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Newsletter 415

Published November 15, 2021
007 takes aim at supervillain, Scott Morrison, before he can destroy Australia with his Stupid Ray

This week the biggest news may be the launch of a new 007 movie. If that sounds suitably trashy I can only agree. The James Bond franchise has been powering along with the same formula for decades and No Time to Die, as you’ll read  in this week’s film review, offers no radical departures. It’s entertaining but empty, which is all most viewers seem to want from a movie nowadays. I’ve had more fun with the movies I’ve been seeing at the long-delayed 2021 Sydney Film Festival, which has turned out to to be a lively selection.

There are, of course, been plenty of political issues that I could rave about, but sometimes I have a sense of futility when I see the appalling chasm into which Australian politics has fallen. We had a brief reminder of a more engaging era in a speech by former PM, Paul Keating, which denounced the ridiculous, multi-billion dollar submarine deal in a way that today’s Labor Party can’t seem to manage.

I have a terrible feeling that Labor is going to let Scummo go back on the front foot after a series of disasters that would have sunk the Titanic three times over. This week he’s back out in public, smirking and sneering, telling us he’s never told a lie in public life (!!!!!!!!) Could there be a more characteristic lie from an inveterate liar? He’d like us to think of him as if he were George Washington.

Among other great porkies is the claim that he never said anything against electric vehicles, of which he is now a big fan. He’s also a big supporter of the renewable energy finance organisations that Tony Abbott tried to close down and his own government attempted to alter (ie. neuter) beyond all recognition. Now he’s claiming the credit for the progress these bodies made in the teeth of Coalition hostility. Finally, and most sickeningly, there’s a new slogan: “Can-do capitalism” as opposed to “Don’t-do government”. It’s a blatant attempt to stir hostility towards the state governments that enforced COVID lockdowns by portraying the Federal government as a beacon of freedom. He’s even calling his opponents “socialists”, as if there’s any such thing as a socialist to be found in Australia outside of the odd inner-city coffee shop. It’d be funny if it wasn’t such a tragic steal from the lunatic rhetoric of a increasingly right-wing Republican Party in the USA, who are prepared to call their opponents socialists, communists, Nazis, pedophiles and pretty much anything. We can’t be too far away from hearing that Albo is running a pedophile ring from a pizza parlour in Newtown.

Our leader’s view of the electorate is so low that he has come to believe it will swallow any rubbish he serves up, and forget any misdeeds just as quickly. I’d like to think this hubris is heading for a fall, but it depends on the Labor Party actually getting their act together and going in hard. Fortune in politics favours the aggressive, not the fumblers.

The art column this week is divided between the obscure and the wildly famous. First up is the National Art School’s survey of work by Valerie Marshall Strong Olsen, AKA. Valerie Olsen, ex-wife of the more renowned John Olsen. While John was becoming a big star, Valerie worked quietly in the background, never pushing herself forward. It turns out that she was a talented artist, who had everything except that burning need for recognition that drives so many of her peers.The NAS show, subtitled A Rare Sensibility, is both her first solo show, and a retrospective.

The second exhibition is William Kentridge: Tapestries at Annandale Galleries. I’ve written a lot about Kentridge over the years, but he is an artist who keeps coming up with the goods, in one show after another. His large, impressive tapestries display all the complexity and ambition one has come to expect. Perhaps the best thing about Kentridge is that he’s an internationally famous artist whose career has been sustained by content, rather than the narcissicistic career mania that afflicts so many big name artists.

The National Gallery of Australia keeps buying pieces by Kentridge, but has just as much time for a lot of embarrassing junk by Tracey Emin, who told the press recently that she had been “neglected” as an artist. Well, she may feel a little more appreciated now that the NGA, after spending more than $21 million on a sculpture by Lindy lee and an animatronic work by Jordan Wolfson, has now splashed a further $1.1 million on a shapeless bronze lump by Tracey, plus another sixteen of her minor creations. My question is: How can anyone like both William Kentridge and Tracey Emin? Matisse said that if you want to be a painter first you must cut out your tongue. It seems that if you want to be a curator of contemporary art, you must first rid yourself of any modicum of taste and get a lobotomy.