Fear and the Reasons I Need Feminism

**WARNING; THIS POST DISCUSSES SOME SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE CULTURE AND MAY CONTAIN SOME TRIGGERS

Saturday morning after I finished work at the wonderful Garden of Unearthly Delights at about 4.30am, I had an incident.
It started after I bought cat food at a 24/7, and was trying to find a taxi home. A drunk guy was at a phone booth on one of the main roads through town. He sways up to me, slurring; “Hey, do you know what happens of I put fiddy cents into that? Will it just ring and hang up?”
Me; “Dunno. Why, are you stranded?”
“Yeah man, stranded…”
“Here, I got some change, its only .80c, but call a mate.”
“Nah I just need to know how it works”
I explain how the phone booth works.
“Man, you’re awesome! I need more people like you in my life! *fistbump, I start to walk away* Oi, give us a kiss!”
“Haha, nah man. Ill give you a hug, but I ain’t kissing you”
“I’m gonna rip into you”
*wait…* “What??”
“I’m gonna have sex with you!!”
*WAIT. WHAT??* (This is the point where my self-preservation voice panics, and unleashes the   classic-late-night-solo-white-girl-defence-line, and I start hating both myself and this douchebag for reducing me to this) “Yeah tell that to my boyfriend man, see what he says.” *I turn my back on douchebag, and start walking away*
“Fucking, yeah I will!! He’s right over there!”
*Still walking away* “Whatever man, have a good one…”
*incoherent babbling*

I made it into a taxi and home safe in the end, but I went to bed so angry I was physically sick all the next day. Its been a long time since I was so offended, infuriated, and insulted by the actions of a singular being. As I write this three days later I’m still ragingly pissed off.
The irony of this situation is that earlier that night we had a dress-up theme at work of “Prom Night”. Having stayed at a friends house the night before, I had to borrow some clothes and came up with a character story of a creepy pedophile teacher who had put date rape drugs in the school punch.

daterapist I admit, this joke was in bad taste, and contributes to the normalisation of rape culture. But, as comedian and performer of “Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It” Adrienne Truscott (more on this one later) says in an interview “part of the show is what you can make jokes about, whats appropriate and not appropriate about comedy, and who takes offense…” After this encounter, I decided my joke wasn’t really funny anymore, and tipped my hat to the Universe for pointing that out. #AkwardAdmissions

For those that don’t know what Rape Culture is, this article in The Guardian expresses it pretty well. Basically its the idea that other people have the rights to have sexualised power over an individuals body. The majority of this is expressed in men thinking they can take women’s rights to their bodies as their own, but it also happens when women forcibly take men’s bodies, men take other males bodies, women take other women’s bodies, and people of both genders take the rights of trans or intersex people. “The cycle is perpetuated as victims are silenced and blamed, the crime normalised, and perpetrators completely ignored.”
I’ve always considered myself a feminist. Not the man-hating, patriarch-bashing, burn-the-lingerie-and-break-ALL-the-celilings kind. The kind that pulls people up on casual sexism, wears jeans and boots most days but sometimes gets a kick out of wearing a dress and putting on make-up, believes that no one gender is more powerful or intelligent than the other but each have things to bring to the table, can fix my own damn bike, wants Tony Abbot to magically turn into a Schnauzer and spend the rest of his life rolling in sheep poo, walks home alone at night to combat the fear, and is fucking proud to be working with amazing task force of strong and ridiculously capable women in an industry that typically is thought of as masculine.  Its taken me a really long time to be comfortable in my skin, to acknowledge that my body is my own and no one elses, and I am the only one that says what happens to it. The idea that some asshole on the street thinks he knows better negates all the years I’ve spent trying to accept and respect myself against this hostile climate of beauty propaganda and gender-bias touted as cornerstone wisdom.  That pisses me off:  its MY hard work, YOU don’t deserve it!

So, if I’m that confident in my rights as a woman, why did this guy get under my skin so much?
The  Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue women’s experience with sexist actions, words or behavior no matter how big or small to prove that as ‘progressive’ as we think our 21st Century society is, the whole thing’s actually a facade.  This story particularly resonated with me, as it explains to me why it felt so shameful to resort to the typical scared-litte-girl reaction of “My (pretend) boyfriends gonna save me!”

“Competition 2013-11-21 00:36

When a man is still trying to flirt with me after I’ve already said “I’m not interested”, I frequently will ask a male friend of mine (who is with me at the time) to pretend to be my boyfriend in order for the flirting man to stop talking to me and making me uncomfortable. This happens to often to not just me but also my friends.
It’s embarrassing to realise that men will respect competition with another man more than a woman’s request to leave her alone.”

