Problems and Solutions
Copyright© 2017 by Peter H. Salus
“This isn’t what I wanted!” Rachel began.
“Great opening line,” Patrick responded. “Is there more, or should I try to guess?”
“I wanted to get a doctorate!”
“There’s nowhere around to do it!”
“Calm a bit and tell me.”
“OK. I asked at UNSW and the faculty members in fine art seem to think I’m a weirdo: painting is different from photography and stills are out, video is in. I asked Sandra and there’s no one at Macquarie who’s ‘qualified.’ The folks I know at Sydney seem to think I need to do something more ‘traditional.’ I really thought UNSW was the right place! Their blurb about the doctorate says [reading from a pamphlet]:
A PhD may be awarded to a candidate who completes a piece of research that demonstrates a significant and original contribution to knowledge in their field of study. Candidates acquire advanced specialist research training and produce a thesis that summarises the research and provides evidence for independent thought and critical analysis, effective communication and expert knowledge of the discipline in the international context.
“Independent thought and critical analysis!”
“Can I make you some tea?”
“Well, from what I learned from dad and what worked at the Law Faculty, we should be able to find a solution.”
“I don’t see it.”
“I think UNSW has indicated a goal, the Ph.D.; we need to work out the path. Calm down and let me think and get you that tea. Oh, and do you have a copy of the UNSW requirements?”
“Yes. But they’re scant.”
“All the better. They’re to be used, not followed. And a list of faculty?”
“Fine. [I had water up and some tea in the pot.] We’ll work it out and then run it past dad.” I brought the pot, a cup and a serviette to Rachel.
UNSW Art & Design offers internationally renowned postgraduate research programs for those students seeking to attain a PhD level research degree in art, design or media. PhD students are required to undertake independent, supervised research that leads to an original contribution of knowledge in an approved area of the creative arts.
Entry into a PhD degree program at UNSW Art & Design requires successful completion of a relevant Honours degree or equivalent. Applicants must prepare a research proposal.
The PhD Art, Design and Media****provides doctoral candidates with the opportunity to make an original contribution of knowledge to the fields of fine arts, design, media arts, curating, art theory, art education and their interdisciplinary fields through independent, supervised research and investigation. Candidates can make this contribution via practice and/or theory alone...
The PhD Art, Design and Media focuses on research training in the following areas:
Art and Affect
Art and Science
Culture and Technology
Experimental Arts Practice in the areas of Globalisation, Migration and Mobility studies, Trauma and Conflict
Experimental Curatorial Research
Experimental Data Visualisation and 3D Visualisation Aesthetics
Experimental Environmental Research
Indigenous Art and Politics
Interactive, Immersive and Augmented Media
Painting, Drawing and Printmaking Research
Textile Design and New Technologies
“I don’t see where I’d fit in the list of areas.”
“I see several. Art and Affect (whatever that means) and Culture and Technology are the most obvious. But Indigenous Art and Politics might work. But it’s clear that you want to be in ‘Art, Design and Media’ not in ‘Arts and Social Sciences’.”
“I know. But is it relevant? Anyway, let’s look at the faculty list.”
“I see a number of good possibilities. But one really strong one.”
“Dr. Ivan Garshin.”
“He’s into cross-cultural studies. And film. And ‘understanding Australia’s past.’ I bet he’s even heard of both Dupain and Williams. The next one I like is Diane Matthews. Her degrees are from the US, she’s an anthropologist, and she worked at the Australian Museum. There are others, but I’d work seriatim.”
Maxwell Spencer Dupain (22 April 1911 – 27 July 1992) was an Australian photographer. The war affected Dupain and his photography, by creating in him a greater awareness of truth in documentary. In 1947, these feelings were reinforced when he read a book Grierson on Documentary (1946) which defined the need for photography without pretence.
Frederick Ronald (Fred) Williams (23 January 1927 – 22 April 1982) was an Australian painter and printmaker. He was one of Australia’s most important artists, and one of the twentieth century’s major painters of the landscape.
“I’ve not begun. Look at this section on admissions.”
“Admissions closed six weeks ago.”
“Ah! But did you notice ‘Late applications may be accepted subject to course availability’? Would you wager there would be a space for a doctoral student in Art?”
“It’s not yet 16:00. Phone Dr. Garshin at the office number and see if you can get an appointment with him tomorrow.”
“His consultation hours are Tuesday 12 to 1. Tomorrow is Tuesday. When you get him -- if you get him – tell him you’ve a degree from Sydney, that you’re interested in earning a doctorate, and might you see him tomorrow?”
“Then, we’ll prep you for the big meeting.”
“He said ‘Fine. Noon.’ Quite curt.”
“You’re an unknown, what should he do?”
“You’re right. But I’m already nervous.”
“Don’t be. This will be relatively easy. You’re going to make a proposal. Before that, you need to introduce yourself. Do you have a copy of the Gallery catalogue you can give him?”
“And copies of two of your pieces in SMH?”
“The one on Williams and the one on the Sydney Bridge and Dupain. Now, you want to write about their views of the Australian landscape. Right? So why Garshin? First, he’s into film: still photography is the static aspect of film. Second, he’s into technology. Photography is intrinsically technological and the photos of the bridge under construction are the documentation of technology. Third, Williams’ appropriation of Aboriginal methodology in representation of the Pilbara is cross-cultural. And finally, comparing the photographic with the painted landscape is cross-medium. So you’ve come to him as the only one on the faculty whose metier encompasses yours.”
