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Listening to artist Marina Abramovic share her thoughts about performance and interactions with audiences, triggered the memory of a presentation I saw recently by Cooper Hewitt’s Sebastian Chan on the museums of the future.

“We are so interested in new gadgets and are so interested to sit in the front of the computer, Twitter, or be busy with Facebook, that we don’t realize that maybe sitting at the volcano, or in the front of waterfall, or just in the ocean, or just sitting in the chair quietly and looking out through the window sometimes is more important, more reflective and more vivid to the conscience of your own existence”.-Marina Abramovic 

In keeping with the Abramovic Method, visitors to Marina Abramovic: In Residence at Kaldor Public Art Projects were asked to give up their watches, smartphones and other personal gadgetry, to engage in the simple and mundane task of counting grains of rice. Abramovic says; “technology really f—ed us up so bad…we don’t understand what it means to have three hours without phone and not looking at silly messages”.

Like Abramovic, Chan places emphasis on museum practices which enhance rather than detract from the museum experience. For Chan, this means putting away the gadgets and concentrating on the user experience. Giving visitors permission to play, making  interactive experiences social, and facilitating a memorable, ubiquitous, ‘look up experience’.

Chan introduces the ‘interactive pen’ which put simply ‘bookmarks the web while you walk around’. The aim is ‘getting you away from your phone and bringing you closer to design’, and the original purpose of the collection as an interactive and immersive experience.

“If you want really to connect with the public, you have to show your true self.”–Marina Abramovic

References:

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In 2014 we celebrated 75th anniversary of the public library network. It was also a year that marked the 50th Anniversary of Hurstville Library Service. To celebrate, Hurstville Library ran a #bookface social media campaign on Pinterest, where staff and the public were asked to share photos of themselves posing with their favourite books. Working as a librarian at Hurstville Library at the time, and being a self-proclaimed feminist, naturally, I chose the cover of Tara Moss’s ‘The Fictional Woman’. Fast forward to 2015, around the time International Women’s Day celebrations were kicking off, I found myself on the cover of Dec2014-Jan2015 issue of Public Library News magazine. In keeping with the theme for International Women’s Day 2015, I thought it was about time to bring about awareness to issues surrounding the economic, political and social advancement of women, and in particular, librarians and ‘How to be a Feminist?’.

NSW public libraries

While its true, much has been achieved with regards to women’s participation in the workforce since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, see historic timeline, there is still much more to do. New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the gender pay gap has risen by 1.4% in the past 12 months. This together with the fact that women are more likely than men to be in part-time and periodic work, have interrupted career patterns and are often employed in lower paying industry sectors and occupations, have had a impact women’s capacity to accumulate superannuation in recent years. Women workers still tend to be concentrated in lower paying occupations and industries (for example teachers, nurses, childcare workers, librarians) because of societal expectations about what is suitable work for women and in some cases, historical restrictions on what work women are legally allowed to perform. There is also an undervaluation of skills in industries and areas where women predominate. See ABS report ‘6302.0 – Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Nov 2014, Industry Earnings’.

For example, this can be seen in Australian public libraries. According to the ABS latest report on Public Libraries in Australia, 2003-2004, ‘there is a high concentration of females working in local government libraries accounting for 86.3% or 9,152 persons’. Permanent full-time employees accounted for 42.2% (4,472 persons) of all employment in local government libraries, while permanent part-time employees represented 32.5% (3,444 persons) and casuals 25.4% (2,691 persons). Local government libraries also had 6,315 volunteers working for them during June 2004. This high concentration of part time and casual employment in libraries has implications for pay equity. High levels of women employed in part time work is also reflected in ABS’s latest Labour Force statistics, 2015 where workforce participation of women is significantly lower for women at 58% in Jan-Feb 2015, compared to 71% for men (ABS, Labour Force Statistics, 6202.0, 2015, p. 19).

