David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

30 March 2011

grave but not serious

Following on from yesterday's post [ Puppet Culture Framing System ] is this media release for an exhibition that opens on
April Fools Day at Pestorius Sweeney House, Brisbane :


grave but not serious
Pestorius Sweeney House
39 Eblin Drive, Hamilton, Brisbane
Exhibition: 1 April—7 May, 2011
Gallery hours: 1–5pm, Wednesday—Saturday
Opening: Friday 1 April, 6-8pm

Gary Foley and Bob Maza, Basically Black, ABC TV, 1973

Opening on Friday 1 April, David Pestorius will present a thematic exhibition dedicated to the idea of Aboriginal humour and its manifestation in contemporary art and culture.

In his famous Boyer Lectures ‘After the Dreaming’ (1968) W.E.H. Stanner recalled an exchange with an elderly Aboriginal man whose tribe was facing extinction. Reflecting upon his predicament, the old man said “When all the black fellows are dead all the white fellows will get lost in the bush, and there’ll be no one to find them and bring them home.” The observation was related dispassionately — there were no “tears, reproaches or dramatics” — and the old man went off laughing. According to Stanner, this was exemplary of Aboriginal humour, “a wonderful gift, one they did not get from us, of taking us gravely but not seriously.” Today we see something of this gift in the works of Richard Bell (Brisbane), Destiny Deacon + Michael Riley (Melbourne/Sydney), Tracey Moffatt (Brisbane), and Archie Moore (Brisbane), presented here. At once both frightening and funny, this disarming humour is generally understood as the product of a continuing effort to come to terms with white Australia. The exhibition also features Indigenous playwrights John Harding (Melbourne) and Sam Watson (Brisbane), whose works reflect a similar sensibility, while a new piece from Watson’s ongoing collaboration with Dave Hullfish Bailey (Los Angeles) is presented alongside the ABC television spoofs ‘Basically Black’ (1973) and ‘Babakiueria’ (1986). In the process, a long and proud tradition of Aboriginal activism that embraces the agency of satirical culture is alluded to.

In scheduling the exhibition opening for April Fools Day — a day when practical jokes are tolerated — the present moment is reflexively activated in a ploy first utilised locally by another great humorist, the Melbourne artist Peter Tyndall. In 1980 Tyndall set his exhibition at the Institute of Modern Art in motion in this way, yet the show itself was a savage indictment of the repressive socio-political and cultural situation in Brisbane at the time. In a similar inversion, the artist’s mock newspaper daybills (‘SCREAMING TEENS MOB PAINTINGS’) from this important exhibition, one of which is included here, pit the solitude of the art gallery experience against the intense communal response that popular music can generate. It is a sensibility perhaps not so very different from the one that Stanner was trying to describe.

Finally, on the closing weekend — Saturday 7 May — Sam Watson and art historian Rex Butler will discuss aspects of the exhibition in situ (bookings essential).

For further information, contact David Pestorius on (07) 3262 4870.

david pestorius projects

1980_IMA_Screaming Teens poster_374
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someone looks at something ...