Tag Archives: writing

Alphabet Soup!

This is a little animation I made a few years back for my sister’s self-published children’s literature magazine Alphabet Soup. It’s a great mag, targeting kids between 5 and 12 years old. Alphabet Soup is based on the philosophy that kids will write better by reading more – and the mag has space for children’s own stories, poems, and drawings too – a virtuous feedback loop…

When we were young, we subscribed to Cricket magazine (from USA) and Puffinalia, a local childrens’ creative writing magazine. These no longer exist, and there are are no equivalents available any more, so in true Ihlein tradition, my sis decided to D.I.Y. She has 3 kids of her own now, so I suppose they are her primary audience – but you can subscribe too!

Coming back to the above animation – we’ve never really done anything particular with it except watch it and chuckle. This little bit of moving image experimentation was the basis for my design of the Alphabet Soup logo, which you can see in flattened, coloured form over on the Soup website (I think it was processed after it left my hands, by my cousin Chris).

More kids lit stuff can be found on Soup Blog too…

the air in darwin

Tuesday, nine am. I’m just about to head back to the air-con-bedroom with a coffee when I bump into a woman in the hostel kitchen. She’s a job search broker from New Zealand. She’s doing her washing up from breakfast. She asks me if I’ve “seen everything there is to see in Darwin”.

No, not really, I say. I think of the crocodile farm, the cyclone simulator at the museum, fishing boats down at the harbour, trips to Litchfield, etc etc. People say you should see them, but we haven’t done these things, and we’re running out of time. Two weeks is not enough for Darwin.

There’s not very much to do here, is there? she says. And the heat. Your hair is constantly dripping: drip drip drip drip drip I can’t stand it. You just never get comfortable.

She is a large woman. She’s probably having a hard time of it. I sympathise with her about the sweat. The air in Darwin is like a gentle sauna. I feel moisture in every crevice. The back of my neck where my collar touches the skin has developed a stinging roughness which I can feel with my fingers, but I can’t see it in the mirror. Is this “heat rash”?
Continue reading

Coffee Stains in Bed

[The following was first published at the Fusion Strength Blog]

Thursday, nine am.

Each morning I set my alarm for 730 or eight. The idea is that I’ll get up and do some study. I have discovered that the only way I can study here is to sneak out of bed early, before the others wake up, tiptoe to the kitchen, and make myself a pot of black coffee. While the coffee is on the stove, I put on two slices of toast. Just before the it pops up, the coffee boils, and I take it off the element. Then, almost immediately, the toast pops. I butter it with vegemite, pour two cups of black coffee, stir sugar into one of them, balance the whole ensemble on a dinner plate, and go back to the air conditioned bedroom. Jason is still sleeping. My clatter makes him stir, however, and he opens his eyes a crack, laughs quietly in that way that he does and says “I smell coffee!” “Wake up and smell it,” I say. Thankfully, this is probably the lamest joke I’ll tell all day.
Continue reading

(these moments gifted)

twilight hours
two green fishermen check their watches and
nod in agreement

as young thugs on bikes
scoot about nosing
for action

and an aeroplane passes
slowly over

i can see my brown
sweater, black jeans and
crossed legs stretched out
on the grassy bank of
the canal

I’m locked out and
have nothing to do

[May 31st, 2000 on the banks of the canal, Bethnal Green, London, near Rohan Stanley and Bec Neill’s STUFF Gallery warehouse]


3. Arbitration makes great sense

9. Mending the parts of holes that leave nothing till the end

10. To send the food to friends

11. A van unbeknown

13. And enter in the swim of things

16. The nature of the rock

19. Film is shot at angles

20. And speaking all the time

21. United let us fly

22. The key is in the trees where books are concerned

25. Dissolves her lips against the glass

27. Nothing higher nothing lower

29. Forms four times exactly what they are

31. They bathe and leave the trees undressed

32. The animal is criminal

35. A broken zodiac

37. To mediate to mediate

39. In time the memory of a child returns

40. The egyptian is a bird

43. The book is nong

46. The sting is kunt

48. Because of greed the worker is condemned

49. Flick flack swings song tools the cause of motion

50. Deep ends of oil smooths out phenomena

51. In comfort and distress


1. Arbitration makes slim pickings

2. The best parts are mostly left to last

3. Stodge belittles starchy foods

4. A van below the motorway wears you down

5. To swim around

6. One, two, three, four, five, six are convincing cracks between the rocks

7. Angular sightings deliver films

8. A female of the species

9. Your letter to bananas

10a. Trees conceal small books

10b. Her extended lips against the glass

11. A pedant nut is formed by fourths

12. Well dressed and bathed he leaves the house

13. Excited like an animal

14a. The wicked smashing of the trees

14b. To mediate against philosophers

14c. Is the source of stories

15a. Nong

15b. Kunt

15c. Without the tools of negotiation the workers are condemned

16. The nature of the swing has caused the motion

17. A phenomena is massaged by oil

18. Is a comfort in distress

19. The principle of universities is formed with money

20. The left hand and the dumb

21. He has nous for rooms

22. She had nous for knitting

23. United in the union of the students

24. A crossing of the floor is no longer possible

BANALITIES for Babel (by Ruark Lewis)


