Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Anzacs

I didn't sleep much last night. Stressing. I got up at four, went to work at five as a spectator (rode there in the rain, which was heaps more fun than it sounds, because I have had mudguards put on my bike and I so I enjoyed the twin novelties of entirely empty roads - not even any trams on the main CBD drag- and also, no wet gritty road spray flying up and making my bum and back wet). Stood in the rain and the dark with 29,999 other people, reflecting on the interestingness of an event which involves 30,000 people standing on a grassy hill in the rain and the dark, then went home again and made Anzac biscuits with Lenny while watching the march on telly. Then I went back to work to actually work, worked my arse off, eventually the day ended and I rode home again. I have had a shower but I think I might still be able to smell myself.

It was all worth it though because Canning St came through again.



You can't see the signs but they were selling Anzac "Cookies" for a dollar each, and "10% of profits to the ANZACS". Kids who live in Carlton alright. I interrogated them a bit about the pathetic 10% and who exactly they were intending to give it to. Between ourselves they didn't know so I suggested a charity which assists returned service people under thirty who have PTSD and explained what PTSD is and how soldiers come to get it and what tends happens to them if they ask for any help with psychological distress while they are still in the army. I had the gratification of seeing them actually squirm about on their chairs like the tiny winsome frauds that they are. Not satisfied with this adventure in the humiliation of children stakes I bought one "cookie" and took it home so I could compare it with those we'd made just a little while earlier and see whose was better, ours or theirs.

Here they are. Top = ours. Bottom = theirs.

Mine and Leonard's: tender, firm, nice caramel flavour, coconut and oats crisp but not dry, whole thing not too sweet.

Theirs: hard, cold, stiff, unpleasantly sugary, brittle, generally pretty disgusting if you ask me.

I am almost sure that Lenny thinks Anzac Day is the day of Anzac biscuits.

Monday, 24 April 2017

It's tomorrow



Tomorrow, I will be standing around in the wind, rain, thunderstorm, hail, outside broadcasts, and bagpiper noises, with thousands of other wet people, and Vinnie will be sitting here on my couch, on my soft, dry, clean, silent cushions, not even appreciating how great his life is, because that is Vinnie all over, an ungrateful orange wretch with the narrowest imaginable perspective on life. He will probably outlive me. Speaking of death 'n' that I did go to the GP with my vibrating breast (it is still merrily buzzing like a deliberately shit game of Operation!) and it all transpired away exactly as predicted except I was charged $85 not $72. I'm going to get squashed in the squashing machine next week. Does Breastscreen give you a copy of the xrays? I would like to put them on my blog, along with my other ones.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

$200 later

Bike is fixed. Thank fuck. Indignities of interim transportation measures culminated this afternoon in a nine-minute journey on the Upfield line, which was sickeningly vile beyond the power of words to express.

I survived today, but I have a knot of painful tension underneath the centre of my ribcage, and the vibrations are still buzzing away in there as well. It buzzes for about two or three seconds, goes still, then buzzes again maybe one or two minutes later. I am considering whether I ought to go to the doctor.

On the one hand, obviously it's a completely stupid complaint, and all that will happen is I will be charged $72, be stared at with a puzzled frowny face, be squeezed and prodded, sit there while a lot of words are typed into the computer, go at an inconvenient time to an inconvenient place like Northland and have my poor, small, ridiculously vibrating breast mashed flat in a mammogram machine, go back to the GP and be told there is nothing the matter and if I ignore it, maybe it'll go away.

On the other hand, the infinite annoyance of wondering if it's cancer or something. Will that wondering drive me insane? Past experience suggests that what drives me insane tends to be not a stressful experience such as sleep deprivation alone, but the stressful experience plus the anxiety of worrying all the time about how I'm going to cope when things get even worse than they are right now.

Well, I don't know what to do so I will sleep on it. Not on my breast per se, I tried that last night and it still buzzed, but on the dilemma.

