Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's a Trifecta - Melbourne, Shepparton and Sydney!

It's been a while between posts which is not unusual for me. I diarise that I must update the blog and then I look at it for weeks, if not months and then finally, I get around to it. So here it is. More an informational update on magical happenings than a introspective reflection.

Firstly, I'm in Melbourne Now! The blockbuster directed by National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) head, Tony Ellwood. It's an amazing show. The best I've seen the NGV do and a very clever move indeed. I feel like this show has successfully managed to garner the support of the Melbourne arts community for the NGV which may have been a little bit lacking in the past. Regardless of all that, it's a show well worth seeing. Here's my work in the show, titled A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing. It's massive, 4m high by 3m wide and made up of three framed large scale photographic prints. Here's the NGV write up on it - Bindi Cole.

The show runs until the 23rd March 2014 and is completely free. Get yourself there yo!

Next up, I'm currently making a brand spanker of a work for the Sydney Biennale. For me, this is the most exciting artwork that I have ever made. It's a 30 channel video installation that will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW). It's titled We All Need Forgiveness and I'll post up a little teaser soon enough. As part of the opening week programming, I'll be in conversation with Juliana Engberg (Biennale Artistic Director) and Nathan ColeyClick for details.

Lastly, I'll be having a solo show at the Shepparton Art Museum titled Bindi Cole: I Am. Showing older work such as EH5452 plus more as well as a brand new video work. Also, I'm putting on a salon style work of current prisoners and post released prisoners artwork. The show will run from Friday 16th May to Sunday 10th August. More details to follow. That's probably it for now.

I'm planning a very exciting post which I'm itching to share but I'm just waiting for the perfect time.  It's a follow up to An Ocean Of Hurt.  So please keep your eyes out for that and while your at it, join my mailing list so that you can receive each new blog post in your email inbox.  Just pop your email in the box on the right hand top corner.  Go on do it!  Till next time, be free, happy and forgive.

Friday, September 20, 2013

On The Edge Of The Unknown

Hi everyone,

I'm hoping this blog post finds you loving life and smiling. I've got some great news. I'm just putting all the finishing touches to a whole bunch of new stuff I've made (with the help of my very patient and crazy for marrying me husband Dan). Last year I was part of a show in Sydney at the MCA called Taboo which was curated by Brook Andrew. For that show I made a new video piece called EH5452 that explored the transformative effect my time in prison had on me. In many ways I've continued on with that theme. Here's the write up for the new show:

EH5452 Video Still
Sometimes it can feel like there’s a part of your life that doesn’t even seem as if it was you that participated in it. Like it was a dream or something that happened to someone else. Yet it defined who you were, are, am. On the Edge of the Unknown explores the space between worlds. This is the space that defines you. A space where you decide whether to be a victim to that experience or if it will be the launching pad into your future. Embracing where we come from and the life we’ve lived is key to becoming whole in the present. On The Edge Of The Unknown is an attempt to alleviate all fear and shame associated with the past by bringing it into the light, staring it in the face and sharing it with the world, regardless of the consequences. It turns the dark, hidden and shameful into something light, revelatory and beautiful.

EH5452 Video Still
I'll be showing EH5452 which is what I exhibited in Sydney late last year but everything else in the show is new - new photography and installation.

So please join me to celebrate the opening of this show or come and visit while it's on. I'd love to know what you think, see your face and say hello.  

BINDI COLE 
“ON THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN”

26 SEPTEMBER ➔ 19 OCTOBER 2013
OPENING FRIDAY 27 SEPTEMBER ➔ 6-8PM 

NELLIE CASTAN GALLERY
HOURS TUESDAY ➔ SATURDAY 12AM–5PM OR BY APPOINTMENT
LEVEL ONE, 12 RIVER STREET SOUTH YARRA VIC 3141 AUSTRALIA

Friday, August 2, 2013

Is it a plane? Is it a bird? NO! It's a Melbourne Art Tram!

Very exciting news! I've been announced as having a winning design for one of the new Melbourne Art Trams. It's a program that was run years ago called Transporting Art. There's a great collection of photos of all the original trams here. Well now, Melbourne Festival has partnered with Yarra Trams to bring the program back under the new title of Melbourne Art Trams. To be honest, I didn't think I stood a chance. I thought my design might have been too simple but still, I was excited by it. Here's my mock up.
It is of course, just a representation of what it will look like. My intention is to photograph clouds from the air in as much glorious detail as possible and then create a fantasy cloudscape. Here's the little blurb I submitted with my mock up:

Lakorra is the Wathaurung word for sky. Once upon a time, Melbourne city would have been a flat and open expanse with a generous view of the sky above that would envelop you. You could have felt as if you were a small part of a larger world, a lovely feeling of insignificance and a reminder that it’s not all about self. Many Aboriginal people would have walked that land. From it’s traditional owners, the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung, to visitors such as my ancestors the Wathaurung. Today, the city is densely populated with skyscrapers and billboards dominating the landscape. As a regular visitor to the city, I see that the sky is often obscured. In place of that, I’m bombarded with advertising and consumerism with a constant focus on the self. 

