Wednesday, August 14, 2019

    And What?
    Ken Bolton and Kurt Brereton

    (Jellied Tongue Press, Currarong, NSW, 2019)

   Launch talk at Woodburn Creative Space, Redfern, Sydney, 11th August 2019

Ken Bolton & Kurt Brereton have been friends and accomplices in the unpredictable realm of art, poetry, culture and circus for over forty years. The question they have asked each other, their friends, their families, their fans and even, very occasionally, their foes, remains unsatisfactorily unanswered – ‘And What?’ or ‘And What?!?’ This friendship & its resultant entanglements are clearly re-presented in this book -    (pb shows audience A3 prints of tangles)

I know this is supposed to be a farewell at the end of nostalgia but allow me some nostalgia as I recount the cultural background to this book (which, by the way, is replete with nostalgia ...) -
A few decades ago Ken became the founder of the leg-pulling school of Australian poetry. Not long after, having tinkered with the concept of leg-pulling while studying at art school, Kurt spent some years as a keen participant. Together the friends extended the application of leg-pulling to other media – video, photography, embroidery, drawing, painting, writing, son et lumière, slam, folksong and so on. However, due to an unforeseen national incremental increase in Australian poets’ serious self-importance accompanied by a quest for old traditions, the leg-pulling school, after putting up a strong resistance, started to pare back its opposition to those wearying trends and so began its gradual organic demise. But Kurt, being of an idealistic & utopian outlook, defied this turn and began anew. He created the forensically-researched, inclusive & influential Pathetic Manifesto. Over the past 10 years or so both Kurt & Ken have utilised this important manifesto’s approach, not only in their daily perceptions of the world-at-large but also in their own prolific practices of art making.

In this collaborative work And What? alongside contemporary tv celebrity sunday painters like Anh Do, you’ll find plenty of nostalgia as several pathetic & well-loved age-old motifs recur throughout. One of these is the early twentieth century comic strip character Krazy Kat. Krazy was a simple-minded, “heppy go lucky” cat of indeterminate gender. Non-binary Krazy was passionately in love with Ignatz Mouse. Ignatz, though, hated Krazy – so he invariably, & often, demonstrated this sentiment by throwing a brick at the ‘fool kat’s’ head. The third player in this bizarre love triangle was the gruff, ‘kanine constable’ Offissa Bull Pupp, who secretly held a candle for Krazy and tried to protect them from Ignatz’s brick-throwing violence. Affectionately, portraits of Krazy Kat appear a couple of times in this small volume.

There are also many references from across the centuries. Like 17th century French Baroque in Nicholas Poussin’s et in Arcadia ego, also Krazy Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Cezanne (anyone nostalgic for him?), Oskar Kokoshka, cool artists like Ed Ruscha, famous for his book full of pictures of gas stations, & New York School abstract cartoonist Philip Guston’s famous sideways painting of a big-headed man smoking a cigarette, together with many more famous figures - philosophical, poetic, arty – but but - what? no Giorgio de Chirico!!?    unless – this?    (pb shows audience A3 print of head curly haired woman or a putti...)

This book is utterly irreverent in its revelatory application of the comical to the weighty enquiries about philosophy in our age –
one poem asks –
     Who’s funnier, Sloterdijk
     or Adorno? Or is that like
     ‘Who’s funnier, Jennifer
     Saunders, or Jack Benny?’

     Or is it somehow different?
     Is it philosophy’s task
     to make us laugh, properly speaking?
     Or is that poetry’s.

And in an earlier poem there’s a useful note, almost a warning, on living in Australia -
     Shit-faced & stung by a zillion flying gnats
     Australia has a super dry brownish complexion
     Cracked, lined, flushed, ruddy and burnt –

     if you live here long enough you will wear
     The stare of Existentialism

Prominent in their appreciations and analyses are the personal tributes Kurt & Ken make to two beloved symbols - the enduring ampersand, the origin of which can be traced back to old Roman cursive in the first century AD & the exceptionally useful question mark that, in the late 8th century, was known as punctus interrogativus.

The authors revel in jokes, lots of them – they do a lot of what used to be called ‘goofing off’ as they speak to us with jellied tongues of times past and of their current pastimes.

Not one of these books is the same as another – there are different images in each one (so everything I’ve just said could be completely irrelevant to the version you acquire). But do buy one today and you’ll get a bonus linocut and a bookmark. ‘And What?’ is a uniquely goofy spoofy hoot - enjoy a chuckle & don’t go away after the performance without getting your copy signed & your own personal dedication.      Congratulations Ken & Kurt.

Click here for The Pathetic Manifesto - it's free!

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