From the ephemeral to the very corporeal

I have to share this: Zadie Smith’s latest piece for The Guardian, What Beyoncé taught me. I’d like to explain my thoughts on it, but it would be a disservice to do more than quote:

The connection between writing and dancing has been much on my mind recently: it’s a channel I want to keep open. It feels a little neglected – compared to, say, the relationship between music and prose – maybe because there is something counter-intuitive about it. But for me the two forms are close to each other: I feel dance has something to tell me about what I do.

I’ll leave you to read the rest, if you fancy.

I’ve been thinking about writing quite a bit lately, as I struggle to make my writing and my work parallel one another for a few different fora. I’ve had occasion to write both proposals for new work as well as explanatory texts for pieces (and in some cases, both, in remarkably quick succession) and it’s been interesting to look back over ‘projections’ versus ‘justifications/explanations’. In more than one piece I worried that I talked a good game, but that the work wasn’t going to live up to the rhetoric. That remained in the back of my mind over separate making processes, and probably changed the outcomes in some way that I’m not yet able to put my finger on.

Meeting my own written expectations wasn’t something that I had worried about before; first of all because I didn’t think the writing was ever veering out of it’s lane by aiming for a poetic display that I would rather the work be in charge of, and secondly because I didn’t think I had a good enough handle on writing about my work in anything but as a kind of documentation.

But the works in my most recent exhibition changed many of my ways of working, including what was written and where the work needed the writing to support it. I don’t subscribe to the idea that an accompanying text is only necessary when the work fails to do all the talking, and thanks to Ben Lignel for reminding us that the British Museum (I think it was… I can’t find the article on AJF) was using words as an interpretive tool to help democratise access to the collection (ie, make it accessible to the burgeoning middle class) back in the 1800’s.

I do and don’t want to explain my work. I want it to do well in the world and so I am prepared to give it context, but I also think, like many others, that it exists because I can’t communicate what it does in any other fashion. To me, making is a form of communication outside written and spoken language, that has its own set of symbols (alphabet) and that makes connections that are not impeded by having to find the word or the flow of words to explain itself, and that it might even navigate inside of us without engaging with the conscious (and word-forming) part of the mind. But now I have recognised that being quite a language-y person, my penchant for writing and talking (my hobbies include calligraphy, for heavens sake) could have the potential to get in the way.

I’m not sure it will, (though perhaps it already has, what a mortifying thought!) and I don’t doubt that it has happened before, but I would hate for my words to set the scene for objects that don’t/can’t deliver. On the flip side, I’m starting to realise why so many artists don’t want to talk about their work.

You have my empathy, if not my allegiance.


Replica 1989 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle cartridges in handmade Combat Paper (made by Drew Cameron from military uniforms) with surgical catgut stitching.
Uniform Shells, 2015. Replica 1989 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle cartridges in handmade Combat Paper (made by Drew Cameron from military uniforms) with surgical catgut stitching.

To get down to earth again for a bit, I want to put this out there: Combat Paper needs a new van.

Drew F Cameron (no relation, really, there’s a few more Camerons here than there were back home, I even met one on the phone last week…) is an ex US service-person, and he makes paper all over the US, with, among others, other ex-military personnel, out of their old uniforms.  He kindly gifted me with some of the offcuts of his toil last year, and I used them to make art about war and its effects on the body – the body politic specifically –  as in us, and all of humanity.

Suffice to say, his cause has my heart, and his need for a van (since his last one was recently stolen) has rallied the rest of my body to the cause. If you can help out, please do. I can vouch for the work that he does, and I hope to be able to meet him one day and tell him as much. And maybe even make some paper.

Blogging on blogging, and making on making

I’m just going to leave these here. They have inspired some thinking and some quite gung-ho shouts of “Author!” and “Hear, hear!” around these parts in the last set of twenty-four. Back soon with real other content.

Writers and artists — your personal pain is not a blow for justice
By Helen Razer on Daily Review. 30 May, 2016

Why blog?
By Conrad H Roth on Varieties of Unreligious Experience. 14 January, 2006

Body Politic – last days

Attempts to Kill... - as worn by the artist
Attempts to Kill… – as worn by the artist

It’s too late not to sound like a broken record, so here goes:

It’s the last week to see my exhibition at Bilk Gallery, and owing to the fabulous support shown to me and my work by the good people of Canberra, it’s the last time you will see this complete collection of work together anywhere! It closes on the 23rd of April, this Saturday.

The ever-involved Meredith Hinchliffe has also reviewed the show for City Arts. Many thanks to her for her support. Also artist Nigel Lendon, who opened my exhibition, has a great website/blog, and writes about his collection of rugs from Afghanistan with militaristic motifs at this post The Afghan Modern @RKD.

Art work by Melissa Cameron, Drone, from the Escalation series. Title: “Attempts to kill..."
Title: “Attempts to kill…” Melissa Cameron, 2016. From the Escalation series, 2013-2016

The piece that its pictured in worn and unworn configurations, above, is one half of the Drone work.