“Have I told you that you’re a genius?”
“Not recently. But all of that’s yours.”
“But you put it together.”
“That’s my ability. Dad’s is facilitation. But we both need the material. People came to him with a corpse in a field. He told them to look for the tick bite. He saw the egg-cases of the insects and spotted the bit of cloth. He saw the clumps of dirt and the haw-flakes wrapper and got shot. Dad helped find the cause of death, the source of the illegal immigrants, the unlicensed mining. I warned of the mine accident, found a way through Law School, aided the band in Sturt NP.”
“So you think Dr. Garshin will agree?”
“I’m sure of it, but he’s also got to write a note to either Laura Poole-Warren or Jonathan Morris. She’s the Dean of Graduate Research and he’s the Deputy Dean. One of them will have to OK your ‘Late applications may be accepted’ application.”
“And I presume I take my cheque-book?”
“Yes. And you may have to write a large cheque without a wince. Now, you’ve got an up-to-date resume?”
“Run off three. Second, after dinner, let’s do a one-side of a sheet dissertation summary. Third, you need a list of referees. Winnie and Sandra will be perfect for two, but you need a third. Your editor at the SMH?”
“Sure. That’ll work.”
“Where do you want to go for dinner?”
We went for pizza.
In the morning, I added her Sydney diploma to my ‘take-along’ list. “They can make a copy if they want it.” After a pointless discussion about proper dress, I drove Rachel to the campus ... spending two years working on the Journal made me familiar with various buildings. I took a book with me, pointed at a bench and told Rachel I’d be waiting.
It was well after 13:00 before she reappeared. But I knew it was good news. Bad news comes quickly. If Garshin had told her, “Don’t be silly. Go away,” she would have been back in half an hour, not nearly two.
“OK,” I said. “Tell me.”
“Pending confirmation of my status and receipt of my academic record, I am a doctoral student enrolled in the UNSW Art and Design faculty. No tuition fees, but I’ll have to pay a Student Services Amenities Fee of $147 per term.”
“And Dr. Garshin?”
“He actually seemed quite nice. He glanced at the catalogue and read one of the pieces from the Herald. He wants to see me in three weeks and then ‘regularly’ thereafter. In three weeks he wants a formal outline and the beginnings of a bibliography. He asked where the Williams paintings were and when I told him of the collections in Canberra, in Melbourne and at the Holmes a Court, he asked for a travel plan, too.”
“Sounds like you’ll be busy.”
“He seemed happy with Sandra and Winnie as externals, but suggested I get someone in photography as the third.”
“I’m starved. Can we get something to eat?”
We went to Pinocchio Sushi on Anzac Parade, a nice Japanese/Korean place where I’d had barbecued beef in the past. It was nearby and filling. We then walked back and I drove home. It wasn’t bad: a bit over 15 minutes from the UNSW campus in Kensington to our flat in Newtown.
It looked as though Rachel was set for the next three years. Now I’d best work out what I’d be doing. The Ministry was a dead end unless I had a lobotomy performed. I’d have to place another call to Craig. Aboriginal Legal Services had ads, but I didn’t match any of their needs. He might have ideas. I’d call after Rachel told me her thoughts. Perhaps I’d call the band in Sturt, too.
My serpent must have been busy.
Just after 16:00 my cell rang. It was my father.
“Hi. Glad I got you. Are you at home?”
“Sit down. Recall about two years ago you found an aboriginal piece in an art store in Melbourne?”
“OK. Well a number of the dealers in aboriginal works, archaeological and contemporary, have gotten together. They want to set up a sort of dealer’s handbook as to what to do with things and who has legal rights.”
“The folks here in my office are from West Australia, Victoria, Queensland, New South and the Northern Territory.”
“Must be crowded.”
“You are a member of the bar who is acknowledged by bands in both Queensland and New South and has spoken with the Noongar claimants.”
“Do you want the job?”
“It sounds like a big one.”
“I would estimate no less than 18 months and possibly as long as three years.”
“Arrange a meeting for this Thursday or Friday and let me know time and place. I presume they have the necessary funds.”
“I’ll call you back.”
“What was that?” asked Rachel.
“A possible job for me. Weird. Very weird.” I related the call.
Gordy called back about an hour later. Thursday at 10:00. He gave me two names and an address on George Street.
“They heard about you from the Gallery in Melbourne and you were boosted by someone in the Ministry and someone in Parramatta. The fact that it was the same individual from three sources got them excited.”
“Hmmm. Are they well-heeled?”
“Extremely. Artifacts is several hundred million per year business.”
“They include stuff made yesterday...”
“Ah, yes. So, can I bill them $2000 per week?”
“Make it 15% more – for your overhead.”
“Right. I’ll let you know what transpires late Thursday. Thank you.”
Rachel looked at me. “That’s over $100,000 per year!”
“Don’t you think I’m worth it?”
“It’s close to double what the Ministry paid!”
“Only one-and-a-half times; and it was a low-ball offer.”