I find this solution more than embarrassing, its also degrading. Not just to myself but also to the men who subscribe to this belief, and the men who are affected by the men who subscribe to this belief. What does it say about our ‘advanced brain’ and ‘civilised culture’ when the only thing that halts someone in their pursuits is “If you hurt me an ape-fisted males gonna bash you cause his ape-fists are bigger than your ape-fists so nyah”? As an intelligent, witty, and somewhat charismatic individual, it degrades me to have to resort to empty threats of implied violence. As a strong independent female, it removes my feelings of strength, independence, and personal power to have to pretend I need looking after by a neolithicly-powered male,  but short of carrying around nail-spiked nun-chucks with mace nozzles in the end, I’m not sure of what other response I can give in that situation to be safe.

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I am not the only one that feels this way, though clearly this is still a topic that’s up for heated discussion.  We recently had a three day car-race festival in my hometown, the Clipsal 500 that co-incides with many other arts and cultural festivals in the same month.  It is rare that the arts crowd meet the outer suburbs bogans in any other scenario, but for three days in March the streets are flooded with car-banded t-shirts and Bundy Rum-fuelled sunglass tans. Local online rag InDaily sent a few reporters out to OP on increased sexual harassment incidents during festival time in general and the Clipsal 500 event in particular.

The comments in the resulting articles are an amazing example of the debate and diatribe surrounding women’s rights in Adelaide.  This article by Liam Mannix on the work of the YWCA to promote awareness to government and civilian alike on the prevalence of harassment during February and March at gained heated criticism from the public attacking the male journalist for his treatment of the woman social worker spearheading the campaign.  They called him snide, patronising, and unfit to report due to the lack of published data as opposed to anecdotal evidence.   THIS article, written by female journalist Louise Pascale while she was out with YWCA’s women’s safety survey team during the Clipsal weekend attracted an equally intense response, with comments crying everything from “Down with normalisation!” to “But you get to see bikini-clad girls on the beach all the time, what’s the problem?” to “Us blokes get harassed too, why do women get all the attention?”.  Its an interesting read if you want to think about the juxtaposition of the general Adelaidian’s opinion on women’s rights, and I’m pretty aggravated by some of the responses. The ancient advertising stereotype argument aide, the press seems to have a magical ability of stirring things up while keeping the status quo the same, and I think this definitely has to be altered before we start seeing a change in the perceptions of how we can and can’t treat women in the public sphere.

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This image was run in the Murdoch Press-owned Adelaide Advertiser Newspaper with the caption; “The Clipsal 500 will be in Adelaide long enough for young Jayden’s interests to mature.”

The thing that surprised me most though, was how many people are too willing to put this kind of attitude of sexual objectification down to particular event or group of people that attend such events .  My initial Facebook post about the verbal attack had many people comment “What the fuck?”, “Are you okay?”, “How dare they?” etc etc.  These comments are mostly supportive, and made me feel justified in my anger, but in the long run, but they’re not changing anything. Like more sympathetic comments in the InDaily articles, they just seem to a be a trigger-response to a damaging topical incident.  When posting the articles and follow-up articles I’d read, the comments from my feed were more along the lines of “Oh, thats Clipsal for you!” and “Damn Bogans… when will they learn?” Its this kind of complacency of harassment and objectification that keeps the cycle perpetuating, and not just in festival time. People come to expect this behaviour year-round from loose louts and ladies alike, and no one really gets angry when it happens in Festival season cause “Well, there’s more people in the city, you just have to accept it’s gonna happen more often.”

Well… No.  No way. I’m calling bullshit on that one.
Complacency is the biggest killer no matter what issue it is that you’re targeting. But as angry as I am about the way some women are treated, the line of where it stops being a joke still confuses me.  While women like  Sam Taylor writing for Vice magazine clearly states that she loves the ‘extra attention’ while out and about, there is definitely nothing funny about being told some random dude will “rip into you”, or, as in the Laura Bates article previously mentioned, would “hold a knife to that”.
Adrienne Truscott, one half of strip-comedy duo The Wau Wau sisters, and comedienne in her own right has produced a show on that very topic. (See? Told you I’d get back to it.) I’ve only read one review (in conversation) so far, by the awesome Fleur Kilpatrick on her weblog ‘School For Birds’ (who, by the by, I illustrated an article for not so many days ago) and you should all go and read it because the people discussing the show are far more eloquent than I.
Basically Adrienne opens the show with the line “So, who here has been raped? Okay. Who here is a rapist? Well now statistically that can’t be true.”, and its all confrontation from there.  Throughout the show, she periodically steps over where my moral compass would put the line, though I may have been especially sensitively since I saw the first performance the night after I was told “I’m gonna have sex with ya”. I’ve seen much performance art, and not many shows leave me walking out with such a feeling if disquiet. She discusses normalisation of rape culture through the work of other famous comedians (all men), and uses her character to portray the ridiculousness of  victimisation comments- “She was drunk…” (As Adrienne swigs cans of G+T onstage), “She was provocatively dressed” (as she strips off four denim jackets while not ever having pants as part of her costume) “She was loud and flirty” (As she laughs and jokes and flutters her eyelids and tell stories about how she roofied some guys drink and dragged him home to her apartment and tried to fuck him unconscious on the kitchen floor but he couldn’t get it up so she forced Viagra down his throat and then invited The Girls around for champagne and a free ride… sound familiar?)
The show explores this strange blur between Okay To Laugh and Not Okay To laugh, and she dances through this grey area forcing us to consider and reconsider what is Right and what is Wrong about our boundaries and our ethics.  I left with my head spinning; was my pedophile rapist joke too far? Did that guy on the street corner actually think he was being funny? What makes a stereotype in a sitcom different from a entendre about that trashbag cougar in the corner? If its okay to make nigger jokes when your a black man, and gay jokes when your a lesbian, why isn’t it okay to make comments on these issues as a woman? Why do some men feel they can get away with this shit on stage, but we can’t have a civilised discussion in a public forum?

