29 November 2009

funeral march

One of the most unfair* parts of being a PK (priest's kid) is having to tag along to funerals. You get a cold and school is out of the question, all your relatives are going to a funeral. Guess what. So are you. By the age of 12 you are able to judge a corpse on its presentation like some beauty pageant of death and you've sorted your casket and clothing choices for this big day. Cheap pine box, linen wrap, Jordan river whites baptismal cross, no make up. Although, I wore my auntie's paisley nightie when I went for a dip in the Jordon so a subsequent visit is inevitable. I do not call the bodies of the dearly departed corpses out of disrespect. You realise from an early age that the body is just a shell for the soul. Looking at your grandfather laying in state (grade 2?) reiterates the meaningless and fleeting nature of our existence. The body without life is no longer a person. Of course though, in our tradition the body is seen as sacred as it is intended for resurrection at the end of the world - so no cremation. I do not mean to sound immune to the effect of seeing so many deaths. There have of course been times when funerals broke my heart. I've seen old women try to throw themselves into the grave pit when their child had died before them. My favourite teacher died of a brain tumour when I was young and she called and called for me in hospital and so I saw her in the pallative wing with her head shaved and dying. I loved her so much. I loved helping her to remove the lids off whiteboard markers because she had only one functioning arm. I loved her stories of fainting in front of monks that she had crushes on. I loved how she teased me about going through puberty when I'd be moody in class (I was ten, puberty came much later). I loved that on the last day of Russian school she'd buy icecreams for the class and let us play hide and seek in Fitzroy Gardens. Memory Eternal Nadezhda Grigorevna.

I have many fond and strange memories of time spent at cemeteries. A few summers ago, waking up from New Years day everybody had a hankering to go fishing. Someone recalled the overbloated carp at Fawkner cemetery. So off we went with our rods and reels to cast our lines into a narrow, grave backwash creek among the drapey weeping willows. The carp were so enormous they snapped our lines, we did however catch one yabbie. Later we spent the afternoon exploring gaudy mausoleums and lamenting sad, abandoned graves.

When my brother was yet a wee fellow, my parents packed him up in the car for a long trip to send off an old friend or perhaps, the Russian relative of an Anglo. At the sea-side cemetery, Alexey absconded from the incense-laden burial ceremony drawn away by the maze of plastic flowers and grey headstones. My parents were to find him blissfully dancing atop a marble grave in his little boy mary-janes. I like to think of him as a gypsy in that moment, pouring his juice from a baby bottle onto the stone in remembrance.

And so today I think of death. Perhaps because Lent just started.

* I think really, the most unfair part was being overloaded with superstition (thanks to all the babas out there) and End of the World talk as we were growing up. Repeating this in the school yard was a bad idea. I once had to see the school nurse on behalf of my brother as she thought he was suffering religious delusions. NO YOU IDIOT. HE HAD A BAD DREAM LIKE MOST 5 YEAR OLDS HAVE.

25 November 2009


cigarette stop on the way to the backdrop,
a car, rolled on its side, danced in three-four-time
buzzed out, you're splayed and ready for riot
a coked-up divorcee eating key lime pie
she's never cheated, except on diets
someone's painted a landscape on your wall that lies
this burn, this burned out floor's a stage for you all
but she copped all the stonings because of her age
his kiss is gnashing teeth against innocence as she sleeps
it's like splinters for shoeless ballerinas,
and she pulls down her dress and leaves
riding a chair down night time china town 
and they all dream while
governments divide opiates between the poor and hungry
and they go
crumbling a piece of berlin in their pockets

23 November 2009

First Love

Phillip Island is close to Melbourne's soul. The size of Malta (apparently), it's mostly known for penguins, Australian fur seals, Japanese tourists and of course, surfing. While one part of the island has gentle lapping waves (perfect for bobbing around in a little inflatable boat), the other has the kind of windswept cliffs and barrelling cold surf that hardens our grommets.
Claire Gorman is a cinematographer and director from Phillip Island who heard whispers about three young surfers with loads of promise.  Gorman's film, First Love follows India Payne, Nikki van Dijk and Jess Laing, as they tour the Victorian surf comps before heading to tropical Hawaii to test their mettle.

I spoke to Clare Plueckhahn, still photographer and producer for First Love as the Hawaii part of the filming began.

16 November 2009

One Second Fireworks


Fireworks are like watching cash go up in flames; they are expensive, dangerous, yet popular entertainment. Every New Years Eve, cities across the globe vie for pyrotechnic supremacy; essentially, it's a burning offering to their citizens, paid by taxpayer dollars. Giraud and Siboni, the young contemporary artists behind the spectacle probably got a massive kick out of staging this right on the doorstep of the Louvre. Whether you take it as a comment on shortening attention spans, our fleeting lives or premature ejaculation, they're ok with that.

The question perhaps is, what would it look like if you got a gazillion tonnes of fireworks and set them off simultaneously? Have you ever wanted to do something irrational? Like throw a cup of hot tea at someone just to see their reaction? Or bite a stranger standing too close to you on the train? They are crazy motherfuckers Frenchmen and they make some big art.

photo: Clare Plueckhahn

15 November 2009

Portrait of the artist as a young man... Jackson Rowe

Rowe, 23, is a VCA graduate, an award winning painter and grandson of the late Roger Kemp (a transcendental painter whose work is part of the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Australia). He is also the lead singer of blues/rock band, The Rackets. For the last couple of years he’s been working on a project which he has dubbed his ‘sci-fi’; a multimedia downloadable application that creates a fictional world of Melbourne as you are physically walking a city block.

13 November 2009


those girls will go and break your skull
they will drag you under water
those girls have hands for just one thing
they will laugh as they pull wet hair in clumps
and stuff it in each other's mouths
those girls in willow trees too long start choking
and clawing at their breasts for air

your skull will lay broken and you will
watch with one good eye
those girls

image credit: Ivan Bilibin

How To...

...make a really good zine

Makyla Curtis and Ya-Wen Ho on Potroast

10 November 2009


we bought a fan
it swept the unkempt ceiling
sending dust angels down on
our naked bodies
we woke in a net
of our half blinking dreams
some hot november morning

* * * *

my love, I don't want to collect fleeces
from gnarled trees on rocky islands
but I swam here myself. It's mine.

08 November 2009

Swi Gunting - Wanda Gillespie

WANDA GILLESPIE is a New Zealand born, Melbourne-based artist who has quietly emerged as one of our city's finest. Her work is on display at Seventh gallery until 21st November.

In their latest discovery, the Museum of Lost Worlds present, Swi Gunting, new artefacts used in ritual, from the lost island of Tana Swiwi.

summertime somewhere else

Suzdal', Moscow State
airing out

04 November 2009


On our second evening on Solovki a man knocked on our door. Sister Nektaria answered. He wished to speak to the “girl.” I was somewhat reluctant to go meet a stranger, but I ambled out into the cluttered corridor outside our apartment.
“Are you a nun too?” He looked like the type of guy that back home would outside a pharmacy on Carlisle Street before 9 am, eagerly sniffing at the closed doors to get his methadone supply.

03 November 2009

Survival Down Under

With summer fast approaching and a plethora of tourists about to descend upon us, I thought I would write some hints about preserving yourself in Australia. A list of Personal Safety items for your trip can be found here.