Create art informed by life.
To complete this task you must engage in a real-life activity that is the result of a random interaction you have on a social media platform then create two original images in some way informed by the experience. To assist your creative process select an artist you have researched as an inspirational muse and describe how their work or artistic practise influenced your choices in the development of your work.
Present your notes and images.
You will need to: Identify a random interaction you have had on social media that directly caused you to engage in a real life activity.
- Describe the interaction
- Describe the resulting activity
- Reflect on the experience providing detailed notes on your reflections
- Produce two images that are informed by this random interaction you have had on social media that directly caused you to engage in a real life activity
- informed by the experience
- inspired by an artist you have researched
- Describe how the artist’s work or work practise influenced your thinking in this process
1 The interaction
I think how and why did I create these images is the penultimate question. I found it very random at the time; days ago I received a direct message from a man I follow on Twitter asking if I had seen the movie ‘Spotlight’. A random question to which I replied, “No, but I have read that it is a good film. I shall go and see it and let you know what I think,” I knew it was screening in some selected cinemas.
This man and I only occasionally send each other direct messages; direct messaging is not something I use Twitter for much. The rules of Twitter restrict direct messaging you can only send a direct message to an account that follows you that you follow back. Since I approach Twitter more as a broadcasting platform I generally reserve any direct communications to my regular private email.
Tugging a little more on this loose thread of randomness the man and I have only met once approximately twenty-three years ago for roughly fifty minutes possibly an hour. We’ve had no communication for most of the interim period until sometime in 2008 the time I joined Twitter; we have been following each other on Twitter since somewhere between 08 and 09 and have infrequently engaged in public Twitter dialogues. We have exchanged a few direct messages but we have only communicated about limited subjects; politics during elections, the republican movement and he, his brothers and sons all attended the same particular Catholic Boys School that had become the focus in allegations of child sexual assault.
On his Twitter feed when the allegations of abuse arose in the news he defended his old school announcing his support for members of staff whom had been called negligent; there was no abuse happening around him that he saw he asserted. As the story developed in the media and additional information emerged it was all a terrible eye opening shock to him along with many other men his age and he said as much very publicly through Twitter.
I had not seen the movie ‘Spotlight’ but I had read some reports calling it ‘… a good film,’ so from what I could understand it addresses the investigation of a news story revealing the extent of diabolical behaviour inside the Catholic Church; the film was released in 2015 the story it tells is set in 2001 but the incidents unravelled in the film’s story date back to the 1960s 70s, 80s etc.
‘Spotlight’ is based on a true story it is written and directed by Tom McCarthy, as I write the film literally is receiving a “Best Picture” Academy Award for 2016 live on the television while on the other channel Cardinal George Pell is broadcast via video link from the Vatican answering questions for the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse.
I think both the random nature of his question via Twitter and my relatively superficial knowledge of the film ‘Spotlight’ when I received his question were triggers for me to envision the images I have created; essentially because as a result of being asked the random question my reaction was to check for the closest screening available to me and go see ‘Spotlight’ the following day at an afternoon matinee.
2 Resulting activity
Physically unaccompanied I took myself to the Adelaide beachside suburb of Semaphore where there was a screening of ‘Spotlight’ at The Semaphore Odeon Star. It was Saturday morning I travelled via an Adelaide Metro H30 Bus to Zone C West Lakes Interchange where I connected with an Adelaide Metro 157 Bus at Zone B West Lakes Interchange which delivered me to the corner of Military and Semaphore Roads, Semaphore. Upon my arrival in Semaphore, Eleanor a performance artist took a walk together admiring the views.
I attended an early afternoon screening of the film ‘Spotlight’ at the Odeon Star, 65 Semaphore Road Semaphore, South Australia. I watched the film in its entirety. I engaged in the film as well as observed the audience responses from time to time around me to the film.
3 Noted reflections
I was born in Whyalla in 1961 to migrant parents then mostly raised in a farming district near a small beachside village. My childhood beach was sand dune curvaceous, reefs, red-ochre cliffs; a Southern beach over an hour away from the Northern city beaches closer to our capital.
Blues greys greens speckling dull dirty white foam washed up on our local shore demon dark brown shark eggs’ peculiar pointiness on the white fine sand; even an old wooden signpost from China washed up to us once; dad erected it in our backyard and our family admired it enormously for its completely enigmatic qualities. It was an amazing wild nook of coast cleaner wildly gentler than those inner city beaches that tended to be long flat strips of sand beside rust coloured eroding walls of settled development; beautiful in another way for sure but nowhere near as lush in colour cavalcades or mercurial moods to my behaved ankle-biter’s eye.
