Monday, October 05, 2015

Arise, Ye New Arts Minister

I happened to be in Mildura the other night (Friday 2 October 2015), to capture an historic occasion – albeit in a Zapruder kinda way.  New Arts (and Communications) Minister Senator Mitch Fifield was at his first arts event as Minister (or more precisely, and as it usually coincides, his first Opening Night).

That day’s Australian had run a story on Senator Fifield’s thinness on the arts ground during his first two weeks.  Oddly perhaps, Senator Fifield’s reply letter, published in the next day’s Australian, did not mention his then-imminent Mildura appearance. 

While the main reason he was in town was apparently a CW-state meeting of arts ministers, this coincided with the opening festivities of the Mildura Palimpsest Biennale.  While neither attendance seems to have any reason for being a secret, I may be naively underestimating the throngs of poets, at al, who may have one-to-one implored, or en masse heckled the new minister, had they known where to find him.

I can report that Senator Fifield presents nicer in person than his press photos make him appear (which look I’d call Country Town Beadle), gave a reasonable speech, and then adjourned to the lawn near where I was sitting.  I turned around to take a photo, which fortuitously was at the precise moment he was handed, post-speech, his first glass of champagne.

The photo’s resolution is appalling, but the trio’s body language speaks plenty, I believe.  The senator, the drink-fetcher (probably his spouse or a staff member), and Mildura Palimpsest Biennale curator Jonathan Kimberley (in blue jacket) all appear to reverently focus on the full glass of champagne.  

There appears to be an unstated ceremonial aspect to the moment – the imminent first sip will make it all official, marking the point at which there is no turning back; a future of frequent re-enactments of the same crisp scene, just with different backgrounds and lookers/hangers-on, now awaits the senator.

Whether this same, refilled cup contains a sweet elixir, heady-brew, or Lethean coping-juice should be ascertainable, I’d guess, by about the one-hundredth performance by Senator Fifield of his now de riguer little set-piece.   

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