New Fiction: Caught by Karen-Anne Coleman

25 08 2009

We have started publishing serialised fiction here at the Woolf and Maus (yes, just like Charles Dickens) and to kick off our series we are very excited to launch Caught, by Karen-Anne Coleman (that’s actually me – so in some ways writing this post does feel rather like the royal ‘we’).

Caught is set in Sydney, and tells the story of a remarkable photographer and his even more remarkable camera, through the eyes of his friend and landlady, Katy. As Katy learns more about this mystical man who lives in her basement, she discovers that he has touched the lives of other people in her neighbourhood too – in more ways than she would care to know. Caught is about what we mean to one another, how we love and how we let one another live.

The first chapter of Caught is available below, free to download in pdf format. For the next instalment, please click back soon.

Please also leave a comment below if you liked this work, telling us why!

Cheers

Click here to download the first chapter of Caught:

Caught Chapter One by K A Coleman

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More from our modern JFK

12 08 2009

Since I wrote on Justin F. Kern’s photography over the weekend, the man himself responded with a small collection that shows just how the potential that I had eagerly anticipated in his increasingly sophisticated work is being realised. I had ask to see even more facets of our environment, and progressively complex ways of representing them. For the first time in this collection, sensuality genuinely bursts forth from his peach-coloured waves. Their hard, yet warm polymer surface offsets the organic tactility of his bark and tree trunks. Though they both focus on a curved surface, they juxtapose natural growth to man-made development, the adamantine and unyeilding to the brittle and crumbling, and two entirely different concepts of layering – one about decay (the revelation of new layers beneath dying others) and the other about intended revelation (where the creator only ‘lifts the skirts’ on the creation as much as s/he is willing to). The rainbow effect of lighting as it bursts through the spectrum of trees is breathtaking as it unifies some of these opposing elements. In this image, domesticated nature and artificial light come together to highlight the beauty of both human and natural forms of creation. Finally, the sailboat, so perfectly framed by it’s view from the jetty, is merely a destination at the end of the eye’s delightful meandering through an appreciation of the surfaces that have lead it there.

Bravo JFK! These are stunning.

I think it’s soon time for an exhibition.





Snapshots of an Aussie JFK

9 08 2009

Justin F. Kern (JFK) is a lanky bloke with a loud laugh and eerily spider-like limbs, which, until recently I had only seen wrapped around a camera when the man was attending weddings, ceremonious birthdays and other noteworthy occasions. Watching him during these functions, as he leapt, dived and squeezed himself into a range of necessary positions for the ‘ideal shot’, it was easy to tell that he had a good eye for framing, aesthetic and that most elusive of qualities – the human element. This final ephemeral ingredient is always the defining factor in taking a ‘technically good’ photograph into the realms of magic. Having said that, working with a bride and groom, or beaming flower girl, it often seems that anyone with a big enough lens at these ‘special occasions’ can be taking these kinds images ‘filled with meaning’ – so what is the difference between a photographer and an amateur having a good day?

The debate goes back to the beginning of photography – just ask William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer photographer of the 1800s, or looked at another way, a very rich man with spare time and money up his sleeve to spend on a hobby. Was our dear Talbot, now revered as one of the grandfather’s of photography, a professional or amateur? And if he did become a professional, there must have been some time when he was still practicing as an amateur, training his skill – yes? Once again we return to another age old debate: the question of the artist or creator as genius vs hardworking and persistent labourer. The institutions of the ages have perpetuated the myth that artists, for instance, occupy a space almost of sainthood – in their ability to create something worthy of ‘holy’ reverence, objects which become relics in the museum space that should be determinedly conserved over the years as some meaningful production from the ‘artist’s hand’. The conceptual, and often historical, meaning of the work often has less relationship to the work itself than it does to the contemporary reception of the work. Though it may be sensually ‘uplifting’ (or not as is the case-in-point of postmodernism) to view a beautiful artwork it does not necessarily tell us much about why it was important historically.

Returning to our modern JFK, we begin to ask ourselves, why does the work of this young Australian, at the beginning of his experimental photographic career, intrigue us? The answer is emotive, as all good answers to intriguing visual imagery should be. There is a combination of heartstrings being pulled on in these images. In those of the outback I feel the connection to Ansel Adams, and joy at my own country’s landscape bursting so in outrageously celebratory colours. In the images of the pipes, emerging man, and light drawn onto the playing fields I appreciate the humour and irreverence brought to a visual plane and it’s representation of a country’s spirit. The fire images – at once beautiful and terrifying in their meaning, and the city lights that dazzle – all add to a multi-faceted portrait of our country that encapsulates many landscapes, experiences and moods.

