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Let’s imagine a nation disappointed not by bad cricket, but bad art

There are Renaissance Australians who are so moved by sports as they are by the literary arts. There are those universal persons right here on this soil. A morning in gratitude to high art, an afternoon in awe of a half-forward flank. Oh. It’s a magnificent agenda.

It’s also a bullshit “classless Aussie” myth, if you ask me. But, you didn’t, and what do I know, anyhow? Nothing. Not even if “half-forward flank” is an actual existing sports term. Could be a plumbing fixture. Wouldn’t know. Could be a piece by Marina Abramović, or related conceptual moose. Wouldn’t know.

…the hitherto unsullied reputation of white men who wear white and are most generally called Craig, when they are not called Steve or Shane.

All I truly know is (a) what’s not too shit on Netflix and (b) that sport, like art, can devour both money and time.

I cannot know, but do suspect that the Equally Struck By Poetry and Badminton thing is just not possible within a single human. Maybe there are a few great enough in assets and leisure to appreciate two things deeply. Good on ‘em.

They’re not crapped off by last three days of cricket. But, we are.

Come on, Arty. You would not know the name Steve Smith had it not been freshly applied to an image of trousers.

Steve, I have been compelled to learn, is the captain of “our” cricket team and, it is alleged, he shoved a big wad of stationery supplies into his flannels. (By his own hand, mind. Not by that of Marina Abramović. Although, I wouldn’t put it past her.)

I wish I had sporting passions. Other than the unyielding desire to smash capitalism/conceptual art memoir by strategically emotional women.

I don’t know. Something. Sticky tape. Balls. Tampering. National pride. The hitherto unsullied reputation of white men who wear white and are most generally called Craig, when they are not called Steve or Shane. I’m certain that this cricket can provoke good passions in persons and as a very low sort of lady, I can’t say I am able to look down on any type passion at all. I wish I had sporting passions. Other than the unyielding desire to smash capitalism/conceptual art memoir by strategically emotional women.

No point in just whining, though. We’ve really got to plan. We’ve got to get into the habit of creating controversy out of nothing  sturdier than sticky tape and hope. Hope for a day when we too can bang on forever before a suffering audience about unsatisfying cinema, plagiarising librettists or the diminishing quality of critique from Radio National’s Books and Arts.

Let’s not let this cricket crap fill the pants of all Australian media again. Let’s imagine an entire nation disappointed not by bad cricket, but bad art.

Clearly, it’s too late today. I imagine there’s already been a backlash to the “fuck off with the cricket” backlash. This virus has mutated and we can’t fix it now. We can fix our gaze on a better tomorrow when all must pretend to be interested in the things that interest us.

Needed most of all is your intolerance, your petty irritation and your misery. These qualities, above all others, will swell a national interest in the arts.

Examples of arts and culture controversy that have proved many times to fail, include:

  1. The diminishing quality of critique from Radio National’s Books and Arts.
  2. Political correctness stifling Australian cinema

These are not, by any means, unjustified complaints. We’ve just been making these complaints for so long, they are now entirely inaudible. See also:

  1. Damien Hirst is a tedious charlatan and probably attended Eton, or
  2. The diminishing quality of critique from ABC TV arts.

Speaking as an under-informed critic without much of a clue, I will say that I have enjoyed some completely unintentional success in stirring arts and culture-based controversy. You just never know what will get up people. But, the Daily Review lab and I have produced some minor flares which, with mass collaboration, might truly detonate. These have included:

  1. Making the claim that young adult literature and screen is best enjoyed by young adults
  2. Suggesting that Louis Theroux is a bit paternalistic

I mean, sure, a girl must be ready for the odd conniption when she proposes that a West that wages war on the culture of others might find war waged on its own. But, generally speaking, one can never be too careless. The good news for us is that even the merest critique of the merest form can turn out to arouse great passion.

I value your suggestions, of course. While it is true that some of us, ahem, have a natural flair for finding potential offence in cultural works and practices that have for so long seemed benign, I believe that the skill can be acquired. If what we yearn for is a broader coverage of the arts, we must seek controversy in the most unexpected statements.

Let’s try a few out to see if they incite any anger:

  1. The “punk-rocker” Henry Rollins has never been much good and certainly never rebellious, but became an adorable plush toy as soon as he (a) began to support every apolitical soft liberal cause they talk about on The Project (note: everyone already agrees that The Project is shit, so don’t bother) and (b) accepted sponsorship by manufacturers of the elite and comfortable Mercedes Benz vehicle to produce an Australian podcast called Tough Conversations. Which, we presume, is to be recorded in a spacious Mercedes.
  2. No one has ever stayed awake for all episodes of acclaimed television program The Wire.

Anything? Keep trying?

  1. David Lynch is a fucking genius. I don’t even care that he meditates. I even liked Fire Walk With Me.
  2. Biennale is basically a Food and Wine Frolic for knowledge class idiots who are watching their weight.

Look. I don’t feel I can crack this cricket thing alone. Your support, and your donations, are needed. But needed most of all is your intolerance, your petty irritation and your misery. These qualities, above all others, will swell a national interest in the arts.

17 responses to “Let’s imagine a nation disappointed not by bad cricket, but bad art

  1. 1) Rollins is overrated, but his role as A J Weston in Sons of Anarchy was convincing.
    2) The Wire was a brilliant piece of TV that set the standard for police procedurals. You demean yourself by insinuating it was boring.
    3) Lynch is a genius, but Fire Walk With Me was unmitigated crap. Are you sure you weren’t watching The Wire by accident?
    4) What’s a biennale? Is it made by Mercedes?

