Proudly supported by McKR: www.mckr.com.au Cover: 300gsm Titan Plus Satin Carbon Neutral Text: 128gsm Titan Plus Satin Carbon Neutral Typeset in Whitney Overcoat is an independent production publication. The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions of their respective authors and are not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team.
Editors: Pete Saunders, Jessie Webb Designer: Pete Saunders Illustrator: April Wright Cover: Pete Saunders â€” Observing a Melbourne sunrise through a camera mounted with a ball and socket joint lens and zone plate filter. email@example.com www.undercoat.net
contributors Zoe Allnutt (Monash University) Isabella Capezio (RMIT University) Marita Dyson (University of Melbourne) Stuart Flanagan (La Trobe University) Mary Anne Friel (Rhode Island School of Design) Kate Longley (Swinburne University of Technology) Jimmy Niggles Esq (Australian National University) Mark Tipple (Sydney Film School) Shirley Watts
additional images Michael Friel Todd Gilens Andrew Goldie Caleb Hogan Ryan Hoff Mitchell Maher Mathew Millman Pete Saunders Matthew Suib Jessica Tremp
Overcoat is an online publication that aims to share the highest standard of work being produced in creative and professional fields from different institutions globally. It is a platform designed to inspire and connect students and alumni within their own community and with like-minded people around the world. If you would like to contribute work to Overcoat, please send us an email.
collaboration/editor Collaboration is a topic I have always wanted to explore in detail. My work as a designer involves helping others to evolve their ideas into some kind of visual communication narrative, or other outcome. My work is not self-generated: it is always on behalf of, or because of, other people â€” I view this differently to the concept of being an artist, and have never considered myself one. I like the collaborative process and it allows me the opportunity to interact with other knowledgeable and interesting people who encourage me to think in different ways and approach a variety of themes and topics. Collaboration, and all of the things it can achieve, also comes with its challenges. Personality types, differing opinions and changing objectives can all affect the development of a project beyond its original intentions, and this evolution is equally as interesting to analyse as the outcomes themselves. The purpose of this issue is to highlight how wonderful collaborations can be. We all possess our own set of skills, but it is often in collaboration with another that our ideas can evolve into something truly special. Through this same process, we can also end up in difficult territory, affecting us both professionally and personally. In my design experience, this risk vs reward scenario has been worth taking to progress myself professionally, and I will continue to push its potential. Exploring the collaborative process through the many different perspectives offered in this issue has been as interesting and insightful as I could have hoped. It has been wonderful to see our initial communications and responses from contributors evolve an incredibly diverse issue. Personally, it has allowed me the opportunity to reflect on my own process of collaboration and consider the objectives for the magazine as a whole. Overcoat, by its nature, relies on collaboration to be successful: collaboration between the contributors and collaboration between the staff. Seeing the magazine develop over the past two years has been my most proud accomplishment to date. Every lesson I have learned is one I will keep with me, refining my own collaborative process as Overcoat continues to evolve.
pete saunders 6
Contents 09/ an intimate engagement
mary anne friel shirley watts 29/ the ocean scares and comforts me mark tipple 43/ cultivating a cause jimmy niggles esq 57/ ruff stuff isabella capezio 69/ wardrobe vs pantry zoe allnutt kate longley 77/ woven as one marita dyson stuart flanagan
an intimate engagement
Artists, architects, scientists, poets, and a garden. mary anne friel and shirley watts
Mary Anne Friel is an artist and Assistant Professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, with a diverse practise that spans sculpture, drawing and print. Shirley Watts is an artist and principal of sawattsdesign, a design build firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Together, they curated Natural Discourse: Artists, Architects, Scientists & Poets in the Garden, a collaborative project between the University of California Botanical Gardens at Berkeley and a multi-disciplinary group of artists, writers, architects and researchers. Participants in the project were invited to spend time in the Botanical Garden’s extraordinary collection, engage with the horticulturalists on staff, and develop site-specific works over a twelve-month period. We asked Mary Anne and Shirley to reflect on the collaborative nature of the project — between the curators and artists themselves, and with the environment around them. Paul Licht, Director, and Chris Carmichael, Associate Director of Collections & Horticulture at University of California Botanical Gardens (UCBG) invited you to curate the exhibition Natural Discourse with the goal of creating discourse and public engagement. How did you endeavour to set Natural Discourse apart from other exhibitions with similar objectives? How did you create and utilise the possibility for ongoing dialogue? Shirley: Paul and Chris were aware of my practice, which lies somewhere between art and landscape, and invited me to ‘do something’ in the botanical garden. After some discussions, I realised that this was an amazing opportunity to work in a garden of 34 acres with a world-class plant collection, and it could be something much more exciting than one installation. Because of her experience in the art world and the place we both were in our professional lives, I invited Mary Anne to work with me on the project that became Natural Discourse. Together, we developed the program and invited the artists, architects, poets and scientists to work with us. Being able to work, literally, in a very important plant collection with highly skilled horticulturalists is what immediately set this project apart. Mary Anne: While UCBG regularly facilitates scientific research, Natural Discourse was the institution’s first initiative to offer researchers from the creative disciplines access to the collection and garden staff for sustained inquiry. As artists’ projects developed they became the 10
