Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Advent, capitulum, conceptual art, cultigen, erhu, Five Points Calvinism, gerbera, installation, Lee Mingwei, Let Hundred Flowers Bloom, Magi, Mao, Mark Twain, Melbourne, NGV, Oscar Wilde, predestination
Lee Mingwei at the NGV, Melbourne, Dec 2016. Photo from the NGV advertisement of the exhibition.
It’s Advent and tens of thousands of gifts
are being given all over Melbourne,
anticipating the Magis and God.
There is always a risk in taking part.
Well, think of Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign!
I am invited to choose a flower
and, before I reach my destination,
I am simply to go out of my way;
electing one beneficiary,
with a kind of Calvinistic tulip;
endowing them with puzzling graciousness.
(The recipient must be a stranger.)
Apparently, in some cultures, people
have been known to grab more than their fair share;
others tend to shun participation,
shy from disturbing the installation.
Confident ones may pluck and then re-place,
avoiding the responsibility
of bestowal; fearing to create burdens.
Out of the crowd, slightly self-conscious,
I step forward; pick a red gerbera.
I want to keep it and, like Oscar Wilde,
use it as a button-hole, or corsage;
make myself an ambulant work of art.
Mark Twain said a man can reduce his age
by several years, if he sports a bloom.
Maybe I should tuck it behind my ear?
But it’s not about gaining attention and
it would be like burying a talent.
Perhaps we will blossom in our giving?
The capitulum looks like one flower,
but botanically is hundreds of them.
One act of bounty could well mutiny.
Cultigens, cultivated by humans,
can be altered by our activities.
Hybridisation is the way to go!
For one hundred days, the artist carried
a lily with him, until it withered.
He’d planted it when his grandmother died.
Was love a burden till he released it?
So, now that I have this omnipotence,
am I involved in predestination?
Is a person’s worthiness the focus?
Should I positively discriminate?
Ought race, gender, or disability
come into it? I think gratuity
might be fun. All eyes seem to be on me.
A Sikh couple have no need of colour;
an erhu busker needs no distraction
and is well- acquainted with interplay.
In the hospital foyer a small girl
is disinhibited and receives it,
understanding the language of flowers,
instinctively, knowing that gerbera
stand for innocence, purity and joy.
- ‘ Tulip’ was the Calvinistic acronym for the’ 5 points’:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Immutability of God
- Perseverance of the saints
Lee Mingwei was born in Taiwan. He produces
participatory installations and encourages strangers
to explore their self-awareness, trust and tolerance of
intimacy. He raises awareness of the preciousness of
human connections in the brief encounters of our lives.
Abbots of Unreason, altruism, boy bishops, conceptual socialism, Dame Edna, damnatio memoriae, Dolce & Gabbana, Down Under, empathy, Francis Rossi, Gunnamatta Beach, Heliogabalus, Kylie, Lagerfield, Lee Mingwei, Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Mao, Melbourne, Mis-Rule, Moonee Ponds, NGV, Point Leo, Prince des Sots, Rick Parfitt, Saturnalia, The Moving Garden
Photo: Fir 0002/ Flagstaffotos
Still haven’t achieved my ambition to bump into Edna Everage,
in, or around, Moonee Ponds.
That great Lord (or Dame) of Mis-Rule should re-appear, as
we all have need of an indigenous stalwart of comedy, a she-oak
of satire, in these topsy-turvy times, when the rule-book has been
Yes, I am no longer Up Yonder, but am Down Under, escaping the
status quos in Europe and the USA, which seem to be presided*
over by Abbots of Unreason, Princes des Sots and other anti-
experts, who seem to be having a field day. We might as well be
governed by the likes of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, as our theme
tune seems to be ‘Whatever You Want.’
(* note the spelling, Donald.)
Bring back Boy Bishops!
Yet, this is no restricted time of daft usurpation, lasting till the 28th of
the month, when metaphorical steam would be released cathartically
and order restored – granted by some Saturnalian blood-letting of the
Yes, slaves becoming masters is no new concept. If you think nepotism
is novel, refer to Heliogabalus, who raised the women in his family to
senatorial titles. He used cosmetics to enhance his appearance and
saw himself as the sun god, before he was eclipsed from public memory-
damnatio memoriae. So perish all with such a degree of hubris!
But what to do while the black farce plays itself out?
Walk on Gunnamatta Beach, or Point Leo?
(You could still be sprayed by effluent from the discharge of over 40%
of Melbourne’s sewage from a nearby pipe. The surfers don’t seem to
You could eat wallaby on South Bank- surprisingly delicious with a confit
of beetroot and pickled red cabbage.
You could gawp at what I call Vulgari jewels at the NGV. Or enjoy a
confection of Kylie’s stage costumes by Dolce & Gabbana and Lagerfield…
There are plenty of distractions, I assure you. One can emulate Nero and
fiddle while everything is incinerated in a global bushfire to end all
On the other hand, you might enjoy participating in Lee Mingwei’s The
Moving Garden, a curiously apt installation and piece of conceptual
socialism which takes you out of yourself and reminds you of the intrinsic
hope of human altruism and expressions of empathy.
The cynic in Candia has to overcome alarm bells at the memory of
Mao’s Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom. Self-expression can be dodgy.
However, I felt constrained to write you a poem about this
meaningful experience, so be sure to read the next post!
Maybe there is hope for the future, possums.
