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On Thursday evening I attended a discussion hosted by Melbourne Conversations – the City of Melbourne – on what the future holds for Melbourne art, design and architecture and the fields’ practitioners. Talking about Art and Change was compered by writer and broadcaster, Peter Mares and included five panelists:

  • Ian McDougall – Founding Director ARM Architecture
  • Fleur Watson – Curator, Design Hub RMIT Univeristy, Guest curator ‘Sampling the City’, Melbourne Now
  • Rob Adams AM – Architect/Urban Designer, Director City Design (City of Melbourne)
  • Tony Ellwood – Director National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
  • Emily Floyd – Visual artist

In 90 minutes, the panel drew (pardon the pun) many hypothetical plans for the future of the city, and highlighted the importance of recognising the similarities between art, architecture and design, which are perhaps too commonly seen as distinctly separate disciplines.

As well as attending the forum for personal interest, I covered the panel discussion for artsHub. You can see my piece ‘Melbourne’s changing landscape has artists in its sight‘ in the Design section of the artsHub website.

 

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Not long ago I posted a response to Christopher Bantick’s opinion piece about the supposed decline of high culture and elite art in Australia.

According to Bantick, ‘Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy’. Without reiterating my entire spiel, as we would say in high school debates ‘I strongly disagree with this statement’.

Let’s continue with this semi-hilarious debate structure, shall we?

I will now present you with evidence in rebuttal to Bantick’s arguments and convince you – without a doubt – that young people have indeed not lost the capacity to “actually know when something is art, and worthy” of our appreciation and attention.

Exhibits A and B: Happy by Pharrell Williams and Happy by Gillian Cosgriff (background vocals/guitar by Sage Douglas, Josie Lane and Robert Tripolino).

William’s Official Music Video is a modern artistic masterpiece in itself. Originally for the soundtrack of Pixar’s Despicable Me 2, Happy is an all-singing-all-dancing four minutes and seven seconds of fun. As an extension of those few minutes, Williams also produced the world’s first 24 hour music video, which you can all watch at 24 Hours of Happy [dot com].

The video consists of the four-minute song repeated with various people dancing and miming along. Williams himself appears 24 times on the hour, and there are a number of celebrity cameos including Odd Future (1:48pm), Steve Carell (5:08pm), Jamie Foxx (5:28pm),Ana Ortiz (5:32pm), Miranda Cosgrove (5:40pm), JoJo (6:16pm), Kelly Osbourne (1:28am), Magic Johnson (5:36am), Sérgio Mendes (10:32am) andJimmy Kimmel (11:48am). The minions from Despicable Me 2 make several appearances throughout the film, including one scene at 3:00am, in which Pharrell and the minions dance in a movie theatre that is playing the scene from Despicable Me 2 in which “Happy” appears. The site allows users to navigate to various points in the 24-hour timeframe, including all 360 four-minute segments and each hourly segment with Pharrell. –  Wikipedia (it’s more reliable than you think)

So, all in all, I think that’s a pretty innovative, multidisciplinary, and inviting work of art, don’t you?

And, you know what? It seems not a whole lot of people agree that such art is ‘crass’, Mr Bantick, because Happy has topped the charts in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands and has come close in Hungary and Denmark, too.

Regardless of what the opposition thinks of Pharrell William’s current worldwide hit, Happy, which Williams no less than wrote, performed and produced, Cosgriff’s interpretation is so much more than just a cover you’d see on the first round auditions of The Voice.

Cosgriff is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), one of the nation’s leading music institutions. Having received some of the best formal training in the industry, Cosgriff is making numerous contributions to the Australian music scene. She won Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe 2013 and is currently on a mission to play on pianos all over Melbourne, an artwork in itself called ‘Play Me, I’m Yours‘ by artist Luke Jerram.

Play Me, I’m Yours, in Melbourne until 27 January, is presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Betty Amsdem Participation Program. They’ve been painted and decorated by local community artists and can be found all across Melbourne’s arts precinct and its surroundings. Anyone can sit down to a piano and play to their heart’s content.

Now, take note, Bantick and fellow high-culture-appreciators. This is an artwork, presented by Victoria’s premiere arts institution. The very same Centre is home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Opera Australia, amongst other more traditional arts ensembles. Furthermore, Betty Amsden OAM is one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists who is directing her funds specifically towards children and young people and their engagement in the arts.

