Monday, January 31, 2005

Other Festival events…

Went to an open air cinema on Sydney Harbour last week, right down on the water. Lovely idea and great location, even if I was a bit distracted from the film by the flashing lights on the Bridge - glad that it wasn’t a film I was particularly keen on seeing ;-) It was The Notebook, a geriatric chick flick, good acting, woeful script.

Saw three exhibitions in the Museum of Sydney: Jorn Utzon’s original drawings and models for the Opera House and 2 shows celebrating living in Sydney, mainly photographic but some short films too. Nicely done and some lovely shots. The MOS is a good museum on its own, some interesting display ideas that I noted for when the Joyce Centre has a budget – ha!. Great bookshop too – had to keep reminding myself about luggage allowances ;-)

The Lee Bul exhibition at the MCA was really hyped up but I couldn’t get it at all – sort of a sci-fi feel to it, sculptures exploring the human body as a cyborg - it left me cold.

Going to see the Bill Henson show in the AGNSW today – last few days in Sydney and I’m trying to fit everything in!

Sunday, January 30, 2005


CONGRATULATIONS to Fiona & Bill and welcome to the world baby Catriona Louise!

And while we’re on greetings – get well soon John!

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Leonard Cohen

On Friday night I went to the Sydney Opera House to see the concert I’ve been wittering on about for so long, Hal Wilner’s ‘Came So Far Beauty’ – the Leonard Cohen tribute with Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, the McGarrigle/Wainwright family. Bit of a foregone conclusion, but it was bloody brilliant!

There was a big backing band which included a musical saw – forget the weird busker in Grafton Street, it was a great addition to the violins and bass, fantastic sound. The range of singers meant that you never knew what was coming next and what style they’d be in – Martha Wainwright singing Tower of Song as a country and western ballad and Nick Cave belting out Everybody Knows as a blow the roof off ‘big band’ number!

Two of Leonard Cohen’s backing singers from the 80s & 90s were part of the line-up and did backing and harmonies for different artists and sang solo aswell - Perla Batalla singing Bird on a Wire was a show stopper, she has an incredible voice and filled the concert hall on her own.

Highlights (for me) were Nick Cave singing Suzanne with Perla Batalla and Julie Christensen and the McGarrigle Sisters and Rufus & Martha Wainwright singing Who By Fire. Oh, and Linda and Teddy Thompson doing Alexandra Leaving and Rufus Wainwright’s Chelsea Hotel and… I’d better stop now – the strained response of my friends is giving me a bit of a hint ;-))

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Australia Day

So yesterday, to mark the invasion of Australia in 1788, I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge! It’s worth a few more exclamation marks!!!

Did it at 7am to avoid the heat and even then it was still very warm – you have to wear these really attractive jumpsuits (with logo, of course) made from a lovely clingy synthetic material and then a safety harness & radio & other things clipped on to it. You’re not allowed to bring your own camera or even wear any jewellery – there’s a metal detector test before you go up. It takes about 3 hours altogether and costs about 200 dollars.

First you go out onto a catwalk under the motorway (about 50 metres above the ground) and cross to the pylon tower, then up a series of ladders to the start of the metal arch. When I started up the first ladder the guide said in a jokey kind of way ‘your head will pop up between lane 7 & 8 of the motorway’ – he wasn’t kidding!

We then went up on to the arch and climbed up the side looking out over the Opera House. It’s not as steep as it looks and there are steps and a handrail there for the maintenance workers so it’s a pretty easy climb - we were taking fairly handy anyway because everyone’s so wrapped up in the view. Because it was Australia Day there was lots of activity in the harbour – there was a race on with 1000 surfers paddling on their boards across the harbour – they looked like insects in the water! The tall ships were out too and lots of smaller yachts. There’s also a giant disco ball hanging off the top of the arch this month too, thanks to the Sydney Festival – very glam ;-)

At the top of the arch we crossed a wire mesh catwalk to the opposite side – bit nerve-wracking that bit! Looking down through the mesh past the motorway and railtracks to the water beneath… And the guide said we were 134 metres or 1 ½ football fields or about 5 seconds above the water ;-)

The ladders going down on the other side were also a bit scary – passing between the railway lines with the roar and rattle of trains going by.

