Everything is art/work.

another artists sharism.

Dear Moreland council.

A little on my soapbox about the following:
Article 1: Moreland buys art.
Article 2: Art vs Toliets

Dear Councillors,

I am writing to express  concern about the recent publicity and discourse around the purchase of art, the role of arts & council.

Firstly, I’d like to point out we live in Melbourne. A place infested with artists. Artists add to the gentrification of an area. It adds economic value. It makes a city more “liveable”*.

Brunswick and Coburg (and increasingly further north of Moreland) are where many artists live. It’s why people live here. It’s one of the key reasons housing prices have gone up & artists are moving west and north – we are increasingly being pushed out.

I don’t want to discuss the purchase of Penny Byrne’s work. I don’t want to ask how much is $5,500 in the scheme of the Moreland budget? Or if the work is even underpriced. Or how impressed I am by key programs you have run in Moreland that advocate for women and artists – and why this work is a fitting contemporary acquisition. Or how art is an investment, not only in the artist, but the actual dollar value of it will increase over time.

What I want to discuss is the offensive debate that has been happening in the media. “Art vs Toilets”. I am appalled. That councillors in Melbourne, let alone Moreland have decided to have this conversation. This is not only completely backward in policy, but small thinking, petty and unrepresentative of a significant portion of your residents.

Your residents are more intelligent than this conversation you have tried to have.

I know there are council members on either side of this discussion. And I know there are significantly different demographics across Moreland. And i know that you always need to make tough decisions. But The Arts isn’t one of them. Debate in the newspapers about $100,000, debate about inventive and brave policy, fight about the big things – not the small & petty.

You (after much debate) part-funded the aMoment Caravan. This was $2,500. We spent a day in Glenroy, and this is some of what happenned.

They showed  vision and depth.
It inspired me.

I hope they inspire you too.

Yours sincerely.
Alex Desebrock.

Dear Tracey Spicer & the internet

Dear everyone,

Tracey Spicer wrote an article “I don’t want my kids sitting next to a man on a plane”

This is my response:

I feel like I have to qualify that I don’t have my own children. I work with children.
I talk to them. Ask them Big Questions through my art practice.
And am attempting to get adults they don’t know to listen to them.
Yes, this qualifies as “strangers”.

Why? Well a few reasons:
– to demonstrate the boundaries and limitations of the broad sweeping statement : Stranger Danger.
– to promote the child’s voice. We don’t listen hard-enough to them do we? As a childless 30-something I would have no contact with kids if I didn’t work with them. This is an increasing reality for many adults. We segregate them to schools and child-only areas – not only cotton-woolling them but also denying the insight, humour, joy and collective reminder of our responsibility for the future children provide a society.
– to empower children. When we talk about stranger danger we assume the child is incapable of judging an adult, of using their intuition, of developing ways of avoiding situations they don’t want to be. Children are often better judges of character than us adults are.
– I don’t want a generation growing up missing out on the spontaneity and joy of serendipitous moments with people they don’t know. The smiles, the helping hands, connections.

Tracey, when you make statements like this you are not only disempowering your children – you are teaching them to be cynical. It is, of course, good to be cautious – but your article is full of bias.

Males get such a bad rap. Really they do. And children and men miss out. Really.
Remember the feeling of climbing your Dad?
Or an uncle swinging you in the air?
Of the things you learnt from your friends’ fathers.
The way you’d observe strangers behaving. Learn from them. Admire them. Crush on them.

As an adult, do you have moments that sometimes make your day with someone you don’t know?

The statistics you are quoting are misleading. As pointed out here.

Instead, read about how long you would need to leave your child on the street to guarantee they were kidnapped.
Answer: 750,000 years.

Think bigger Tracey. It will put your mind at rest.

Alex Desebrock

What the posties wrote…

2 days worth of The Future Postal Service’s deliveries!

(click any to see it enlarged and scroll through collection.)

xx The Future Postal Service Fleet

Why The Future Postal Service

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

reminder list.

