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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Straya Day, Gum Trees in the Rain, Ican Harem

The Amber Fresh Chronicles

Straya Day, Gum Trees in the Rain, Ican Harem

Andrew Ryan

i was going to write inside today but then i stepped outside and smelled the gum trees. my lungs are drawing it deep in. i imagine it’s going all the way through me – somehow things work like that.

a little earlier i was out in the yard in the rain. the storm had arrived in the night and i thought it was going to be a dry one, but instead it let down big drops all over us – the plants and me. i stood out in it in my pjs and let it cover me and fix me, wake me from everything.

so that’s why the gums are smelling so good. because they were out in it too, getting their singlets stuck to their chests. opening themselves up to the whole world and giving it what it needs: their beauty. ‘fucken hippy’ someone might say. but then they’d smell what i can smell and they’d wake up too.

my friend is doing a big art project on ecosexuality. like, people being emotionally and sexually and spiritually in love with things other than humans. but it’s such a fine line, in the sense that there aren’t hardly any lines – when you are in love with someone you’re mainly in love with water… a little bit of hydrogen… some carbon. their feelings about the author kafka and about war and peace are made up in carbon particles too, right?

i had to turn to my housemate and ask “what are humans made of”. he had the same answers as me, but i’d like to know all the things that are in us, so i can know what i’m loving next time i’m in love.

now i can smell licorice. that’s from dill, and if you remember, it’s the year of dill.

two nights ago we had a session of magnolia’s late night live at fringe world. magnolia’s is a t – woh! was going to tell you about a show, but a lizard just used my foot to jump on! as if i was a piece of land. it landed on there for a brief moment. shit. last night i wanted to be dead, but this morning everything is too good.

so magnolia’s is a talk show, like a tv talk show but it never gets filmed. we started it in my friend’s shed which he turned into a cinema or supper club or talk show venue. wild things happen in there. and now sometimes people ask us to have magnolia’s in public. so it was at fringe world this time, where one park in our city is turned into a little circusy wonderland with lights and speigeltents and mainly semi-lame shows and some amazing shows. to me it’s a wonderland because this time last year it’s where i became friends with felix from sweden.

felix is one of the greatest people in the world. i told you about him before. he used to be a model, and now he’s the most happy, kind, life-affirming human you could meet – he’s the one that came to help at soup kitchen the night before he flew back to sweden, instead of going out to get drunk and kissed by beautiful women which he’s also good at. he’d made a business card for one of the men that comes, to help him with some plan for making money that he had. sat at his computer, designed a good card for him, got it printed, brought it to dinner. some people are helping with ebola, and eventually felix will be doing things as big as that.

anyway, magnolia’s. there’s interviews, music, comedy, all with friends. but the one i wanted to tell you was about ican (say it “ich-ahn”) harem, an artist from indonesdia who my friend matt brings over to do performances here. ican has animal magnetism. one year he did a satantic museum in the city – i had to sit in the vacant lot next to the venue and play songs to myself instead of going in, because it was just one step too close to the darkness for me, but it was a great time in the park, singing alone in the field in the middle of the city, a few acquaintances spotting me and coming in through the weeds to say hello on the way to their meeting with all things satan. i feel connected to ican, like we are the upside down tadpole of each other swum close into a yingyang for a year nine to wear on a necklace to school.

well, ican performed in the middle of the show. he had violin music playing the background, dramatic, dischordant, but moving towards a chordant conclusion. he sat in front of a table of items – paint, flour, tomato sauce, toilet paper, beer. and as the music played he began using his hands to plaster these items over his face. it was the kind of thing where people might say incredulously, “this is art?!?” and remember the story of the emporer’s new clothes; but instead it was the kind that actually everyone can understand deep in their spirit.

ican put his hands in the paint tubs and smeared it all over his face, over his eyes, in his mouth, across his hair. his hands are always very important when he performs, i think it’s because of traditional indonesian dancing and movement, but i can’t say exactly how. then he smeared flour, more paint, and all the other things, creating in front of us a melting, changing mask through which he looked out straight-faced or smiling wildly or looking sad.

somehow i felt like he was creating the history of the human race through time in this process. can you imagine what i mean? and the tomato sauce of course became blood in some way, but also it became excess and human engagement across time and space. and then he bit off the cap of a bottle of beer and everyone took a breath in. he looked out and said “happy austraya day!” in his very indonesian accent or “gday mate” or a few things like that that have left my swiss cheese memory.

then the beer got poured all over his head, spilling across him and the table and the floor. how can i explain how beautiful this was, and how it captured my feelings about this country and every country and our places in it?

well, my friend matt came out later just in brightly decorated speedos, saying he was an “emotional strong man.” he told us all to close our eyes and think of any pain or hurt we’ve had lately, or anything we’re concerned about for a friend, and breathe out that trouble and he would pick it up and carry it for us. this is what my friends do! in a wooden circus tent in the middle of the city, in front of 50 people, some friends, some strangers. but matt’s best act was bringing ican over. matt’s not ‘working in the arts’, he just does great things. and ican doesn’t write press releases and hang out in galleries, he just hoons around in indonesia and now here, painting on people’s denim jackets and covering himself in flour and beer to bring an australia day message to a room full of privileged aussies.

hmm. on the actual ‘australia day’ i just stayed at home, doing bits of work, keeping it real. but then strawberry pete came over and we played a bit of cricket in the backyard – i just batted and bowled one over, and then watched from the kitchen while pete and ben played guitar and pete sung in his beautiful voice that hardly ever comes out, songs that i couldn’t tell whether they were covers or his own instant spontaneous classics. it made me remember the night at the moon when pete had played a song an old aboriginal guy had taught him, and then the guy who wrote it got up from the audience and told him he was doing it all wrong and took over and pete would have drunkenly and humbly giggled and let him take over.

i went to court this week with some friends, and plenty of other things happened, but i’m going to go back to smelling the gums, all resplendent and sending out their powers after the rain.