'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

21 February 2011

Gilbert & George

Their Life is Art.

George Passmore was born in the United Kingdom in 1942 and Gilbert Proesch was born in Italy in 1943. They first met at St Martins School of Art in London in 1967.  "it was love at first sight" and the two married in 2008. They moved into a rough area of Spitalfields in East London and remained there. Most of their work centres on the life, people and surroundings there. Renowned for their conservative image and their bold, bright and confronting photo based paintings (including digital) they have been awarded with several honorary degrees a huge international retrospective and a great DVD ' With Gilbert + George' filmed over two decades and which I have of course.
Right click DVD image and open in new window or tab for Amazon UK Link.

The art.
From the outstanding visit and exhibition in China 1993
The Singing Sculptures in the 1960's
With two New York artists I follow on Facebook Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny who are also friends of friends.
Some awards and honours listed on Wikipedia
1981 Regione Lazio Award (Torino),
1986 Turner Prize
1989 Special International Award (Los Angeles)
2005 Represented the UK at the Venice Biennale.
2007 South Bank Award 
2007 Lorenzo il Magnifico Award (Florence).
2007 Retrospective at Tate Modern was the largest of any artists ever held there.
2008 Awarded Honorary Doctorates by London Metropolitan University.
2010 Awarded the honorary title "Magister Artium Gandensis" by University College Ghent
2010 Conferred with Honorary Doctorates by the University of East London.

12 February 2011


1812- 1876
Truganini is one of the most well known historical figures in Australia. She was a Tasmanian Aborigine. In her lifetime, she saw her people decimated by murder and disease, but refused to be a 'victim'. Her strength and determination persist today within the Palawah people who have lived in the region for over thirty thousand years. In 1803, the first white settlers arrived in Tasmania, where over four thousand Aborigines lived. Fighting began and continued for many years and hundreds of Aborigines and Europeans were killed. Truganini was born, around 1812, in the Bruny Island-D'Entrecasteaux Channel area of Tasmania just south of Hobart. By the time she was seventeen, her mother had been murdered by whalers, her sister abducted and shot by sealers and her husband-to-be murdered by timber fellers and she had been raped. In 1830, authorities appointed George Augustus Robinson, a builder and untrained preacher to mount a 'Friendly Mission' to find the last three hundred remaining Aborigines living deep in the bushland and convince them to move to a nearby island. Posing as a friend, he promised to provide blankets, food and houses, respect their customs and allow them to return to their homelands occasionally. Truganini could see that Robinson's promises were the only way her people could survive. She spent the next five years helping Robinson find the remaining people. Robinson needed the help of Truganini and her friends and she even saved Robinson from spears and drowning. By 1835, nearly all the Aborigines had agreed to move to Flinders Island. He intended to teach them European customs and they in turn believed the island would be their temporary home, but it became a prison and many died. Truganani began to tell people 'not to come in' because she knew they would all die. By 1842, the man, who had promised their race protection, had abandoned them. In 1847, Truganini and the remaining 45 people were moved to an abandoned settlement at Oyster Cove on the Tasmanian mainland where conditions were even worse, but at least it was her traditional land. In her later years she moved to Hobart and became a well-known figure in town. Truganini died in 1876 aged sixty-four, and was buried in the grounds of the female convict gaol in Hobart. Even though her dying wish was to be buried behind the mountains, her body was exhumed and her skeleton displayed at the museum until 1947. Her ashes were finally scattered on the waters of her tribal land, one hundred years after her death. She was considered the last of the Tasmanian Aborigines but some 3000 people claim descent from those early tribal Aborigines.

In Australia it is the custom to not mention the name of or show a photo of the deceased from the Aboriginal community unless permission is granted as it is culturally offensive to some groups. This is generally respected by responsible members of our media.  These are well known photos of Truganini

11 February 2011


In no way do I intend to discuss the merits of the major religious beliefs or compare one with another. My intention is to record some details/myths/legends that have come to interest me. I am an authority on none, but I seek to understand what I can and hopefully I offend no one, but that is not always certain. I was educated a Catholic and in my years I have had friends who have followed various Christian faiths, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other beliefs like the Hare Krishna and even The Children of God. Once I collected books on Catholicism, the saints and their writings, but over the years I have read a little of everything from the Book of Mormon, the Qur'an, the stories of the Greek, Roman and other gods, to two versions of the Egyptian book of the Dead. So many similarities flow through man's interpretation of the unknown and the spiritual and it is obvious that all cultures and times have had the need to have something in their lives other then the material world that we can see, smell, taste and touch. Many today follow a belief in the One God. The earliest Egyptian civilisation believed in a single supreme god, who had no name, but was described as the source of light, the creator of all. He brought fourth rules or natural laws and in their diagrammatic literature these were personified in what we see as the gods and goddesses. Briefly around 1350 BCE flourished the worship proclaimed by Akhenaton, at Amarna (Akhetaten) in Egypt, of the Aten/Aton as the one and only manifestation of god, in the near east Zoroaster saw the revelation of one supreme being in the eternal flame around 600 BCE and some hundred years later in the Middle East appeared the historical writings from the 'descendants' of Abraham, out of whose customs grew Judaism, Christianity and indirectly Islam.

