I wrote a piece Katie Miller – Seattle Lightscapes for Garland’s current issue Turtle Island – North America. Writing about there – Katie is in Seattle, my former home, from here, Perth, my past and now current home – meant I had to rely on memory more than current lived/living experience.
I’ve spent the last 15 months living between. I’m starting to get out of that now; one thought, one gesture, one project at a time. Luckily for me deconstructing and transposing across an ocean (or two) means eventual reconstruction. Travel delivers one complete, not showing the particle dis-articulation that happened nor the reassembly. I was restored in the image of what went before, once I reached the other side.
Like all strip-down and put-back-together exercises, there are leftover parts to think about once you’re done. What do you do – do you store the parts that don’t have a place here? Might they come in handy again, or do you just let them go? And where do you reattach the pieces that you haven’t needed in a while because you didn’t need them over there? Will they find their level and glom on where and when they’re required? Or are they being clumsily reassembled in wait of necessity, not quite in the right place, not really at the best angle. Do I even need them, really? Does this look right? Am I doing ok, do I look awkward?
I pass for the never-left. That’s okay, that’s the blessing and burden of this body. It was similar in Seattle and surrounds, until I opened my mouth and the wrong substance came out. No such jeopardy here. Even if I am wrong, (and we are all wrong, the sheer number of us allows us to pass for right) I get to get away with it.
Safely within the colony I’m just another slightly paler version of the usual number. Unless you ask the right thing, and the wrong brain comes out. But I guess the point of this piece is to say that that is subsiding.
I hope to be able to continue to conjure it. To upload the source data and regenerate, or remember, the feelings. Not to live in the past, but to reach back to continue to learn from it.
I find the outside perspective invaluable. Especially in making art.
As the only Australian in the room at a few international gatherings, especially while I lived in the USA, I’ve become the personal link for the catastrophic climate events happening in my country.
North Perth is fine. We have stayed clear of fire, and of smoke, aside from a brief patch last week when the Baldivis fire blew a little bit of smoke our way. Thanks to an incredibly responsive fire department, the little flares about the place have not become big incidents. Of course this lengthened and horrific season is far from over, but so far for most of us in Perth the extreme heat has been a nuisance, not a hazard, and certainly not a trauma.
I have friends coping with the complete opposite, with the wrench of having to decide if and when to leave, and with or without what. And then coming home and having to repeat it over, and over.
It’s something that I remember having conversations about with my Nan. She watched her husband head out from their property in Piesse Brook in long pants and a shirt with a wool blanket to throw against the flames. She removed her washing from the line to pack a bag while she saw the fire fall down the opposite wall of the valley in which they lived. She overlooked an orchard with a creek. These neighbours became all that lay between her house and the fire. Miraculously the flames ceased their crawl towards them all on their descent into the valley.
This kind of brush with bushfire is not something you forget – it forges an impression so deep that it lives on in your grandchildren.
I hope my friends – and their friends – in these affected places are ok, but I know it’s a vain hope. I want the forests, the animals, the land to all be ok. They are not. I want the planet fixed so this doesn’t happen again. So we can go back to fires that crawl and can be stopped.
Thus far I have collected scant new items for the The Enamelist Society (TES) newsletter, aside from the wonderful news that Helen Aitken-Kuhnen has received the President Award in the 52nd International Exhibition of Japan Enamelling Artist Association.
So, if you in an upcoming exhibition; have you seen a cool collection; are leading a workshop; doing a residency, or are in the know about some enamel event that needs more media coverage, then…
enamel (at) melissacameron.net
Include details, dates, images (with artist and photographer captions at the very least) and other relevant info and I put it into the prestigious TES newsletter. And I’ll email you back, though probably not until within a week of the next first-of-the-month deadline. Which is next week. Submissions due to me next Wednesday, please 😉
A couple of things to get close to your face and take in:
This is the last weekend for the Pratt Teaching Artists show Making Our Mark at the Bellevue Arts Museum. If you can’t get there in physical form, you can take this excellent online 3D tour. Now there’s some words I never thought I’d form into a sentence.. It’s a fun show, and the 3d-tour is a great way to experience it.
