Stephen Harrison’s sea-mine sculpture. Photo: Rohan Thomson Janet Matthews’ painting ‘Whatcha looking at?’ Photo: Janet Matthews
Our only regret about ignoring this year’s just-completed Floriade (we find boycotting Floriade one of the joys of Spring) is that we didn’t see the Wildlife and Botanical Artists (WABA) exhibition there.
But the virtual gallery of the works can now be strolled through online, without suffering an ordeal by massed tulips, at waba上海龙凤论坛.au/floriade-2015-products, And it includes (pictured here) Janet Matthews’ engaging Magpies – Whatcha lookin’ at?
The only fault we can find with this little masterpiece is that the artist may have defamed the famously intelligent species by implying that a magpie wouldn’t know that its reflection is just that, only its reflection, and not another magpie. Those readers with bird baths in their gardens will have noticed how magpies pause pre-plunge on the bath’s edge but only to check out their reflected appearance in the same self-conscious way in which a woman checks the state of her lipstick and a man the symmetry of his moustache.
We were alerted to the WABA exhibition by sculptor Stephen Harrison (his works much praised in this column). He reports that his most famous and notorious work, his sinister-looking effigy of a deadly World War II sea mine (we have portrayed it here before and have reported how its installation on a South Coast beach agitated some locals) was there at Floriade.
A famous work installed at times in all sorts of public spots in Canberra, at Floriade it was installed in a pond, appearing to float there (like a sea mine in the sea). He laughs to report that at Floriade the mine was a major attraction, albeit not so much for people as for birds.
He says that birds flocked to it and perched on it and covered it with bird poo, which he thinks may have meant that “they were being my harshest critics” and showing what they thought of that artwork.
Mention of bird poo and our earlier mention of suburban birds, magpies, brings us to the vexed question of the peacocks of Narrabundah. Allow me a moment as I mount a hobby horse.
Wadda some Canberrans want? Utter silence. When do they want it? Now.
We can all look forward to such a superabundance of restful, utter silence after we are dead (some of us expect it to last for ever while the Bible tells believers it will last until an angel tootles on a trumpet), that the way some Canberrans insist on having it now seems unreasonable. Now the city’s silence-demanding fogeys have had yet another triumph, their zillionth, in the ACT government’s removal of the Narrabundah peacocks after some locals’ complaints about the noise (and to a lesser extent the poo) the birds make.
Locals who have never found the peacocks’ noises a nuisance and who think the birds’ company fun are again (this is an issue we have covered before) cranky with those locals who have made successful complaints about the fowls.
In this column’s long campaign against Canberra fogeydom the issue of real and imagined urban and suburban noisiness comes up again and again. How it knots the knickers of some if they can pick up, through their ear trumpets pointed at EPIC and when the breeze is in the right direction, the slightest sound from distant, only-for-a-few-days-every-year Summernats.
There are Canberrans who somehow expect to live in a city as silent as the grave and who expect governments to furnish that, when, surely, it is ridiculous to expect a metropolis not to give off some yodels, buzzes, squeals, clicks, rumbles, trills and roars. But those Canberrans who want this city to be as supernaturally still as the Wagga-Wagga of the 1950s (their greatest triumph being the way in which Lake Burley Griffin is kept as artificially dreary as death by never having motor-powered things allowed on it) somehow get listened to and indulged by governments.
True citizens, those of us who love cities, expect to hear them humming and even giving the occasional shout of joy. We want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep.
Alighting from our hobby horse and ushering him back into his top paddock, we return to our reference to the trumpet call that the Bible, that powerful work of journalism, says will raise the dead.
Handel’s setting of the Biblical promise “A trumpet shall sound” in his Messiah is one of the great oratorio’s thrilling, goosebump-raising passages. In the unlikely event of there being a God it won’t surprise if He insists that it’s Handel’s trumpet solo from the Messiah that the angel plays on that great waking-the-dead day.
Yes, Canberra is a very secular city and we are living in post-Christian times and yet whenever (every two years) the Canberra Choral Society invites Canberrans to apply to join in the Come and Sing Messiah the response is enormous. Funny little Canberra! This season the response has been even more enormouserer than ever.
The CCS’s Kelly Corner told us on Thursday that “We’ve had a great response, significantly more applications than we’ve ever had before, so much so that we won’t be able to accept them all. We anticipate lots of energy and excitement when we start rehearsals on 2 November”.
Christmas without going to a Messiah is unthinkable and this performance, using the heavenly, angelic acoustics of the Llewellyn Hall, is on December 12.