When Abraham was held back by God from sacrificing Isaac (on the rock above situated inside The Dome Of The Rock) around 2000 BCE, his God which became the God of the Israelites was seen as but one of many. From the days of Abraham to the days of Moses and beyond, a pantheon of local gods still existed. When we talk about Akhenaton having but one god, to many others He too was but one of many. Even Allah was originally one of many a local god. The God of Abraham and Israel was their God, their chief god, whom they believed proved himself over and over to be greater than the gods of other lands and peoples. Even the first of the Ten Commandments recognises  'other gods'. However the other gods were often no more than the local interpretation of a single or at least chief god under a local name. The expression of mythology has common threads and cultural adaptation. Compromise and absorption reinterpret stories and places to suite the needs of a particular people or tribe or more often the power behind a system of civilisation. The sacredness of the place (rock) above is variously seen as related to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, but instead of being recognised and accepted as a source of commonality it and many other things are often a source of bitter argument. Instead of being a symbol of enlightenment and history it is possessively fought over. Instead of being inclusive it is seen as exclusive. To me it is such arrogance to believe that God is on your side to the exclusion of everyone else. If, as many believe, He is the creator, did He not create all. No one was born to be lesser to or slave to another. The revelations and knowledge of the world and nature are for all. No one has a presumptuous monopoly on truth or the best way of seeking it. Monotheism was a gradual process and it was not until around 500 BCE that the idea that for one Middle Eastern group the God of Israel was the one and only God and always was. Christianity, at first a Jewish sect, confused the issue by developing the idea of a Trinity which took 400 years to define, and even then as a mystery. This Trinity along with the Holy Family, seems to have roots in the three names of the Egyptian God and their fondness for triads, (usually parents and son). Iconography has been adapted from many sources of the past. 

