“Foreign Lands” and “Ruins” at Kudos Gallery

I thought I’d take a break from music gigs this week and go to a gallery. Part of this is because one of the shows was by our fellow student, Karolina Partyka, so it was fun to be able to go and support a friend. But other than that, I’ve also been thinking about what I should do with the visual side of my creative practice once I finish the course. This is actually the first semester in which I’ve returned to my music practice, and I’m already feeling much more confident about getting back into that, whereas I still feel that my visual practice is lacking and I’ve been consistently terrified of the idea of trying to apply to a gallery for an actual show. But after this week’s lecture from Elizabeth Reidy, it actually sounds less scary, especially when she mentioned the number of applications vs acceptances. For the Bondi Pavilion Gallery, it seems you have about a 25% chance of getting in, which is vastly better odds than I had expected. Funds permitting, I’m hoping to take the rest of the year off after I finish uni, so I might actually have the time to start taking some of this stuff more seriously, and for that reason, I need to make sure I don’t just focus solely on music.

So here are some photos from the opening at Kudos last night. I spent most of my time in the back half of the gallery where Karolina’s Foreign Lands exhibition was. She had a really diverse array of works on show, including photography, video, installation, and VR. There were also some interesting lighting choices that helped set the atmosphere and also distinguished her exhibition from Ruins in the front half of the gallery.

Native, 2016
Single channel projection, single channel audio, pencil & watercolour on paper, ceramic, glass dome, red desert sand, petri dishes, seeds, dimensions variable.

This is one of those ones you really need to go and see to get a proper sense of it (all of them are really haha, that’s how Karolina’s practice is), my photo barely shows you anything of what this work is. The video projection shifts between different translations of the word “Native”, and in front of it are what appear to be specimens of early crops in an imagined human colony on Mars. On the left is a mock up of a crop growing in Martian soil, in the centre, a botanical drawing of a crop adapted for Martian conditions, and on the right, seed samples of 6 different early Martian crops. I personally have some disdain for our obsession with going to Mars, I tend to think we should fix our planet first, but it is interesting to think about how a future society might look back on our earliest steps on the red planet. Karolina’s museum-like work gives you a hint of how that experience might one day be.

For an earlier iteration of this work, and artist statement, click here.

Top: Ancestral Ritual (That Which No Longer Needs To Be Carried), 2017
2 channel video, single channel audio, dimensions variable.
Bottom: Annulment, 2017
Red desert sand, water, ink, dissolving stones, vine cuttings, netting, bowl, light, dimensions variable.

Tucked away around a corner are these two related but separate works. I was already familiar with the top work, which you can view here, but I completely misunderstood the bottom one! At the time, the gallery was already filling up with a lot of people, even though I was relatively early to the opening, so I didn’t get a chance to really read the text, but I took a photo of the label so I could work it out later. Turns out those little rocks are dissolvable! You’re supposed to take one, put all your traumas into it, and then release it into the water to dissolve away. And yes, in case you were wondering, the instructions do ask you not to eat them, although they are non-toxic and food safe!

Speaking of labels, I really enjoyed the way Karolina’s were done. They appear to be clear adhesives attached to the wall, which seem like a neat solution. One of my problems with the Ruins exhibition out the front was that there were no labels at all, only a very short statement accompanying the long list of works, so I struggled to understand what was going on. We also had this problem in our exhibition at Gaffa last year. I know that the general public statistically doesn’t spend that much time reading labels, but I struggle to appreciate art on its own, so I like it when there are decent labels present to explain it for me. (Although it helps if there are less people around so I can read them in peace! I guess that’s another reason I’m not usually a gallery-openings type of person.)

An earlier iteration of Annulment can be viewed here.

Various photographic works (obscured by all the people coming to the opening!)

I didn’t spend much time with the photos, so I won’t say much. The drinks bar was just outside the door so people tended to congregate in this area, and I freely admit that I preferred to avoid people as much as possible haha. But I think I also just find it easier to walk past photos generally, compared to video works which require you to spend more time with them to see what’s going on. You can see the Land Mythology work online here, but Outer/Other is a newer work so it doesn’t seem to be online yet.

Endsville, 2018
4 channel video, single channel audio, dimensions variable.

I also didn’t spend a whole lot of time with this one because it was in the same space as the photos, but from my quick read of the label, it was about utopias and compared various visions of this concept alongside each other using public domain videos. This is also a newer work, so it’s not online yet either.

Mars Barren, 2016
Virtual reality projected space, plywood, acrylic medium, red desert sand, acrylic paint, dimensions variable.

