Saturday, December 29, 2012

Poptimist ahoy

Earlier this month, I spent a few days in Hobart while attending the IASPM-ANZ conference.This is my favourite photo from the trip, taken on the first afternoon during a random walkabout. In the background is the conference venue, the UTAS School of Art - a converted jam factory on the waterfront.
Old rockers never die, they just move to Hobart :)

Brightly painted fishing boats and floating restaurants dominate Hobart harbour - rather a nice change from the hulking great container ships that are prominent in Lyttelton. It was also nice to spend some time surrounded by old buildings again, wandering anywhere the mood suggested and not having to constantly worry about cordons, road closures and demolition sites.

Great trips always feature the unexpected - that moment or place that will stay with you for ever. This trip had two - a moment and a place that were both surprising and memorable.

On the Friday afternoon, at the conclusion of the conference, a group of us boarded a ferry and went about 20mins upriver, to visit MONA. I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for - apart from the recommendation of friends and the pics in the brochure, I knew nothing.
The approach doesn't give anything away... apparently, the intention was to have this subversive adult Disneyland "sneak up on visitors" - says creator/owner/gambler/visionary, David Walsh. It sure does... but then again, even the rocks lining the 99-stair entrance hint at something remarkable.

The mostly underground museum is a pleasurable assault on the senses... everything is overwhelming and inspiring, confronting yet comforting; seeing the old with new eyes, or familiar objects/icons arranged in an unusual fashion. Much of the art is definitely NSFW - this is not a museum for those who are easily offended - and after a while I stopped even taking pictures and just walked around with my eyes wide open. I did manage to stop & capture some of the fun kinetic artworks :)

Splishy Splashy from Kris Vavasour on Vimeo.
The sound of this one had us puzzled initially... in the cavernous gallery space it sounded more like sweeping than splashing.

A bin-bubble monochrome rainbow in constant production... love it.

You... you light up my life...

There were some artworks that invited participation... This was no ordinary wall - each record box had a short love-themed quote, and a recorded voice (all different) that said 'I love you'.

So we decided to open them all up at once. Just because.

Here are my partners in crime, Christina and Victor, creating a cacophany:

I love you from Kris Vavasour on Vimeo.


I can see why Lonely Planet put Hobart in its top-10 places to visit - MONA alone is worth the airfare.

I had a great time at the conference too, and came home buzzing with excitement and filled with enthusiasm for my field of research.

Many writers/theorists/critics dismiss popular music as inconsequential, as fleeting frippery neither designed nor worthy of serious consideration. But as Adrian Renzo shows, there is opportunity for both serious study and pure joy to be found in pop music, even in the hit-factory production styles of Xenomania, responsible for Girls Aloud.

Biology from Kris Vavasour on Vimeo.

It is infectious when you see people so totally engaged by what they do, so utterly caught up in the joy of popular music that they can't help but bust a move - even during an academic conference presentation.

Adrian introduced me to the concept of 'poptimism' - an argument or concept that has been bounced around for the past few years (read here, here or here for background), and one that seems to fit. I hereby declare myself to be a poptimist (it also reminds me to look on the bright side of life).

I've heard musicians talk about the ephemeral nature of the live performance, of the strange existence that comes from trying to live a life through music, and I know it's not easy for many musos in this tough post-quake city filled with random/temporary venues. So for my own entirely selfish reasons, I hope you all continue doing what you do - not just because it's my thesis research - but because it's important to so many people on so many levels.

When you need a break from the mundanity of life, turn up the music - or go to a live gig - and shake that ass. Sometimes it's exactly what the doctor ordered.

But there'll be none of that at the newly-constructed Pallet Pavillion... noise complaints from nearby residents mean that for now, there'll be no more night gigs featuring live bands. Who'd have thought that an open-air venue made of pallets would have noise issues? Par for the course, it seems.

The possibility of silent discos has been raised... or maybe they should turn it into an intimate acoustic venue? Although, even unplugged, some bands can still belt out some noise.

Here's a little something I recorded a couple of weeks ago in Diamond Harbour... The Eastern singing us out, acoustic styles, at the end of their sun-drenched set on the lawn behind (the remains of) Godley House.

The Eastern - live at Godley House Dec2012 from Kris Vavasour on Vimeo.

We all need a little poptimism to help us through the absurdities of everyday life, especially round these parts. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a stereo to go turn up.

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