Sunday, August 27, 2006

Camille O'Sullivan-INTERVIEWS

Camille O’Sullivan

Life really is a cabaret for sultry torch song diva, Camille O’Sullivan. Burlesque cabaret is back- and the Irish born singer of French parentage is riding high on it’s wave- a wave about to hit our summery Speigeltent shores. According to the chanteuse who was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh Speigeltent and hasn’t looked back since -cabaret is as relevant as it was 70 years ago in scandalous Weimar Germany.

“It is the ageless narrative in the songs themselves - it makes people question the life they lead now, whether that is their intimate life or the life of a world that surrounds them”, she philosophises. There is no doubt that the immediacy of cabaret helps people to help themselves feel. It is a musical genre visited by any artist worth their salt who understands that cabaret is an incendiary conduit for raw human emotion. An audience can see the sweat on an artist's brow and they the performer can almost touch the whites of your teary, smiling eyes. “ I like to be as truthful as possible, I choose songs that mean something to me so an audience will believe that I mean it- even though I didn't write the song.”

Melbourne Speigeltent aficionados will have an opportunity this month to experience the invincible Ms O’Sullivan. Her repertoire is a who’s who of torchsong history from Brecht, Brel, Weil, Cohen, Cave to Waits all deeply inflected with the darkness and lightness of her being, and sung in widescope English, French and German. “My personal favourite songs from the Melbourne show are Jacque Brel's 'Marieke' and Nick Cave's God is in the house”, she reveals. Two love songs that speak tellingly of the divine mood she weaves.

These are oppressive times, much like Weimar Germany was when Cabaret evolved as a way for taking the piss out of Nazi rule and helped people to make sense of human loss, anguish, vilification and unnecessary chaos. Invariably at the heart of every great Cabaret song is the reminder that you are not alone - “there is always a lighter side of life” too. “ I have a French mother who brought me up on this kind of 1930’s music. I had lived in Berlin hanging out in the Kabaret clubs there, so I suppose I was always drawn to it “, she says revealing her passion for a politically charged cabaret. Ireland has added quite a different slant. “My Irish background inspires me too- due to a great love of old narrative ballads, jolly sing-a-longs and the intimacy of the venues you perform in”.

Spotted this year in Edinburgh’s burlesque heaven, La Clique, by actor Ewan Bremner (AKA “spud” of Trainspotting fame) O’Sullivan found herself cast in the new Stephen Frears feature Mrs. Henderson Presents. “I have to pinch myself every so often” she quips. The diva refers to acting alongside the formidable Dame Judy Dench, Bob Hoskin and Will Young in a film based on the real-life nude scandals surrounding Soho’s historic Windmill Theatre- that outraged London society in the 1930s.

“The Windmill became a famous revue venue and the first to have a nude “tableaux” accepted by Lord Chamberlain- only if the girls never moved a muscle! I am not one of the nude girls but my character Jane is one of the main singing, dancing performers”, she explains. “In a way it is art imitating life as I my own life is very similar to Jane’s- I too lead a similar cabaret life- it is likely I would have been performing in such a venue had I lived in that era”, intuits the chanteuse.

” Stephen liked the idea that I kept my character Irish and as close to my own personality as possible. She is an exuberant fun girl, quirky, determined and willing to try absolutely anything bar nudity. Much like myself she loves creating different characters for each song”

It is no surprise that the sexy savvy torch song diva has been cast in the new Frear’s take on Brit society scandals, as Melbourne audiences are about to feel and find out - scandalous also makes for great, great cabaret.


It was a dreamy simple idea - to design an “all-in-one protective system for a chick on a motorbike” with the help of 3-D modeling software. In an ideal world the visionary designs that Visual artist and Industrial designer Simone LeAmon ‘enabled’ would catch the imagination of a European motorcycle wear label like Ducati.

Instead, the petite, pragmatic and ever philosophical LeAmon created a sublime series of artworks entitled Bodywork. They depict “ a custom-designed exhibition suit designed in the style of motorcycle racing leather” modeled on her own body and were exhibited last year at Gertrude Street Art Space. “ The large prints were to scale, so when looking at the exhibition people could imagine being in the company of such a suit on a chick who is 5’2”, jokes LeAmon.

Her visual art practice “ explores narratives, inherent within craft and design” and is underpinned by changing notions of desire. LeAmon’s design practice is featured in the inaugural landmark Lab3000 Biennale at the Melbourne Museum. A schmick, thought-provoking survey exhibition profiling the visionary students, mentors and industry professionals working with digital design across platforms from visual art, gaming, animation, motion picture production, web interfaces, print media, sound, manufacturing to clothing design.