SNAG JaMS – the Society of North American Goldsmiths have put together a book of the best-of jewellery and metals for the ending September 2017. It’s really beautifully produced – kudos to the designers and Marissa Saneholtz, the editor, as well as the SNAG board who brought it into fruition. It’s an idea borrowed from the New Glass Review, made annually by the Corning Museum of Glass, that documents the most exceptional works in our field from the year just passed. Like that publication, it will hopefully grow into an indispensable record of the best and brightest in our field, and be read by generations to come. The production values certainly speak to that aspiration.
Check out this years edition via that first link above, and be sure to get prepared to make your submission later this year.
I warned you, (did I not warn you?) that I was going to take over the world?
Yes, you read right, I am now in charge of Global Enamel News. [GEN]
Should I be in charge of GEN? No, no I shouldn’t be in charge of GEN, but this is the current world order, and so we’re all going to make do, as best we can. On that note – I NEED MORE NEWS!
But before I really start to beg, lets have a quick debrief of what have we learned since last time;
1/ the deadline that I have to deliver my email listicle to The Enamelist Society [T.E.S.] news desk (what they choose to then call my listicle is their business, you hear… much in the same way that I, just then, made up that they have a news desk – see, two can play at this game, T.E.S…) is about 2 months before the new issue of the T.E.S. newsletter will hit inboxes. Ya dig? I’m going to need as much warning as you can give me.
2/ some links make it intact through the vagaries of publication, some don’t. Next time I will endeavour to make the links small enough that they remain click-able despite the PDF-ing process. If you can give me a shorter link, I’ll gladly take it.
3/ T.E.S is not afraid to publish material that is post-current. I’ll still pass it on, if you give it to me, so I guess it’s up to you if you want to read old news. Do with that intelligence what you will.
4/ I am clearly not afraid to fill my allotted space with self promotion. (I’d have said shameless, if I could say felt no shame, but hey, raised in organised religion, what choice do I got?) PUH-LEASE give me something else to work with. Please! I’m pleading, and that’s awfully close to begging, yeah?
OK, I WILL BEG. *if you don’t mind, picture me on my knees, right next to you, right now, pouting and wailing in a cracking voice*
It’s quite simple. JUST SEND ME YOUR ENAMEL EXHIBITIONS. NEWS. JUICY TIDBITS. OBSERVATIONS. ANYTHING! and you can stop this pitiful sight.
We’re collaborating here, people! So please let me know, and I will, in turn, pass it on to the rest of the globe, as is my (new) remit.
enamel (at) melissacameron (dot) net 😉
PS – next deadline, April 29, the one after that, July 30.
Why am I still ranting about guns? Explanation finally comes 16 episodes in.
**HERE LIVES THE MOTHER OF ALL TRIGGER WARNINGS**
There’s been a lot of news about guns in the last week. Last Tuesday I filed this article away for inclusion in today’s regular post; the Guardian reported that Remington was filing for bankruptcy, due at least in part to what they had termed “‘The Trump slump.'” A friendly administration for the gun lobby, and gun owners, has spelled radically decreased sales for gun manufacturers. But then on Wednesday, in a turn-around that would give you whiplash were you researching anything other than gun violence in the US, there was a mass shooting at a school in Florida on Valentine’s day. The cycle begins again.
My Monday – Gun Day series began on the 9th of October, 2017, a week and a day after the largest mass shooting involving a single perpetrator in US history had taken place in Las Vegas (all the modifiers are to remind us that there have been larger massacres in US history, usually racially motivated like that at Wounded Knee, or the Colfax Massacre, which was perpetrated by white Southern Democrats against about 150 black men.)
Since then, across 16 posts (including this one) made on Mondays (US Pacific time), I’ve been sharing my research about guns, and more specifically, the guns used in the 63 incidents in which people were killed on January 1st, 2017. But why? Well, firstly, some backstory that might help to explain.