I am very much looking forward to riding to work tomorrow. The sunrises are so beautiful at the moment. I have missed all my friends that I regularly see on my way to work in the mornings, namely the garbage truck man who always double parks in the bike lane in Rathdowne St, and this cat, Mimi, who lives in Cardigan St but chooses to do her loitering in Faraday St, and who am you or are I to judge her for that? I think she may be trouble, certainly she is not smart enough to avoid getting bitten in the tail.

Without a doubt getting to work and back will be much more fun than what is going to happen in between, which will involve between six and eight thousand school children and possibly some rain, in which case it will also involve the distribution of between six and eight thousand plastic ponchos. I checked, and it is still that case that I cannot even.

The one riding to work problem which now remains unresolved is the thorny one of where to get coffee on the way now that Brunetti's has been callously discarded upon the scrapheap of Progress.  I've tried several options and none is good. Here's the scorecard:

Yuck cafe on the corner of Swanston and Little Collins, behind the big chessboard
- is open to the outdoors which is good
- on the correct side of the street, also very good
- just the right distance from work, not too close and not too far
- coffee is nauseating which is terrible
- one customer was smoking and another had an actual droplet hanging off the end of his nose

Various cafes at Federation Square
- all closed at 7 am which makes them entirely useless to me

Coffee stand in a sort of tent outside the Concert Hall
- open to outdoors : tick
On wrong side of road
- Coffee horrible
- staff needlessly sarky
- only do takeaway cups argh!

Coffee van also outside the Arts Centre but a bit further back towards the city
- Outside, good
- coffee expensive, too hot, too weak, and burnt
- repulsive lycra-clad cyclists scene thing going on there
- man operating it a bit of a creep
- also hasn't been there for a couple of weeks, so even if all the above were different, still a useless piece of shit-coffee-vending shit.

Which kind of only leaves the last possible option before I actually get to work:

Office worker lunch shop place across from Domain interchange
- Seriously on the wrong side of the road - it will take two minutes to get across St Kilda Road here in the mornings
- but, coffee is tolerable, and furthermore is Bucket-o-coffee, with what is called 'large' in most places called 'medium' here
- The older man in there said to me this morning, hello darling, lovely day isn't it?
me: Yes it really is. The best. (honestly, it was.)
him: great to be alive huh?
me: oh yeah!
him: Better than lying on your back dead in a cemetery hey!
me: that is absolutely true.


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Don't bother to read this.

Anzac Day is six days away. I don't actually know yet whether I will be needed to work in the morning or not. I do know I will have to work in the afternoon. By 'in the morning' I mean 'in the middle of the night'. I also don't know what I would prefer to do. Probably neither. The thing is, the days on either side continue to be chockers with school groups, (700 kids today, nearly 700 tomorrow, about 7000 the next day, not even joking about that in any way shape or form.) As you can see I am not really able to think about anything else. It is just the most horrific prospect. And anxiety about it is infecting everyone, with the possible exception of some of the police, who appear to be as cheery as ever.

I got my bike to a bike shop and if all goes according to plan it should be fixed tomorrow evening, so at least I will be able to get some proper exercise when I get it back. Driving to and from work today sucked immensely, and taking PT tomorrow will also be horrible but in quite a different way.

The only other thing worth documenting is that as of this afternoon about 3 pm, I appear to be afflicted with a rare yet harmless condition that internet health information websites describe as "vibrating breast syndrome." My right breast is intermittently buzzing, as if it contains a very tiny mobile phone set to silent. I wonder who is ringing me? It must be something important, because they keep calling. Perhaps it's Christopher Pyne ringing to say that Anzac Day is cancelled. How did he get my breast number? It's really annoying, but according to the internet it's not lethal. I am content with that.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Not sure which will come first, thermonuclear war or Anzac Day.

This is definitely the worst week of the year and today a lot of bad things have already happened.

I'm just going to do dot points.