Lakorra brings a bit of that sky and open expanse back into the streetscape. Conveying a sense of openness in a place that is now much more closed in, reminding everyone of a time before the city stood in it’s place and of a people who walked those streets long before they were streets. Lakorra allows you to ponder something deeper, more meaningful and greater than ourselves.

So yay!  Really looking forward to seeing it on the tracks.  It's head down, bum up, working away for a very swift delivery of the artwork so that they can be transporting passengers and art in October.

Other exciting news is that I have a solo show coming up at my favorite gallery - Nellie Castan Gallery.  The show is called 'On The Edge Of The Unknown'.  Here's a little sample image..

I will be including recent work from a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney called EH5452 as well as a whole bunch of new work.  

The show opens towards the end of September and I'll post more details before then.

Also, I should give a quick nod to the exhibition that's on at the moment at Queensland Art Gallery called My Country: I Still Call Australia Home. I've got quite a few pieces in that show from photographs to installation and I believe the show as a whole is getting rave reviews (not that I'm claiming my work is anything to rave about). It's on until 7th October, so if you are up there, do pop in. I will be there on the Thursday, 3rd October for one of their talks. More information here.

That's probably enough to get your head spinning. Feel free to email me, leave a comment, shout at the screen or just walk away.  Though if you see me in person, be kind and smile... 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Aussie Fair Go!

Recently I was invited to present a provocation at a Next Wave Collective special Breakfast Club meeting alongside Catherine Deveney and Ben Eltham. Next Wave Festival is a small organisation that produces massive awesomeness. I'm an alumni, having participated in the 2008 and 2010 festivals. When I was invited to speak, I jumped at the opportunity as I believe the festival deserves support. It's an amazing launching pad for emerging artists. My first exhibition with them was kind of controversial - my Not Really Aboriginal series.

Well, they supported me fully and as an artist taking risks, I truly appreciated it.

So I've posted my provocation for you all to enjoy.

An Aussie Fair Go: arts and the pursuit of opportunity in contemporary Australia. Does the rhetoric of our national identity match the reality when it comes to pay equity, reconciliation and refugees? What role can the arts play in empowering social mobility?

I just love being an Australian. Australians respect women, democracy, a wide range of diverse cultures such as English and American and our mates. We love to give each other a fair go. We’re a truly tolerant society and if you don’t get that, well, you can get back on the boat and go home! We will give you a fair go, unless we don’t like you, are afraid of you, it’s politically useful not to or it sensationalizes and sells newspapers.

So what is an Aussie Fair Go? It’s giving everyone an equal opportunity to a good life. It’s supporting the underdog, the one who’s not supposed to succeed because of their circumstances. And it’s seeing that good and honest hard work is rewarded.

I had a rough childhood. My mum was highly intelligent, beautiful and loving. She was also a heroin addict and prostitute. I don’t have to tell you what a little girl sees and goes through when she’s immersed in a life like that. By the time she died, when I was sixteen, I was well into drugs and crime, which was normal to me as that was what I had been around for most of my life. Fast-forward eight years and I was out of control, overdosing and on the brink of death.

It was then that I was sentenced to four years in prison for supplying drugs. I served two years and was released. This was a major turning point in my life. It was the opportunity I had needed for so long to clear my head of all the mess and dysfunction, to get access to emotional support, therapy and rehabilitation and work out what was important to me. I worked hard to become sane and free from addictions. I asked myself all the hard questions.  I also developed a deep faith in God. I dreamt of a future for myself for the first time in many years. I had a clear head and a new hope that I could have some sort of successful life. Within a year of being released, I was studying at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE doing a Diploma of Applied Photography and working part time. Soon after graduating, I began having small exhibitions of my photographs exploring personal identity issues. Next Wave was key to me moving forward as an artist through the opportunities they gave me. I was seeking a process of catharsis, trying to reconcile my own identity and hoping to create discourse around those issues. For the first time in my life, I had a voice. Art gave me a voice.

I thought I was having an Aussie Fair Go. Turns out that according to a certain Herald Sun columnist, that I was being opportunistic, calculating and manipulating. That I had constructed my identity to benefit me politically and career wise. That my fair go wasn’t actually a fair go, but stemming from a sense of my own entitlement. Having worked so hard to change my character, shift the circumstances of my life and lift myself out of a life of poverty and hardship, I was crushed.

So I joined together with others he attacked in the same way and we took him and his newspaper to the Federal Court. And after two long years of fighting, WE KICKED HIS BUTT. He lost and what was interesting to me about the case, was that in Federal Court, despite the life that I’d lived, my character was proven true while his was called into question.

Do we only accept someone striving to make a success of themselves when they do it within the parameters that we set for them? Maybe, once upon a time, we got behind people. But it seems that we are now more interested in tearing people down, finding anything at all to destroy their character so that we can determine that they are in fact, a bad and terrible person. What if we just celebrated people in all their glorious difference of opinion and understanding?

My Dad called while I was in the middle of writing the response to the topic, so I thought, I’ll read the question out to him and see what he says.

