All schools should be art schools: Online stream/Symposium Kaldor Art Projects

On 24 October 2018, at UNSW Art & Design, Paddington, 8.30am – 4.00pm

Limited capacity so invite only. But the good news it will be live streamed to listen from anywhere.

I have already written about Kaldor Art Projects and I most like will again, as they are a fantastic organisation, but on 24 October the will be holding a Symposium at the UNSW campus on art education. The Kaldor public art projects are phenomenal for education, and students, and I highly recommend trying to access the live stream.

To access the live stream or information on speakers and the event, visit:

All schools should be art schools: Online stream/Symposium Kaldor Art Projects

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My ocean

In the year 2001 I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see an exhibition called Art/Music: rock, pop, techno.  This is where I first encountered the work of Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist.  I remember walking into a dimly lit room, with projections around me.  I was half-submerged in shallow sea water.  Objects of domestic bliss were falling and sinking through the water, a red bikini clad woman frolicked in the shallows, with lots of kaleidoscope vagina imagery, while the artist herself was singing a, really bloody terrible, rendition of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game.  This was Sip My Ocean.

The artwork has film clip like attributes, similar to a techno clip from the early 1990’s played on rage in the early hours of the morning.  Weird overlay imagery flying through the clouds.  Somehow it really resonated with a teenage me.  It got stuck in my head.  I kept referencing it in essays, I bought a Chris Isaak CD, I contemplated what the imagery meant.  A lot.  This was the first artwork by Pipilotti that launched her as an ‘artist’, it was her first work bought by a public institution, the Swiss equivalent of the MCA.  It is also the title work of her retrospective exhibition at the MCA in 2017/2018, Pipiloti Wrist: Sip My Ocean.

Rist creates immersive environments through technology.  In the 1990s she used single channel video, which had a lot of music video feelings.  In fact Beyonce, knowingly or not, referenced Rist’s work Ever is Over All (1997) in a music video for Hold Up (2016).  Which makes a beautiful circle of influence, music to video to art to music to video, past to present to past to present.  Pipilotti references popular culture, even taking her name from the children’s book character Pipi Longstockings.  She is of her time, using the popular culture Zeitgeist for inspiration.

In the early days of video art, and art that used new technologies, usually it was the medium itself being referenced.  Artworks tended to be experimentations and explorations of the medium.  This is true of Pipilotti Rist, who explored the medium of video art through single channel videos in her early days studying at art college.  Meshing music, imagery and popular culture.  Fast forward to 2018 and Rist engulfs the viewer still in video and projection but also with rooms full of hanging jelly fish lights, huge beds to lay and watch underwater worlds floating above you, and a living room sprung from the artist’s mind on acid. These spaces are beautiful and immersive and the perfect background for social medium images, creating another beautiful circle of social media impacting life, or art imitating life.  From art to photo to Instagram to influence to art, #pipilottirist #sipmyocean.

Right in the middle of all the immersive visuals and sounds and music and popular culture is a very overt feminist thought.  The female body is everywhere.  In Sip My Ocean the bikini clad woman kaleidoscope between two corner screens, constantly creating pink vagina like imagery with her body and breasts.  She is unapologetic.  As is the Dorothy like character in Ever is Over All who is happily smashing the windows of cars.  later works reference nature more than the female body.  But her feminist feel is mainly felt in her earlier works.  As time shifts, so does Rists’ interests.  Spaces of contemplation, with objects and less obvious visuals seems to be her thing.  Environments, from her inner conscious, for everyone to visit and connect within, not just females.

This exhibition has some very engaging features.  The jellyfish light room (Pixelwald, 2016, a collaboration with Kaori Kuwabara that features a forest of hanging lights which respond to music) is beautiful, and awe-inspiring.  It calls out to you to float amongst it. (But you can’t! You are actually told off in nearly every room of the gallery for not engaging with the art correctly.  I was actually yelled at by an invigilator who said I looked like I was going to touch an artwork. She aggressively yelled at me from across a room. Fun times at the MCA!)  The domestic space on acid, (the site specific work for the MCA titled Your Room Opposite the Opera, 2017) has so much to inspire and reflect upon.  Teenagers loved rolling around in the bed, young children wrote and drew in the visitors book, kids loved bouncing on the carpet watching the projections.  There is a lot to engage students with this work.

Stage 5/Stage 6

Pipilotti Rist: Sip My ocean

Ways of Seeing by John Berger and New Ways of Seeing

John Berger passed away on 2 January 2017, (New York Times, 2 Jan, 2017), and reading about his life reminded me about his impact on my art education.  Berger was a British art critic, amongst other roles, and the host of the television series Ways of Seeing.

Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb.  Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name.  The series and book criticise traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images.  The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon. (Description taken from Wikipedia).

