A Postcard from the A.C.T

A Postcard from the A.C.T. is a response to 2 months spent with Louise Rive as artists-in-residence the Australian National University, School of Ceramics, Canberra, February and  March 2017.

A Postcard from the A.C.T. by Chuck Joseph

I didn’t know a that a river, a road, a nighttime parade of bat is silent!
I did a double take – birds? but no tails.
Yes, they are bats off to the plum trees.

There are Monsters in the basement, 
the brutal concrete basement of the N.G.A.
The totems, the power juju fetishes of Ramesh, 
hair and fur, teeth and claw.

Late at night we walked through the echoing decoing halls of the clay school
to put the bungs in the glowing kilns.

The headline coming in shouted “The Edge of Hell”.
We became Dante and Beatrice visiting the Edge of the Inferno.
It can’t be hell for makers of clay, 
so many possibilities, fires to fire in, and eternity.

Canberra, you gave me Silver Elvis and Phar Lap’s heart, 
death in the outback from Nolan about Ned, 
painting of a cop with his head in a wombat hole, 
bushrangers in dress and lace, burning pubs.
And the death of the Man in the iron Mask (the subject of the last conversation
I had with my father). 
Murder Ballads by the Eighth Blackbird made movies in my head.
Women singing in the night, Kasey and Martha.
You gave me Abba with the Symphony and more swirling flying foxes,
the Hoodoo Gurus, the starting point for so many creations.
The lyric goes: 
I’ve been wondering lately, am I crazy, to believe in ideals? NO
What’s my scene? 
And of course it is bittersweet, it’s always Bittersweet.

You gave me coffee, cannoli, comic shops and carousels, banh mi and Brodburgers.

We’ve seen Power Works of Indigenous bark and landscape painting,
and more Nolan panels painted from his Australian memory, 
now with a seat to view by Richard from North Carolina.
You gave me parrots and parrots and parrots, red and purple, sulphur crested and black, 
pet possums and 100 kangaroos on the nighttime oval.

You gave me Griffin lake with a magnificent thunderstorm, 
we sheltered under a bridge surrounded by flagpoles galore, 
including a single massive pine pole from Canada.
A Parliament with paintings of Prime Ministers.
I remember Keating, even Menzies, 
a Whitlam portrait, almost cartoon like, 
and Holt who disappeared into the sea
like my Grandfather - Russian submarine or Great White???

And you gave me The People

A Maori proverb asks
what is the most important thing in life! 
He Tangata, He Tangata, He Tangata,
It is The People, It is The People, It is The People. 

Chuck and Lucy also made ceramic postcards from the Edge to send out into the world…
souvenirs of Dante and Beatrice, Spring Gardens, Witness jugs, and experimental maquettes.

Love to Canberra,
4 arms to hold you. 

Lyrics credit: What’s My Scene courtesy of Dave Faulkner/Sony ATV Music.

 Ceramics Art+Perception #105 July 17

Ceramics Art+Perception #105 July 17