“All the ones that don’t pay equal pay, have no idea about reconciliation and don’t respect women for the work they do, well, if they keep doing it, they can get a slap over the head with a wet fish.”

Dad has got a great way of looking at things.

But enough of that. I kept making art and using it to have a voice and slowly, my life began to turn around. I never went back to the way I was before I went to prison. Faith in Jesus and art are the two main reasons. Art has been a form of therapy for me and a way up and out of the life I had known. Art was a platform from which I could launch off. It’s given me a whole new life. One where I am a person whose opinion is valid, heard, wanted and important. It channeled my energy in a healthy way and gave me confidence. Before I went to prison, I never looked anyone in the eye. My self worth was so low and I was completely filled with shame. Now, I stand before you, head held high with no shame, even though you know all about me.

So do the almost 30,000 men and women in prison across Australia deserve an Aussie fair go when they get out? I think they do. Even when someone has made a real mess of their lives, hurt people and stuffed things up, they still deserve it. Doesn’t that make them the underdog? The one who looks like there is no pathway to success. Art is a way and means out of dysfunction, low self worth, isolation and poverty. It’s an opportunity for everyone and anyone to have a voice, to be heard. Even someone like me: an ex-con, Jesus loving, clean and sober, white Aborigine.

So there you go.  Just to finish off I thought I might repost Ab Blaster 40,000 which is the work I made for the 2010 Next Wave Festival.  Ab Blaster 40,000, the secret to why all Aboriginal people are good at sports!

video

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dads Rule!

The other week, in the midst of a very painful time, my Dad (gorgeous and wonderful man that he is) decided to send me the original speech he wrote for my wedding. He wanted to cheer me up. He's a bit of a comedian and loves to get hold of a microphone. During the actual wedding, he swiftly threw aside his prepared speech and winged it. He was excellent. Poignent, funny and on point. I must admit, I was nervous about his speech, knowing he would relish the opportunity to embarrass me. He's the kind of bloke who shows his love and affection by taking the mickey out of you. And I wasn't wrong. Anyway, he did a swell job.

Dad and I in the hotrod on the way to the wedding..
On Wednesday, it was my two year wedding anniversary to my sexy, strong and super smart husband. He is my strength. With his and my Dad's permission, I've decided to continue our celebrations by sharing the original wedding speech with you. I hope you enjoy.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are holding this celebration and pay my respects to their Elders, their ancestors and the spirits of their ancestors. As father of the bride I have the pleasure of making the first speech. I have been given lots and lots of advice on what to say and what not to say such as keep it short, no smutty jokes, don’t get drunk before the speeches, no jokes during the ceremony, don’t embarrass me... etc. However it is over 20 years since I was allowed to say anything without being disagreed with, laughed at or ignored, so this is too good an opportunity to miss.

For those of you who don’t know me I’m Bryon, Bindi’s Dad and on behalf of my wife Jan and I, I would like to welcome you all here today to celebrate the marriage of our daughter Bindi to Dani. I would like to welcome Dani’s parents, his sister Anita, Bindi’s grandmother Rita, as well as all our relatives and friends. I know a lot of you have travelled considerable distances to be here. Before I go any further, I would just like to acknowledge some very important people that could not be here today. Your grandfather, Ron in California and your other grandfather, Stan in Queensland, send their love for you and Dani and wish you all the best for the future together. Your Nan is here looking over you and smiling.

Bindi, I wish your Mum could be here with you on this special day, but I know she is here in spirit and she would be so proud of you.

Dad during his speech..
Today, I must admit that I am the proudest dad in the world. I think that you will all agree that Bindi looks stunning. This is where I am supposed to say a few embarrassing things about her when she was younger, so I have prepared a list. Bindi was born on the 3rd of February, 1975, in the same hospital, delivered by the same doctor who delivered her Mum 21 years previously. I remember it clearly, the dawn was breaking as I held her in my arms for the very first time. Her name means Morning Star. I remember the time that I had to take Bindi into hospital because her arm was dislocated. She was about 18 months old and we had been playing wizzy dizzy's. I was swinging her between my legs and unfortunately her shoulder gave way. I was questioned by childrens services because they thought I might have been abusing her, I wasn't, but Bindi was put on a special diet because we had overfed her and she reminded everyone of the Michelin Man. Every time she opened her mouth, we put food in it. 

Bindi looks absolutely gorgeous doesn’t she but it doesn’t seem all that very long ago that she was running around the house naked, throwing her little tantrums and wetting her knickers leaving a puddle in aisle two of the supermarket. Just a typical teenager really. But time has really flown by and she’s been brought up to be decent, caring and honest or so she tells us. Truthfully, Bindi has grown into an amazingly talented, good looking woman that any father would be proud of.

Dad and I after the ceremony..
And now to Dani. Every Father hopes his daughter will find a reliable, sensible, and considerate partner and as much as you try not to interfere in their lives, you always hope your children will make the right choices in life. But Bindi chose Dani. Seriously though, I have a lot of respect for Dani. He is his own man, knows what he wants and is prepared to stand up for what he believes in. He is also a traditional man and I liked that he came to me and asked for my permission to ask my daughter to marry him. I knew that if I said no, Bindi would kill me, so I was happy to accept Dani’s offer of a carton of scotch as a bribe. 