The Star of Macedon, which impacted on the world because of the conquering exploits of Alexander the Great, was soon adopted by the artists of the church to represent great spiritual power e.g. the halo of Christ, Mary and the saints. The rays of the sun (from the star) similar to the rays of the Egyptian Aton are seen blazing from the head of Christ and the virtuous saints.  When we look at the history of Islam, Allah was but the chief amongst a pantheon of Arab gods until they recognised that He was the same God as the God of the Israelites and of the Christians, but was seen as speaking to the Arab world. Just as the Jews had eventually got rid of all other gods, so did the Moslems. Perhaps it was a lack of understanding of the beliefs of others, the need to have ownership of belief and thoughts moulded by cultural differences, as exists today. One region's understanding may not be different to another's, but they all struggled to understand the indefinable unknown and eternal with greater or lesser success. As philosophy is always subject to the frailties of man, it can often go astray. Some claim divine revelation which I see as logical if god exists and wishes us to understand, but revelation can not be certain. The truth of creation or the law of nature must eventually reveal itself simply because it is the truth, it is how things are. You may wish to call the natural part scientific fact. I am not one who dismisses religion because of recent scientific discoveries, because we can adapt and improve explanations according to an increase in knowledge, unless we wish to be fixed in tradition, which ignores the developing human mind. Never forget we are on a journey. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive as to how the universe operates. The only difference would be the possible elimination of miraculous intervention, which goes against the natural order of things, but I am enough of an agnostic to allow for any possibilities, even if I have severe doubts. I will not presume to know all. The great question posed by Pontius Pilot  'What is truth' is one of the eternal quandaries and at the beginning of all, in our earliest western civilisation lies the guidance of truth (the Egyptian god and ideal of Ma'at), from which all else flows.
" In the eyes of man, God has many faces and each swears he has seen the true and only God. Yet it is not so, for all of these faces are merely the face of God. Our Ka, which is our double, reveals them to us in different ways. By drawing from the bottomless well of wisdom, which is hidden in the essence of every man, we perceive grains of truth, which give those of us with knowledge the power to perform marvellous things."
This quote is from 'The Egyptian Book of the Dead' or 'The Book of Coming Forth by Day' which legend says was written by Tehuty (claimed as 50,000 years ago) who was the father of all knowledge and one offspring of the eight primordial beings who came from the lost island (Atlantis story perhaps?) to settle Asia Africa Europe and Egypt.
The inspiring sight of the hajj. Enshrined in the Kabala, the black curtained block, is the altar of Allah. A meteorite fallen to earth in pre-history, which legend says was originally fashioned as an altar by Adam and later restored by Abraham and Ishmael, it had been an altar of pilgrimage for early cultures many centuries before Mohammed inspired the faith of Islam.
Where do I stand?  I would not presume to dictate to anyone. I do believe however that religion or the spiritual is part of each of us whether we like it or not. One can easily see various religions, differing sects within a belief and the supposed opposition of science in some people’s ideas. Even those who dismiss the spiritual completely are often brought into the argument and they do ponder and have to defend to themselves if not others. Generally from the beginning of humanity it seems that the struggle to understand ourselves and the world has pointed to the heavens and it’s stars, nature around us and the supposition of the divine. The divine has taken many names and shapes and even no name and no shape, but still the quest continues. Each man's inner understanding is unique: unique to his own experience, his family, race and background, his position in his life’s journey and of course his place in the history of time.  
            Perhaps there is a truth, but the act of wondering, searching and understanding IS the religious experience. Many religions claim revelations which happen over time. If that is so it seems terribly unfair to those who have passed on before a new ‘ truth’ is awakened. That is why I believe that in fairness it is the struggle which is important. Enlightenment can not be in the answer, as so many beliefs also claim that answers are yet to come or true knowledge is unattainable by we mere mortals. Faith in what someone has told you? Blind acceptance of evolving and changing man made rules? Continuing to be ruled by a tradition that often has its foundation in a society and a time that no longer exists? Are these important or even good? Our journey is our own and if we wish to go down that path of unquestioning adherence it is easier, but beware. Putting little personal effort into a belief hardly seems the right path to me. Even discovering if you have a belief is difficult enough, but accepting imposed certainty is a lie unless we have each examined it. The great saints, sages and prophets had doubts. We are told that Jesus Christ asked in the garden to have his suffering taken away, and on the Cross he asked why God had abandoned him. Uncertainty is not a problem, it is more likely a recurring element of the search. Questions have to be defined before an answer can be seen or even sought. Sometimes we may feel on the verge of realising an answer but are unsure of the question. Today we often hear of interfaith ceremonies, we hear of some general acceptance of the faith of others. Is is true? Belonging to a particular religious group is not necessarily right or wrong. It may be just right for one individual at that moment in time and at that place in their search. Religions as organisations may be just a stepping stone to understanding ourselves and our place in this universe. I see a separation between god and religion. One may exist of itself the other was created by man. As for Religion and the State - how can any group dictate the individuals personal progress. You are not told how tall to grow and just the same you can not be told in which direction your contemplation should head. No one has the answer, the truth, and therefore can not impose it on others. It is a journey just as living in the material world is a journey of change and we are responsible for our own steps.

There is no possibility of defining my thoughts in a brief note on a web site. It is far too complex and it is a living process and encapsulating it in one moment of time is therefore of necessity a mistake. All I can say is that I do contemplate, change and my thoughts come and go like the tides of my life. Therefore it would also be wrong to comment on the ideas of another. One just hopes that the journey is in the overall picture a forward one and we accept that there are many sidetracks explored and perhaps rejected. This is not to say that we do not return to a sidetrack for further examination from time to time. So as I said, where do I stand? - uncertainly on the fence wondering and searching, and I expect to stay there for the remainder of my life. God may just exist, in spite of the religions of the world and their need to often redefine him as a warrior. Under no circumstances can I see that if a creator is responsible for this world and this universe, was it created to have some people preferred because of their gender, their personality, their race, their contribution to the superficial or the time in which they lived. The persecutions that have taken place throughout history in the name of a preferred man made description of a supreme being are testament to how much man's frail imagination, selfishness, bigotry and lust for superiority or power are involved in the image we have of God.

09 February 2011

David Pereira

A discovery for me of a remarkable performer whose beauty, agility and grace are certainly an asset to the stage.
David Pereira was born in 1990 in Vigo, Spain. He began Ballet at twelve, but after two years he turned to acrobatics. At 18 he performed with Cirque Du Soleil and now performs worldwide. He spends a lot of time in Berlin where so may talents find their way in these times.
This has the added beauty of the divine voice of Antony (Antony and the Johnsons)

He has a channel on Youtube and a web site.
I follow his posts, activity and portraits on his Facebook sites.

