Saturday, March 5, 2016

Out of the crowd

My last post was a review of the Kane Cornes biography and it has kept me thinking. While reading the books there were situations and feelings that I could identify with; being part of a cheering crowd, celebrating your teams win, ripping up pages of the telephone book, but where our experiences obviously diverge is that Kane went on to be a 300 game AFL player for Port Adelaide.

I'm still the fan in the crowd, passionate observer. My role hasn't shifted.

My childhood in the 1980s and early 90s was spent at Alberton Oval or various other suburban football grounds. I went to all the Magpies Grand Finals wearing my black and white, dutifully filling in my Footy Record and cheering on my favourite players. At home with my two brothers we would play kick-to-kick, replicating the play of Scott Hodges, Tim Giniver or Gavin Wanganeen. At Primary School I would be called on by our teacher to demonstrate to the class how to take a speccy or kick the ball correctly. But actually playing for a local club or, to dream bigger and play for an elite club was never going to happen. I was on the girls cricket and soccer teams, however I don't recall the School ever having a girls football team.

This is why I am so encouraged by the recent decision by the AFL to establish a women's league competition. This week my team, Port Adelaide, announced that they will focus on a "grassroots" approach to building a team rather then enter the competition in its inaugural year. Although I am disappointed that Port Adelaide Football Club will not be fielding a team as I always like a bit of "history in the making", concentrating on grassroots could turn out in the long run to be the way to the best option. It would be good to build the playing of football by girls in schools or at clubs to the levels experience in cricket, soccer and basketball.
Erin Phillips, Olympian and WNBA basketballer and future Port Adelaide Women's League player (image: PAFC website)

I am hopeful that the inception of the Women's League will also help to breakdown barriers in the area of coaching, journalism, Board Membership and Club Presidentship. Women's inclusion needs to be about more than the AFL and Clubs being happy to take our Membership and merchandise money. Women need to be an equal part for the future development and growth of the game. 

Amanda Vanstone: Port Adelaide Football Club Board Member

It will be a great day when the women's league is celebrating it's first 300 game player.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Kane Cornes autobiography

This will not be an unbiased or impartial review, as it is too difficult for me to separate my love for the Port Adelaide Football Club and critiquing this book. Just putting that out there at the start.

In his autobiography Kane Cornes, the first 300 game player for Port Adelaide, details the extraordinary drive he had as a child and through his football playing career. The name Cornes is obviously synonymous with South Australian football, father Graham Cornes is a former Glenelg player, captain, inaugural Adelaide Crows coach and media commentator. Chad Cornes, played for Port Adelaide alongside his brother Kane and was renowned for his aggressive playing style and giving it his all on the field.

The book focuses on Kane’s journey from passionate football follower to professional athlete. My impressions of Kane, as an observer of the game, were as someone who was a natural footballer, gifted with talent and growing up in and around football.  Interestingly in the book he mentions how things did not come as easily as one would imagine. Slower than his brother Chad, dropped from games, compared to his father (and dealing with his father’s dislike of Port Adelaide) but with the burning passion to succeed. I especially loved Kane’s description of being part of the Glenelg cheer squad as a child, ripping up phone books and making banners – it was very reminiscent of my own childhood, only I was dressed in black and white rather than black and gold.

I am particularly admiring of the determination shown by Kane in pursuing his career. It becomes quite apparent that no-one is tougher on a professional sportsperson than them. As much as supporters love to bray from the sidelines and offer opinions about selections and who is on form or not, it doesn’t seem to compare to the sportsperson being their own harshest critic. Of course, they do get paid a lot of money, but as Kane points out social media and the limitations on a future after sport have changed expectations. 

Kane’s book also gives candid insights into a modern day football club. Alongside Kane’s book I have also been reading ‘Time and Space’ by James Coventry, which plots the very beginnings of what has become Australian Rules Football and the influence of coaches on shaping the game. With the insider’s eye, Kane critiques the leadership style of Matthew Primus when he became head coach halfway through 2010 through to 2012. With my own interest in what makes high performing teams function, there seemed to be a lack of communication from Primus and perhaps a lack of support from those around him at the Club. All this certainly changed with the appointment of Keith Thomas, new board members and Coach Ken Hinkley.