When you walk in, you see this:

Then you pick up the object and point it at the wall!

Ta-dah! Virtual reality but without having to wear those silly glasses! And it gives a neat explorer vibe, like you might be in a cave, despite the projection showing an outdoor scene. I just really enjoyed the atmosphere in this dark red room, and the interactivity probably made this the most engaging work for me. You have to be involved to be able to see what it is, and the narrow view provided by the projection prevents the game from being given away too quickly. I don’t know if the surface of Mars was necessarily the best subject matter to go with this style of presentation, but I honestly didn’t care, it was fun being able to actually touch the object, feel the texture, and play with the projection. It’s also just an impressive bit of technical juggling, to get all these components to work, and I admire Karolina’s determination to create things like this because it’s exactly the kind of stressful undertaking that I would run a mile from!

You can see an earlier version of this work here, along with the full spherical view, but honestly you should just run down there and play with it for yourself, it’s heaps more fun and worth doing!

Papers I collected

Well I photographed the back of the Ruins page by mistake, but if you look at Karolina’s text, the Ruins text was about a third of that before the list of works starts. I do wish the Ruins one had explained a bit more, particularly in the absence of labels in the gallery, but what can you do. I’m mostly just excited by Karolina’s promotional postcard. It’s A5, with gloss finish on one side, and looks heaps professional and probably cost a bit of money to get done! I think the reverse writing was also an entertaining choice, as I saw people trying to view it in a reflection just for fun, but at the same time it’s also surprisingly easy to read backwards which is cool.

Not to be neglectful of the other exhibition, here are some photos of Ruins. But I can’t really explain what they are, because I was a bit confused by the small amount of text. I’m also not a huge fan of exhibitions that have very small photos spaced very far apart. On the upside though, it did create a neat little foyer of relative calm between the entrance and the hyperstimulation of Foreign Lands.

Foreign Lands and Ruins are both on show at Kudos Gallery until May 12.

Gallery opening hours:
Wed – Fri 11:00am – 6:00pm
Sat 11:00am – 4:00pm

6 Napier St, Paddington NSW 2021

Chicks With Picks April at The Townie, 15/4/18

Hurrah! I made it to this month’s Chicks With Picks! CWP is a monthly open mic event putting the spotlight on women in music. Much to my delight, Sister Ursuline was a last minute addition to the performer schedule, opening the night, so I headed out early to catch her performance and was not disappointed!
I just love her whole act! I admire anyone who can sing and play an instrument at the same time, but to see anyone even attempt this on cello is incredibly rare. I loved watching her build up her layers live using the loop pedal as well, it creates such a hypnotic feel. I also very much enjoyed her storytelling mode of vocals, and she even used some less common cello techniques to create sounds reminiscent of dolphin calls, as well as rhythmic beats. Very cool and very creative.

What I didn’t expect was that she actually recognised me in the crowd! Turns out we both went to the Australian Institute of Music, with our mutual friend Alysoun who’s a fantastic metal guitarist. So that was pretty exciting! Small world.

Up next was sooze, singing her originals with an acoustic guitar. It was very much what you would expect, but she also played one called “The Anxiety Song” which I thought was great, it really conveyed the struggle with that emotion.

After that was Allie on the 8-string ukulele, who seemed to be more of a casual performer than the others, pausing mid song to quickly swipe up on her phone to see more lyrics (turns out the Townie has music stands in the cupboard, good to know!). But she was very good at picking it back up once she had. She also had a great sense of humour, such as when she paused to have a drink but found a fly had fallen into her wine, prompting her to tell a joke. It was also kinda cute when she suddenly noticed herself on the screen over by the pool table and seemed to be excited. And to be honest, I’d had no idea they could put performers on that screen! So I learned something new about the venue.
The last performers I could stay for was a trio, featuring two guitarists, and Lauren on a strange percussive box instrument.

I have to admit I have a serious weak spot for weird novel instruments! What this appears to be is a hollow box, and she uses a modified kick pedal for the main beat. Inside the top of the box, it sounds like a sort of tambourine setup, and there is an output jack on the side which indicates that there might be some kind of small microphone built in. As she taps the top of the box with her hands, you get both the tambourine jingling, as well as the sound of her hands on the box surface. Finally, I suspect the back of this contraption has a sound hole, after seeing Sally (the engineer) setting up a kick drum mic at the rear. There are some knobs on the front as well, which Lauren periodically adjusted during the performance, but I have no idea what their function was.

