This novel by Jennifer Mills is, among other things, about the weird and unexplained phenomenon of the disturbance to the chronology of time. Sam, the young female protagonist, experiences the condition and sees, literally, into the future. Dyschronia describes in disturbing and realistic ways the price of this ‘gift’, its harrowing demands and the tax it takes on the body. Sam must navigate her way through the visions – although they are more like physical presentations – and deal with the town-folks’ requests for more information.
Set in an unsettled future in a dying town, Dyschronia is narrated in each alternate chapter by the collective voice of its inhabitants. This Greek chorus effect shows us a world that has become acidic. The town has lost its industry and people are flailing to know how to stay afloat. There is the arrival of the new order who breed lies and propaganda about what’s on offer. What can the population do other than believe in what they’re told rather than look down the barrel of what is to come. Of course, this only increases their feelings of being let-down.
Quintessentially Australian, this novel’s canvas is broader than a country’s borders. Like On the Beach by Neville Shute, it encompasses a global sensibility and opens us to the vulnerability of all those who inevitably want answers.
Andreas Gursky has an eye for the ordinary and yet, his particular brand of observation transforms the ‘taken for granted’ properties in life and gives them a majestic quality that’s both confronting and thought-provoking. What are we to do with the beauty that comes from witnessing people’s working reality? How are we to take it in? And where on earth did all this stuff come from? It’s not ours, surely?
Here in lies Gursky’s talent. Because the photographs manage to captivate us, we want to look, we must see, and we are forced because of it, to acknowledge the glorious and ghastly contents.
Close Proximity is my title for what I think links Gursky’s pictures. Whether he is photographing inanimate objects or humans, a breathtaking conglomerative overwhelms here. Like other art I’m drawn to, the impact is contrary, with calming, static, even peaceful results. But, a ruse perhaps, Gursky is interested in keeping us looking. He doesn’t want us to put aside this actuality, he wants us to be present. And it is in this way that he strikes the perfect note, finds the right ingredient and then knows how to fuse it into one frame. We are privileged to see the things he has sort out. The fact that we don’t want to look away denotes a mark of brilliance.
Jane Rawson’s book From the Wreck is an unexpected gem. An original. With its well-drawn scenes from historical times – Australia in the mid-1800s – this is a story that unfolds with exquisite timing, revealing a complete picture that remains hauntingly with the reader for months after the cover is closed. It’s not just the writing here that’s good, but the idea of how the physical and mental intersect to produce the odd, the inexplicable and the effecting. The reader sees what’s happening and would like to step into the past to sort things out for the players without disturbing too much other than putting things right. It is, in this way, that the tension, balanced in the proper proportion, moves the story along.
Completely believable despite the mysterious and unexplainable presence at the narrative’s centre, it’s odd. And yet, in human terms, it makes sense. We know this kind of phenomenon – this cephalopod alien – even though we may not credit it real. We see it even though it may be beyond our powers of description. From the Wreck leaves us with an understanding of something at the core of how trauma sticks, and of how corrupting and malignant experiences get into our bodies and change our lives.
Michael Wolf loves to drill into a subject. He chooses a topic and captures it with both brutal honesty and determined calm. This results in pictures that are shamelessly arresting. Particularly unapologetic and fiercely unafraid, is his series, Architecture of Density. Here Wolf has depicted one of the more arresting visual realities of our modern world, the decidedly impersonal but unmistakably of people, high-density living.
The series, Architecture of Density, taken in Hong Kong, conjures a strange reaction in the onlooker. We are attracted, not only to the magnitude of the vision but to the colossus of these buildings. For anyone not accustomed to such concentrated living, seeing such a crowded and inhospitable housing-scape, is like viewing a current dystopia, unbelievable despite its bricks and mortar, although I am sure they are more towers of steel and concrete. We know people live in each of these apartments and yet the images, creating a kind of dual harbinger of thought and emotion, depict the existence of necessity. They are, in other words, bred from real-life complications while remaining to many of us unimaginable.
Other work by Michael Wolf provides just as substantial a bite. Here are a few to chew on: Industrial, 100 x 100, Informal Seating Arrangements and, a personal favourite, Corner Houses.
Sometimes there’s no explanation for how something makes you feel. Of course, marrying the land to your eye takes specify, some would say even technical nuance. It’s certainly a quality that requires the artist to hunt out form, after which immersion is necessary before a final distillation. What is captured in simplicity will be profoundly and wholly complex. Balance and depth will prove to be perfect.
The sense of it then, and only then, rises rather than distracts from an image. That’s what Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer has achieved here with Elemental Forms, a photographic series of landscape. She has done the work. Scoping for a particular structure, its configuration in space, in an instant you can interpret the scene, have it sink in and soften you. Let the simple form, textured but basic, have its effect. Let the lack of colour, the lines and shapes build their invitation to you in equal measure of push and pull. Let the sensation increase.
If you want to follow up with more, go here and here.
I have loved listening to The Dirty Three from the first time I heard their music.
This contribution, Toward the Low Sun, is no exception. The closest thing to improvised jazz in a rock form, it enters the soul through enlisting the brain. In the same way that absorbing un-metered beats and swirling notes in the very best of extemporised music does (it’s as if the notes are travelling through the musician as they’re playing) listening to this syntax of sound invites the mind to dance. A wonderful spool of sounds and lines and unclear rhythms, it’s the mesh that needs unravelling, the maze that needs walking, the terrain that needs to be covered. And, as you follow the bridges, and keep up with the disparities, as you catch the multitude of tonal chains and flutters, and feel the roll of percussive drums, you are in a visceral gateway. Soak up the nourishment, the harsh urban drill, the macabre perpetual eerie lilt. Go here to feast on some of their other albums: Ocean Songs, Horse Stories, and Cinder.