To help you with your marriage, I thought I would give you some advice based on my many years of experience of married life. Marriage will teach you many things: loyalty, self restraint, obedience. I am still learning about all these things every day.
There is no problem in a marriage that can’t be overcome by one or more of the following:

I was wrong!
You were right!
I love you!
And the best one of all that I have found...

Yes Dear.

Finally, never go to bed in the middle of an argument. Be a man stay up, fight and then watch some sport. You’ve lost anyway so you might as well get it over with.
The actor Richard Burton once said ‘a woman accepts a man for what he is and then spends the rest of her life trying to change him.’ So, if we can all take one last look at Dani as we know him because Bindi’s remodelling work starts first thing in the morning.

I want to finish with one or two final thoughts. Dani, I know you will try your best to look after and care for Bindi, but if you have problems, tough, they are your problems, don’t come running to me. But seriously, marriage is the meeting of two minds, two hearts, two souls and in this case, two cultures. Macedonian and Aboriginal. It is clear that Dani and Bindi are a perfect example of this. May they be blessed with happiness that grows and with love that lasts and a peaceful life together. I wish them enjoyment for today, the fulfilment of all their hopes and dreams for tomorrow and love and happiness always. It is now my pleasure to propose a toast to the happy couple. Please be upstanding and raise your glasses to the bride and groom.

Dad..
Question: Do you have a memorable Dad's wedding speech moment?

Monday, May 20, 2013

An Ocean Of Hurt...

I don't really know what this blog is for anymore. Is it for art? Is it for promotion of my art? Is it a progression of my artistic practice? Perhaps it's an artwork all in itself. Mostly today I want to share with you what I've been going through and how it's broken my heart.

Last week I miscarried. It's the second time in a year. It's left me confused. I don't understand. I'm fragmented/broken/shattered. Now I'm trying to put it all back together in a way that fits and somehow makes sense.

About three weeks ago I read out a letter I'd written for Women of Letters, it was addressed to the missing piece of my puzzle. My missing puzzle piece was the child I hadn't conceived yet. Here's the letter:

To my missing puzzle piece, 

You are so wanted. You are my heart’s greatest desire. In my secret place, you already exist. In my dreams I’ve seen you. You’re big and healthy and gorgeous, with big blue eyes. My husband and I have cried in anticipation of your conception. We’ve prayed tears of hope and faith that one-day you will be in our arms. We don’t know why it’s taking so long for you to join us and make us complete but we have faith that you will arrive at the perfect time. A small bundle of joy that we can love and nurture and find pleasure in. We already have your name; we just need your face.

When I was young, I thought that I could get pregnant anytime.  I don’t mean anywhere, like at the beach or the fish and chip shop or the skate park but I believed that just coming near a mans nether regions meant that I was going to get pregnant, it was as easy as zapping leftovers in a microwave.

As I got older, I had a few serious relationships and had myself put on the pill so I couldn’t get pregnant. I spent years on it. It messed with my hormones.

Then there came a point in my life where I developed a deep faith in God and I knew I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted a husband and a family. I decided that I wouldn’t be with another man unless I knew that he would be my husband and the father of my children. More than that, I resolved that I would not sleep with him until I was married to him. I went old school.

Then I met him, Dan, your future Dad, and he wanted the same thing. So that’s what we did.  It was not easy.  But it was well worth the wait.  I learned so much through that experience and a trust developed between us that I had never felt before.

So two years ago we got married and went on our honeymoon. We were both so excited to begin trying for a family straight away believing that it was going to happen instantly. Well something did happen. I got thrush and a UTI. There had been so little downstairs activity for so long, it just couldn’t cope. So there we were, on our honeymoon in the hospital in Bali trying to explain what was wrong so that I could get antibiotics so that we could resume our lovemaking and baby conceiving.

And we did. However, I kind of went crazy bonkers psycho. I obsessed about it. Two months and 13 pregnancy tests later, I realised I had lost the plot.

To be honest, up until that point, I still believed it was easy. At 36 years of age, I was completely unaware of anything to do with fertility, ovulation and egg white mucous. Sorry to go there. At the risk of exposing my stupidity (which, just to clarify, is often mixed with moments of pure genius), I didn’t even realise that I had to time having sex with my husband to fall in line with me ovulating. I literally thought I could get pregnant at any time during my cycle.

All those years of being on the pill could have been avoided had I just been told that there was really only a window of a few days that I could fall pregnant in. The pill messed with my hormones. Seriously, I could have done with that information years ago.

So now, many dinners out have been spent discussing ovulating. It’s quite a mealtime topic and finally, I’m an expert or eggs-spert perhaps.  Sorry.

You already have a brother or sister. We’ve never met him or her either. They only made it to a few weeks old. But in our minds, we had dreamt their entire future lives with us. We were devastated when we miscarried. Cried for days. Couldn’t believe that it hurt us both so much. It really exposed our hearts and our vulnerability. How can you love something so much that doesn’t even exist?