What would I like to see from our JFK? More. I cannot to wait to see how his work matures, most importantly as he educates himself in other photographers and artists of Australia, and the globe, and uses their work to inform his own. I want to see many more faces of our nation and how they might be represented in increasingly complex ways. Most of all I want to see how he develops this theme of humour balanced with the land and people – ephemeral spirit emerging from within that which is actually seen – what I would call the visual equivalent of ‘reading between the lines’.

And what would I like to see from the rest of Australia? JFK, and other photographers like him, not only on gallery walls – but with a crowd standing around appreciating what the images have to offer them and their story.





Anne Landa exhibition AGNSW

3 08 2009

In the recent Double Take: Anne Landa exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, there were a number of works which caught the imagination of humanists and technologists alike.

Mari Velonaki’s interactive cube installations are a particular wonder of light and movement. These little robotics react to the viewer’s touch: as you pick them up and move them around they ‘speak’ to each other by emitting sounds and slowly revealling handwriting across their lighted faces. Entitled ‘Circle D: Fragile Balances’ 2008, each of these mysterious messages was comprised of fragments from personal letters donated by Velonaki’s peers and friends, along with verse by Anna Akhmatova. Each of the cubes has a name, Bird and Fish, construsting characters in a relationship that is both loving and strained. Using bluetooth wireless connections, the spatial relation that Bird and Fish have to one another at any one time determines their ‘communication’ and thus their expression of emotion. The viewer (or perhaps user is a more appropriate term) is able to have some control over this relationship, and increasingly so, as Velonaki invites suggestions for future letters to be included in the work’s futher development. The comment here on our relationships, and our lives within the technological age, achieve both contemporaniety and timelessness. In this version however, the slowness of the media perhaps hampers the full realisation of the concept, I eagerly await Velonaki’s next instalment on the project.

The following is a video of Velonaki speaking about the project as it has developed since working with the curator’s at the Art Gallery of NSW:

Click here to see an student interview with Mari Velonaki.

Cao Fei’s film ‘What Are They Doing Here?’ 2005 uses perhaps a more traditional form of mediabut is not less touching in its ability to reach both the personal and the universal. As a commission of the Siemens Arts Program, Fei chose to intervene directly in Siemens’ OSRAM lighting factory in Foshan, Guangdong province. She entered the factory and encouraged the employees there to express their dreams, fantasies, and desires in the form of dance, song and performance. Her resulting film is separated into three parts, drawing out the reality of present day life in the factory, in contrast to dreams and hopes of the future. Fei’s greatest skill is in her ability to capture the monotony of manual labour in the same frames as lie her highly detailed and empathetic portraits of the workers. She has intimately brought both everyday experience and psychological reality to the screen.

The Double Take exhibition featured a number of artists, more that I have noted here. Check out the Art Gallery’s archived page for Double Take here.

In the recent Double Take: Anne Landa exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, there were a number of works which caught the imagination of humanists and technologists alike.

Mari Velonaki’s interactive cube installations are a particular wonder of light and movement. These little robotics react to the viewer’s touch: as you pick them up and move them around they ‘speak’ to each other by emitting sounds and slowly revealling handwriting across their lighted faces. Entitled Circle D: Fragile Balances 2008, each of these mysterious messages was comprised of fragments from personal letters donated by Velonaki’s peers and friends, along with verse by Anna Akhmatova. Each of the cubes has a name, Bird and Fish, construsting characters in a relationship that is both loving and strained. Using bluetooth wireless connections, the spatial relation that Bird and Fish have to one another at any one time determines their ‘communication’ and thus their expression of emotion. The viewer (or perhaps user is a more appropriate term) is able to have some control over this relationship, and increasingly so, as Velonaki invites suggestions for future letters to be included in the work’s futher development. The comment here on our relationships, and our lives within the technological age, achieve both contemporaniety and timelessness. In this version however, the slowness of the media perhaps hampers the full realisation of the concept, I eagerly await Velonaki’s next instalment on the project.

