New art down the street.

Some new pieces being created in Katoomba’s street art alley. Interesting how street art appears to be moving away from the style we associate with hip hop and moving in the direction of greater realism. Not sure if this is a step forward or one backward. The other thing I find surprising is that street artists appear to be risk adverse in subject matter but then again, what we have here is art approved and probably paid for by the local authorities and as such and as I’ve said before, it’s more art in the street than art of the street.

OK – better than nothing but, and I know this is an unfair comparison given these are most likely commissioned murals and probably with restrictions on subject matter, where Banksy’s works are often insightful social comment these works do little other than display the artist’s skill in creating large-scale illustrations with spray cans.

Banksy’s work is often insightful social comment.

Below are  a few snap shots I took this afternoon in Katoomba’s ‘street art alley’. Some good works but pretty much same / same as everyone and everywhere else.

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Could be a good photograph to be had after the artists have gone and the sun sets.

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Flowers are aliens waiting to invade or maybe warn us about climate change. Who knows?

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Katoomba’s ‘street art alley’

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Another portrait of a young Indigenous female.

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Mural on the left reminds me of the psychedelic art of the sixties and early seventies.

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

Go Pro camera on the van door capturing all the action.

Street mural in Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia.

And another portrait of a young female person. The next guy decided to do a portrait of a bird.

 

Trump’s recent action on climate change and marriage is now so gay.

Scenes of love and rejoicing in the Australian federal parliament yesterday with same-gender marriage passing the lower house. Today the governor general signed on the dotted line and may the weddings begin. Hope this goes well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Trump has proven he fears not being elected for a second term and recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel to shore up support of the United States’ rich, retarded and powerful. Retarded because anyone with half a brain would see that on its current course Israel is a train wreck. Was it not John Kerry who said Israel needs to be saved from itself? Here’s a theory about why the Israelis are so determined to grab land from the Palestinians and it has nothing to do with religion. I checked on geology dot com where the beach would be in Israel by the end of this century entering various levels of sea level rise and whilst not as dramatic as say Bangladesh, there would be reason to make Jerusalem the capital because Tel Aviv will have its toes in the water from about 2 metres of rise and so would be very vulnerable to major flooding caused by extreme weather events. But that’s not the only climate change problem they face, according to an Israeli government website climate change and rising sea levels will also cause salination of ground water, extreme heat and cold, food insecurity, threats to economic development and even having to take in climate refugees from neighbouring countries.

They certainly have a problem and part of the solution could well appear to be the territorial expansion of Israel but are policies that in the end will see Israel squeezed between a rising sea and a rising tide of Arab anger a well-reasoned solution?

Funny, if climate change is indeed part of the Israeli / Palestinian equation that Trump is assisting in the implementation of a rather radical mitigation policy. Grabbing other people’s land and I think that if we want to get an idea of the future for all then we need only to look at what’s already happening in places such as the Middle East and multiply it by as much as it would take to result in system collapse and worldwide conflict.

 

Other than that, been out on the MTB. Again the Oaks trail and noticing what appears to be a collapse of the insect population. I’ve noticed a decline over these past twenty years or so but never imagined it would get to the point where those annoying little bush flies would all but disappear.

The Oaks trail in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, with sign saying 15 kilometres to go to Glenbrook and mountain bike. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Great ride but no wild life to be seen and never even hit in the eye by a fly.

MTB out to Hanging Rock. A few pics

Nothing much to say here other than spent the afternoon riding out to a place known as ‘Hanging Rock’. There used to be a ‘hanging rock’ going on photos dating back to mid last century but I’d say the rock itself has long fallen into the Grouse valley below.

 

Bike and=camp fire by the side of the track to Hanging Rock, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Bike and someone’s campfire. Good idea to camp a bit back from the cliff edge especially if you’re a sleep walker…

MTB bike by the side of track . Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Stop on the way to Hanging Rock.

Parks and Wildlife sign listing all that is allowed and all that is forbidden. Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia, Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

All new and fun things are forbidden.

Track to Hanging Rock, Blue Mountains, new South Wales, Australia, Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Made for MTB riders, the track to Hanging Rock lookout.

MTB at leaning against tree growing at the very edge of the cliff face. Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia, Picture by Paul Nyssen.

If the tree fell – all would be at the bottom of the Grouse valley, a long, long way dawn.