We have such amazingly full lives but are keenly aware of something missing. We had been so excited that we told everyone. Then we had to tell everyone the bad news. It was hard but our friends and family sustained us. It brought us closer.

We learnt that so many people go through the same thing too but no one really talks about it. It’s weird. I don’t quite get why we’ve set up this miscarriage etiquette where we don’t tell anyone we are pregnant until we are at 12 weeks. Who are we protecting? I get that it’s hard to share bad news with people but in my experience, sharing it and being supported by the community around me was the catalyst for healing. If we share the good times, shouldn’t we share the bad? We are designed to be in empathy with each other.

Now of course, people will lovingly lean in towards me and ask me while giving a subtle nod to my tummy ‘How’s it going?’ I never know what to say. If you are a close friend and I can be inappropriate, I’ll say ‘Great, still shagging away’. Otherwise, I don’t really know how to respond. Something like, ‘Good, we’re enjoying trying’ might work. I’m never really sure whether they’re asking about how efficient we are at making babies or if I’m pregnant already. Perhaps I should seek clarification. So awkward.

I know the day is coming when I’ll be able to say yes, it’s gone so well I’m actually pregnant. Our prayers will have been answered and we will give thanks to God. I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait the 12 weeks before I blurt it out, I don’t even know if I want to. I’ll be too excited and I know now that whatever happens I’ve got great people around me who are going to sit with me in the good times and the bad.

But you, my precious little baby to be, will be growing in my tummy and I’ll feel you and we will bond, even before you see the light of day. I’ll be your Mummy and Dan will be your Daddy and we will speak to you and sing to you and dream of what you look like. And the very thing we’ve longed for will be our reality. Not just a dream and a hope but a child of our very own.

We already love you, the missing piece of our puzzle.

One day after writing this letter, I found out we were pregnant. We were so over the moon. We completely allowed ourselves to fully surrender to the pregnancy and fall in love with our child to be. We didn't reserve any part of our hearts for just in case. We trusted God and let our friends and family know. Then the inconceivable happened. Again.

The sadness has consumed me. I watched myself, my husband, my hope and my dreams sink into the deep unknown waters of an ocean of hurt. I'm struggling to resurface. Yet somewhere deep in my heart, there's a small voice that says, this isn't over, the journey is not finished. This is a bump in the proverbial road and, that at the end, my unborn family is still waiting for me.

How do we trust God when it seems like he is allowing our dreams to be shattered? Sometimes, we believe that because we are good people that bad stuff shouldn't happen to us. But life is both joy and pain, ecstasy and suffering. It is no different with God. However, with God, everything has a purpose. We just don't always get to see the purpose whilst in the midst of the suffering. Our vision is not clear, out thoughts are twisted. But if we don't turn away from Him, there will come a time when we see the purpose in the pain.  It's happened before in my life and it will happen again.

I'm not there yet.  I'm not sure I will be for a while.  But I will still believe.

Question: Why do you think we don't tell people we're pregnant until twelve weeks?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Upcoming Shows and talks...

A couple of interesting shows that I have work in are about to open and well worth having a look at.  The first is:

Make Up: painted faces in contemporary photography 
Monash Gallery of Art

I'm loving this show.  Portraiture is one of my all time favourite mediums and this show displays some beautiful examples.  This is the catalogue.

I'm also giving an artist talk, alongside Eric Bridgeman just prior to the opening, this Saturday at the MGA from 2pm.  I hope you can make it.

The second is:

Ghost Citizens: Witnessing the Intervention which opens next Thursday night, 16th May with a public program on Saturday 18th May that I'm in.  Should be a fantastic show.  Here's the flyer:


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Seedtime & Harvest

Last year I had the privilege of working with the Centre for Contemporary Photography and the Royal Women's Hospital to create new new large scale photographic prints for the foyer of the new hospital building. I've got a bit of history with the hospital. I was born there and so was my Mum. In fact, I was born on my Mum's birthday (3rd February) in the same hospital (The Women's) and delivered by the same doctor. I was my Mum's only child, so you can imagine we were close. Also, my grandfather, aunties, uncles and many other of my family have been born there. A Melbourne girl and family through and through. So when I was asked to make this artwork I was elated.

I spent time at the hospital trying to discern the heart and the culture of the place. I got to meet amazing people like Jo and Terori who run the Aboriginal Women's Health Business Unit. After two weeks there, I came away fully invested and wanting to celebrate The Women's while acknowledging the past.

There's a great article by Liza Power in 'The Age' that goes into much more detail about the whole process and specifically talks of the hospitals history of forced removal of babies, what' they've done about it and where they're headed, something that was close to my heart. Have a read. In the meantime, here's some snaps of the work.
Seedtime, 2012.

Harvest, 2012.

Installation shot, 2012.

Installation shot, 2012.

With Helena (RWH) and Karra (CCP), 2012.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just When You Thought You Had It All Figured Out...