And these ladies attracted quite a crowd! It especially picked up once they began to do 90’s covers, with “Stop” by the Spice Girls being a notable crowd-pleaser. It was especially fun because Bec put away her guitar to be able to do the dance moves, and at one point the other guitar stopped as well in a sort of breakdown section, so Hayley did the moves as well, with much of the audience dancing along.

So overall, it was great to finally make it back to Chicks With Picks! I’m nervous about playing there next month, but just picking up the vibe again was good for me I think. My music is going to be a bit out of place, but they’re very open, and the theme of my project suits it. I’ve just got a lot of work still to do to be ready in time! I feel a bit stressed by that, but I do tend to get overly anxious, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Support Acts for Red Sea at the Bald Faced Stag, 7/4/18

This was a pretty exciting gig for me, so many music friends I haven’t seen in ages, both on stage and in the crowd! It was very much about reconnecting with my old scene, and after talking to some of my old friends, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one to have stopped going out so much. For me, I always felt it was mostly about depression, but for everyone else, it seems that the closure of Venom left Sydney’s heavy music scene without a really stable home. That was also the last gig my old band Rainbow Death Ray played at the Valve/Agincourt, and the last time I saw a lot of the regulars, so it was good to finally catch up with so many people on Saturday! I just wish I could’ve stayed for Red Sea, I don’t actually remember if I’ve seen them perform since they were known as Domino. But it was good to at least catch up with them in the crowd.


The first band on was Vodvile, an industrial metal act, and at first I was a bit concerned because the sound was very bass heavy which made it seem a little emptier than I remembered them being. I wondered if it had something to do with my ongoing observations of excessive bass in the mix at the Stag. But it turns out that it was actually because they were having to play this one without all their synths! And that makes a huge difference, because obviously they’ve set aside those frequencies to allow the synth sounds to cut through the rest of the instruments. But despite this, they still put on an epic show. There was only one song they stumbled over due to the lack of synths, otherwise I might not have realised that they were missing!

Another setback they had was that the vocalist actually has the flu at the moment, and he mentioned on his personal Facebook that every note was really quite painful to sing. But you wouldn’t really know otherwise, his screams were still really well done! I guess maybe he wasn’t moving a lot on stage, but I think that’s actually part of the style of this music, though I haven’t seen them in so long that I can’t say for sure what they’re usually like. Even with him sick and not moving, they’ve improved so much since I last saw them! Another thing I really enjoyed about his performance is that he mostly avoided cupping the mic! Except towards the end, which was a shame because I could definitely hear how it degraded the sound. Otherwise, it really was great, and they kept playing just fine even when all the lights suddenly cut out, so they had heaps of setbacks but still put on a really well polished show.

As for reconnecting with old music friends, it was great to see Rhys on guitar again, shown above with the hair flying! I’ve known him since I was at the Australian Institute of Music, and I’ve seen him play in a few different bands now. His performance on Saturday was fantastic, the most rocking member of the band that night. Which brings me to another observation – Vodvile put its most active and eye-catching members in the centre, which gave them a nice symmetry and worked really well. It allowed me to focus on the vocalist, the drummer, and Rhys, and really held my attention so that my eyes really didn’t wander all that much around the stage. This is something I didn’t really expect, especially since I tend to have a bias towards focusing on the female members of heavy bands due to their rarity on the scene and my sense of camaraderie. So that’s something interesting I might have to think about if I end up performing in bands again at some point.

Mechanical Embrace

Back for another round at the Stag, I got to see Mechanical Embrace again, and this is where I really noticed a lot of improvement! I think the main thing to make the difference was that this time, the bass at the venue was much better controlled, and having seen these guys play there so recently, the change was like night and day. Everything from the cymbals on the electronic drums through to the backing track was in much better balance this time, so it made for a much better listening experience. The only thing I couldn’t hear so well was the guitar solos, but that didn’t stop the crowd from gathering, which grew so much bigger than it did when I saw them three weeks ago. Good sound is just so important, because these guys have skill, it just needs to be heard!

And the improvement in the sound also showed in the way they performed, probably in part because they could hear themselves better as well. Being able to hear yourself sounding good is really important for confidence, in my opinion. So their action on stage, particularly from Marty on rhythm guitar and James on bass, was much more animated and coordinated this time, clearly they were having a lot more fun! My favourite part was when the pair did their synchronised jumping later in the set, that sort of thing really makes you want to join in! The vocalist also seemed more confident this time, and the backing vocals from James and Aaron cut through a lot better which I also loved. So both sonically and visually, they really put on a much more entertaining show, it was great!

