Need an alibi?

My partner is fond of joking that Mark Lehman sells alibis, since he's in the business of fabrication and maintenance.

So, if you're in Leeton and you need a cover story, maybe he can help.

Reflecting on Streams

One of the highlights of opening the Crossing Streams exhibition was learning a new word.

Ekphrasis is a Greek term for a literal description, particularly in poetry, of the narrative in visual art. So I’d guess that the responses to haiku describing scenes local to Narrandera, that were then interpreted with photography and music is a kind of inverted ekphrasis.

This was part of the writing workshop led by Dr Greg Pritchard, who had contributed to both Crossing Streams and the exhibition Slow Book Haiku that his collaborator Kelly Leonard had brought down from her home Mudgee after the works had been part of the Bring To Light Projects show in Dubbo.

I really appreciated Kelly’s interest in exhibiting in Narrandera at the Arts and Community Centre is a large venue with two rooms. There had been times when I doubted whether the exhibition I’d been asked by Western Riverina Arts to curate would manifest.



However, the exhibition slowly snowballed from unattended workshops, to around one and half dozen haiku, to over 70 tracks from musicians around the world that provided over five hours of music. For this I am grateful for the support of Marco from Naviar Records and also Marc from the Disquiet.com blog, whose Junto joined the fifth poem as one of their weekly projects.

Five hours is an almost perfect amount of soundtrack as the that’s how long the exhibition is open each day until 29 October, ensuring most tracks will be heard daily. The music contributed can be heard in the gallery and also available for perusal on an iPad with headphones.

Another highlight of the opening was hearing Lizzie Walsh and Mary Sutcliffe performing composer Fiona Caldarevic’s 'The River's Edge,' a response to a haiku by Sue Killham. Fiona contributed musical responses to each of the five poems shared by Naviar Records and they were all of a high quality and distinct among the mostly electronic contributions.

The process of curating an exhibition was one that required me to rethink my approach. In my previous exhibitions the focus had been on my role as photographer. While I contributed photography, as well as video and haiku, the idea of being a curator seemed to be one that needed an outward and collaborative focus.

While we were installing, Kelly had mentioned that this would be the first time Greg saw their work. It seemed incredible but somehow made sense given Greg’s frequent transient roles travelling between arts communities and making connections.

In the artist talk Greg told how their project had begun with a handwritten note on handmade paper from Kelly that invited him to collaborate. It said a lot about her style. I’ve really appreciated her enthusiasm for this exhibition and am excited about the idea we have to collaborate again.

It has been fascinating to see how a short poem can be interpreted sonically and the variety of the contributions provides a rich experience in comparing and contrasting individual approaches.

I was also happy to see the variety of people attending and engaging with the exhibition. At one point I passed two women considering the meaning of the word ‘verdant’ and, after reaching for their phone to check, learned it means green. That they didn’t shrug and move on showed their interest.

Crossing Streams has been a rewarding experience for me and I am grateful to Western Riverina Arts for the opportunity, as well as the photo above. Before it concludes on 29 October there are workshops on Sundays from 1pm, with Peita Vincent discussing writing then Kelly introducing weaving techniques.

The River's Edge



A highlight of the opening of the Crossing Streams exhibition was this performance of 'The River's Edge,' which was Fiona Caldarevic's musical response to a haiku by Sue Killham.

The more of your data I gather


Conversing Streams

While approaching musicians to ask them to make their responses to the haiku in the Crossing Streams project available for the exhibition, I had an interesting conversation with one who questioned whether it was appropriate for a non-indigenous person to comment on (what they saw as) indigenous history.

They wrote:
If it’s OK, can I ask a few questions regarding the exhibition? I thought about this for a while after the actual Junto, but are any of the people involved in the event indigenous? Or even the writer of the original haiku?

I ask because the prompt is using the lived experience of that group of people and I feel like it’s sort of weird for me to have even participated, being a well-off non-oppressed guy.