I’ve vivid memories of visiting our big Port resonances of how it was a city much more exciting bustling better than the capital itself for all the animation a Port avails wide streets and warehouses under swirling flags. Semaphore is the suburb beside the Port and since my childhood days always has been nodded toward as the scruffy neighbour to the left of the glorious Port. Semaphore was established in 1849 and very much the entertainment destination of choice in its heyday, by 1980 it was in need of some sort of polish to perk it up. We all were.
The main street consisted of pubs, a club, The Ozone Theatre, Churches, Butcher, Grocery, Fish Café and the Odeon Star brutish bland blockish giants on the landscape although both theatres have attractive Deco features built into their architectural lines. Semaphore Road, the main street sits at a T-junction to the beachfront where a long jetty juts out into the sea.
The Semaphore Train Station was then literally on the wide main street a short walk from the beach which made it a favoured hive of leisurely weekend activity. Obligatory amusement park, faded carousel, historic tower, mini golf in the ozone. When I lived there I always felt the place was steeped with the ambiance of every Mid-West American 50s B-Grade Horror movie I had ever seen or read about in books. Last time I attended the Odeon Star would have been over thirty years ago; for a brief period in 1980 I resided in Semaphore when it was well past its undoubted original prime, despite time it has changed very little. My plutonic girlfriend a strikingly beautiful one-eyed woman my age and I share house rented a flea infested maisonette that backed onto the back of The Ozone Theatre. Late teen bohemians dabbing our brushes at life beyond our awkward 1970s – picking up the keys and moving-in on a classically hot dry South-Australian-summer’s day:
It was so hot I was only wearing thongs, footy shorts blue singlet. Our new Landlord reveals a penchant for pinching my right nipple a few times in quick succession rather than shaking hands; “Greek tradition,” he smiles.
He reminded the two of us of that lecherous character in a ‘Carry On’ film or a popular British television comedy ‘The Benny Hill Show’ only younger, mid-thirties. Cheeky grin dimples sly smiley dark eyes darting around reading you over all below a friendly black curly hair fringe; he wasn’t unattractive at all but after those nipple tweaks I self-noted ‘always slip on a shirt if I see him coming through the front gate,’ he terrified me. How to respond to such dark eyed twinkling winks with nipple tweaks? Blank.
Yet my one-eyed friend and I laughed hearty incredulity at his incredibly confidant nature in manhandling me, “In front of his wife and kids,” she pointed out as we laughed with my stupid stunned-mullet-flesh internally crawling. She thought he was flirting with me; I had no idea, short circuited my brain. When he touched me I froze up all astonished road kill kangaroo in the headlights. No classical education Greek tradition didn’t mean anything to me. Once we discovered that his maisonette was infested with fleas we made every effort to move out as quickly as we could including shampooing the white shagpile carpet with scalding hot insecticide and still having hoards of fleas sticking to our legs like thigh high winter socks part of the disgusting process.
The single benefit of this property we ultimately very briefly rented; we could sneak into the rear Fire Door Exit of The Ozone Theatre directly behind by slipping through a gap in our back fence. The Ozone was dingy dusty smoky very run down at the time I recall however it was redeemed for all of that, The Ozone Theatre screened amazing deliberately alternative films that you couldn’t see anywhere else around except in books about films.
I saw most of Andy Warhol’s films for the first time in my nineteen year old life at The Ozone Theatre over a marathon weekend including some of his most obscure ones. Eleanor Antin once pointed out to me that Warhol influenced my perspective at that time in so much as I became open to watching something more closely than I had consciously done; at least since watching a documentary about Albert Schweitzer a few years prior to that which is a different story.
My bus ride into Semaphore, revisiting place, memories, trails of thought teased open started me to think of the conversation I’d had with an American performing artist, filmmaker and photographer born in 1935 whom I interviewed in 2002 during the 13th Biennale of Sydney: (THE WORLD MAY BE) FANTASTIC. She created highly stage-managed constructed images in a way that causes them to resemble stills from films of the classic silent era.
The main street of Semaphore is particularly wide and provides great views of striking late 1800s architecture up to and including the 1940s. The long wide vistas and the Deco style of the theatres reminded me of Eleanor describing her desire to find the correct angles, create exceptional images in scope worthy of the filmmaker Cecil B. DE Mille, around Brooklyn where she grew up. Eleanor wanted to, “…find the perfect position to shoot from that utilises the grandeur of great architecture. It was everywhere, plenty of it. I would always be looking for that perfect spot, where to place the actors in the frame,” she’d told me.