I first came across Ways of Seeing in the early 2000s at art school, and it rocked my world.  It made me look at everything with a new need to understand and deconstruct the layers.  It really appealed to my youthful inner conspiracy theorist and detective instincts, especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks.  Trust nothing on face value.  Question everything.  What is the hidden meaning and what/who has orchestrated you to come to this idea.  A painting was no longer only different coloured paint on a canvas, it became a work with multiple layers of meaning to peel away to understand completely.  Who made it?  When was it made?  Why was it made?  Which critic wrote about it?  Why does it hang in this gallery?  Who decided to buy it?  Why did the museum buy it?  Was there a political agenda?  Let alone the concept of the reproduction of the image.  Being a photography student at the beginning of the wave of digital photography entering the mainstream (pre iPhones, imagine!), this blew my mind.  Context, meaning, death of the author, copyright… And these concepts are applicable now more than ever with the internet and social media.  Images are copied and replicated at an alarming rate.

The series is very dated, for the classroom.  Not sure if a student would also be able to resist John Berger’s lisp.  Even I cant but help imitating it after watching an episode. There is the text, Ways of Seeing, which could be brought into the classroom, and snippets of the series could be used to initiate discussion. It is in itself now a classic. And like classics, sequels, remakes and homages are spawned to honour them. Welcome New Ways of Seeing. The New York Times T Brand Studio and Tiffany and Co. have come together to create a new five part series called New Ways of Seeing.  To view all episodes visit

New Ways of Seeing, Episode One: Art Contains Multitudes presented by Jerry Saltz

The series is so new, that only episodes one to three have aired yet. The series is essentially presenting the same principle, almost picking up where the last series left off. The episodes are short, catchy, and easily digestible for the classroom.  It is almost like an advert for the episode, with short snippets of interviews and soundbites of information. Episode three deals with art in the digital age, and is presented by Tavi Gevinson, the young Rookie editor.



Ways of Seeing by John Berger and New Ways of Seeing

Lara Thoms

Lara Thoms is an artists who researches, investigates and explores.  Her main area of research tends to be focussed on people.  Her work is serious, but deep down it is very funny.  Satirical and smart funny.  But she is not making fun of the people.  Operating on multiple layers and levels of smart funny.  Thoms’ work introduces you to aspects of society, and people, who you may never encounter, or even dream of encountering.  Joy Hurub, 87 year old Sydney resident who broadcasts television form her garage, is one of these amazing people.  And so are the 150 people Thoms’ interviewed as part of her Experts Project.

The Experts Project was a two year participatory performance work project where Thoms spoke with 150 unofficial experts and general members of the public, to learn about and understand their specific expertise, culminating with Thoms posing as the expert and having her photo taken by the original expert, to signify the exchange of information.  This work explores ideas of pedagogy, skill and learning, voyeurism and also traditions of craft and the passing on and sharing of knowledge.  Lessons include how to host a medieval dinner party; slice frozen fish; and even how to enter and exit combat zones.  As previously mentioned, Thoms is a smart funny artist.  But when she presents her expert lessons, she does so with the utmost respect for the person.  There is a faint level of parody, but above all her lessons show that event the everyday jobs require expertise.

Video interview with Lara Thoms by Real Time, artv studio: Lara Thoms, The Experts Project from RealTime on Vimeo.

Practice: Students could engage in a number of art making activities to emulate Thoms practice.  They could research a topic, or an expertise, and give a presentation to the class on that topic.
Students could pair off, and one student identifies an expertise of theirs, such as stamp collecting, video games, dancing etc, that they teach and pass on to the the other student. The student who learnt the expertise then presents their knowledge to the class.
Photography exercise of portraiture.
The final photographs of Thoms dressed as the expert, to me, are reminiscent of Cindy Sherman’s conceptual portraits.  The introduction of Sherman’s work could contrast nicely with the Thoms, in relation to the study of people, and their representation. Sherman works with series, often portraying Caucasian women and dressing up in elaborate costumes to portray the characters.
Cultural: You could compare the culture represented in both Thoms and Sherman’s work. Even though there is an element of parody and jest that can be interpreted from the works, both artists are dealing with true themes, respecting their subjects. You can explore the film noir aspect of both works, and discuss what it is that each artist is attempting to gain through dressing up as someone else.
Structural: Lara Thom’s work is a great way to explore different mediums, and the  ephemeral aspects of performance. What is the artwork? When Thoms talks to the expert? When she give the presentation? Or the photograph at the end, the recording of the work? You are discussing a work you have not or cannot view in entirety as it occurred in the past? How does this change the understanding of the work?

Resource links:

Lara Thoms

Dämmerschlaf at Artspace

Mikala Dwyer, ‘The hanging garden of moonman marigolds’, 2016, installation view, ‘Dämmerschlaf’, Artspace, Sydney. Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Anna Schwartz Gallery. Photo: Artspace.
Accessed on 23 January 2016:


Right now and throughout mid January to mid February, above the Australian sky, there is a planetary alignment that is happening.  If you look up to the predawn sky, all five of the visible (to the human eye) planets, being Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, can be seen all together, hanging out in the universe above us like a gang of celestial buddies.  The planets are brought together by invisible forces, and during this same period of celestial connection, three artists are also brought together to explore the connection of the physical and conceptual thresholds between the studio and the gallery.

