Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weather Plus

A lot of rain certainly has an effect on some of the flora, while the other, younger, dahlias coped remarkably well.

After a weekend of 35+ degrees C (95+ F) and pretty continuous 40+ km/h (25+ mph) winds, we had 90+ mm (3 & 1/2 + in) in 24 hours. Certainly everything a garden might want, but in excess.


Friday, February 17, 2012

The Management

Just watching, napping.

Seen at Lancefield Farmer's Market some time ago, a couple of full size kelpies on the back of the Ute.

Photo by Bev.

Monday, February 13, 2012

More cars at the Rock

As I said this time last year, every year, on the Valentine's Day weekend, the Macedon Ranges & District Motor Club hosts the 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' car show. It's a great event with thousands of interesting cars in a unique venue and really is a giant picnic. Here's this year's selection, starting (above) with a Yank Tank in front of the Rock.

While there's a fair amount of repetition of popular classics, there's enough rare and odd stuff if you keep looking. There's a French bias in this list, just because the French built so much neat machinery. After all what car show would be complete without a DS Goddess?

The Nash above is the first of many contenders of why the American machines are bigger than the British; although a Mini on the wing's hardly fair!

Good to see an old friend from London.

That famous signature logo pops up all over.

Australian icon, the early Holden.

And of course a good representation from Germany. Beetles (or Bugs) are still popular worldwide, but Australia has a good representation of the other 60s types on the road as well.

However you don't see many of these here, however common they are in Europe. This one for Greg!

I'm not sure, but I think that may be Thunderbird 9. FAB!*

Neat logo, and an English reminder. Not so exotic in the local lingo, sadly.

Winner of Best Commercial and oldest driver (at 88, for the owner) this magnificent Thornycroft, with solid tyres.

And if your parents are dedicated, no need for the young ones to miss out. However the green machines 'off-driveway' capability seemed as limited as you'd expect. Think the motor got a bit grumpy.

Just in from the Sudan, or possibly a Victorian barn...

The locals were very patient with all the visitors. This guy seemed a lot more sensible than his many admirers (they are wild animals and they can kick hard, folks). The Moggies seemed almost as rare this year.

One of the overall views. It's a great venue.

And to finish, Austin corner. Didn't Noddy drive one of these?

More pictures, including the above, can be seen here in my photo account.


*Thanks to the various people who've kindly helped the idiot who tried to make a lame joke about how the car looks a bit like one of the Thunderbird Supermarionation machines, and was nothing to do with Ford Thunderbird cars, or the USAF Thunderbirds, or a drink or any stations west... It's actually a 1965 Buick Rivera. Please do not continue to write in.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Icebergs of art & artifact

This article in The Age is actually a good general introduction to the realities of museum and gallery storage and display issues. Like the famous example of the iceberg, most museums and galleries have only a small proportion on show; the rest often being out of view, and often (literally) underneath.

The picture above was taken from a staircase in the Louvre, Paris, while the statistics below relate to the National Gallery of Victoria:
"At last count, the collection contained about 67,000 works, of which only around 5 per cent can be on public display in the institution's two buildings in St Kilda Road and at Federation Square."
The majority of large, national or significant collection have the majority of their material in store. A global figure is hard to arrive at, but if we had only one fifth of the world's greatest museums artifacts on show we would be doing much better than the current reality. Some figures of major UK collections here show 90% or more in store - that's less than 10% on show.

Cataloguing is a lot harder than it looks. Some of these artifacts are labelled 'object' because we don't know what it is, while other equally obscure things are classified thanks to specialist knowledge. Consider the cost of this kind of core museum storage across thousands - sometimes millions of objects, and some of the remarkable costings become understandable.

What's immediately obvious from the figures above is the difference between the art galleries (good percentages on show) and museums - ranking in the ninety-percents in store. That has a lot to do with the nature of artworks vs artifacts. And then there are exceptions like the Wallace Collection, mandated to have it 'all out at all times'. (But the Wallace is an all-around exception, being also prevented from loaning anything out, either.)

Another set of figures here come from checking some of the hyperbolistic writings of a currently fashionable writer on the Smithsonian, in the USA. Though most of what the writer puts in his book is tall tales, here the reality exceeds even his grandiose claims.