Its useful, sometimes, to reflect while making why you decided to make a work in the first place.
Because sometimes details take over.
And things look like a ball of string tangled about the size of oneself.

This is as much a reminder for myself as it is a blog post.
The Future Postal is:

For children:
– a game
– empowering. allowing them to navigate public space & be challenged with the content.
– revealing. Whether it be a question, their first experience of a random act of kindness or the concept of us all being connected, or playing in public space…
For adults:
– a reminder for adults about the collective responsibility they have for future generations.
– an empowering experience
– a joyful experience between a stranger adult and child – testing the boundaries/benefits of stranger danger.

This project was seeded through my own experience of public gifting coupled with the joy/learning/perspective I receive from working with children.


The Future Postal Service in delivery mode.

Adults are told not to interact with children that aren’t their own.
Touching, talking, playing are all off-bounds – particularly for men.
This makes me sad. So sad.
Because it takes a community to bring up a child.

This follows through to our adulthood. A culture of expecting the worst from strangers, rather than the best.
99% of people are AMAZING.
Yet we have a society protecting ourselves from the 1%.

We all know the delight of an incidental conversation.
A moment of unexpected connection, laughter, knowledge, empathy, perspective.
Or an incidental smile.
Eye connection.
Generous giving up of a seat, queue spot or coffee.

plane inside

A thank you note from an adult to a child.

Children should not miss out on these moments.

This is also about the cotton-woolling of children.
Of building resiliance and skills through experience and learning.
Do we want to bring up children that haven’t experienced being lost and found?

Or know how to navigate space they don’t know?
To trust their own instincts about people, and develop skills to leave.

And for adults, what do we lose by separating ourselves from children?
Segregating them to schools and child-only areas? Adhering to cultural expectations, rules & fear?
We lose an invitation to play.
A reminder of our own childhood and perspective.
A reminder to be curious.
The joy in innocence.

Clarity in questions. (Essentially, cutting through the bullshit)
We’re reminded of the future we will leave behind.
We lose the voice of the next generation.


Child’s words on a poster. Selected by an adult.

And this is not always found in our own children.
It takes the voice of a stranger child, a serendipitous moment.

This is what The Future Postal Service is about.

Further reading:
Lenore Skenazy in general
Particularly the answer to the question: how long would you have to leave your child outside and unsupervised before he was statistically kidnapped? (Spoiler: 750,000 years)
Me, on Small Voices Louder

Season Details:
Mon 7 – Tues 11 April from 10am to 2pm
The Amphitheatre, Federation Square. (the green astro turf on Flinders St side next to ACMI)
For children 7 yrs & up
And passing adults.
You can see a little preview vid here.

Awkward assumptions.

Yesterday I discovered a peer had been told that I had indigenous heritage.

It’s not the first time this has happened.
At high school someone else thought the same.
And the odd person along the way has asked.
I had a beautiful moment with an Indig fella on Gertrude street once. He thought I was. We had the same noses. So we squished them together.

I’m not offended. Maybe even a little jealous not to have the warmth, community and culture indigenous.
But it’s not mine.
And its a kind of reverse-assumption to what is the usual issue – of being ” not really aboriginal”

To set the record straight. I have no indig blood running through my veins.
My ancestry is Dutch (via South Africa), Irish, English & French.
A complete mongrel.

There are assumptions that others make about me.
And they always feel a little odd.
Like my relationship status.
Or I have kids.
Or sly comments about South Africa not knowing my background.
That I went to a public school.
That I’m happy, when I’m not.

This list is so darn first world.
But I’m writing it because I know we all make assumptions.
And have assumptions made about us.

Realising this.
Maybe we should all write a list.

Realising One’s Dream

I’m part of this competition.
From 750 I got down to the top 15.
Which I am quite humbled and a bit amazed by.

I know the work of about half of them. And personally four others.
And this makes it hard.
Because we all deserve to win in our own ways.

