2018 – Week 18

Another Sunday rolls around, time for another blog entry. It’s been a week of recovery. The bumpin at QPAC went smoothly, thanks to their brilliant and professional rigging staff. It was a long day, and sadly the sculpture suffered some twisting and shoving to preserve eyelines, which compromised its appearance from what it could have been.

Personally, I don’t think that “eyelines at all costs” is necessarily the right thing to do. If a character is momentarily obscured by a piece of the set, is anyone really going to complain or demand their money back? Maybe that’s the sort of people who are into theatre…

It’s been a learning experience – I don’t think I’d do it again, unless I have a much more locked-down idea of what the constraints of the project are. So many things, on which I had based my design decisions, were changed out from under me, that the project was always going to struggle. That wouldn’t have been so bad, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind about it, if the production had understood my requirement of a licenced rigger to hang the work during construction, so I could work on it safely, and provided a credit in the programme that reflected my creative contribution.

I attended the premiere of the show, sadly no mention from the producer, no thanks expressed for my work. If I was to review the show – what stands out is that the sound mix is off, the band is about 25-50% too loud, so that when the guitars and drums are going, you can only grip onto and understand about a quarter of the lyrics. When the band is quiet, and it’s just the vocals, the performers’ voices are fantastic.

So, that’s this week. It’s one of those times I miss my father. We had a difficult relationship at times, he had views I simply couldn’t square with being on the right side of history. Perhaps that’s why his advice was at times a comfort, because he wasn’t like me.

It would have been nice to chat.

2018 – Week 17

It’s been a nightmare week, an absolute nightmare, but the top part of this play sculpture is done. The entire project has played out in a very predictable way – everything I needed to do, happened exactly the way I said it would, and in the timeframe I said it would. Everything I needed other people to do, had problems, because despite being the expert, no one seems to listen to the artist.

This is made doubly stressful, given that I’m the only individual whose contribution can kill a person on stage (or in production).

I’ll have a project reflection post eventually, but for now, all that remains is to disassemble the sculpture tonight, and pack it up ready for bump in to the theatre tomorrow morning.

2018 – Week 16

Well, a busy week, full steam ahead on the play sculpture. Monday was spent putting the finishing touches on the base:

One unbroken length of corrugated plastic pipe.

After driving back home on Tuesday, I had an idea about how I could get some work done on the truss that’ll support the entire structure. I was able to rent a storage shed, opposite the one that’s holding all my stuff from Sydney. It works out at about $10 a day, and has given me a week or so to get the truss into a turnkey-ready state, so that when I take it apart and head down to Brisbane on Wednesday, everything will be ready to roll.

Found another use for my engine hoist.

Once the final parts of the construction are finished, I’ve got sticky labels to attach to everything, so that it should all just be easy to reassemble. Fingers crossed.

2018 – Week 15

Bit of an admin week. Doing some sorting of issues with my father’s estate, also, sorting out my storage tank to get equipment ready to begin work on this new sculpture.

I submitted a couple of entry forms for projects, one an art competition entry, another for an event a little south of home. Hopefully the concept for that one will get up, because I’m really keen on it.

Friday, I headed down to Brisbane, to begin work on the new play sculpture.

2018 – Week 14

VR, VR and more VR. That’s been this week.

We launched the Cooroy Library Makerspace on Friday, with local and state government representatives. We put a dozen people through the VR system, showing them around. Kids pick it up instantly – it’s amazing.

I’m now convinced, that if Apple do not produce machines that are price and performance-competitive with windows machines, and have the ability to have their graphics cards upgraded independent of the rest of the system, they have no future in this world. Previously, they could dismiss “Gaming PCs” because Macs weren’t for games, buy VR is where work is going to be done, and right now the Mac is a secondrate platform for that.

2018 – Week 13

What a week…

I started on Tuesday by heading over to the local library, to check out their VR setup. After going through a makerspace induction, and playing a bit in the Steam Labs app to get a feel for the system, I did a bit of sketching in Tilt Brush of the tree sculpture for this play.

Wednesday and Thursday, the VR lab was booked, so I took the opportunity to get more work done on my tables, finally completing them on Friday.

Filling and cleanup to go, but done!

Saturday, I was awoken by a call I’d been expecting for a few days. My brother’s name on the caller ID was all I needed to see to know the content of the call – my father had passed away, after a fight with lung cancer. I’ll post more about that later.

I spent the rest of the day pottering around the house, filling holes in the tables, not doing much.

Sunday was the first day I took advantage of the after-hours access I had at the library, and spent the whole afternoon immersed in VR. I managed to get some serious work done, completely redrawing the tree for Rent. It was a satisfying affirmation of VR as a serious workspace, where a very different sort of mindset and physicality is a part of the creative process – it’s very body-thinky.

2018 – Week 12

This week was based around future project admin. I went down to Brisbane to chat with a designer on a play about producing a sculpture that will be a feature part of the set. Then once back up the coast, off to an information session about a self-contained event going on within the Horizon festival, and then also laying the groundwork for a potential VR arts project.

I still haven’t finished my benches, however.

2018 – Week 11

It’s been a bit of a quiet one this week – some time was spent on continuing work on the long work benches I was making, but the biggest consumers of time have been a complete screwup by my hosting provider, and consulting on a sculpture gig that could lead to producing a big new work.

2018 – Week 10

Well, I quit the TIG welding course.

I’d had reservations about the course from day one. The opening night was a theory class, that frankly wasn’t particularly professional in its delivery.

Week 2 and 3, I made some progress, but spent a lot of time dicking around with the machine to try to get it into an optimal state – which means that I never got to know if the problems I was having were a result of my physical technique, or a misconfiguration of the machine.

