We’re looking for new authors to join us as we embark (again?) on our courageously uncertain course through piratey waters, and try to make some sense (or at least pretty-up the non-sense) of our contemporary world. We like the four sturdy masts that keep our sails aloft: the City, Design, Politics, and Pirates, and we try to write, scratch, scrawl, draw, photograph our love, protest, insight, outrage and inspiration through Project Freerange.
The Freerange Blog is a strange constellation of ideas that we haven’t got close to mapping yet, but there’s bound to be an inhabitable planet or two in there, and some other very strange things that make our stomachs & brains ache, like this.
The Freerange Blog really is the nervous system of the Freerange Cooperative Press, slightly anxious, but vital for us to keep our senses. From the blog, the Freerange Journal emerges, new print projects, and a community of writers that are frighteningly worldly and utterly interesting.
Get in touch with me (email@example.com) if you’re keen to set sail,
“Y’know the real world, this so called real world is just something you put up with like everybody else. I’m in my element when I’m a little bit out of this world – I’m on the beam. Because when I’m falling, I’m doing all right: When I’m slipping, I say, “Hey this is interesting!” It’s when I’m standing upright, that bothers me: I’m not doing so good.” Willem de Kooning.
For the last year I’ve worked at Factory 7 with dim lights (nearly always at night), metallic dust, and a large dirty desk that takes the brunt of my drawing. I work with dry and dusty pencils, charcoal and dense pigment pastels, always on paper.
In my dark corner, I’ve drawn bodies, women, angels, saints, friends and places, faces, and forces. I draw these things to understand my body, the bodies of others – real and unreal – and to trace the experiences of my physical, intellectual and emotional self. I draw to understand old marks I’ve made, how my hand moves and hits paper, and to feel how the marks and paper hit back in whatever way they can. I guess I draw to get better at drawing.
I am most interested in making marks when I am as wary as possible of the eye, the hand and the paper, even when – or especially when – I’m not in control of them. The easiest way to be aware of something is to feel it change, the more violently the better. To become aware of your eye, you blind it, your hand – you hurt it, the whiteness of your paper – you dirty it.
I want to draw like being in a car crash.
The relationship between your eyes and hands is the easiest to disrupt. When drawing blindfolded, the hand is increasingly sensitive to movement and impact, and even the mind’s eye can be confused if you’re slipping. This is the best way to draw unlike your self, which is an important part of drawing as your self. I think that short fits of hysteria have the same effect and can be practiced, like New Zealand artist Max Gimblett who stomps the ground and bellows like a madman, or there’s De Kooning, who supposedly charged at his canvas from across the room with his loaded brush in hand. I find music pumped into my ears helps me arrive there too. The effects of all these can be an extended sense of openness, or aggressive bursts of physical and emotional energy that smash pigment deep into the paper. It feels incredibly direct.
When I draw,
“I’m not pure; I’m not an abstractionist completely. There has to be a history behind the thought.” Cy Twombly.
To consider technique, my newer drawings are really about how my hands and body interact with the drawing surface. Rebecca Horn’s Pencil Mask is a striking example of this, and is a type of practice often called performance drawing. I think the Pencil Mask and other performance drawings tend to explore drawing instruments as prosthetics of the body, recording the body as directly as possible: Yves Klein’s blue body paintings are dramatic examples, where the drawing instrument is the naked body. In the end, I’m not artistically interested in sharing the performance of my drawing (infact, oppositely, I prefer to keep this ambiguous), so I think I deviate from Horn & Klein. Instead I’m very interested in collecting as many ways as possible of making marks, especially ones that undermine the well-practiced control of the hand on paper. Cy Twombly has become an important influence in this way. My drawings in the Collisions/Alchemy and Nova sets are good examples of this exploration, the first set uses ambidextrous and intentionally deformed and uncoordinated hand gestures, twisting the way I might hold the pastel, and contorting my hands and body to force cramped and shivering lines; drawings in Nova are more desperate as they crush the pigment pastels to pieces right on the paper, and smashing my hands and fists into the coloured dust, I smear it heavily into the paper with hugely exaggerated and unnecessary force.
“I’ll take you where nobody knows you–”
Recently I’ve drawn with Fenina Acance and Jaslyne Gan. Apart from the joy, challenge, and intrigue of working alongside other drawers drawing (‘art is by the alone’), for me it’s an important practice in developing new mark-making strategies. The marks I was making before the collaborative jams were (maybe too conservatively) sitting between what I saw in Fenina’s sharp, shifting scratches and Jaslyne’s dancing, ethereal compositions. So we all decided we should do some shared drawings, made simultaneously or swapped part-way.
At first most of them looked like my drawings, but they have changed, and they’re now the drawings that I find most intriguing. Maybe it’s because I could never have done them myself, or because of their uncanny familiarity. I find them incredible sources of inspiration and fascination, like looking in a mirror and not recognising something about myself. When I’m slipping, I say, ‘Hey this is interesting!’
Collaborating is also a terrific way of dispelling any preciousness for your drawings (‘kill your darlings’) and more importantly, learning to rework existing unsatisfying drawings, even if you ruin them. I’m terrible at working through drawings that I’m not feeling good about (and have no idea how to rescue), so ruining someone else’s drawing seems like a safer idea.