I began the Monday – Gun Day series with an introduction to my work Gun from 2013/14. To design the work I replicated the AR-15 knock-off (made by Remington) used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting of 2012, into which I incorporated facts and figures I had researched about that days killings, which was, at that time, the second most deadly mass shooting perpetrated by a single person ever in the United States. I was making a series of pieces that used the tools of war to make a statement about humanity’s continuing poor relationship with itself, which I entitled The Escalation Series. My use of this gun, with all of its associations, pointed out an additional fact; the other tools of war I made pieces about were designed for, and were chiefly only accessible to, organised armies. This weapon, designed for and known as as the M-16 in the US armed forces, was and still is far too easily accessible to regular citizens of this country.
I thought after The Escalation series, in which I made jewellery pieces that depicted the following weapons of war:
cartridges with Minié ball bullets
Lapua Magnum shells (sniper rifle shells) from Combat Paper
as well as 3 versions of HEAT, a work (pictured below) that shows the molten metal spatter and penetration of a HEAT missile through armoured tank steel, that my association with weapons was done for a while. My focus had made a gentle pivot which saw me making mosaics out of enamelled laser cut steel, with which I could write by turns gentle, piercing and witty messages in binary.
Then two things happened. I had been recently juried into the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, for which I am to make a work out of found materials, and on the 1st of October I decided to do a stock-take of all the found objects I have lying about in my study, the same day that the current most deadly mass shooting perpetrated in modern times (this seems to be accepted as anything since 1950,) by a single shooter, happened.
Having memorialised a single-person shooting before, I did not want to go down that route again. I’ve read a lot of stories about Sandy Hook, and will continue to do so the rest of my days (it’s reportage on unjustified killings of defenseless white children in a 1st world nation, and thanks to our social/political/class climate, we will find it in the media for the foreseeable future,) and it’s a lot. And I don’t want to have to repeat myself.
I have other things that horrify me just as much as 59 deaths by one person in a day. 59 deaths on any day is a pretty shit day by most of the world’s standards, and I wanted a way to make that point. So I picked a day, New Year’s Day 2017, and got to work.
We know the weapons of the mass shootings because they get so much publicity. (The Guardian already has 3 pages of articles about last week’s shooting.) [I’m getting cynical, which I usually try to banish from my writings, but it’s almost as if the amount of publicity is inverse to the amount of action that will be taken against the problem, despite the fact that I learned in another Guardian article linked to the Trump Slump article that, “Only 22 to 31% of Americans adults say they personally own a gun.” And what they call “gun super-ownership” is actually concentrated to 3% of the population.] Anyway, digressions aside. We know so little about the other gun deaths that happen in this country because everyone is so inured by the frequency of the killings that everyday gun violence doesn’t make it to the national news. But the weapons used by the mass murderer are studied ad nauseam, so of course we learn about the guns, the shells, the alternate weapons, the victims, the scene, the police department response, the slow and painful moving on.
But what about all the the other shootings? Which guns are responsible there?
Hopefully in just a few years time the gun lobby will face a shakedown that will be compared to that experienced by the tobacco lobby, and their unconscionable actions will be pored over in as much details as the lives of those involved in the Sandy Hook massacre. For right now, I’ve learned that there are great resources for finding out who was killed, when, and where, and more loosely, how. What’s becoming clear is that there is no focus put on the gun responsible, nor its manufacturer. In any other arena, should over 30,000 people get killed by any single type of object in a year, we, the public, would cry out for all the statistics on the make, model, age and condition of the thing responsible.
Thus my research project; for each person listed as killed on the Gun Violence Archive on the 1st of January, 2017, I am finding out what make and model of gun killed them, (or my best estimation thereof,) to draw a picture of what that gun looked like.
And when I have a picture of those weapons, I’m going to make a wearable piece of jewellery that incorporates every f*cking one of them.
Monday – gun day, 2. Click through to see what 33,636 guns looks like.
