Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

Archive for August 2012


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The fastest way for a Toowoomba person to get to Spain is to visit the Portrait of Spain—Masterpieces from the Prado exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery. 100 paintings and prints are on loan from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. The QAG walls have been re-painted red and the gallery has been converted into a little Spanish culture experience.

We visited the show last Saturday and participated in what was offered to the viewer/attendee.

Vicky and Doug @ Prado trompe l’oeil

The paintings were magnificent examples of oil painting from the 16th-19th century. Spanish aristocracy, royalty, religious iconography, decorative still-life and court-life. There were no nude or clothed Majas, no Meninas nor swirling clouded El Greco landscapes however there were a few of the famous work to stir the interest. One work of huge scale and interest was Pereda’s The Relief of Genoa.

The exhibition is extended over many rooms and is broken into eras and subject matter. Didactic panels and QR coded prompts help the visitor to discover the curator’s spin on what they are seeing.

All in all the Spanish portraits seem a pretty interesting lot. Fine clothing, porcelain skin, mustashes (even on some women), dogs, horses drawfs and aloof expressions abound. Then you enter the Goya’s Disasters of War series—It’s a reminder that for much of the duration of time that this exhibition covers the Spanish were at war with most of Europe at one time or another and were exercising colonial power and plunder in Central America, the Phillipines and other places.

The last room of the exhibition features the 19th century—some predictible landscapes, one entitled ‘Landscape with sheep’, our own QAG Picasso La Belle Hollandaise and some works which didn’t seem to add to the narrative of Spain in the context of the emerging trends in world art at the time.

We breezed through the exhibition shop and were drawn to the Tapas Bar for lunch after which we were enticed to play with the ‘DIY interactive portrait photobooths’ and the still-life drawing stations accompanied by a Spanish guitar performance.

Seeing the exhibition is one thing but now, in the contemporary manifestation of gallery, we experienced a little more; Spanish culture, the work practice of the artist and other entertainment. We went to see a art exhibition and came away with so much more …

King Victoria

Doug posing as a moustached lady

A visitor poses as the ‘Clothed Maja'(?) before the trompe l’oeil

Playing with projected images of Prado visitors

Vicky @ still-life drawing station

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/director-bids-adios-with-an-exhibition-first-20120722-22i0b.html#ixzz24evPOcdc


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One of our Artists Survey Books has been uploaded on the Queensland Regional Art Awards website.

The ‘People’s Choice’ judging is based on an online viewing and voting system. For those unfamiliar with these little books they present a humorous and ironic view of the challenging issues facing regional artists. This book deals with issues associated with being a regional artist during the current extractive mining boom.

SO – Please check out the book as described in this post.

THEN, go to the website – at the link below – scroll down the artists name list on the right-hand side of the website. We are under “V” for Victoria at the very bottom of the list. 



The cover of the Artists Survey book

The book cover with exploration ‘holes’

Open text pages showing comments on mining and the community

Unfolded showing texts and illustration of extractive industries effect on southern Queensland

Some of the texts, there are 20 in all, are as follows:

  1. Instead of Weetbix or Cocoa Pops and milk for breakfast you have coal grits.
  2. When you can’t afford your power bill you cook using coal spill gleaned from railway lines and roads.
  3. Your farming friends can’t ship their produce to cities and ports as all freight options are biased towards the year-round transport of coal.
  4. Your art exhibitions opening crowds are split between the tradies and the drillers drinking your beer and their managers drinking your wine – neither buy your art.
  5. All of your rustic old community pubs have been remodeled into nite clubs and commodious verandahs enclosed to stop drunks throwing up – tossing bottles – or falling off onto the pavement below.
  6. The occasional distant thunder that you once may have thought be an approaching storm now turns out to be the constant thunder of B-Double trucks shipping coal.

Written by Cooper+Spowart

August 26, 2012 at 9:54 am


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Recently we traveled along the Warrego Highway to Roma stopping at a couple of major towns along the way. There was hive-like activity infecting the once quiet pastoral landscape of these towns.  These regional centres have been transformed by the explosion of commercial opportunities presented by a contemporary “gold rush” boom in the proclaimed “climate friendly” energy resource mining industries.

The cultural life of these once mainly farming communities relied heavily upon the blood, sweat and heart of the local artists and volunteers? Now these small numbers of volunteers work even harder to bring a depth of cultural life and meaning to everyday life in these towns. Some towns superficially appear to be thriving but a visit to the gallery unable to open due to the paucity of volunteer numbers may be the indicator of a larger issue. Can they still provide, with limited resources, a quality cultural program under the pressure of this exponential invasion of their social structure? To continue requires the commitment to and interactive involvement in these activities by those benefiting from the ‘boom’.

