Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Psychopomps at the Library.

After 7 months planning and tedious hard work my "Virgin Beasts" show at the Newtown Library eventuated, production notes, posters, sketches, stills and animation cells up on the walls. It was fairly simple and minimalist, being art from only two films, "The Thief of Sydney" included, not like Tim Burton's exhibition of 7 thousand works from 70 movies. I was halfway through planning my own meager offering and, after a visit to Burton's Melbourne extravaganza, was inspired to try harder, resurrect a few more colour backgrounds and lay out a series of animation cells to hang from the ceiling, and with a video in the middle rotating a colourful film, it all looked sweet.

I wall-papered Newtown's King street several times with my graphic anarcho-mystic poster, the perennial poster wars had me on the march, my art covered over by cheap offset-yellow "What Is Marxism?" posters, (in 2010 who cares?) We got mentions in two "What's On" mags, yet on the night of the movie showing most of the crowd were my friends, come over from Kings Cross and the Piccolo Cafe to support me. The show is on the choir balcony at the back of an old Salvation Army Hall, renovated and preserved by the City Council, a small space high up and looking down on the library, big windows with lots of white light illuminating it. A cute space just large enough to take my colour animation backgrounds around the windows, the black and white posters and notes blown up and attached to the glass walls that enclose the balcony. Unnerving that I've put up a huge image of Pan playing his flute surrounded by 21st century beasts and looking down on all those quiet book-lovers.

I gave a talk before the screening of the film which can be read in the previous blog, "What I've got to say about my art". For all our publicity efforts only about 35 people showed up, some librarians, and a few feral/punk-looking Newtown types, and I could be dismayed that after 35 years of showbiz in Sydney this is all I could muster, but what the fuck? Sydney is a cruel mistress, there was a lot happening in the city that night, and a hard lesson to learn is that for things like opening nights in the art-world, you have to have your network of friends and contacts to show up for support, kind of like rent-a-crowd, the rest of the city couldn't give a shit, unless you're a superstar. An old art guru once told me, "People will only like your art if they like you," and I couldn't figure out what he meant until life in a bad-arse city like Sydney taught me. Anyway, forget climbing the fame-hierarchy, have fun doing whatever wherever helps keep a phantom artist's sanity.

I always love to show in venues other than art galleries, like libraries, cafes and community halls, where hunger for money is not the ulterior motive, just the sheer joy of showing art, avoiding the Art World where trying to please critics and connoisseurs turns one into an arse-kissing whore, not free to have open slather to do the art one desires. I might have no money and no fame but like a childish brat I paint what I want, why be an artist otherwise?

I was lucky to get those 35 people, most of them with brains who listened patiently and laughed a lot, it's a good show but I wouldn't want to take it on the road, too radical in its paganism, I'd get lynched. But it's cool to make a guerilla hit under the radar and spread a satyrical media-virus, then retire back to my cave in the tenement monoliths, like a Zorro of the 21st century. This intimate crowd is what we'd expected, and lucky for us as the choir balcony can only handle 35 people at any one time, no fears of being mobbed and the balcony collapsing with my Grunge show. I felt relaxed as I knew most of the crowd and gave an anecdotal, story-teller type rave, I enjoyed it immensely and realised public talking can be a buzz.

And it had one good response in that an old guy came up to me at the end and talked about "psychopomps", mythic animals that greet the dying and carry the dead to the afterworld/underworld. I had quoted in my talk the Greek myth of the lute player carried off by a dolphin and he told me of sparrows, eagles and owls, how it's all old-time shamanism, and he has since lent me a book on Alchemy, "Orders of the Great Work", him falling for my role as the alchemist in "Virgin Beasts" which bemuses me, I suppose my whole text is alchemical, trying to find enlightenment in the dross of human existence.

All in all life is nutty and I'm exhilarated at drinking it all in, and pumping art out, even though in the gutter, Newtown Library was cool, surrounded by all my good friends and masters in the great books of literate history, many of which I've read and swooned over, so cool, I'm glad I bothered. I could jump off the planet tomorrow, carried by a flying horse, my psychopomp, and I can only say for myself, that my small effort for the 2010 Newtown Fringe festival was COOL.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.