In conversation together we found acting and film common denominators, we easily spoke of frames, atmospheres, fashion, design, dressing sets, character development; my interview with her became an extended conversation between us long after the formally allocated interview time had passed. Eleanor’s musings on hometown location scouting flashed me back to glimpses of striking architecture around Semaphore I’d noticed in 1980; long walks after Warhol marathons.
Eleanor and I walked from the Museum of Contemporary Art on Sydney Harbour through the historic convict built area known as The Rocks to Eleanor’s hotel; spoke about Warhol, the buzz around him. She loved the architecture around Sydney, questioned me about my origins. I mentioned Australian architecture I admired; marathon viewings of Warhol films in the context of fluidly being able to sneak into my own home through the fence, make a coffee, roll a joint flea-bitten yet exponentially more street-savvy in my rented maisonette, which Eleanor found amusing fabulous universal. Eleanor suggested Warhol provided me with the bridge to look around and see Semaphore in a different way; right she was. I had not sat through a lot of trashy slow moving films for no reason, some of them were hilariously funny from the outside like life is. Having patience enough to sit with a different context and observe even when it doesn’t even necessarily make any sense can be a very rewarding thing, with my 1970s teenage years just literally past it was eye-opening, mind expanding to have alternative pop culture on film a happy distraction in an otherwise pretty yet dully remote unforgiving isolated scorched little place. My impression of Eleanor Anitin somehow met me at the bus stop in Semaphore long enough for us to reconnect.
I strongly relate to Antin’s frame and the way she presents characters in her work, always thought through, doing something thoughtful. In 2002 Eleanor Antin had directed ‘The Man Without a World’ since then she has completed two short documentary projects 2008 ‘Classical Frieze’ and in 2013 she co-directed a documentary short ‘Fragments of a Revolution’.
Her process appealed to me partly because I appreciated how she started out thinking acting was her calling then soon realised it was more than that desire for being on the stage; she wanted to create from the ground up which included everything. I had experienced the same thing when I shifted from acting in a play to writing building the set for it then taking that outside onto the big location working with JMD a photographer around Melbourne in the dead of night on the Theatre of Instants series we created. The frame is a terrific laboratory for creative development, ‘the empty space’ as Peter Brook has called it the three dimensional canvass. Eleanor’s feature film was inspired by a poem that was part of her Jewish cultural heritage. We talked about the difference in adapting and translating a poem as she had done with ‘The Man Without A World’ and a short story as Barbra Streisand had done with ‘Yentl’ into a film.
I’m certain I brought Streisand into the conversation because she was a Brooklyn character I knew and could see some general parallels between them. Strong Jewish women, visionary, creative, outspoken; Eleanor didn’t reject Streisand’s creative or business abilities nor did she ridicule me for even making the comparison she may have found me very naïve in an antipodean curiously witted sort of way though it was she whom engaged me continually through to her hotel room where we ensconced talking talking talking, she sitting on her bed, I on the customary chair in the corner.
Eleanor laughed when I had to turn the cassette tape over for my recording. I was recording on a one hundred and twenty minute tape, I’d filled both sides, hadn’t thought to bring a spare, it was borrowed University equipment, “Chunky, old, dated,” she said laughing at technology.
Eleanor undid her blouse fanned the humid Sydney evening from her face with the Biennale program a faint scent of Tennessee Williams Magnolia in the air gentle, inoffensive, she knew she was in safe company. We talked about being ‘the outsider’ without ‘a real job,’ all the clichés artists face the type of conversation suggests all the best draws to force open in the cabinet of self. At the Odeon Star I watched ‘Spotlight’ among an audience of approximately thirty other people.
The film follows a small team of Boston journalists in 2001 investigating the possibility of a cover-up in the local Catholic Church related to child sexual assault perpetrated by a Priest. As the journalists uncover more facts of the story their faith in the Church and fellow man is questioned.
Once their story is published it resonates over a vast scope exposing the extent of the problem inside the Catholic Church all the way to Semaphore South Australia. During the end credits of the film a list of Dioceses directly affected by this world wide cover up is shown on screen to further illustrate the extent of the problem; when Australian Diocese appeared on the list some members of the audience audibly reacted with a combination of jeers, hissing and more specific statements in raised voice which I failed to capture fully.
It was very evident to me as I was leaving the auditorium after viewing the film the audience were no more than a random group of people there was nothing to indicate they were all part of one particular club group or organisation. Their audible response made a deep impression on me. I marvelled at the reaction. Had this been a comedy and the audience all laughed at something funny in unison I would have felt part of the team as it were; however the greatest revelation in ‘Spotlight’ is a stark shocking example of stepping back and re-examining faith. Faith in one’s self to be precise about it. Faith in identity. Faith in truth. Faith in faith.