Some thing are easier to conserve and store than others. Even so, something as solid as stone can suffer from continuing decay from nasties in the air and rainwater, lichens et al. And how many of these church carvings should be preserved? It's a harder call than it may seem.

It is not that there is 90% more 'cool stuff' socked away, but that most collections have huge volumes of middling interest items that are important in the mass, but generally not individually. There's a huge number of other reasons this stuff's in store - including the plain fact that it's embarrassing. Some items can't be on show much (light sensitive works) or for political reasons (a birds egg collection, once an acceptable country museum cornerstone is a hot topic on show in the 21st century).

A collection of Kestrel eggs in the Oxfordshire Museums store. Once not an uncommon collection, from a scientifically minded person, creating such collections nowadays is essentially illegal. Many museums have such collections, inherited or from confiscated by the police. For obvious reasons putting such collections on show needs to be carefully considered, while they also remain an important biological source.

National level collections like this don't store stuff in leaky sheds (or they're not supposed to, anyway) and while the higher levers of security, protection, climate control etcetera are laudable, the usually cost top dollar - for things that ultimately aren't even seen. A (small) percentage will eventually get shown, other items will find a role for research, and a few will be 'deacessioned' a clumsy term for a tricky, and risky, museum task.

What are museums and galleries for?
Andrew Sayers, director of the National Museum of Australia, wrote last year: ''We need to redefine museums as educational resources rather than as buildings where collections are held. In fact, it is probably true to say that collections are seen by governments as more of a problem - the source of demands for ever-increasing storage facilities - rather than the assets they are.''
Some artifacts are of unarguable permanent display status, a few others should be got rid of. It's the huge number in the area between the two poles that provide the museum and gallery challenge.


All images by & copyright the author.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An Art Noir

We watched 'The Woman in the Window' (1944) last night, and I certainly found it enjoyable, but very much a film from another time. Directed by Fritz Laing, I didn't realise that it was often cited as one of the seminal films that set what we now know as 'film noir'.

The actual 'woman in the window' is actually in a painting in a shop window, before she appears to the main character - played against type by Edward G Robinson - as a reflection in that same window. It's a bit of a clumsy-clever title for a remarkably suspicious trick at the point the film takes off.

You wouldn't point to it as a genre establishing film on its own accord, and Robinson seems bumbling and out of sorts which may be good acting - or may be seen as a usually scary actor out of place.

Of the small ensemble cast Heidt, the corrupt ex-cop turned 'tail', and now a blackmailer, played by Dan Duryea, is the most convincing, perhaps because he is the only charecter with some snap and dynamism to him; the others often seem like they're sleepwalking. Perhaps the latter befuddlement is what happens in reality to 'normal' people is such a trapped situation, but it doesn't play well.

Whether you like the film or not, there's some interesting takes on it here (film showing 'free will' or not) and here, the latter including some musing on the role of artworks in the period in film:
"Elsaesser wonders if this indicates the revenge of cinema on painting or if the filmmakers are unconscious of the fact that the paintings they include are bad. (Could it be that they can only afford or find mediocre painters to execute them? Or could it be that because portraits of fictional characters in films are themselves fictional, they necessarily lack authenticity? Since the portrait is simply a prop, it does not need to be a genuine or great work of art.) His explanation is as follows: 'the mediocrity of these portrait paintings is less a matter of aesthetics and more a question of ontology… mediocrity being here the effect of a certain void or vertigo emanating from the portrait, or rather its pretence of a presence… it is bad… because of the multiple perturbations it brings to the narrative.'"

A good start at the budgeting point, unfortunately going into art-crit onanism. For what it's worth, and as can be seen in the still from the film (above) it's not a bad painting by any means and a better likeness of the subject than most of the filmic kind. There are plenty of 'great' paintings of people who are frauds, fakes and even actors in role*.

I would agree that generally most artworks in film (where they are created as solo or incidental props for those films) vary from low quality to risible. Other paintings, where the subject of the film is perhaps a painter or their oeuvre, the artwork can be of remarkable standard - I'm thinking of Bratbys in 'The Horse's Mouth'. A film for another discussion, another day.


*That's the great Ellen Terry as a truly terrifying Lady Macbeth by a chap called Sergeant.