“Design’ is a word commonly misused in the community”, LeAmon notes “ Design is often used in reference to polished products, images and notions of good style or taste” she adds, “In fact some of the most inspirational design I come across looks a little awkward. But it packs a punch as far as ideas and its ability to shape the way we behave or think. “ That said, I have also been seduced by thousands of motorbikes” she quips. “Attraction is a strange thing- my days are simply made more pleasurable by a good looking bike.”

Like new media art trailblazer Patricia Piccinini, LeAmon’s fetish-like images speak volumes about the convergence of digital design and art, of what is possible and what is real. This year her simple idea has had momentous consequences. After some diligent prospecting LeAmon found herself invited to a real life “concept pitch” at the tables of Ducati executives in Italy. The possibility of manufacturing customised girly motorcycle wear beckoned.

Not one to avoid risk taking, LeAmon took her sublime simple idea to heart and beyond digital limits.” I recall getting extremely nervous the day before the pitch. I started to doubt the relevance of the meeting and my ability to communicate the concepts” she explains, “I asked my artist friends Nat and Ali who happened to be in Italy at the time to hang out with me at key traffic intersections around Milan. They recorded me from afar while I ran up to motorcyclists and asked if I could kiss their motorcycles”, blushes LeAmon.

”We did this for about 5 hours. It appeared a little absurd at the time but I knew that we were on to something. At the meeting the next day I presented the DVD and my images not knowing how it would be received “, she laughs. Today, the slightly embarrassed artist has garnered an industrial design contract with an Italian Motorcycle label styling leatherwear and helmets.

“Perhaps, it was mirroring the Italian’s unutterable love for their products and tapping into a culture fuelled by desire” reflects LeAmon, “regardless the meeting turned into something greater than I could ever have anticipated”. On her absurdist approach to art and design she waxes,” It is on occasions such as this that I couldn’t imagine working without the knowledge and thinking afforded by such spaces as art, philosophy and theory, the context of the corporate world makes such connections visible. I think many artists and designers forget this stuff and try to hold on too tightly in lieu of taking risks”

Lab3000 is itself a beautifully designed and immersive exhibition with a profusion of similar and different inspirational stories like LeAmon’s. Witness cutting edge design visionary’s who are enabling their simple ideas into the outer limits of digital.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tropical Fruits- Lismore Queer - INTERVIEWS

Interview- Brett Paradise, November 2004

If Tropical Fruits, the Lismore based Queers events organisation were a drink, it would probably be a flamboyant mango daiquiri laced with bananas, strawberries, lashings of white spirits, served in a pineapple, garnished with a huge red hibiscus flower and a hot pink flamingo swizzle stick. Drinks that make you troppo too will be flowing from the bars at this summer’s fruitiest New Years Eve event as the pretty young dance party turns “Sweet Sixteen”.

The Northern Rivers district has never been the same since a group of feisty funsters unleashed their madness, mayhem and pulsating music onto the lashings of local queers from hill and dale, and for 16 years seduced waves of dance party émigrés from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and overseas. Tropical Fruits is a party like no other and recent competitors haven’t been able to simulate nor mimic, the true spirit that has made this organisation a fruitilicious cornerstone in the city-centric national queer events calendar.

Tropical Fruits is feted for its New Years Eve fanfares of frivolous festivities, frantic dancing and feast of flesh from feral to fetishy to fastidious (not too mention the troppo “play” tents, very carnivalesque!). It is well known to locals as the quintessential organisation with its finger on the pulse of queer, a pulse that crosses the divide of town, country and coastal. To many city slicker southerners like me it came as huge surprise and great joy to discover that Tropical Fruits is more than just a New Years Eve party.

After ten years of saying, “One day, I'm going to a Tropical Fruits party”; I was finally doing it. Hard Labour at Repentence Creek is a signature local’s event. It felt like the night before Christmas when I was five years old. For the first time in eons I felt like a party virgin again, my goosebumps had goosebumps. I knew it wouldn’t be the Hordern or Shed 14 or the Brisbane RNA grounds, I knew it would be hybrid, I knew it would be flagrant, fragrant even and very different.