In 2002, the State Library of NSW won a historic Pay Equity win in the NSW Industrial Commission. The judgement recognised that library work is undervalued because the jobs were historically done by women and that these workers are professionals on a par with legal and scientific officers, engineers and psychologists. However, the benefits have yet to filter down to local public libraries, and special libraries in other sectors.

Looking to the future, gender equality in the workplace can only be achieved when the work performed by women in female dominated occupations such as librarianship are valued, and flexible working conditions for both men and women more widespread. Considering that we still live in a predominately patriarchal capitalist society, this will require a a  drastic change in our societal structure. One that encourages and enables both men and women to more equally share and balance work-life responsibilities.

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I myself have never been able to find our precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute” – Rebecca West, You Rebecca in The Fictional Woman, page 284

As a young female under the age of 30, I have worn many labels in my personal and professional life. The young librarian, single woman, femme fatale, unionist, witch, dumb blonde, teacher’s pet, social butterfly, chef’s daughter, Aussie, German, shire girl, westie, feminist…and most interestingly ‘tutonic temptress’! So, naturally, I was incredibly moved when I first saw Tara Moss on Q&A talking about the common fictions and gender archetypes that define and confine us, and bravely speaking out about the all too common and personal experience of sexual harassment, violence, rape and inequality experienced by far too many women including herself.


Speaking of archetypes, I would just like to get one thing straight by clarifying one of many misconceptions. When I say I am a feminist, I am not proclaiming that I am a perverse bitter and twisted man- hater, simply that I am an advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men, and the expectation of being treated with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. on those terms. In fact, I believe that males and females have both masculine and feminine traits, therefore men can and should be feminists too. After all, “every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man” (Margaret Mead, The Fictional Woman, page 256). Just like women, feminine traits in men are the subject of ridicule, and seen as sign of weakness, and a threat to their masculinity. In my experience, this is most especially true of artistic pursuits such as singing, dancing or anything to do with the arts, culture and humanities. Traditionally, these are seen as ‘feminine pursuits’, often making then off limits to men and boys who want to protect their masculinity. Far too many times I have seen men with a certain artistic flair struggle underneath the weight of expectation put on them by their mates, and frightened off by the fear of being the ‘token male’ amongst a group of females? For women, one only needs to look at the appalling treatment of our first female prime minister to see that we are still uncomfortable with displays of leadership and power in women

fictional woman
So when Tara mentioned her new book, ‘The Fictional Women’, I did the librarian thing and quickly jumped online to reserve a copy at my local library. From the moment I had the book in my hands, I couldn’t put it down.

twitter tara moss
The next day, commuting to work, still glued to the pages of the book, I was about ¼ of a way through when I thought wow, this is really something. Getting closer and closer to my destination, I added ‘Fictional Woman’ to my reading list on Goodreads and shared it on Twitter. Not long after that, I had a retweet from the author herself, and a personal expression of thanks. But that wasn’t all. Obviously, she could tell by my Twitter account that I had an interest in flamenco dancing, and asked me my opinion on her description of the male flamenco dancer in the chapter ‘The Beautiful Man’.

Naturally, I jumped ahead to chapter 12, The Beautiful Man. Her description of an encounter with male flamenco dancer in a small tavern in Madrid while on tour in Spain, is full of surprise. Expecting to see a woman in a polka-dot dress dancing, instead she sees a “beautiful man” dressed in “a male corset, and small but flamboyant turquoise polka-dot scarf tied around his neck….and bolero” which “enhanced and showcases his masculine physique….emotionality, strength, vulnerability and sensuality” . Obviously struck with this expression of “male beauty”, and “the profound absence of the sensual, idealised male beauty in Anglo- Saxon culture so dominant in Australia”, which rejects and ridicules men and boys for “grooming or dressing in a way that aims to be aesthetically beautiful, or aims to attract a partner”?