Anyway, Cosgriff’s taken on her own little arts project, playing and performing on the pianos for anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to be in the vicinity at the time. Her performance of Happy is cheeky, fresh and thoroughly entertaining. She’s also teemed up with other performers, and the locals at Real Good Kid productions to film and upload the performances to share with everyone with internet access.

I’m not negating more traditional forms of art. I’m not saying all popular music is fantastic or that the price of tickets to some international acts’ concerts aren’t ridiculous. But, the cost is across the board. The fantastic Berlin Philharmonic (whom I’ve seen) or Beyonce (who, despite all my best intentions, I have not), they’re both raking in the cash because to put on such a show costs a whole lot of dosh. And, seriously, Beyonce is practically a God who never stops giving, so it’s only fair we give a little back.

So, yes, today’s youth are growing up with a different ‘cultural background’ than you and others who’ve come before us, Bantick. Our thinking is changing but it’s because now the world is growing stronger and becoming more connected by empowering people through the arts. And, elitism has no place in a world like that.

 

Have you ever tried to convince yourself you’d act a particular way in a given situation only to later find yourself in this position and taking a different course? You may purport to hold beliefs that would govern your actions and guide you down one path or another, yet realise that in reality, what you would actually do is something else, entirely.

Shocked by the hike in public transport fares that came into effect on January 1, perhaps you jump on a train without touching on your Myki, taking your chances with Metro’s ticket inspectors. You decide – honest citizen you are – that if you’re unlucky enough to be caught, you’ll fess up and give the officer your details, ultimately acknowledging there’s a small chance you quite literally, will have to pay the price. But, you’re feeling lucky. The likelihood of an officer jumping on board your carriage in the middle of the day is low, and you’re wearing your lucky pants, so ‘let’s rebel and defiantly assert a position against the rising fares’.

Only two stations later, three officers are there, ready to dock you a couple-o-hundys. But, instead of speaking out against the hike while simultaneously remaining a good and honest Melbournian, you jump to say you were rushing for the train and simply had no time to Go Directly Pass Go and Collect $200, or pass the Myki machine at your home station.

While this example may be somewhat unrealistic, the principle holds. The path of action you would like to think you’d take is what Chris Argyris calls your espoused theory, the theory of action to which you give allegiance. However, what governs your actions in reality Argyris names your theory-in-use. If the consequences of your approach match your intended outcome, the theory-in-use is confirmed. But, Argyris proposes that if consequences are unintended/do not match/work against your governing values, they can be viewed as part of single or double-loop learning.

In coming to understand these theories, I drew on the Networked Media blog and came across a post by my tutor that led me to a former student’s comprehension of the same work. Combining my own extensive dot-pointing from the reading with the explanation on my peer, I will explain single and double-loop learning like this:

  • Single-loop learning exists when things are taken for granted and where strategies for managing error remain within governing variables.
  • Double-loop learning involves questioning the governing variables themselves, and subjecting them to scrutiny, thus allowing space for alteration and a shift in the way strategies and consequences are framed.

Here’s a diagram that might help, as really, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Argyris' Double-Loop Theory

Argyris also proposes two models that describe features of theories-in-use that either inhibit or enhance double-loop learning:

  • Model I involves making inferences about another person’s behaviour without checking whether they are valid, and is shaped by an implicit disposition to winning and avoiding embarrassment.
  • Model II includes the views and experiences of participants rather than seeking to impose a view on a situation, is dialogical, encourages open communication and participation, and emphasises common goals and shared leadership.

According to Argyris, Model II increases the likelihood of double-loop learning while Model I inhibits it. Furthermore, he asserts most people will espouse Model II. Argyris then contextualises the models using Organisational Learning Systems, and proposes Organisational II Learning System (O-II) as preferable to Organisational I Learning System (O-I), where the former seeks to maximise client participation with a methodology based on rationality and honesty over the latter, (self-reinforcing, inhibiting, defensive, and acts against long-term organisational interests).

Perhaps, what I will take away from analysing these learning theories, the size of these loopholes and the models above, is the importance of noticing how open we are to change, how we deal with unintended outcomes, and a greater understanding of the extent to which our values actually govern our actions as opposed to the extent to which we espouse them to have done.