  • Crashed my bike and sort of fell off. The whole left side of my body feels like it's been wrenched, especially my thigh and the side of my torso, which feels like it's been wrenched and punched. The back brake locked and the back wheel won't move. I was crossing Princes Bridge, so all I could do was yell FUCK and be overcome by a fantasied image of myself thrusting it above my head and hurling it into the Yarra. Instead of throwing it in the river I dragged it to work, borrowed some tools from the person who fixes everything that breaks, and failed to fix it, so I will have to actually stoop to driving to work tomorrow in order to retrieve broken bike. Sad!
  • Forgot to pack a belt to hold up my too-large pants, which also had a nasty-looking mark on them, so, felt like a tramp and not in the sense of an attractively devil-may-care or rakish female. Sad!
  • Meeting with strangers at 9.30 which I had forgotten about until I saw them banging on the door trying to get in, took an hour, total waste of time! Sad!
  • Then three solid hours of Victorian children in WWII. Sad!
  • Then spent afternoon scrambling about attempting to be ready for tomorrow. Not ready. Wrong!
  • Because of all that, NO COFFEE this morning or at all today.  Not even tea. Sad! I left $4 on my desk in case the person who most often tends to walk down the hill to get coffee should walk past my desk, see the coins, and know what they meant. But she is organising Anzac Day itself, so I think she probably didn't leave her own desk at all today, nor will she leave it for a week. Sad!
  • Therefore, caffeine withdrawal headache. I am now in bed with a strong cup of tea to try to cure the headache. What a remarkably exciting life I lead. Not!
  • Yesterday = public holiday so no therapy. Sad! You know how sometimes people write "I can't even"? well, I really can't even. Don't even think about asking. Don't!
  • Horrible overbookings start to kick in tomorrow, Hooray! Today was merely inhuman, tomorrow is definitely going to be a nightmare of grief and pain. Sad!
  • Nothing for it, I am going to have to talk to a bike shop dude tomorrow. Sad!
  • I have pressed "publish" on this...statement about nine times now, and no publishing occurs. I just want it to go away from me, and become someone else's problem.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday

If I conveniently ignore the fact that actually there are several police officers in my workplace around the clock, I was first to work (6.45 am) and last to leave (6 pm) today. I didn't intend to stay anything like so long but there was a hideous problem with the booking system which needed to be fixed because it's creating even more hideous problems in terms of overbookings on future dates. I noticed something was wrong when I was examining what next week's calendar looks like, and I found several places where teachers have been able to book in groups of up to 120 schoolchildren in a single session, when our upper limit is really 75. I believe I managed to get the booking system fixed although we will need to try to honour the bookings that have already been made.

The weeks around Anzac Day have a terrible quality of looming disaster and doom to them. I was so buggered last night when I was packing my bag with clean clothes for work the next day that I forgot to put in any underwear. I had undies on when I rode to work but no bra. When I realised this, standing in the changing room at work at 6:57 AM, holding in one hand the very thin white silk with black spots top I was going to put on, and digging fruitlessly though my locker with the other, I thought my best option would be to hop back on my bike after shops opening time and sneak into town and buy one (I pictured myself charging into David Jones, elbows out like a three-year-old taking part in a mass Easter Egg hunt) but I actually had meetings etc until about 11:30, by which I time I thought there probably wasn't a lot of point to that, somewhat unlike my chest but there you go. I did put on a cardigan when I had to get up from my desk and do things involving facing other people. As I was trying to think through the probable causes of the booking system disaster - this was much more difficult than usual because of the aforementioned exhaustion and also because I had had a lot of coffee and gross Easter chocolate - I slowly became aware of two things: 1) thinking is easier without elastic, lace and wire grabbing you in various odd ways and b) I was absentmindedly squeezing my right breast with my left hand. I suppose this is pretty much what the 1970s were like for most women, if the evidence of Paper Giants etc is anything to go by, which obviously it's not. Don't bother writing in to tell me that. I already know that!!

On the whole I will be very glad when April is over, in a way, although regrettably I think it will also bring the end of the Canning St median strip party season with the end of daylight savings and nice balmy evenings. Thanks to riding home a lot later than usual I did get to bust out the Diane Arbus / Joan Didion combo upon this gathering:



The spokesman said they would offer me a beer but they had already dranked all of it - go them.