Cliff edge overlooking the Grouse valley, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Great place to slack line but that’s verboten in the Blue Mountains National Park. Like most things fun.

View east of Hanging rock, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

At the distant horizon you can see the Sydney skyline. Over 100 kilometres away. Not visible at the resolution of this photograph but just goes to show how good the air is up here. Unlike say, Beijing or London where you breath crap and can’t see the building across the street. No use giving up smoking if you live in such horrible places.

Pictures. Storm clouds on the MTB trail.

Was out yesterday afternoon riding my mountain bike – usual itinerary which is about 20 kilometres of highway followed by 30 of dirt track. Pretty good ride and happy to say that each time I do it I’m walking less of the steep uphills.  Stopping at Bruce’s Cafe in Woodford for a coffee, Bruce is a MTB freak himself, before taking on the dirt part of the ride, I noticed the western horizon had turned  near Prussian blue but the oncoming storm appeared to be moving slowly so thought I could outrun it down to Glenbrook and that if not, it would swing around the top of the mountains and follow the deep valley south of the ridge along which stretches the ‘Oaks’ fire trail.

MTB at Bruce's Cafe on the Great Western Highway, Woodford. new South Wales, Australia.

Bruce’s Cafe in Woodford – if you looked the other way the sky was turning Prussian Blue.

For the first few kilometres of trail the storm was hot on my heels but as I climbed higher it appeared to dissipate indicating that it had gone for the valley route rather than climb above the ridge from where I got a few pictures with the point and shoot I always have in my backpack.

Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen. Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen. Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

 

The great enemy of Truth.

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

John F. Kennedy.

[Commencement Address at Yale University, 11th June 1962]

 

There would be few things I like better than a debate and few things that irritate me more than an adversary whose arguments are nothing other than a reiteration of the popular opinion, myth or cliché of the moment. People who do not construct a view based on life experience, research and study but rather just mouth off the opinions and views that came included with the prêt-àporter identity of their choice. LGBTQI activist, environmentalist, white supremacist, communist, religious fundamentalist, feminist. Etc. It’s the quick and easy path to achieving a sense of self-importance and place in society. Declare yourself ‘gay’ and you will never have to think about a social issue ever again. Every question has a preset ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ answer. It’s just re-inventing religion.

A few thoughts on visual literacy and the usage of symbols in the visual arts.

Funny how visually illiterate people are becoming today but not so funny is how this increasing ignorance is facilitating can I say a renewed persecution of artists? The Bill Henson affair here in Australia is a good example – Bill, a photographer, takes a picture of a naked teenage girl and winds up having half the nation calling him a child pornographer. The then prime minister Kevin Rudd included – he said in a television interview that he found the picture revolting. In the photograph the girl is standing and covering herself with her hands. Few if any realized the photograph was in many ways a rip-off of Edvard Munch’s ‘Puberty’. Would Kevin, the bulk of the Australian media and most of the population find ‘Puberty’ revolting? Probably not because it is not realistic enough for them to read beyond it being a chick on a bed with a big splash of black paint on the wall behind her.

Henson's controversial picture of a teenage girl.

Bottom part edited out by original poster.

Painting by Munch of a girl sitting naked on the edge of a bed.Later Rudd’s replacement as prime minister Julia Guillard – Kevin was ousted as a result of wanting to make the mining companies pay a realistic amount of tax – on her way to Japan declared she would raise the issue of Japan’s alleged production of child pornography. Aside from the insult to the Japanese nation she also made evident her inability to read a visual text beyond its literal meaning. She was most likely referring to YAOI, a genre of Japanese comic strip that are stories about ridiculously beautiful teenage boys in a sexual relationship with each other and handsome adult men. Often a teacher at an exclusive English boarding school or similar. What Julia missed entirely is that these stories are in Japan mostly created by women and consumed by a majority female audience. So why are Japanese girl’s comics full of boys bonking? As was the title of an essay written by professor of [edit] sociology and cultural history Marc McLelland (Wollongong University). The answer is symbol as in that where the image may denote a boy being seriously plugged by an adult man it connotes a relationship that in being same gender is stripped of male and female social conventions. The female reader projects herself as the boy and therefore can enjoy the fantasy of a sexual relationship which does not imply being forced by social convention to wash the guy’s smelly socks.

Manga style image of two males kissing.

Example of typical ‘YAOI’ style manga image.

