Why didn’t I think of that?

By Legal Eagle

Taken from Herald Sun, Picture Ben Swinnerton

According to the Herald Sun yesterday:

An artist has been paid $10,000 to float 10,000 paper planes in Victoria’s State Library.

Ross Coulter wants to track “thought patterns” in the La Trobe (Domed) Reading Room by releasing the planes from balcony “stacks”, and will use a Georges Mora Foundation Fellowship to pay for the project.

“Its going to be part performance and part video artwork,” he said. “A playful act of rebellion in a way. But then creativity has always been bound up with rebellious acts.”

?Now, why the hell didn’t I think of that? A much easier way to earn money than doing a PhD thesis. My father, my sister and I used to make some great paper planes – one which did memorable loop-the-loops, another which went for ages (possibly with the aid of a paperclip in the nose and little folded paper ailerons).

If someone else wants to donate money to this guy to throw paper planes, that’s fine. I’m just glad that it’s not my money which is paying for this. It all seems like a bit of a waste of time to me. Plus, I think of libraries as almost sacred spaces: if I happen to be in the reading room and a paper plane hit me in the head, I might be rather grumpy. I can’t vouch for what actions I might take with the paper plane or where it might end up lodged.

Call me a philistine, but this kind of “art” leaves me absolutely cold. Give me art involving a modicum of skill any day. Humph.


  1. Patrick
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more!

  2. TerjeP (say Taya)
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I presume it is privately funded in which case I don’t much care.

  3. Peter Patton
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    When the word ‘art’ is qualified by the word ‘performance’ I suddenly understand what Herman Goering was on about with revolvers and culture. 😉

  4. Peter Patton
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink


    Much of the problem with Oz govt-funded films is that funding usually comes with a lot of creative strings attached. For example, the funding body will have statutory requirements (bit like the ABC/SBS charters) to ‘promote Australia in all its linguistic, sexual, religious, racial multicultural diversity, and the particular importance of Indigenous Peoples to everybody and everything at all times.’

    Hence the mind-numbing dross!

  5. John Turner
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Why couldn’t the person funding this nonsense find something more worthwhile to do with the funds. Plenty of destitute or ill children could have benefited from some help.

  6. Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    That guy may or may not be a good artist – there’s certainly no evidence from this project either way – but he’s a very talented publicist, as his ingenious justifications for the project in that Hun article show. And indeed that’s what a grant application process would tend to produce – artists skilled at rhetoric and not so good at art.

  7. missv
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I like the visual description The Age gives of the project better: “The State Library’s famous domed reading room is to be flooded with 10,000 fluttering, hand-folded paper planes”, it appeals to me all those planes floating around in a civic space, I think it sounds beautiful. But not everyone has the same aesthetic sensibilities as I do and you could argue forever about what makes ‘good’ art and still not reach a conclusion, it’s incredibly subjective. However, Georges Mora was a patron of the arts and the Foundation was set up to support contemporary artists and the awarding on this grant seems to fulfil that criteria. I don’t think you need to get too worried about getting hit by paper planes LE as I think it sounds like it will be an event well-publicised by the library. Also, that $10,000 is for a 6-month project (research, making the video, making the planes, the event itself etc), when you think of it in that way – it’s roughly comparable with a living allowance for a postgraduate scholarship (pro-rata) – so I’m not convinced that it is easier.

  8. Posted June 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    LE, don’t do a Barwick. We respectfully dissent (and besides, paper planes and libraries, too much childhood fun evoked by that one!).

  9. Posted June 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Call me a philistine, but this kind of “art” leaves me absolutely cold.
    You are obviously a fascist reactionary conservative supporter of phallocentric vectors of mono-fluxation stasis. Art is the subversion of cultural codes of meaning. And what could be more meaningless than this?
    Will it be recycled paper?

  10. Posted June 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Oops! Posted a comment but it might have been blocked as I misstyped my email address.

  11. Posted June 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I once participated in a ‘video art’ thingy. We rigged up a TV with Paul Keating’s ‘Creative Nation’ speech on it and arranged for a Besser Block on a ski lift thing to slam into it. I was seconded to do the video stuff. We didn;t get any grants and there was no hi falutin’ reason for it. The artists just wanted to blow a TV up.
    Why on Earth should this dude get $10 000 for this stunt? I mean really.

  12. Posted June 23, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Apologies, I just had to empty the spammer and let sundry people out of it.

    LE must be out at the moment.

    As you were.