Hope you have a good Good Friday, or at least that your good friday is gooder than Jesus's. That's not a particularly high bar.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

the count

The London Review of Books is, without a shred of irony, the closest I will ever have to a spirit animal, so I was utterly horrified by this letter in the last edition but one that I received. The writer of the letter is tracking space and prominence the LRB affords to men and women, and what she reports is utterly dire.

Horrified, and not just at the unforgivably bad gender balance across all measures (raw numbers of writers, raw numbers of authors reviewed, letter writers, total word count, length of individual articles and reviews, writers of weighty pieces on public sphere topics vs. writers of shorter domestic and personal pieces), but also horrified at myself, at not having noticed what is in fact completely plain to see, or paid attention, or, I guess, faced up to it as a problem.

I've subscribed to the LRB for over twenty years. You know yourself that the effectiveness, and pleasures, of good criticism are deepened when it's experienced in the context of an understanding about what the critic has done, read, thought and written in the past. Over time, if you engage consistently with a good journal, it becomes for you a kind of critical radio serial, with contributors becoming less like skilled writers merely doing a piece of work in reviewing this or that book, and more like a community of intimately known people who you can see thinking and responding and sometimes changing over time.

Through reading them over several years, writers like Jonathan Coe, Mary Beard, Colm Toibin, Terry Castle, Marina Warner, Jorie Graham, and Andrew O'Hagan, all known to me from their work elsewhere, have come to seem like live minds rather than just names associated with groups of texts. And the late Peter Campbell, Frank Kermode, and above all, the irreplaceable Jenny Diski, defined my sense of what it's possible for critics to do when criticism is taken seriously as an expressive form indivisible from the life of the critic's own mind and his or her art and experience.

So good, so necessary in so many ways, and yet, on this absolutely fundamental measure of how much it really gives a shit about matters of the most basic importance, the LRB fails. I would miss the journal most terribly if I stopped reading it, and yet, I don't know how I can continue.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The confluuuuuuuence



Possibly my favourite place in Melbourne and therefore in the entire world.

It always feels like something amazing is about to happen there. That feeling is 100% detectable from this photograph. If you cannot yourself detect it, that is your problem and not mine, or, as Robert Downey Snr says in Boogie Nights, "That's a YP not an MP." The photo depicts peak Dights, ie the time of day when it's getting dark, it's so empty of human beings that you start to wonder if everyone else in the city is dead, and the bats are about to come. MAg1c!! Such a good place to loaf around in and wonder what you should do next. Nothing very inspired has ever come of the time I have wasted thus, but you never know, and that's precisely the beauty of the place: next time might be the time that something amazing happens. You will hear all about it when it does (maybe.)

Because the weather bureau, for reasons best known to itself, lied through its teeth about the weather today, I didn't use my bike to get across town and consequently did not get to hang out at the old confluence. This photo wasn't taken today, but I wish it had been.

I am only bothering to write this down because a) addicted to this nonsense, as you know and b) cannot summon the willpower to stop it, get up offa the couch and begin on the soul-destroying ordeal of finding 2.5 complete sets of clothing for tomorrow (one for riding to work in, probably getting soaking wet in the process, one for wearing whilst working, and one-half for combining with the dry half of the morning ride-to-work to ride to the doctor's in: nb must arrive there in not too wet, sweaty, filthy and otherwise gross of a condition as I will be lying on her couch and do not want to transfer markings onto the upholstery. Oh, actually this is great. I can tell her about how I don't want to dirty up her couch - she will be even more pleased with this than she was the time I told her I had dreamed about doing **** with ****** underneath a *********.