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TBH, its taken me over a week to write this blog post, as I keep finding more information, opinions, and voices that keep blowing my mind on the debate…

“It looks much more like an attempt to control women, or at least to remind them that they are occupying public space which does not “belong” to them.  This is not something that can be proved by discussing individual cases, or indeed asking men whether that is their intention in calling attention to women’s bodies as they drive by.  But it’s certainly possible to ask men whether they’re being totally honest when they insist there’s nothing irritating or threatening about someone they don’t know addressing them out of nowhere…  Men are used to being offended and angry when people intrude on their right to be in public without being hassled or annoyed… It is only when women point out the daily pressures placed upon them that so many men claim that the streets are totally non-political, and anyone has the right to do or say anything to anyone else if they’ve chosen to go out in public.  Women have spoken eloquently about the links between street harassment and sexual violence and the intimidating effect of dealing with it every day.  And the way men themselves negotiate public space shows that we understand a lot more about the issues at stake than many of us will admit.  It’s simply dishonest to pretend we don’t, and that therefore we shouldn’t urgently listen to women’s voices when they tell us what it’s like in the streets for them.”

–Jam Bloo0mfeild in his blog post “The Freedom of the Streets- Men and Street Harassment”

This is one of the things I think some men don’t understand, the men who ask you what the big deal is about street harassment, say they’d love it if it happened to them, or suggest you just “take it as a compliment”. It’s not a simple, one-moment experience. It’s a horribly drawn-out affair. The process of scanning the street as you walk; the constant alert tension; the moment of revelation and the sinking feeling as you realise what is going to happen. Countless women have written to me about the defence mechanisms they put in place – walking with keys between their knuckles just to feel safe – wearing their earphones so they can keep their head down and ignore it. The whole process of going out, particularly at night, can become fraught and difficult…Why don’t you just take it as a compliment?”
Founder of  Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates in an article through The Guardian on why street harassment is so damaging.

The internet is in an uproar, and everything I read provokes more feels in me. I’ve been trying to take these conversations out into the real world, and the scary thing I’ve found is that most women do feel terrified to walk home/take a train/go to the pub/sit alone in a cafe/have unlocked car doors while driving/make friends with a stranger due to fear and the feeling of vulnerability that has been drummed into their heads.  
Eight days now and over three thousand words after the incident, I’ve managed to piece this chaos in my brain into a blog post, though I am reluctant to get involved as this whole issue smacks of the blame game and that makes me uneasy.  It seems the majority of society says we should be cringing at shadows and if anything bad happens its our fault for not having any self-defense mechanisms, for wearing/not wearing clothes, for falling asleep at a party or any other plethora of empty excuses.  Its our fault for being scared when we’ve just been told over social media that a famous six-foot heavy American thinks its funny if a woman gets gang-raped by five guys. It’s our fault for not kissing the drunken stranger on the side of the road who you tried to help just cause he wants it. And worst of all, its OUR FAULT men don’t respect us cause WE manipulated them.
I’m sorry, did I tie you to a pole and dance naked around you and give you enhanced interrogative 
drugs so you could run your tongue off at me?  No? Well then shut the fuck up and keep your scare tactics to yourself, cause I will continue to walk the streets at night and feel safe regardless of your beer-sodden squawks.

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Basically, this is just one example of why I need feminism, cause NO ONE should use rape as a scare tactic for not getting what trifles they want, and NO ONE should be objectified while trying to help someone in need. No one should be objectified unless they want to be (everything’s a fetish, and that just adds another layer to the debate), and no one should be at the risk of harm while trying to get home from work.
I’m scared every time this happens I get a little less sympathetic and a little more distrustful of humans in general and guys in particular. I don’t want to end up as a scared shell of my former self, or have to give up dancing at three am when all my friends have gone home, or avoid seeing the stars on a crisp winters night in the burbs.
I need to help make this fear and harm stop not just for me but for all of us Ladies, and this is why I need Feminism, to give me the strength to call it and say “Rape jokes are bad, mmmkay? Let me tell you why…”

Espionage Gallery and the Struggle For Survival.