Something strange has happened to me over the last few years. I know what it is, it's just that it's hard to explain to everyone else. How do you explain that your entire way of knowing yourself and this world has shifted? Something that I thought was so concrete - me and my beliefs - were in fact, very fluid and changeable. A few years ago, I believed in God. I thought He existed but that He was kind of impersonal. It didn't matter whether or not I was particularly good or bad, believed in Jesus or another God because He loved us all and I was always going to heaven. Actually, I thought that people who really devoted their lives to God were of the weaker variety, that they needed a crutch, something to fill in the obvious holes in their intellect and strength. In the meantime, I found myself searching for the truth. I read The Secret, How To Heal Your Life, A New Earth and anything else Oprah recommended. Sometimes, I would stumble upon some principle that would impact me for a while, like positive affirmations, but nothing lasted, I was never permanently changed or radically more peaceful. Then I realised that the problem with all of these books is that they make me god, I'm the one who controls my reality. But how can I be god, I'm imperfect, I can't rely on myself, I often get things wrong, I have nasty and mean tendencies and I have no ability to do anything supernatural like create life. I was always left wanting more. The truth was elusive but I was still searching.

Years ago, I served two years in prison. I was 24 when I was sentenced to four years for supplying drugs with two years before parole. I deserved it too. I was out of control, a drug addict who was selling party drugs in nightclubs. I was breaking the law and in fact, was a law unto myself.  It wasn't big time. I wasn't raking it in or storing away bags of money like Gina Rinehart. I was using all my profits maintaining my addiction, while I slowly moved closer and closer to death. I'd had a tough life and started taking drugs at 13 and 11 years later, I was 42kg, overdosing regularly, going into psychosis often and had no control over myself and my actions. I wanted to stop but I couldn't. I was a spiritual prisoner long before I became a physical prisoner.

From the very first day in prison, I kept a diary. It's on display right now at the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay in Sydney as part of a show called Taboo, curated by Brook Andrew. I didn't realise it at the time but the diary tells the story of me meeting God. From the moment the first cell door was locked in front of me, God was with me. Now how does someone with a rational mind explain this away? I can't. I can only tell you of the experiential things that occurred to me. Every time I was put into a cell, there was something there that was just for me - a bible, a cross, a scratching on the wall telling me that Jesus loves me. There was a knowing - that I was not alone, that it was over, that I could stop running, stop being in charge, stop trying to stop the pain. And I was comforted. All by myself, in tiny cell after tiny cell, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, comfort and love. Somehow in the core of me I knew that it had been the action of God to put me there. That this was His way of saving me. Then Betty and Anita showed up, visiting me over and over again. Two Christian volunteers who gave of their time, life and love, listening to my pain, comforting me and introducing me the bible. They were like a light from heaven in a dark place where no one really cared at all. They told me how God was not impersonal but in fact knew me by name, knew exactly how many hairs were on my head, had collected all my tears in a bottle and had sent His son Jesus to earth as a human to live a life where He did nothing wrong only to be punished and die so that He might take my punishment for me. Within a short time, I had decided to ask Jesus to take the reins of my life as I was making a mess of it and believed that He was the way.

The problem was that I didn't turn wholeheartedly to God. I just kind of said, yep, I'll have you but only when I need you and I'll still keep doing many of the things that I want even though I know they are not right and that they lead to pain. I must admit that I was also afraid of what people would think about me, having spent so many years trying to be validated by others to be ok within myself. I didn't want to be one of those people who was weak and needed a crutch. So I kind of secretly believed in Jesus for many years but still kept searching for an answer that was easier, required nothing of me and way more cooler, like Buddhism. But none of that worked either.

So a couple of years ago, I turned back to Jesus. I started praying regularly and reading the bible everyday. I got baptised in water and over the course of the next few months, something supernatural happened. The entire way that I viewed myself and the world changed. No one told me how to see things in this new way, it came from within. I started to see from an eternal perspective. I started to see from a spiritual perspective. Destructive, habitual behaviours that had been entrenched in me for years just disappeared. Things that I had invested so much of myself into no longer held the same importance. People who I had superficial relationships with began to fall away. I was no longer the same. I remember trying to explain it to a friend who is not a Christian and she remarked 'You are being born-again'. It blew my mind. It wasn't just some catch phrase that you attribute to a set of decisions but an actual spiritual process that you go through because of a decision. It was real. God was real and He is huge. The bible is real. Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. The supernatural power of God is real. The spiritual dimension is real. God's Truth is real. This changed everything.

With that revelation, I could no longer go back to living the way I was. I was forever changed into something new and it was both amazing and terrifying. When everything you know and thought you knew no longer makes sense and this whole new world of truth, life, love and sacrifice opens up to you, it takes a little while to get a grip on it all. Becoming the thing that you ridiculed, that you thought was weak and inferior can be hard to accept. Learning that it is in fact the opposite, the hard road, that you need more strength than most to go down it, that it requires more thought than the way I was living before has been a radically life changing experience.

So here I am, a girl who thought she had it all figured out, then God comes into my life and turns it completely on it's head. How do you begin to explain this? I'm still trying to figure it out. One thing I know for sure. This is my life's journey now. I will never go back. You can't experience the sacrificial love, compassion, mercy and heart of God and remain the same. You can't receive the miracle of being set free from bondage and keep the news of that freedom to yourself. My life and my art can only reflect this as I give all that I have back in gratitude to the one who created me and loves me.