Not important to you, but this lovely artist did add me as a friend on Facebook. I am not sure that it means anything to Mr Pereira, but it is a great way for me to follow artists whom I think are going to grow in talent and produce things I want to admire, be inspired by and watch develop.
I am pleased to say we are friends on facebook and yes we do speak.

07 February 2011

Australian Stories

It is generally accepted that animal life on Earth began in the Flinders Ranges which is one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet. The oldest marine fossils have been located in this South Australian wonder.

Our indigenous population seem to have walked possibly from Africa around the Indian coastline and across the land and shallow seas to this continent around 40 - 60,000 years ago. They spread across the land in many nations and in harmony they adapted to the harshness of this unique island cut off from the evolutionary trends of Asia and Europe. However when Europeans in the form of the English first arrived in this island-continent it was declared uninhabited, even though the population that had lived here for tens of thousands of years years were staring the invaders in the face.  Military officers, over 160,000 criminals, both political and economic made the bulk of our early new settlers. They began a process of extermination, assimilation and destruction of the lifestyle, culture and families of the indigenous population. not until 1966 were the original inhabitants even counted or emancipated. It will no doubt be many generations before forgiveness and healing will take place and so much has yet to be done to make the wider population understand just what happened. Today although some official and significant apologies have been made we still perpetuate the cruelty in many ways and still many in our churches and our leaders are blind to this smear on our collective conscience. If there is a soul to a nation I also believe it comes from our past. I know many would not agree, but I do believe that even though it is hardly recognised, the lore and spirit of our indigenous population have infiltrated the psyche of us all.  When I first stepped onto the streets of London, I thought I could feel the life and footsteps of a city populated for two thousand years, so how much greater must be the spirit of a land that has been lived in and resonates with the footprints of sixty thousand years. 
Eventually the Irish arrived, the Greeks and Italians, the Lebanese and the Vietnamese. Luckily we have now been peopled with adventurers from over two hundred countries and receive the benefits of being a true multicultural society. It is good for a country so far from the world mainstream to have the world come to us.
 The political history of Australia since Federation (above left), just over one hundred years ago (1901) has had its heroes and villains but  from the swearing in of the first Governor General (left) through the stature of the now maligned  Anglophile, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies (above) , who led our parliament while I was growing up, to the ups and downs of our modern leaders we have not fared too badly. I have gone through times of strong feelings for or against our Prime Ministers, but happily we remain stable, cynical and have a healthy lack of respect for the powers of our men and women of politics. 
Click for my page on the calm tolerance of Australian Politics.
There is a move for a greater feeling of nationalism, which I feel uneasy with, as I would prefer to see the world unite with commonality not divide with difference. Cultural assets should be maintained and shared, but not used to exclude. A flag is a symbol which can give a sense of identity, but I also try to avoid seeing it as a sacred object which at its worst can produce a bad case of xenophobia. Our soldiers have an affinity for the flag under which they fought and perhaps our new arrivals acknowledge it as a symbol of the country they have adopted, but the culture of the world is also there to enrich us all. There is however more than one flag which can symbolise different things for different people within a country. The Aboriginal Flag is now a proud part of our landscape and the historic Eureka Flag came from the only armed rebellion in Australian colonised history. The Eureka Flag is thought to have been designed by a Canadian gold miner by the name of " We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." The defiance of the gold miners against officialdom failed, but their stand resonates through Australian history and the Eureka flag is still an occasional symbol of dissent. Now we are many and can we respect all the diversity and see it as a fundamental and beneficial part of where we live? We are one of the pieces in what is called humanity and we have our role and our treasures to share, but they make us not better, merely a piece of the whole.
The art of Australia goes back perhaps further than any on earth. Some of the cave images rubbed in stone or sprayed on rock surfaces with white, yellow and red ochre go back tens of thousands of years. There is also the body painting, the Toas (above) and painted weapons that show an exquisite thoughtful heritage. I will neither  presume nor attempt to explain my meagre understanding of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, but it should be studied by all who wish to understand man's concepts of his origins and beliefs. Traditions of art begun with hand prints have survived for so long and went on to produced some of the most beautiful art and spiritual masterpieces in the world. Today Australia begins to explore, honour and include the rich heritage that is unique to this ancient continent.

In the early days of Australia, Opera came to the outback. The first performance was Bishop's 'Clari' in 1834. Various private companies and visiting Italian companies filled the gaps spasmodically until the companies in Sydney and Melbourne sought an alliance in 1952 and the eventual formation  in 1954 of The Elizabethan Trust to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the first season of a national company in Adelaide. Through trial and tribulation it survived, continued and is now Opera Australia and  coming full circle it is now based in both Sydney and Melbourne.

