India Flint

Another important early innovator in the contemporary movement of sustainable and ethical fashion is India Flint.

India is an Adelaide artist, living on a property in the Adelaide hills.  While a friend and I were sharing a studio at the JamFactory in the mid 2000’s, India held an exhibition in the main gallery space.  The fragrance of her scattered lemon-scented gum leaves greeted us each day as we entered the building.

Songs from the Wastelands, an installation from Earth Matters http://www.indiaflint.com/page30.htm

Although dyeing with eucalyptus leaves had been done before, India discovered and innovated a technique to transfer the dye and shape of leaves onto silk and wool fabric.  Her experimentation with every type of eucalypt available during her Masters Degree at the University of South Australia, expanded to include wild flowers and found objects such as rusty nails for mark making.

India is respectful of hand made techniques such as hand stitching with the thread in a colour and thickness of yarn that contrasted with the finished fabric.  She used up-cycled clothing and fabrics as a base to decorate and make new clothing.  She ignored minimalist approaches to fashion popular at the time, instead embracing layering and allowing the fabric to dictate the silhouettes.

Jo Roads, Deon Hastie Petroglyphs http://www.lwd.com.au, clothing by India Flint

Her unorthodox approach to the fabric itself, allowing the material to keep the wrinkles and creases from the dye process, created a three dimensional effect.  This added extra texture to the fabric, which was already  uneven in colour and pattern due to the natural dye process.

India has spent subsequent years to date touring the world teaching workshops and showing her beautiful work in galleries.  Many textile artists and designers have been influenced by her work, including myself, and I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate her influence on the future of fashion and textiles.

India Flint website, including images, workshops, exhibitions, books and contact details.

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The Relevance of Art

With the growing popularity of Street Art, I was interested to see at Wonderwalls in Port Adelaide this year, a group of writers working on a wall next to a Street Artist*.  The Street Artist listed her own name on the official program, and the others worked under a crew name, for obvious reasons, to stay incognito.

This defining difference between the establishment and the newcomer, made me reflect on art in general, and the opening up of avenues for displaying and expressing art.

Our Art Gallery of South Australia is under the direction of Nick Mitzevich, who is happy to show colonial art next to Aboriginal/First Nations cultural objects.  He follows that theme around the gallery, mixing together works that would usually be seen as opposing, as having something significant in common.  As we don’t have a formal contemporary art building (yet), Mitzevich treats our gallery as contemporary art meets the art history of the world, including representation from our Asian neighbours.

This is a challenging and exciting way of displaying art, and keeps the gallery relevant culturally and geographically.  It also makes the gallery an inspiring place to visit, as we see the old collection in a new way and the new work in the context of the old.

After spending some years now admiring and participating in street art, I feel the pristine white walls of a gallery space that shut out history, noise, and windows to the outside world, are both restricting and old in the limited atmosphere and lack of authenticity in the space.  The artist is responsible for creating these things, which can come across as contrived and like a static museum display.

When operating exclusively in a gallery setting, an artist can begin to take this for granted, and I think that impacts on the relevance of art in the real world.  Artist Alfredo Jaar says to imagine the world we want to live in, meaning to use art to push us towards that world.  The beauty of street art is that it goes to the people, the people don’t have to seek it out.  Street art also reflects the integrity of the existing surrounding, and so becomes a part of it.

I’ve said previously, I embrace all street art, including tags and sgraffiti, as relevant to the contemporary and historical art scene.  Widening our definition of art as existing in the everyday, allows us to think outside the gallery space and work alongside others who have different perspectives, and so makes what we do relevant.

As a footnote:  The Art Gallery of South Australia could be inclusive and embrace street art by opening the outside side wall(s) as free walls for any artists to participate.  Then we would have a world leading rather than a world class art gallery.

*Street Art as the new wave of painters who only work by permission to paint a wall, street art includes any form in general.

South Australia leading the Nation

Or Old Ideologies v’s the Future.  I’m starting this post with a fascinating live link to the energy sources powering Australia at the moment:

http://www.statedevelopment.sa.gov.au/resources/energy-supply/south-australias-electricity-supply-and-market

The next installment of the Perfect Storm II began earlier this week when our Premier, Jay Weatherill, announced South Australia was taking control of its own energy needs.  This came after constant sniping from the Federal Liberal National Government over our blackouts the last few months.

Some history to the blackouts

South Australia wasn’t the only state experiencing blackouts over summer, but the other states are powered mostly by coal.  The Federal Government has an unusual obsession with coal.  Against majority international scientific opinion, they regard coal as the future, and do everything they can to ensure Australia’s main energy source is coal.

After each blackout the Federal Government would blame our high uptake of renewable energy.  In every case, this wasn’t the cause.  In contrast there was silence when the other states experienced blackouts.