Still, I reckon it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Unforgettable experience. Like seeing the Grand Canyon in the snow or watching sunrise at Uluru. Was it worth the price? Absolutely. Was it worth the airfare to Sydney? Probably!

How I spent Australia Day 2005! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ray Burke

got 6 months! You'd think he'd forgotten to pay his tv licence!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Monday 24th

Saturday was Leon’s birthday (Happy Birthday Leon!)

Flew back very early (and hungover) from Melbourne and went straight to the annual Larkin family picnic (Penny’s extended clan) at Bronte beach. Lovely (but very long) day. Great fun swimming – very strong undertow meant you spent most of your time in the water trying to stay upright, almost running against the current, with one eye making sure you’re still between the flags (lifeguards) and the other watching the surf – good cure for a hangover though!

Went to the Powerhouse Museum on Sunday – another Sydney festival event, called Eavesdrop, is on there. Kind of an interactive film, inside a circular surround screen where the viewer controls the narrative and chooses what ‘story’ to follow. Enjoyed it. Not sure what it reminded me of – possibly a Robert Altman film where you control the camera.

Wish I could say it was the main reason I went there but there’s a big ‘Lord of the Rings’ exhibition on there too ;-) All the information and video clips were pretty much the extras from the extended DVDs but it was good to see the costumes and props alongside them. Aragorn’s clothes were a bit of a highlight ;-)

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Inside the NGV, Melbourne

Lovely few days in Melbourne, staying with the gorgeous Tash! She showed us around St Kilda and forced us to stay up late drinking – that’s what we told Penny anyway ;-)

A very aussie experience - a full on mix of culture and sport (although Leon queried the difference!). Spent a lot of time in and around Federation Square - great architecture, worth the trip on it's own, sections reminded me of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin. Branch of the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) there along with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. The main square has restaurants and seating areas and a giant screen on the side of one of the buildings - which was showing live tennis late into the night...

So alongside the exhibitions I went along to the Aussie Open to watch some tennis - we had players passes thanks to a friend of a friend of a friend ;-) So got to wander around behind the scenes and have lunch in the players' cafe - lots of fun! Saw a Roger Federer match where he hammered some poor Finnish player who didn't stand a chance, and ditto for the poor chinese girl up against Venus Williams. Can't claim to know who was who and Leon felt that I wasn’t taking it seriously enough and came to the conclusion that my main interest was the men’s legs – this is untrue and totally unfair – I was also interested in the rest of their bodies… ;-) But at least I understand tennis, unlike the dreaded cricket! Didn’t get to see Agassi play which would have been nice, but I got in for free to everything so can’t complain!

Anyway, back to the art! The Ian Potter Centre at the NGV houses the Australian collection – large sign outside claiming it as ‘The Home of Australian Art’ showing that the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry continues – I thought the collection of indigenous art suffered by comparison with Canberra, but the Dr Joseph Brown collection was very strong – like a summary of the rest of the NGV – he’s a benefactor who recently donated his private collection to the state.

The ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) had an incredible exhibition of short films and video art called ‘Proof' exploring ideas of truth & evidence, propaganda & spin. Some pretty harrowing stuff made by survivors of torture and a lot of thought provoking pieces on violence and crime but also a piece on ‘how things go’ that was like a school chemistry lesson combined with slapstick comedy – like the car ad where a series of reactions cause the car to roll off the platform except with chemical reactions and explosions – very funny. ‘Evidence’ was a pretty frightening record of what it means to be a political artist in Bush’s America – you get on first name terms with FBI agents for a start ;-)

Had dinner with the Bloomsday in Melbourne crew while I was there – good to see them again without festival madness happening around us. They’re all fired up about what they’re doing next – wish I was!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Happy Birthday Dad!

