July 2007

Arts & Letters

‘Show Court 3’ by Louise Paramor, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, 20 April

By Justin Clemens

In a world overburdened by museums and monuments, by the claims of the past and the injunction to protect and save, what should we preserve? Everything! Transience has assumed real value in contemporary art. Instead of the object, the event becomes primary: its site, its performance, its participants, its disappearance. You can document it, sure, but there's no substitute for being there.

It was in this spirit that I rocked up to a place where I'd never otherwise go, the gargantuan complex that is the Rod Laver Arena, wearing my best white soft-soled shoes. The flat green surface of Show Court 3 was buzzing with brightly coloured plastic assemblages created by the Melbourne artist Louise Paramor. I descended to meet them as the sun set and the floodlights came on. Each assemblage was bizarre in its own way. Here, an upturned orange child's chair had been placed on a large yellow bucket, and the whole thing crowned with a slitted green bulb like a flower; there, a curved white funnel sat on a stool, which itself sat on a faded turquoise pool. There were over 70 of these things, built from recycled discards such as milk crates, baby baths, highchairs and hoses.

Paramor calls each assemblage a "jam session", like musicians getting together and riffing; but the term also connotes an infantile pleasure in the bright, sweet conserves produced by mashing stuff up. Like much contemporary art, these works are dense with allusions: to Martin Kippenberger's The Happy End of Franz Kafka's ‘Amerika', a collection of furniture in a fake indoor gymnasium; to the grids of modernism and minimalism, such as Mondrian's famous Broadway Boogie Woogie; to Jean Arp's biomorphic sculptures; even to the famous Tennis Court Oath that cemented the French Revolution. Because the objects Paramor collects are designed for the human body, above all for hands and arses, the jam sessions acquire anthropomorphic qualities, even characters of their own, at once innocent and faintly obscene. Together, for one night only, they transformed the court.

Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens writes about contemporary Australian art and poetry. He teaches at the University of Melbourne.

Cover: July 2007

July 2007

From the front page

Pub test: restart the boats

The Coalition’s scare campaign is no sure thing in the suburbs

Image of Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley’s Buzzcocks: 40 years on

The history and legacy of a punk pioneer

Image from ‘Camping’

Unhappy ‘Camping’

Lena Dunham’s new comedy series is an accidental portrait of toxic femininity


From Hillsong to the Bible Belt

Christine Caine’s Australian brand of evangelism has found its flock in America

In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rose Lacson & Langley George Hancock

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Veritable listeria

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

The big cheese

‘Caravan Story’ By Wayne Macauley

More in Arts & Letters

Still from The Front Runner

The spectacle of a political scandal: Jason Reitman’s ‘The Front Runner’ and Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Loro’

New films about ’80s presidential hopeful Gary Hart and Italy’s controversial Silvio Berlusconi both miss the mark

Image of Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley’s Buzzcocks: 40 years on

The history and legacy of a punk pioneer

Image of Les Murray

Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Image of a bushfire

Fair judgement without surrender: Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

The author of ‘The Tall Man’ tries to understand the motivations of a Black Saturday firebug

More in Noted

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at QAGOMA

Politics, culture and colour collide in Brisbane

Still from The Cry

ABC TV’s ‘The Cry’

This Scottish–Australian drama successfully subverts the missing-child genre

Image of Henri Matisse, A Game of Bowls, 1908

‘Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

From Matisse to Malevich: a considered snapshot of adventurous Russian collecting

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

For their Netflix debut, the Coen brothers return to the Western

Read on

Image from ‘Camping’

Unhappy ‘Camping’

Lena Dunham’s new comedy series is an accidental portrait of toxic femininity

Image from ‘Russian Doll’

A bug in the code: ‘Russian Doll’

This existential comedy is 2019’s first must-see Netflix series

Image of crossbenchers Derryn Hinch, Adam Bandt, Nick McKim, Kerryn Phelps, Tim Storer and Andrew Wilkie discussing the medical transfer bill in November

Debate over asylum seeker medical transfers reaches new lows

The government’s scare campaign against the crossbench bill denigrates doctors and detainees

Image from ‘Capharnaüm’

‘Capharnaüm’: giving voice to the voiceless

Nadine Labaki on what motivated her exploration of turmoil’s impact on children