This leads to a side rant:

Students should always be given tools that are of sufficient quality, configuration and maintenance, that they can learn the physical practice of a skill, isolated from any influence the tool might have.

The other problem came from the fact that there were just too many students for a single teacher, which meant that when you had a problem, you had tens of minutes to wait before he came over to address what was wrong, which when it happens a couple of times per class, means you’re losing a pretty significant hunk of your course time.

Oh yeah, and to find the teacher in order to get help, you had to walk down the corridor between the welding bays, where half the students had their welding curtains open while welding, which means your eyes are exposed to weld-flash – not the best idea when you’re driving home at night in the rain.

Added to that, the class roll wasn’t “computerised”, whatever that was supposed to mean – which amounted to every class starting with people having to pass around a piece of paper, find their student number, and write it down with their name and signature – something the teacher could have done beforehand, meaning we’d lose 30 minutes of our 3 hour class before we’d even started.

So, on the 4th week I cracked – 30 minutes on the roll, then angle grinders to prepare my pieces of metal, that had their wheels worn down to nubs. My machine was in a state of disrepair from the previous user, and the parts I needed to set it up for my use were nowhere to be found amongst the mess of  bits and pieces in various boxes on the workbench. I went to ask the teacher for a new critical part, and sat down to wait for him. 20 minutes later I was still waiting, so I attempted to make do with a part I thought might do the job, but the machine room I needed to use to clean it up was offline. One thing after another conspired to stop me getting any significant work done.

It wasn’t until 15 minutes before the class was due to finish that the teacher came to check on my progress, and seems mystified as to why I haven’t gotten stuff done. So, I told hi what a joke I thought the night had been, and that I was going to seek a refund. Then I left.

I sent a complaint letter, an angry complaint letter, and they responded, saying I’ll get a full refund, and that they’re going to be reviewing OH&S practices.

Aside from that, I went down to Brisbane overnight to see a gig at a venue which wouldn’t let me take my camera in, so I had to walk back to the hotel, drop it off, then come back. I am getting really sick of this “no professional cameras” garbage that seems to be springing up all over the place.

Pop Will Eat Itself / Jim Bob / Caligula @ The triffid

If there was one thing I wish I could do with this review, it’s to show you what this gig looked like. From the back of the venue, a view over the silhouetted throng of fans, the band ripping it up in full flight amidst the colour and smoke, the giant spray-stencil banner in the background like an industrial-music altarpiece, and the repeated perpendicular structural ribs of the drum-vaulted corrugated iron roof, that formed a perfect semicircle over the crowd, catching and outlined by the light, creating such a precise repetition in linear-perspective from stage to circle, that Kubrick himself could have set the scene.

I’d LIKE to show you that.

However, after buying tickets to the gig, driving 2 hours down to Brisbane, paying for a hotel room and parking for the night, phoning the venue and leaving a message asking them to let me know if there were any problems with cameras, packing seven grand worth of pro DSLR and some of the finest wide-angle optics ever made into a compact “body & lens only” camerabag, so that I could show you this near-religious vision of industrial music performance, I discovered at the door, that despite their website’s FAQ having no mention of this rule, The Triffid is yet another venue that has fallen victim to this idiotic policy of banning “professional” cameras from entry.

So, I can’t show you that.

Half the audience can block people’s view by holding up a cellphone, to take mediocre pictures that offer greater potential pixel detail than a “pro” camera could achieve 10 years ago. They can shoot video that would have required a steadycam-harnessed cine-camera that cost more than a luxury car 5 years ago, but apparently a DSLR, which will only block the user’s own view, is such a big problem, it requires blanket bans.

Sorry Ashley, but we missed Caligula (and the beginning of Jim Bob) walking back to the hotel to leave the gear – because again, when a venue has an unadvertised “no cameras” policy, you’d think they’d have enough of a clue as to have a proper security check-in situation with lockers, not “leave your camera here at the ticket booth” – an idea from which they retreated, when I told them what it cost.

Anyway, on to the music.

Jim Bob. Hmm, how to put this… Carter USM is consistently one of my favourite bands. They hold a deep sentimental spot for me because they were a high rotation band when I first got into the goth scene, and were on a couple of the played-to-death mix tapes I had back then. They’re also one of those bands that through poor timing, I never managed to see live. What Carter did, along with other contemporaries like the Poppies, even The KLF in their stadium house monsterworks, is construct huge, rich sounds, from so many dissonant sources, that you could just be overwhelmed by the music.

Jim Bob on his own with an acoustic guitar is not that. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe the JB doing Carter tracks with a backing band, maybe with the Poppies actually doing the backing band stuff, I’m not sure. Even Carter’s acoustic tracks, like “The Man Who Bought The World”, have more in them. He joked several times about people being disappointed by the “is that it?” of it all, so I suppose he’s heard that reaction before.

In the end, it was an interesting performance, and thinking about it from the perspective of a soloist, doing acoustic protest songs, I’d have enjoyed it more if I was better prepared for that reality. As a positive, Jim Bob’s voice is still in great form. His anecdotes and chatter had the audience, myself included, laughing, but for someone hoping to see the indoor-nuclear-detonation opening of Surfin’ USM… maybe next time?

On to PWEI, or “PWEI Mk 2.5” as Mary Byker described them.

Holy freaking hell, they’ve so got it. Epic – there’s no other way to describe them. A big band, six musicians on stage – two vocalists, live drums, everyone looking like proper rock stars… except Graham, who in his grey, short-sleeved, button up collared shirt, looks like someone’s dad got lost in the wings, and ended up on stage. It’s adorable, and he looks like he’s really enjoying performing, so madprops, because nothing could detract from just how goddamn good, and how real, crunchy and live the band sounds.

It’s hard to say much more about them – how many superlatives can you come up with? Poppies fans in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, you’re in for a freaking treat.