I was staying at a friend’s sprawling Dunoon homestead, a bed and breakfast haven. After feeding our friend’s dogs, mulching the veggie garden, turning the compost heap I had a long soothing soak in an outdoor bath steeped in essential oils beneath the sparkling Southern Cross, amidst the waft of jasmine. We burned some Nag Champa incense, donned our glad rags, quiffed our Mohawks, tied up our ponytails, strapped on our chaps and frocked up to the funk on the CD player. Phew, it’s hard work getting ready for Hard Labour!

We hit the dirt roads that were more like rocky goat tracks, where all road signs seem to lead to Mullumbimby. We found our way to the quaint local hall transformed by lights, thumping sounds and a gaggle of party go-getters. We found a cranking convergence of eclectic queers, awestruck tourists and eager seachangers. The Byron hinterland is transformative. Repentance Creek is awesomely different.

One this summery eve of the imminent and dreaded federal election, the ghosts from the hall’s decades of country-dances, balls, Christian RSL meets and local’s fetes boogied on the old wooden boards with all and sundry Homo’s. Men, women, young and young at heart who lived for one night like there was no tomorrow.

We were set adrift in an alchemical sea of people from Lismore, Bangalow, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and foreign shores who were vibed and peachy keen to meet, greet, wax magical and bust moves in the lush tropical foothills of the Byron hills. The air, spiked with eucalypt, tea tree and spring wildflowers made it even more magical. We were spiked with a verdant glee. If Hard Labour at Repentence Creek is anything to go by New Years Eve is gonna rock, lick, swish, sashay, salt, gulp troppo! Happy New Year!!

Tropical Fruits Unpeeled
Interview- Brett Paradise

How did Tropical Fruits begin?

It started all very humbly sixteen years ago. Two guys, two girls and a bottle of very nice gin met at a pub in Ballina and thought up the name The Tropical Fruits for a new local social group. They wanted to create a newsletter that would let everyone know what was happening around the region. So began the Fruit Juice Newsletter. The troppo mayhem had started.

At first it was small parties and dinners at locals houses and “friendly” restaurants. The very first organised party was at Broken Head Community Hall (near the now famous, no, infamous Kings Beach).

How is Tropical Fruits different to the usual suspects?

Being a smaller community gives us a much stronger sense of family. As a family we love visits from our distant relatives and always go out of our way to make everyone feel at home. Unlike capital cities, the money, the venues and the infrastructure aren’t here. If we want to get together and have a good time as only the GLBTI community can we needed to create it ourselves. Volunteers put in incredible amounts of effort to create opportunities for us to party. We have also been lucky to have a very diverse community with a good balance of women and men. Although many of us are all for the capital cities, time in the country makes for a more relaxed and friendly attitude to life.

Tropical Fruits today?

The survival of Fruits is dependent on being able to change and develop as the communities do. We are also focused on encouraging and supporting our community into development. It is certainly a fact that many of us, who have since become “locals”, were attracted to this region largely because of the existence of Fruits. So our focus is really to create opportunities for our community to get together, to party, to relax, to grow and socialise. We want to focus on doing what we do well and try not out growing beyond our local communities needs and wants.

In December we will be opening our new office in Lismore. We have found a great space that will give us the ability to have a clubhouse. A Community centre that people can come by for a cuppa, a chat and information. We are calling it “The Fruit Bowl”. Already we have yoga, art and interest groups starting and soon hope to have free computer and Internet access for members.

Tropical Fruits is more than a terrific New Years Eve Party?

We are well known for the New Year’s Parties, but anyone that is a true Fruit will tell you their favourite parties are at Repentance Creek hall in the Byron hinterland. A quaint little country is the venue for a dance experience you’ll never forget. This year our Easter weekend and October Labour Day (NSW) were both at Repentance Creek.

We try lots of different venues so it’s always best to check our web site to check the where and when of our next event. Throughout the years we have organised dinners, BBQs, picnics, fair, trivia, skating, live bands; the list goes on….

Lismore has become the spiritual hometown for Tropical fruits, Why is this?

Lismore is the biggest town in the region from Grafton to Tweed. It’s quite central in the Northern Rivers, so everyone comes to Lismore at some point whether they like it or not. Many of our members are in the Northern Rivers Region but many more are from all over Australian and quite a few international members, most of these members visit the region regularly for various reasons. Tropical Fruits has survived because the community wants it enough to work for it. Its future has looked bleak a few times over the years, but when faced with the possibility of it all disappearing forever, the family come through and made it stronger again.

Who are your brother and sister groups?