Bindi Cole, in prison, 2001.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Taboo @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney..

Can you believe it's almost Christmas? My year has been one of trial and triumph. It's been tough but ultimately I'm better for it. Today though, I'm exhausted. I have decided to get fit, so I've been up early exercising (or trying to) and due to my level of fitness (none), it tires me out. I'm sure sooner or later, I will actually be able to cope with exercising and daily activity. Anyway, I digress.

The last few months, I've been working on new artwork for a show opening next week called TABOO. It's been curated by Brook Andrew and is showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) all through summer - 19th December 2012 to 24th February 2013.

I've made a new video and installation work titled EH5452 which I'm really excited about. Here's the artist statement:

EH5452 is a cathartic experience for Bindi Cole. Not many people know that she has spent years in prison doing time. This experience was a life changing one. However, Bindi still carries shame around it. Feeling like she doesn't want to share the experience for fear of what people will think, EH5452 is an attempt to alleviate the shame of the experience by bringing it to the light, staring it in the face and sharing it with the world, regardless of the consequences. EH5452 aims to turn something dark, hidden and shameful into something light, revelatory and beautiful. It's time to be who she really is, inside and out. 

Here's a still from the video:

I'm really chuffed to be a part of this exhibition. I've always loved the MCA and make time to visit it whenever I'm in Sydney. The show opens next week and is free for everyone.  I hope you can make it.

I'm also doing an artist talk on Thursday 20th December at 2pm along with Judy Watson, Eric Bridgeman and others. Please come and say hello.

That's it for now and remember Christmas is all about Jesus.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Heart Cooking

Many of you will be unaware but I absolutely love cooking. This morning, I set the alarm for 7.15am just so I could get up and bake fresh scones. I'm kind of famous for my scones amongst my friends. I use a Nigella recipe from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I've used it for years. The page is so covered in scone dough gunk that I don't even have to find it, it just falls open to it. My secret ingredient is to add a little cinnamon sugar. Then whipped cream and jam. I love it. As I sit here typing they are baking in the oven.

When I was much younger, I was a full on stoner. I spent most of my teenage years stoned. In my late teens I met Adel, a gorgeous young thing with red hair who had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Adel was kind of house bound at the time. She would spend her days on a mattress in the lounge room watching daytime soaps and cooking shows. Then she would cook and she was simply brilliant at it. This suited me to a tee. I would go to her house, stoned, chill out in her lounge room, watch daytime soaps and eat her food.

Well, I'm no longer a stoner and that's a good thing but because of Adel, my love for cooking has developed into a real passion.


Monday, October 22, 2012

How White is Our Art?

I know that it's short notice and I'm terrible at keeping this blog thing up to date but I thought I'd post the details anyway, so that those of you who do bother to look here might get the information on time. This Thursday the 25th October 2012, I am a guest on the panel discussing - How White is Our Art. It is part of the A Question of Identity Series being presented by the Melbourne Festival and the Wheeler Centre.

I'll be joined by Lesley Alway, CEO of Asialink, African singer/songwriter Kobya, Michael Agar, whose works promotes cultural exchange between Australia and our neighbours and the discussion will be moderated by Damian Smith, curator and art critic.

It's $20 full price and $12 concession.  Here's the blurb from the website:

Some believe that multiculturalism is ‘a racism of anti-racists’ that ‘chains people to their roots’, as controversial French writer Pascal Bruckner has said. But curator Damian Smith believes that histories and traditions don’t need to be restrictive: artists can draw on these rich resources as part of the tapestry of creative expression. ‘In the hands of artists, culture can be a springboard to knowledge and transformation,’ he says. How is Melbourne’s chorus of cultures reflected in the art we produce and promote? Does the rich diversity of our markets and restaurant strips translate to our galleries and stages – or to the boardrooms of our major organisations, where decisions are made? And does it matter? Damian will conduct a many-voiced discussion on cultural diversity and the arts in Australia.

You can also follow the links above to get more information and to buy tix.

Hope to see you there. And just because I can, here's a little Monday morning goodness.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Conteporary Australia: Women & MoNOW

Happy belated Easter everyone.  I hope that unlike me, you did not indulge in copious amounts of chocolate but were much more restrained.

There are two shows I would like to draw your attention to.  The first has already opened and is garnering quite a lot of attention. MoNOW by weaustralians.org showcases a whole bunch of Aussie artists (including myself) with the hope of inspiring new ways of seeing contemporary Australian society and has programmed heaps of events that you might be keen to see.  Also, Dan Rule did a write up on the show in The Age called Reimagining Plato in playdough which at this stage you can read for free as you don't have to subscribe to read The Age online unlike other papers.  Here is the poster for MoNOW (I love the poster artwork by Paul Yore):

Next up is the Contemporary Australia: Women show at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.  The show is the second in the QaGOMA's Contemporary Australia triennial series - the most extensive regular presentation of contemporary Australian art in the country (according to the website).  I have made brand new work for this show and am very excited to show it, talk about it and see it hanging on a wall. It's an installation piece made out of about 10,000 emu feathers. Very exciting.