catalysts for discourse, first with UCBG horticulturalists and varied outside specialists — from anthropologists to culinary historians — and finally, with the public during the six-month exhibition. Our efforts to cultivate new funding sources and build audience also proved to be a vibrant conduit for engaging the community. Two symposia, held in conjunction with the exhibition, extended this discourse across an even broader range of disciplines and the public. You invited artists and scientists to contribute to the exhibition. Did the differing backgrounds and industries create unforeseen challenges through the process of making work? Were the contributors able to find common ground and influence each other’s work beyond your initial expectations? Shirley: The beauty of the project for me was to extend the invitation, give some guidance and then stand back in wonder as these ideas came pouring forth. Each artist found collaborators in the sciences and other fields. Nami Yamamoto came up with the idea for Fogcatcher, then found Stewart Winchester, a horticulturalist, to help her understand the ecology of the redwood forest and the trees’ relationship with fog and the coastal climate of California. Hazel White and Denise Newman worked very closely with the garden staff at UCBG to develop Botanica Recognita. Mary Anne: Participants who had never worked outdoors had to grapple with issues of scale and durability, changing weather and light conditions. The formal resolution to these new challenges often served as the conceptual framework for projects. For Botanica Recognita, poets Denise Newman and Hazel White brought their words off the page and into the physical space of the garden by creating poem/objects that mimicked, in format and material, the scientific signage that identifies the plants that are the subject of their poems. The project set off an intimate engagement with the horticultural staff, creating a space of connection and exchange between the artists and scientific staff. As the artists engaged with the space and the UCBG staff, how did their work change or evolve from the initial concepts into their final exhibited works? Shirley: The artists were asked to engage with the staff and the collection before they made a proposal, which they all did.
Mary Anne Friel, Water Pavilion (interior view), 2012. Photo credit, Michael Friel. (over) Ron Real and Virginia San Fratello, SOL Grotto, 2012. Photo credit, Mathew Millman.
They needed to understand what a botanical collection is, how it is just as precious as that found in an art museum and how we all had to treat it with the utmost respect. As we developed the program, we the curators and the artists had to work closely with the staff at the garden to site each piece. This was not just simply plunking sculpture on a lawn. The artwork had the potential to impact the collection. For example, Gail Wight’s piece Under the Influence, found a wonderful home in the windows of the arid house, a kind of dry greenhouse with desert plants. The horticultural curators had to make certain that this seemingly simple installation did not impact upon the light getting to the plants. On the other hand, Mary Anne sited her beautiful piece Water Pavilion in an area previously off-limits to garden visitors and although it was quite a building project the impact on the collection was minimal. Mary Anne: Impressions and concepts that arose out of the artists’ initial visits and discussions drove their respective research throughout the process. As proposals took shape and concepts developed more fully, ongoing discussions about the collection, constraints of the site, logistics of funding and fabrication, and impacted the many iterations of form that each artist worked through. These constraints, discussions, and a lot of time spent on site served to open and deepen the artists’ sensitivity to the collection, and the larger context of its site and cultural history. The work benefitted. The resulting projects inhabited the garden in dynamic dialogue with it, inviting an active engagement between viewer, artwork, collection and site. Works such as Light Portraits and Under the Influence display an incredible level of intricacy on a micro scale, and sit in contrast to works like Water Pavilion and O Music of Eyes that engulf their space. What were your observations of the way audiences interacted with these different works, and what was the feedback across the spaces? Mary Anne: Viewers encountered Natural Discourse projects as they wandered the garden. The scale shifts and textural contrast that occur looking at a intricate drawings of spider webs hung in the windows of a green house (Under the Influence), discovering flickering video images emerging like two eyes from a vine covered shed (The Delight of Earthly
Deborah O’Grady and Shirley Alexandra Watts, O Music of Eyes, 2012. Off-site location, Downtown Berkeley BART station. Photo credit, Mitchell Maher.