We are trying to support any non-profit organizations that are in the interest of the GLBTI community. This year we made links with The Young Lions, a gay and lesbian youth group set up in Murwillumbah. We donated money to send them down to Mardi Gras this year. We have also a close relationship with the local Radical Faeries.

Really we’ll support any event of group that is of interest to the GLBTI community. That is that it is supportive of or community in some way or provides a service that our members appreciate. We certainly aren’t about to support anything that’s just about making money.

NYE 2005?

It’s our second year at the Lismore showground in 2005, so that has meant that this year we are going into it with a little more knowledge about what to expect. Last year all of those involved organising and volunteering did an amazing job putting together a party that ended up being the biggest GLBTI party in Australia. We truly didn’t see that coming. What was most impressive from our point of view was that although some people were working for many hours, days or even weeks and were at time stretched very thin we never broke and everyone thought all the work was worthwhile at the end.

If you were impressed earlier this year, 2005 will blow your mind. (If not your mind, then hopefully something else...). We won’t give away all of the surprises in store for party goers, but to wet your appetite, let’s just say that midnight will not be missed by anybody!

This year we are holding Carnivalesque, an art exhibition event at the show grounds. If you need a break from the three packed dance spaces you can take a wander into the showground art and craft pavilion and revel in some our talented queer artists’ work. You can vote for your favourite talent and give then a chance at the $500 prize money.

The camping area at the showground is really going to take off this year. It’s like a little camp village that just pops up out of nowhere. Yes, there are showers and toilets.

In previous years the fabulous after party was at the Winsome Hotel in Lismore, but sadly the Winsome is no more. Luckily we have scored a great venue even closer to the showground. At 6 am you can take a short stroll or if your legs won’t carry you an even short bus trip to the Australian Italo Club to wind down or keep dancing until 11am.

This year a free BBQ and funk band will tantalise the showground from 3pm until 6pm and then we start the beats with DJ’s until the wee hours.

Ticket sales so far?
Tickets are selling quicker than last year already. Most of the early bookings are coming from furthest away, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. All signs are that is going to be another big unforgettable NYE night so we suggest you get in early.

Interview- Michael Gurr, August 2004

Michael Gurr is in the business of writing powerfully passionate and polemical theatre. His journey as a dramatist is still unfolding. It has served him well during the last 20 years as international audiences have continued to lap up and laud Gurr’s brand of irreverent, complex and delightfully entertaining plays. On the eve of the opening of his new play Julia 3; Gurr is quietly confident that this very contemporary dark and brooding epistle will strike a chord with audiences who like Gurr love a challenge.

Gurr cut his razor sharp teeth at Playbox the spiritual home of edgy cerebral and difficult theatre. Playbox has nurtured Gurr and the careers of some of Australia’s finest playwrights including Hannie Rayson, Michael Gow, Frank Hardy, Stephen Sewell, Tobsha Learner and Louis Nowra. His prolific, ever poetic and difficult plays including Sex Diary of an Infidel, Jerusalem, and The Simple Truth cemented Gurr’s reputation as a writer wunderkind.

“I don’t write plays with an audience or audience empathy in mind, I think that is a trap writers fall into, I’m more interested in writing about distinctive characters with interesting lives”, he says stridently. Gurr loves to underscore his plays with contemporary social issues that sound heavy, ashen or tirelessly bleak on paper but are phoenix like and electric on stage. He is courted by theatre buffs for his complex characters and equally complex language use that illuminate his plays, the plight of human frailty and help us navigate the good fight.

“Julia arrived one day as an image that just wouldn’t go away”, he says of his new plays central protagonist, “She is very wealthy and very privileged, she has just buried her husband, has three lovers and she has a ridiculous amount of time on her hands”, says Gurr.

“ My characters arrive like strangers, I never consciously base them on people I know and they seem to sit in my compost heap while I daydream for a long time”, says the writer sheepishly revealing his craft. He explains, “ The compost heap is quite simply everything you've ever done, everyone you've ever met, everything you've ever heard. It all sits in there and churns around and comes out in a new form”. Gurr laughs ironically, “ I don’t know anyone remotely like Julia”.

“Julia presides over her late husband’s charity and with the help of her three handsome male lovers who become her principle beneficiaries”, says Gurr churlishly, “ the handsome young writer Charlie (Todd McDonald), the art forgery detective Leon (Peter Curtin), the scientist, Joe (Greg Stone) Julia decides to play god”, explains Gurr.

