getting to know the enemy: Pip & Pop

There’s something Very Extremely Special on in Adelaide this week and next (until the 12th of June, 2013). Australian installation artist Tanya Schultz who exhibits her work under the pseudonym Pip & Pop has installed a glittery, magical world inside a little shop on Gawler Place in the city.

These photographs, hastily snapped with my phone in the wee small hours of the morning, are a slight reflection of the magic instilled into the little olde Shop 7, 38 Gawler Place, Adelaide. Think of this as a present to yourself, because it is. You are going to love it like nothing else you’ve seen this year, or maybe ever. You can view the work through the shop window anytime day or night, and visitors will be invited at random into the space for a closer look. It is entirely worth a pilgrimage to the city, even if you’ve no other reason to go.

I had a very special opportunity to “get to know the enemy” this time. Carclew Youth Arts put out a call for 5 Adelaide artists to assist Tanya with the creation of this project, I was lucky to be one of the extremely fortunate 5. I’ve had a girl crush on Tanya since I met her briefly when she exhibited at SASA gallery in 2012, and after getting the opportunity to work with and learn from her over the epic 2 week install of “supernatural tasks and magic objects” I now have an Extreme Girl Crush. It’s ok, she knows. :bunny:

Not only is Tanya Schultz crush-worthy and adorable, she’s extremely generous with her techniques and methods. She also works very, very hard, with enthusiasm, grace and an earnestness that shines through in her work. In this example the shining happens quite literally as we embedded each sugar island with twinkling, colour changing crystals and small mechanical marvels – spinning geodes, pirouetting flowers, magic objects.

Tanya often references old folk tales and creation stories from around the world when building a concept for a space. The words that flew around with the most animation in our ongoing installation discussions were “cosmic egg” “floating island” and “rotating” and extremely “rainbow”. It was joyous being part of building new worlds with such a delightful group of people under Tanya’s guidance.

The good people at the thousands also gave this installation a little wrap, its a great website to find out about other Fun Things to do in Adelaide.

getting to know the enemy: Hank Willis Thomas

I find it gratifying when someone I’ve met & liked finds recognition for their hard work and talent. It’s like a Win for the Team – Nice Guys Vs. The Machine and we just scored a point! Woo!

A million years ago I had the good fortune to work as a lab technician at CCA at their campuses in both Oakland and San Francisco (and was incredibly fortunate to take some photography classes, too). Hank Willis Thomas was working on his MFA at the time & when our paths crossed we would talk about our photographs. I always found him to be thoughtful, insightful and more than a little otherworldly. It still strikes me as unusual that a postgrad student would be interested to talk photography with a lab monkey, but he was. I often wished I had enough confidence to ask more about his work.
As many photography enthusiasts do, I follow the latest news form the Aperture Foundation. A few years ago Hank’s name started appearing in the Aperture press releases as Hot New Talent. Go Team! Recently they have been publicising an article written by Hank as the introduction to his monograph Pitch Blackness & republished online with the title What’s at the Heart of Black Cool?. It’s engaging, humble, interesting, personal & very well written and I highly recommend you spend the next few minutes reading it instead.

When I read it I can hear Hank’s candid voice and thoughtful manner. I surmise much of the knowledge and reflection it contains is a side-effect of his MFA research, and I think it’s a shining endorsement for the cultural contribution postgraduate visual/fine arts research offers. It certainly got me thinking about my research ( because I see my thesis research absolutely everywhere!) particularly where he describes becoming aware of being Black at around age five. It seems like there are lots of changes upstairs for all homo-sapiens at that age – possibly the end of magical thinking is the beginning of all manner of bodily concerns and the mixed up confusion that is to follow.

getting to know the enemy: James Jean

James Jean "dive" 2007

It’s no secret that a lot of the artists I admire deal with themes of childhood in their work. Not the super saccharine Disney-fied version of childhood, but the dirty, gritty Grimms fairytale variety – where it is possible for your parents to abandon you, to climb magic beanstalks, to fall down rabbit holes and (if you are brave) to befriend walking, talking beasties.

James Jean "weep" 2004

You know, the one you & I lived through where happily-ever-after might happen, but only after a whole lot of other more sinister and terrifying things. James Jean, armed with a paintbrush, pencil and suite of graphic design applications, produces with dizzying accuracy the swirl of emotion that is the journey through our formative years.

I found his book of postcards XOXO: hugs and kisses in a comic book shop in Fairbanks, Alaska, shortly after visiting an exhibition of MC Escher original works at the Portland Art Museum in 2009, and found some startling similarities and a lot of material for my research on photography and optical illusions.

James Jean "8-bit Q" 2007

8-bit Q was a significant influence for my photograph chimera’s ball. I am endlessly intrigued by the way in which this image has no right way up. Looking at it from any direction has it’s own rewards, and little details try to convince me that it must go this way. It goes it’s own way. A confounding puzzle.

The poster “Fall Into Reading” made for the 2007 West Hollywood Book Fair was enormously inspirational and influential for the photograph I’ve just finished. Particularly (obviously) the boy reading, floating on his own brainstorm at the bottom left. Mr Jean, if you ever see this, Thank You & I hope you approve.

James Jean "Fall Into Reading" 2007

getting to know the enemy: van sowerwine

'Expecting' by Van Sowerwine and Isobel Knowles 2003

In Selma Fraiberg’s most excellent book on child psychology she describes the “spooky twilight world that is closer to the world of the dream than the world of reality” that very young children inhabit. I admire Van Sowerwine‘s work because she manages to translate that world into this one. I think I’ll always remember experiencing the interactive new media installation ‘expecting’ (above, which toured with Experiementa: The House of Tomorrow). It was the first time I experienced an artwork being as inviting as a lolly shop, and as intriguing as a fairy tale.

Sowerwine uses purpose made puppets throughout her work – perhaps that is how she works the magic of childhood into the Land of Giants, where us grown ups hang out these days.