As for my personal connection to the band, I wrote about that last time I saw them, but in short, I met James and Aaron when they were considering a female vocalist along the lines of The Agonist, and they’re really nice, chill guys. It just seemed to me like their music better suited male vocals, a position I still hold now that they have one. As for Brad, I knew him from a lot of other local bands, so when they were looking for a drummer, I suggested him. He’s also a really cool, chill guy. And I’ve now met their other guitarist, Marty, who remembered me from their last Stag gig! So yeah, cool music and cool people, and I really am enjoying watching their progress.


I honestly can’t remember when I met James, the vocalist, or when I first bumped into Noveaux. They’ve been around for longer than I was paying attention to the local scene. But they’ve also been through some pretty big changes, so it almost felt like I was watching them for the first time again, as they now have four live members instead of six. They still have the face paint though, and I really like that because it helps them stand out from the rest, a lot of bands really underestimate the value of their visuals. But what I probably enjoyed the most was the way they handled their electronics in the absence of a dedicated synth player – the entire set was programmed into the computer to allow the songs to run seamlessly into each other, with time built in to allow for guitar changes, and I’m increasingly convinced that this is something I need to work out how to do with my own music in future. I also really enjoyed how James handled the switch between growls and vocoder vocals, some of which I captured in this next video:
Here, he has two microphones, one going to the PA as normal, but the other going into the computer to be processed by the vocoder, and what really puzzled me is how he managed to have the microphones so close to each other while still being able to control which one the sound went into! Because in the above video, you can only hear one microphone going at a time, but in another, he intentionally uses both for an epic effect. I was able to figure out the vocoder, since that only triggers if there’s actually a MIDI note programmed into the computer, but I could not figure out the other mic. He later explained to me that he actually has a kill switch on the floor to turn off the regular vocals before it gets to the PA, and it works really well! Apparently he had to sort out a lot of technical issues to get it working so well though, so if I want to introduce vocoders into my music, I think I’d only go through that if it became a really key part of my act, otherwise it’d be simpler to just prerecord it into the backing track. In the past with Rainbow Death Ray, we only ever used it in one song, and that was when the keytarist was on vocals for a change.

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning Matthew Stoja though! He’s one of my favourite bassists in the local scene, and like Rhys of Vodville, he’s been in quite a few decent bands. I can’t remember when I met him either, but you can’t miss him on stage. He is always rocking out to the max, and it’s fantastic, some of the best hair windmills in Sydney. He also plays a six-string bass, which usually seems like overkill, but he is one of the few bassists I have seen who can completely justify the choice of instrument because he actually does use its full range, I love it! Musicians who can rock out like this are really great fun to watch, and when they also have great technical skills, it’s the perfect combination! I hope when I perform solo next month that I can be even half as entertaining as the Stoja.

Note: This blog was originally written for a class, which you can read about here at the start of the entry.

Free Entry Open Mic at The Townie, 4/4/18

For my Capstone* major project, I’ll be performing some of my new music at The Townie in May, first at Chicks With Picks on the 20th, then at the Free Entry Open Mic night on the 30th. While I’ve been to Chicks With Picks a number of times, I’d never been to the Wednesday open mic, so last night I decided to check it out. It gave me a really good feel for how things run and what to expect. I didn’t film this time though, because I wasn’t sure what kinds of musicians I’d be seeing and what their level of confidence might be. I also only stayed for the solo/duo performances, but that’s more relevant for me at the moment, and I’ve seen plenty of bands at the Townie before.

Caitlin DC

First up was Caitlin, a singer-songwriter, with a standard guitar-and-vocals style (though it turns out she also plays keyboard). I got the impression that she might be relatively new to performing, as I could hear her mention to the engineer (Sally) that the mic felt a bit too close, and Sally reassuring her that it was necessary to get the best sound. But she is a decent musician, and she revealed later that she’d actually taken a 7 year break from playing, so I guess she is actually in a similar position to me, rediscovering our music practices. That was reassuring, to find someone in the same boat. We are in very different genres though, so I was actually quite surprised when both she and the rest of the audience asked Sally to turn her up after the first song. At first I wondered if it was maybe because I was wearing earplugs – it may be a softer style than I’m used to but it was still loud enough to concern me – but then I remembered that pop and other mainstream music styles tend to be very vocal-focused, and they do prefer vocals to be much louder than the instruments, even though our ears are so well-tuned to be able to hear the human voice. This sort of thing is why it is actually interesting to listen outside my genre every now and then, I find it fascinating.

