It’s not all boobs, beaches and barrels up here in South East Queensland – in fact there is a depth of culture that Melburnians may be surprised at. Australia’s Southern city does not have a monopoly on culture, no matter what some “Sex and the City” wannabes may tell you. Yes, Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast is a little light-on in the artistic and cultural realm – everybody is too busy checking the surf – but less than an hour up the road, little ol’ Brisbane has Queensland culture covered.
Brisbane is a fun little city with a good array of unique architecture, trendy spots and hipsters-in-black to provide a cultural contrast to the salt-encrusted hair and golden-tans of the Goldy. Last week we made the easy drive up to the Brisbane Powerhouse for the 16th installment of the frequent Pecha Kucha nights held there to get our cultural fix.
Pecha Kucha is a the 20-20 Cricket of the art world…literally! About 8 to 12 creative individuals get up on stage to show 20 jpeg slides for 20 seconds each and chat about them. This limits each “artist” to 6 minutes 40 of presentation time so they don’t waffle on in a self-absorbed daze, and it gives the audience a panoramic snapshot of some of the diverse creative pursuits are being followed in their home town. Any sort of creative type can get up, from architects, to painters, furniture makers, graphic designers and commercial advertisers and filmmakers. It was started by a couple of architects in Japan, and one of the “inventors”, Mark Dytham was on hand last week to discuss his creation. I think he’s on the right track, not taking the concepts of “art” and all it entails too seriously- art is to be enjoyed not laboured over, with Mark telling the audience to make sure they head to the bar and stay out late as Pecha Kucha is all about “drinking, then thinking”. Pecha Kucha is held in 314 cities across the world (including Melbourne) – find out more about it here.
The Powerhouse is a great location to hold Pecha Kucha. It is an amazing former-industrial space converted to a glorified gallery, bar-cafe and classy date-spot sitting majestically right on the wide Brisbane River, overlooking rich houses and schools on the opposite bank. But the bit I like most is how the re-developers have kept much of the original graffiti that was sprayed on the walls when the building lay abandoned for decades. And to show how art can turn full-circle, inside the Powerhouse there is a new Blek Le Rat feature stencil artwork (which would be called vandalism by Victorian politicians and whitewashed over), which itself takes aim at the question of “what is art?” It seems to me that Blek‘s classical figure is reaching out from his gilded gallery frame to grab a spray can in a statement that stencil/street art should now be recognised as a legitimate artform worth displaying. Part of the reason the Powerhouse commissioned the “Godfather of Street Art” to paint their wall is that the building is actually heritage listed for its graffiti! I wish Melbourne had a building as cool as the Brisbane Powerhouse. And while researching this blog I discovered that Blek also painted two more pieces on the exterior of the Powerhouse, which I will have to go back and find.
Another pleasure last week was to discover that the Powerhouse was showing a collection of war photo-journalism photography, from Vietnam, via Africa and the Balkans, up to current-day Iraq and Afghanstan. It was interesting to actually see some photos by the enigmatic Sean (son-of-Errol) Flynn, who Dennis Hopper based his American Photojournalist character on for “Apocalypse Now“. Coincidentally, I had been reading an old novel by Colin Falconer called “Dangerous” which had a very Sean Flynn-like character (named “Sean Ryan”, who was a Hawaiin-shirt wearing, war-photo-chasing adrenalin junky, former minor hollywood hunk and son of a famous Hollywood alcoholic womaniser…hmmm, Falconer must have just plucked those character traits from thin air!) It was chilling to consider the horrific scenes these photographers capture when compared to the light and fun world of wintersports which I operate in. I am glad I have never been at all tempted by photo-journalism, least of all war photo-journalism. If Falconer’s book is anything to go by, it would be almost impossible to lead a normal life after being stuck in the thick of the action trying to get a photo to help explain the insanity of war. Take a look at my photos below of what the night was like – I did get into a little bit of trouble to taking photos of the photos, but hey, what’s a bit of copyright infringement between friends?
Now if SEQ could just have a good cafe I’d never have to move back to Melbourne: all we want is a quaint little place that serves good coffee, quickly, has good food at decent prices, with free newspapers and magazines, and stays open later than 4.30pm on a weekday and 3pm on a sunday. Is that too much to ask?