Gardens), and stepping from the lush garden into an austere wood and rock enclosure that frames the city and bay beyond (Water Pavilion), set up alternating rhythms of fast and slow reads, visual, linguistic and physical engagements, stillness and motion; a choreography that encouraged viewer attentiveness and engagement. Shirley: This is the beauty of group shows. You gather work that is connected, and yet individual. Each piece was created to draw out a different aspect of the site and the idea of the botanical garden, and each did that in a very different way. Some of the work was large and exciting like Sol Grotto and Water Pavilion. Other works were delicate and invited the visitor on a kind of treasure hunt. For Botanica Recognita the poets supplied a map for visitors to search for the poetical plant signs among the many botanical signs in the garden. A group exhibition, by its very nature, is collaboration between the artists and the curator/s. How did you approach this relationship between yourselves as curators, and with your artists? A how did it evolve throughout the process of development â€” from pitching the idea to the artists, to setting and managing expectations once they were on board? Mary Anne: Natural Discourse developed out of the belief that creative practitioners are uniquely able to investigate and express the complex, evolving relationship between culture and nature, art and science. Once participants were identified and invited, we stepped back eager to see what they would propose, and then worked to facilitate their vision. Constraints were practical ones of collection stewardship, public safety and budget. Shirley: I wonâ€™t say we went into this blindly, but since the garden had never done anything like this before, nor had we, things were constantly evolving. Mary Anne and I had to negotiate everything with the garden staff (and through the labyrinthine university system), at the same time as managing the artists and building an audience for the idea. Happily for us, the artists we chose to work with were very professional, dedicated and capable of getting the work done and installed. We also did most of the fundraising along with helping the artists to raise money for their work. This took a lot of persistence, faith and
Denise Newman and Hazel White, Botanica Recognita, Signage to Facilitate a Greeting, 2012 Photo credit, Michael Friel.
Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, The Delight of Earthly Gardens (video still), 2012 Photo credit, Matthew Suib.
Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, The Delight of Earthly Gardens (video still), 2012. Photo credit, Michael Friel. 20
Deborah Oâ€™Grady and Shirley Alexandra Watts, O Music of Eyes, 2012 Photo credit, Shirley Watts.
Nami Yamamoto, Fog Catcher, 2012 Photo credit, Shirley Watts. 22
good friends. Mary Anne and I learned where each otherâ€™s strengths lay and divided up the tasks accordingly. Mary Anne: In many aspects, Natural Discourse was a first for all involved. The relationship between Shirley and I as co-curators, and between UCBG staff, curators and artists continually evolved in response to the demands of the projects and exhibition that unfolded. The process was dynamic; it required great flexibility and good faith, and was rewarded by tremendous commitment to the collective endeavour and meaningful projects by each of the artists. You have both had long and successful careers in your individual fields. What did this particular collaborative process offer to your own professional development? Mary Anne: An exhibition of contemporary site-specific art was unprecedented at UCBG, offering a fertile space of open possibility. Collaborating together in this context allowed Shirley and I to experiment more broadly with the cross-pollination of ideas and disciplines that we bring to our respective work. Inhabiting the multiple roles of curator, participating artist, fundraiser, symposia organizer, PR team, project facilitator, and audience builder, demanded a total collaborative engagement. We brought our respective skills, learned from each other and navigated new territory together. The fruit of our shared ideas and work is a network of relationships that was expressed in temporal events and artworks, and which remains activated by continued conversations, and available to new possibilities. On a personal level, Natural Discourse was my first foray into working in an outdoor site and in the realm of the horticultural. My frame of reference and my sensitivities were profoundly expanded through my conversations with Shirley, the garden staff, the artists, and many others encountered in the process. They were also expanded by being physically in the garden for extended periods of time among the flora and fauna, subjected to wind, sun, fog and rain, and being present to the relationship of macro and micro scales in the natural and cultural landscape. Shirley: Instead of being lost in my own practice, I feel as though I have opened up to a lot of new possibilities and larger thinking.
Gail Wight, Under the Influence, 2012. Photo credit, Michael Friel.
I have found that other people are interested in some of the same questions and ideas that I think about, and have seen surprising connections between disciplines happen just by putting people in a room together for a discussion. One of the very important aspects of this work for me has been the day-long symposium that we organised under the umbrella of Natural Discourse. Itâ€™s amazing to know that if you call people you admire, whose books you pour over and ask them nicely to come speak for you, they have a tendency to say yes! Brilliant! The exhibition was very well received, and the space described as one of beauty and enjoyment. Would you consider adapting the work and principle for another location? Do you have longer-term plans for Natural Discourse now that it is a proven concept? Mary Anne: We began Natural Discourse with the concept of the exhibition being a pilot project. We understood that the first iteration could only begin to tap the potential to ignite cross-disciplinary dialog in the context of the Botanical Garden, which exists at the intersection of art and science, nature and culture. The conversations, projects and the network of collaborators and audience that resulted made us eager to continue. We are looking at opportunities for new projects and exhibitions that will build on Artists, Architects, Scientists & Poets in the Garden. Shirley: We are already in discussion with other gardens about adapting this work. We are also continuing to work with the UC Botanical Garden and have a symposium planned for this October and another exhibition in the works. Natural Discourse is a grand idea and it will continue.
