Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Magpies and makings

Magpies (2015) by Pants

The Australian magpie is not, as far as I know, associated with the superstitions of its European counterpart. Being of a highly superstitious disposition, I salute them anyway, just to be on the safe side. There are plenty about at the moment. Many fear them as they can be aggressive and prone to swooping at the heads of passing pedestrians and cyclists. This hasn't happened to me since I've been in Larrikin's End. I tended to think it was because of the saluting. What bird doesn't respond to a respectful gesture? I now discover that magpies only attack certain people. How they decide upon who is a threat is probably as arbitrary as our government's decision-making process when it comes to the threat posed by refugees to our national security.

I watched a magpie build a nest in next door's ghost gum. It's about six storeys up in a swaying tree. I wouldn't like the chances of any eggs that happen to fall out of that nest. The European magpie is known for collecting trinkets for decoration. Wikipedia informs me that our magpie and the bower bird are passerines. Bower birds are known for their enthusiasm for re-purposing found objects but I don't know if the magpie shares this predilection. The magpie is known for its musical versatility and ability to mimic. I have heard one do R2D2, which was quite a treat. Recently, there's been one around that has mastered the call of my oven timer. I've got a terrible memory when it comes to putting food on to cook and forgetting about it has caused some near disasters. It's not uncommon for me to put eggs on to boil and forget about them so I always put the timer on and then, sixteen minutes later, squeal,

What the fuck is that beeping!

It's just as likely to be a magpie these days. There is a football team in Melbourne called The Magpies. On one of my first trips to the city, I was sat at a pub with a friend and there was a menu board out front. It read, 



And I said,

What's a go pie?

Well? Context is everything. Since then, I've developed a recipe for my own go pie. It contains everything from my fridge that needs to go into a meal or into the compost. Never let a good idea go to waste is my motto.

I hate waste. Yesterday I posted an item on Art of Pants about a small assemblage I made from a plastic paintbrush handle I found on the beach. The whole piece cost me under $1 to make. I bought a frame for 50c from a local charity shop and had the other items I needed to hand (an orphaned fake pearl earring, some black card, Araldite). I conclude rather cheekily on the that post that I can't understand why artists need to apply for grants. What's wrong with making things from whatever one has lying around? It would be different if I wanted to replicate the piece as a 200-foot long balloon and suspend it from Sydney Harbour Bridge, I admit. But why would I want to do that? Arts funding in Australia is so ludicrously fraught that it seems a lot easier to learn to be content with small pieces made from rubbish than to spend all that time competing for money that you probably won't get anyway. This way you get to really assist the environment rather than going to all the bother of explaining to a bunch of arts administrators how you're going to comment on the environment with your artwork.

My favourite work by Picasso is Bull's Head. Forget the $100m paintings. This is the one I'd pick if I had my choice. I do love the ambitious visions of Anish Kapoor, Rachel Whiteread, Anthony Gormley, et al. But I've always been just as impressed by a surprise Banksy suddenly appearing on a street I walked down daily. Art can cost a lot or it can cost nothing and, for me at least, there can be little in it. Damien Hirst's For the Love of God is indeed very beautiful. It is quite something to be in a room with it for a couple of minutes. When I saw that paintbrush handle lying on the beach and pictured it with a pearl for an eye, I thought that idea as profoundly beautiful as a $50m diamond-studded skull.

Sometimes, life really is black and white - with a salmon-pink background, obviously.