This is the first football, heck even 'sport', biography that I have read. I wasn’t expecting so much candour on life within the Port Adelaide Football Club, and I really admire Kane for telling it like it is and being open with his thoughts and experiences of his time with the Club. From the heartbreaks on the field (lost premierships, playing dissatisfaction) to those that diminish the importance of football (the death of John McCarthy and Phil Walsh) and his own family – this book is a must read for those who want to get an insight into the drive of a great player and the inner workings of the best football club in the world*. (warned you about that bias)

Monday, June 29, 2015

sport and art - review of the Basil Sellers Art Prize

I’ve always loved sport and art. I was the girl who wanted to be both, an Olympic Athlete and Andy Warhol. What I love about sport is the competing against self, trying to attain a ‘personal best’. I love the feeling of discipline; an slight change might result in the incremental betterment of a certain shot or faster time on the clock.

So, strange as it may seem, I never really thought about how I could combine my love of sport and art. 

Last week I had some time between work meetings, so I popped into the Samstag Gallery at the University of South Australia. Showing was the Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition, and as it turned out, a bit of an “a-ha” moment for me.

With an unfortunate sense of history repeating, the work ‘Once upon a time…” (2013- 2014) by Tony Albert is made up of small, portrait style illustrations of  St Kilda footballer Nicky Winmar, holding up his football jumper to point proudly at his black skin. The work also features Sydney footballer Adam Goodes, referencing the incident when he was called an 'ape' by a young fan. The tragic timing of me seeing this exhibition was due to yet another incident with Goodes, this time booed by the crowd for his post-goal kicking celebration dance.This ugly, racist side of the AFL – a game I love to watch, doesn’t sit comfortably with me. And nor should it. Football is made better by the indigenous footballers who have shown their skills on the field; Gavin Wanganeen, Shaun Burgoyne, Peter Burgoyne, Chad Wingard, Brendon Ah Chee, Jarman Impey, Jake Neade, Karl Amon (and these are just current and ex Port players).
The power of this work by Albert is that it uses victorious images we are used to with sport, and then throws them back in the viewers face by showing the racism that has become an unfortunate part of the game. 

"Once upon a time..." Tony Albert, (2013-2014)

The abstract photographs by Zoe Croggan were another stand out for me in this exhibition. The colours were instantly recognisable as those of the tennis court, the basketball court. Arms, legs, glimpses of a ball, sport abstracted to it's elements and looking Modernist. Reading about the work in the exhibition catalogue, I was surprised that Croggon uses images from magazines and catalogues as I had imagined the images were photographs taken from unusual vantage points.

 "Both flesh and not #2" Zoe Croggon, 2014

The video work ‘Wonderland’ by Khaled Sasabi was quite confronting. Playing on two screens, the viewer stands between to experience the chanting by fans of the Sydney Wanderers Football Club. Staring intently is someone who appears to be the leader of the chant, while other fans wait intently for the call of ‘1, 2, 3’ before they shout ‘Sydney’. As someone who is usually part of the performance (when Port Power run onto the ground), it was interesting experience for me to be on the other side. It is passionate, but there is also an element that feels rehearsed. There is little room for the individual, and perhaps that is the power in the group chant. While the club, the sport is the focus, belonging and showing this through singing songs, chanting and cheering helps the feeling of belonging and inclusion.

The Basil Sellers Art Prize exhibition ends on the 3rd July – try and get along to see it in Adelaide at the Samstag Gallery, 55 North Terrace 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Thoughts on art studio v craft studio

In my thesis I made the analogy between the craft website as a form of ‘open studio’. By sharing the process of making the work online, or the ‘work in progress’ (WIP)

To extend the analogy, could the move of crafters taking their work from online to real world be seen as the exhibition? The current trend for online craft makers to take their work offline and into Pop-Up shops could be seen as a way to test markets and gain customer feedback.

This has also got me further thinking about the function and historical role of the artist’s studio and the similarities and differences between the traditional studio and the online studio.


·         Place to make work

·         To try out ideas

·         Feedback on work in progress

Squalor and creative mess are the aesthetics of the artist’s studio. The haphazard detritus of creation spills onto every available surface. These images are for consumption and appeal to a general desire of seeing the artist as their physical nature, the visceral paint, life – the feeling of this being the space where creation happens.

