Sunday, July 27, 2008

Politics and Religion ... the importance of being earnest

In less than two weeks the Northern Territory voters go to the polls, to elect their politicians for the next four years.

I am reminded of a story I heard a while ago ...

While walking down the street, a Politician is hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven, and he is met by St Peter at the pearly gates.

"Welcome to heaven," says St Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see such a high official around these parts, you see, and so we're not sure what to do with you."
"No problem," says the Politician, "just let me in,".

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from 'on high.' What we do is have you spend a day in hell, and a day in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity," says St Peter.

"Okay, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the Politician.

"I'm sorry but we have our rules," says St Peter.

And, with that, St Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a club, and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who'd worked with him. Everyone is happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they'd had, while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a great game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne. Also present is the devil, who's really a very friendly guy, and joins in the good time, dancing and telling jokes. They're all having such a good time and before he realizes, it is time for him to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator closes.

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven, where St Peter is waiting for him. "Now it's time for you to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass, with the politician joining a group of contented souls, moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp, and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by, St Peter returns, and says, "Well, you've spent a day in hell and a day in heaven. Now choose for eternity."

The Politician reflects for a minute, then answers: "Well, I never would have said it before, I mean, don't get me wrong, heaven has been delightful, but I think I'd be better off in hell."

So, St Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors of the elevator open, and he finds he's in the middle of a barren land, covered with waste and debris. He sees all of his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash, and putting it in bags. The Devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers the Politician. "Yesterday there was a golf course and a club; we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, danced, and had a great time. Now there's nothing but a wasteland full of garbage, and my friends look miserable. What happened??"

The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted....

There are promises, and then there are promises that might be kept. Try to figure out the difference before you put your mark in the boxes on August 9.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Life of a Ptychosperma macarthurii

Youth: strong and green – standing up and perky.
Maturity: lush and red – but starting to droop.
Old age: dried and grey – gravity has definitely won.

Sort of like us really isn’t it?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Is it graffiti or street art?

Street art is any art developed in public spaces— that is, "in the streets" — though the term usually refers to art of an illicit nature, as opposed to government sponsored initiatives. The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, and street poster art, even video projection and street installations. Typically, the term Street Art or the more specific Post-Graffiti is used to distinguish contemporary public-space artwork from territorial graffiti, vandalism and corporate art. Graffiti is sometimes regarded as a form of art and other times regarded as unsightly damage or unwanted vandalism.

The motivations and objectives that drive street artists are as varied as the artists themselves. There is a strong current of activism and subversion in urban art. For some artists, street art can be a powerful platform for reaching the public. Some others simply see urban space as an untapped format for personal artwork, whereas some may appreciate the challenges and risks that are associated with installing illicit artwork in public places. However, the universal theme in most, if not all street art, is that adapting visual artwork into a format which utilizes public space, allows artists who may otherwise feel disenfranchised, to reach a much broader audience than traditional artwork and galleries normally allow.

Graffiti has existed since ancient times, with examples going back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Graffiti can be anything from simple scratch marks to elaborate wall paintings. In modern times, spray paint and markers have become the most commonly used materials.

In most countries, defacing property with graffiti without the property owner's consent is considered vandalism, which is punishable by law. Sometimes graffiti is employed to communicate social and political messages. To some, it is an art form worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions, to others it is merely vandalism. There are many different types and styles of graffiti and it is a rapidly evolving artform whose value is highly contested, being reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection, sometimes even within the same jurisdiction.

On a recent trip around Asia we saw quite a bit of graffiti art and were able to catch a shot of some in a major stormwater drain near the central markets in Kuala Lumpur. Usually you are cruising past, but this time the train stopped, conveniently at a station. Perhaps if it were in an art gallery, art aficionados would stroll past and utter compliments.

In January of this year, two graffiti vandals were killed when they were caught by floods in a stormwater drain in Sydney. Two men and a 21-year-old woman were spray-painting in the drain at Maroubra on a Sunday evening, when a storm hit the area. The drain filled with water and the trio was swept a kilometre to Lurline Bay. The woman and one of the men, aged 25, drowned, but a 27 year old man had a lucky escape when he squeezed through a gap in the drain's grate and was washed out to the middle of the bay.

Some would perhaps suggest that they gave their life practising their art. Perhaps like the turret artists of centuries ago, who often were only truly recognised after their deaths?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

From little things, big things grow – Darwin’s Evolution

A comment from the company advertising Evolution on Gardiner, says that “early purchasers were thoughtful enough to instigate the European custom of adding some coins to the foundations. This custom is akin to the one of erecting a tree on the roof top at the final stage of construction, and brings good luck and stability to a building.”

From coins in the base to a tree on the top in two years. 34 floors of modern skyscraper (for Darwin anyway) rises above the Darwin skyline, to “warn” us of things to come for our sleepy little city.

Friday saw the topping out of the building, with a tree carried to the rooftop for the occasion. As this is the highest building in Darwin, this was not just any, spindly little tree but a huge, fully grown beast which was craned the 100 metres to the top of the building and could be seen from just about anywhere in the city.

According to our news, 80% of the 104 residential apartments have been sold; and 90% of the buyers are “locals” so the times must be a’changin from the single dwelling wide open windows tropical style to the modern fully closed, airconditioned life in the sky, or according to the marketing agents, vertical village. I guess we won’t have to ask the old question of what’s the weather like up there? We will know; it will be cool, real cool.