Thursday, February 24, 2011

An even stranger day in paradise

As Tuesday dawned my biggest worries were how to get through yet another 35 degree day without ending up with a face like a wet cricket ball (my new look), how to deal with the Monstrous Mandurah Mosquitoey Massacre (you don't want to know, well unless you are thinking of moving here in which case you really do need to know) and what to cook for tea given that the temperature in our kitchen has barely dipped below 30 degrees in a month.  I had a big fat "To do" list in my paw and was about to head out the door when the phone rang.  It was my lovely neighbour (Tammy the dog's owner) offering condolences, a cup of tea and company should I need someone to watch the TV with.

That was the first I'd heard about what a truly hideous day Christchurch people were having.  All my plans for the day were blown away as yet again I sat glued to the computer and TV watching the dreadful story unfold.  It is enormously distressing to sit here and see the destruction but of course that in no way compares with the ghastly situation my dear friends and everyone else in Christchurch are living through. 

To those of you living in a devastated city I send my love and best wishes and I wait in hope to hear good news of you and your loved ones, though tragically not everyone is going to get the "We are all OK" news we long for. I feel so far away and useless.  I keep hearing perky "onwards and upwards" talk from politicians about doggedly rebuilding Christchurch: the old "Keep Calm And Carry On"  and "We will emerge stronger" sentiments.  I guess they have to say that but it makes me feel strangely uneasy. I know many of you and your children were already feeling emotionally battered and bruised after the months of relentless aftershocks so this must just be the absolute pits.

Yesterday we received this message from a friend in Christchurch which she described as a "cloudy, drizzly, collapsing city":
"It is distressing to see all the things in life that you work hard to achieve collapsing around you, but the best thing is knowing that the people who mean so much to you are there.She asked "Maybe it's time to think about a new start in a new place – or is that cowardly?"  I for one would answer that no, it isn't the slightest bit cowardly.  It takes enormous courage to decide to leave a place you love and the people you love.

The pictures in this post are of Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno’s floating sculpture Cloud City.  It was commissioned by The Perth Festival and was installed at a park in Perth on Saturday 19th Feb where it was supposed to stay tethered and floating until Sunday 27th Feb.  Sadly, less than 24 hours after it was installed, this gorgeous sculpture was battered and destroyed by strong winds, and parts of it set sail across the city and were later found 15 kms away in the sea.  I didn't get to see it; these photo of it in its full glory then post-destruction are by Fenella Kernebone from ABC Arts.  You can also see some very beautiful photos of this unexpectedly ephemeral work on Richard Eden's Flickr photostream here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac - in Mandurah!

"He's an unflinching witness to a host of society's ills... linked together by a gentle, impassioned humanity and a wry humour that can have you helpless with laughter, then overcome by an urge to weep - and ultimately left thinking, and wanting to make life better. For real, and not in some cyber-limbo."
Review of The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac by Mary Brennan in The Herald

"An intellectually arduous and beautifully realized piece about the dangers of homogeneity, and what happens to the soul when it forgoes the richness of the imagination."
Review of The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac by  Hilton Als, The New Yorker

Ohhhhhh that sounds like just what I need.  Lucky me this Sunday night I get to go and see  New York performer Taylor Mac in action.  TimeOut New York called him  "One of the most exciting theater artists of our time" and American Theater Magazine says, "Mac is one of this country’s most heroic and disarmingly funny playwrights."

Astonishingly enough he is performing right here in Mandurah at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre.  I've seen some great stuff there already but nothing quite like this!  I do hope Mandurah realises how lucky it is, local folk bring their open minds to the the party and that I'm not the only one there!

(All photos swiped from here.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Filling our boots

A while back I read an article in the West Australian newspaper headed Culture still struggles in WA .  I showed the article to my partner wondering what he would make of it.  He just laughed and said they should "Wear it like a badge!"

Thankfully for those of us who do like a spot of arts participation there are plenty of arts events on offer in WA.  A highlight of the calendar is the annual Perth International Arts Festival which opened on Friday night.  Our whole household went up to Perth for the spectacular free outdoor opening show (above) then my partner and I continued to fill our boots all weekend.

We saw The Red Shoes,

Donka: A Letter to Chekhov,

new dance piece Human Interest Story,

and The Manganiyar Seduction.