Cao Fei’s

Check out the Art Gallery’s archived page for Double Take here.

http://www.artnet.com/artist/156397/cao-fei.html

http://artnews.com.au/details.php?e=1561

http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/archived/2009/double_take

http://www.csr.acfr.usyd.edu.au/people/MariVelonaki.htmAs a commission of the Siemens Arts Program What are they doing here? in 2005, Cao Fei chose to intervene directly in Siemens’ OSRAM lighting factory in Foshan, Guangdong province. She encouraged the factory workers to express their dreams, fantasies, and desires in the form of dance, song and performance.





Intelligent Young Adult Literature

22 07 2009

I was skeptical too. I am only 23, and when I was a young adult (or at least, more young adult than I am now) there was a genuine lack of intelligent young adult literature. Craving a good read, I moved up a notch, to the adult ‘literature’ and ‘classics’ section of bookstores and have since rarely wandered out of it for my fiction needs. With the exception of Harry Potter, and perhaps Isabel Carmody or Christopher Paolini, there was certainly nothing coming out that the publishers and booksellers pushed in my face as both entertaining and a really quality book.

Not the case now. Once you wade through the initial impact of Stephanie Meyer’s and other highly popular vampire/werewolf/zombie spinoffs, you discover a whole host of intelligent, inspired and entertaining literature. [NB I do not mean any harm against ‘popular’ fiction – which finds its worth in the pleasure it provides, I simply argue that there is a difference between our pleasure reading and our thinking reading. I would argue all of us, even our literature professors, have favourites in both genres, to suit moods for different times of the day and season. Anyone who denies they ‘goof off’ with something the academy would label ‘lower grade’ is rather suspect in my opinion.] I have just finished The Billionaire’s Curse, by Australia’s own Richard Newsome, due out next month. This teenage boy’s romp begins in sunny Australia, where Gerald suddenly discovers that he has inherited a fortune from an Aunt he never knew he had. He travels to the UK, finding there a motley collection of jealous relatives, as well as a murder plot and diamond thief. The adventure takes him through the halls of the British Museum, London underground stations and forgotten bomb shelters and into the English countryside. There are some truly hilarious characters in here, and you can see Newsome is building to something greater in the next book. But the best part is, it’s not patronising. Newsome gets inside his character’s head and stays there – as all writers should – but especially as young adult writers should, since it often seems difficult for adult writers to remember that young adults don’t need to be written down to, they are very intelligent people.

9781406310252I would have to say Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go (which I am reading now), and its sequel, The Ask and the Answer, is even more effective at this. Newsome is to Rowling as Ness is to Orwell (I know that’s a big call but I don’t make it lightly). In fact, if you were only going to read one book from this review, read Ness. In this apocalyptic scenario settlers have moved, from planet to planet, in search one less desolate from that they just left. We meet Todd and his talking dog Manchee in Prentisstown, where a history of germ warfare has wiped out all the women and left the men with a transparent Noise emitting all the thoughts from their minds in a constant tangled buzz like too many radio stations in static. As a result everyone can always ‘hear’ what’s on everyone else’s mind and there is constant male aggression. A month before he is due to ‘become’ a man, Todd escapes to the wilderness beyond Prentisstown and meets a very unfamiliar, unreadable, young girl – and I can’t tell you anymore for fear of spoiling it! Apart from the beautifully realised world, there is so much theory going on beneath the surface of this novel. Even more haunting, are its inherent human themes, on the nature of thought and human relationships. It is one of those novels that is so succinct in its meaning, it compresses more thought into the same number of pages than a lesser philosopher, theorist, critic or writer could ever hope to. And we walk past it in the young adult section!

I have also just started reading Witches and Wizards, the latest James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet novel, not due out in Australia for a few months. So far so good, I must admit more thought provoking along the theme of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible than I would have expected. And I can certainly see why Patterson and Charbonnet might have considered it timely to bring out such a novel (at least before the big bad GFC took over all our attention spans).

The other two I must mention, though I have not read them, but intend to, are The Hunger Games, and its sequel Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins and The Mortal Instruments series (books 1, 2 and 3) by Cassandra Clare. Both come highly recommended to me by both adults and young adults.