So. Adhering to transparency, sharing and dreaming – I am sharing my application.

Vote for me if you think I deserve it. Vote for others if you think they deserve it.

This is what I’d do:

Residency at The School of Life
This would be an unparalleled research opportunity into themes central to my work: philosophy, love, work/life balance, empowering people and more.

There’s a growing trend linking participatory art and social enterprise. I want to immerse myself in this leading organization, understand how it works and how my art connects.

Meet with artist crushes & those with like work to research, guide and befriend:
– Punch Drunk’s Felix Barrett – I’ve watched their immersive theatre grow over the past 10 years and more recently (and interestingly) to children’s work.
–  National Theatre of Wales’ John McGrath – his talk in Melbourne was very inspiring. I am interested in his “theatre without walls” and work at Contact Theatre. There are parallels with the concept “together” within my work
– Coney’s Tassos Stevens & Starcatchers’ Katy Wilson (who I already know)
– Subject to Change’s Abigail Conway
– The Live Art Development Agency

Pitching work:
My work has featured at multi-arts festivals & centres, children’s festivals, art galleries and music festivals.

I’d approach:
– National Theatre (Watch This Space), Battersea Arts Centre
–  Secret Arts & Garden Party, End of the Road festival
–  Ipswitch Arts Festival, Norfolk & Norwich festival
–  Imaginate, The Spark Festival, Big Imaginations
–  Tate Kids

Why the UK?
–  The UK has a strong industry of participatory & live art. I want to hear the conversation, exchange and be provoked to think bigger, broader and deeper.
–  I have a network in Europe to tour work, UK is missing.
–  The School of Life was born in London.

Why me?
Because any investment in my work has a broad reach.
It’s shared with various collaborators and organisations I work with.
And audiences.

I’m known for making things happen.
Of making high quality work.
Of sharing.

Because I believe in “together”.

Dear Brunswick.

Dear Brunswick,whatdoestheworld_August 27, 2013_SA_1_lowres copy

Wow. And Thank you.
And yes. And no. And maybe.

I’ve read all your words.
I’ve talked to many of you.
I asked a question.
And you’ve asked me a gazillion back.

Within an hour of this chalkboard going up –
you’d had a fair go.
Within 24 hrs it was completely full:
Refugees are welcome.
I love you.
The Simpsons Theme song.
Give animals voices!
Give people voices.
More singing.
Per adua ad astra  – which I learnt meant : reach for the stars
And I watched a dad write for his child “more knock-knock jokes”.

And conversations began between you.
Ticking and crossing.
Agreeing on uke playing, truth and empathy to those who seek asylum.

You’ve talked about veganism.
Music tastes.
Suggested we should listen to Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama Or… our mothers.

You wrote rants:
“tights are not pants”
Fix upfield bike path
Save public housing
No to fracking.
Less people selling me things!

And a round of applause to the person who wrote every week “stop the pornification of our society”.

Women’s safety is a concern here.
And violence.
You reminded me that the anniversary of Jill Meagher’s death is this this month.

You’ve drawn rainbows, and sunshine.
And trees. Lots of trees.
And scribbles.
And someone yesterday wrote “Draw. It will calm your soul.”

After a while other languages appeared.
Timorese. Chinese. Japanese.
I couldn’t understand a lot of it, but was so glad to see it.
I asked a girl to translate and in broken English she explained: My home, is your home.

It was clear this area is a safe Labor seat and Tony wasn’t our favourite person.
The board got quite messy in the week before the election.
And quiet afterwards….

“We Tried”. You wrote.
“Why?” “Why Tony?”
And, well, a fair bit of swearing too.

And on Tuesdays and Saturdays we’ve had music, and placards.
Rants, poems and stories.
Children, artists, teenagers, activists, a choir, my housemate and neighbours.
A few brave strangers too.
I’ll never forget a woman getting up with her bub and yelling “I just love Brunswick, it’s been so good moving here!”

