Earl Grey flavoured gelato with bits of shortbread cookie in it!  How funny is that?  Of course I tasted it - not really great - the tiramisu gelato I went with was much much better!

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