Last Thursday (14th of November) I helped one of my favourite artist-run-initiatives in Adelaide, Espionage Gallery, launch its Pozible Campaign to fight the fickle fiscal system and stay open.

ImageThe past couple of years have been hard on Adelaide’s cultural scene, we have seen the closure of many venues that support us ‘young people’ do our ‘creative thing’ whether that be art, music, theater, or beer and bullshit.  The South Australian Government has recently introduced new liquor licensing laws that are hitting all manner of businesses hard, especially in the creative sector that is still struggling to bounce back from our (admittedly minor comparatively to some countries) GFC-inspired-recession. One of these factors is the price increases for a temporary liquor license to be able to sell drinks at a public event in your not-a-bar-space.  Espionage has a public gathering every two weeks or so, ranging from opening new visual art exhibitions, skilled workshops, chairty fundraisers, or webcast live DJ sessions. We need to run a bar at these events to help pay the increased rental costs, but the increased licensing costs then make this redundant.

SO! We’re asking for a little help to make some improvements to the gallery, start a shop, pay some rent, and generally spiffy the place up a bit so that when Fringe time comes, we’ll be super-amazing and everyone in Adelaide will buy ALL THE ART and ALL THE BEER and we wont have to close down EVER. The whole story can be found here; www.pozible.com/saveespionage, as well as means to donate if you feel so inclined!

ImageThe director of the gallery, Josh Smith (pictured above with the irrepressible Gen Brandenburg), asked for my help to run the campaign from planning pricing to social media. Being so passionately passionate about my passions, I immediately agreed, and to date I am pleased to say that in three days we have managed to raise a whopping $4000 of our $7000 target, so its looking good. 🙂

ImageTo really hit the point home, I wrote a speech that I gave on opening night/launch party. I have transcribed the speech below for those who missed it!

“As some of you may know, I recently completed my BVA at UniSA.  Like many graduates fresh out of the ‘McDegree’ system, when I emerged from five years of study, I actually had no idea how to create a sustainable arts practice (despite what that system had tried to tell me). For a year or so I floated around working retail and hospitality jobs, gradually losing my passion and creative vision to bills, bars, and blatant apathy. But at some point I made a decision; it was either make art or be completely dead inside (and yes, it was THAT melodramatic!), and though dimmed what was left of my arty spark began to blaze.
The dream was always to run my own an arts venue.
The chance came through Renew Adelaide, and I sat down and took a long hard look at the logistics of running a space without solid financial planning and a dedicated workforce. My courage faced off against my skill set at the time, and packed its bags- gone.

Its actually pretty hard to create an artists-run-initiative in Adelaide. It takes a near super-human ability to maneuver your way around nonsensical building codes, prohibitive liquor licensing laws, marketing plans, budgets, customer relations, demographics, governing bodies and funding surplus… And then you have to deal with THE ARTISTS!
Fortunately, under the staid surface of football, white-collars, and peak hour traffic to and from cathedrals dedicated to commercialism there is a hive of dedicated people passionate about supporting arts culture in this city.  They consistently push against the concept that grey concrete walls and silence after midnight is an ideal living space (of course we here in this room know its not!).

Josh Smith is one of those people. Trough his tireless efforts running this space, hundreds of people have been inspired to find and explore their creative spark.  Artists that would otherwise be stuck at a counter making endless coffees or sticker-pricing tags forever have been supported and encouraged to do what they love, and give others colour and life in their day. He has built a cohesive community that at its core lies a little family that come together to help, to gossip, to laugh, to play, to create, and to rehabilitate each other in the name of Art. We’ve been thriving up here in this hot white room, and now its time to return the favour.

Adelaide’s a tricky beast, with funding fashions ebbing and flowing between trams, stadiums, pop-up co-working hubs, and car park redevelopments, but Art is forever, and artists will not rest until they have an outlet for their passions. We need spaces like this one to survive, therefore we have to hep them survive. So push the button, get a drink, buy An Art, create life, love what you do… and our Espionage family will love YOU!”

ImageIf I’ve convinced you with these words (or even if you love local artists and are looking for a unique new thing to hang on your wall) head to www.pozible.com/saveespionage and throw some coins at us.  With your help we can change this city, one boring wall at a time!

*note; all photos credit of the awesome Alex Kwong from happy618, check out more from the night here!

‘Male:Real/Ideal’ and The Vicious Stare*

*This post informs a catalogue essay on the same topic to be printed for the opening of ‘Male;Real/Ideal’ at The Mill (154 Angas Street 5000) on the 6th of September 2013.

