ABOUT

Glass Central Canberra is the blog of Megan Bottari: glassie, writer, free-range curator.

Not only has Glass Central Canberra already celebrated passing the decade ‘landmark’, but we’re also particularly pleased to have been selected by the National Library of Australia for preservation on their Pandora archive – criteria being for online publications of cultural significance and long-term research value. Gotta love that!!

megsie mugshot

Meantime you can also find us over at www.prisonersofthecrown.com

 

  On the off-chance that you may have neglected to read the manifesto files, the Editorial will remain on this page partly as a reference and partly to serve notice à la the nature of the site/blog.  

Editorial

27 05 2007

GLASS CENTRAL, CANBERRA

 The establishment of this blog was triggered by a number of factors, not the least being a paper that I stumbled across last year while researching a (not entirely)unconnected subject. The paper in question, given by Sue Rowley during the Ausglass Conference of 1993, presented a hypothetical sketch of the Australian Glass Community and it instantly struck a familiar chord.  Indeed it appeared to be an astonishingly prescient description of the (Canberra) glass community circa 2007!! So much so that I reckon it warrants a reprint:

 

Australian Glass Community 

(i)‘The glass community’ is likely to be a relatively cohesive community, marked out with clearly defined boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, somewhat isolationist in its attitudes to other art forms.

(ii)‘The glass community’ is likely to be internationalist rather than nationalist or local in outlook.

(iii) Trends in glass are likely to reflect and respond to those in architecture and interior design, more so than those of contemporary arts or even other craft practices. This is a manifestation of a closer allegiance of glass practice to the public and institutional sector than to the domestic domain, both in terms of production (Jam Factory, Meat Market, and art schools) and consumption (commissions, wholesale, architectural, design and manufacturing collaborations.)

(iv) The primary values of ‘the glass community’ are likely to be derived from a modernist formal aesthetic, a craft-based respect for technical virtuosity and sensitivity to the medium and a scientific understanding of the properties of glass. The properties of the material and the ways in which glass is invested with cultural meaning are highly suggestive of a keen interest in abstraction, in the qualities of light, in its relations with the scientific modes of investigation, a cool intellectualism which is strongly associated with certain aspects of modernism in the visual arts. And this appears to be borne out in the practice.

(v) The use of narrative, of cultural meaning, experience and identity, of memory and history, whilst not beyond the range of either the material or individual practitioners, appears not to be the subject of collective and sustained critical investigation by the glass community. Forays into post-modernism are likely to be banal appropriations of a ‘look’ of decorative pastiche, ironic eclecticism and popular culture allusion, but is likely to paper over the critical enquiring intellectual stance of post-modernism towards art and culture. Heaven knows what will happen when post-colonial theory is translated into a design aesthetic! Still that’s probably a few years down the track yet.

(vi) ‘The glass community’ is likely to be a conservative community, protecting privilege and resisting subversive incursions from other art forms and intellectual practices. It’s likely to place a strong value on its ‘disciplinary’ integrity. But this enforcement of the ‘discipline’ is likely to function as a mode of control and a means of reinforcing the existing power structures within the glass community. In turn, its recognition of excellence is likely to be along a narrow band of criteria. A great deal of the practice is likely to be a ‘normal science’ – that is, pushing out the parameters that are constituted from within existing technical and formal parameters.

(vii) Where are the sources of renewal for such a community? I guess at three:

(a)    International – European and American – trends in glass, which presumably respond to their specific cultural milieu in varying ways.

(b)   Architecture and contemporary design, especially in relation to the public domain.

(c) Insurgency. The generation which in a sense constitutes the founding fathers of glass are likely to seek to extend their authority indefinitely or at least to nominate their disciples as successors: but experience from other disciplines and art forms suggests that new leaders tend to emerge from previously marginalized areas of thought and practice. This can be a bitter time, and seems to be especially so in tight knit communities which have formed their sense of cohesion, identity and value around a core of disciplinary values which appear to be at stake in changes of leadership: concurrent shifts of paradigm, leadership and values can mean painful upheavals. 

 

 Well, golly gosh.   