Julia is a powerful woman who presciently shatters the irksome archetype of the upwardly mobile doyen of the A list dinner party set and Jo Bailey coiffured socialite to reveals a multilayered tour de force and aspirant humanitarian.

“Julia will surprise everyone with the quirky choices she makes, her money and her rarified privilege”, says Gurr mawkishly, “ You see, I don’t want to reveal the twist of the play. “ But what I will say is that she sits there with this soft avalanche of disaster that falls onto her table each day, all the horror headlines about atrocities in Africa, Iraqi prisons and so forth and she decides to do something about it. It is something very, very, very radical”.

PH: 9685 5111
8-25 September

QUEEN Spirited - Wigs and Drugs and Rock n ’Roll - INTERVIEWS

It’s a Kinda Magic is one of those alchemical song titles that has become an anthem for a generation. The league of solid fans, diehards old and newish, who have remained steadfast to the tried and true transformative power of "the world’s greatest rock band, QUEEN. "

All the energy and wizardry of Queen has been harnessed in a high rotation musical that continues to inspire and amaze awestruck audiences and according to Pesco a new generation of young internet driven queeny rock disciples.

The atavistic Craig Pesco stars as the band’s frontman, Freddy Mercury. He says of the gay rockmeister, “Freddy is like no other rock frontman, he’s in a world unto his own, he’s not David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger, he’s larger than rock and he moves with extraordinary physical strength”.

Craig pauses. He ponders the aerodynamic Mercury adding, "Freddy’s influences are from ballet, he was fascinated by Ballet, combined with a raw sexuality, strong spirituality and he blended with a vocal range like no one before or since.”

Pesco both parodies and pays homage to Mercury in the show and brings to the role his own kinda magic. Since it first toured in 1998, this stage musical under the fated direction of Pesco has transmogrified a hackneyed musical genre, the tribute band.

Under Pesco’s vision, physical dexterity, unique voice and his guitar laden ensemble have created a spectacular stage tour de force that has all the originality, artistry and authenticity of it’s avatar, the mercurial Mercury himself.

Craig laughs when I suggest he is channeling Mercury, “Funny you should say that I’ve had audience members come up to me during autograph signings and say exactly the same thing”. Craig looks into space as if he is ruminating on the metaphysical realm, “ I don’t know, but what I do know is its very gratifying that these are people who saw Queen at Wembley or on tour in Europe and feel like they’ve relived an original Queen concert phenomenon.”

Four costume changes, the top 40 hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, Champions and I Want To Break Free accompanied by high energy hands in the air choreography bring to light the ever changing persona of Mercury. Pesco admires Mercury’s fearlessness in public and private in traversing the sexy spectrum of masculinity, “his gay sexuality and campness was integral to the music but it was his love of rock and mankind that was his greatest love", says Pesco.

He quips, “ I like camping around in the pink sweater and wig in I Want to Break Free but it’s the black latex cossie where I feel the sexiest. I like to wear lots of flesh, it’s raw.” Freddy too liked it raw too and my god that wonderful hairy chest (Craig is clippered!)

I ask Pesco about Mercury’s hybrid final album just before he died from an AIDS related illness, Made in Heaven, “ this was the album that had the biggest impact on me", reveals Pesco, "it was made just before he died in 1991 and it has such an intense spirituality, He’d traveled from all the Tolkeinesque, dungeons and dragons stuff from his career outset, lived an amazing life and then before he passed away, his songwriting, his wisdom, his turns of phrase and insights, well they’re golden”

Pesco like Mercury, inspires too, it's something magical to do with both physical and metaphysical energies. His sell out tours around Australia, Europe and Canada bear witness to a kinda magic that IS the spirit of Queen.

 The Most Sensational Queen Tribute Ever Staged
 Direct From The UK
 Returns to Australia in 2004
 Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne
 Friday and Saturday, August 20 & 21 , 2004
 Tickets available from Ticketek Phone: 132 849 ON SALE NOW!

Guy Bourdin - INTERVIEWS

Drop Dead Gorgeous

The Fashion Photography of Guy Bourdin

French Photographer Guy Bourdin was one of the world’s most famous fashion photographers. Today, almost thirteen years after his death he is remembered as one of the most influential image makers of our time. His compelling, hypnotic and disturbing images of 1970’s and 1980’s fashion abandoned the constraints and traditions of ‘reality’ fashion advertising and paved the way for staged photographs steeped in theatricality.