Yesterday was my Dad's 80th birthday :-))
I finally managed to get through on the phone this morning - had a few technical hitches - 10.40am here, 11.40pm at home so made it with 20 minutes to spare ;-)

Happy Birthday Dad!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Tuesday 18th

Quiet weekend – some work stuff caught up with me so holiday mode on hold for a few days. Still, went for a lovely walk and swim on Bondi on Sunday morning before breakfast and a wander round the market afterwards. It was the national day of mourning here for the tsunami victims and Bondi was a major focus for the commemorations – all the surfers formed a large circle out beyond the waves to observe the minute’s silence, just sitting on their boards holding hands, quite moving to watch.

Went for yum cha in Chinatown yesterday for Katie’s birthday lunch – yum! And off to Melbourne tomorrow for a few days…

Monday, January 17, 2005

Chinese Garden, Darling Harbour Posted by Hello

Friday, January 14, 2005

Sunny photo with a museum ;-) Posted by Hello


Went down to Canberra for a few days – about a 3 hour drive away. Spent Wednesday at the National Gallery and the Museum of Australia. Skip to the end now if you want to avoid yet another museum review ;-)

The gallery was the most interesting example of a National Gallery that I’ve seen in the past few years. Modern building, bright and well laid out, no imposing Victorian rooms with dark paint and heavy gilt frames. The international section is fairly wide ranging with the usual suspects all represented, but the primary focus is on Australian art, as it should be. The first space is given over to contemporary Aboriginal art practice – having studied some of it last year on AA318 it was great to see what’s happening now – I spent the guts of an hour in there alone! That led into the room with Pollock’s Blue Poles – that kind of juxtaposition happened a lot – really interesting hanging throughout – reminded me a bit of the Tate Modern except not so exhausting and ott. The main floor is all Australian art, from colonial through to contemporary works. No real hierarchical priority given to painting either – craft work and furniture on display in the same rooms. It’s a relatively new gallery and has to compete with the state galleries that have been collecting for a long time, so the acquisitions policy seems really successful.

The Museum of Australia is an all-singing all-dancing modern museum, spectacular building, thematic displays rather than chronological, mixture of objects and technology. Great fun. Divided into ‘Land’, covering everything from dinosaurs to the rabbit-proof fence to a modified 1999 Toyota 4WD used for catching feral buffalo (I thought the bionic arm would be a useful addition to the south Dublin school run ;-)); ‘People’, dealing with the First Australians through the European invasion to recent struggles for land rights and citizenship; and ‘Nation’ covering modern history and the many contested accounts of what it means to be an Australian. Quite poignant displays of personal artefacts from families of ANZAC soldiers killed in the WW1 right through to the personal account and smoke-damaged clothes of a survivor of the Bali bombing. We noted the space left at the end that will probably soon hold a record of the tsunami disaster…

Oh, and both museums were free admission. Even better!

Canberra’s a lovely city – my memory of it from last time is of getting lost on the endless roundabouts and circular routes and fighting in the car about my poor navigation skills (although it was the only time that I got us lost in our entire road trip!). This time I got a much better sense of the place – it feels like a city has been hidden in a national park, there’s trees everywhere, wide streets with no high rise developments. Still, lovely and all as it is, there’s very little character to the place and it all looks the same – what sort of capital city needs a (very) large sign (on the equivalent of O’Connell St) to tell you that you’ve reached the city centre? Normally it would be stating the bleedin obvious but in Canberra the centre would be easy to miss!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Lazy Kings

The Lazy Kings Posted by Hello

Incredible piece of theatre – a weird blend of circus and opera in a parade! The Olympic Park is such a great space, and everything was so well organised. I kept imagining how it could work in Dublin… Phoenix Park maybe, if it had it’s own train station (ha!) Anyway it was great fun but glad I didn’t volunteer in the end.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Monday 10th

I’m really enjoying spending time with Penny & Leon – they’ve been so good to me. Pen & I go to the beach for a swim in the morning if the sun’s out & we still seem to fit in a good bit of shopping, Leon likes visiting museums and showing me his favourite spots in Sydney (& pubs!) so it all works out fine ;-)

Yesterday we went to the Brett Whitely Studio. I didn’t know that much about him but he’s a huge art icon here. Friend of Francis Bacon and you can see some parallels in the work / interests. Pretty tragic life and death too. I took a strong dislike to his paintings of women but liked his other work, particularly the landscapes. The studio is well done, gives a very strong feeling that the artist has just stepped out of the room… although we reckoned that when he was alive it would have to have been messier – artists and junkies just aren’t that neat! It’s a branch of the NSW Art Gallery and they change the paintings and drawings on display every few months, rotating with the main gallery collection. They also administer the Brett Whitely Travelling Scholarship set up by the artist’s mother – Ben won it 2 years ago.

