Location location location

Virginia Baxter

Driving through the Moorooka Magic Mile of Motors on our way to Global Arts Link at Ipswich for the launch of the Double Happiness 2_nations website, Beth Jackson (Director, Griffith Artworks) is telling us how academic colleagues were surprised to see her in the Queen Street Mall on Thursday night spruiking with Festival Director Kim Machan and Sein Chew (Macromedia Asia-Pacific), throwing T-shirts to the crowd and cracking jokes to officially open MAAP99. What did one science fiction writer say to the other? The future’s not what it used to be. Real or virtual, places do things to you.

Just last week in Sydney I saw Komninos at the Poets Festival calling in the hollows of the Balmain Town Hall for some new discussions of place that have nothing to do with the well-turned topic of landscape—places beyond addresses, places of the mind, of memory, states of being. Komninos calls himself a cyberpoet these days but for the opening of MAAP99, he’s back on the street and literally a driven man, his programmed video poetry threatening sometimes to run him down. Images from his family album are montaged, magnified and left open to the brisk Friday night Mall traffic. Intimate word pictures of a childhood in Richmond and his grandmother’s undies, cosier online, here die of exposure. More at home is his shout to exorcise the 60s from the collective imagination, “The Beatles is dead! DEAD”!

As Komninos calls up the Richmond streetscape, coloured words duck and weave across the screen—“Cars CAAAAAAAARS.” Gail Priest thinks Sesame Street and Maryanne Lynch wonders if he knows that until the 60s a tramline ran through the Queen Street Mall and, indeed, through the very spot on which he’s standing. Me, I’m searching for a place in my memory bank for “international virtual pop star” Diki conceived in Japan, now living in Korea. Gail says “Imagine if you could do anything you wanted with technology and your fantasy was that!” A pale, gawky teenage girl in big black bloomers dancing on lolly legs perilously close to the edge of some pier. The clip is intercut with vision of the remarkably Diki-like male (?) artist weaving his spell in some late-night media lab. Weird city.

At the Valley Corner Restaurant the new tastes good—shallot pancakes and deep-fried broccoli leaves with shredded sea scallops. On one side of the table a couple of web designers on laptops point with chopsticks at their wares. Artist Richard Grayson’s projections have tonight failed to materialise on the walls of the Performing Arts Complex. He whispers to us across the crispy flounder what the building should be saying to drivers crossing the Victoria Bridge. It sounds like “Slowly you are coming closer to the speed of light.”

For now, websites are still launched by a gathering of people in one place. At Global Arts Link in Ipswich for the opening of Double Happiness 2_nations we are doubly welcomed by Aboriginal dancers in body paint playing with fire and pale Chinese dancers in pink pantsuits waving fans. The mayor of Ipswich speaks warmly of technology while the head of the Australia-China Friendship Society gestures in the direction of the IMAC console and declares the site “launched or …open”. Director Louise Denoon shows us through the space opened in May this year for a sneak preview of The Road to Cherbourg, a remarkable exhibition of paintings by Queenslander Vincent Serico about mission life and life beyond the mission. Global’s vision (“Linking people to place through the visual arts, social history and new technology”) maps Global as a kind of future place and again, not the future we expected. The heritage Ipswich Town Hall provides the framework for the multiple spaces within it. This is a comfortable place, its spaces adaptable. Near Vincent Serico’s painted didgeridoos, Louise points to a hole in the floor and the space below it to take cabling as required. The ground floor interactives offer individual spoken memories of this place—“Talk the talk, not the technology” says curator Frank Chalmers. Upstairs a subtantial space is allocated for children to paint with computers and draw with pencils.

After a weekend of screenings, our bodies spinning with visions, we dive back into the Valley. Sunday night at the Artists [email protected] Zoo Ed Kuepper unleashes a mean version of “Fever” and is joined for “The Way I Make You Feel” by Jimmy Little who these days has moved from “Royal Telephone” to “Quasimodo’s Dream.” For his encore, “Cottonfields”, a didgeridoo player springs out of nowhere and plays up a storm.

MAAP99 may be a festival to experience online but there’s still a lot to be said for being here on the ground

MAAP 99 Launch, Upper Stage, Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, September 3; Official Opening Double Happiness 2_nations Global Arts Link, Ipswich, September 4; Artists Club @ The Zoo, Sunday September 5

RealTime issue #34 Dec-Jan 1999 pg.

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 1999