Rather than depicting famous shoes or advertising products as the icon or motif, Bourdin was fascinated by the trashy tragic magic of the beautiful-often faceless- models who inhabit his photographs. Bourdin reveled in their deepest psycho-sexual worlds and his clients- including Bloomingdale's and shoe magnate Charles Jordan- lapped his sado-chic style feverishly for over two decades.

The groundbreaking work of Guy Bourdin is the subject of a vast survey exhibition that relocates his extraordinary legacy of commercial photography within the context of art history. His brooding and anarchic images proliferate with death pouts, white skin, rigor-mortis-glam and razor sharp cheek bones. He conjured images that have inspired a new generation of artists and commercial photographers who prefer to stage photography rather than employ it as a reality byte . Fashion photographers like Steve Meisel and visual artists like Cindy Sherman, Bill Henson and Tracey Moffat all nod to Bourdin.

Bourdin adored the Surrealists- Magritte, Dali and Meret Oppenheim- and photographers like Lee Miller who delved lock, stock and camera barrel into the narcotic realm of dreams, nightmares, phantasms and the meta-metaphysical.  Bourdin was especially influenced by his mentor, Man Ray. During the 1920's Man Ray was prolific artist and leading exponent of New York and Paris Surrealism who- in time- earned added notoriety and controversy as a long standing contributor to fashion magazines like French Vogue during the 1950’s.

Like Man Ray and the Surrealists, Bourdin was captivated by the morbid, the abject, by the horrors of hallucinogenic reverie and the darkest magic of dreams. He cast his models into settings that were as moist as wet dreams and as evocative as daydreams. The beautiful men and women were strewn asunder in high fashion garments and shoes. If their faces were not concealed by something resembling a mask or a prop, their gaze was amphetamine addled. It was always that day after narcotics look that Bourdin emulated; coming down hard after a night at Studio 54, the Roxy Music after party, the Andy Warhol Soho opening. The fictions he created with the lens had more to do with the imaginary, the possibilities for dramatic tension than they did with advertising jargon or commercial spin of the day.

Like his Surrealist forebears Bourdin turned his nose at the elitism of fashion photography; its unrelenting pictorialism, it's conservative images, it's dreary realities. He was influential amongst peers likes Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and Sarah Moon. His inspiration is ever unfolding. His style and form appropriated by Madonna’s artistic team her recent 2003 America film clip, a clever juxtaposition of  Dubbleya's conservativism and war propaganda with a kinky hybrid world, the underbelly of Middle America. 
If you adore intoxicating exhibitions do a line with Bourdin.

Guy Bourdin
16 March – 6 June 2004

NGV International
Guy Bourdin is presented by L’Oréal Paris and the L’Oréal MelbourneFashion Festival. In association with Vogue Australia and Qantas. 

Admission: Adult $10; Concession $7; Family $23.50 NGV Members Adult $5; Family $11.25

eX de Medici - Tattoo Tattoo - INTERVIEWS

Skin Scribe for the Tattoo Tribe

PAUL ANDREW gets up (a little too close) and personal with the eX.
Interview- eX de Medici, April 2004

They say a picture tells a thousand words. A tattoo tells ten thousand more. 

Not only does a tattoo hurt, it dances, breathes and screams out to people like no other image can. Behind every pulsating tattoo are tall tales and true. Behind every tattoo is a tattooist who creates the intricate fascinating skin-pics that breath life and vibrancy into these private stories, proverbs, tributes and anecdotes. 

eX de Medici is a Canberra-based visual artist and one of Australia’s most respected tattoo auteurs. She defies categorisation from both the tattoo establishment and the contemporary art scene. Her mercurial approach to storytelling and deft image making is transgressive. She resists the conventional boundaries of narrative, painting, performance art, tattoo art and installation art. 

eX de Medici is a passionate artist who understands it is the collision of conventions that creates the original and the hybrid. Her reputation in both these fields attracts clients and commissions from around the country. eX has a cult following who love her unique graphic and conceptual repertoire that is at once dark, macabre, tribal, erotic, mystical and spectacular.

This survey exhibition comprises drawings, paintings, photographs, colour laser prints, photocopies, blood swabs and frottage. It provides an extraordinary insight into the mind of a visionary and a rare look behind the scenes - the spookily morbid and gory aspects-  of tattooing. The exhibtion showcases what the artist terms, “the detritus of tattooing, like blood swabs, these are things which fascinate me.”

