Saturday, April 16, 2016


As I mentioned in an earlier post, the NGV is hosting a major exhibition of works by Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei which is THE cultural event of the moment. As I'm leaving tomorrow, I grabbed my chance yesterday to see it.

It was totally cool.

In the course of his career, Warhol experimented with many different art forms, and viewed in its entirety his body of work attests to his genius as an artist. Sure, anyone could film the Empire State Building for eight hours and call it art, and we might decide that they’re just a plenteous wanker. But Warhol worked with film, paint, collage, drawing, screen printing, photography, text and what can only be described as “thought”, and managed to make intriguing and insightful pieces in each medium. The confidence evident in his embellished screen prints, along with his early sketches and watercolours, shows that he was definitely a true artist, not a charlatan.

The exhibition was clever in juxtaposing his work with Ai Wei Wei’s. The Chinese artist has many of the same influences, the same varied mediums, and a similar fascination with basic cultural iconography and notions of multiplicity. The philosophical parallels of Warhol covering portraits of Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus with diamond dust and Wei Wei imprisoning a thousand year old statuette in an empty Absolut Kurant bottle are clear.

Not content with only experiencing the sublime, I managed to insert the ridiculous into my life later that evening as I attended a cabaret show featuring leggy singer/dancer Rhonda Burchmore and local drag queen Trevor Ashley. I wouldn’t have gone ordinarily, but I was with a group of friends and we’d had a few drinks, so I bought a late ticket and followed them in.

While it had a few laughs, the show was basically terrible. The jokes that weren’t crass and vulgar were ancient when music hall vaudevillians did them. The sound was mixed by hitting the mixing desk with an old shoe. Burchmore and Ashley shouted where they should have sung and stomped where they should have sashayed. Even the costumes seemed to be badly put together and perpetually on the cusp of falling apart.

But I still enjoyed myself, mainly because of the company. Since I’d bought my ticket just an hour before the show I couldn’t sit with my friends, but I ended up being seated right in the front row. Enter Jocelyn and Jared, the platonic couple in the seats next to me. Both were a little drunk and naturally boisterous before the show, but when Burchmore and Ashley came onto the stage, Jared went into some sort of wide-eyed, gay diva meltdown. He was like a camp, flamboyant child who’d fallen into a vat of sugar, climbed out, then promptly fallen into another vat of red food colouring, then received a basket of adorable puppies. His squee when Burchmore first strolled onto the stage in a beautiful tight sequined gown was audible throughout the entire theatre, and possibly in other theatres nearby. He guffawed at every lame gag, stomped his feet with every chorus, and constantly turned to face me and Jocelyn with an expression of ecstatic delight, as if to check that we were witnessing the same orgy of fabulousness that he was. Which we clearly weren’t. But while his orgasmic enthusiasm was irritating on one level, but also kind of infectious. When I found my friends after the show, I discovered that I’d actually enjoyed it more than they had, mostly because I’d been breathing in second-hand besottedness from Jared for the last ninety minutes.

My friends were scathing about Jared’s behaviour, which apparently was visible from every row, but I found him so amusing that I took a selfie of us at the end to commemorate the evening. And he, naturally, was delighted beyond all sane reason to oblige.


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