an easter-ly dilemma

…he he you just KNEW this was gonna happen, didn’t you…?

I’ve been made an offer to LEAVE THE ‘SHAM (temporarily of course), and I don’t know what to do.

I’m putting this up here, at midday on Saturday, and anyone who happens to be online has a little under 24 hours to chime in with an opinion.

My Dad is in town, and he’s none too well. I won’t go into the details here, I’ll just say that its unusual for him to need the help of others in this way. He’s been staying with his brother Michael (who also lives in Sydney with his wife Gosha) and he’s due to go back to Perth on Monday.

Dad rang me up yesterday. He said “I know you’ve got your project on and all, but if you could see your way clear to coming to visit for lunch on Easter Sunday, Michael and Gosha and I would love to have you here. Anyway, let me know what you think.”

Now, it’s rare enough for me to hang out with my Dad, and even rarer to see my uncle. The two of them together I have not experienced for maybe fifteen years. It’s a pretty special invitation.

I rang Stuart, who I know is my most hardcore adherence-to-the-rules watchdog. He thought it was a great problem. “Nah, you have to stick to your guns, he said. You knew something like this was going to come up.”

I tried the old “But maybe this is the exception that proves the rule?” to which he replied: “I’ve never really understood that idea of the exception that proves the rule…”

I tried proposing tricksy ways to get around it. For instance, what if I blindfolded myself upon leaving the ‘sham, and didn’t take off the blindfold until I was inside the house. Or what if I kept the blindfold on the entire time? Maybe it was interesting to go somewhere else, just this once. Sydney’s suburbs are quite different from each other, and by going across town, I would become instantly more conscious of the differences between Petersham and Darling Point (where uncle Michael lives).

“Yes, it’s called a comparison” Stuart said drily.

I tried a historical precedent. “You see, when Josef Beuys went to America, he refused to touch American soil. He was blindfolded, and carried into the gallery, which operated as a kind of Embassy, where he remained until he was carried back out again to his aeroplane. It was a sort of political statement.”*

This story had some impact on Stuart. He was coming around.

“Look. Whatever you do, it only makes the project more interesting”, he said.

So I’m back to where I was. Any thoughts?

*can any Beuys fans verify this story? My rudimentary google search has failed to come up with a reliable source…


Postscript: while writing this, Dad rang up. He wanted to know if I’d made up my mind. I told him I was still turning it over. “Obviously,” I said, “The thing to suggest would be, that in order to indulge my whimsical project, you all should come over here for lunch instead.” But he said there were Gosha’s parents, and some other friends of theirs coming over too, and Gosha was catering big time, and by the way, as soon as I decide I should let them know cos she has to know how many to cook for.

It’s not that there is any pressure, and I think they’ll understand (as much as anyone can) about a silly rule like this – or maybe not. I wonder if this rule makes any sense at all outside of the “world” it has created between me and you, gentle reader?

12 thoughts on “an easter-ly dilemma

  1. lisa

    bugger Beuys (that story kind of shows up the shyster in the shaman), it’s about your Dad & your family, of course you should go to lunch…

  2. lisa

    well I guess if it makes you feel better… though it’s not like Beuys wasn’t in America & it’s not like you won’t be in Darling Point. Unlike Tang Da Wu, who didn’t visit Australia for Situation because he couldn’t condone our government’s policies. But I don’t think you have a point of protest with Darling Point (?), and family business presents a different set of ground-rules, doesn’t it?

  3. deborah

    hallo lucas! I said i’d send a postcard, but here i am, sending argumentative advice, instead.

    i would say you have to go, because in the contest between art & rarely seen, not very well parents/their siblings, your dad should win.

    and then, if the length of the petersham internal exile project matters a real lot, start again.

    plus, while i am opining, that Beuys stunt sounds fucking appalling.

    Worse even than when Greer announced at a public lecture in London that she would only come here if she were greeted by Aboriginal elders. Phooey!


  4. mayhem

    Hey Lucazoid

    Couldn’t your Dad have waited until I worked outsome sort of Prize money?

    I remember from my favourite Beuyss book that I took camping with me to Byron Bay when I was runing away from 3rd year painting – that they had all these photos of him being strapped onto a stretcher and blindfolded and carted from the plane to an ambulance – and then from the ambulance – still on the stretcher – up the stairs and into the cage with the coyote – where he was unwrapped.

    I think he touched american soil afterwards – but he was certainly all insulated by the fat felt and fur before he ‘arrived’ on the place.

    My instinct would be the same as Stuart’s – I mean – rules are rules eh? CAN’T you get yer dad to come over for dinner or something afterwards? he could bring yer uncle and the extreme sports catering aunt. You could even shout them all a cab and make it some sort of art project.

    Or you could do a Beuyss style thing and get someone to cart you over there a-la hannibal lecter – and then you could spend the whole time in the corner of the house with wolfie – who could, like double for some coyote. But it might be a bit of a distraction for the fam – and wreck the point of being there.

    On the other hand, we’re meant to be artists and to see beyond such black and white choice type structures………

    fam vs sham?

