Facebook Photos

There’s been a bit in the papers lately about Facebook photographs. I guess it all started with the Australian Olympic team and those photographs of them being very drunk and disorderly. I’m sure there are some photographs of me in a similar situation just waiting to be uncovered (and no, that’s not an invitation to drag out of the shoe box, scan them, and share them with the rest of the world).

I share these concerns about workplace embarassment, which I guess labels me oh so “Gen X” in oh so many ways. While “Gen Y” have had little to worry about in terms of of unemployment, old blokes like myself remember when youth unemployment was 40 or 50%, and so we worry about holding on to our jobs, and anything that might cause embarassment, and maybe compromise job security.

But there must be a little “Gen Y” about me, as well. Because today, when my friend Cathy posted some older photographs of me (and her, and our friends) from our university days on Facebook, I immediately showed them to everyone at work. Phrases such as “Oh my God, you were so hot”, and “You were so skinny!”, poured forth from the mouths of my colleagues.

In sharing them here in a more public way, I’ve cropped out everyone else, leaving you with an image of me in 1985 and 1986. For some reason or other, it’s a period of my life for which I didn’t have a lot of photographs previously.

My immediate reaction was to realise how skinny I was and how much hair I had (blonde and flowing – though maybe starting to thin). On a deeper level, you can see in my eyes the absolute joy of life as a twenty year old embarking on life’s big adventure. Thanks Cathy for reminding me of that time.

On a more disconcerting level, I’m beginning to wonder if I ever got out of my pyjamas!

Beautiful Sydney

Road Shot

Road Shot

Even though I’m having a “proper” farewell drinks on Thursday night, I think it’s also nice to catch up with friends in a quieter manner. And so Colin and I met at the Lord Dudley for a drink this afternoon.

However, on entering the pub I wasn’t sure how quiet it would be. The footpath was crowded with people, most of them English, according to their accents. I swear the ghost of Sybil Fawlty was haunting the place given the number of times I heard the phrase, “Ooooh, I know”.

It’s not surprising, I guess, since it’s a very “English” bar, with lots of smaller nooks and crannies in which you can sit, relax and chat. So we sat and chatted about what we’ve been doing, and I tried not to bore him by going on and on about my travel plans.

It was then he prestned me with a terrific farewell gift. He’d found one of those “microfibre towels” that I’ve been reading so much about on traveller websites. Apparently they’re fabulous as they dry quickly. I was more appreciative than he thought I would be, as it was something that was on my shopping list for this week.

Colin also gave me a book (in English) by a Swedish crime writer, Henning Mankell which will provide me with endless hours of enjoyment on the plane I’m sure.

Towel and Book

Towel and Book

His main creation is Kurt Wallander, who…

…is a fictional police inspector living and working in Ystad, Sweden. In the novels, he solves shocking murders with his colleagues. The novels have an underlying question: What went wrong with Swedish society? The series has won many awards, including the German Crime Prize, the 2001 CWA Gold Dagger for Sidetracked, and the Gumshoe Award for Best European Crime Novel for The Return of the Dancing Master. The most recent book, The Pyramid (short stories) (not yet translated into English), is a collection of short stories about Wallander’s past.

I’ve never read any of his work, though I’ve noticed the Wallander series regularly screening as movies on SBS and World Movies.

Only a few days to go until I leave, and only 1.5 days of work left. One of my colleagues joked the other day he might establish a sweep with people guessing what time I would be leaving work on Tuesday. “I can tell you now….”, I said to him, “It’s twelve o’clock, because I’m going out to lunch and I’m not coming back”. Strong words indeed.

As I walked home tonight through the backstreets of Paddington and Wollahra, the sunset caught my eye.

As much as I’m looking forward to my forthcoming trip, scenes like this in the middle of winter remind you that Sydney’s a great place to live.

Joachim Froese

Hawkesbury One Exhibition

My arty-farty weekend continued today with a meeting of Hawkesbury One, the art collection group of which I’m a member. I think I’ve only ever mentioned it here once or twice before, but in essence, we’re a group of friends with an interest in art who, several years ago, decided to band together to buy collectively.

