modern art = i could do that + yeah, but you didn’t

by elizestrydom

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Last Wednesday evening Dan and I were picking up some film scans from my lab in Redfern when we bumped into Ange who was on her way to wall ball. She’s invited me to play so many times but it’s always on a Sunday afternoon when I go to church. But there ain’t no church on a Wednesday so we joined in and played a few rounds and man, was it fun. I hadn’t played handball against a wall for years and years. Next it was up to Kings Cross for a photography exhibition. We met Amelia and headed for an underground car park where Samuel Hodge was showing his work as part of Alaska Projects. I’ve followed Samuel for a while and often take his photo book Pretty Telling I Suppose off my shelf for a read but I had never been to one of his exhibitions. This one was called ‘The Imponderable Archive’ – four framed images that he’d made based on profile pictures from gay dating sites. The absurd, sex, reappropriation and fashion were obvious, general themes but I must admit, I struggle to ‘get’ what he’s doing. I want to, though…I want to understand.

I guess the criteria by which I judge a photography exhibition is based on an artist’s commitment to the project and/or body of work (which can be measured in terms of time spent researching and producing it, the lengths they went to to create it – scope of the shots, distance traveled, challenges overcome, envelopes pushed etc., the belief and confidence they have in it, efforts to prioritise art making in their life), its ability to tell a story or communicate a message, technical skill and aesthetic quality.

That said, I’m reminded of a really apt poster I saw a while back that said ‘Modern art = I could do that + yeah, but you didn’t.’ So a big chunk of what makes an artist valuable or legit in my book is that they ‘did it’. Samuel Hodge ‘did it’ and staged a solo exhibition, one of many he’s had in both Australia and Europe.

Now – a disclaimer – I don’t believe I have all of the skills to ‘properly’ assess or critique art. I’ve undertaken less than six months of formal photography study so I’m aware that I probably don’t view it within the ‘correct’ framework or have the appropriate tools to dissect it. I DO know that there’s a lot I DON’T know but I’ve written these words largely for myself, to make sense of my thoughts and record my progress as I seek a greater understanding of art and expression. Sure I could have written in my journal instead but by ‘putting it out there’ into this relatively safe space I’m forced to order my thoughts and coherently discuss my position. Which I think I did? Enough for now.

Anyway…these two – Amelia and Dan – love ’em. After the exhibition we had a stroll around the Cross then went back to Amelia’s for wine and reading recommendations. Amelia’s aiming to read 50 books this year while I’m going for 20 and Dan’s goal is four. I’m currently devouring John Safran’s true crime book Murder In Mississippi.

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