My first experience with male body image disorders was through a friend of mine.
We were 18-20-something’s, fresh out of high school and Living The Dream (‘bludging around’).  As with many young creative types, we experimented with many random things, photography being intrinsic to all (many thanks to long-time inspiration Gemma Killen!).  We developed a taste for stage make-up and outlandish clothes, dress-up days, heavily-themed parties, and fantasy photo shoots.  Boys were girls and girls were boys and we all frolicked about in an artistic haze flouting boundaries wherever possible because it was FUN and the act of growing up is frankly a bit shit.
Meanwhile, somewhere in all that play our brains and opinions were developing.  Boundaries were reformed even as we broke them.  More specifically; when we ran into other peoples boundaries we discovered it really hurt.

Said friend, not gay but prone to wearing skirts in public, eye-liner to the beach, and his own amazing jewelery creations everywhere, found it very difficult ‘conforming’ to other peoples dress standards.  He was offended that people immediately assumed there was something wrong with him for wearing a highly-gendered piece of fabric that wasn’t of the masculine style, wrong that he was strong but not tall and big, wrong that he was musical not just LOUD, wrong that he preferred making beautiful things to rounding up other people on a designated bit of ground while aiming for convoluted goals associated with gaining the most numbers.  Already prone to depression, his inability to be able to express himself without the rest of society freaking out and trying to cover him up/convince him otherwise/ignore his existence/run away from the issue sometimes resulted in crippling anxiety and incredible depths of despair.  Unable to face the stares, he retreated for days, weeks, at a time.  We had huge conversations about conventions and gender politics and un-fucking the system, but sometimes, the weight of all those bewildered (and sometimes downright violent) eyes broke him.

Male:Real/Ideal Louie Tarr

We’ve all faced it.
The “why can’t I just be happy with how I look?” which really means “Why are THEY so happy with how they look?”
Its a cycle of self-dissatisfaction> jealousy> greed> self-hate> binge> purge> binge> purge> recover> something’s wrong> self-dissatisfaction> etc, mostly pushed by the media and health organisations as one of those “women’s issues” that we’re so jumpy about (hope you heard the cynicism there).  But listening to my friend talk about this ten years ago, and watching the effect it had on him then strikes home to me that acceptance is not just a “women’s issue”, but (WARNING! Related tangent ahead!) as with domestic violence, its EVERYONE’S ISSUES.

Example two; I dated a painfully skinny boy for a long time (7’2″ tall, 63kg).  We ate chicken nuggets, packet pasta, fried steak and potatoes, take away Chinese, pizza, hamburgers, and drank half a carton of beer a night.  I gained many a tummy roll, he stayed 63kg.  Sometimes he even lost weight, at one point he was 59kg, and freaked out and started eating five times a day.  All he wanted was to hit 70kg.  The dream was 80. I don’t think he ever made it.
Years later, I dated another boy.  At this point I had lost all belief in scales and weight (“You sure that things safe to stand on?”) so I don’t remember numbers.  He had a belly, and arms that jiggled when he ran.  Stockily built, he had muscle mass but it was buried under years of video games and snacks.  I loved him regardless.  He hated himself because he wasn’t fit, buff, or skinny. He hated the jiggle.  His brother, a keen sportsman, was soaked in protein shakes and workouts, and keept a sheath of ‘Men’s Health’ magazines around the house at all times.  The models on the cover seemed to shout YOU WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS US BUT YOU MAYBE COULD BE JUST FOLLOW THESE FIVE SIMPLE TIPS…   A constant reminder that whatever you are is never enough.

Compare this with a quote by a woman I found on the controversial Facebook post by Mamamia on the BodyPositiveProject that tells women that by embracing their natural face and not wearing make-up they are empowering themselves.
“I’m one of those people who only wears make up if I have to like say my wedding day, my profile pic. Most others I don’t have makeup on and my husband has always loved that about me that I look like the same person no matter what time of day it is.  Join me people its quite liberating! I do however think I need to get on top of the waxing situation a little more often gorilla eyebrows don’t suit me!!”
Both genders are under the same assumption; what you are is never enough.

Earlier this year a friend of mine, Brodie Paparella, approached me with an idea.  Brodie is of the super-skinny type that I described in my first boyfriend.  He eats constantly but his metabolism is so fast his barely has time to gain nutrients from food before its gone.  By the time he’s 30 he is likely to have osteoporosis.  Colds and viruses hit him particularly hard as he has little to no body fat to feed him immune system.  He has had various reactions to his weight, ranging from “OH, I wish I had you’re problem!” to “You gotta be a junky, right? Can you get me some stuff?”.  Sick of the blatant uninformed judgement on his physical form, he wanted a way of telling the world “Some people just ARE this way! Get over it!”