Jane Flint, Human:Nature, 2012 Photo credit, Shirley Watts (over) Todd Gilens, Shade, 2012 Photo credit, artist
the ocean scares and comforts me Capturing another side of the story. mark tipple sydney film school
Mark Tipple is a Sydney-based documentary photographer who works closely with organisations seeking social change in Australia and surrounding countries. Mark is the principal photographer of The Underwater Project, an ongoing reportage of Australia’s relationship with the ocean. His work has appeared in publications such as The Australian, The Telegraph, The Independent, National Geographic, and on the BBC and Discovery Channel. Mark aims to bring light to stories traditional media shies away from. This has led to the formation of Gallery Project, where sales from fine art prints fund further projects for the organisations he works with. He talks to Overcoat about bringing together ideas, people, and places, and ultimately fulfilling his personal passions through his projects. I used to get told to shut up more than not. My catch phrase was (and still is), ‘If you’re not doing what you want to be paid for, how are potential clients going to know what you want to get paid to do?’ Mostly this received a blank look. Eyes would glaze over before rolling, or if I got lucky it’d be a ‘huh?’ to which I could clarify what I was on about. But clarity has never been my strong point. Increasingly, this industry is getting tough. Budgets are dropping and we see the race for the bottom while the margins between ‘us and them’ grow; it’s enough to apply for nightfill at Coles so I can at least still surf in the mornings. Personal projects have always been the way to make it, but what the hell is a personal project? I was in this mindset after film school. The previous year I’d had the most fun in a long time, playing with every form of camera around and nerding out by taping people to chairs with 16mm work prints. Upon graduation I thought the phone would start ringing and I’d be sent to Jamaica, via Estonia, to do what I wanted to do and rest easy in excessive day rates. When the phone didn’t ring I slowly realised that no one knew who the hell I was, let alone what I wanted to do. What I wanted to do was only just becoming clear to myself. 30
The ocean has always been a place of rest and solitude for me, and for those months of obscurity I gazed to the horizon, close to tears, wondering how to get my name out there. I came across a swimmer one day when diving under a wave with a camera in my hand. As the large wave broke in front of us I turned the camera on him. That day, I found something that was so cool it left me wanting more: more of both the image and the concept. However simple it was, people diving under a wave held something foreign to me, even when I’d spent decade surfing and working on the water. I asked a good friend to come swimming, and chasing the clear water we went to remote South Australia to work on different ideas while trying not to drown underwater, and came up with the start to the summer 2010 series of The Underwater Project. Over the next six months, as friends saw the results, they asked to shoot with me. At one stage a dozen of us tried not to drown and kick each other in the head, which turned out to be a terrible idea as the photos sucked, and blood noses aren’t cool. Without realising it, this personal series began to make its mark on the wider public. Commercial interest and print sales began enabling me to do almost exactly what I wanted to do, without compromise. Now, The Underwater Project is in its fourth year, and I’m still shooting people diving under waves, documenting the way changing seasons and locations affect the way people interact with water. I remain completely fascinated by the expressions and postures people assume underwater while the waves shape and mould themselves to the reef or sand. It’s almost like the energy that has created the wave is transferred to the swimmer for a fraction of a second, and the swimmer reacts or absorbs something until the wave passes on, fading away like nothing happened. When I tell this story to people (mainly recent graduates), the majority of them say, ‘but I don’t have funding yet,’ or offer some other excuse for why they haven’t started doing what they want to do. Granted, if that dream is a helicopter shot of a flashmob on the Eiffel Tower they may need to scale it down a bit, but I’m sure there’s
a way to make a start through a collaborative network. Friends are cool. Friends who listen to your ideas are even cooler. Friends who can help make this happen are awesome. Friends who can also cook are amazing, as nutrition tends to suffer while working on projects. Even if it’s just a teaser-to-the-teaser of a pilot, making a start on your personal project will give it life beyond the idea in your head. It will also help clarify what you’re looking for, so that when it comes to talking to interested clients, your pitch will be spot on and they’ll rush to sign on the dotted line. As the fifth summer of shooting underwater starts (winter sucks), I guess I’m in a position to say yes or no to the projects or shoots that aren’t quite right for me — the old adage of seeking quality vs. quantity has never been closer to the truth. Now, more than half of my commercial work isn’t in photography but in motion picture — clients have seen the films I’ve made as personal passion projects and said the words that are worth their weight in gold: ‘can you do what you do, but for us?’ And so the freedom continues.
cultivating a cause Beard season is in.
