Archive | May 2015

Can humans communicate with animals?

According to wikipedia, Doctor Dolittle first appeared in letters written by Hugh Lofting from the trenches of WW1, ‘when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull.’ Of course, Doctor Dolittle could communicate with the animals, a fact made even more famous in song (either Rex Harrison 1967 or Eddie Murphy 1998 plus sequels). Or Sammy.


I came across this next video and have to ask you, how it is that this woman could possibly have the gift of being able to communicate, in pictures and images, with other species? ( One of my neighbours has a friend who chats with animals. I have to say I did look askance, and some of the comments on the following vid are a bit askance, but you have to ask, why not?

Amazing story nonetheless.

Here’s ‘Like Animals‘ ( wherein Dolittle asks the court, ‘Why do we treat animals like animals?’

Up to you to decide.

As Doctor Dolittle says, ‘But man is an animal too.’

Blue art for all

Spoiler alert.

When’s the last time you saw a puppet show?

I saw one this morning. A Little Bit of Blue by Jenny Ellis. It looked like this:

A Little Bit of Blue 1 min Trailer from Jenny Ellis on Vimeo.

We’re at a childcare centre. We all watch Mrs Mavis Hooley, as cute an elderly stout lady puppet as you’ll ever see, search for her missing ten dollars. When she falls asleep, a blue bird (complete with robber mask) chuckles into her house and steals her knitting. The children cry out, ‘Wake up!’ and Mavis’s fluffy little dog, Mufti, has menace in his eye.



Mrs Hooley gets no assistance from police and the case goes to a keen Detective with glasses, moustache and rather unfortunate nose. First, seek clues! Then set a trap – with chippies and a hole in the floor – catching Mufti, of course. Once Mrs Hooley looses her hair, it’s back to the clues, the drawing board (can anyone draw the legs on the bird? What about the eyes?) and what do you know, the robber is caught. The ten dollars is blue, the knitting is blue and so is Mrs Hooley’s hair. The blue bird is a satin bower bird, building the stolen blue objects into his nest, as they do.

Male bird builds bower of blue objects

Given his freedom by Mavis and the Detective, the bower bird is able to attract a fetching young maiden-bird to his bower. With the assistance of the bopping/pogoing audience, the bird is able to do a persuasive dance and finally, their combined feathers are thrown together in the air, as they do.

female bower bird inspects the property

The child care attendants spent their half their time appreciating the show and the other half photographing the children.childcare-workers

Jenny Ellis performs the show single handed, adding an information session showing the children pictures of real bowers and bower birds, encouraging them to repeat the name of the bird (we’re talking some as young as eighteen months here) to stir a little bit of education into the hilarity.jenny-and-the-bird

Apart from her relationship with children – her relationship with real live humans and educational responsibilities, Jenny has taken her own childhood affiliation with birds and creatures into a degree in Social Ecology, Environmental Education and Environmental Biology. She’s enthusiastic about inspiring children about Australian birds and animals, believing most Aussie kids know more about lions and zebras than they do about echidnas, wallabies and satin bowerbirds. And what amazing birds they are. Check this World’s Weirdest Video:

But, really, the bird’s compulsion is not so weird. The creative drive essential to the bird is synonymous with the creativity of humans. Like the bowerbird we have to express ourselves, perhaps not just to get a mate, but in the case of Jenny, at least to pay her rent. Human artistic endeavour is, for most people, necessary. Those who have quashed their crafty urges lead unfulfilled, sad empty lives. Not kidding.

Here’s Sir Ken Robinson, Elizabeth Gilbert and David Kelley talking about creativity. We’ve all got it.

It’s never too late. Go collect blue bits! Learn from the birds! Why, you could even make a puppet!

Precious … my precious …

‘You will take good care of it, won’t you? Water is a precious resource.’

So says a six-year-old child, striking at the very heart of an artist. The child is a participant in The Catchments Project, an artwork by Debbie Symons and Jasmine Targett. I met Jasmine at the City of Melbourne’s Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI) LAB-14 and she was able to talk me through the mysterious collection on view. As with the previous Art+Climate=Change 2015 exhibtions I’ve visited, there is much to ponder beneath the surface of the artefacts shown.

With only a week of events left in Art+Climate=Change 2015 you will still find things to see here. I’ve been inspired by public talks, particularly William L. Fox Director Art+Environment Nevada Museum of Art, USA, (or Bill) and seen some fantastic art.

Four of the exhibitions can be discovered in and around Melbourne University and what a very pleasant afternoon’s stroll they make. I hopped off the tram outside the Ian Potter Museum of Art and strode immediately up to the 2nd floor to see Nature/Revelation. The first thing you see as you enter the space is a large whale taking up the entire wall. Oh, yeah. Big picture.

picture of a whale

Gallery attendant and my bag in front of a quite big picture of a whale

Moving on.

You admire the pictures of clouds floating in rooms (not the clouds themselves) by Berndnaut Smilde,

picture of a floating cloud

Nimbus D’Aspremont, 2012

Terraforms by Jamie North,

Not a rolling stone

Not a rolling stone

and the Ansel Adams photos (one of those iconic people who changed the lens through which Americans viewed their environment),

“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.”  ― Ansel Adams

“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and wonder surrounding him.”
― Ansel Adams

… and it’s only when you get a bit closer that you realise …

Good Grief! Hang on! Wait Up! What is it with the sperm whale?

That’s a charcoal drawing. By Jonathan Delafield Cook  This thing is HUGE. While there are certainly other provoking works (check the little man climbing a cliff) in the exhibition you really do need to see the WHALE!