And I have no idea what has been said while I’ve not been here.
But it’s moved a bit, so I know it’s at lease being prodded.

I was a bit scared about doing a public sculpture.
Not sure what would get damaged.
But nothing has.
Even the bloody chalk box came undone and has stayed here.

People of Brunswick you have reaffirmed my much loved statement

We will be taking the yellow down this week.
The megaphone, grass and chalkboard.
But the plinth will be here still.

As it always was.
And I hope we all use it still.

A massive thank you to Dan Mitchell and Moreland City Council, who let me do this project.
Dan has been a very trusting and supportive curator.
There are few councils that would back this project – and I am very glad that I live and work in one that does.

And Brunswick.

Because you’ve been everything, and more.

– Alex Desebrock Maybe (___) Together. 

To read more about this project “What Does The World Need To Hear” click here.

Valuing artists.

I talk about this a lot, I know.

And I too am passionate about education, refugees, indigenous issues, women’s rights, the voice of the child and all those other hot topics at the moment. And I talk about them too.
But I am also an artist.
And I want the next generation to be valued in Australia.
Which is why I speak out, because I know I’m not going to see the change in my creative career-span.

There have been a few incidents in the last few weeks.
So am going to collate them here:

1) The greens launched an arts policy.

An arts policy launched during an election campaign! Of course, it won’t swing any votes, but it was hopeful.
And I thought I’d start with something hopeful.

2) Melbourne was named “most liveable city” which took into its account CULTURE but not COST OF LIVING.

Did you know that artists make a city more liveable? This is why many of us are moving out of inner melbourne. It’s called gentrification – and happens all over the world due to impacts of females, gay communities and artists. This article highlights to me where Australia places it’s emphasis in comparison to world standards.

3) I did two tax returns.
One showed that I earned about $11,000 in 2011/12, and a (better) $30,000 in 12/13 (which includes $13,000 through NEIS). He then charged me $611 for what will probably be 3 hrs work in total for him – and yes, he is was an “artist friendly” accountant.
I don’t blame him so much for charging that much (I actually was impressed at his ability to charge this much after this news and not bat an eyelid) and feel I should take a few pointers –  it just reminded me how underpaid we are.

4) The Melbourne Festival has a significant increase in Melbourne works programmed. I had assumed this meant that they had begun investing in Melbourne artists. However, this week The Rabble are launching their first ever Pozible Campaign for $5,000 to assist in funding their Melbourne Festival work.

I think the Rabble are amazing. As are the other companies involved in Melbourne Festival, which was why I was so happy to see them programmed. However, I think these arrangements that MF (and other organisations too) makes is bordering on exploitation.
I know its “good exposure” – but are we really going to accept this all the way up the food chain? Where arts managers, producers, ticketing agencies etc all get paid a decent salary – but we don’t?

To change deals like this, we need a cultural shift.

5) This book came out, and suggested an arts strike in Australia. It also suggests that arts managers should have an option to salary sacrifice 5% of their earnings. (other points are summarised here)

I think this is what upsets me the most: when standard artist fees are calculated at a rate that is so much lower than arts managers. It concerns me how much arts funding goes towards organisations, towards marketing, towards salaries, towards their PD etc, that there is nothing left to pay the artists they promote.  They are the ones that get meetings and paid to meet with all the funding bodies, sponsors, private donors and act as spokes people for us.