Nick Dorey, Mikala Dwyer, Clare Milledge are exhibiting in Dämmerschlaf, the first exhibition of the Artspace 2016 program.  All three artists were 2015 One Year Studio Artists at Artspace, and this is their resulting body of work.  Dämmerschlaf is the German word for ‘twilight sleep’, a form of calming pain relief.  Dämmerschlaf is an evolving experience taking place throughout the month of January, slowly growing and moving and aligning throughout the course of the exhibition.  All artists have relocated their working environments from the upstairs studio to the downstairs gallery, creating together and aligning their ideas in the exhibition space. The artist is actively present throughout the exhibition, creating and designing the space where you can watch them in-situ, much like the planets in our night time sky.

Why the link between Dämmerschlaf and the planets? Well, the works are of a spiritual and supernatural perspective.  The artists explore the occult, the moon, perceptions of realities and physical and conceptual thresholds.

Stage 6
This would be a good experience for Stage 6 students to go and visit an artists studio in preparation for creating a major body of work.  Artistic collaboration and different art making practices can be viewed in-situ and compared between the artists.

The Conceptual Framework can explore the notions of space, the studio space vs exhibition space. The physical and spiritual space.  The artist and the audience in the same space.  The performance of the creation of the work can also be explored.  There is a public program from GreenUps, which indicate concepts of sustainability will be at play throughout the exhibition.  Another concept to explore is the title: What does Dämmerschlaf mean? (The German word Dämmerschlaf is translated into English as ‘twilight sleep’, which describes a state induced by a combination of analgesia (pain relief) and amnesia to combat the pain — or the memory of pain). Why is this title significant? How does twilight sleep, amnesia and an induced state of calm and relief feature in the exhibition?

Dämmerschlaf at Artspace

STEM based learning and Art: STEAM

I have recently come across a number of articles about science and art.  I read an interesting article on scientists trying to quantify and explain our personal taste in art, and came across another article showcasing filmmaker Alice Dunseath’s petri-dish Beta and Theta wave artworks.  There is always some great news story out there about science used to explain art, or the marrying of the two.  As subjects they are very different but they are also very similar.  Much like maths and art.  And come to think of it, engineering.  And also technology.  When you really come down to it, art straddles many, if not all, subjects, and all learning is interwoven.  Young children learn so much from creative play, they develop fine motor skills, empathy and social skills, and it is also a form of sensory exploration.  Older students and children can embrace broader subjects and understanding through their creativity.

So it was not surprising when I came across an article about the art based learning of STEM, or STEAM. [STEM programs are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  The article appeared in the Huffington Post on 7 December 2015, and it is titled Arts Based Learning of STEM Works Says NSF Funded Research Firm.

It discusses, with huge statistical evidence, the benefits of learning through creativity.  It’s an interesting read, and it almost seems obvious that creative thinking, as a model of holistic learning and through incorporating all learning under the umbrella of education as opposed to individual subjects, is the way forward.  The Finnish are doing it already… When I studied special education and areas of art therapy many years ago at University, this was an intrinsic aspect of the learning experience.  It is also an aspect of Montessori and Steiner education, student led creative learning experiences.  I may be thinking very broad here to be linking STEAM with Steiner, but


Since writing this post I have come across more articles in the area of creative learning and STEM.

STEM based learning and Art: STEAM

Collage – artist examples

Collage is an art form that is having a resurgence.  Or maybe it never went away?  Regardless, it is finding its way back into art galleries and into the practice of some well known Sydney artists.  From its early days from the start of the 20th Century, with Picasso and Braque, it has traversed from modernism, satirical, to the decorative and craft.  Resting at the tacky flower decoupaged potpourri holder arts in the mid 1990’s.

But collage is a beautiful thing.  And it is a very accessible art form to introduce into the classroom, at any stage.

collage 1
Artist: Chelsea Tuesday, Sydney Collage Society, image sourced from:

The Sydney Collage Society, established in 2015, is one such group that pushes the boundaries of the cut-and-paste.  A group exhibition, titled Cut It Out!,  (at Low Road Garage in Paddington) was a complete mix up of different collage techniques to show many different ways the art form can be applied.

Another fantastic artist is Oliver Watts, who makes paper cut works. Inspired from Dadaism, and the French poet Tristian Tzara, Watts creates intricate pictures and the re-telling of stories, all from assembling pieces of cut paper.  Watts further explored the genre of collage and paper cuts with his short film, The Sea Hare, 2013, where he re-imagined a fairy tale, based on one by the Brothers Grimm, of a princess in a tower with 12 windows.  Placed quite firmly in the cerebral, Watts’ playful works always make you think.  And they are always beautiful as well.

My favorite collage creating duo are Greedy Hen.  These two awesome ladies have created some wondrous images and landscapes from layering image upon image.  The duo are regularly commissioned to create album cover art for bands, and films clips, and posters and even a clip of kittens smashing up instruments for MTV.  The works traverse easily to the moving image, and always have a sense of play.

Collage – artist examples