Okay, team, I’m in… I arrived in Katoomba this afternoon and am now properly ensconced in my home for the next week: Varuna, the Writers’ House. It’s extremely charming. The grounds are gorgeous (and what a day is the first day of spring! May the great thaw begin!), and my room is quaint, spacious, and functional. The only thing I am lacking is an en suite bathroom, but as I wasn’t expecting one it’s no great loss. This is a house, after all, not a hotel. My office space is directly off my bedroom and overlooks the main entrance to the house. It’s simply but comfortably furnished and I’m surrounded by books – lovely. Not that there will be much time for reading… we have welcome drinks in half an hour and then it’s going to be a case of the proverbial heads and tails for the rest of the week. I’m bracing myself for an avalanche of constructive critique – and truth be told I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get it (although I don’t think there’s much chance of that). Anyway, I shall try and blog at least a couple of times this week.
In the meantime, Tim sent me the transcript of Obama’s acceptance speech and I choked up not once but TWICE whilst reading it aloud to Llew (good lord… someone’s certainly got an en suite, and the cistern must be right at my back…). As I said to Timmy Tim, that part about granny was always going to be dicey territory for a confirmed waterworks like me. I just can’t imagine his not winning, and I don’t really care to imagine it, either. It would be such a failure, or at least betrayal of America’s defining feature: optimism. Americans are, I think, intrinsically optimistic. And I don’t think John McCain, for all his jaw-dropping prisoner-of-war heroism (and it is impressive), captures that forward-focused optimistic sweep of the American spirit. Barack Obama does, though. Is everyone looking forward to watching this election unfold? I am.
Before I sign off and go and meet the other writers and Peter Bishop, I just wanted to say you’ve only got this week to hop on the free Biennale of Sydney ferry to Cockatoo Island, and you’ve only got I think two weeks to check out the Picasso Collection at Brisbane’s fantastic Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Of the first, I will tell you this: it’s a worthwhile trip for the fascinating history lesson that is Cockatoo Island, and there are plenty of unintentional installations of historical detritus that give the actual artworks a serious run for their money. Be warned the exhibits are dominated by the use of the video medium, and be prepared to stand around pondering the perplexities and banalities for anything from 8 to 100 minutes. There’s a lot of tripe. Too much. Having said that, Mike Parr’s ‘Katrina’ latrines are undeniably powerful if revolting. And I loved the work of South African artist William Kentridge, whose ‘What Will Come(Has Already Come) 2007’ is definitely worth the eight minutes it takes to watch the whole thing unfold. It’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s political, it’s cool, and it’s actual a-r-t, which is not something I would happily say of some of it. Kentridge is, among other things, a gifted drawer.
Next, GOMA. What a brilliant space. Like Cockatoo Island, the venue justifies and rewards the effort. And then Picasso’s personal collection… fascinating. The relationships he had with other artists; their habit of casually swapping their work with each other; their professional, personal, and entwined histories, aesthetics and formal practices… the whole thing is fascinating, not to mention illuminating. Understanding the genesis of some of Picasso’s own work through the filter of the work he loved… well, it’s a pretty rewarding way to spend an afternoon (or two in our case). If you can, I suggest you do.
And now I must away… it’s time to meet everyone… wish me luck! (and the very nice thing is I know you always do.)