One of the members of the group, Steven wrote an article for the Griffith Review a few years ago…

It started with a life and death conversation. The doctor, faced with what was surely a terminal illness that offered at best a scant few extra years of life, had another of the many intense discussions he’d enjoyed with his niece. He’d had a rich, full and complex life: professional success, built a remarkable relationship with his equally successful wife, raised four girls in a beautiful home in Sydney and seen them through the ups and downs of modern lives and relationships, gathered around him many friends with diverse interests. He’d also amassed a significant private collection of Australian art over decades. A life well lived. But he and his niece and others in his family wanted more – to make new connections with people and ideas in a world increasingly focused on the individual rather than the community.

That conversation gave birth to Hawkesbury One – a small group of the man’s family and friends who agreed on a ten-year plan to put together, over the first decade of the new century, a collection of Australia’s emerging artists. Each member would contribute a set amount of money each year, the artists and works would be chosen by mutual agreement, the art would circulate around the members’ homes and at the end of the ten years, the art would provide a snapshot of what was happening in this country politically, socially and culturally over that period. It sounds simple.

It wasn’t.

As individuals we were also interested in learning more about art, and in pooling our resources to purchase works which we, individually, couldn’t afford. We have a 10 year joint-venture agreement which involves regular payments and meetings. We’ve been together for about seven years now and today, for the first time ever, we assembled as many of the works in one place as we could.

Because the works are shared around, I’d never seen some of them before. But for a joyous afternoon, one of our houses was turned into an art gallery featuring everything from paintings, to sculpture, to photographs and video works.

We had all of the works on display except for the Cullen, the Nain, the Snowball, the Piccinini and the Bell.

It was also really terrific that a number of friends also came along, as well as Mr Wang, who my friend Kate was hosting as part of her From Mao To Now exhibition.

And in case you’re wondering why we’re called “Hawkesbury One”, it’s because the group includes members from both Newcastle and Sydney, and it’s the Hawkesbury River that provides the link.

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

From Mao to Now

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

We travelled by train, bus, car and ferry, and it took a while, but we got there. and we made it home. Our destination was the Armory Gallery at Newington, near Sydney Olympic Park. We caught the train to Strathfield and the bus to Silverwater Gaol. And from there it was just a 10 minute walk along the road. We both thought, at one point, it was like being in a country town, as there was almost no development, and the road was a little patchy.

While they were preparing for tonight’s rugby union match between Australia and France at nearby ANZ Stadium, Damo and I were instead headed to the opening of From Mao To Now, an exhibition curated by my friend Kate. It’s the largest group exhibition ever held in Australia of a China-related works, apparently, and the Arts and Olympic Park Minister, Frank Sartor was there for the opening.

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

The exhibition begins with a series of forty or fifty “propaganda posters” from a “propaganda museum” in Shanghai. With their bright colours, and imagery that includes everything from ordinary workers to a “time line” that includes Marx, Lenin and Stalin, they’re visually quite stunning to behold. And then when you look more closely at the posters and examine the many common themes – extolling the impotance of “physical strength”, “hard work” and “nation building” – you begin to understand how important they must have been in the modernisation process. One in particular caught my eye: a poster of an athlete, with the flags of a number of countries including the UK, the US, and France in the background, and underneath the phrase “you need to be internationally competitive”

And from there, the exhibition merges fairly seemlessly into works by Australian artists with an interest in China, and Australian-Chinese artists reflecting on modern China. As you might imagine, some of the works are highly political, such as the portrait of a dancer with his feet facing an image of Mao (culturally it’s highly offensive), along with images of tanks. Another favourite piece was a series of emails by an artist who bought tickets in the name “Dali Lama” at the Beijing Olympics.

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

From Mao to Now at Sydney Olympic Park

But it’s not all political. There’s some wonderful porcelain pieces, a series of three works based around Chinese dragons which I loved, and there’s even a portrait of Cathy Freeman by an Australian-Chinese artist. Also memorable is a video work by an Australian Chinese artist who reflects on women and politics in Australia, with particular reference to Pauline Hanson. There are lots memorable works in the exhibition, and you really need to set aside an hour or two to absorb everything that’s contained in it.