jimmy niggles esq australian national university
‘I think you’re a thing,’ my friend wrote after spotting the image on a blog called The Chive. ‘Did you do it?’ she asked. ‘I wish,’ was my reply. The meme was created by an enterprising lad from Oklahoma whom I’d never met before. He plucked my image from the Internet and wrote over the top in big bold type: If you shave your beard for a woman, you deserve neither. The portrait was taken by celebrated photographer Brock Elbank, who had requested the sitting after he was told I had a beard worth pointing a lens at. Neither of us was credited in any way, though after more than 545,000 views and hundreds of comments in just matter of hours, people soon connected the dots and our respective websites surged with traffic. Would a clean-shaven picture of me have hit such dizzying heights of Internet stardom? Probably not. This was a pure and organic collaboration between man, beard, camera and comedian, delivered to an audience who can’t look away, polarised by the rise and rise of the bearded man. No longer confined to hippy/biker/homeless/ professional Santa Claus-impersonator types, facial follicles seem to be bristling onto every chin of society, from trilby-touting troubadours to hardline businessmen. My own foray into the hirsute fold began two and a half years ago at the Beckham Pub in Country NSW. We were celebrating the life of our mate Wes Bonny who had just passed away from melanoma at the age of 26. He loved the sun, like all of us, though he was always careful to wear sun cream and avoid the loony lunchtime hours of peak sun; so much so his signature fashion accessory was a ‘Wal Footrot’ style terry-toweling hat and shades. Wes was a great man, just terribly unlucky in this instance, and our consensus after his death was that more needed to be done to encourage people to have skin checks. After meeting with specialists and undertaking a fair chunk of research, we found melanoma to be one of the deadliest cancers there is. On the flip side, it can also be one of the most preventable — if detected early. So our strategy became: grow a beard, get a skin check, and encourage everyone who asks you about your beard to have a skin check too. 44
Why beards? Well Wes’s melanoma was on his neck and because most of the sun you cop is on your face, we figured we’d be covering up. Plus no-one our age seemed to be sporting beards, so we thought we’d give it a crack. Since then I’ve been on a quest, with a constant conversationstarter lining my lips. To keep me going I set myself the challenge to meet someone new every day and have a photo with them — someone with a beard. Not only does this push me to meet thousands of people I otherwise wouldn’t, it’s formed a visual map of conversations and unassuming collaborations, which have the potential to save thousands of lives. This journey is documented on a blog called www.thisisbeard.com, which has over 600 posts and more than 160,000 unique visits. One of these collaborators was Aaron, who responded to a Facebook competition where I offered a prize to the first person to send in a photo while having a skin check. The prize, incidentally, was a Charlie Sheen movie called Beyond the Law — the only film he’s done with a beard. ‘I am literally just sitting in the waiting room now,’ Aaron eagerly responded, ‘give me an hour and I’ll send one through.’ When he wrote back, things were a little more tense: ‘They found four on my face,’ he said. A week or two later Aaron had them cut out. Not only had he sent in a photo with his skin doctor, he also sent photos of the red-capped vials containing the moles he’d had removed. They were horrible-looking things with little black tentacles embedded in chunks of chopped-up skin. Melanoma spreads after bad sunburn triggers a mutation, which can randomly flare up and spread from cell to cell. The tentacle bits push down into your bloodstream and can flow around your body triggering all sorts of hectic complications, like the brain tumour that killed our mate Wes. Currently, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, and statistics are rising. In fact, over the last 20 years melanoma diagnosis has increased by 50%. Most of these are in men, who suffer almost double the incidence to women. What’s more, melanoma happens to be the most common form of
cancer affecting young Australians (aged between 15 – 44). Many of us may think skin cancer is an old-person thing, for retired leathery types who spend their days lounging around lacquering themselves in tanning oil. Well this isn’t the case. It’s young Australians. People who think they’re unbreakable. Especially men. The same people you’d never expect to book themselves in for a skin check. The same people I’m constantly meeting. So to step things up our goal became to ‘out-viral’ the spread of melanoma. It sounds a little strange I know, but through the mystical powers of social media and something people can wear around every day with pride, we launched Beard Season: A time for gentlemen to grow their beards for winter and become an ambassador in the fight against melanoma. We kicked things off with a party in the heartland of sun worshipers — Bondi Beach — and spent weeks building a database of all the skin clinics in NSW, hosting it on a website designed by a Californian chap named Austen Ezzell. The website makes it simple to book an appointment with a skin clinic and invites you to become an ambassador. By uploading a photo of your beard (for gentlemen) or Beard Season Bob (for the ladies), you can add a special message and share it with your friends, so they can book a skin check too. We now have over 200 ambassadors who have vowed to spread the word and hundreds more have booked appointments. Give it a try if you like at www.beardseason.com.au. By encouraging everyone to become a collaborator it’s been fantastic for media, with features on SBS, News Ltd, Trendland, and FFFFOUND! Channel 7 even gave us five live-weather crosses with Edwina Bartholomew during Sunrise to celebrate the launch of our website. People pay millions for this kind of publicity and it’s wonderful to have it all through word of mouth. Social media has played a huge role, thanks to 3,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook — sharing and liking like kings and queens. All this buzz has helped us establish a strong foundation of highly engaged participants for future Beard Seasons, with calls for us to bring the initiative to the Northern Hemisphere.
To celebrate the journey and everyone who’s been part of it, we hosted an event called The Beard Season Bushrangers Ball in the Jenolan Caves beyond the Blue Mountains in country NSW. Despite its remote location people came from everywhere: as far as South Australia, Melbourne, Queensland and Canberra, all dressed up in period costume with stock whips, Akubras, Driza-Bones, corsets and bonnets; one Matilda even brought a horse. It was such a grand event that we’d love to continue for many years to come. The challenge now is to figure out how we can create a sustainable movement focused on action rather than donation. In 2011 The Cancer Institute of NSW and Paul Fishlock from Campaign Palace made a series of ads featuring Wes’ parents, brothers and friends. This became the most successful skin cancer awareness campaign to date. However, this summer will be it’s last. The hope is that Beard Season can continue Wes’ legacy, to increase the rates of early detection and help everyone who becomes a part of it to not suffer the same tragic fate. The Cancer Institute of NSW has shown magnificent support and is now our primary sponsor. It seems the more we share this idea, the better it becomes. Grow on…
Photos courtesy of Andrew Goldie.