Today Leon is showing me round his uni and tonight we’re going to the opening event of the Sydney Festival – Transe Express’ The Lazy Kings.

Oh and we sat out on the deck last night getting drunk and I added to my collection of mozzie bites – my arms look like they have the measles :-(

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Saturday 8th

Little Johnny Howard getting pats on the back for the $1 billion in aid – I know it’s good but can’t believe it’s not connected to Bush and his cronies and the campaign to discredit the UN. And Bush’s personal donation is a joke… it has to be :-(

It does feel odd to be on holiday and enjoying myself when the news is so depressing and awful…

Friday, January 07, 2005

More exhibitions...

wrote a long post yesterday but got cut off at the end and couldn’t be arsed typing it again ;-)

Last Wednesday Leon & I went to see Ricky Swallow’s exhibit ‘Killing Time’ at the NSW Art Gallery. Swallow is a bit of an art superstar over here at the moment - representing Australia at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Interesting piece, like a 17thc Dutch still life in 3D, incredible detail and textures – link

Then we went to visit Ben’s studio – he’s just finishing a 9-month residency at The Gunnery, a studio & gallery space run by the NSW Ministry for Arts – a bit like Temple Bar studios except 3 times the size and better funded… and it has an artists’ law centre for advice on contracts & copyright – we could do with one of those in Dublin!

Anyway it was fascinating to see Ben’s new work for his exhibition in March, and the portrait he’s entering for the Archibald prize (at least I think that’s what it’s called ;-)) Having only seen the prints and reproductions of the Torana series (link) before this I hadn’t expected them to be so big – they make a powerful impression when you’re in front of the real thing.

We walked down Finger Wharf to see Russell Crowe’s apartment (or the balcony of it anyway ;-)) and I got sunburned - serves me right for gawking!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tues 4th Jan

Well, the Bridget Riley exhibition was great. Some of the later stuff gets a bit samey but seeing the preparatory drawings was fascinating. Good crowd in at it too - everyone moving up to and away from the paintings, looking at them from odd angles - it was almost like an interactive display ;-)

Also saw Destiny Deacon's 'Walk and don't look blak', very strong political art, not just about aborigine issues.

The museum is excellent, right down on Circular Quay, with the ferries heading out in front of it, really interesting layout and display, great exhibitions, all free. It depends largely on corporate sponsors, mainly Telstra (telecommunications) but it's not overtly branded either.

Dinner last night with some of Penny's family, and Ben & Kylie, friends of Leon's that I met up with in Dublin last year. Lots of fun. Bit hungover this morning... ;-))


Monday, January 03, 2005

Monday 3rd Jan

Ok going to get my act together today and go to my first museum – been here a week already, bloody disgraceful carry-on! Bridget Riley exhibition on the MCA I think…

Saw I heart Huckabees yesterday, haven’t laughed so much at a film in ages.

Everyone’s back to work tomorrow so I might just send a few emails and say hello ;-))


Sunday, January 02, 2005

NYE fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 01, 2005

1st January 2005

Happy New Year folks! thanks for all the text messages – drunk and sober ;-)

Had a lovely NYE, dinner sitting on the deck at the front of the house watching both sets of fireworks (9 & 12). Will try and put up a photo. Great food – duck & mango salad, prawns in a lime & chilli sauce and poached trout – yum!

Went for a swim at Clovelly beach this morning and got to feel like a local by taking the dog for a walk down Glebe Point Road to check out the sale at Gleebooks. Or rather the dog taking me for a walk by pulling me along at full speed ;-)