Wow, a whole week has rolled around without an intervening post – sorry team, that wasn’t mean to happen, but the Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium took over my focus late last week (from making works for Bilk Gallery in Canberra – more on that soon…) and the whole weekend, and what can I say, it was a CORKER! The best yet. If you’re ever in the area for the third weekend in October, you HAVE to head to it. And I can say this with unbiased hand to unbiased heart, as I’ve been off the organising committee a full two symposia now 😉
So, it’s Monday – gun day, part II.
I have a bunch of gun research that stretches back to 2012, which I’ve decided to start sharing, and lucky for y’all, this seems to be the obvious place. I’m not trying to trigger anyone, so if you’re not keen on following this line of thought, know that on Monday (Tuesday in some time-zones,) there will be posts generated as a result of my past and ongoing gun research.
The above images comes from a really interesting post that I first saw a couple of years ago, in 2015. I see it semi-regularly, as the post has been open in my web-browser since the day I came across it. I found it really arresting, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s so affecting, however, that I now count it amongst my always-open tabs (there are a random assortment of site alongside this, not just my mail client.) When I occasionally run across it, I’ll again scroll through to see what 33,636 guns looks like.
The author of this really unusual ‘article’, Matt Haughey writes; “According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013 all deaths due to firearms in the US amounted to 33,636 people.” He found a unique and very compelling way to visualise this, which proves really ‘sticky’ (you know what I mean?), at least to my brain.
Melissa’s work from 2013/14 called The Gun has sold to the Museum of Art at the University of Iowa
In a not-so-happy coincidence, on the same day that many of us found out about the latest mass killing in the USA, I received the cheque for the sale of my Gun work to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.
So here’s a little about work, for which I began the research in December 2012, and finally finished the last part of about a year later, in early 2014.
The work Gun (a suite of three wearable pieces) is from the Escalation series. The works in Escalation are each made from domestic objects, taken out of their usual context and transformed into loaded jewels. Together the complete series reflects thousands of years of human history, the history we have of making weapons of war. The works (there is at least two wearable items for each ‘piece’) are loosely grouped into branches, based on the proximity to which the assailant would have to have to the victim (and vice versa) when used, which makes the whole Escalation project into a kind of family tree of tools for killing.
The Gun work is the Sword’s companion on one branch, as I see the gun as the successor to the sword in close combat situations. Rifles were the earliest effective firearms, so it was not a huge leap to use the Bushmaster XM15-E2S as my gun archetype. Sold as a hunting rifle in the USA, it is “a variant of the AR-15 first built by ArmaLite,”[i] “as an assault rifle for the United States armed forces.” (also known as the M16)[ii]. This Bushmaster is the weapon that was used for the Newtown massacre in 2012. If you see the whole series together, it becomes more obvious that this piece is the only one in my Escalation series that does not focus the wartime outcomes of a particular weapon. In making this exception, I wanted to make the point that these military grade weapons are available far too easily to the citizens of the US, and thus are in the homes and lives of ordinary people, which results in the premature deaths of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.
I made this piece from a strangely long and slightly medical-looking tray I bought new, at Daiso. I gave it 30 full-sized NATO shells (I chose there to depict the military round rather than the hunting round made by Remington), as 30 is the magazine’s capacity. I made 77 holes in the tray in the unfired bullet diameter, and strung the 77 cutouts on steel cable, which together add up to the 154 bullets expended within the school. The gun is made at 1:4 scale, making it very obvious to wear and more realistic than the miniature gun bling that is occasionally in fashion. The neckpiece with the 77 cutouts is 15m/40′ long, to represent, again at 1:4 scale (full scale being at least 60m/197′) the minimum distance that the shooter would have traversed inside of the school. I read the police report and literally plotted the shooter’s movements onto a floor plan of the school that I found online, to calculate the approximate length.
Finally, in all the pictures that accompany this series, I am wearing the works. They are photos I took of myself, by myself, and when these works are shown, they were a part of the display. It is important that the works, and the troubling histories that they represent, are on me. Like they are on all of humanity. And I for one am not at all happy about it.
[i] ‘AR-15’. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 26 April 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=AR-15&oldid=551188045.
Dancing and driving. Some thoughts about writing and how to help Combat Paper get a new van.
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’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.
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.