Friday, May 26, 2017

Old knitter of black wool #4

Self-portrait with black fabric and knitted black wool. Julie Clarke (c) 2017

A couple of days ago the yarn ran out and I finished knitting up those two balls of found black wool. This morning I took a self portrait with a length of black fabric and the knitted black wool wrapped around my body. I was sitting on a Bentwood chair with cane mesh seat (see reference mentioned in a previous post from Heart of Darkness). I took the photograph on a 10 second delay with my Panasonic Lumix camera. The photograph I've posted is cropped from a larger image. Unsure at this stage where I will go from here. Anything is possible.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Old knitter of black wool #3

The first image above is of the knitted wool at 179 cm long on 22 May, followed by 24 May 208 cm long. I imagine that the wool (half is wool, half is acrylic) will run out before the end of the week and I'll do the final photograph of it on white paper background. Then I will consider photographing it on my body or in other locations. I imagine photographing it in the National Gallery of Victoria. I wonder if the security guards will evict me if I attempt to do such a thing.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Old knitter of black wool #2

Since I last posted I have become an 'old knitter of black wool'. My intention was to knit 23,000 odd stitches corresponding to the amount of days I've lived, influenced by the two women in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but then, on consideration I decided that in order to maintain the integrity of the 'found' yarn I would only knit until the wool runs out. I began with 20 stiches and have knitted about 500 lines. The work is currently 140 cm long. I photographed the knitting on a white paper background on 17, 18 and 19 May and was delighted that the result was reminiscent of some of the dark, gestural paintings of Robert Motherwell (It was not only I who could see the resemblance). I imagine now that when the piece is finished I will do a 66 second video performance with the spoken words piece I did in 1980. Old and young body and voice will collide.

On the 15 May I saw Alien: Covenant, which was absolutely fantastic and a timely return to horror genre and welcome revival of the alien. I saw the Vincent Van Gough exhibition at NGV International on 19 May the night after I had a dream of a sea of white Dutch girl's hats. Although his renditions of the four seasons paintings were beautiful, I have to admit I preferred paintings in which he used a more sombre palette. One of my first attempts at painting when I was fourteen was to copy one of Van Gough's self portraits. And, speaking about my younger days, David Powell emailed me a digital copy of the spoken word and percussion piece called 'Down' I performed on tape in 1980, (He, myself and my three year old son were called 'The Grand Facade', a group of experimental music makers). Listening, I recalled the youthful me.
Yesterday I spoke briefly with Bernhard Sachs who was taking a photo of something in a shop window in Chapel Street, Windsor and this morning I photographed Venus in the dark, morning sky.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Knitter of Black Wool

Who knows why some words sit in your mind like a sword wedged in stone? Last week I rescued two large balls of black wool discarded in a cardboard box outside the wool shop in Bridge Road. I wondered why I needed to pick them up. I had no idea what I might knit, in fact I haven't looked at the wool since then.
A few days later I began reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and was captured by the words of the main protagonist Charlie Marlow who enters a doorway and 'Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool'. On the following page he continues 'Often far away there I thought of these two, guarding the door of Darkness, knitting black wool as for a warm pall.' Old knitter of Black wool. Morituri te salutant' (those who are about to die salute you - a greeting to Caesar). I had to look up the meaning of pall and apparently it's cloth that covers a grave or hearse. According to the notes in the book, the women knitting black wool resemble the Fates of Greek legend, Clotho and Lachesis, who, respectively, spin and measure out the thread of each life before Ateopos cuts it. It seems that the knitters of black wool and Ateopos who was responsible for the inevitability of death worked closely together to spin their evil plan.
The roses that Leonie Osowski gave me for my birthday began to wither and the stems had turned black. I placed the dried rose stems with sharp thorns in a ductile metal container between my legs and took a photograph with my Windows phone. The resulting image is spider-like and threatening as the limbs spread across mine
Simultaneously unknown to my conscious self and buried deep in my psyche I remembered a spoken word piece called Down that I devised and performed along with music composed by the experimental musician David Powell in the early 1980s. Thankfully he's making a digital copy for me from a cassette tape and I'm hoping to use this and the imagery of the black wool to begin a new arts project. Old knitter of black wool. The words continue to enchroach on my mind, like an arachnid spinning a strange and wonderful web.