The last coal fired power station in South Australia and the Leigh Creek coal mine closed last year.  This was due to economic reasons.  The Victorian Hazelwood brown coal fired power station is also going to close this year.

In contrast, the Queensland Government with assistance from the Federal Government, is in the process of allowing Adani to open the biggest coal mine in Australia, and is attempting to push through amendments to the Native Title Act to over-ride any opposition from the First Nation peoples.  The Adani CEO was responsible for a major environmental disaster in South Africa, and here are some more reasons why the mine shouldn’t go ahead:

http://www.aycc.org.au/adani_is_back?

The Announcement

As part of our state taking control of its energy needs, our Premier announced we would install a 100mWh battery storage system, after visiting Tesla boss Elon Musk offered to solve our blackouts by installing a 100mWh system in 100 days or it would be free*.  Tesla has already installed a 80mWh system in California.  Germany is also aiming to increase their storage from 60mWh to 200mWh this year.

The announcement included increasing our gas extraction (we are assured it doesn’t including fracking) and also building a new government owned gas fired power station to ensure (cheaper?) reliable energy supply.

We are told gas is a bridge between coal and 100% renewable energy for our state.  Port Augusta is very keen on building a solar thermal plant, and the Government is due to make a decision on this by June.  Many renewables supporters think we should stop investing in gas and put all the money into renewable energy sources only.  As more money is invested, the cheaper renewable energy becomes.

The fact is, the power purchase solar panels on our roof have generated an average of 23kWhs/day from October to January, and with battery storage we could have easily powered our household and put energy back in the grid.  There are many roofs without solar panels in SA.

Like most other Australian states and territories, there is massive land space in South Australia for wind, solar thermal, and solar panels.  With battery storage, we have the weather to power South Australia and further afield.  Our Federal Government has removed incentives for renewable energy and recently talked about using the clean energy fund to finance a ‘clean coal’ power station, to the disgust of many.  it is extremely frustrating watching the Government bypass opportunities to support renewable energy based on old ideologies.

Our Premier’s announcement sparked a panicked policy announcement by Prime Minister Turnbull to increase the size of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme by 50%.  Along with the newly elected Labor Government in Western Australia, hopefully this is the beginning of a turnaround towards renewable energy.

*The SA system is going out to tender so one or a multiple of companies can bid for the project.

Money Tree II

Since writing the post on the Money Tree, I came across this excellent article, and spoke to some friends about the reality of home ownership in 2016.

Paying for it: In hock to the greatly outdated Australian dream

My parent’s and my generation were brought up with the expectation that we would own a home, with assistance from our parents in the form of a loan or deposit.  In the mid to late 20th century full-time, permanent jobs were achievable, and the cost of living low enough for couples to live off one wage.

All of this changed around the turn of the 21st century.  People started to invest in housing instead of stocks and bonds, or self manage their own superannuation.  The government offered incentives on investment properties, that weren’t available for personal home loans.  This drove the price of housing up at a rapid rate; 300% in South Australia, and more in the eastern states.

To add to the difficulties in securing a home loan, banks were spooked by the Global Financial Crisis, despite our government going guarantor, and tightened lending regulations for home buyers.  As a result, a fat deposit is no longer the step into home ownership.  It has to be backed with a good credit history and proof of a permanent minimum income.

Permanent full-time jobs are steadily decreasing in Australia, replaced with contract and casual or part-time work.  There is no such thing as job security anymore, and most workers are pushed to their limits with performance management, long hours, unrealistic work expectations, with under-training and an ultra-competitive work place that is constantly looking for ways to streamline procedures and cut costs.

For manufacturers, tariff reduction and free-trade agreements mean making locally is no longer a competitive option, with labour costs far cheaper in poorer countries with lower living standards and workplace conditions.

If you aren’t part of the lucky generation, or politicians, who receive tax free superannuation benefits for the rest of their life after retirement, the next retirement generation is going to be working until they are too old to do so.  Then living on the aged pension with a mortgage or rent still to pay, and adult children to support both financially and physically with day-care for grand-children.

The CityMag article referred to above, looks at the realities of housing today and a change in the way people are living.  We used to live in multi-generational housing, as many cultures still do, but the last century was an odd bump in the road with the “nuclear family”.  The future of housing has to address a much larger population, mass migration due to climate change or war, and less money moving around in the economy.

I don’t think these forced changes to our way of living have to be a bad thing.  The excesses of the 20th and early 21st century in western societies can move to a more inclusive and community based way of living.  Technology allows us to see how other people live and we can learn a lot by simplifying our lives.  I look forward to seeing what an affordable, adaptable, totally self sustainable home can look like.  By removing the expectations of the past, we can start with a clean slate and ask, what are our needs and what makes a meaningful life?