My reply:
Poison Waterholes Creek…is one of 14 poems that will be exhibited, along with around five hours of music. 
That poem was written by a friend who is very conscious of local history and my initial response was that I liked my poem about that location better because it didn’t open old wounds. 
Then I had to remind myself that I want to engage people but, more importantly, I read a column by Stan Grant where he talked about the need to break the silence surrounding the Frontier Wars. 
Stan’s father is a senior Wiradjuri elder and lives in Narrandera, while Stan Jr has also become a prominent voice in the process of reconciliation that Australia is going through. 
I think it’s an important conversation, particularly as increasing numbers of Australians identify as indigenous. 
It’s been really rewarding for me to see the discussion in the responses to the Junto, particularly those people who’ve gone and looked into Wiradjuri culture or found parallels with indigenous people in their own locations. 
Sometimes I think on how I can claim to be a first-generation Australian and how that is convenient when it comes to excusing myself from reconciliation. 
However, I am increasingly seeing the need to play role… So I’ve begun taking the opportunities to promote the conversation and it’s developed over the last six months while I’ve been thinking it through. 
Small things seem important, like reminding people of the treaty that was thought to have been negotiated nearby in the early 19th Century. As the national discussion about a treaty continues to be muffled by other issues, it’s good to remind people that it’s not something new.

Crossing Streams with Slow Book Haiku

What would Jesus wear?

In recent times the same-sex marriage survey has thrown up some interesting conversations, like the one about how the 'yes' vote will lead to boys being dressed in dresses.

So it seemed a good time to return to the question: What Would Jesus Wear?

While some might question Jesus' fashion choices, there's no doubting his achievements.

Jewel of the Riverina

The Murrumbidgee River catchment extends from the Snowy Mountains to beyond the dusty plains of Hay and includes numerous permanent and temporary wetlands.



Fivebough Wetland is distinguished through recognition under the United Nation’s Ramsar Convention, which identifies sites of international importance for migratory birds.



Many birds travel to Fivebough from the northern hemisphere during spring and stay for summer, before returning to breeding grounds in northern Australia and other islands. 



In winter the Wetland is also home to thousands of migratory birds taking advantage of the food and shelter available.



Over 170 different bird species have been observed at Fivebough, including seven species considered threatened in New South Wales.



Of 360 wetlands surveyed within the Murray-Darling Basin, Fivebough recorded the highest number of waterbird species and ranked second for the total number of species recorded in a single survey.



Upwards of 20,000 waterbirds have been counted on occasions, with the greatest count being above 50,000 birds.



Despite this huge influx of international visitors each year, many residents in the nearby town of Leeton are unaware of the significant role played by “the swamp”.



Fivebough was drained over a lengthy period in the 1900’s, impacting on black box woodland adjacent to the wetlands, and belah, saltbush and boree woodland on the higher areas. 



By the late 1970s Fivebough, along with nearby Tuckerbil swamp, became known for their birdwatching qualities. 



Sometimes brolga can be seen “dancing” at these wetlands, which also serve as a breeding site for black swans.



Murrumbidgee Landcare has worked alongside partners to improve the image of Fivebough Wetland, including liaising with local, state and national government agencies.



A tree-planting organised for National Tree Day in 2017 saw 50 volunteers put 800 seedlings into ground on the western side of the Wetlands.



As part of World Wetland Day in 2017, Murrumbidgee Landcare accessed funding from Riverina Local Land Services to provide a breakfast at Fivebough in the morning and film screening in town during the afternoon.

Each event attracted around 70 attendees, which represents around one per cent of the population of Leeton.



The Birds and Brekky event was supported by the Leeton Lions Club and included presentations from three guest speakers: bird surveyor Keith Hutton, wetland plant specialist Geoff Sainty and frog specialist David Hunter.



The afternoon screening of the movie Storm Boy commenced with a Welcome to Country from local Aboriginal elder Jimmy Ingram, followed by a presentation from Erin Lenon of Commonwealth Environmental Water Office on the international significance of the local wetlands.


In various projects Murrumbidgee Landcare supports efforts to rehabilitate the image of Fivebough Wetland, both its image and its environment.

Crossing Streams to make a splash in Narrandera

The Crossing Streams exhibition that opens in Narrandera will present local scenes in haiku and photography, as well as interpretations in sound.

Haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan and is known for its format, often three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, reflecting on natural scenes.

