As well as a large amount of reading, I’ve been doing some listening recently. Nothing that directly relates to either my college or textile work – but if you wait a while most things end up being connected one way or another.

qstation_02Also not directly related are the photos I’m including today, but there is a connection of sorts.

First were two lectures in a series at the Art Gallery of New South Wales presented by Susannah Fullerton (susannahfullerton.com.au/). The series is “Favourite British novels of the 20th century”. Susannah began each lecture with quite lengthy readings from the novels. She is an excellent reader, very expressive and using her voice well without falling into dramatics. The lectures covered both the lives of the authors and discussion of the books. I’ll only pick up on a couple of thoughts here.

qstation_01We started with John Galsworthy and The Forsyte Saga. I hadn’t read these before and don’t recall seeing any of the TV and movie adaptations, but really enjoyed the books when I settled down with them earlier this year. The broad ideas of Property – of land, artworks, wife – could be an interesting theme to explore in a future assignment. I’m interested to see how significant “art as property” will be in the art history course.

qstation_07In the books the heroine, Irene, never speaks for herself. She is always seen through the eyes of others. This was a deliberate technique introduced by Galsworthy, but as a woman today I found that passivity enormously frustrating and annoying. However I have a very un-formed idea of trying to do the same thing visually in a series of works. I don’t really know what that means yet… but somehow the focus of attention is never quite visible.

The second lecture was on Nancy Mitford and in particular her two novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. These are old favourites and it was a pleasure to re-read them – often very funny, but with a slightly distant and cold edge.

A few days later I went to a lecture by John Gascoigne, Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales (humanities.arts.unsw.edu.au/staff/john-gascoigne-39.html. The topic was “Cook, Banks, Kew Gardens and Enlightenment Voyaging”, and it was part of the Q Station lecture series (www.qstation.com.au/events/lecture-series/). qstation_04In the period of The Enlightenment there was focus on the application of reason and interest in combining voyaging with science. Knowledge was liberating, challenging ancient certainties, but “knowledge is power” was quite literal, with men such as Francis Bacon alert to the political possibilities of science. The voyages of exploration had a very pragmatic quality – they were looking for things to bring back, to improve and use for the benefit of the empire. For example breadfruit from east asia could be introduced to the west indies as cheap food for slaves. Not a pretty example, I agree.

qstation_05qstation_06The talk was well illustrated with slides, including quite a bit of artwork. The background information on the period I now have will I hope be useful further on in Art History.

Now an explanation of the photos. The “Qstation” where John Gascoigne spoke is the site of the former Quarantine Station. For around 150 years boats where there was suspicion of contagious disease were not permitted to enter the main part of Sydney harbour. Passengers and crew were taken into the Quarantine Station, put through rigorous decontamination processes, and housed in various segregated sections until there was no further fear of infection. This could take weeks or longer. Many would have died of smallpox, typhus or other diseases. There are more than 1,500 carvings on the site, made by those detained and waiting for disease and death, or release. I’m trying to squirrel away possible theme ideas for future courses. As well as standing alone the quarantine station could link into immigration generally. There could also be parallels with some current political and human issues here in Australia. As always, More Thought Required.

2 Responses to “Lectures”

  1. 1 charltonstitcher April 6, 2013 at 5:41 am

    An extraordinary and fascinating thought – a focus in art that is there and yet not there – and not speaking for itself…. implied but not quite realised perhaps…. Good luck with the idea!
    Your blog is fascinating. I really enjoy following it.

  1. 1 UA1-WA:P2-p3 Research point: the Enlightenment | Fibres of Being Trackback on October 10, 2013 at 8:40 am

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April 2013

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