But probably the main thing I got from Caitlin’s performance was just how easy and casual the audience vibe was. There were a few moments where she stumbled and apologised, before quickly picking the song back up, and it was totally okay, I didn’t sense any negativity from the audience at all. She also started one of the songs a bit too fast, and simply restarted it at the proper tempo, no dramas. So I now feel a lot safer about coming in to play here, because I know I’ll probably stumble as well, since I won’t have as much time to rehearse as I usually prefer, thanks to the Capstone deadline. I also found it helpful to discover one of her songs is so new that it didn’t even have a name yet, so it seems to me that this open mic is a good place to test out new material and I’m now thinking about another project I’ve been working on that might be able to get a start here. It’s pretty cool! But maybe one thing I should remember is to try to ignore the players at the pool table – one of the moments where Caitlin stumbled was actually when they suddenly cried out about something, and I think I’d find that distracting too if I wasn’t expecting it.

Louise and Jake

Next up was a duo! I can’t find any websites for them but they did well enough that I’d be surprised if they weren’t trying to promote somewhere. Unfortunately, they have no band name, just “Louise and Jake”, which is hard to search. There was a bit less for me to learn from these guys. The vocalist just made some usual beginner type errors, like not planning ahead to take the mic off the stand so the cable was still tangled around it, and then not knowing how to properly clip the mic back on. There was also one moment where the guitarist messed something up, but I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t leaned into his mic to say sorry. Otherwise they were really quite good, she has a really cool deep voice that I don’t hear much in my genres, and they interacted really well, with a lot of energy. They also made great use of the guitar, combining it with a loop pedal, which allowed them to do all sorts of fun stuff. By tapping on the guitar, they created a drum beat, then by adding strumming layers they could build up the sound, and this even allowed the guitarist to seamlessly switch his capo mid song.

My favourite part was when they switched to playing originals, written by Jake, and making even more use of the loop pedal with a drum sample and more guitar work, and also what seemed like a flange pedal. (I think the previous songs were covers but I don’t listen to that kind of music so I’m not sure.) Vocally it was also really interesting, Jake sung a bit for the verses, and then Louise came in with the chorus, and much to my surprise it turned out they’d rigged things so that they could also loop the vocals and build that into some awesome harmony layers! They did have to restart one song because Louise accidentally spoke into the loop mic at the wrong moment, but it was a really cool effect and I was kinda sad about them erasing it! I’m not sure how early they are in their music, but it was good fun.

Maybe one thing that was relevant to me was how they handled the end of the set. After playing one of the songs, Jake asked Sally how much time was left, and they did have time for one more short song. But as Jake was choosing a song, I could hear Louise expressing doubt about knowing the lyrics, so after a quick false start, they decided not to continue. So I guess the point to note here is that you can do that and it’s perfectly fine in this open mic context.


So I can’t find out if Ryan has any websites either, but he seemed to have the biggest group of friends out to see him, judging by some of the audience interaction. And he was pretty good with the audience interaction thing. He had one song about mums, so he asked if anyone in the audience was a mother, so he could dedicate his song to them. One lady spoke up, which led to a humorous exchange between him, her, and what appeared to be his group of friends, it was great fun! He also talked to the audience as he re-tuned, which helped keep things moving nicely.

Compared to the other performers though, his music was a bit more subdued, despite the electric guitar, and I noticed he moved less and also tended to sing with his eyes closed if he wasn’t playing the guitar at the same time. But like Louise and Jake, he was also using a loop pedal, and he actually started a loop and then introduced himself, which I thought was cool, helped to set the atmosphere. The loop pedal seems like a neat solution for a soloist, as it allowed him to bring a lot more complexity to his songs, such as guitar soloing, and that made him quite different to an artist like Caitlin despite the similar instrumentation. Looping can get repetitive, but he did a decent job differentiating sections using additional guitar bits and his vocals, and he even had one song with a pre-programmed beat.

It’s hard for me to say what I learned from Ryan though, because I’ll be using a backing track rather than loop pedals. But if I come back with another project, I did notice that the acoustic guitars went straight into the PA, whereas his electric went into the amp. He also performed a song he’d just finished writing, similar to Caitlin with her unnamed song, so that’s further evidence of testing new material being quite a normal thing at this sort of event. I also got to see how things go when you play slightly overtime, as Sally had to give him the signal that time was up, and she’s really nice about it too so I have less anxiety about that now as well.

So that was my first experience of the Townie’s open mic night!

As I was leaving, I did see a band setting up, but I had to go. Maybe my only final thing to note was that there wasn’t much toilet paper in the ladies room! I get pretty nervous before I go on stage, which usually means going to the bathroom a lot, so maybe just in case, I should consider that when my turn comes around haha.

*Capstone is the name of the class for my final Master of Art project. This blog was originally written for another class, which you can read about here at the start of the entry.