Friday, 7 April 2017

I and you and them, this, and Fanny Burney

Fanny Burney, one of the greatest writers ever, and one of the greatest-named too, because what could be better in the nomenclature stakes than to be able to effortlessly troll the entire North American contingent of women's literature scholars two hundred years after your own death. (How wonderful it would be if "Laura" became a futuristic euphemism for "arse".) They think it is not taking her seriously as a grownup to call her "Fanny", or so they say, but really it is because to them "Fanny" means "bum", which is an odd objection, because to us it means "vadge" which I'd have thought was a worse name than "bum", personally - and yet we don't make a fuss. Of course this is because "we" have forgotten who she is - a writer of female experience who blazed a trail so wide, so deep, and so truly strange that it has never really been superceded. Not even by Austen, who probably loved her most and who would not have written without her example.

I used to think a bit about Fanny Burney, and her lifelong bravery as a writer in striking out into new and raw emotional and psychological territory, in connection with my own experiences writing here. Burney's narrative language was epistolary and she played the letter form like an orchestra full of instruments. She was really good at modulating through all the emotional colours and all the implied and explicit relationships available within the basic structure of "I am writing to you". In accordance with the effects she sought she shifted the positions of "I" and "you" on the spectra of singular to collective, specific to generic, and autobiographical to invented. She shifted those positions from line to line, with a fluidity that anticipates the invention of free indirect speech. That purposeful and skilful exploitation of all the shades and nuances available from those two little subject positions - I and you - is what I'm thinking about again now.

What I write here is mostly in the epistolary mode: letters, written in the first person, and addressing a reader. Obviously the actual writer-to-reader communication differs in lots of practical ways to how it worked in the eighteenth century, but it's the same structure, and in the same way, it's open to me to modulate how literal or how figurative I might be about who "I" am and who "you" are. Also the same is the fact that while I may write with a specific reader/ship in mind, once the writing is done, it's out there, available to be read by anyone, in any spirit, for any reason.

What's really different is the very high degree of agency and control that you, dear reader, are able to exercise, in your communication of your response to me. Yes, I am talking about commenting, but other forms of response too. And I struggle with this. I have thought about abandoning the blog, again, but instead I'm trying to figure out an alternative way of seeing the thing.

The things I write here are written with specific readers or readerships in mind. Sometimes that specific reader/ship is hypothetical and sometimes it's real people or a real person. Sometimes that intended reader/ship works for me as a shaping tool to help me put some form to the nebulous matter I want to express. Sometimes I have something I want to say to reader/ship X - and sometimes that's in an esprit de l'escalier mode, sometimes it's a communication I want to make and have received but I want to convey it in this indirect manner. "I'll just leave this here." Sometimes I really am writing to my future self, whoever she is. Anyway. The clash comes when I publish, with whatever intention, and I receive evidence that I've been read differently to how I intended. I'm not talking about content. It's about when I understand a particular kind of writer / reader relationship to have been embedded into the writing and the response comes in another mode entirely. That bothers me.

I do publish some comments that people write and not others; my right to make that choice. I decide whether to engage or not. I do allow anonymous comments, and some of those work fine and others give me the absolute willies. I get emails and FB messages from readers, and those are always very welcome, whatever it is that they actually say, because they're removed from this ambiguous space.  I know some readers very well and others not at all, and I have a range of feelings about that. It's complicated. On the whole, it's alright. But I think it could be better.

Another time that time I blogged about Fanny Burney and her name, my role in the discussion which transpired was emblematic of how I used to deal with an emblematic reader-response scenario. Above all things I don't want to return to that mode. I felt anxious just rereading it this morning. I need to have the freedom to write what I want or need to, to put it out here, and not have to manage a conversation afterwards which includes responses of highly different kinds from people with whom I have widely different types of relationships.

That said, this post is an occasion when I would uncomplicatedly welcome and think it appropriate for you to say hello or something. If you want to. I can't make you. X


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

pulling focus

At some point during the period that I had no job, I had a brief but intense obsession with this Cold Chisel video. Kind of like a bout of gastro that pwns you completely for a day and a half then departs your system as quickly as it came. I'm not in the least denying that it's a great video* but there's really nothing about it that invites or requires the degree of brooding attention which I lavished upon it. Yet another example, as if another were needed, of the leitmotif of this phase of my life: obsession in restless search of an object, it lights upon something, bang! away I go. And then the obsession burns out, and then, 'scuse the mixed metaphor, rinse and repeat.