Aside from people in marketing and advertising who have high levels of visual literacy, today’s western artists are for the most part illiterate and rarely capable of producing a work that does anything much beyond and if the subject is an apple for example, making the statement ‘this is an apple’. Wow. Worse still is when past art forms are copied, such as expressionism, impressionism, pop or whatever, because as copies of a past artistic expression they are meaningless facsimiles, always inferior to the original no matter how expertly executed and walking around the local shopping center with a long beard and beret on the head will not transform an artist’s work from 21st century copy to 19th century original. Warhol’s tins of soup for example were entirely relevant to sixties United States. Campbell tomato soup was what a home-maker wife with the standard five kids would serve up at dinner time. The can of soup is a metonymy for middle America and its conservative values and made by a corporation and by a mechanical process as was the painting. A great work that made effective use of symbol.

Of course there are great abstract works but again there is a level of knowledge needed in that color and form are like notes and chords in music which itself is the most abstract of all the arts. I doubt a recording of a child loudly banging at random the keys of a piano would ever be top of the pops contemporary or classic.

The present day inability to read a work beyond what it denotes and in many cases the inability to create a work beyond a literal representation of the subject or a clumsy expression of an emotion allegedly felt by the artist has resulted in what Oscar Wilde in his essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ said is the worst of situations for the creative artist. That his or her work is subject to the judgment of the ignorant masses who in a democracy have the power to make a presumably educated man such as prime minister Rudd declare a picture ‘revolting’ when in fact there was nothing revolting about it to anyone visually literate. You may not like the picture and I’m not a great fan of Bill Henson’s work but just as I might find the style of a particular author wanting even if the subject of his written work is important.

There have always been taboos in art and always will be for as long as there will be people with ill-informed opinions. But there are ways around this situation and again through the usage of symbols. Take the Caravaggio below for example, what does the painting denote? A young guy playing the lute with a few decorations thrown in such as flowers, a violin and sheet music? Not much to get upset about until you read the image as it was meant to be read. The boy playing the lute is in love but his adult male lover is absent as we make out from the violin sitting unused on the table and reinforced by the closed bass part of the song the boy is singing which itself is an old Italian song ‘You know that I love you’, we can read the score. Caravaggio also says the absent adult lover is a silly bugger because the beauty of his young lover will not last as is suggested by the bunch of cut flowers. It’s a good thing the strings of the lute are not broken because that would signal the imminent death of the boy and there is possible salvation in the fruit somewhere but the pears are beginning to spoil so the message to the man is hurry up or the little Phaedrus whose white shirt of innocence is spread open, he wants it and now, will go off and find someone else to sing to.

Caravaggio painting of boy playing the lute.

You know that I love you.

Will mankind destroy itself? Michio Kaku on ‘Big Think’.

Physicist Michio Kaku’s discussion fits in well with the ‘big filter’ theory which says the reason we never see any sign of alien life is because, so far, no advanced civilisation has managed to survive technology and greed. They either polluted their planet to the point of it no longer been inhabitable or they blew themselves up with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. As a species humans are now about to take the test and discover whether we are the one species – or one of the very rare – which has the intelligence needed to put primitive instincts aside and survive to become the species that will propagate itself throughout our galaxy and maybe even beyond.

 

It’s a ‘yes’ and other things.

Same gender marriage passed with a 61.5 percent ‘yes’ vote with a participation of 80 percent of eligible voters. How that remaining fifth would have voted is something the far right and other conservative groups are probably trying to figure out. Were they so opposed they threw the ballot paper in the bin or are they all people who couldn’t be bothered walking to the post box? If for the most part ‘no’ sayers then the result would have been different or at least a lot closer had they voted. I’d guess Australia is split down the middle on the issue and this same-gender marriage went through because a lot of the against didn’t vote.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation news was happily reporting statistics on participation rates by age group forgetting this was supposed to be an anonymous survey. It appears some were right in being suspicious of the bar codes on the ‘anonymous’ yes or no only form and the government has collected data on how each individual voted.

The yes camp also said there would not be any further social consequences to a ‘yes’ outcome such as gay and lesbian issues being introduced into primary school classrooms. Wrong again – yesterday, the day the result was announced, a mother contacted me saying her 9-year-old son was put in the ‘wrong’ group in a classroom debate on same-gender marriage. Influenced by an ultra conservative Catholic grandparent, he said God made marriage between a man and woman.

