Tag Archives: travel

Invasion at Warrnambool!

INvasion BorgMuseums and pop culture – especially SFnal pop culture – never used to occupy the same space. They still don’t, on the whole, but in Warrnambool, a country town in western Victoria, that juxtaposition is on offer until 28 January.

The Warrnambool Art Gallery’s Invasion exhibition is housing the touring British exhibition of SF costumes, props, promotional figures and replicas for the duration.It’s an eclectic mix of material from TV shows and films, including Red Dwarf, various Star Trek series, the Alien and Predator films, Dr Who, Metropolis, theDune series, Lost in Space, The Chronicles of Riddick and The Black Hole.

It’s always fascinating to see the make-believe up close, to see what it looks like before celluloid, clever lighting and post-production turn cloth and rubber into facsimiles of a more real-looking world. There’s artistry not only in the original design, then, but in imagining how these things will transform through another medium (film and the screen) to look different again. That’s two layers of creative vision right there.

Museum staff said that some locals found it all a bit odd – what’s a costume from a TV show doing in an art gallery? But staff also said that the exhibition attracted all manner of visitors: not just the expected SF geeks, but people interested in design, fashion, craftwork and models.

Is it because this form of art and design is commercial that it gets so little respect from the average punter? Is it because this form of art and design is used to entertain instead of being ‘serious art’?

Invasion red dwarfTo me, these costumes and models being made for entertainment doesn’t make the skill and imagination behind them less admirable. The gorgeous and enduring art deco design of the robot from Metropolis is an amazing piece of work, no matter its origins. The reflective, padded suit from Red Dwarf’s holoship is both ridiculously shiny and completly evocative of that too-shiny, too-perfect concept of a ship. The Dalek pepperpot is simple and almost mundane but also evocative of fascist uniforms (and uniformity) and has been an enduring symbol of evil for TV viewers since the 60s. That’s not just script – that’s excellent design work.

One particularly cool thing about the Warrnambool exhibition is that visitors can get up close to the displays and see the fine detail on how these things were made: the warp and weft of the material; the paintwork on the models; the shortness of some of the molded outfits that indicate Patrick Stewart and Matt leBlanc are both much more petite than I would have thought!

Invasion Dalek sealWarrnambool has other pleasures on offer, by the way, including a lovely bay beach, an old cinema and some very nice cafes, so if you have some time and an inclination to indulge either your geek interests or passion for craft, art and design, it’s a lovely time of year to visit the coast.

Full disclosure: I travelled to Warrnambool courtesy of V-Line and visited the gallery as a guest of the Warrnambool Art Gallery.

Real life hyperlinks

On Saturday 30 July I was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne for one of Stephen Fry’s two talks. Someone on JJJ remarked that the event was like spending two hours in conversation with one’s favourite disreputable uncle, which I think sums it up nicely.

Fry, with nothing but a microphone and his native charm, strolled back and forth across a bare stage talking about his life. He did brilliant impersonations of people he has known, was charmingly impolite and disarmingly frank about some ugly episodes in his life, and generally held us captivated for the entire period.

I suspect the evening performance varied from the one we saw, since Fry is likely to go off at tangents at a moment’s notice before returning to his theme. He mentioned (and did a funny impersonation of) Australian theatre great Frank Thring at one point. Tim and I had already noticed, prior to the show, a marble plaque at the entrance to the Regent in honour of Thring, who had been instrumental in saving a number of old theatres in Melbourne. I promptly tweeted a terrible picture of it to him after the show, and was fangirlishly excited beyond all measure when he tweeted back!

During his talk, he mentioned the concept of ‘real life hyperlinks’, where you discover something new to you via a mention elsewhere. As it happens, Stephen Fry is my Real Life Hyperlink into the world and works of PG Wodehouse.

Tim and I lived in Egypt from 1993-94, teaching English as a Foreign Language. Egyptian TV often showed odd English language programs in the mornings, and through this we caught Australian kids’ show The Girl from Tomorrow, and an Australian mini series set in the Queensland cane fields. One of the last series we saw before leaving Egypt was Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster.

We were charmed and delighted. The language was exquisite. We promptly went and found the books on which the series was based, and discovered even more literary treasure with seven decades worth of books and short stories. Now we always have a Wodehouse story on hand as a way to de-stress when the world’s going a little bit mad.

It’s not the first time I’ve discovered literature as the result of a superbly done TV series. The 1990s Jeremy Brett version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes led me to the original Conan Doyle stories, after decades of an avuncular Holmes and dim, corpulent Watson had utterly failed to engage me.

I have gone to source material after reading comics with an intriguing premise. I have gone to history books after fictionalised films and series have sparked my curiosity. I have read fiction and non-fiction books mentioned in newspaper articles, and followed up recommendations made by friends.

More recently, in creating my Melbourne Literary iPhone app (coming soon!), I have discovered books and authors I knew little or nothing about. I’ve read books I wouldn’t normally have chosen, and have a long list of new and classic authors to try.

Discovering something new by following a lead from a book, film, tv show, conversation or newspaper article, is another chance to make our knowledge richer and deeper. It’s an opportunity to engage in fresh ideas, or older wisdoms, and to learn more about our literary heritage. I’m hoping that when the app is finally available that it will act as a psychological hyperlink and that its users will discover something wonderful as a result.