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Tag Archives: blogs

10 things I have learnt from my years of blogging

I am now into my tenth year of writing a blog about Melbourne’s visual arts. My first blog post on Black Mark, Melbourne Art and Culture Critic was on February 16, 2008. It was “Faster Faster Pussycat” about Phibs, Debs and other street artists painting a wall in Fitzroy. Now over a 1000 blog posts later this is what I have I learnt about blogging.

  1. Motivation The first thing I learnt was that writing a blog was motivation to do more in life; I was already going to many art exhibitions but now there was more motivative to go to places, meet people and do other fun things. Soon I started to get invitations to do more things and meet more people. Blogging changed my life; although it wasn’t actually the writing, nor the taking endless photos, or the posting online that really made the change.
  2. No Money You are not going to make money from advertising on your blog but there are a variety of other ways that you can use a blog professionally from promotion to networking. My friend, who I met through blogging, Prof. Alison Young used her blog Images to Live By, to introduce herself. Middle aged academics are not a typical part of the street art/graffiti scene but now Alison is “Banksy favourite criminologist”.
  3. Friends I have made many new friends through writing the blog and that has improved the quality of my life. One reason why I have made so many friends blogging is that I mostly write about what other people are doing.
  4. Enemies I learnt how to deal with hostile comments, trolls and other idiots. You can’t predict what will get people to write hostile comments it could be pigeons in Coburg but I never shied away from controversy, writing posts about the persecution of Bill Henson and Paul Yore. When I have hostile comments I always remember that the person writing them will forget about it after a day or two and, if they don’t, that I can always block them from making comments, but I’ve only had to do this once in ten years. Comments are no indication of anything, no comment does not mean a bad post. Out of 1,077 post I have only had 2,099 comments, half the comments are my own because I generally reply to all comments but I avoid feeding trolls.
  5. Focus My blog is focused on Melbourne’s visual arts but I do post about other things on it. Having a clear focus for a blog is important but it is a balance between a very narrow focus and ranging too far. With thirteen categories on my blog I’m not sure that I’ve got it right on my blog but it is a lesson I’ve learnt.
  6. People watching Vox pops can make a good local blog post. These don’t have to be direct quotes, but observations on how people are reacting. I like to watch how small children react at art exhibitions; are they engaged or bored? “Why does a tree need a sweater?” is an example of how one observation of an angry man made a successful blog post about yarn bombing.  Another local bloggers is the writer Jane Routley who writes about her day job in Station Stories, life as a Station Assistant.
  7. Book published You can get a book published from a writing a blog. In 2015 my first book, Sculpture of Melbourne, was published by Melbourne Books. I started writing and researching the book on my blog, before I started my blog I couldn’t have imagined writing a history of Melbourne’s public sculpture. I am now working on my second book about true art crimes in Melbourne.
  8. Stats I learnt from watching my stats the there was an interest in Melbourne’s public sculpture. What the public wants to read about art is different to what many arts writers want to write about. There are a lot of different kinds of feedback that you can get on blogs from comments to stats. Lots of stats, numbers of subscribers, views, repeat views… stats can be addictive. Here a few more stats in ten years I’ve had approximately 537,000 views from 155 countries around the world (still no views from Greenland, Cuba, Iran, South Sudan and various central African countries, you get the idea).
  9. Blogs can be works of art. My blog isn’t but the artist, Peter Tyndall’s blog was exhibited at the NGV in Melbourne Now exhibition in 2013 and there are other less notable examples.
  10. It is hard work On the plus side you are your own boss, your own editor and you make your own deadlines. Ignore the advice about blogging that you have to post regularly. Writing a blog may not be for everyone but it has worked for me and I will continue.
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Alison Young & Melbourne’s Street Art

One of the unique features of Melbourne street art scene is the involvement of “Banksy’s favourite criminologist”, Professor Alison Young.