I will also be travelling to Brissy for the opening weekend.  Looking forward to the warm weather as Melbourne just starts to cool down. There really is an amazing list of artists participating as well as a Women In Film side program which I'm looking forward to seeing.

Here's a bit more info from an article by Bridget Cormack called Queensland Galleries shows both sides of women's work.

Hope to see you around the galleries....

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ab Blaster 40,000

video

I thought I might share this video with you.  I was asked to make new artwork for the 2010 Next Wave Festival Sports Club Project.  Obviously, the art was themed around sports.  Being someone who loves to poke fun at stereotypes, I thought I'd pull apart the notion that all Aboriginal people are good at sports.  Personally, I know plenty of uncoordinated blackfellas.  So I called upon two good friends of mine, Kamahi Djordan King and Bryan Andy, who so kindly volunteered their time and talent.  

I included a few portraits that I had taken a number of years (2007) back when photographing a calendar of Aboriginal sports stars.  The calendar, called Men In Black, was the major fund raising activity for the Unity Foundation which was run by Alan Murray and Xavier Clarke, both footy players from St Kilda Football Club (Go the Saints).  I don't know if this charity still exists but at the time they were providing support services for disadvantaged Aboriginal kids.  

The video hasn't had much of an airing so I thought I'd give it some shine.  Oh, I should also mention that it was edited by my amazing friend Joske of Joske Films.  I hope you enjoy it.  

Xavier Clarke & Allan Murray

Greg Ingliss


Xavier Clarke

Nathan Lovett-Murray & Andrew Lovett

Anthony Mundine

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Contemporary Aussie Women...

Happy New Year everyone.  As always, I'm a lil bit slow (a late bloomer) but there you go.

Thought I'd start the year with some breaking news and some older artwork.  My intention is to try to get all my old work onto this blog.  Fingers crossed it won't be as long between posts.

So the news is the list of artists in the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art exhibition showcasing Contemporary Australian Women artists has been announced.  Very happy to be a part of this show alongside some full on amazing artists.  Here's a link:

Contemporary Australian: Women

Here's a spiel I just stole from the website which makes me sound pretty pretty pretty flash.

Contemporary Australia: Women’ is the second in the Gallery’s triennial series featuring the best in current art from this country, and is the most extensive regular presentation of contemporary Australian art. This major group exhibition of over 70 works by 33 women artists and collectives recognises the outstanding contributions of women to contemporary Australian cultural life: it marks current achievements and will be a landmark into the future.

So, I've known that I'm in it for ages and have been making a new installation for the show.  It's almost finished and I'm excited for you to see it.  However, I'm going to wait till I put it out there and in the meantime, I'm posting some older work.

This series was commissioned as part of a show called A Time Like This.  It was a group show held at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery at the Victorian College of the Arts.  The show celebrated 100 years of women's suffrage.

I worked with artist Lorraine Connelly-Northey and writer, Jirra Lulla Harvey as well as featuring very beautiful Koori women.  We researched how women's voting rights had affected Aboriginal women and then branched out into the other big women's movements of the last century.  This work was created in 2008.

The Original Women's Land Army

How To Vote Part 1

How To Vote Part 2


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not Really Aboriginal...

I thought I might give you an update on some of my old work.  This seems to be a topical series to add right now giving the recent Andrew Bolt ruckus.  In fact, it was this series that brought me to his attention.  He ended up seeing a media release on the series which was part of the 2008 Next Wave Festival at the Centre for Contemporary Photography.  I made this series in response to certain prevailing attitudes that I was aware of.  The first being that when I identified as Aboriginal, people would often respond by saying, but you're not really Aboriginal.  This was because I don't fit the stereotype of what Aboriginal is ie. living in a remote community, very dark skinned and suffering from dysfunction.  However, my grandmother always taught me to identify as Aboriginal and to be proud of the heritage I shared with her. The second attitude was one of lack of integrity.  That, in fact, the only reason I was identifying as being Aboriginal was to obtain some amazing benefits that were to be had by being Aboriginal.

So I was well aware of these attitudes.  The response that I got from Bolt completely validated my thoughts and well, now, the rest as they say, is history.  My identity and integrity was challenged by Bolt, brought to the light in Federal Court and proved to be genuine and honest.  Now both his identity and integrity, on the other hand, have been brought into question.

Tip of the day:

You better make sure that the position you take when making artworks that provoke, is one you stand by as you may end up defending that position in court.





Saturday, October 8, 2011

Catz

While I'm here in New York, I'm missing my lil furry son, Scribbles (the Gangsta cat) so much.  I miss him snoring like a human, being a grump, leaving fur all over my clothes, the trill sound he makes when he's happy, meeting me at the door when I get home and snuggling under the doona and spooning me when he's cold.  I've also spent the last day on the phone to my husband because Scribbles got into a fight and came out of it with three major wounds.  He's a tough 7.5kg thug of a cat.  So it must have been a serious fight for territory.  Anyway, in the meantime, until I see him again, I find solace in Simon's Cat videos and illustrations.  Enjoy....