Melbourneâ€™s new artist-run gallery sets sail. isabella capezio rmit university
Ruffian Gallery is a new, not-for profit artist-run space in Melbourne. Our desire is to intrigue, and to engage people with the world around us. Ruffian opened in September 2013 with the show Tie Your Colours. We received submissions from over 90 artists throughout Australia and abroad and we curated this work into a large wall piece, ‘tying’ unrelated works together in one communal installation. Curating over 500 prints was no easy feat. We incorporated sculptural stimuli, binoculars, platforms and disposable cameras attached to string to introduce an interactive element not often found in photography exhibitions. The reception was overwhelmingly positive. We are located in Footscray, Melbourne: a diverse, exciting and complex community. We want to display work that is engaging, relevant and fun — fun being a top priority — and to bridge gaps and open up conversations about art. Ruffian is managed by six local artists: Madelena Rehorek, Ken Hughes-Parry, Sarah Pannell and Isabella Capezio, four photographers who met while studying at RMIT, with Pamela Soriano and Pia Mitchell who work in the art sector with extensive knowledge in arts management. We want to encourage artists in the area who, like us, are looking for ways to share work outside of institutions and across communities. We recognise that we are in a unique position where we can collaborate with artists through workshops and by sharing our networks and sponsorships. We collectively recognise that there are important responsibilities in running a space aimed at reconnecting the wider community with visual arts; showing them work that they can engage with. What better place to do that than in Footscray! Our space is walking distance from the main street, and a short train or bus ride from the Melbourne CBD. Melbourne’s West is about to expand in population and infrastructure and we want to participate in the change while valuing and preserving the inherent diverse qualities of this inner city suburb. So stay tuned. Ruffian’s next show, ATLAS, will explore the mythical idea of Atlas, condemned to stand at the western edge of earth and hold up the sky on his shoulders. This concept allows us to interplay narratives surrounding geography and politics, with mythical undertones. 58
wardrobe vs pantry Fashion and food have hit it off.
zoe allnutt and kate longley monash university / swinburne university of technology
Truth be known, Zoë and I didn’t know each other all that well when we came up with Wardrobe v Pantry. Like all good collaborations, it started with champagne. We met through a friend, and — without sounding like an eHarmony ad — we knew we shared similar interests and found the same things to be funny. At social gatherings, our conversation would inevitably drift to what we were wearing, what we were eating, and what exactly we imagined Beyoncé would be up to at that moment in time. Before long, we organised a champagne meeting to discuss starting a blog together. We even brought a pen. Trouble was, although we wanted to start a blog, we had little idea of what the content should be. We bandied around some ideas: ‘So, I really like clothes.’ ‘Yea. Clothes are great…’ ‘Yea, you know, like fashion…’ ‘Um. Let’s order more champagne and snacks! It will help us think!’ It wasn’t a strong start. But things soon started to evolve. During the week, we began an email photo exchange to beat the 3pm office blues, where we would match our outfits to our afternoon tea: ‘Ha, check out this Sonia Rykiel sweater that matches my Tim Tam!’ ‘Whatever, my fruit salad is totally channeling Marc Jacobs Resort 2011! Check it.’ ‘Yea yea, you’re so healthy with your fruit salad.’ ‘Alright, well here’s my hot choc, same as this top from ASOS! Bam!’ We found it all very hilarious and started forwarding our little exchanges to friends and family, who seemed to find it equally humorous and soon anticipated a sartorially gastronomical email each day. Meanwhile, at another champagne meeting… ‘So, we could just do a blog like our afternoon tea fashion?’ ‘Yes!!! You reckon people would read it?’ Well, two years and 841 posts later, we can say that yes, people do want to read it! 70
Wardrobe v Pantry was born in August 2011. The blog’s title explains itself: each day, we feature some fantastical fashion paired perfectly with fabulous food. The blog is not meant to take readers a lot of time, but provide a little fun — and perhaps invite further interest into the frock or the dish. We’ve found people, especially in Melbourne, are very passionate about either food or fashion, (often both) so there is something for everyone. Clicking on the links could take you off to a beautiful designer’s latest collection or to a recipe for dinner. Each post is tied together with a quote that can take you somewhere completely unlikely. This quote is the punchline to the match — it can be taken as a quick, throw away-line, or it can be investigated and considered. We leave it with the viewer to decide what to make of it, but we have heaps of fun coming up with it. Often the quote might seem completely random and unrelated, but it’s always inspired by some element within the photos we’ve chosen for the match. It’s a little hint as to what we were thinking when cooking up that particular WvP ‘snack’. Without collaboration, Wardrobe v Pantry wouldn’t work. No post is created alone. We challenge each other to come up with a food or fashion match and each one is half Zoë, half Kate. While we rarely work in the same room, we are in contact every day. It’s a very strange day we don’t swap an email (or 32). We delight in knowing some of the featured designers and foodies from around the world also love Wardrobe v Pantry and that our second largest audience is in Romania. It warms the heart to know while food and fashion are so important, those in the industry can see the funny side of a sushi roll that also looks like a dress. Looking back, I think Zoë and I just wanted to work together on something — anything really — that drew on the things we both love, laugh at and are inspired by. Things that are too good not to share! While it takes a lot of time, most of all we enjoy working on a project we consider our ‘child’, and we get to work on it together.