1. a still road is littered with the bodies of a hundred

2. was burdened with the weight of down

3. his drunken joy was volatile

4. the winds sift through the grasses on the dunes

5. a foul air penetrates the soul

6. he steers his punt against the lyric poets

7. it sped and jumped the tracks to cross the distance very fast

8. fancy-free he disappeared in thin air

9. across the city's frozen water he could hear the voices

10. where the folded ribbons remain a warning

11. a snake is mostly mis-understood

12. in their music the sound of water is almost audible

13. he was stationed in the army of the senses

14. why gather momentum?

15. the rat has solved the problem of the hole

16. to find a dollar it is sometimes harder than we think

17. perfume is a sense of place

18. S-shaped for an hour from one place to another

19. the brown bird built a temple in the nest

20. a sport of water

21. the waxy substances that form a soap make bubbles

22. the meeting of the battled unions generates more than noise

23. orchestras are not cricket teams

24. when the corpse speaks from his bed the grave is empty

…for more Ruark Lewis please visit

Pre-digital new media art

For artists like myself born in the 1970s, the activities of that decade can seem elusive, utopian and fascinating. Seemingly uncompromised by the pull of the art market, 1970s projects were remarkable for their clarity of intention and simplicity of execution. Concepts travel across time and space to the present, carried only by rudimentary texts and a few grainy black and white photos. The remnants of the processes of artists like Vito Acconci, Valie Export and Stephen Willats continue to inspire current generations who utilise and plunder their work as models for political, aesthetic and social action. But how much do we actually know about what went on? Can we trust the documents left behind?

full article here

[also worth reading, related… an interesting review by Dirk de Bruyn on the Shoot Shoot Shoot tour to Melbourne in 2002

[ps: related discussion might be found under the tag “re-enactment” and also over at the TLC website.]

kellerberrin folks

[the following is part of the Bilateral Kellerberrin project].

folks i have met so far in kellerberrin. a lotta them are men.

tony, a bearded guy on a bike who scared christina when she exited the gallery. he was very friendly, said he works wherever he can find it, at the moment helping a mate of his who is establishing a vineyard west of keller somewhere. said his mate is waiting for a $400 000 loan to set it up. they have been setting up “faggots” – bundles of sticks to hold the grape seedlings in place. tony said there used to be a vineyard in keller at the nunnery…

mick, who is the community development officer at the shire council. actually, i met him when i was here in january, as he featured in some paintings of himself as napoleon (i could be wrong) which were hung in husein’s monumental painting extravaganza. his wife (pat?) is a distribution point for eggs, so i gave him our empty egg cartons. he had popped around to say goodbye to kirsten, but had missed her by about ten minutes.
Continue reading


[this article was written in early July 2004, and originally appeared in Spinach7 Magazine, under the title SPLINT MATE. Before that, it emerged as a scrappy blog entry here.]

LUCAS IHLEIN argues that ‘interactive’ arts practice means more than pressing buttons; and assembles a gammy billy-cart to prove his point.

Much has been made of recent advances in new media art — particularly the development of ‘interactive’ and ‘immersive’ environments and installations. Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and its German sibling Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie [ZKM] pride themselves on supporting artists who experiment with new ways of overwhelming our senses with sound and image. The public (so the marketing department tells us) is hungry to see futuristic interfaces between human and machine. Yet how many of these artworks succeed in engaging museum visitors beyond “press here and see what happens”? How often is it that a simple, old fashioned conversation is more rewardingly ‘interactive’ than the choose-your-own-adventure style new media works to which we are increasingly exposed?

Around the same time that ACMI launched its teched-up exhibition 2004: Australian Culture Now in Federation Square, CLUBSproject inc, an artist-run venture above Melbourne’s Builders Arms Hotel, presented multipleMISCELLANEOUSalliances (mMa). Taking place in July, mMa was an ongoing series of “art conversations” taking the form of “collaborative events and activities […] by and between people whose practices construct, explore, and enact multiple social relations”. The most sophisticated items of ‘new media’ in mMa were video cameras and television sets — all of which have been more or less available as artists’ tools since the early 1970s.

Among the myriad of old media projects at mMa was Splint, a kind of organic Meccano set made by Jason Maling and Torie Nimmervoll. Described as “the way of the stump and the strap”, Splint is a toy/tool-kit, hand-made from wood, rope, and leather that deliberately comes without instructions or hints.

