Gerda Steiner & Jorg Lenzlinger, Bush Power, 2014

Cockatoo Island – Sydney Biennale

Despite the rather dodgy weather, we spent most of yesterday afternoon wandering around Cockatoo Island, as part of this year’s Biennale of Sydney. For the three of us, the most memorable works were in stark contrast to each other: the playful work based around gym equipment, “Bush Power” and the dramatic, beautiful film, “Inferno 2013″.

“Bush Power” is a really fun work of art. The artists have combined gym equipment with lots of crazy things including a plastic human skeleton, hoses, and even child’s swimming pool. As you use the equipment, there’s a range of flow-on effects: sometimes what you do produces music, other times, it can lead to the production of bubbles. There were a lot of smiles amongst those who viewed and participated in the work.

In stark contrast was the film, “Inferno”. With lots of strong Jewish religion imagery, the film contrasts religious belief and practice a few thousand years ago with today. We sat there, quietly mesmerised by the film’s pure emotion and beauty.

Other interesting and memorable works included: the giant waterfall by Eva Coch, the “smoking houses” by Randi and Katrine, the videoscape by Nathan Gray (in the abandoned bomb shelter) and the soundscape by Sonia Leber and David Chesworth. And of course, the “ghost train” by Callum Morton. The things we all really liked about the day were the broad variety of works and the beautiful way in which they were presented (some seriously good projectors and screens). And of course, the amazing environment you find at Cockatoo Island. I’d highly recommend a visit.

Empty Vessell at The Giant Dwarf

The Chaser’s Giant Dwarf

“In the last twelve months two of the institutions I’ve given so much of my life and passion to have disappointed me deeply”, was the most memorable line from Kristina Keneally last night. The former NSW Premier was one of three guests for the “live chat show”, “The Empty Vessell” put by on by The Chaser at their new theatre venue, The Giant Dwarf on Cleveland Street.

Although there were a few moments when she went into “former politician mode”, I thought she was, for the most part, candidly honest. For example, when asked to comment on the current corruption hearing in NSW, she said she never had time for Eddie Obeid, but that she thought she KNEW Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly, and seemed disappointed in what’s currently occurring.

“For every Eddie Obeid, you have to remember there was a Carmel Tebbutt, a Verity Firth, a John Watkins”, she went on to say, arguing there were still lots of good people in the Labor Party.

“You forgive the Catholic Church for some things, but not the child abuse”, she went on to say about the other institution she said had disappointed in the last twelve months.

Maybe it was the glass or two of red wine she enjoyed as she sat on the stage that resulted in the candidness? Or maybe she’s reached the point where she doesn’t feel the need to justify everything the former NSW Labor Government did and didn’t do? She was unequivocal about NEVER returning to a political life.

The other two guests were Norrie May-Welby and John Watson.

Norrie was the person who recently won a case in the High Court to be formally recognised as “non-specific gender”. Whenever I’ve seen Norrie speak in the past there’s always been a bit of showbiz about the presentation style, as it’s usually been at a rally or something like that. Speaking/shouting in public isn’t usually conducive to honest reflection, which is what I saw last night. I always thought Norrie was slightly crazy, but have now developed a new found respect.

John Watson was the founder of boutique record label Eleven Music, whose artists include Gotya, Cold Chisel, Missy Higgins, silverchair, Daniel Johns, Birds of Tokyo. Of the three guests, he was the least interesting for me. Although I was really interested in the subject matter, I felt he was a little “rehearsed”. There seemed to be a lot of answers or anecdotes he had given previously which disappointed me a little.

Half was through the night there was also a really fantastic comic performance by an actor, writer and director I’d never heard of before called Nick Coyle @nickcoyles. Magic stuff.

Over the course of about two hours, it was really good to sit in a large theatre along with a couple of hundred people to enjoy some really good conversations, with intelligence and humour combining throughout. I’ll definitely be heading back some time in the future.

Abandoned Railway Tunnel

Abandoned Railway Tunnel

For almost twenty years I’ve walked to and from work at the ABC and have passed the abandoned railway tunnel that once was the Ultimo Goods Line.

From time to time I’d peak inside. But until today, I’d never been truly inside tunnel. There’s an art installation currently onsite which I thought would be interesting, though was not all that exciting, to be honest.

It was interesting to walk through the abandoned tunnel, though.

Sydneysiders will get a rare chance to enter a little-known tunnel in the centre of the city over the next 10 days. Inventive New York-based Australian artist Ian Burns has been quietly working some magic in the disused tunnel, which could eventually be part of The Goods Line public space project in Ultimo. Known for his curious and playful kinetic sculptures, Burns has spent the past 11 weeks as UTS Gallery’s artist-in-residence creating a charismatic new body of work Extended Stage developed especially for the tunnel and its mid-1800s sandstone bridge.