Australian ebooks starting to Crawl

22 06 2009
Stanza the Iphone ebook application

Stanza the Iphone ebook application

At the annual Australian Booksellers Association conference this weekend there was almost a venomous hiss against the name of electronic books, online sellers, and the technologies of reading that are emerging with such force in the US and UK.

Oh how conservative we are. But the tide of opinion seems to be slowly turning, as (it is no surprise) education increases on the subject. David Taylor, of Lightening Source, spoke about the latest technologies in print on demand. A sister company of the enormous US book distributor, Ingram, Lightening Source is now able to receive a single book order (from the customer) and have it printed, bound and returned to the seller within four hours. Gone are the days of fortune-telling print runs, inevitably ending in either a full warehouse of unsaleable stock or sold out titles with impatient customers demanding why several weeks are required to produce a book they have already seen in someone else’s hands.

This kind of technology goes hand in hand with the wave of ebooks, ereaders and smartphone reading technology that have, as yet, only reached our shores in a very limited way. Neelan Choksi, COO at Lexcycle, also spoke about how his team of three developed the Stanza application for the iphone which allows ebooks to be searched, bought, downloaded and read all from the comfort of that smart-little-phone screen. The implications of this application are revolutionary in the publishing world, for the first time providing the consumer with more control over the layout, font size, colour and – yes – even the preferred cover for their own personal version of the book. As the Kindle, Sony ereader, and host of other upcoming other ereader and smartphone technologies battle it out for the number one spot in this market one cannot help but realise that print publishing as we have known it in the 20th Century is going the way of cassette tapes and vinyls.

The most important lesson from all of this is that ebooks and a new method of print publishing have a future together, hand in hand. There are select titles that we will still want in print, Choksi gave the example of Obama’s book, which customers preferred to have on the physical bookshelf to mark an historical occasion. But the results of this changing industry will save a lot of time, money and paper.

It will also mean many more books that were previously not published can now go online into an ebook and be printed in only one or two copies for the people who want it. Those who claim that this denigrates the ‘culture’ of literature do so from a pedestal that upholds the publishers as an authority on what is ‘good’ writing. But at the end of the day a publisher wants to sell books, and who is to say that their guessing game of ‘what the people want’ is any better indicator of ‘good culture’ than if the consumer is allowed to decide for themselves what they want to see published and printed. If the claim is that publishers maintain a standard of grammar, spelling, literacy etc etc – a general style guide to language – which will be lost in this brave new world, than the answer might be that language, as much as any culture, is a growing organism. Hell, if Shakespeare needed a word, he made one up – if the method is good enough for him, why not us? It is an ethos that embraces many forms of language, for instance the globally diverse uses of English, and brings genuine democracy.

To the traditional booksellers and publishers (especially in Australia) do not be afraid – rumours of the book’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Stories will never die, our desire for new stories will never die, but our mode of receiving them, and expectations of them will change. And dammit, this is exciting!





the literary socialist?

24 05 2009

the literary socialist?

We come in many breeds, the book snobs.
Some profess that agéd books are best,
giving precious time only
to those pages who lie
with the canon’s comfy down.
Every breed has its pros and cons
– draw a list, or take a quiz to suit yourself –
this former species flaw is an
often unwillingness to question
who chose titles to ask into bed
and once a collection was started
did that not define the rules for the rest?
Just what was wrong with Grace Anguilar (1816-47)
and Harriet Martineau (1802-76)?
Who made the value judgments (that worked so favourably
for Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice)?
But now I rattle on.
There is the breed of book snob who takes
a similar notion, that prizes and accolades
– evidence that some group of people somewhere
value something that some book they have been
shown or found either does or has –
will indicate a good book.
And indeed it will be to that reader if
that reader agrees with those values that
the judges of this prize have designed or
taken as their own.
I just sound cynical now.
Indeed and I have only really discussed the first
two and most obvious types of book snobs.
There are romance book snobs, fantasy book snobs,
non-fiction book snobs, theory – and academic – book snobs (these are
by far the most dangerous breed as they are most likely to
pissingly patronise all over you whilst believing to ‘do good’ by educating).
I, of course, have at one time or another been partially one or all of the above.
But I attempt now to reform.
I attempt to discover the literary socialist.

the screws on my thumbs are tightened only by the narrowness of my mind.
i aspire to accept that language is organic.
there is no good vs bad. how fundamentalist, how religious, it has been of me.
i attempt to think in terms of fluidity.
wish me luck.