Nimmervoll and Maling rarely present Splint within an art gallery context, which they claim can restrict free play and participation (they prefer to work in schools or public places). Gallery visitors usually come with a tentative not-sure-if-I-can-touch inhibition, which they learn from the conventional presentation of art. Splint’s makers set arbitrary (and often silly) tasks for themselves and willing participants to carry out — usually within an urban context. For instance, “use the apparatus to scale a tall, sheer wall”.

When I arrived at CLUBS my friend Damien was already sniffing around Splint — he was instinctively drawn to it, but wasn’t sure exactly how to tackle its mysterious inventory of spare parts. The elements of the kit seem very much like found industrial tools for the engineering of a car. They look like something ‘proper’ — something extremely well made with a (hidden) intended purpose. The kit is divided up into “cells” – each cell contains wooden disks, various lengths of rope, spiral-carved “stumps” (much like medieval cricket stumps), and a leather harness and hexagonal mat. All are engineered to withstand the hammering they receive from enthusiastic users, and are often repairable when damaged or worn out.

Splint lends itself to — and almost demands — collaboration. Soon enough Damien and I were diving into the metal cases containing the stumps and rustic-smelling sisal rope, and attempting, in our uncritically-masculine way to make our own ‘billy-cart’. This playful, absorbing construction task kept us going for a few hours, and even when our makeshift vehicle ended up in the pits, with a tragically split chassis, Maling didn’t chastise us — “I guess we’ll retire that piece,” he said with a shrug.

Cleverer than us were a duo of (also male) theatre designers who set about designing a comfy and functional chair out of the versatile kit. The dedicated pair, concerned not just with the use-value, but also the look of their piece of furniture, gave themselves the limitation of not using any knots. Such aesthetic concerns are very much a part of the Splint experience. The kit comes complete with a “self-assessment” system — a blackboard (pictured) upon which participants can rate their own progress — using criteria like “environmental negotiation, utility, gameplay, geometry, physical negotiation, and aesthetics”. And Maling and Nimmervoll have kept a log of results at regular intervals during the evolving life of Splint.

One of the most important products of Splint is also one of the most intangible: the collaborative relationship which stealthily develops between the two or more ‘players’ as they work on a common task. This was evident in the knotted brows of the chair-makers as they quietly tackled problem after problem with the utility of their ad-hoc furniture, while not wanting to sacrifice the aesthetic decision to avoid knots. Splint is thus a tool for learning, not only about physical construction, but also about how to negotiate joint decision-making in a (self-determined) task. This educational aspect renders the kit ideal for workshops with children — and watching them work with the elements of Splint helps Maling and Nimmervoll improve its materials and design in a constant process of evolution.

When I returned to CLUBS a few days later, I found our billy-cart had been recycled by subsequent participants into a harness and rope ladder for scaling the exterior wall of the Builders’ Arms Hotel — a MacGuyver-style emergency exit system from the bustlingly sociable art venue.

Each time I visited mMa it was jam-packed and chaotic. Groups of artists seemed to be cooking up projects in every corner, and newcomers were warmly welcomed to join in. Soup was doled up as you walked in the door, and free tea and coffee were available. These humble, hospitable gestures may seem minor, but I don’t doubt that they were as thoroughly discussed and orchestrated as any of the other rich and interactive elements of mMa.

addendum for blog:

Also part of mMa:
-a vast repository of artists books, zines, articles and journals, set up in a comfy couchy carpeted space next to a ricketty photocopy machine.
-a re-creation of Azlan McClennan‘s censored artwork – complete with a planned forum to discuss the issues surrounding the work, on Sunday 4th July…
-an old Mac Classic set up so that visitors can log in their immediate responses and messages regarding the show (presumably these responses will be posted on the CLUBS website shortly)…
-documentation of The Laws Project by Damien Lawson and Kylie Wilkinson – this piece began with the distribution of hundreds of fridge magnets outlining the US government’s INTERROGATION RULES OF ENGAGEMENT – rules which became apparent following the scandal surrounding the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
Wilkinson and Lawson followed this up with a “re-enactment” (in Federation Square) of the famous photograph of the Iraqi prisoner balancing precariously with a black sack on his head.
-and there are DOZENS more projects coming up during the rest of the mMa…

The launch afternoon of mMa was jam-packed and chaotic. Soup was doled up as you walked in the door, and tea and coffee were constantly available for free. These humble, hospitable gestures may seem minor, but I don’t doubt that they were as thoroughly discussed and orchestrated as any of the other elements of mMa.

mMa was organised by Bianca Hester as a part of Resistance Through Rituals, coordinated by Lisa Kelly at Westspace.