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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

'See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' criticism roundtable

On Wednesday evening I attended an Early Career Researcher roundtable at the Hawke Research Institute, University of South Australia. The roundtable had the title of ‘See No Evil, hear no evil,speak no evil’ and had the aim of discussing “the past, present and future of “criticism” in art, architecture and design”. The roundtable was convened by Dr Chris Brisbin and the panellists were Dr Alexandra Lange, Professor Ian McDougall, Andrew McKenzie, Dr Naomi Stead and Robert Leonard.

After introductions the roundtable began by discussing the current state of criticism in art, architecture and design and there was an early need to separate ‘bad’ criticism from ‘good’ criticism and to define the meaning of criticism as being not opinion, but writing coming from an authoritative voice. My initial concerns were that this might result in a negative view of social media as the vehicle for criticism and the gatekeeper model. With much of design and art now being shared on the internet, it would make sense that criticism also appears online rather than only in the traditional mainstream media.

As someone from the visual arts the differences between art and architecture practices of criticism were interesting. From the panel, there was a sense that the visual arts are written about more than architecture. Dr Alexandra Lange (from Brooklyn, NY) described how in the US architectural critique is moving away from ‘starchitects’ and big iconic projects to writing about local communities, streets and bike lanes. I found this interesting as it parallels with current discussions about urban living in Adelaide, what we want our cities to do, the lived experience of people and how they use the city. Architecture criticism seems to only come after the building, the vision, has been realised. As Dr Lange pointed out, the feedback loop should come earlier in the design process to make a difference to the plans of the building and the needs of the people using it. This method would also call for thick skin by the designer.

Robert Leonard spoke mostly about visual arts and the lineage of writing about art from the moment of Duchamp’s “Fountain” in 1917. Discourse became the “stuff of art”, with the writing about the art object being equally important as the artwork. With my training in art theory and history and an arts writer, this really stood out for me. A common complaint is that too often artists write their own criticism. As Robert alluded to, the cause of this is the university and the need for the visual arts to conform and fit the mould of research. Can the painting (or sculpture, or photograph, etc.) exist and be judged as good or bad on its own, or does it need the exegesis (the writing) to support and provide the research context for the making of the work. In my own experience the studio artists were often more interested in making art, rather than writing about it. As a theorist I wish there was linkage between the studio artists and the history and theory students. It would have been mutually beneficial for me to write about the work other post-grads were making and for my writing to be used by them in the promotion of their work (another point by Robert, art only exists when it is written about).
                                      Marcel Duchamp, 1917, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The panel agreed on the need for better criticism and perhaps even a new model for critique such as using Tumblr or Pinterest as a form of visual criticism (Dr Stead and Dr Lange mentioned Unhappy Hipsters as an example of this). Professor Ian McDougall made the analogy between the niche publications of performance arts criticism and described it as a “pathological” need to write. This goes to the core of the issue, why do we need to write about art, architecture and design? Is it to make a historical record of the event, of writing the object into history? Or is to also provide informed criticism as a dialogue with broader cultural values?

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Is it coincidence that I am writing this reflection of Emily Andersen’s ‘Love in the Key of Britpop’ while Blur’s ‘Girls and Boys’ shuffles randomly on my ipod?

‘Love in the Key of Britpop’ is a one woman spoken word performance by Melbourne/London writer, Emily Andersen. I had decided to buy tickets for the show (playing as part of the Adelaide Fringe) because of the Patsy Kensit/Liam Gallagher referencing publicity image (hello, Union Jack bed cover) and because nothing gets me to a venue sooner than the still tantalising to me word, ‘Britpop’. I was 16 in 1995; I remember buying Oasis’s very first single, I remember the release of ‘Girls and Boys’, my love for Elastica still remains as strong as ever, Jarvis Cocker asking if we remembered the first time, seeing Suede perform on the Brit Awards on television and then listening to the CD over and over. Back then, I was Justine Frischmann and my boyfriend, a Damon Albarn look-a-like.
Aww, Justine & Damon back in the heyday
The thing is I thought I was the only one who still yearned to dance to the early hours on a Britpop dance floor somewhere and still cared about the cultural and historical importance of this, now historical, musical genre.

In ‘Love in the Key of Britpop’ Andersen artfully merges the importance of music, as cultural taste marker with the heady ruse of a newly formed relationship. Her words have the tempo and rhythm of poetry and beautifully detail the heady rush of love for music and sharing that love with someone special. I also admired the way Andersen used location as a theme in her story; both the real and the imagined space of song. I was able to situate myself on the 96 tram and the London locations that only really exist for me through the lyrics of Blur and Morrissey. Music has the ability to take us somewhere else and I guess, what this show and my love of Britpop has reminded me of, is my daydream desire to at times return to my youth. To relive those wild youthful nights and return to a place when I had time to care about the nuances and intricacies of lyrics and debate how much better Elastica are compared to Sleeper.

Since seeing the show on Friday night I have had The Smiths ‘Rubber Ring’ going around in my head:

“Don’t forget the songs that made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes you’re older now and a clever swine
But they’re the only ones who ever stood by you”
** Love in the Key of Britpop is now playing at Tuxedo Cat during the Adelaide Fringe Festival until the 26th February. Tickets available at the door or book online

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On returning

My story about living on Rundle Street was published today on the 'Already Home' blog, and can be found here: Home

It was great to be given the opportunity to write about my time living in the heart of the city. I can highly recommend city living.


Last December I had two wonderful experiences, all in the space of a few days. The first was presenting my paper at the Celebrity Conference at Deakin University. My paper is titled "Can You Delve So Low? Morrissey versus Morrissey-Solo" and is an analysis of the tension between celebrity and the management (or not) of online fandom. There is a special conference journal coming out and I really hope my paper gets published.

Overall, the Celebrity Studies conference was fantastic and was a great opportunity to listen to other papers (especially when the content is Lindsay Lohan, Dlisted, Lana Del Ray and Antoine Dodson). Like other conferences I have attended I returned home full of ideas and a list of scribbled notes which I must extend into full outlines.

The second experience was seeing Morrissey! He seems to have a habit of playing a concert just days after I have presented a paper on him. Well, I'm counting twice as a habit anyway. After getting over the drama of my flight being cancelled and managing to wangle a seat on a later flight, seeing Morrissey live was,yet again amazing!