The federal senate as I write this, is debating the bill that will legalise same-gender marriage and the issue is freedom of religion, guaranteed in the constitution, and freedom of speech, itself implied but not guaranteed in the constitution. Should a priest be able to refuse to marry a same-gender couple on the basis that marriage is a sacrament in which God himself joins a man and a woman? On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news this morning a person looking as though her day job is schoolboy impersonator, said that would be ‘discrimination against LGBTQI people’.

Etc, etc and we are now just a day into this and already two basic tenets of democracy, the right to speak one’s mind and the right to religious freedom, are under attack. And we haven’t started on the kid issue yet. Anyways, as Bill Clinton said at the funeral of Helmut Kohl, “we must also let the young make their own mistakes”.

Myself, and as I’ve said before, I support the right to marriage for all but I also support the right to free speech, the right to religious freedom and the right of children not to be dragged into highly emotional adult debates. It’s called believing in democracy and anyone who has a problem with that is welcome to fuck off to countries like North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

The other ‘good’ news is that the Australian soccer team will be heading to the World Cup in Russia next year. Great game last night in Sydney with the Aussies defeating the Hondurans 3 – 1. I’m not a great football fan but the World Cup is a different matter. National pride.

OK – have to also mention the sale today of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for 400 million US dollars. Aside from all the issues related to social equality this raises, I also could not help but wonder why a single painting is that desirable? It’s like it is a piece of the very material from which the most successful culture in the world was built and laugh out loud, it’s also a painting done by a dude who would be in jail and/or subjected to the reporting conditions of a sex offender were he alive today and lived and created as he did five hundred years ago. Says a lot about what actually created western culture as we enjoy it today – so far.

Drawing of the young boy 'Salai' by renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci

Salai, Leonardo’s ‘life companion’ was such a pretty thing…

 

Neutered gays.

Result of the gay marriage plebiscite will be known tomorrow. Sad thing is I can’t think of any guy I’d want to marry and that I know for sure to be alive. Anyway, all this social engineering bullshit distracts from what we should be most worried about and that is of course avoiding the sixth great extinction, if that is still possible.

A few recent pictures including one below I took at the ‘yes’ march in Sydney. If you read the Paglia interview you may remember how – back in 1995 – she described the mainstream, gay activist “ACT UP” style, “When I look around and I see the kind of ACT UP style, with the short shorts and the combat boots and a kind of skinhead look, I think, first of all, how childish, and secondly, how desexualized, no matter what people say, how utterly neutered.” Well, nothing appears to have ‘changed’ much in over twenty years. Reading Paglia’s comments I remembered a picture I took at the ‘vote yes’ march parade in September. See below…

Photograph of adult male dressed in cut-off jeans shorts, tShirt and boots at gay marriage protest march in September in Sydney.

So what’s different from Paglia’s description of twenty years ago?

OK, not a great comparison but let’s compare the above to Caravaggio’s ‘Amor’ painted circa 1600 (below) and which Robert Hughes described in his “Shock of the New” art documentary as “the victory of sex over culture”. I don’t agree with Hughes but it has to be said he was Australian and the product of a sex-adverse Australian culture particularly at the time when he made that documentary. Sex is front and centre of course in Caravagggio’s painting but the painter would have acknowledged his painting of Amor is in agreement with Mann’s “Death in Venice”. The beautiful Tadzio (below Amor) is Amor and Aschenbach, like Caravaggio, is the artist who bows before divine beauty as made visible to us by the gods in the form of the boy beautiful. This was gay culture at its highest and how it existed up until I’d say the immediate post-Stonewall period when and as the ‘yes’ march photograph clearly shows it became a sad, childish and neutered parody of what it had been.

Caravaggio's 'Amor Victorious" circa 1600

Love’s victory over all other human achievements.

The beautiful boy 'Tadzio'. Still from Visconti's film adaptation of Mann's novel 'Death in Venice'.

‘Tadzio’ the boy beautiful as represented in Visconti’s screen adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel “Death in Venice”.

And a few recent pictures of mine and such as they are…

Man with baby daughter.

A friend with his baby daughter.

Black and white night photograph of back of buildings and graffiti in Katoomba, New South wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Many of these pictures are taken with a small point-and-shoot whilst out walking to the shops in Katoomba.

Night black and white picture of light cast on wall and that gives the impression of church windows.

Felt a bit mystical. lol