Coalcliff House

Coalcliff House
Ken Bolton & Sal Brereton standing beside house. Photo by Kurt Brereton (1980)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Magic Sam No5

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Force Zero

This is a poem I published only recently but it was inspired in part by the beach and by the coastal Utopia I experienced at Coalcliff, when I would visit Alan. This poem marks an episode that post-dates Alan Jefferies' move out of Coalcliff in the early 1990s which was sad to say the least. His subsequent move to Bondi Beach was however, a continuation of a lifestyle, modified by the limits of the medium density beachside living. I'd been a Bondi person since 1989 so there was a certain symmetry in my "showing him about" Bondi, swimming the bay, writing poetry, and generally appreciating the hedonistic possibilities. Alan's arrival allowed him to share with me a certain continuity of vision and lifestyle from the Coalcliff days.

This poem is haunted by the threat of cancer and of forgetting: the dementia that overtakes the mind and the body over time, the dis-ease of decay. But sometimes poetry forestalls the inevitable, hopefully, in nostalgic celebration of youthfulness.


Force Zero
for Alan Jefferies

the waves flatten out to ripples on our breath
suntan lotion pearls the water

both surface and suntan
inflect prisms in the morning light

we blink as it stares us in the face

the heart beats out the days
blended through these fountain-pen desires
made foundation for our skins

so troublesome, this skin
so many bodies

the message of the surface
is joy squared, exponential!

all around there are the beautiful,
naked, tattooed, proud

do my looking for me
you say,

and I look for you
swimming into the West, celebrating

this remission from care
in our “days of azure”

on this blemished horizon
shambolic real estate no one owns
I think of cells gone wild
sucking up resources

I think of your
coded poems, your demi-monde

I think of you
mutating in the sun

I think of becoming
a small minor god

a miniature god of mutation
or a god of small things

as Arundati Roy puts it
in her mini-epic of small Indian things

the almost-whisper of a zero wind
promises good things

the way Christmas morning was
silence worth unwrapping

like Polynesians we sink down
into our earth our oceans

unlike Polynesians
we make metaphors of Polynesians

because the word is beautiful
and Polynesians are beautiful

a pearl diver's heart skips a beat
the ghost in the machine

a film of bubbles
rises up from the hidden reef

God? the pearl diver asked
but I never found Him
what pearl does not wrap itself in a shell?

there is nothing deeper

I thought of Lorca and
your duende
and the duende of Dulwich Hill
and knew it suited you

like a battered sports coat
that reeks of ganja
in that brasserie in Barcelona

- how Paradise threw out the poets
as dusk shut down like a shop

I remembered Machado's last stand
in a forties film noir

and we were purified
in Tzara's
“bath of circular landscapes”

Yes, it was so
but the doubt remains:

if you were dead
would I know you

would I know you perfectly?
In a mood

of revolutionary happiness
despite everything, the virus

wave never breaks
and the body wavering

is alive and remains just so

that zero
wind in my heart.

coalcliff days (photos by Brian Jefferies)

Coalcliff House
(Circa 1984)

Alan Jefferies (circa 1982)

Zonda and Alan (Coalcliff kitchen)

family christmas (Coalcliff, 1983)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Outline of Project

The aim of this exhibition is to showcase the significant contribution to both the Illawarra and Australian art scenes made by an artists and poets "colony" located at Coalcliff from 1979 - 1992. The Coalcliff was established by Ken Bolton and Sal Brereton and was based in a miner's cottage perched on the cliff overlooking the ocean. This local council sanctioned "squat" served as the site of a number of seminal “post-modern” poetry, film and art projects. Sal Brereton left in 1981 and Ken Bolton shortly afterwards. Alan Jefferies then ran the house until 1992 when the council reclaimed the land and bulldozed the house.  Today there is no evidence of The Coalcliff having existed other than a vacant block of overgrown scrub.

Between 1979 - 1992 many artists, poets, musicians and film-makers were drawn to The Coalcliff house including:

Ken Bolton, Sal Brereton, Pam Brown, Micky Allan, Kurt Brereton, Rae Desmond Jones, Alan Jefferies, Denis Gallagher, Anna Couani, Adam Aitken, Erica Callan, John Forbes, Leigh Stokes, Robert Kenny, Tom Thomson, IIO, Steve Kelen, Phil Roberts, Les Wicks, Barbara Brooks, Kate Richards, John Tranter, John Jenkins and Laurie Duggan.  

NOTE: this is not a complete list of people who were there – others will be included as we go along.

A wide range of projects and publications were produced at Coalcliff including the influential new poetry magazine Magic Sam; as well as anthologies (No Regrets) locally screen-printed and produced poetry books including Sal Brereton’s Ideal Conditions, Ken Bolton’s Blazing Shoes, Due Sestinae and Notes for Poems and Pam Brown’s Small Blue View.  Artist books such as Kurt Brereton’s Hang-Gliding, The Birthday Book and Tyre-Pinch: A Cyclist's Nightmare; Ken Bolton’s An Italian Drink, and the collective Xmas Corpses. A number of poetry readings were held in Wollongong, and films including The Coalcliff  by Kurt Brereton & Kate Richards (1981) and various super 8 home movies by Pam Brown and Kurt Brereton.

Ideas, purpose or concept

The exhibition would feature artworks, publications, films, posters and poetry readings, workshops­­ and artist talks. New works (paintings, poems, posters, films) by key contributors would be commissioned for the exhibition that specifically spoke of The Coalcliff days.

The objective is to illustrate the historical events and productions of The Coalcliff from the perspective of those people directly involved and also placed in the context of the cultural history of the Illawarra. A second crucial objective is to continue the ethos of those artist-led initiatives by producing a book/catalog featuring artwork, poems, films, historical essays and biographical material on the protagonists and events that took place over more than a decade.

This exhibition and catalog/book publication will include both historical and new commissioned work making it a relevant contribution to both the local and wider Australian arts and literary communities.

Local Illawarra historian, Joseph Davis (author of D.H. Lawrence at Thirroul (Collins, Sydney 1989) and The Illawarra Society of Artists: 1951-2001 (Wollongong City Gallery 2001), will write an introductory essay on the Coalcliff “colony” and its historical and cultural context.

The show will bring together a significant number of well-known artists, historians and poets to the Illawarra to conduct readings, talks, workshops and interviews.

Shape of the Exhibition

The exhibition is conceived as a large installation including wall mounted paintings, posters, drawings, poems, sound installations and films.

A re-creation of the Coalcliff living room would be setup so that posters, magazines could be wall mounted and films/photographs rear-projected onto the large feature 'window' overlooking the sea. Viewers could sit in the room and read, talk and watch the films and slideshows. Music from Ken Bolton’s collection + from bands who played at the house parties could be heard on headphones and a through a low volume speaker.

Paintings, films and photographs by Micky Allan, Kurt Brereton, Pam Brown and Kate Richards amongst others.