I've been talking about this for quite a long time now, with you-know-who, as you my dear reader are only too well aware.** This week, what I think is that the conversation is helping.

One durable suggestion the conversation has provided involves shifting the interpretative gaze that I apply to my own thoughts, wishes, intentions and experiences, shifting it knight's move style or like a camera operator pulling focus - shifting it off the object of the obsession - off the obsession itself - and onto the nature of my feelings about the obsession.

What I then see, when I make that shift, is the overwhelming dominance of a single way of thinking about myself, about what I do, my life, and everything else. That way of thinking is judgement.

For whatever reason (and I still don't much buy the cliche Freudian reasons), judgement is my default mode. This has manifested in bright and dark ways. I've always been in love with the sparks and cracklings of the satirical imagination, whether it's embodied in a person who died two hundred years ago or in a person I see every day. And ha ha, there was that career in literary criticism - wouldn't have missed it for the world! But there's also the deathly, inhibited stasis that comes from having to judge everyone and everything, and having to feel constantly under somebody's judgement.

When I see this, I can sometimes suspend the rush to judgement. No longer is it inevitable. And that makes room for other ways of thinking to have a turn. If I don't have to evaluate (and most likely condemn) myself I can perhaps understand myself instead, or even just have some feelings and be more aware of them.

So when I think about those obsessions, if I can manage to avoid the first thought being to class them as terrible, stupid, ridiculous or whatever, then a space is created where I can explore what they might be able to tell me. Which is quite interesting.

Unfortunately I am not able to provide you, or me, with one of these newly liberated interpretations of what the fixation upon the Cheap Wine video was about. I can tell you that I somehow worked out the address of the flat where it was filmed, and I found a real estate listing online from the last time it was on the market. I can vividly picture the rooms in all their expensive and tastefully renovated glory but I have no memory of the address or how I tracked it down. I didn't think to write it down anywhere either, it would seem. One more past decision for which I will not judge myself, or not much anyway.

I should really stop there instead of opening a whole other and separate kettle of fish...but the one thing I really don't appreciate about the way therapy approaches this question is the way it totally disregards and thus obliterates the specific identity of the object of the fixation. I've mentioned this here before, I know. For now, enough to note that it continues to be utterly important to me to acknowledge that the things I fixate upon have innate value independent of the longings I project upon them. To be continued, I'm sorry to say.





*I highly recommend actually watching the video instead of reading the rest of this post.

**I don't know how you put up with this nonsense really I don't. Reading me go on and on and on and on and on about my stupid life must be like imagining a Rorschach blot stamping on a human face - forever

maybe I spoke too soon

Maybe I'm not quite as over the La Trobe amour fou as I thought I was. These hideous ads, which I keep seeing on trams (trams headed for Melbourne Uni, naturellement), are really getting to me.



In the interests of not spending the entire evening getting myself needlessly worked up I'm just going to give you the tl;dr version of why, and hopefully that'll be enough in the way of venting. (I tried to discuss them with my doctor on Monday, but she wasn't having it.)

So here it is.

The people who set up La Trobe, fifty years ago, not to mention the people who brought it to life with their youth and energy,


THEY TOOK LA TROBE SERIOUSLY 

unlike the arseholes who are running it now.

That's all. Thanks for listening.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Statuary Friday, vol 2 no 2 (Autumn 2017)

Ok here's my project or perhaps it's a meme: though I doubt if anything qualifies as a meme if only one person is onto it. Well, anyway, every Friday I do a different piece of sculpture selected from the vast numbers littered around lovely Melbourne. My only criteria are: it must be outdoors, it must be more or less permanent, and it must be in a publicly accessible location.