I was once told at art school that ‘glassies’ (students in the glass workshop) had been given the not entirely flattering nickname, ‘the penguins’ – “because you lot always waddle around together in one big group, quacking (or whatever noise it is that penguins make) away in unison.” Tragic but true, it must be said. It pays, in glass, to toe the company line. Not that anybody would confess to that – on the contrary the hierarchy will assure all and sundry that there is a healthy respect for, and indeed encouragement of, counter points of view. Well, at the risk of being vulgar, that’s absolute bollocks of course. Canberra is classically cabalistic, frankly, and disaffection is ‘discouraged’. We have a rigid culture of court favouritism and slippered bullying, where success is predicated on anointment as one of a very selectively groomed few, and wannabes are loath to damage their chance of acceptance into the rarefied establishment fold. I had often wondered why people just sat through meetings in absolute silence while the serial acolytes mouthed incorporated approbation and obsequious blandishments – I soon found out, of course. Anyone foolish enough to venture an unsanctioned or, god forbid, unsolicited, independent view is very swiftly knocked back into place. (Snarled at, even! There is obviously a very loose interpretation of ‘respect’ at play.) It’s pure Animal Farm, of course – all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.  So while it might be horribly disappointing, it’s hardly surprising that people are careful not say anything out of place (well, not in the open, or on the record, at any rate.) Late last year I was collared by the Tom Cruise of Australian Glass and berated over remarks that I’d made – allegedly reported to him by ‘eminent people’ (goodness!!) – apropos the appointment of the Director of the new Canberra Glassworks (a misquotation, as it happened.) He rounded off with the warning “This is a very small community and if you want to be part of it you’d better start watching what you say.” To which I replied “Well, actually, I already am part of this community and you know what?  My opinions are as valid as anybody else’s.”  

I’m not too keen on threats – and they’re usually hopelessly counter-productive at any rate. I’d already been thinking for some time about starting a blog, so the incident really just cemented the determination to kick-start an (authentically) open forum that would give voice to, and highlight, the rich diversity that is the wider Canberra Glass scene. The vibrant Fringe, so to speak – as opposed to the relentlessly promoted ‘usual list of suspects’ who are routinely trotted out, ad infinitum. Not that their work isn’t in the least deserving, but it’s not all that there is and the repetition becomes a little tedious. This is an era focused firmly on market convention, and the attendant conservatism leads to a very stultified and joyless artistic scene indeed.  It’s time to mount the breeches and arc up the insurgency. Otherwise we’re looking down the barrel of an alarmingly inbred and creatively bankrupt scenario indeed.  I’m going to leave all the pompous, bombastic pontificating to those who clearly profit from it, and train my sights instead on anything and everything that genuinely catches my roving eye and curious attention…

Megan Bottari, 2007.

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5 responses

10 06 2007
glasscentralcanberra

See Manifesto (in categories) for comments

6 06 2010
Sergio Redegalli

[Please note that the following comment has been edited by gcc, having been deemed defamatory. While we defend Sergio Redegalli’s right to an opinion, we can’t in conscience publish his unsubstantiated allegations (of which we have no knowledge whatsoever). n(Ed)]

Now that the xxx of xxx is finally complete the xxx about xxx even being allowed to be part of the xxx needs to be discussed. Apart from the issue that the xxx would be better suited to an expo of the 70′s using plastics.

The use of the glass is far from exciting being the most basic that could be produced and Toughened because of xxx’s xxx architectural glass development and that the only company that would bend and toughen the glass had very strict limitation on textural patterns. One of the main Sydney glass benders would xxx xxx xxx xxx due to passed (sic) xxx xxx to them by xxx and xxx xxx of the repeatedly xxx xxx glass.

If the powers that should have been supervising the tender process bothered to truely (sic) do some research into xxx’s past they would have found numerous times that xxx had gone into xxx xxx, xxx has many cover stories about his passed (sic) xxx, however anyone interested in knowing the truth can contact me and I will be very happy to either show you or direct you to the true history.

Apart from the fact that xxx was never and should never have been xxx to apply for this so called xxx work, the xxx reality is that the end product is no where near ground breaking in its final result. The xxx is xxx in keeping with Australian Standards, being only a single monolithic panel that has been tempered with no full edge support. I would not like to be around the day the xxx start xxx and xxx to the xxx.

To be very xxx about the issue of xxx’s past xxx xxx,xxx xxx xxx and xxx xxx xxx xxx the xxx xxx of the xxx xxx xxx were xxx fully aware of xxx’s past.

Regards,
Sergio Redegalli

[PS: If readers wish to public such material raw, they should run their own blog and cop the consequences. n(Ed)]

12 06 2010
Sergio Redegalli

Good to see that you placed my blog on line, even with all the XXXX’s I think the feeling still comes accross.
I will be sending G.C.C some extra news after I have confirmation that the tower of shame has already started falling from the sky.
Regards
Sergio Redegalli

12 06 2010
glasscentralcanberra

Yes, it still made intriguing reading.

And how prophetic!! We’re just waiting for some visuals. It’s been described to us as ‘kaput’. Lordy, lordy. How excitement. n(Ed)

12 01 2011
IS

Dear Sergio Redegalli,

I’ve been looking for you for a while, and is so glad to see you here!

I am an architect and has won an art proposal competition, and is currently doing the technical feasibility study prior to execution. It’s an outdoor art sculpture and I’ve encountered some technical problems. I am amazed by your cascading wave sculpture and your devotion to art glass. I sincerely wish to get some expertise advice from/ discussion with you.

It would be a great help if you could contact me at my email. Great thanks in advance!

Best Regards,
IS

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