I then wandered into the nearby Melbourne School of Design (a large net suspended around a library to trap humans). There you can find amazing videos by David Buckland in an exhibition called Discounting the Future.

picture of ice fiel

The very moment when the ice falls into the sea

Then seek out the ideas of the extremely provoking Amy Balkin in a small gallery directly opposite and sign a postcard to assist her attempt in protecting the air by getting our atmosphere listed by the UN World Heritage Convention.

Letter to UN World Heritage

Public smog will save the world

Balkin’s had a lot of scientific and legal assistance in drawing up this document and, tell you what, we all really want her to succeed.

Finally, meander down Swanston Street to LAB-14 to see Making Water Visible, a portrait of Melbourne’s water system. The sea and bay are rendered shiny mirror. The rivers, reservoirs and underwater table water are depicted in gorgeous colour shifting perspex. Amazingly this is the first time all this data has been brought together in one image. It just takes art to make sense of our world.

Another part of The Catchments Project is Getting Busy, a potential oyster farm to be planted around the docklands area.

This 3D printed oyster is not busy at all, as Jasmine  reflects

This 3D printed oyster is not busy at all, as Jasmine reflects

The native Angasi species of oyster is able to clean heavy metals and nitrates out of water without harming itself. When the oyster farm is established, the public can download an app to enable them to pledge some kind of assistance (pick up your dog poo, use gentle cleaners) to improve Melbourne’s water systems. Once a pledge is made, Barry White will be played to the oysters to encourage them to ‘get busy’ and clean the water. Art.

Ooooooh, yeeaaaayer …

Jasmine tells me that Melbourne City Council and Melbourne University had the foresight to connect artists to scientists and researchers thereby bringing data and creativity together. And Barry White.

Is yours there?

Is yours there?

The mirror bay reflects hundreds of engraved bottles – water collected and donated by well-meaning individuals. The bottles, The Water Harvest, are engraved with name, date and collection co-ordinates and are given to the donor at the end of the project. I met a woman who had come to see her donations in situ – water from her raintank and some grubby brown stuff from the horse’s dam. Delicious. And of course, our friend the six year old who collected rain water in a bucket and slept with the plastic bottle next to her bed because she really really cares. Jasmine was able to reassure her that yes, she really would look after her water.

Can we be sure that our politicians will?

Perceptive Power perceived

One of the twenty-five exhibitions currently showing in Melbourne under the umbrella of the Climarte Festival is Perceptive Power.signThe RMIT Design Hub in the centre of Melbourne’s CBD doesn’t look like it should suffer from too many doors (it certainly has too many corridors) but there you go – Perceptive Power has more than one entrance and it is possible to enter the exhibition the back way.

outside of Design Hub

Is there a right way to see this exhibition? Doesn’t matter. I am confident in predicting whichever way you enter, you will find yourself intrigued, engaged and I’m guessing, muttering a little ‘wow’ to yourself (more than once) as you negotiate the Hub’s corridors.

There are no paintings in this exhibition. This is a modern exhibition with modern media dealing with a modern problem. This is also a reading exhibition. Many of the pieces on view are fascinating, bewitching and somewhat bewildering. Watching flashing fluro tubes on a hill suddenly becomes chilling when you read the things are lighting up because of loose power surrounding power pylons. halo2


The artists are using scavenged power. They’re not even plugged in. Wow.halo-sign

This is one of the reading stations. You need to absorb the words before the video showing patterns of flashing tubes – which become very bright – make sense. Clearly a lot of thought and effort has gone into making these objets d’art signal stops so best admire them as you gather information.

This one explains the video of a toy car driving though the streets.toy-car

The video encourages the viewer to focus on a very small daring car emitting plumes of different coloured smoke tearing wildly through busy traffic. The video keeps the original sound (presumably) which includes gasps of recognition and laughter from passing cyclists.


Continuum Parts One and Two blends dancers and renewable energy in mesmerizing performance. One of my ‘wow’ moments came as I read about Continuum Part Two, based at the Carwarp Solar Facility, northwest of Mildura. This piece was filmed 2013/4 but when they returned in 2015, the film crew found the 40 solar dishes shrouded with black covers. The government refused to back the project further and the company has turned its attention to projects overseas. Wow.

In EurEco, Ash Keating turns the Eureka Flag green – which is taking serious liberties – but with governments like Australia’s – what is one to do?

“The issue of climate change needs persuasion rather than propaganda and art understands the psychology of persuasion.” Jay Griffiths, writer

This is a quote from the chalkboard in the middle of the exhibition space marks Carbon Arts in Residence. A place for conversation and encounters, this is an oasis where magazines, short films and salon discussions tempt the visitor. As much as I admire Jay Griffiths, I despair sometimes, I really do. Is saving the planet really a job for artists?

Get along and see Perceptive Power. It will make you think. You will admire corridors. You will see (and read about) a Natural State, made in the service of hydro-electric projects. So what is nature, where is wilderness?



Perceptive Power is provocative. And it’s just one exhibition of many.

Why, just across the road RMIT’s gallery is showing Japanese Art After Fukushima: Return of Godzilla, another beautiful and evocative collection.

Map of Japan surrounded by sand. Raked concentric circles radiate from Fukushima

Absorption Ripple by Yutaka Kobayashi

You’ll want to pick up a Climarte brochure and explore some of the other showings, forums and events on around Melbourne. Get some ‘wow’ in your life.