  13. Melaleuca
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Well I’m happy to be a philistine. In a country with a small population like Australia 99% of people who want to describe themselves as artists, poets or whatever should just accept that they’ll need to subsidise their art by washing dishes or shovelling shit. Such real life experience could actually make them better artists.

  14. Patrick
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Alternatively they could try and make art that people actually wanted to pay for.

  15. Posted June 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    What Patrick said at #17 (speaking as someone who has, from time to time, made art that people want to pay for).

  16. Posted June 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s particularly fair to criticise an art project that isn’t even finished yet based on a short newspaper article, if you still hate it once you see it then that’s fair enough.

  17. Miss Candy
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I think it sounds wonderful and whimsical, the best art, the sort that lifts you out of your existence for a blessed moment. How glorious, bring it on. Let paper planes rain from the sky, just for a moment.

  18. Melaleuca
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Agreed SL and Patrick but I live next to a town, Castlemaine, where every second person seems to be a frustrated artist or scribbler of one sort or another. They can’t all make a decent living from art no matter how good they are. Even Pauline Hanson’s old spokesperson and adviser John Pasquarelli gets about town in a beret and oil paint smudged smock for goodness sakes 🙂

  19. Patrick
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Yes, Melaleuca, but that doesn’t mean I feel any obligation much less desire to pay for them to be like that. In an ideal world I might stay at home with my kids but understandably you aren’t willing to pay me that much even though my kids are hands-down more beautiful inspiring and uplifting (ok in their good moments) than 99% of art.

    It’s called real life, and there is not and should not be an opt-out button labelled ‘call myself an artist’.

    Plus everything LE said.

  20. AJ
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe in government funding for art. But to be fair to the struggling artist types, even corporations whose sole objective is to make money from the creation of art fail most of the time. Publishers do not recoup the costs of most novels. Most bands signed to major labels never make their labels a cent (even those with multiple albums). Most studio films never turn a profit. Only 1 in 100 US scripted network TV shows make it from being green lit to a second season (only 1/10 pilots are picked up, and of those, only 1/10 series are renewed), and of the 1 in 100 that survive most never become hits, they struggle on with middling ratings.

    Second, commercial success requires more than just talent and the desire to produce art that people will buy. For example the recent Australian film Animal Kingdom is both pretty good, and is set in the same milieu as Underbelly, so there is evidence that demand exists for this type of story in Australia. But my guess is, it won’t do very well.

    In short: art is hard.

  21. AJ
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Also the paper plane thing is ridiculous

  22. Posted June 25, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    AJ – I think there’s more here at stake then the desirability of public patronage or how to make a profit from cultural endeavour. What distinguishes art is that art nails it. Art is better than literature or music at expressing succinctly and exactly what a culture is going thru, where the world is at any given time.
    Stuff like this recent installation event in Melbourne is the product of experimental art movements in the 1960s like Fluxus. These artists thik they’re being radical but essentially they’ve just turned the avant-garde into an orthodoxy. What is art? Something that baffles people. The cultural institutions, the Academy mandates this.

    According to this criteria Michelangelo’s work is not art. It never baffled anyone.

    I don;t blame this guy or those two girls. They’ve been taught to do this stuff. And the arts funding bodies require it. But it extends beyond the world of public patronage. Damien Hirst makes money, Banksy does not.

    And those two guys and what they do nails something that’s happening in the culture right now. Centuries from now when historians discuss the cultural upheavals at the turn of the 21st century they’ll use this as illustration. That mainstream art (acceptable to the cultural institutions) was souless, gimmicky concept driven and totally void of emotion. Whereas the ‘underground’ was clear and relied on the hand rendered image. In other words, ‘tradition’ is the new counter-culture.

  23. Posted June 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I think Adrien has a good point regarding how ‘art nails it’. In relation to this, I think it’s also interesting that craft, which relies on intricate handiwork but has never had the status of ‘art’ has made a grassroots comeback.

    For me, art offers emotional impact in a visual context – whether that be bafflement, admiration, awe, inspiration, horror etc …

    Also, I think comparing a performance/installation piece with painting or sculpture (for instance) is like comparing apples with oranges. I prefer to judge each on their own terms.

  24. Posted June 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    In relation to this, I think it’s also interesting that craft, which relies on intricate handiwork but has never had the status of ‘art’ has made a grassroots comeback.

    The prestige of the arts rises and falls and fluctuates.

  25. Posted June 26, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    LE – check out the recent Marina Abramovic retrospective at MOMA.

    Apologies if it is hive-inducing!

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