Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tribal Beauty
Philippine Culture and Identity in Traditional Woven Clothing

Botbot Kalinga Apayao Southern Kalinga

Paracelis Mt Province Ga'dang
Maligcong Bontoc Bontok

Canyugan Bangued Abra

I've travelled round the Philippines a number of times, and on one of these trips, I was given an extraordinary book by a friend, Baby Carpio - 'Sinaunang Habi - Philippine Ancestral Weave' (by Marian Pastor Roces, Communications Technologies, Manila, 1991).

The author's aim was to explore 'the various ways in which varying societies have deployed the concepts of culture, nation and identity' in 'the textile traditions of island Southeast Asia'. In particular, how these concepts are realized in the different traditional weaving styles and patterns.

One focus of the book is traditional woven clothing, with examples given of the myriad of different styles from all over the country.

What is really interesting, however, is that each example is modeled by an inhabitant of the region from which it comes. With the very formal arrangement of the subject/s and solemn way in which the models present themselves giving the sense of old C19 ethnographic photographs - but in colour.

Lembaning Lake Sebu South Cotabato T'boli

Lower Calirian Zamboanga City Sama

Mandaya Highlands Davao Oriental Mandaya

Catalunan Grande Talomo District Davao City Bagobo

Catalunan Grande Talomo District Davao City Bagobo

Catalunan Grande Talomo District Davao City Bagobo

Kiangan Ifugao Ifugao

Dungan Pekong Matanao Davao del Sur B'laan

Savoy Matanao Davao del Sur B'laan

Savoy Matanao Davao del Sur B'laan

Upper Calarian Zamboanga City Yakan

Lanao de Sur Maranaw

Basilan Yakan

Various Regions

I've included a map of The Philippines, in case you want to locate where a particular example comes from:

Indonesia and Malaysia are close to The Philippines - the influence of these Muslim countries can be seen strongly in the patterning of the textiles.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

David Hockney - Artist

1960's Photograph

Lucien Freud 1990's Painting

I became aware of David Hockney when I was first at university, through images like those offered up in his Los Angeles period paintings. It's their still, airless, somewhat photo-realist perfection and 'orderedness'. The bleaching quality of the sunlight reminds me of the Australia:

'A Bigger Splash', 1967

'Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy', 1969

'Still Life on a Glass Table', 1971-2

'La Terrace', 1971

I bought two books ('David Hockney by David Hockney' and 'David Hockney Photographs') and, looking back over them now, I am surprised just how many of the works from that period had gay themes - lots of naked guys, nudity often accentuated by tan lines (another Los Angeles-Sydney connection):

'Man Taking Shower in Beverley Hills', 1964

I particularly liked the works involving his then boyfriend, Peter Slessenger, cos they publically presented the intimacy of gay lovers:

'Peter and I lived together. Peter's the only person I've lived with; we were lovers. I've lived with other people, but not really as lovers. And of course it makes a difference.'

Some of the paintings of Peter:

And some etchings:

And some photographs:

All these images were really important for me at the time, re-affirming the possibilities of a public gay life.

And, to finish out of the ball park, a fabulous portrait of the British poet W H Auden, 1968:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Transformations: Saturday Night - Monday Morning

I've always been aware of the degree gay guys can shift round their persona and image.

The guy you know at ya local grotty sex-on-premises establishment (perhaps 'Headquarters' or 'Signal' in Sydney, or 'Keller Klub' or 'L'Impact' in Paris) as a rough horny trade dude - beery and smokey breath, stale smelling crotch, musky armpits, unwashed sweaty feet ... maybe even cum on his breath from the last guy he's just blown (fill in your own fantasy here!). Who you wanna turn round and shove up hard against the wall. Spread his legs apart, more. And work ya cock up his lubed-up and waiting hole. As you bite hard into his thick muscled neck. And ya feel more of his hairy legs as his jeans slowly fall down round his ankles. The warmth of his big furry buns is ya crotch. ... .

And then you bump into him unexpectedly in some work or social situation and, through some strange inexplicable process, he has transmutted into 'a well-mannered suit', with the personna of an elegant pink jelly-fish in Armani and Armani. The process is a bit like medieval alchemy - but turning gold into lead. He talks about the delicacies and intricases of his office politics. And then, inevitably, about the latest renovations at home - the ingenious ideas he's had using the space in the attic as a storage room ... or, if he's not quite so 'jellyfish', as a 'playroom'! You hope he won't tell you about the sling, as though it's never flashed across anyone's radar ever before. And usually with a conspiratorial wink. You don't talk about this kinda stuff - you just do it. You are uncertain - can you say 'let's get away from all this bullshit and fuck' or would that get you a startled reaction? And 'I sorry, I really don't think that's very appropriate'.

Sometimes, the jelly-fish is still plainly visible in the rough horny trade dude, like the first picture of the set of guy above. And then there are guys where the transformation is more convincing or real - and you think 'There is hope':

But, worst of all, there are those where it is all about 'fashion':

Now what's this all mean? I reckon most people try to resolve these seeming contradictions (and lots of others), when it seems much better to see them as just different even opposing aspects of a single but multiglot self. To be explored rather than sorted out in a 'I'm trying to discover my real myself' way. As though there is one single essential self. And think of it - you get more for your money this way!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mapplethorpe - Flower Portraits

I first noticed these Mapplethorpe flower portraits when I came across the photographer's other work - you know, the stuff that was famously removed from a show in the US, and gave rise to some vigorous debate around the censorship issue. That I posted on earlier.

And then, after I'd picked myself off the floor, and looked again and again, and noticed it was a whip handle stuffed up the artist's pouting arse hole ... I looked at these beautiful floral photos. Actually they speak for themselves, but (you know me) I won't resist putting down a few ideas!

The pictures are wonderfully uncluttered - often just a single flower and a single colour background - paired right down for the maximum sculptural effect. A formal exercise which often incorporates their vase. I particularly like how Mapplethorpe shows the crisp line moving round the outer edge of a flower, like in second and fifth photos below, against an often dark background. And his sensitivity to colours: the selection of the complementary pinks and yellows, with dark blue - above and below.

These black and white photographs have something of the quality of old prints. And it seems the lack of colour enhances their sculptural formal effects.