Force and Fire
These days, I keep taking the drawn force, lushness and violence from Willem De Kooning’s Women and Julie Mehretu’s storms; I take the lines, scratches and scrapes of Cy Twombly, Mike Parr, and Rebecca Horn… I can’t help but use a researcher’s eye and hand to scrutinize and explore mark-making techniques.
Departing from the celestial references in the Nova drawings, my new work warily uses fire as a driving force. Intensely about the Australian land and sky, fire is sublime because it destroys and regenerates, it’s terrifying and warming. Aside from all that, and most importantly to me, it sparks, cracks and swirls in ways that I want to draw.
Byron Kinnaird is one of the Directors of the Freerange Cooperative; an artist and poet at Factory 7; and a teacher and researcher for architecture at the University of Melbourne. His drawings are at www.drawnandwritten.com
It’s easy to be relentlessly negative in the face of complex things. The difficult is easy to caste as the fault of incompetence, and in reality sometimes things are just really really hard. Yet, this same thought is too often used as a mask for poor process, poor decision making, and poor consultation. I’m going to tell two stories today, one positive, the other negative, and in my view the key hinge that makes one story hopeful and one depressing is the amount of openness there is to the processes. We’ve had long enough in Christchurch to learn some lessons about how to do things here, and two years on from a disaster we are stupid if we don’t learn from the inevitable failures and mistakes.
Firstly, the good news. Congratulations to all the teams behind the two competitions in the Christchurch CBD: the Council and CERA lead breathe competition, and the community-led Peterborough Village competition. The results from these competitions can be seen here and here. It’s hard to summarise such a diversity of entries, but I can say looking across the entries it is for me the first time I’ve felt some real excitement and hope about the type of city that might emerge in the future here. We see in these entries a real willingness to learn from the planning and building mistakes of the past 5o years with project full of exciting ideas that are environmentally progressive, affordable, and liveable. Importantly the entries are diverse and come from around the world. Critical to the outpouring of good work in these projects is the process of competition, a tradition long practiced in Europe for public projects. Competitions work: firstly, because information about the projects has to be made public, this creates an openness and transparency about the schemes, land use is known, budgets are known, so that both the public, and the relevant experts (and the critical overlap of both) are able to mull over ideas, critique them, and get used to how things might change. The second important point is that there is not just competition between firms, but competition of ideas. Alternatives can be compared, contrasted, weighed up and considered, again by both experts (as judges) and the community. All this constitutes a recovery of not just the built environment but a sense of participation and involvement with the people that live in these places. I’ve been harsh on some of the retro-modernism that is been planned for the city and the lack of talent in some of the big design firms in Christchurch. But here in these competitions we see the importance and designers and their role in formulating new ideas into built form, and crystallising peoples wishes into space and form.
The light shining from these competitions could not contrast more with the dark shadows falling over the secretive government-led inner-city planning being led by the CCDU, and CERA; which is essentially planning by cabinet and treasury. Now, this next passage is written with the pre-condition that most of the comment about CERA is based on 2nd hand reports. But when you have a secretive government agency that won’t do any public engagement then rumours is all you’ve got to work with, and its a small place, rumours tend to be accurate here. The idea what we can’t make public conversation because they don’t want it is to fall hook line and sinker for the political management running the program.
The points being though that we have some MAJOR projects being proposed in Christchurch. It is now two years after the major event, and nine months since the launch of the large government led-blue print and essentially the public has been told nothing of these projects, and has had no input into them. The arts precinct, the convention centre, the stadium, and the frame are huge projects in which the business cases have not been made public yet, the design process has no public involvement. The word from behind the iron curtain is that there is a huge fight happening amongst the major property owners about the retail section that will replace the container mall, with one major owner refusing to show their schemes to CERA and proceeding directly with the council, and others are breaking up promised land sharing deals. All this while smaller land owners with schemes ready to go are being told to give up on their land. Apparently the convention centre remains unknown as to whether it makes any financial sense, and the british team designing the Avon Otakaro scheme is struggling to work in a foreign city with extraordinary time pressures and no ability for public consultation.
Over two years on now 80% of the city is flat and empty, they are still months away from re-opening the centre of the city. Does it tell you anything that the only significant rebuilding happening so far is in the areas the government has the least to do with? And this is from an agency that set itself up with a authoritarian mandate, and with a planning logic that was dominant in the 1950s that wildly out of kilter with global best practice today, that was aiming to get things done quickly. I really think CERA are their own worst enemies. The fortress mentality is ruining their relationship with the people they are supposed to be working for. The Avon Otakaro scheme is a perfect example. What is to lose from making a public a sketch design and getting feedback on it? Asking the public for specific information and feedback, with a couple of public workshops and some online tools with the council and CERA and other s are getting quite good at you could easily get some really useful feedback on how people use the area, what they want, and what they like and don’t like about a scheme. This could be done in a couple of weeks relatively cheaply, seems reasonable for a public space $100 million project. It’s certainly normal, and would give the designers much needed feedback on their design. I just don’t get it.
I think it’s time for the government to have a cup of tea with the people of Christchurch, and re-think the way they are running this whole thing. I just talked to someone from CERA today who was claiming that everything they do is for the people of Christchurch. And hence lies the problem, they should be working WITH the people of Christchurch, not FOR us. It’s pretty simple and with the amazing online tools these days its actually quite easy to do. Oh and more competitions!