Friday, May 12, 2017


Homeless. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Part of our Nation's shame is showing on the streets of Melbourne. Every time I venture into the CBD these days there appears to be move homeless people sitting or lying down on the walkways surrounded by their meagre possessions. Yes, to us their lowly and temporary abode looks like refuse that should be discarded and they too look like the dregs of the earth; unwashed, unloved, the caste out and waste of a society that really just doesn't care about those who appear not to care about themselves. There's an old saying: There but for the grace of God go I. Although I'm not a God person there is something to be said for reflecting on our own state of being, for many of us would be exactly like this if we suddenly lost our jobs, had nowhere to live and developed psychological problems due to the trauma of hunger, poverty and disdain of the general public.
Melbourne is a lively metropolis especially at lunch time. The shops are filled with patrons, the streets lined with shoppers. It's difficult walking through the crowded pavements, the thrust and throng of a crowd that has a mind of its own and unlike flocking birds that fly in a particular direction and pattern, walking in the city is like riding a dogem-car. Side to side movements, people suddenly cutting off your very stride, those who walk with their smart phone sutured to their eye balls have become the walking, talking disabled; their prosthesis making them more dangerous than anyone operating a motorised wheelchair in the congested city.
I stopped briefly as I walked past the State Library yesterday to watch police officers asking homeless people to pack up their junk and move on. One man simply wrapped everything he owned in a large rug and walked off, no doubt to find another piece of pavement to place it down again. Melbourne is a tourist hum and we can't have the blemish of our shame hung out for all to see. It's an eyesore. But there it is. We're use to seeing the homeless in Elizabeth Street, but now they're in Swanston Street and their 'in your face' tactics whilst compelling, probably won't be noticed by our politicians, who have absolutely no idea what it's like to actually want for anything!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Chance meeting such a joy.

Three decades ago I met Alan Browne at John's coffee shop in a tiny arcade off Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn. I'd take my son there for lunch because John's speciality was a salad sandwich made with lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, grated raw beetroot and pumpkin. From memory there were only three small tables and chairs, the proximity of which meant it was conducive to striking up a conversation. On this particular occasion Alan, who I didn't know, leant across and said 'I have a theory about smokers. They want to take in more of life'. Such a seductive idea, breath and breathlessness, life and death. I had a number of conversations with Alan who was a psychologist who worked at nearby Swinburne.
As it happened, today I was in KMart at Victoria Gardens trying on shoes I didn't need. When I heard a man say 'They look good'. It was Alan and he was surprised not only that I knew his name, but that I could recount our very first meeting. He told me I should be riding on the top of an elephant, a line that suggested to me that he admired my excellent memory. But perhaps he meant something entirely different because he mentioned Joseph Campbell the mythologist and in another breath said that I might like the llustrations of his namesake Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz) a long time collaborator of Charles Dickens.
Amidst the ambling crowd and under the harsh fleuroscent lights we had a brief but fruitful philosophical conversation about silence and poetry, the nothing, cause and affect, isness and the mysterious universe that had directed us both to this spatial configuration. Alan is an artist making fragile bones from ashen clay, molded and imagined from one point to another. Interesting because I had an xray of my lumber spine on Monday and I thought I'd finally found the point in which our conversation and meeting intersected. However on further discussion Alan said that his son was studying science fiction and so I wrote down the title of my book for him to pass on.
He said that he had felt suddenly drawn to enter the shop and ventured to remark that although some meetings appear destined mathematicians would probably put some rational spin on it. I expect the unexpected, but when chance meetings like this occur I still find them rather delightful.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Self-portrait with examination garb and Heritage roses

To celebrate my birthday on 22 April this year I took about ten photographs of myself wearing the navy examination garment I wore for the echocardiogram I had before Easter and the Heritage roses given to me on my birthday by Leonie Osowski. I'm printing out the one considered the most exellent to give to a few close friends, but thought I'd post this one here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What a load of rubbish, Yarra Council

A verbal altercation broke out this morning on the steps of the Richmond Town Hall between local residents and Yarra Council staff members. Staff were upset that a large poster was affixed to the outside wall and local residents were upset that Council intends to impose a Bin Tax to raise funds to cover a longstanding debt. I listened and took a couple of photographs. I also made the suggestion that perhaps rate payers could dump their rubbish in street bins or come up with some other creative solution to the problem. Local residents appeared particularly incensed that Council, whilst saying it was involved in community consultation, revealed that the manner in which this would be undertaken was via submissions made by individuals on line. Too bad if you don't have an internet connection. Apparently they had also advised residents in an article in the Yarra News, but if you didn't receive that particular edition in your letter box then you would not be aware of the impending tax or avenues for protesting about it. So, I'm wondering what Yarra Council is going to do if people choose not to have a rubbish bin and just dump their rubbish on the side of the street? Anyway, the poster was removed from the wall and placed on the steps of the Town Hall.