Happy learning.

Image

The word ‘buffet’ can only mean one thing…

You know you’re from Melbourne when:

  • You’ve spent Christmas day in the scorching heat, summer rain, and winter wind without having to leave your humble abode (and possibly all on the one Christmas)
  • You have no idea there is another ‘football’ final this weekend
  • You’ve experienced the fascination with Degraves St before realising there are equally as good if not much better cafes in other haunts around the city
  • You struggle to find a bookshop other than Dymocks and Readings
  • Your school excursions included at least one if not multiple trips to Sovereign Hill, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum and the IMAX
  • You hate mykis
  • You hate the train but you hate the bus more
  • You think St Kilda has a beach
  • You’ve spent family holidays somewhere along the Great Ocean Road
  • You holiday regularly in Queensland
  • You’re pretentious about Melbourne’s food and coffee scene
  • You endorse the city’s rivalry with Sydney
  • You connect with people by asking what school they went to
  • You understand the North/South of the river divide
  • You’ve never even considered having a dip in the Yarra
  • You’ve experienced water restrictions but have taken the longest showers anyway
  • There is always a new restaurant, cafe or bar to explore
  • Your childhood included trips to Smorgy’s (RIP)
  • And The Royal Melbourne Show
  • And the Drive-In
  • You refer to ‘our’ Cate, Rove, Kath & Kim, Hamish & Andy, Gotye, Kylie, Danni (to a lesser degree), Missy, ONJ, Bert and Geoffrey, regardless of whether they were born here, lived here once (for a day), or live here now
  • You know the difference between a good market and a tourist market
  • You’ve taken guests to parts of the city you’d never venture to alone such as the Aquarium and Luna Park
  • CHADSTONE
  • You appreciate multiculturalism (well, at least  you SHOULD)
  • You enjoyed and sent around the ‘How many (insert your school here) students does it take to change a lightbulb…’ chain email
  • You have no knowledge of rugby, soccer, or any kicking sport that doesn’t involve a silly shaped ball that bounces funny
  • You’ve been to the Australian Open during your summer holidays come rain, hail or shine
  • You know Ramsay St rules over Summer Bay any day
  • You live, love and will die in black
  • You don’t understand the novelty of trams
  • You consider your city to be European, and therefore more classy than any other Australian city
  • Knew who Steve Bracks was before a few weeks ago (and that he has a ‘model’ son, pun intended)
  • Wore a uniform to school
  • Have taken ‘fitspo’ pics at the bottom of the 1000 steps
  • Have been to Moomba/The Comedy Festival/any other of the million festivities our city hosts each year
  • Acknowledge that while 40 degrees is uncomfortable, it is not the worst it can get
  • You went to Buller, Lake Mountain or Falls for winter sports
  • Get confused as to the proper name of that station after Flinders St on the Loop (is it Spencer St or Southern Cross?)
  • You hate Docklands
  • You relish 10 minutes of sunshine
  • You have been to The Rooftop Bar/Cinema/The Toff/Cookie and can empathise with anyone needing a good drink and a lie down once getting to the top
  • Eat Yum Cha
  • Eat Frozen Yoghurt
  • Love Able and Game’s gifts and cards
  • There are only two acceptable pastimes for December the 27th – shopping or shouting (at the MCG)
  • You have been to the Races or at least appreciated the long weekend they bring
  • You turn off the news before the weather report
  • You worship Collingwood
  • Or Father Bob
  • Or WOULD if it meant Collingwood would lose their next game
  • You know Woolworths is actually just Safeway in disguise with some sheep
  • You can’t get a job, buy a house or afford rent
  • But will always be able to find new and exciting ways to spend your dwindling supply on money on the weekend
  • You use the underground tunnel that goes from the Belgian waffle place to the centre of Flinders St station
  • You have had Italian on Lygon, Chinese in Chinatown and something Middle Eastern on Sydney Rd
  • You went on school camp to the Murray
  • You know what and where The Edge is
  • You can say you live in the world’s Most Liveable City 

You may remember that I’m fortunate enough to be interning at artsHub, Australia’s premiere website for everything you need to know about the arts – performing, literary, visual, screen and related fields. Tomorrow night, artsHub is launching a whole new website. It’s a makeover that’s had a lot of time and effort behind it and from the sneak peaks I’ve enjoyed, it’s an amazingly streamline environment. It’s incredibly user-friendly, adaptable for mobile and tablet devices, and marks a positive turn in and for, the organisation where membership and subscription options are being revamped to offer you more information, faster, and in greater detail.