Being a dancer who has learnt many styles over the years (including Latin American and ballroom) from a young age, flamenco always struck me as incredibly empowering for both men and women. Tara Moss points out this essential quality of flamenco. The “extraordinary fierceness and strength” shown by both male and female dancers.

not once does the viewer sense that the woman….is a passive and decorative object, succumbing to a dominant man…man and woman are presented as forces of nature, clashing, moving together and showing their pain, anguish, lust and determination” – Tara Moss, The Fictional Woman, page


In doing so, Moss accurately and poignantly makes the connection between flamenco and feminism, most particularly, flamenco and the equality of the sexes. This has been reasonably well documented in books written on the historical and political context of flamenco. Donn Pohren was the first writer in history to communicate the mysteries of flamenco to an English-speaking audience. See http://www.salon.com/1999/10/02/pohren/. He writes about flamenco ‘as art’ and flamenco ‘as a way of life’. In this way, flamenco is not just the music of southern Spain. More than that it is a way of life that influences the daily activities of may southern Spaniards. The art of flamenco is the outward expression of the flamenco way of life, expressed by anyone who is emotionally and actively involved in this unique philosophy’ Pohren 1962. The central philosophy and narrative is that of the social outcast, the wandering gypsies who passed through Andalucian, and were bound up in the history of colonisation, conquest and persecution throughout the ages. See flamenco family tree http://nylonguitarist.com/flamenco_family_tree.html

Interestingly, the political nature of flamenco is discussed in ‘Anything but background music’ by writer on the politics of culture Mike Marqusee in red pepper magazine. See http://www.redpepper.org.uk/anything-but-background-music/. Marqusee, points to the poetic influence of Lorca in the cante jondo, the ‘deep song’ associated with the gypsies of southern Spain. Lorca found in it a source of inspiration in his lifelong political-cultural-sexual struggle against bourgeois philistinism. The recovery and promotion of deep song was part of a larger democratic embrace of popular beauty, an antidote to what he came to see as the inhuman machine of modern capitalism. As a leftist and modernist, he embraced cultural diversity and plural identities of flamenco, whose unique expressive forms, gave access to remote but shared human realms and opportunity to champion the music of the gypsies, as he did the Muslim and Jewish roots of Spanish culture. All of which made him a prime target for the fascists, who murdered him in the early days of the civil war.

Sevillanas
In ‘Flamenco: Passion, Politics and Popular Culture’, William Washabaugh describes flamenco as that which remembers, celebrates and plays with male and female centered “moments of sociality”. This is illustrated in a dance from Seville called the sevillanas. In this dance, the woman imitates the bull with arms curved over her head, challenging the composure and self discipline of the man with her wild and dangerous naturalness. Public fraternity and male bonding occur in small public gatherings, late at night in pubs and taverns where working class men gather together to celebrate camaraderie with wine and spine chilling emotionally charges and poetic flamenco cante. For women, bright, daring and carnivalesque festivals like the feria, represents a release from the constraints of social life, which allows women to dress in daring clothes and dance provocative dances. This corresponds to my own experience of Thursday night flamenco at the Spanish Club


Every Thursday night, we would finish our flamenco class, and venture downstairs to the bar where the party had only just begun. There was live music, singing and dancing all night long, and the club would be filled with Spaniards of all ages, drinking, eating tapas, and talking with friends after a long week at work. Men and women would spontaneously get up to sing and dance with the musicians. Occasionally, I would get up to dance the sevillanas and tangos we had been working on in class with my fellow flamencas. Being a working night, a late night of escapism and dancing all night felt very indulgent, liberating and empowering. It was as though all the pressure and worry of the week was suddenly lifted from my shoulders, and instead was filled with the joy of music and dance.

The next chapter…

‘A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’ –Margaret Mead, in ‘The Next Chapter, page 305, The Fictional Woman
In the same way, I feel that by bravely documenting her personal experiences in the Fictional Woman, Tara Moss ‘makes the personal political’, empowering for the next generation of feminists to ‘change the story. To look beyond the fictions of the past, stop viewing activism and feminism as radical and see the bigger picture. To acknowledge that woman in the 21st century can be as strong, complex and multi-dimensional as men. Tara’s book pave the way for next generation of women and men to arm themselves with use statistics, research and lived experience, to draw attention to the existence of gender inequalities. To challenge those who would have us believe that the position of women as secondary to man is part of the natural order of things. To dispel the myth of ‘meritocracy’, which has for centuries ignored the simple fact that the so called ‘best person for the job has been from the same demographic. This book is calling us to take actions both large and small. By acting with new knowledge and using our democratic rights to lessen bias, practice inclusion, seek out facts to challenge assumptions, and to speak out against inequalities where they exist – we can change the world, one decision, one action, one word at a time.