All images courtesy of Wardrobe vs Pantry website, except (over), photo taken by Jessica Tremp.
woven as one
Sharing a lifelong creative entity. marita dyson and stuart flanagan university of melbourne / la trobe university
We formed The Orbweavers in 2006 after many years discussing our hopes and passions, with a shared desire to create something that would express our experience in the world. The Orbweavers initially started as a band, but has grown into a vehicle that encompasses expression from all facets of our creative interests, with songwriting and production at the core. A Songwriting & Production Case Study â€” Match Factory by The Orbweavers Stuart: It was the eve of the much-anticipated Super Moon in June 2013: when the moon is closest to the earth during orbit (perigee) and is also full. Marita was working in Cremorne, a Melbourne suburb just north of the Yarra River. I was walking along the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, and noticed the moon rising in the east. I texted Marita a short message: Moon. Marita arrived home shortly after, animated with discovery. She had photos to show me, taken on her ambles through the lanes and back streets of Cremorne and Richmond. Among them were images of the partially-demolished historic 1905 Dimmeys department store, and an impressive moon rising over the former 1909 Bryant & May match factory building. That evening, Marita and I began discussing the history of Melbourneâ€™s northern river suburbs, which experienced rapid and dramatic change post-European settlement. Cremorne was a suburb of garden villa blocks in the 1840s, then became an amusement park and later a lunatic asylum, followed by industrial development through the 20th century. Eventually it transformed into the sought-after commercial and residential dwellings of today. Marita and I both spent younger days in the area, most memorably visiting the iconic Dimmeys store to buy discounted socks and underwear. We were saddened by the partial loss of this icon. During this time I was working in nearby Abbotsford, and had witnessed the recent demolition of grain silos behind the historic Yorkshire Brewery. Again, I felt a visceral loss that a familiar structure had been removed from the landscape. 78
Marita took these concepts and wrote the main melody and two verses of Match Factory. I added a section, and completed guitar and bass parts while Marita was at work. We then developed the overall production of the song, before writing the trumpet solo together. For the release cover image, we used the original photograph Marita took in June of the Bryant & May factory, and overlaid handwritten text, which we loosely based on a font used on one of the original factory building facades. As winter set in, Match Factory was ready for release. BEGINNINGS Marita: When I was younger, in the late 1990s, I had not considered collaboration as a way of working on art or music. I liked working on my own, and didn’t want to compromise my concepts — or so I thought. Truthfully, I didn’t want to make myself vulnerable by revealing embryonic ideas to another person, for fear of criticism or rejection. I worked privately, where no one could see or hear my half-finished thoughts. Deep down, I wanted to study painting and be an artist, but had been too scared to apply for art school. I didn’t think I would get in. My parents both studied painting and discouraged me from pursuing it at university. My dad told me I could teach myself if I really wanted to paint. My mum was concerned about the difficulty of earning a living from art, which I knew from their experience, was near impossible. They both thought I should study something else. I compliantly started a BA in art history and Japanese language, and thought it would at least keep me thinking about art. The essay-writing years that followed left me feeling up and down. I yearned to do something creative, but felt it was ‘sensible’ to finish my degree and find a job. Growing up as the eldest of five children in a family without much money, it was hard to shake the desire for security. I vaguely envisaged becoming a Japanese language teacher, which fitted in with my ‘sensible’ life plan, but my heart wasn’t in it. I still kept drawing and writing songs — secretly hoping something would come of it, but privately despairing that I was both a coward and deluded.