Lo and behold; Male;Real/Ideal.  A photographic art project that we devised to attack that very situation.  Seven everyday men are paired with seven emerging and professional photographers.  Together they explore the concepts of their own physicality versus outsiders judgement.  They plan conceptual shoots for two images; one that represents where they feel most judged by their appearance, and one where they feel most comfortable and at ease with themselves.

Male:Real/Ideal Kat Coppock
Male:Real/Ideal Kat Coppock

I believe that one of the roles of the artist in society is to challenge presumption.  Therefore we must create ways in to disrupt things society takes for granted, such as stereotypes.  This exhibition is one of those ways.
By selecting models and creating sets, poses, and attire for them we are emulating a modern fashion shoot.  By using atypical models we disrupt what is perceived as ‘attractive’ and bring perceptions of physicality out of the dreamy clouds of commercialism and back to tangible reality.  These are the guys that write your smartphone apps, that teach your children, that work in your offices, that are reading next to you in the library, that make your coffee. There are thousands of them around this country, and none of them look like a God.

Most advertising works on the premise that through repetition the message sticks.  We appropriate and use this same tactic against the illusion theyre trying to sell us by planning five exhibitions with the same theme.  After the fifth we will make a book and sell it that way.  We will cover overweight men, disabled me, transgender men, and overseas men in an effort to show Australia that you don’t have to try and be THIS
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When there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being this;
MaleRealIdeal Dave Laslett

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OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATIONS for Male:Real/Ideal are 6pm on Friday the 6th of September at The Mill (154 Angas Street Adelaide 5000). The show will run till the 27th of September.
See you there!

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‘Feathers’, and the Nature of Fear

Twelve Days ago, I finished  and posted a video to YouTube.
Now, this may not seem a great feat to many, and indeed there are hundreds who do this every day. For my technologically dyslexic self, however, it slowly became such a big deal that it took me five months to deliver. The video is an overview of a massive exhibition I curated in January 2013 by the name of ‘Feathers’, involving 23 visual artists, 25 meters of chicken wire, heavy audience participation, an unbelievably successful Pozible Campaign, and a hell of a lot of love.

The exhibition itself was an enormous success, which is great as it was one of the most challenging things I have done to date. The learning curve was spectacular as I pulled all my half-realised skills and concepts into something tangible that resulted in a record 300 people through the Format Gallery just on opening night.

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The shock of this has not quite worn off yet.

As described in my last blog post ‘CoCreate, Community, and the Act of Giving’, I have some issues relating to confidence, self-esteem, and concepts of self-worth. I’m still exploring the nature of these issues and what they mean as someone who is pursuing a career as a Freelance Creative-Type.  Regardless of how many project ideas I get crazy-excited about (and the list is huge), the depression and social anxiety these cause has a definite impact on my work.

The biggest one is I’m a pretty staunch procrastinator. I have been meaning to write this blog post for about seven days, maybe more. Partly this is because I am terminally distracted, easily overwhelmed by convoluted workloads, and have pretty sporadic sleeping patterns. Partly, its because I’m a chronic party-animal trying to escape all that (which I’m working towards fixing- more to come in the next post). Partly, its cause as passionate as I am of doing anything meaningful, I’m just as shit scared.

This has become a greater issue recently, as I see friends, colleagues, peers, and fellow art school graduates doing fantastic things with their lives and their own careers (both freelance and contractual). I look at myself, and compare my peers successes against mine, and I get an overwhelming sensation of this;

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(credit to Hyperbole and a Half for being awesome and saying what we’re all feeling on this one)

But Why? Despite councilors, friends, professional advisers, and countless Dark Nights Of The Soul(TM); I’m still not sure.
-I don’t feel skilled or smart enough, despite my obvious success with my past ventures.
-I don’t like taking credit for the things I do, in past experience standing out from the crowd has always lead to Bad Things.
-Fear of failure; I’ll inexplicably fuck the next project up and have to crawl into the Shame Shed with all the fears and doubts singing a resounding “I told you so!”

These are all possible reasons, but they could also be possible excuses. A friend told me recently that  “Problems are perceived. The more energy you give them the bigger they are.” This works on any level, if you feed the monster, it grows.
As a brief example; social anxiety and panic attacks.  Usually it starts with a vague sense of unease, possibly triggered by an unfamiliar environment or situation. Vicious-cycle-thinking (or Downward-Spiral-Thinking, as I named it after THAT Nine Inch Nails song…) generally goes something like this;