I am probably more attuned to this than most artists as I used to be on the other fence – working fulltime in government arts. I can definitely say that the culture makes you forget about how much you are being paid in comparison to artists. And you are concerned at getting as much squeezed out of your budget as possible. (of course not everyone is like this, but it is tempting for any arts manager)

We are often paid an “hourly rate”. And, sure, I’m getting better at making this liveable. But I’d also like to share this:

“Picasso is sitting in the park, sketching.
A woman walks by, recognizes him, runs up to him and pleads with him to draw her portrait. He’s in a good mood, so he agrees and starts sketching.
A few minutes later, he hands her the portrait. The lady is ecstatic, she gushes about how wonderfully it captures the very essence of her character, what beautiful, beautiful work it is, and asks how much she owes him.
$5,000, madam, says Picasso.
The lady is taken aback, outraged, and asks how that’s even possible given it only took him 5 minutes.
Picasso looks up and, without missing a beat, says: No, madam, it took me my whole life.  ”
From Brain Pickings (also a good read)

We are one of the worlds most liveable cities.
The arts is a significant part of this.
F***ing act like it.


Empowering to speak.

Today we have a new prime minister.IMG_6485
Well he’s not really new. We’ve had him before.
It’s a long story.
The twitterverse went nuts.
As did facebook.
And as Jeff Sparrow aptly writes

“God knows, there’s opinion enough whooshing around the internet today: in the online age, fast-breaking events provide an almost irresistible opportunity for pundits to blurt out whatever comes into their heads, under the familiar compulsion to say something – anything! – so long as it’s new.”

We have a compulsion to comment. To speak. To type. To offer our 2c.
Is the soap box well and truly back?

IMG_6478I have been working on a new project: What the World Needs to Hear. It was inspired by Improv Everywhere’s Say Something Nice and my own work in Small Voices and Occupy Small Street. It is a project wanting to:
– to think about what isn’t being said/heard
– to think of both the nice and the harsh
– to think of the world as one thing, that could be altered by the individual
– empower people to take  on that responsibility and Say what is needed.

Things I’m asking/answering through testing:

– this isn’t facebook or twitter – people are saying it to people that haven’t chosen to follow them.
– speaking is very different to writing. Let alone, yelling. It is a bit scary.IMG_6487
– kids are far more open to this than adults. Kids’ responses “i can help you!” to “the world needs more kindness” to “pick up your rubbish”
– there are more people taking photos of it and posting it online than using it.

Things that are coming to the surface:

– I understand now why “say something nice” works well. It’s because it’s an instruction. There is comfort in that.
– I also understand why Play Me, I’m Yours works so well. Not only is it non-verbal (which i think makes it more accessible), but it makes something “nice”. For those that missed my gem of a fb vent status this week – the brisbane city council parks and recc manager decided my work might be “annoying” to those wanting to have their lunch – so they only gave me morning and evening permission.
While my ego jumped on the offensive of this and his presumptions (of many things) – there is something very true about the sound of a megaphone. It’s not “nice” is it?

Things to think about:
– facilitating multi modal expression – draw, write,… then yell?
– write it for someone else (performer, other person) to say?
– have a selection of famous quotes?
– make sure it’s in a child-friendly area
– have 20 all over a space…does it look more like “art” then and less intimidating?
– do these things need to sit in a wider context of a festival? (and why does this matter?)
– how do I convey the irony of an empty megaphone – does the world really not need anything?

What is Family Friendly.

I don’t know the details of this.
Nor do I know the variety of images that were deemed not suitable for a “family friendly” event.

The ABC have reported that images like these were deemed so, and thus withdrawn from Vivid Sydney:



In Australia, we have a tendency to hide  things from children.
And I think we often underestimate their ability to sit with complex issues, to see reality, and to form their own opinions and emotions.
This is part of growing up, of developing thought paths within your brain, of understanding the world.

Death. Disaster. War. Ethical complexity.
Sexuality. Intimate love. Hardship. Complex humanity.
They* are all things that will happen in their life time and will need to form the words and thoughts to cope.

As artists and arts organisations, we need to not shy away from challenging audiences.
Stop worrying about repercussions, bad press.
But to be brave.
We need to be part of a culture shift.
Equip people (children & their carers) with the tools to view, think, discuss and sit with the difficult.

We are all responsible for children, as they will be inheriting the world we leave behind.

If we respect children. They will respect themselves.

*Please note the irony here if we think about the way we allow children to view violence.