The National Anthem - Advance Australia Fair
 was composed by Glasgow-born Peter Dodds McCormick (1834?-1916). It's first public performance is thought to have been sung by Andrew Fairfax in Sydney on St Andrews Day November 30th 1878 at a concert for the Highland Society. It was also sung, with amendments, by a choir of 10,000 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. On 19th April, 1984 'Advance Australia Fair' became Australia's national anthem,  to be played at all official and ceremonial occasions but 'God Save the Queen' remains the "royal anthem", to be played when the Queen or members of the Royal Family are present.
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free,
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts,
Of beauty rich and rare,
In history's page, let every stage,
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands,
To make this Commonwealth of ours,
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas,
We've boundless plains to share,
With courage let us all combine,
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

The National Song        –        Waltzing Matilda 

Banjo Paterson most likely wrote the lyrics of Australia's most well known song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in 1895 whilst staying with the Macpherson clan on Dagworth Station, north-west of Winton in Queensland. It appears that Christina Macpherson wrote the music although she claimed to have adapted the tune of an old folk song.
Waltzing Matilda
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree…
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
"Who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?"

"Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda, who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?"

And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
"Who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me??"
Up came a jumbuck to drink out that waterhole
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
"You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me!!"
Up rode the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
Up came the troopers, one! two!! three!!!
"Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me!!"
Up jumped the swagman, sprang into that billabong
"You’ll never catch me alive!" said he..
And his GHOST (sing softly and slowly) may be heard as you pass
by that billabong..
"You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me!"
"Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda, who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?"
And his ghost  may be heard
as you pass by that billabong
"Who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?"

04 February 2011

Allen Ginsberg and Yevgeny Yevtushenko

In the late sixties I had the great pleasure..... ??? Actually, in the fever of revolutionary student passion and in a time of marches and grand altruistic thoughts..... (Now that sounds better.)
Ok, on the floor of one of the student union buildings in the late 60's several hundred of us sat attentive and inspired by the presence of two of the great poets of the time, Allen Ginsberg and Yevgeny Yevtushenko. As I recall Yevtushenko read his Russian poems and Ginsberg translated. I have the image embedded in my soul but that is all I can recall. I was there and I know it was a big moment.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko was born 18 July 1933. He is a Soviet and now Russian poet as well as a novelist, essayist, dramatist, screenwriter, actor, editor, and an occasional film director. His great-grandfather was a suspected subversive and died on his way to exile in Siberia after the 1881 assassination of Emperor Alexander II. Both grandfathers were arrested in Stalinist times as "enemies of the people". His maternal grandfather had been a Red Army officer during the Russian Revolution and the Civil War. Yevtushenko was politically active in Khrushchev’s time and in 1961 he wrote his most famous poem ‘Babi Yar’ in which he denounced the Soviet distortion of historical facts. He was one of the best known poets of the 1950s and 1960s in the Soviet Union and was part of the 1960s generation. His criticism of the Soviet Union gained him popularity in the West, but at the same time he held to a strong Marxist-Leninist ideological stance. He has remained involved in the politics of Russia and in his time he has been a Time magazine coverboy and received awards throughout the world for poetry with his complex allegiances. Anyway back in the time when I was a student he was big news.
from Babi Yar

'No fiber of my body will forget this.
May "Internationale" thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that's blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that's corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!'

Yevtushenko on Wiki
Allen Ginsberg
Creator of the Beat Generation and outstanding identity of the twentieth century. His work and legend speak for itself. Above are two photos of Allen and poet Peter Orlovsky, his companion and lover from their meeting in 1954 to Ginsberg's death in 1997. Orlovsky died in 2010. The film 'Howl' with James Franco playing an outstanding part will explain what needs to be said. A line from the obscenity trial against the publication of Howl goes something like. "Poetry can not be turned into prose. That is why it is poetry." This is also true of the poet. Experience his work his love and ideas not his lineage and geography. Tune into his vision, his identity, his greatness and his madness.
Ginsberg below
Play this stunning excerpt of James Franco as Ginsberg.

James Franco reading Howl by Allen Ginsberg - 1 from Tommy Judd on Vimeo.
Another film about these times with Ron Livingston as Ginsberg
An Extract from Howl
'I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-
ery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tene-
ment roofs illuminated,
Kill Your Darlings

Dabe DeHaan as Lucien Carr and Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg in the 2013 film. Great Trailer below.
On The Road
Tom Sturridge in Jack Kerouack's  'On The Road' 2012
as Carlo Marx the character based on Allen Ginsberg
There are other references to Ginsberg here - just use the search box in the right hand column for this or anything else you may be interested in.
Also a Play by a friend Larry Myers
Ginsberg on Wiki
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