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CDH, portrait of Alison Young (Image courtesy of CDH)

Every city with a thriving street art scene has street art collectors, like Andrew King and Sandra Powell, or a blogger equivalent to Dean Sunshine (Land of Sunshine) or Facter (Invurt), or a photographer like David Russell, documenting the scene.

A tall, middle age Scottish woman with blond bob, Alison Young does not look like the typical fan of graffiti and street art. I first encountered her at a graffiti forum in an art gallery, probably the way that many people do. Speaking at venues from the National Gallery of Victoria to delivering the keynote lecture at a conference, Philosophy of Street Art: Art in and of the Street at Pratt Institute and New York University in 2016.

Subsequently I subscribed to her blog, Images to Live By and, would then run into her at various graffiti and street art events around Melbourne. Writing her blog was both a way of introducing herself to the street art community as a sympathetic observer and  also a way of introducing her thoughts to the same community.

Young has been researching graffiti since 1996. Central to Young’s examination of street art and graffiti is that our response is shaped by the way that we encounter with them. That initial moment where we are assessing what we are seeing based on how we think about where we are because the location is central to graffiti and street art.

Young has written four books on the subject: Judging the Image (2005), Street/ Studio (2010) with Ghostpatrol, Miso, and Timba, Street Art, Public City. Law Crime and the Urban Imagination (2014) for which she was awarded the Penny Pether Award 2015 and, most recently, Street Art World (2016). Not that it is possible to tell where her research ends and the fan of street art begins, complete with a tattoo by Miso.

Alison Young is not the only academic studying street art in Melbourne. There are other academics who are studying street art and graffiti however most are post-graduates and not a Professor of Criminology at Melbourne University. Young’s academic seniority that allows her to be influential in both the street art and academic worlds.

There is an account of Young’s involvement with the City of Melbourne’s graffiti policy in Chapter 6 of her book in Street Art, Public City – Law, Crime and the Urban Imagination (Routledge, 2014). But Young’s influenced Melbourne’s street art in more ways that advising and being ignored on the city’s graffiti policy or the odd appearance as an expert witness in court. Simply by being at live sprays, talking to artists, exploring cities, writing a blog, can have a subtle but important influence. Her sympathetic but sharp and insightful mind is part of the conversation, the discourse of Melbourne’s street art. For example, there is an article about her interactions with Kaff-iene in Articulation, the University of Melbourne Arts Faculty blog.  In this way her contribution becomes embedded in the local scene.

See also my review of Young’s Street Art, Public City. Law Crime and the Urban Imagination.


End of 2011

During the year I have reviewed about 70 different galleries (only about 30% of the total number of galleries in Melbourne) and even more exhibitions. I have tried not to have a favourite gallery; I have tried (unsuccessfully) not to review the same gallery or artist more than once. And there are more to see and write about than just art exhibitions; there is the street art, fashion and other aspects of Melbourne’s culture.

Statue of Sun Yat Sen, Little Bourke Street

I saw a new public sculpture only this week when I walked through Chinatown – a bronze statue of Sun Yat Sen standing in Cohen Place Plaza on Little Bourke Street. Fortunately this is only a life-sized statue and not the 3.7-metre statue first proposed by Melbourne’s Chinese community in 2008. Why a statue of Sun Yat Sen in Melbourne? Well there are memorials to JFK, Elvis, Robbie Burns and General Gordon in Melbourne, so why not Sun Yat Sen? (The name of Cohen Place Plaza is coincidental and does not refer to Sun Yat Sen’s bodyguard “Two Gun” Cohen.)

It is an exhausting activity, all this writing and research – it is sort of masochistic. So I can understand why Deidre Carmichael has decided to stop writing the Art in Geelong blog at the end of this year. It is almost exhausting just reading and looking at what Arty Graffarti and Melbourne Street Art on Facebook add daily. Both have plenty of photographs of Melbourne graffiti and street art on a daily basis and Arty Graffarti does review street art exhibitions.