Opinions are various and some – deeply passionate -regarding the potential benefits or problems that will be the legacy for each community. It appears that important support and funding has come to ensure cultural activities are seen to be valued. But can this financial support, generous as it may be, replace the energy and lifelong commitment of volunteers. These are the people that form the vital fabric supporting strong and diverse communities. Certainly Miles has the energy injected by the employment of cultural professionals at Dogwood Crossing gallery and the associated library, which eases the pressure on this community’s volunteers. But what will happen with Dalby, Chinchilla and Roma—all major communities driving the mining boom?

One of the critical issues facing these community structures and the individuals that support them is the lack of affordable housing and accommodation options. Unless you are employed in the mining industry, living in these towns has become a privilege that few can now afford. So many of these long-term locals are leaving. Who then is replacing these people? Do the temporarily located mining population have time to be involved in the cultural history and exchange of their new surroundings?

Temporariness and dislocation now dominate the social and cultural landscape of these once grounded communities. Perhaps there needs to be effective provision for and importantly, an everyday involvement in, the altruistic act of volunteering by those who benefit from the mining of this landscape. Although they inhabit the periphery, these transient populations rely upon a functioning ‘heart’ at the centre of these communities. Conceivably any meaningful and creative interaction, between each section of these evolving communities, could have only have beneficial implications for both.


Victoria Cooper

Written by Cooper+Spowart

August 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm

STELARC: New York, Berlin, Melbourne, Tokyo – and now Toowoomba!

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Stelarc @ University of Southern Queensland

On Wednesday August 22, 2012 Stelarc presented two lectures about performance art at the University of Southern Queensland. Local USQ students and lecturers, TAFE students and teachers as well as members of the extended Toowoomba arts community reveled in the opportunity to see and hear an artist of Stelarc’s stature in their own town. Usually they would need to travel to the above mentioned big city locations to even come close to a Stelarc event.

The opportunity for Stelarc came about as he visited local friend Michael Cook, an offer was made to connect with the local community and USQ was approached to provide a venue. Amazingly no charge was made for those to attend and the Uni supplied a light supper for attendees to the evening presentation. Thank you to Stelarc, Michael and USQ for their respective generosities.

What follows is a montage of images by Doug and text by Vicky as a record and reflection on the event.

Stelarc speaking @ USQ

STELARC: Present/Future

Stelarc immersed the audience in the intellectual discourse and unsettling condition of the technological age. As an internationally respected artist, he has sustained a significant investigation on what it means to be a human. In his performance/lectures, Stelarc recounted technological advances, including the organ printer, advanced robotics and AI, that drive his philosophical and artistic enquiry. Through this visual and philosophical presentation, we were confronted with the concept of our emergent post-human state.

Should we consider that we are now monsters? Are we breaking free from the human certainty of mortality—evolving into an early form of immortality? Could we just ‘be’ a digital database—an artificial consciousness made up of memories, emotions and ideas that are supported by the promise of replacement parts and eternal connectivity? This discussion may seem to be in the domain of philosophers, ethicists and scientists. But everyday there are new technological and medical procedures that intervene on, or replace our human-ness.

As we consider our future in this post-human condition, Stelarc’s  “contested futures” opens up the possibilities for a number of agencies to direct the evolving human narrative. I ponder the historical human exploitation of ‘natural’ machines and knowledge since the Renaissance. What contingencies would Charles Darwin have envisaged in the event that his biological evolution had incorporated machines? Perhaps also the believers of Intelligent Design may also now need to consider the agency of their God in this evolution of the post-human? As we all benefit from machine interventions and technology in some way we cannot escape from this present future.

Sharing this history, there are ‘others’. Our bodies and our environment are constituted by these “other”, non-artificial, nonhumans. They are totally unaware of our post-human evolutionary path. Their existence is in many ways linked to human existence. In their place in the world these nonhumans arguably have acquired ‘intelligence’. Unavoidably they will be actors/actants in the milieu of humanity’s “contested futures”.

Thanks Stelarc, for your memorable and stimulating lecture/performances. Your line of inquiry evokes more and more questions. In a metaphorical way perhaps we are all stripped bare and suspended in the gravity of time, space and place as we, the ‘audience’, consider and are challenged by, our own concept of humanity.


Victoria Cooper

Stelarc in animated lecture mode

Stelarc and Prosthetic Head

Stelarc with flattened and floating face portrait

Stelarc discusses his suspension work

Stelarc watching Hsieh and Montano video

Stelarc and manifesto texts

Stelarc watching Queen music film clip

Stelarc and Marcelli video

Stelarc discussing chatting heads

Stelarc and ear/arm @ University of Southern Queensland

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