As a film on some levels it reminded me of ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘The China Syndrome’ at times in tone and style but mainly stepping back looking directly at the way it wrestles with the slippery battle for an acceptable status quo among powerful institutions and estates casting light where light has been cast before. What is different here is the global shadows cast by things caught in the spotlight.
I took some thinking time to process the content of the film, clarified my thoughts and came up with this:
In recent years much has been exposed about the Catholic Church, incidents of child abuse, hierarchy of certain Diocese providing expeditious getaways for perpetrators of sexual assault against children enabling them to continue to do so.
Many representatives of the Church have gone on the record denying first and eventually apologising for turning a blind eye or not fully appreciating the gravity of the circumstances at the time.
Inspired by the American performance artist Eleanor Antin and seeing the film ‘Spotlight’ I separately invited two different strangers to pose for me so I could construct an image based on my reflections on the experience of seeing the movie ‘Spotlight’. I selected the strangers based on the way they looked and on condition they were adults willing to consent to this experiment.
I considered this experimental gesture worth a try in the spirit of creativity on my part because both strangers fit visual impressions I have of characters I wanted to portray in the images I create as a result of the experiment. If the strangers said ‘No,’ the images I could see myself creating using them as my models would never happen.
Lucky for me the strangers both agreed enabling me to set two different dates for two different photographic shooting sessions in order to capture my basic images which I will creatively develop later.
I sought two frames offering me dimensional space to enhance the interaction of light with the structural forms of the particular bodies I had imaginatively placed in the two frames who would become the ‘bodies’ embodying two generalised characters I wanted to construct.
Image One – The Abusing Priest
I shot my first stranger and set him free knowing I had captured the essentials I needed to create for my first image, The Abusing Priest.
We have all pictured as we listened if not seen these men denying or apologising on our radios televisions in our newspapers. Men with a certain soft clarity illuminating their resolute expressions. You may or may not know their names but you will have heard their voices or if not of their activities and would likely nod or grunt in agreement in order to agree.
Thinking about who these characters I am constructing are was to be my first priority and I am informed by the testament of others in the way I imagine them; understandably comparatively speaking we have seen only a handful of victims of these abusers come forward to talk about their experiences yet we have seen enough of them to compile a generalised understanding of whom these victim identities are, in a completely reduced sense they are men who were once boys involved with Priests inside a covenant of faith and trust.
I requested the stranger pose shirtless holding his hands up in a particular way, palms facing out. I had formed generalised opinions about The Abusing Priest character that I wanted to highlight; a natural symbolism emerged in my imaginings of what would be in the frame I could easily see figuratively what I wanted to render, also, inspired by Eleanor Antin I wanted to extend myself and bring words as poetry into this image.
Words tie things down in a different way than the way images tie things down. To create an image I shine a light, to create a more intellectually guided image I find the words to say that will allow some emotional flow to remain with after I have finished with because they set out a pathway to a mental image. I wanted to achieve a fair balance between the words and the image so they were present visceral together without cluttering the frame. The words in The Abusing Priest seek to compel further scrutiny.
I produced The Abusing Priest by forming a representational character a generalised visualisation. If you did not know the title of the work it would be very easy to read any number of alternative meanings from the overall image. This is the poem I composed to feature as part of The Abusing Priest.
Yo listen up!
Need to bust some rhymes, seen Church-abuse crimes treating faithful children in a sexual way (better praise your Lord for that big ass expose!) no surprise I got some stuff to say;
I read it on-point in some journalist’s column but it’s an iceberg tip of a bigger problem. Yeah the Church is franchised all over our globe but theirs is not the only house in need of a probe. I fear it is the way of the masses massed today to think generally that there’s nothing more to see truth is I would say we are barely on the way.
Image Two – The Captured Boy
While identity is a theme explored in Eleanor Antin’s body of work her artistic exploration has involved her playing self-constructed characters based on her research and experiences so I would say her theme encompasses self-identity as much as identity in a more general sense; when we spoke Eleanor set out various compartments where she was “the outsider,” as a woman, as a Jew, as a female Jewish artist. She informed her work with her own culture and responses to it. Her work offered opinions on her life as much as anything. To be respectfully clear I do not write of the female experience for I am not.
I represent myself alone and recognise universalities in our human experience. It’s a challenge for a victim of child abuse to discuss the abuse even in a controlled environment such as a Police Station Interview Room where random pauses must be made to change cassettes or turn them over.