Earlier this year haiku were contributed, many by local writers. Five of these were distributed to musicians by Naviar Records, who hold a weekly challenge to sonically interpret haiku poetry.

Curator Jason Richardson is a contributor to Naviar Records and orchestrated this online collaboration.

“Musicians from around the world wrote music based on poetry describing locations around Narrandera,” said Mr Richardson.

“Recordings came from the United States, Canada, UK, France, Czech Republic, Australia and from Narrandera-based composer Fiona Caldarevic.

Contributions also came from the Disquiet Junto, an online recording community who responded to a poem describing Poison Waterholes Creek by Peita Vincent.

“That poem was chosen after reading Stan Grant’s call to end the great silence surrounding the Frontier Wars,” said Jason Richardson.

Other poems were interpreted as music from descriptions of floodwaters, trucks driving through town, gums in fog and trees on the riverbank.

Over sixty recordings were collected for the exhibition, which will also show photography illustrating a selection of contributed haiku.

“There were around one and half dozen poems sent via Twitter and email and one from my eight-year old son.”

The Crossing Streams exhibition will be complemented by the Slow Book Haiku textile exhibition, which is a collaboration between Kelly Leonard Weaving and Dr Greg Pritchard.

“It will be interesting to see how the economy of short poems translates into other media,” said curator Jason Richardson.

The two exhibitions open at the Narrandera Arts Centre from 1pm on Sunday 15 October.

The opening will feature a performance of Fiona Caldarevic’s music, followed by a workshop led by Dr Greg Pritchard.

Crossing Streams and Slow Book Haiku will be open daily until Sunday 29 October, when a workshop run by Kelly Leonard Weaving from 1pm will conclude the exhibitions.

The project was made possible by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, provided through Regional Arts Australia.

Surveying the damage

As a straight white male in a straight white patriarchal society, I've been a bit blase about the same-sex marriage survey.

Aside from having to endure another round of conversations with my partner on why she thinks marriage is an archaic form of property exchange, it really has very little to do with me.

In fact, I have so little to do with marriage that it seems silly for me to have to give an opinion on whether anyone should be able to get married.

But it's not about anyone in the sense of deciding who, it's about making it available to everyone.

At least that's what I thought before I started reading comments from friends on Facebook.

Matthew wrote:

The Australian plebiscite, where fathers get to tell the Australian Government that their sons are second class citizens. Thanks dad.


Kristen wrote:

The literally dozens of people who physically and mentally assaulted me for not being hetero, the people who made my life a torture and left me with damage that I am still trying to heal .... they get to vote on whether I am a real human who deserves real human rights.


The politics of Tony Abbott's idea to have a plebiscite as a way  to avoid enduring conflict about a policy that the majority of Australians support really doesn't reflect the outcome of the survey.

It's a mechanism that does little but further delay an inevitable decision that should be based on equality.

In the process it re-opens a lot of psychological scars, as well as fanning bigotry.

Of course, Shaun Micallef has already skewered the whole thing in the way a legally-trained comedian would:

Fran Lebowitz on sulking

Sulking is a big effort. So is not writing. I only realized that when I did start writing. When I started getting real work done, I realized how much easier it is to write than not to write.

Discworld

A friend from uni runs a secondhand bookshop.

On the weekend he posted on Facebook that a customer had called asking if he had a set of "Disc World" books and my friend couldn't contain his giggles.

Google tells me there are 41 Discworld books by Terry Pratchett and they share in common being set on a disc-planet that travels through the universe atop four elephants on a giant turtle.

I've really enjoyed dipping into the series when I find audiobook versions at public libraries.

Pratchett has a distinctive style of storytelling that is very conversational, almost Socratic in the way exposition seems to effortlessly be placed within quotation marks.

Even minor characters will have a role in fleshing out the plot.

Most recently I enjoyed The Science of Discworld, which is mostly a summary of the science behind our planet from astronomy to evolutionary biology.

I've tried reading the books too but find them a bit like Shakespeare in being language I prefer to hear spoken.

Stephen Briggs' voice now comes to mind when I read Pratchett's prose, as I have been reading Truckers to my youngest.