On that  note, I would  like to leave  you with an inspiring Farruca traditionally danced by men, but this time danced by Marina 

Sydney Ideas – Tara Moss: The Fictional Woman

Author Tara Moss on molded gender narratives, toxic silences, and damaging stereotypes. In conversation with Professor Elspeth Probyn and a fellow PhD candidate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, Paul Priday.
http://sydney.edu.au/podcasts/index.php?id=sydney_ideas_-_tara_moss_the_fictional_woman

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In April 2014, Paco Pena and his Dance Company returned once again to Sydney with ‘Flamencura’. In the past, productions have included imaginative and often cross-cultural musical fusions. The last production to reach Australia’, ‘Flamenco sin Fronteras’ translating to ‘Flamenco without borders’, told the story of the Venezuelan musical influences in flamenco, emanating from a history of Spanish colonisation in Latin America.

This year however, there was a strong emphasis on paying tribute to flamenco’s heritage, the light and the shade. The minimalistic staging helped the roots of flamenco cante, dance and guitar to shine through, allowing the audience to experience the kaleidoscope of emotions which is so characteristically flamenco. The happiness of the Alegrias, the loneliness of the Solea, the suffering of the Martinete and the profound darkness and tragedy of the Peteneras.

The haunting images evoked in the Peteneras by the apparition of the black veiled Aranda behind fellow dancer Angel Munoz, who tragically succumbs to the veil of mortality, was spine-chilling. The second half of the show opened with a lone cantor singing the Martinete surrounded by a group of palmeros, culminating in a dance of the oppressed to the call of the heart-pounding rhythm of what sounded like percussive church bells.

By the end of the show, the flamenco heartbeat was so strong, you could literally feel the hearts and hands of the audience beating together as one in a very well deserved standing ovation.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/paco-penas-flamencura-pays-tribute-to-flamencos-heritage-20140408-36b3k.html#ixzz2ynncdbtQ

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Just love this video filmed by my friend Amanda Krivograd post Pena Flamenca gig at The Newsagency, Marrickville in June 2012.

Post flamenco at the Newsagency

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Aperitif was French and Mediterranean tapas bar and restaurant, owned by celebrity chefs Manu Feldel and Miguel Maestre.
Every Thursday night during the colder months of 2011, we would rug up and descend on Kellet Street Potts Point to immerse ourselves in a weekly dose of paella, churros con chocolate and live flamenco featuring artists of Flamenco Australia- with guest dancers and guitarists. Sadly, it closed its doors at the beginning of 2012. Photographs taken by A. Krivograd 191648_1862858249707_1188507830_2198543_5305133_o (2)202215_1889509355968_1188507830_2233313_7912810_o (2) 192231_1896846939403_1188507830_2242856_8065126_o (2)191244_1921657519652_1188507830_2253779_7810362_o (2)

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Have just been to see this amazing production of Swan Lake. Complete with flights of dancing swans in perfect formations, cossacks and spanish dancers!

Swan Lake was chosen by Dame Peggy van Praagh as the premiere production of thew newly formed Australian Ballet in 1962.

Fifteen years later, Anne Woolliams created a new version in long, soft romantic tutus. Graeme Murphy stunned audiences around the world with his radically reinvented version in 2002, with a love triangle. Now, to celebrate 50 years since its debut, the Australian has  is launched a new Swan Lake in the traditional mould, choreographed by Stephen Baynes.

Reference:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/dance/flights-of-fancy-20121122-29qzr.html#ixzz2FHZJTByz

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