Further reflection on other responses I had included recognising personal dread as the conversation around child abuse becomes so narrowly focused on the Church.
A question: “What is not being seen beyond this spot lit area; I know something is there.”
I do have faith it will come into view eventually. The film ‘Spotlight’ is directly about the Church yet The Abusing Priest describes that as only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the overall issue of child abuse if I care to consider it macroscopically. I do appreciate that the wheels of change turn slow and these days the attention span has been taught the opposite way to go.
On tee-vee internet radio stings are short turnover is fast spin your head trends get one blink to last. There can never be any joy in recounting an experience of violation for anybody. Try to mine a man and mind most men don’t freely discuss their general day to day feelings let alone their greatest traumas; clear to me in some cases their unwillingness to discuss personal feelings is the result of some form of sanctioned abuse; disciplinary actions in clubs, teams, careers or even in schools up to a certain era… any striking incident of abuse made upon them that has left unresolved feelings of trauma will resound at some time from its bottled-up basement baggage-section depository. We can be our own worst enemy. Very complex even Kafkaesque.
Adult men seeking justice in the courts for sexual crimes perpetrated against them as boys best be located in a State or Territory that grants them the right to do so without restriction. In a case where a Statute of Limitations is placed on taking legal action after a certain period of time has passed since the alleged abuse the victim must endure life at the pleasure of the State; in at least one case living with the knowledge that the perpetrator and their associates continue to perpetrate crimes adds to a list of distractions playing on the mind of the enduring surviving victim. Laws made by rulers tie place and time down in a political numbers frown when it comes to accountability evidently allowing the activity of the abusing paedophile’s proclivity a barefaced blind eye.
Aye, as the revelations of child abuse inside the Church appear to the collective ‘we’ I believe we inevitably glean enough information to compile our generalised understanding of who these abusers were and …their boy-victims? We hear from some of the scattered flock some of the former lambs of God; betrayals of trust in the Church, wrestling questions of faith sexuality and trust. As the institutional hierarchy sit with its sanctioned madness in courts of reason we question our faith. In what do we trust?
When adult men seek justice in the courts for sexual crimes perpetuated against them as boys they must overcome any and all barriers in communication they are living with such as Post Traumatic Stress, Dyslexia, Stuttering and Deafness to name a few simple examples. Living with complex emotional problems, depression, mental health issues, can only be a challenge to one’s ability to communicate requiring exertion of accuracy. The legal process is challenging for anyone let alone the emotionally or mentally disturbed. For a male victim of child abuse to discuss said abuse in an environment where words are the only acceptable form of communication they must be confidently versed and fluid with words as an individual.
Informing my character and realising them in the photographic frame (if the character represents a boy captured by abuse) required a style of creative development Eleanor Antin explored; get inside the character as if we were developing them as an author for a play or a film which intrinsically means answering the questions of ‘who, when, what, why and how?’; but mine is a very circumspect portrait of someone internalised. Different to The Abusing Priest. The Captured Boy is an illustrated internalised monologue, a reflection, a memorial.
When adult men seek justice in the courts for sexual crimes perpetrated against them as boys they must overcome long term internalised fears often including unresolved feelings of guilt for being abused in the first instance.
The next waves of victims eventually Agnostic or Atheist etc. victims of child sexual assault crash on our shore revealing more offering emerging stereotype after emerging stereotype expanding our awareness.
Inside the Police Station Interview Room the victim is asked to describe the incident or incidents of abuse one step at a time until the whole story is told. The victim’s description is recorded, transcribed and presented to the victim for corrections or further clarification to be made wherever there may be some doubt as to the accuracy of the description. Once any changes are made the victim will be asked to sign the transcript of the description as a Witness Statement which will be used as evidence in any resulting legal proceedings.
I shot my second stranger after very clear discussion as to what it was I was attempting to do because it involved nakedness and binding his hands. Prior to the arrival of my model at the designated location I dressed the stage based on a clear description and sketch of the image that I had made, a ‘mock-up’; I also used this ‘mock-up’ to describe what we would be doing to the stranger who consented to take part in the shoot despite the disturbing elements.
At the end of the shoot my second stranger/model left feeling comfortable and clear in his mind as to what he had participated in. As I work on the image in the background on ABC24 a live broadcast from The Vatican; a Cardinal. Questions. Answers. I respond to a post on Twitter:
A good Catholic trained to shed its sins as easily as a viper sheds its skins.
Applying my appreciation the work of American artist Eleanor Antin and a random interaction on social media I created these two images informed by my life experiences.
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