During these early years, I felt overwhelmed by the deficit in my knowledge of the world — the many records and films I had never listened to or seen, authors and histories I hadn’t read, theories I had not heard of. I guess this is not an unusual feeling. I was not very confident, and felt I needed time to build up knowledge and courage. In this sense, a BA turned out to be a good decision. I kept writing and drawing, but it remained fairly private, which in retrospect was not a bad thing. A lot of my early ideas were awful. Then I met Stuart. It was the winter of 2000, I was finishing my last semester, and Stuart was near completion of a Bachelor of Music. We lived two doors apart and would bump into each other in the street. I used to park my car outside his house, and as I slammed the car door shut, Stuart would sometimes appear at his window, and we’d talk. Not long after the lunar eclipse that year, we became a couple, and my notion about working alone changed. Stuart rented a ground floor room in a dilapidated old shop front, two doors from the terrace I shared. His room had freshly painted white walls and a long trestle table desk with recording equipment and computer neatly set up along one wall. This space symbolised order and possibility. I found I could sit in that room, next to Stuart, at the same long desk, and lose myself in drawing, writing essays or reading. Stuart was open and encouraging, and could see ways of making the dreams that I thought impossible a working reality — a good counterpoint to my defeatist tendencies. Working together was inspiring and productive. Stuart knew a lot about science, classical music history and had lived in Japan. We spent many late nights talking after I finished my shifts at the bar around the corner. Through these talks I realised I trusted Stuart, and could be myself when we were together. I also had a strong intuition we could work together creatively, as well as be in a relationship. Things didn’t happen straight away — it would be six years until we formed The Orbweavers. During the intervening years we lived overseas, found jobs, talked a lot, read, researched and built up an archive of ideas. In 2009 we self released our first album, Graphite & Diamonds.
Stuart: In 1996 I decided to apply to do a Bachelor of Music at La Trobe University. I had heard great things about the course and its focus on contemporary composition. I had been unsuccessful in attempts to study performance elsewhere, but had a strong desire to create sound and compose music. Up to this point I had been producing electronic music, but was mostly creating pieces that did not see much exposure beyond the share houses I was living in. I really enjoy the process of producing music, and spent a lot of time during my degree concentrating on music production to enable me to record in familiar and affordable environments (i.e. home). When I met Marita, I was looking at areas and skills that could help me find some work. I decided to cram some multimedia development and computer programming subjects into the end of my degree. I was already spending a lot of time editing in a non-linear environment, and programming in a language known as Csound. I thought I needed to establish some way of earning income, as I didnâ€™t feel I was a good enough guitarist to be a professional musician. In 2001, I began taking on more freelance web development work, which in turn lead me to London on a working visa with Marita. This was great for establishing development skills and getting work, but in the end we were still just working day-to-day, in another city. When I met Marita I was quite astounded by her skill across many facets of creativity. Her ability to draw, paint, sing and play music seemed second nature. I was impressed by her desire and drive to create something new, rather than perform other peoplesâ€™ songs. This drive remained through our time in London, and it became increasingly apparent that we needed to return to Australia and start creating something. On returning to Melbourne, we were happily surprised to find similarities in the concepts and subjects we wanted to create work about â€” the environment, science and history. At this stage, we had not done any recording together, and songs were still essentially in our heads, waiting to take form.
Our first creative collaboration was an exhibition of illustrations representing the elements in the periodic table, accompanied by a multimedia presentation: http://www.periodictableproject.com. This project tested our ability to work together on something with a definitive outcome, and taught us that we could help each other realise the concepts we were carrying around in our heads. Directly after the launch of Periodic Table Project, we began producing our debut album Graphite & Diamonds. Since then we have released a second album Loom, and three singles, while developing a way of working which fits around our jobs and life. NOW Stuart: After many years of living and working together I feel we have established a good way of communicating concepts and ideas. We use messaging apps to send each other thoughts and photos while we are apart, to discuss when we return home. Marita is prolific songwriter and illustrator. I try to ensure that we document this work and build up libraries of illustrations and ideas to use in many facets of The Orbweavers, from cover artwork through to music videos and social media. I am in awe of Marita’s sense of language and the way she can turn everyday objects and events into devastating imagery that brings the history of our surrounds back to life. Marita: Over the years we have refined our working methods to be more efficient. This may sound cold, but it is driven by necessity. Our weekday jobs are distinctly different from our creative life, leaving limited time for writing and production. The bulk of our creative work is done on the weekends or evenings. This restriction can be helpful, because it forces us to make decisions. We write while walking our dog or cycling from work, and try to capture ideas as they appear — on scraps of paper, the back of receipts, or as photos. We record at home, which is cheaper and more time-efficient. We both work on a long desk, side by side in the lounge room, just as we did back in 2000 in Stuart’s share house, except now we have a lovely retired racing greyhound called Fern, who sits on the couch while we work. We wrote a song about her called
‘You Can Run — Fern’s Theme’. She helps keep us calm and active, through daily walks around the neighbourhood, which has become integral to our creative process. Stuart and I don’t always agree, which has lead to impasses over everything from guitar sounds to website font size. When this happens, we have to resolve the decision (ideally) through logical argument. It is important to be able to explain to each other why we do or don’t like something. But sometimes one of us will just have to go on a walk. The Orbweavers is our shared, lifelong, creative entity. It encourages us to research, allows us to process our feelings about the world, and gives us something to look forward to and focus on outside our jobs. It is a very important part of my life and identity, and I feel lucky that it is a collaboration shared with the person who is closest to me.
All images courtesy of The Orbweavers.
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