Hundreds of her tattoo clients leave her studio satisfied with terrific, terrifying and telling tattoos. They love her kinky inky insignias, the encrypted skin she conjures. As a tattooist, eX has the rare privilege not afforded to many artists working with traditional image making genres. Her works are fleshy and demanding, they beckon and beguile on the streets, for inquisitive audiences who want to hear what the tattoo has to say, what story it has to tell or what symbolism it evokes.

The stories this artist narrates with needles and permanent inks are not mundane tales, this is the art of a magical biographer. Her role and her constant challenge is to conjure a creative spin that people wish to tell on their own biceps, calves, torso, butt, cock, breasts or anywhere that tens of thousands of needle pricks can permeate (ouch) and where a reader can delve or inquire.

Her success can be attributed to her unapologetic and repellent approach to the fashion trends and fashionistas within the art and tattoo establishments. eX is equally passionate about painting with unusual media as she is with traditional media; inks derived from mangrove resin or calfskin instead of canvas are examples and have been used in the formidable portrait of Midnight Oil currently on exhibition at the National portrait Gallery. 

Also included in the exhibition are the ethereal prints made from the blood on clients flesh from the thousands of needle punctures, as is a magnificent series of highly detailed watercolours of insects and their microscopic world that she produced during a seven month residency at The Australian National Insect Collection. She says proudly, “in art, this form is not considered art, which is always an attractive reason to get curious”.
This quotable quote sums up her artistic ethos and the survey will appeal and inspire anyone intrigued by the extraordinary and the extreme.

eX de Medici @MPRG
Saturday 10 April – Sunday 23 May 2004
Dunns Road, Civic Reserve, Mornington (03) 59 75 43 95
Adm: Adults $3.75 Children $1.65 Members Free
Open Tuesday – Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm

Noel Tovey - Little Black Bastard - INTERVIEWS

(Archive Copy 2004)
Little Black Bastard is the poignant monologue by arts elder Noel Tovey at Melbourne’s Carlton Courthouse Theatre.

Here is an excerpt from a post-performance interview with Noel Tovey on Thursday April 2004 for MCV (Melbourne Community Voice)


What an extraordinary life Noel, tell me something of the experiences in your life you didn’t script into the Little Black Bastard monologue?

Well in the first draft I didn’t tell or go into detail about my time on the streets as a street boy. You don’t get all of my petty criminal days in the play, in the book I do but not in the play. I was afraid of being vilified again I guess. There are some people and old friends who I have tried to encourage not to come to see my show they, people who are not aware of my early life.

I was also a very good ice-skater when I was very young.

Mixing with all the elite boys at school and I was taken into the elite locker room. It was at this time I’d invented this Rowan Scott Rowan character and I literally lived this alter ego.

Eventually the boys in the elite locker room found out that I was a street boy and they weren’t too friendly after that. So I always lived a double life, all my life growing up I’ve lived a double life, until just in the last few years, when I started to write my autobiography.

Also, I came home to Australia after living in London because my long term lover of 17 years died of an AIDS related disease. I had the doctor kill him actually. Today we use the word euthanase.

I went into hospital a short time later myself, not with any of that, in fact  I wouldn’t have the test for 2 years and finally I did, and of course I was negative, I knew I was.

I just knew, you know I would hold Dave and he would say, Can I sleep with you? and I would reply, ‘of course’. I’d hold him, this frail little body willing to live another day, with body fluids going all over me and never having time to put on gloves and all of that. Remembering of course that this was the early 1980’s when we didn’t know the nature of HIV infection and transmission. It was really a bad time when dear friends would only put their hands through the door to shake our hands, they wouldn't come in. Dave’s own mother wouldn't come in, relax and have a cup of tea.

In fact at this time I helped set up the first AIDS training clinic in London at St Mary’s Hospital along with a young New Zealand psychologist and a nursing sister from the STD clinic where we brought people for workshops about HIV; priest nuns, doctors, nurses, anyone, everyone, whoever was interested.

How did you and Dave meet?

I was in Kenneth Tynan’s original production of Ol' Calcutta in the West End. Dave came down from Yorkshire for a job interview. Ol' Calcutta was in preview and it looked like it was going to be taken off stage by the police.

Dave bought a ticket from a tout outside and came to see the show.  I spoke to Dave before the show; he was talking to my friend “the blonde barmaid “, and he was still there after the show. His hotel was just near where I lived with a wel known actress of the time and I said why don’t you come to my place and have supper so he came home, and to cut a long story short he stayed the night.