The images shared by crafters online generally lack this chaos. There is order and composition in the images of work in progress shared, and as I have argued, bears similarities to the genre of still life. The angles of the images are tightly cropped, rather than the wide view of studio making, what is often presented is the work presented with other markers of taste; a chair, book, vase or other arrangement.

Images of the artist studio and the online craft ‘studio’ are both formalised in images to show taste. The viewer hopes to see the mythical site of creation (mess) and the composed images of craft (order).

The online craft website is always ‘open’ and therefore, needs to share the making of work with their audience. There is little point in making craft for sale online if the making cannot be shared and seen. Important to craft is the hand of the maker.

At the exhibition of new art, we don’t see the making. The art is removed from the studio context. Craft is valued when we see the process of how it was made.

Barbara Hepworth's studio, via TATE

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

creative industries, should we all be entrepreneurs

Last week the Creative Futures ReportSouth Australia produced by Service Skills SA was published. It looked at the current labour and industry trends for the creative industries in South Australia.

Key messages from the Report:

The creative industries are a significant employer with capacity for further growth.

..the industry requires support to develop critical entrepreneurial skills and increase the capability of the workforce.

…a ‘skills set’ covering strategic business, marketing, financial and use of new technologies

The Reports focus on training and skills is to be expected due to the report producer being Service Skills SA and with input from the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology.

An interesting comment regards respondents wanting to gain skills in marketing, social media, arts and business management as part of their creative arts degree. This is something that I have argued for, along with many of my peers in the visual arts degree. There is a concern that creative arts degrees do not adequately prepare students to articulate the skills they have gained through their degree to an employer. Perhaps the problem is not so much with the degree but in the ability to feel confident to “sell” our skills and knowledge. In a case of being our own worst enemy there can be a tendency to use the line “it’s only a visual arts degree” to peers, family and friends.

Teaching professional skills as part of a creative arts degree is important. However, there is a tendency that graduates from these degree areas should have a ‘portfolio career’ or be ‘entrepreneurial’.

The Report suggests a ‘Creative Entrepreneurial’ Skill Set should consist of the following components:

·         Business Development

·         Marketing

·         Finance and Taxation

·         Project and Self-Management

·         Digital Literacy

Not much there then.

Is it the responsibility of the university to ensure that their graduates are equipped with not only their knowledge of painting, acting, drawing, design etc. but also to be a master of all trades? Should business and marketing become a core topic of any creative industries course?

It would be great to see employers take on more responsibility for the training and professional development of their staff. Instead of expecting graduates and new employees to have their degree, plus business knowledge, plus marketing knowledge, plus digital literacy employers should look at how they can access the already existing Skills For All courses to deliver a structured career and training progression for creative industries workers.





Saturday, December 7, 2013

New job - skills development

I have recently begun a new position as the graduate skills development coordinator at Flinders University. It has been a new challenge for me to get to my head into the space of careers and has involved plenty of reading of government and higher education policy and frameworks. Most of my work day is spent running graduate skills workshops for students and I really enjoy the contact with students. The graduate skills are based on government framework, which was written after consultation with various Australian business and employer groups. The workshops I run are designed to assist students to think about developing their employability skills including; time management, project management, working in teams, critical thinking, report writing, workplace etiquette among others.

With Australia’s unemployment rate rising and graduate positions becoming harder to gain, students are finding that they need to be competitive and differentiate themselves in the employment market. That many students are willing to spend their time developing their skills is really encouraging and reflective of their awareness that they need to gain employability skills.
The two pieces of advice which are repeated by every graduate recruiter I meet is – network – and be able to best answer the “tell us something about yourself” question. Networking can be difficult for some; the advice I give in my workshops is to set a networking goal and research ahead who is going to be in attendance. Someone recently told me they had set themselves a networking goal of twenty coffee meet-ups per week! I do believe that goal setting is really important in approaching networking with purpose.