#2.2 Widow and Children

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne



Even though there is an embarrassment of riches of beautiful, challenging and interesting sculpture around the Shrine I've hesitated to venture into blogging it, for reasons that no doubt are obvious. (The only piece of Shrine-related statuary I've written about is the Weary Dunlop memorial.) But I pass this tiny sculpture each morning and evening, and in between, I sometimes bring groups of adult visitors or schoolkids to look at it and talk about it, and I continue to find it fascinating and disturbing. I think it's worth the effort of negotiating the messiness of mingling my personal hobby with my day job. (I used to do this a lot, of course, but it seems trickier now than it did then.)

This bronze sculpture was made by a Dutch-born Melbourne artist, Louis Laumen, to be the centrepiece of the Legacy Garden installed at the Shrine in 1998. Legacy, as you probably know, is a charity established by returned servicemen in the immediate aftermath of the Great War for the care and support of families bereaved by war. Legacy played an important part in getting the Shrine built, and it manages a vast pre-Anzac Day ceremony for Victorian schoolchildren which sometimes features heartwrenching participation by kids who have lost a parent in the obscene and continuing Middle Eastern and Afghanistan conflicts.

Since the late 90s Laumen has made a lot more figural public sculpture for Melbourne, including many of the bronze sportsmen and women around the MCG. The differences and overlaps are interesting. The MCG statues depict specific famous individuals and these people are archetypes; The MCG bronzes are polished and polychromatic but this work is raw and weathered; the MCG figures are larger than life but these are much, much smaller; the MCG statues don't seem to me to have any particular relationship to the features of their environment but this group is embedded in an intense dialogue with the iconic building it's oriented towards. What they all have in common, though, is a subliminal expressionism, detectable in the elongation and torsion of arms, legs, and necks as well as the dramatic movement of the fabric of clothing.



While I haven't looked super-carefully at the MCG statues (they're not really my cup of tea - you know, sport), I do think that this is a much more powerful work, even setting aside the subject matter (insofar as that's possible, which I guess isn't a lot). It's three very ordinary and respectable-looking Melbourne people, dressed ordinarily and participating in a very familiar Australian ritual. But this representation imbues them with a deep feeling about the devastation wrought by war. They are haunted by traces of Alberto Giacometti's surreal, starved and brutalised figures, echoing their "gaunt frames, knobby ravaged skin, and wiry solitude in the immensities of space generated about them by their own etiolation." (Hughes, The Shock of the New)



My pictures aren't great. I took them in haste last night whilst waiting for a work colleague with whom I sometimes ride homewards to emerge from the building. (In order to get close enough to take them I'm afraid I left some footprints in the soft earth of the very formal cruciform garden of which the sculpture is the centrepiece.)

From the picture above you can probably detect the spatial/symbolic relationship of the sculpture to the building, which famously subsumes all individual identities and emotions into the collective and the monumental - this tiny, ultra-vulnerable group walking towards this massive structure, which it now defines as the symbolic order, the name-of-the-Father. But even with a far better photograph than this one you can't really experience what it is to stand between these two objects and feel the pull they exert on each other across that space.

The expressions on their faces are very, very difficult to look at for long.





In a talk he gave at the Shrine some years back Michael McKernan made the IMO pretty trenchant observation that in our time it's almost impossible to contemplate the first world war, and its aftermath, in any other paradigm than grief. You can see something similar in this sculpture, I think. It's interesting to look at it next to this photo, taken in the 1950s, of a widow and her children bereaved in the Second World War:

 

But then again, the faces in this photograph taken on 25 April 1946: 

or, slightly different again - these children, at the Shrine on Anzac Day in 1944



I do sometimes bring kids here and ask them to talk about what they see in this sculpture. What they always see before anything else is the person who is missing, which I find interesting given the variety of family structures which kids live within and know about. I don't do it often, and only with groups that I think can handle it (not very many.) I think it's important, though, because the violence of war is still, right this minute, taking away loved parents and loved children, and to me there seems little point in coming to a war memorial and learning about past mistakes if you're not also going to try to think about whether you are prepared to pay the price of those wars we're still involved in today.