  2. Totally bored by sport to the point where I no longer watch television news because half of it consists of interviews with complete knuckleheads who haven’t developed past chasing a fucking ball around! Give us a break, maybe they deserve fifteen minutes a year, not fifteen minutes every night.
    re your art horrors:
    1 yes Henry Rollins was a tosser, and a manipulative one at that
    2 never watched the Wire because I don’t find violence entertaining, violence with an american accent even less entertaining
    3 David Lunch? yeah nah …..
    4 you make the Biennale sound more enjoyable than it actually is.
    But if you want an art world sacred cow how about Brett Whiteley, just a drug fucked bore who never did anything interesting after he took up drugs seriously in the late 70s – notwithstanding that Wendy Whiteley is a nice lady who as I remember was once very beautiful, and her garden, while fairly conventional, is better than anything Brett did.

    1. Whiteley – that was my thought until I went to “West of the Divide” at Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, Katoomba (a couple of years ago). Some serious art in that exhibition. Now my feelings on Whiteley are mixed, nuanced even.

  3. Pondering the sport/art nexus? Check out the work of Narelle Autio and Trent Parke, especially their entry in the last Basil Sellers Art Prize. Their surrealistic video entry, filmed entirely at night in their backyard, features their two sons playing cricket (I think it should have won…). It’s the closest I’ll ever get to ‘watching’ a game of cricket.

    Enjoyed the article, thanks.

    Jay

  4. Plenty of people do arts and balls Helen, true, usually one not so much as the other. Malcolm Knox, for example, who wrote a cricket book called, “Never a Gentlemans Game: Blood Boycots & Bullyboys”, has a go. I thought his novel “Life” was pretty good ans he’s a grouse cricket journo.

    Yeah yeah, he went to some fucking grammar school on the North Shore 😉

  5. The former captain of the French Rugby team from the 1982 tour to Australia is now an acclaimed sculptor. I know he’s not Australian but sport and art can co-exist in the same mind. I also invite you to look at the beauty of the rugby scrum. The top practitioners in this sporting contest are said to be masters of a dark art. Will that suffice? Love your work Helen.

  6. “I cannot know, but do suspect that the Equally Struck By Poetry and Badminton thing is just not possible within a single human. ”

    Oh Miss Razer, I do believe you are overlooking the well-known type of the male writer who makes a point of celebrating in deathless prose the genius of bullfighters (Hemingway, Leiris), golfers and baseballers (Updike), horses, or jockeys, or trainers, or something (Gerald Murnane), boxers (Mailer, Hemingway, natch), soccer players (Ian Hamilton), tennis players (David Foster Wallace), cricketers (CLR James, WHO WAS A WEST INDIAN MARXIST SO YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HIM). The only similarly inclined lady writer I can think of is Joyce Carol Oates, who also liked boxing. But that might simply be me being underinformed about lady writing.

    People just can’t believe how much I want people to know that I know things. I know things, right? Don’t ever doubt it.

  7. Maybe we need Art _about_ cricket? I can’t think of any, off hand, and I don’t think that bronzes of Bradman count. Perhaps Drowning By Numbers comes close? That later one of Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker series? There’s art about most other fields of human endeavour and struggle. Cricket seems somehow immune. How about a play about it that takes five days to watch?
    You’re right about Lynch too.

  8. Reading The Age’s Good Weekend On a Saturday morning usually results in the opposite experience. Filled as it is with glorified advertisements for a feted middle class existence and vacuous interviews with “arty celebs” it’s more often than not the precursor for A Bad Weekend. At least for the maudlin 30 mins it takes to flick through the sorry rag.

    1. So true. I used to shock Arty Types by announcing Art was a Middle to Upper Middle Class comfort zone BUT it is!!! In Fine Art I have noted that most of the artists are Govt School eductaed but the majority of the curators and others who run things are Private School. So what would you expect.

      Australian Art is Government Art. The only steady stream of money is Public Money BUT the Public is treated as idiot consumers more and more given Instagram Contemporary Art and free air con. Yes theynwill pay sometimes…for a bunch of second rate Van Goghs….so what. We have reached the end of the raod really. Artists love what I say as I troll the Australian Art World BUT they would NEVER do same. So as John Kelly noted in Daily Review recently: Can any criticism go on. I truly believe Australia is s sinking cultural Titaic and all the art public servants are just rearranging the deckchairs. It would be better if ALL Arts Funding was taken away, then something real could emerge.

      The ABC has been sickeningly elitist and smug about the Arts for decades, Radio National is appalling and I haven’t listened for many years. So many Art Types just exist in their bubble. For me its been far more enlightening to leave that bubble and listen to real paople. Imagine a Sydney Biennial devoted to the concept that Contemporary Art is a Con as many believe. Imagine allowing in the very people who we spend THEIR money “administering” Art too! Why nit be truly radical and Futurist and BLOW THE WHOLE SHAM UP!! The early avant gardes did!
      I note that Q&A on ABC TV is finally “allowing” members of the public onto their front bench rather than just having them ask questions so the names can pontificate. Imagine all ABC Arts coverage being like this? Imagine Gogglebox as the model for Arts Criticism?!

      It would work and be popular, reach out past the art luvvies! Mind you I hate the ABC quiz shows, they are just not good. Paul McDermott is NOT Grahame Kennedy!!!

  9. A spectre is haunting this nation and that spectre is cricket. All the powers of the Arts must enter into an holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: the irritated, the miserable, the petty

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