Head; “I’m uncomfortable in this situation”
Body; “Hey, we’re pretty uncomfortable in this situation.”
Head; “Yeah, I don’t really like this. I’m starting to get nervous.”
Body; “We’re nervous! Itchy? I think there’s things on our skin. Under our skin. Inside our skin?”
Head; “I don’t like that there’s things under our skin. It trips me out.”
Body; “You’re tripped out!! Maybe we ate something weird! What’s in our stomach? should it even be IN there?!”
Head; “There’s nothing in our stomach. I feel sick. Is there something in our stomach? Maybe its just the place I’m in. There’s something weird in this place. I think its xyz…
Body; “NOT XYZ! Shit! Maybe we should run away. Lets run away.”
Head; “But we can’t run away. There’s all these people here. This is an Important Thing.”
Body; “I DONT CARE THERE’S  XYZ  IN THE SPACE PLACE AND BUGS IN OUR STOMACH AND THISTLES UNDER OUR SKIN AND NOW EVERYONE’S WATCHING”
Head; “OMG THERE’S XYZ IN THE SPACE PLACE AND BUGS IN OUR STOMACH AND THISTLES UNDER OUR SKIN AND NOW EVERYONE’S WATCHING BUT I CAN’T LEAVE CAUSE I HAVE TO ABC WITH THE JKL
Body; “ABC? JKL?! XYZ!?! WE’RE TRAPPED!!!!”
Head; “WE’RE TRAPPED!!!! -dizzy spells-“
Body; “HYPERVENTILATE! SWEAT! ADRENALINE! GO! SOMEWHERE! SOMETHING! WE’RE TRAPPED FOR FUCKS SAKE!”
Head; “AHHHHHHH! -short circuit-“

Its not easy to break this cycle, especially if you’re not aware of the triggers, and the first few symptoms can quickly escalate into a full freak out.  Changing static behaviour usually helps me stop it (go to the toilet, have a cigarette or a drink, talk to someone you -actually- know, walk around the block, dance to the band, etc), but if you remain in its hold and feed the fire like it wants, its only going to get bigger.

So it is with Fear, but on a slower scale. The more you sit and stare at the To Do List, the bigger and darker and more looming it becomes. The more time that passes the more things end up on the list. The bigger the list the more difficult it seems, or it’s that you’re too late, or what’s the point in trying you’ll never catch up AND SUDDENLY OMG WE’RE TRAPPED RUN AWAY!

Its a point of strength to be able to cross things off the list every day while all of you just wants to hide in bed (or in a bottle).
I cheat sometimes, and write small things I did that morning (“check email”, “reply to SMS”, “clean bedroom floor”),  or things that are Life Stuff (“wash the dishes”, “pay gas bill”, “clean bedroom floor”) and knowing I’ve done these medium things helps with the big stuff (“write grant application”, “make high-selling artworks for that prodigious gallery”, “establish a free school for the gifted”, “clean the goddamn bedroom floor!!”).  When I look at these little crossed out lists it helps to remind me that, considering all the little successes I trumped getting to this point, learning a new program like Windows Movie Maker (Yeap, I’m just that profesh) is not actually hard.

As three Dutch performing artists would put it, even though there’s an expectant audience watching you fight your way out of a giant plywood box while your standing on shoulders and pissing in your own face;

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The hard bit is spending five months convincing yourself of that. That’s the Fear talking; the long slow stifling panic attack. But I learned something making this video; you just gotta keep doing it. Take a taste of The Scary New Thing, and run away sometimes if you need, but come back to it because the next time you try it wont be so uncomfortable. Every time you understand a little bit more, you learn, you become capable, and then before you know it you’re saying pixellated things like;

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which is a great thing to express, especially if you don’t feel it too often.

I’m trying to think of an allegory to go with the last and final image that I feel really represents this journey, but its now 6am and I’ve been mentally wrestling with this post for about three hours. Instead, I’m just going to say that right now Fear is that lurking red thing in the lake, and I’m the wibbly Salamander crawling onto stable land for the first time, and I’m saying to my issues;

So here’s to that, and here’s to all the Scary New Things to come. 🙂

(and thanks again to Allie from Hyperbole for creating these pics and putting them on the internet where I can use them without permission but with all credit were credit is due. You’re a star. 😛 Xx)

Every Death is a Rebirth

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On the Tenth of May, 2013, my favourite art gallery, music venue, theater space, book-club room, games hall, and all round awesome hangout-spot the reading room closed its doors for the last time in its current form.

Joining such cultural luminaries as Format, Higher Ground, and Tuxedo Cat in the great (temporary) ARI in the sky, this is the seventh such arts venue to close its doors in a matter of months, leaving another gaping hole in the cultural tapestry that our City Council keeps insisting is ‘vibrant’ and ‘exciting’ (while simultaneously shipping in cultural entrepreneurs from Melbourne to ‘start-up’ ‘co-working initiatives’ in our CBD. Pretty sure that’s what we’ve been doing the whole time with less buzz words, but it doesn’t look good in their end of year action reports when the populace are forced to get up and do it themselves).