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning of my own in my life: trying to work out what to do in the coming days/weeks/moths/years (!!!). It’s quite overwhelming and daunting, but many nice prospects are presenting themselves along the way. Primarily, I want to travel. Back to Europe, New York, Japan and beyond. Take me anywhere, really! However, before that happens, I need a paying job. So, if anyone in Melbourne knows of a company/shop/organisation who are looking for someone to do some admin/retail assisting/writing/almost anything, please let them or me know, I’d be super grateful. I’ll even send you a postcard from a city of your choice when I do finally venture across the seas.

Australia is going through it’s own ‘cleaning’ processes, streamlining a new government and organising national and international policies and priorities. There is a lot to be said about the election and voting systems we experienced last weekend, but for now, I’ll leave that to other commentators. I’m sure if you’re interested, you’ve already found your way across other websites such as Crikey, The Conversation and The Drum, alongside mainstream newspapers and television stations.

I’m also after some new podcasts to listen to. I’m pretty open and generally interested in anything, so if you’ve got any recommendations, please let me know in the comments section or any other communicative method.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pieces I wrote at artsHub yesterday:

SDC commissions eight new works for next year <— this article has the best picture, worth clicking the link just to see it

Daffy Duck, Wagnerlicht, and The Ride of the Valkyries

Emerging South Australian printmaker wins $5,000 art prize

Canberra Symphony Orchestra explores emotion in its 2014 season

Malthouse announces 2014 season

The lines from St V’s are straight and lit

Quite different to those lines being shot down on the streets below

My lines are bright and artificially blown

Showing buildings and houses below

 

The lines from my window are straight

They’re not blockades

Not blockages but a way forward

Further and outwards, in wards, left and right

 

The lines are blatant and obvious

Parallels, squares, right-angled

They’re pretty

Little ant cars move slowly down the artificially blown pathways

 

The lines visible from 8 up at St V’s.

Player Three: Fee’s already dropped Ben off at school for swimming practice and Bec at before-school sports tennis training before getting on the 7:16 at Greensborough. She’s relieving at the moment which kind of suits her. The agencies usually call early in the morning when she’s already awake taking the kids off to their respective sports and she enjoys being with kids. As Ben and Bec grow up, Fee knows she’s going to struggle with letting go and so teaching has already been of help to her in this regard. When her ex, Buck, moved out three years ago, things were rough. Centrelink was contacted and unfortunately, thanks to the government at the time, were not all that helpful. But Fee’s thankful that she now has her life at least somewhat sorted.

 

She’s started seeing a guy called Bill (how many Bs can a girl have before it’s bad luck?) a few months ago. He’s a sports teacher at one of the local primary schools Fee temps at and he’s a really good-hearted guy with a sweet, personable nature. He’s slept over a couple of times and gets on well with the kids. He’s helped take them to practice early in the morning when Fee’s wanted a sleep in too, which always goes down well.

 

Fee’s working this morning at a local secondary college just a few stops down the train line. She’s mainly a maths and junior-secondary science teacher, but every now and then she gets asked to cover a music class or two. Music works well with maths and science, her mind likes the logic, the rhyme and reasons behind each of her crafts (or sciences, depending on how you look at it). She loves counting out the bars, clapping rhythms and beating her palm against a drum, getting some control over her thoughts and her emotions.

Fee takes her lunch usually as staff rooms at public schools aren’t known for their generous hospitality. Today’s package (prepared “incasa” as Bec used to always say) includes a vegemite sandwich, some celery sticks with peanut butter for dipping, a slice of camembert cheese for desert and an apple and banana for the train rides to and from home.  Fee savours that thick swab of Camembert like you’ve no idea. Thank goodness for the French.

 

But she’s made her train just in time. Who knows what naughty children the day holds for Fee, but she’s settled and contented with her life at that point, and that’s all that matters.