The “tell us something about yourself” question was a surprise to me, as I thought recent graduates would be able to articulate an answer to this quite well – and I am sure many can. However, in an interview situation what many expect is to be asked questions about their degree or technical knowledge and as one recruiter put it to me “I trust the university has awarded you the degree correctly, I want to know what else are you going to bring?” It can be hard to put aside all the degree related stuff that you have spent at least three years head down working hard towards gaining. However it is really important to set yourself apart from other candidates and by understanding your own skills it can help you to best articulate them to employers.
* image - Morrissey gets a job by Brian Brooks,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

'Craft/Work' exhibition round-up

I recently curated an exhibition of craft work at the South West Community Centre. It was great to exhibit the work of Adelaide based artists; Mekeda Duong, nonna reckless, Brooke Haba and Robyn Finlay. The exhibition opened on June 13th 2013 and it was a very happy moment to see people come out and support the exhibition.

I really wanted to do it because after writing my thesis by research, there was still this desire in me to show contemporary craft work. As part of the publicity for the exhibition I was interviewed by a local radio arts show, in which the focus of the interview was on how the work is made and isn't craft 'old-fashioned'. I kind of expected the second question, however I still always get surprised by the first. There is so much interest in the how of making and therein lies the contention with this second question. These handicraft skills would not have been so difficult to imagine being made a generation ago. As the general skills of knitting, crochet, embroidery are no longer in the skill-set of most there comes an amazement that people have actually made these objects.

Below is the exhibition statement:

Craft and work fit hand in glove. Time spent learning how to knit or crochet, time spent making  for the self, or somebody else. The labour of (hand) crafts is usually a labour of love. A jumper knitted to keep someone warm or the sharing between generations of skills and technique.

The feminist history of craft as told in the seminal book ‘The Subversive Stitch’ by Rozsika Parker, traced the thread of women’s making. From making out of necessity to subversion within the stitches. Contemporary craft; guerrilla knitting and ‘craftivism’ carries the continuation of this history. Weaved into the thread are the political and personal stories and messages of the artist as record of the times.

Mekeda Duong’s work in this exhibition ‘Textiles has got the chop!’ is a sharp comment on the closure of university textiles departments and points to the continual low-status of handicrafts. The pink acrylic yarn and inherent softness and warmth of the yarn belies the dangerous intent of the axe falling down on the teaching of textiles. Her embroidered cushion, with it’s popular cultural saying ‘Bitch Please’, uses the technique of knitting as a twist on the stereotypical stitched sampler messages like ‘Home Sweet Home’. The phrase is often used as a marker of increduality in another’s words.

nonna reckless works in the form of street art and guerilla knitting. Her work is made to be part of the streetscape and ephemeral like graffiti. However, in this context the yarn provides a stability to the graffiti inspired work and has the opportunity to become lasting. The large knitted and crocheted cloak which was made to keep the statute of Queen Victoria warm, was part ‘Trojan Horse’ with it’s coded messages weaved into the design. The work ‘Homage to Peter Drew’ takes  the widely recognizable smiling pixel face and re-interprets in yarn. Crocheting has given extra warmth to the spraypaint. The piece in the street is hard to touch, however this piece is tactile and seems made for touching. By knitting and crocheting the names of Adelaide graffiti artists and pieces, the history of this ephemeral practice can be recorded via the stitch and memorialise the anonymous street artists.

Brooke Haba has used hammer, nails and string to weave the words ‘Ashes/Dust’. Unlike the softer, knitted work in the exhibition, this piece is pointed. The words as reminder of our mortal selves. ‘Bees’ is an example of exemplary technique used to crochet anthropomorphic insects. The soft shapes in pastel colours make these  bees more like a childhood toy of comfort, rather than a buzzing swarm with the potential to sting.

Robyn Finlay uses familiar domestic materials in unconventional contexts. Just the thought of human hair off the head has the ability to cause revulsion. However this work is delicate and tiny, associations with an object of tenderness. In other work the humble tea bag has been given an upcylce. From something which would be used once and thrown away, to an object with permanence, and yet an ethereal ghost-like quality.

As our lives become increasingly dependent on the new technologie and the lure of the glass screen; textiles and crafting offer ways for a reconnection with a tactile experience. Crafting does not mean a negation of technology or speed, as blogging and social media have presented new modes for collaboration and sharing of skills. The history of textiles as a means of making for others, recording memories, making political statements and the labour of time, love and technqiue is continual in the work of these artists in this exhibition.

Melissa Connor, June 2013
The Messenger also wrote about the exhibition here