Drone

The work is made from a steel tortilla pan sourced from Mexico City in 2014. The pan was cut down to 5mm x 5mm ’tiles’, each with a 0.8mm hole drilled into the centre. Then pieces were enamelled, in all about half of the over 1400 units. The enamelled and non-enamelled individual tiles are laid out in a sequence of ASCII characters that have been converted to binary. The encoded message for the Attempts to kill… piece reads:

“Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014].” S. Ackerman on US drone activity in Pakistan and Yemen, on theguardian.com

while the companion piece, made from the drone-shaped section excised from this work, spells out the name of that piece: General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV

“The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (formerly named Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems primarily for the United States Air Force… The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.”[1]

[1] “General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, January 1, 2015, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=General_Atomics_MQ-9_Reaper&oldid=639809793.

Intimate Immensities

artist Serideh Karimi
artist Serideh Karimi

I’m currently involved in a beautiful online exhibition at the new Garland Magazine. My work has been featured along a slew of other poetic works by craft artists from all over, under the theme Intimate Immensities. The exhibition was curated by Olivia PintosLopez, one of the co-creators of the magazine.

I signed up as a supporter of the first edition of the magazine and received a hand-decorated copy hard copy (of my own choosing) of the feature essay, and thus the poised tonal painting of a ballerina by Serideh Karimi that adorns my cover has been displayed proudly in my dining room at the centre of the table since its arrival.

Garland has another open call, this time with the theme of Second Home, listed on their site right now if you are interested in getting involved. The deadline for entries of this juried exhibition close on the 22nd of February. The magazine itself features thoughtful articles by many different contributors, including several by artists.

Meanwhile, on the AJF website…

I’ve had the rest of my Material Concerns series – a bunch of photos with tiny descriptions bot by me – published in the last couple of weeks.

Material Concerns: Seeing Light through a Handmade Skirt

Material Concerns: A Thai Surprise

If my writing is not to your taste (fair enough, you just come here for the links and images, I get it…) there’s a lovely little piece by our fearless leader, Ben Lignel, about what it’s like to calculate one specific aspect of his job. What can I say – I feel you Ben.

Melissa Cameron; frequently moving between GMT +11 (or sometimes +10), GMT +8, and today coming from GMT -8.

Material Concerns – Part II

There’s a theme developing here.

I recently wrote for AJF about The Ribbon Room, a mythical place here in Seattle that I’ve written about before. A few times in fact

If you’re in Seattle, the window of Nancy’s Sewing Basket has one of Susan’s amazing garments on display at the moment. If you check it out be sure to wave toward the north, where I’ll be ensconced in my freezing but otherwise comfy hermit hole.. I mean, studio.

Over and over

I went to get my Dad’s car fixed at Hilltop Automotive in my recent month-long Perth visit. The “Fuel Filter Maintenance” screen icon on the dash of his Land Cruiser has been lighting up our driving experience for over a week, which he would never have let slide. Would never have. The change in tense is something that we’re all still working on. He Is. He Was. He Has. He Had. He does. He did.

It seems strangely loyal that his gear would protest his death – first it was the fuel filter on his SUV, and just after arrived I home from the Hilltop excursion, I watched as the batteries on his gourmet one-touch pepper grinder (a gift to himself that was often ridiculed by the family) slowed to a stop while my sister was preparing dinner. The thing requires an army of batteries. We speculated that that would be the end for it, that we’d better find a manual grinder. Turns out there was a stash of AA’s in the kitchen drawer, ready for duty. Mum loaded them in, admitting that she didn’t mind using it for cooking.

In taking Dad’s vehicle to Hilltop, I had to tell John, the vehicle maintenance man for our family. He had been unsurprised to have received a call from a Cameron girl, even about Dad’s car. Soon after our greetings I inquired, “Have you heard about Dad recently?” Telling people about Dad everywhere I go feels like a mini-coming out. (Well, as close as a CIS gendered hetero female might ever get to the experience.) I know that just for my part in the last weeks of life and first weeks of death of my father, I have had to tell employers, gallery owners, curators, collaborators – you know, all the ‘stakeholders’ in my little sphere of interest – in places over the world, thus developing a sense of the geographic scale of the social networks that we inhabit. Unlike his actual death, my disclosure is not a singular event, so I have had to break the news over and over again, most often to people who never knew him.

But John, he knew him. Off the top of his head, just after I told him, came; “He’s been coming here for nineteen years.” This unexpected morsel tripped from his tongue in his lyrical west-country-England-tinged accent, as he opened up the bonnet of the big white vehicle and started unwinding some screws. He looked over at me, screwdriver busy in hand, “He’d come and we’d compare heart medications.” My dad, in conflict with his skinny frame, was on some heavy-duty anti-coagulants, while it seems John is on Statins. Dad had to go off these before his two surgeries last year, when the surgeon went in to vacuum up what combined to a golf-ball sized chunk of melanoma tumour from his brain. John is still on his, and is keeping very fit. He’ll be running the New York Marathon next week. I told him I’d wave from across the country.

Perhaps it was because my Dad lived practically all of his life in the Perth hills, the locus of mourning seemed to be close by while I was near my family in Lesmurdie. Yet unseen, the reverberations of his loss of life continue far beyond the hills, as if when his heart stopped this movement superseded his heartbeat.

The energy that conveyed the change from life to its opposite echoes in a wave that has spanned oceans. Intermittently it bounces off unseen obstacles, enabling it to crisscross boundaries, although haphazardly. The signal changes in strength and the movement is erratic, so I will have to keep reinforcing it. We all do. And as we do, our loss is reinforced.

Bruce Cameron entered hospice care on the 24th of September and died on the 9th of October, 2015.