ReNew Adelaide, the organisation that has been sponsoring us through the nearly three years of our tenancy at 153 Hindley Street, state that they are in the process of finding us a new space as soon as one suitable is found, so the reading room will be back at some point! We don’t know how long it will be before we can re-establish, and we don’t know when, but the spirit of our 30+ volunteers and 100s of artists and performers will not be so easily quenched. We are merely biding our time.

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The main issue is that, although there are literally HUNDREDS of empty buildings in the the Adelaide CBD, not many of them are compliant for a thing called a 9B.  There is a system of classification for every business run out of every building in every street world wide. At the moment we are ‘trading’ (ha!) under a Class 6, which is a retail license. For those who have been to the reading room you would know that we trade rarely, if at all, and generally only when we have a donations bar open at events to raise money to pay insurance and electricity bills and selfish things like that.
What we are looking for in the new space is a classification called a 9B, which means that we would be allowed to hold more events more often without getting in trouble from the Council itself. To do these things, we need a building that complies with this license, and there are not many around, as explained by Ianto Ware, founder of Format and ReNew Adelaide in this blog post.

So, long story short, it will be a while till we can get everything organised and ready to go. If your keen on updates, join our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or send us an email at readingroom_adelaide@gmail.com and join the mailing list.

Untill then, pictures from the EPIC goodbye party can be found here and here

Till we meet again!

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Road Trippen’!

Some where between opening the epic and fabulous ‘Feathers’ Exhibition, and closing the epic and fabulous ‘Feathers’ Exhibition, I managed to take a bit of a holiday.

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First I went up to Loxton in Victoria for the annual Rainbow Serpent pilgrimage with some very dear friends of mine,

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and after having a fabulous time dancing, drinking, meditating, drawing, painting, dancing again, shopping, hiking, chatting, and more dancing, for five days, I headed down to Melbourne for a night to hang out with my awesome friend Cameron Brideoake.   After dinner and a great chat about art, religeon, politics, and inspiration at the Black Cat wine bar, I got up way too early in the morning to fly up to Alice Springs!

After a big week of traveling and party times, it was no wonder I was pretty tired. As soon as the plane lifted off for the three hour flight to the center of Australia I dozed off.. and woke up sometime later to this amazing sight; so beautiful that my head swam (though that could have been vertigo), and my feet started tingling as I caught my breath…

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Once I’d landed, the tour began!
It started with a bit of a drive around the city (larger than Adelaide but feeling much smaller), and then dinner and a night out on the town! Alice night life is interesting, there were apparently only a few ‘safe’ places to go, and we went to most of them and ended up having a great time!

The next morning however, was quite painful, as we had to get up early to pack and go hiking at the amazing Glen Helen Gorge.

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We hiked for about an hour and a half once we’d crossed the gorge and found a lovely spot by a river to camp and share a feast of food! After chatting late into the night we all gradually eased in to sleep, only to be woken as the moon rose over the cliffs by a disjointed and eery warbling cacophony! I had never heard such a noise before in my life, and jumped up terrified from dreams of grandstands full of goblins cheering and thrusting their gnarled little finger in the air. My friend was already at the fire stoking it right up, when I asked him what it was he replied that some wild dingos were stalking the ridge line. The fire would keep them at bay, though I have to say it was the creepiest noise I had ever heard, and after all the tales floating around the city of the wild dogs taking domesticated pets and mauling them in the streets due to starvation, it took me quite a while to get beck to sleep.

The next few days were pretty quiet, with me working frantically on my Pecha Kutcha Adelaide presentation (due on the very evening I arrived back in Adelaide) coupled with trips to the Araluen Arts center to get my culture on, but soon the incredibly stunning landscape would hit me again!

Our next big adventure we had was down to Ellory Gorge a few days later, which is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

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After an amazing afternoon swimming and relaxing and snacking I went home bright red from sunburn, but so chilled out and happy to have seen such a magical place.

More photos of the adventure can be seen here.

Far from sating my curiostiy fro the world though, all of this travel has only just increased it, and even though I’ve only been home two months, after Fringe and all the madness that has happened since I am so keen to go beyond the horizon again, hopefully this time towards Tasmania for the Dark Mofo Arts Festival… (thats really really exciting!)

‘Your Beautiful Face’

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sold me her second hand Canon EOS30D.

Its a great little camera, and I’ve been carting it around everywhere, including Tumby Bay, Xmas, and Exhibitions, doofs, and random places.
All this wandering around has given me opportunity to practice my photography, and also capture the amazing people that I love doing their awesome thing.
And so; Voila! ‘Your Beautiful Face’, was born!
As side-project of mine on tumblr (another one -sigh-) featuring images of those awesome amazing people I come across in my daily life, this gives me both a chance to practice my wares, and celebrate those I love.

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These are just a few samples of what I have so far, there are more on the blog, and will be even more as I wander through time and tide. So check it out. 🙂
Xx