Not just bright lights, the art of Spectra

“What is with that noise s**t?” says the bogan just near me. Just ahead an old woman in a wheelchair is being slowly pushed up the hill toward the towering lights. Spectra beams its way skyward seeming to reach to the very heavens. I crane my neck and almost fall backwards as I try to see where it ends. I thought the fifteen kilometre high claim might have been an exaggeration, now I believe it. It really does look awesome. Mad props to my mate Nick Monk for letting me use his images for this post.

Usually at this time of year Tasmanians are hunkered down staring at their own navels feeling depressed, complaining about the cold and the state of the Tasmanian economy. As one of my Facebook friends put it... for Tasmanians...
...Winter is the season where people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.
 Instead this winter Hobart was buzzing with Dark MOFO. If you’re from out of town Dark MOFO was a winter festival of music and art the brainchild of David Walsh and the folks from the Museum of Old and New Art. The crowning awesome was Ryoji Ikeda’s Spectra, a light installation on the Domain Cenotaph stretching fifteen kilometres up into the sky.

For a week my Facebook newsfeed was filled with pictures of the Spectra instead of baby photos and nightclub style selfies. I saw everything from grainy insta-phone images to professionally photographed shots. Unmissable in rain and fog, Spectra had become the night-time unifying point of reference for everyone in Hobart. It felt like everyone had to see it and get their little piece of it.

It got people talking. Discussions as to if a big bright light in the sky actually constituted art. Other arguments were had about the environment and effect that powering the huge beams had. There were even calls to make the installation permanent, as great herds of rugged up people could be seen flocking to Spectra like moths to a flame. The festival also had an alluring effect, with a flood of ex-pats coming back to Hobart to visit. Ordinarily this only happens during the warmer months and for family shenanigans at Christmas and Easter. Instead people were flying BACK to Hobart... for a festival... in the middle of winter. It’s unheard of for Tasmania.

I think the real success of Spectra was its accessibility. It got a huge number of people talking about art who wouldn’t otherwise have, from academics, to small children. People of all classes and socioeconomic statuses were united in looking toward and talking about the "great light in the sky".

There was also some discussion about what Spectra stood for. Quoting from Genesis 1:3 “Let there be light” the artist himself described the work as “Pointing a fleshless finger at our town straight down, it seems, from some sort of imagined, omniscient seat in the sky.” For me Spectra reminded me to look upward especially in the depths of a cold Tasmanian winter. It reminded me that the world is bigger than just me and my small life that I share it with many others. It reminded me that I’m linked to the hundreds of thousands of other people here in the greater Hobart area all who can see the same things I see. It pointed me to something bigger that despite my very best efforts I can’t quite reach.

For Tasmanians, it reminds us that we actually have a lot to be proud of. Thank-you David Walsh for reminding us that we have in Tasmania is unique, awesome and worth coming back to even in the depths of a cold winter.

Thanks again Nick for this beauty taken from Mountain River. Jump over to Facebook and add him as a friend.


On Memes and the internet

Memes go bad...
When they aren’t true - It’s frustrating when things are passed around that aren’t true. Lies are the enemy of truth. Christian or not we should be people about truth. Social media being what it is means ideas can spread fast. This means good or bad true or untrue they all spread fast. A quick check of Snopes if something seems too incredible, is not that much to ask. Don’t just read, believe, and repost.

When they are smug - The overall tone of many memes is smug or worse still self righteous. At worst they dichotomise opinion, identifying the reader/liker/re-poster as a “goodie” in the narrative. In debate smugness is neither constructive or loving.

When you do it all the time - Please don’t be one of these people. People aren’t just an endless stream of memes and you shouldn’t be either. Better to post a few carefully chosen pieces rather than endlessly bombard people’s Newsfeeds with spam.

Memes are good when they...
Are actually funny or original - If you’re not a good judge of this then it’s probably best to avoid re-posting.

Challenging and thoughtful - I like to write challenging things, and I like it when other people challenge my ideas. This often helps me to think more deeply about issues, people, politics and the world.

You think of others before re-posting - I’d call this one the smugness test. Calling to mind a bunch of friends before posting something is a helpful check to see if what you’re doing is just destructive and alienating to the relationships you have.

Accurately reflect shared culture and experience - This is essentially the heart of what a meme is. This means friends will actually get your joke. If it’s obscure it’s less likely to be successful.

Look nice - In the world of the Internet aesthetics is becoming more and more important. There is already enough ugly things in the world without you sharing another one. I realise the word "nice" is very subjective. I’m referring a quality picture and readable font. Note also the irony of some memes that intentionally subvert this requirement.

*Picture is from one of my favorite Memes. See here for an explanation.