Alan Bennet, Barramundi, Barry Manilow, Billy Connolly, Blairgowrie, Blue-Eye, Brave, Carsten Holler, Castilian Spanish, Chai Latte, cone bra, Creole, David Shrigley, Eleftherios, Federation Square, Flinders lane, Frozen, Great Ocean Road, gum tree, heist, Ice, John Paul Gaultier, kanga bangas, koala, kookaburra, lingusitic convergence, McClelland Sculpture Park, Melbourne, Melchisedek, Mornington Peninsula, Mountain Goat Steam Ale, NGV International, no worries!, Panagia Kamariani, Pele Tower, Philip Larkin, Pidgin, possums, Poundland, Rab C Nesbitt, Red Claw, Red Hill Greek Orthodox monastery, rhinopithecus strykerl, sans soucis, shotgun wedding, snub nosed monkey, Sorrento, Talking Heads, The Island Bird by Neto, www.chrispattas.com, Yabby Lake, You'll Never Walk Alone
Dear Posse, or should that be ‘possums’?
You have probably all wondered why Candia has gone off radar,
but I haven’t got time to correspond with you individually. So,
maybe you can make do with reading the communal postcard I
sent to my dear girlfriends in Suttonford, who are probably even
now sharing its contents in Costamuchamoulah‘s must-seen
cafe, as they sip their Chai Lattes– an inferior blend to the original
which I have just imbibed in Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
You see, the price of an air mail stamp to Pomland- not to be
confused with Poundland- is almost as much as an additional glass
of Yabby Lake fizz for moi and, on this once- in-a-lifetime walkabout,
I am not about to downgrade to the Red Claw ‘drinkable’ variety.
So, G’day, mates! I’ve already been down The Great Ocean Road;
seen my first koala in the wild- thankfully unaccompanied by Putin,
One Direction, or Obama- gawped at a joey peeping out of a row of
vines and consumed my first Blue-Eye and Barramundi. The latter
sounds like Barry Manilow, but is infinitely more subtle. As far as I
know, it doesn’t attempt to sing. I do seem to remember Big
Mouth Billy, the singing sea bass, so maybe one could form a
It’s so good to relax and the upgrade to Business Class from
Singapore was a down-payment of future bliss. It took a few
moments before I realised that I was watching ‘Brave‘ in Castilian
Spanish on the back of the seat in front, but my personally
appointed steward soon tuned me in to the appropriate lingo.
Better than a remote in the control of The Husband and a tad
more obliging. It’s good to be treated better than Dame Edna
I see Billy Connolly is coming to Melbourne shortly. The Scots’
community should comprehend his repartee, but no doubt his
Antipodean spouse has taught him a little linguistic convergence,
so the audience should probably work out that he is not speaking
some kind of Pidgin, or Creole. Anyway, hybridisation and cross-
fertilisation seem to be the name of the game over here. One minute
you are in Sorrento and the next you are driving through Blairgowrie.
Talk about fusion!
The Husband grew some roots in Federation Square as he
downed a Mountain Goat Steam Ale, while riveting his gaze
on the big screen’s events at the MCG and demolishing some
While Gus, Virginia, Diana, Murgatroyd, Dru and Nigel are
snowed in at the pele tower in The Borders, The Husband
and I are experiencing four seasons in one day down in The
Mornington Peninsula. The chattering classes of Suttonford
have been silenced by the maniacal laughter of a kookaburra,
who stereotypically does sit in an old gum tree, as well as
crapping all over the garden fence every morning. But, sans
soucis! Even the mynahs’ cackles are shriller than some South
of England socialites.
I know I said that I only sent one postcard, but that isn’t
I did send Juniper a card of Jean Paul Gaultier’s teddy bear,
which he has cherished since the age of three and which sports
his prototype cone bra.
She would have loved the holographic talking heads on his models
in The NGV. So would Alan Bennet! Maybe I should have sent him a
postcard too, but he’s probably a friend of the designer and gets a
Even church-going is a lot more exciting here. I don’t think Philip
Larkin would have been as lugubrious if he had removed his cycle
clips and gone into the Red Hill Greek Orthodox Monastery of Panagia
The priest told me that his Christian name- ‘Eleftherios‘ means ‘Liberty’
and he certainly takes a few. I mean, back in Suttonford, the staid
congregation are startled out of their professed sobriety by the
ringing of a ship’s bell; the crashing of the organ and a cacophany of
bells in the Easter Saturday service in Wintoncester Cathedral. But
Father Tatsis is much more melodramatic. Look up http://www.chrispattas.
com and you can see a Youtube clip of the sacerdotal gesture of
celebration to the pronouncement: He is Risen! Brings a whole new
angle to the phrase ‘shotgun wedding‘!It is a pity that the latter day
Melchisedek didn’t wield his weapon at the teenage thugs who raided
the icon’s golden votive jewellery collection and who made off with a
heist worth $100,000. Failing that, he could have maybe stowed the
stuff in a safe. Unfortunately there is Ice in Paradise and I don’t mean
anything as innocent as the latest Frozen movie.
The liberating thing about Oz seems to be that you can act like a big
kid and you are actually encouraged to do so. Case in point: The
Husband climbing into the art installation The Island Bird by Ernesto
Neto at The NGV International.
He got tangled up in what appeared to be an unravelled string shopping
bag, or a coloured version of Rab C Nesbitt’s vest. I was more attracted
by Carsten Holler’s golden, mirrored carousel and managed to restrain myself
from breaking into You’ll Never Walk Alone, though, if I had, it would have been
regarded as a valid interactional response. Like Oz itself, even the artwork
invites us to stand on our heads and re-imagine the world, reconsidering our
place within it.
So, whether it is wallpapering a gallery with anarchic David Shrigley
observations, or sculpting a Sneezing Snub Nosed Monkey -Rhinopithecus
strykerl (McClelland Sculpture Park), the infectious Aussie irreverent take
on life affects even its Un-Orthodox priests and makes one feel that,
indeed, there are No Worries!