I'm too knackered to do proper reviews but it was a fabulous weekend and I was very, very happy with our selections. The festival closes on 7th March and we're living on beans again this week as we plan to get to several more shows yet.  WA audiences do seem to get their act together when supporting this festival as a few shows I've been slack about booking for are long sold out.  Yes, Houston we have a no interactive Mission Control tickets left problem.

Never mind.  I'm sure we'll still get our fill.  Well done to outgoing Artistic Director Shelagh Magadza and her team.  Great to see from the excellent audiences and their enthusiastic responses that we are not alone in our appreciation of their efforts.

(All photos swiped from the Perth Festival website.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Same, same ... but different

While living here I'm constantly reminded of the fabulous saying "same, same... but different".  I'm forever doing a double-take as I admire Perth-made wares which remind me of similar New Zealand-made ones, discovering Australian writers who remind me of favourite New Zealand ones, and spotting Australian versions of New Zealand native plants (as per the Dianellas from either side of the Tasman above).

Our national days fall into this pattern too.  On the surface Australia Day and Waitangi Day are pretty similar though how these two countries go about marking their national days is quite different.  I didn't know whether Australia Day would mirror New Zealand's usual sombre official commemorations and news-making confrontations, controversies and protests. 

So I asked an Australian woman I'd met recently exactly what Australia Day entailed and how Australians celebrated it. Her answer:  "It's a huge party day.  People wear Australian flag board shorts or Australian flag bikinis, stick Australian flags in their cars, go to a public place, burn sausages, drink alcohol, make fools of themselves then late at night during a massive public fireworks display they either get sentimental or punchy.  The next day they ring in sick to work citing "crook guts from dodgy snarler" when the truth is more likely "monster hangover, third degree sunburn, two black eyes and still in the clink." "

Hmmmm, not really my style.  So I said "No, I mean what do the prissy Australians do?"

"Oh" she said,  "they go on a family picnic!" 

So that is what we did.  Into two cars we packed 5 members of this household, one daughter's friend, 2 kayaks, 2 bulging picnic hampers, 3 boogie boards, a picnic rug, a bucket-sized bottle of industrial-strength sunscreen and masses of swimming gear.  We went to a place my partner and I had both spotted on our respective morning walks which we thought would be just the ticket.  There we met up with our son's friend and his mother. When we arrived at 9.30am the place was already dotted with a few other people with the same idea. 

We set about the business of having fun.  It turns out that the spot we'd chosen was not only perfect for kayaking, swimming and picnicking, but it was also the prime vantage point for viewing the flotilla of decorated boats which cruised past us for hours. 

Throughout the day more and more people arrived and it soon became apparent that our chosen spot was also the prime spot favoured by the folks my friend had described, which meant we also had excellent entertainment laid on all day.  The plod came by regularly to check that all was in order but they didn't once check in with our group.  Maybe our wholemeal vegetarian wraps and lashings of iced tea gave us away as too tame to waste time on.

Dolphins cruised past then swam alongside us while we kayaked.  We swam, chatted, ate and were entertained by frequent chants of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi".  We watched as even more decorated boats cruised by.

We had a lovely time.   I thought about how nowhere I've ever lived was perfect, but how nice it is to find whatever it is that you love wherever it is that you live, to find like-minded people wherever you live and to actually like where you live.  (Below is my favourite boat of the day: an old, elegant, beautifully made, perfectly maintained and stylishly simple number.) I am sure I was not alone in also thinking about what a great country this is and how lucky we are to live here. 

Then mid-afternoon a portly, crayfish-coloured, RTD-fuelled young chap at the neighbouring picnic who was wearing an Australian flag as a cape, climbed a spindly Casuarina tree and bounced about on a branch above his partner, children and friends. I figured that should an ambulance be required then it could probably make good use of our parking spaces so we packed up and went home.

Later that day I watched TV news coverage of Australia Day protests where indigenous Australians dubbed the day "Invasion Day".  That evening I devoured another book by my latest favourite Australian novelist; I wondered whether Helen Garner and Fiona Farrell have met and if they have whether they got on like a house on fire (I do hope so).  A few days later I dipped into The Press online and read about a young Christchurch City councillor's account of bogans at the beachI thought that maybe Australia and New Zealand really are same, same ... but different.

So happy Waitangi Day New Zealanders.  However you mark it, I expect that you too will spare a moment to think about how lucky you are to live in such a great place.