I remember Dave said look I’ve never done this before and I said look its easy and then we were supposed to meet up the next night and I stayed up till 3 o'clock in the morning and there was this tentative knock on the front door and Dave had come back to see me once again. Then just as quickly as he’d appeared he disappeared and eventually he started writing me a string of fan mail, beautiful love letters.

He didn’t give me a return address because he was from Yorkshire and he didn’t want anyone to know he was gay. He came down to London eventually and got a job, I actually found him a room. At the end of the first week he said look if I can’t live with you I’m moving back to Yorkshire so he moved into live with me and we we’re together for 17 wonderful years.

Do you still have those letters, do you read them from time to time?

Some of them yes.

Maybe now I could read all of them.

After Dave died I kept finding things which reminded me of him, and I used to see his handwriting everywhere, and it was very hard for me.

When you live with someone experience so much together, and we had a business together in time; an art gallery called The Odeon in Soho for many years. We still talk. Even now before the show I talk to him. I don’t hear his voice.

It is reassuring to know that if I’m having a problem even if it’s not at the theatre or some other thing I’ll discuss it with him. Luckily for me, in my family; another thing which I don’t discuss in the play, my sister is a (psychic) medium and my grandmother is a medium and I’m a not a medium in that strict sense. Psychics always tell me however I will be a mystic in my old age.
I think there are certain elements of the word love that is just that. It is energy. It is. I've studied comparative religions and I've studied Buddhism and I’m a great believer in Eastern philosophy and this is the other thing that saved me is that I believe in my ancestors and I believe they are the energy and there is something outside me that has never let me go and even though it May sound horrible what I've been through they always pick me up.

What was it like being a gay man in the 1950’s, the Menzie’s McCarthy era?

Fear was one of the main experiences and that fear drove one to be really excessive, it was because you knew, if you were gay you were walking this tightrope and this would lead to wild, wild parties. Benny cocktails all the time and also being beaten up by the bodgies.

Poof bashing was a big thing so we’d all go down to a café in St. Kilda called Sollies.  Little Sollie was this great personality, rather like when Val had Val's Lounge in Swanston street, both amazing meeting places for gays and lesbians and others of the day, and they, the bashers would wait around, groups of bodgies, on the street waiting for you to come out. So we used to go to St Kilda in groups of our own to deliberately flaunt my dear. I’m mean that was the only way.

Flaunting was defying. Defiance.

I have a friend who is now a guru in San Francisco with long silver hair and caftans, the whole shabang. In those days, he was outrageous too, he made himself a pair of lime green trousers with a floating panel off each leg and would walk down Collins street with these things flapping in the breeze you know, inviting people to react, to observe and notice I guess.

Talking of flaunting just now reminds me of the Arts Ball in Melbourne, which ran for many years in the 1950’s, it was the one night of the year when everyone and anyone could get into a taxi dressed in drag. I also remember one year when a friend, Max rented the Southern Aurora train and there were twenty drag queens and their boyfriends in the sleepers and we had a wild party between here and Sydney.

These are just some of the many things you did flagrantly in acts of defiance.

You, we always, knew the police where at the other end waiting in Sydney, that was a part of the thrill.

Another 50’s example, a great case in fact was what we termed the ‘ Wedding of the Painted Doll’. Two gay friends got married in Kelvin Hall in Little Collins Street. They  invited ten bridesmaids and ten matrons of honour and

somehow, The Truth newspaper got to hear about it- our fake priest and all the other goings on- and everyone got out of it on Benny cocktails and we were all doing high kicks from here to heaven knows. As it so happened a photo of “the bride” doing a high kick was published and the Truth headline the following week read; “Wedding of the Painted Doll”, it was great we thought, being noticed again for who we really are.

People went out of their ways to defy that’s what I mean when we deliberately flaunt it to challenge the laws because it is our sovereign right to exist.

Forgive my utter ignorance Noel but what is a bodgie?

Bodgies and widgies, louts and loutesses of the 1950’s rockers and rollers.

And Benny cocktails?

Benny cocktails, well they were made from Benzedrine inhalers. Inhalers for breathing that also produced an amphetamine effect. These inhalers among others were melted down and the Benzedrine which was one of the strongest of all- the ‘speeds’ back in those days - and it was this melted down concoction mixed with copious amounts of cherry brandy and was called a Benny cocktail. You could stay awake for days, to make those wild parties and days last so much longer, the come down was pretty bad I have to say, mmmm yes, I remember that well too.

For the full interview with Noel Tovey see INTERVIEWS- ELDERS: Long Lives, Well Lived.