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.
(Image: Louvre, 2004- Guillame Blanchard)
I have news for all you cat lovers:
apparently your pets want to kill you.
And this one keeps me under surveillance
as I water my host’s garden tonight.
Two gimlet eyes spy on me from the wall
which divides this property from next door’s.
I could turn the hose on my stalker, but
today I have been at the NGV*
to view how Ai Wei Wei celebrates cats.
He has over forty in his compound,
but, curiously, only one of them
makes an attempt to open doors. This puss
looks like she could deal in execution.
Like Bastet, she has the soul of Isis.
Maybe she is trying to work out why
I am cultivating the flowers here,
in this inner city terrace’s yard.
Where is the missing person I’ve replaced?
As Wei Wei replenished his bike’s basket
with a new floral tribute every day,
to give the cameras something to record,
I confess that I like to perplex her.
Under the kumquat tree she remains still-
a furry camouflaged CCTV,
unmoving as a mummified votive.
Will she spring to life and sink her needles
into my neck, for not being the one
who conforms to feline expectation?
Are there easier targets to pounce on,
with unsheathed claws, scattering the petals?
Maybe she is an opener of doors
and has succeeded in her freedom bid
and, though human, I am the one who is trapped,
because I accept that we are all watched
and that someone is trying to decode
the hieroglyphic details of our lives,
so that we feel that we are never alone
and inscrutable eye slits follow us.
- NGV National Gallery, Victoria