I met some of the people behind Melbourne Street Art on Facebook at the Blender Studios Christmas Party – that was a great party, art, music, open studios and fantastic people. It was an excellent way to end the year.

HaHa, Stevenson Lane

Between Christmas and New Year most of the galleries in Melbourne are shut but there is still plenty of great art to see in Melbourne’s laneways both the official, Melbourne’s Laneway Commissions, and unofficial Melbourne’s street art. When I was in Chinatown I found Yhonnie Scarce’s “Iron Cross” in Brien Lane. It is a symbolic memorial to the 50 years that her family’s life was controlled by Christian mission where “they were told what to wear, how to speak and when they were allowed to leave the settlement.” This year the Laneway Commissions were all by contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Yhonnie Scarce, “Iron Cross”, Brien Lane

Near the beginning of this year I re-branded this blog to “Black Mark – Melbourne art and culture critic”. It wasn’t a very painful process except when it came to being indexed by PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive; for some reason the name change caused lots of confusion there. I would like to thank everyone who has read Black Mark and especially Evangeline Cachinero, Peter Symons and Catherine Voutire for their help and encouragement over this year.

Looking forward to 2012. Happy New Year everyone.


Bloggers

On Sunday I meet up with some other bloggers in Melbourne at the Workshop Bar on the corner of A’Beckett and Elizabeth Streets. The Workshop Bar had New Zealand beer on tap and a small temporary exhibition of paintings of faceless figures by Kirsten Benson. It reminds me that I still have to write an entry about Melbourne’s art bars and bars with art exhibitions. Michael, who writes My Aching Head, reviews cafes, restaurants and drinks, had organized the event.

I was pleased to meet Brian Ward, who writes Fitzroyalty and several mash-ups about Melbourne suburbs (see the end of this entry for a complete list). I have exchanged emails with Brian Ward but this was the first time that I had actually met him. It is a strange experience meeting people who you have only emailed for the first time but Brian was more even more friendly in person than his emails.

There were a few other bloggers at the meeting including the beautiful sisters who write I Found You In Melbourne, the guy who writes Electrorash, illustrator Ben Zen  and a few other people. It was simply a chance to know people and exchange a few ideas. I was told about other blogs of an even more diverse cultural aspects like Op Shopping ( I Op Therefore I Am ) and one of the oldest blogs in existence Kottke.

The impact of blogs is growing. Contrary to the mainstream media blogs are not simply source of gossip and unsubstantiated claims. Many blogs contain first hand reports from educated and informed correspondents. Many blogs appears to be the very essence of traditional journalism. In the golden age of print journalism there would be writer at every play, exhibition and concert. Now, in the dying days of print journalism unless a blogger reviews it, it is unlikely to be reviewed.

I would encourage anyone with an interest or interesting experiences to write a blog about it. The most difficult part is the writing; technically writing a blog is only a little bit more involved than using email or shopping online. I have even managed to get my mother to start two blogs about her local history interests: Victorian Chinese History and Bendigo Heritage Cemeteries.

There are many artists with blogs. I have just been exchanging emails with the artist Peter Tyndall who has incorporated blogging into his art practice. He also mentioned a local friend and artist’s blog, workmanjones’s Garden of Self Defence that features a great video of body art meeting street art.

I am glad that other blogs reviewing or commenting on Melbourne’s visual arts and that sometimes now we even review the same exhibitions. There are more art and culture blogs in my blogroll this year – the more critical voices the better. I have just found Melbarts, reviews films, books, exhibitions and theatre, and I am considering adding it to my blogroll.

Brian Ward’s mash-ups are syndicate and aggregate posts from over 100 local bloggers blogs. They are:

Fitzroy and North Fitzroy 

Brunswick and East Brunswick 

Carlton and North Carlton 

Collingwood and Abbotsford 

The inner north (Clifton Hill, Northcote, Thornbury, Fairfield and Alphington) 

Central Melbourne (CBD, Docklands, Southbank, North, East, South and West Melbourne)


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