    I reckon you could work out some creative way of not leaving petersham and not being out of petersham, and not really being in that other place. Maybe a really long piece of string? And the blindfold and NOT touching anything with your flesh. so you’d have to wear gloves during lunch and squat over but not sit on the toilet if you had to do a number two, and … well… why don’t you ask your Dad for some suggestions? Everyone has seemingly pointless rules that they try to live by – that’s the nature of the social contract – so your Dad and uncle probably have enough life experience somewhere to know how to negotiate complicated dilemmas rather than just forcing some intense BILATERAL choice onto someone…….?

    good luck

  5. shortleftleg Post author

    this text message came through from josh, my brother in perth, weighing into the debate:

    Read the blog.
    Go to lunch.
    Easter sunday
    doesnt count.
    Travel blind
    folded thatll
    cover it. J


  6. shortleftleg Post author

    I decided to follow some of Mayhem’s advice. That is, the BILATERAL part. Why should I foist my decision on them without consultation? So I rang up, and asked Dad and Michael if they had any suggestions (offering the blindfold idea as one possibility). Both of them have experience making tricky decisions for large companies. But in this case, Dad just chuckled, said “I have absolutely no idea” and handed the phone over to Gosha. She felt that the blindfold through the entire lunch would not only be OK, it would in fact be “hilarious”.
    So that settles it. She was just worried that if I was to take a taxi, to make sure he didn’t overcharge me. And, whether I was going to be able to feed myself. I assured her that I would be fine transporting food from plate to mouth(although actually I am not so sure, since I’ve never eaten blind). Gosha suggested I practice tonight…

  7. Lionel

    a bit late to this dilemma-
    missed all the fun
    but obviously it has been a provocative shake up and it is good that you are taking the performative option.
    i would have suggested taking a sham representative along with you (like bruce who your met at the crystal st op shop or someone random), to keep the spirit of the sham in high content during the border crossing.
    guiding food to your mouth blindfolded should be ok, but getting it on your fork or spoon without doing a ‘pretty woman’- turn and flinging your snail or what-ever across the room might be tricky. goodluck.

  8. Jasmin Stephens


    I am following your blog avidly. Your self-assurance is being tested during this residency in a way that it wasn’t in Kellerberrin so makes more compelling reading.

    As a novice blogger, I am learning that the timeliness of replies is essential for their incorporation into the narrative of your residency. So here are some thoughts which are probably for later.

    Overnight I have been thinking about why it was such a hard decision to leave thesham. I have been wondering if there is something in the literature of cloistered orders and the lives of the saints for you. In the tradition that I am most familar with, through acts of denial and abstinence individuals experience an enlarged sense of self. They are empowered in the eyes of their communities through their absence and are charged with the task of interceding on behalf of others.

    It can be argued that is because of your separateness as well as your immersion in thesham that Marrickville Council is positioning you as a conductor for society and civility in your neighbourhood. I sense, however, that they are going to get more than they bargained for. You are exceptionally equipped as Kellerberrin demonstrated to perform this function, but I am wondering if the people of thesham would be as open with you if they didn’t grasp the circumstances which led to you leaving thesham? Not to mention, the derision that your wider public via the Sydney Morning Herald may express if they learn that you have faltered in your resolution?

    There is a current of humanity calling you out of thesham. I must confess I wish you weren’t going – even blindfolded. I respond to the formalism of your project – the clock ticking, riding the boundaries, the global position, the encyclopedia entry, the spectacle.


  9. Raquel

    hello Lucas
    Being a Bueys “fan” I have some extra info on the performance where he was transported from airport to gallery in an ambulance warped in felt and blindfolded. This is the work called “I love America and America loves me” (I think that is title but as I am avoiding important work I am not going to look it up- perhaps there is a subtitle of “coyote”). Anyway the important piece of information here is that the whole not-leaving-the-gallery-and-living-with-the-coyote-being-blindfolded-the-whole-time was a total and utter sham.
    While in Vienna I had a chance to view the entire film documentation of that performance. It was part of a workshop run by Maria Eichhorn, and she showed it to us to raise the question of ethical representation. Basically like lots of Bueys works there are huge myths that surround his work that then become part of the reading of the work.
    Its true he was transported to and from aeroport wrapped and that he spent a lot of time in the gallery building a rapport with the animal, but he also left the gallery to have long boozy lunches and slept elsewhere- not in the gallery. (Maria had inside info- I can’t remember how).
    Anyway the work was still interesting knowing this info, and the film was very beautiful in quality and in the way everyday things have changed- the ambulance was especially cool. With lots of Beuys things it interesting how the legend becomes the “rule” or “standard” that other artists apply to their work.
    I made me quiet sad to read that your father is unwell, and sadder and angry to read that you considered not meeting him on one of those few chances that you get each year. I hope you took the blind fold off during lunch.

  10. Raquel

    After posting the above I reflected on your preference for creating drama (events? performances?) around simple decisions. I guess you set the whole scenario up- posting the offer, decisions, viewer feedback, as a way of justify the decision you would have come to in the end anyway- ie. to see your dad.
    Sorry as usual my goat seriousness gets the better of me.

  11. Liz

    Sorry I’m so late getting into your blog Lucas – My opinion on this matter is now null and void, I’d imagine, but my advice would have been to (in the name of art) not go to the family do.


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