Writer, comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince is currently touring Australia with his occasional offsider Professor Brian Cox.
Professor Brian Cox is a physicist whose melodious and silky-tongued pronouncements have possibly done more to communicate about, open perceptions of and popularise Manchester than almost any other living scientist.
Together they present a BBC Radio Four program called The Infinite Monkey Cage and I listen to the podcast of the show. Some of it I do not understand at all, but I always learn something new and it never fails to hit the BBC trinity of mission goals: to inform, to entertain and to educate.
But there is a problem. Robin Ince and Brian Cox have been doing a live science show which has been touring the eastern side of the country. You know, the side with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, the side with the theatres and the Federal Parliament and the Big Banana. As it has been touring, Robin Ince has been taking it upon himself to visit art galleries in each of the major cities and write a blog about the treasures he has found inside and all the while he has been getting closer to Perth.
I have visited the Perth Art Gallery a few times – admittedly not recently – and it never fails to leave me with a feeling of vague disappointment. Things may have changed in the last couple of years. There was, I think, someone who went in and tried to shake it up, bringing a series of MOMA exhibitions over, but the exhibit was expensive to insure and not supported enough and closed only half way through its run – and I would have been one of those guilty of thinking I must go and then letting life get in the way. Perth is no Barcelona, that is for sure.
I am not even a great artist. I have no knowledge of art, but I remember getting to London after only eighteen months in WA and spending hours in galleries, gulping and gulping, like someone who has not realised they are thirsty who has been handed an endless fresh supply of cool water.
‘He is getting near to Perth, ‘ I said to my mate Dave. ‘Oh God, I just know he is going to go to the Art Gallery.’
‘At least’, Dave assured me, ‘Adelaide will bring him down gently. So it won’t be such a plummet from Melbourne.’
But judging by the blog post, Adelaide out-did itself with much to enjoy, even if it was mostly about death. Damn you, Adelaide, where is your sense of sisterhood?
Then this afternoon I saw a tweet. Robin Ince had arrived in our cultural desert. It was pouring with rain. He made a joke about the weather.
My fingers hovered over the keyboard. Was it really the right thing to warn him? I mean if this was Star Trek, would this count as a violation of the Prime Directive? I started typing.
‘Never mind about the rain,’ I wrote back, ‘I would be more worried about the Art Gallery.’
Dave, who also follows Robin Ince on Twitter was straight onto this, chipping in with a joke about the lack of local tourist attractions. I replied in kind and then left the thread.
My phone pinged. Robin Ince had replied, ‘This will be my final art gallery of Australia, should I go?’ he asked.
I felt awful. I had trolled my adopted home to a visiting celebrity. What had I done? I was like one of those horrible people who take their partners to a work do and start by saying, ‘Are you going to wear that?’ and finish by reminding you as you approach the party that ‘Oh by the way, these guys don’t like women who drink or swear,’ so you end up sitting in a corner with a Diet Coke not talking to anyone.
I messaged Dave. WHAT HAVE I DONE?
‘I don’t know,’ he replied, no doubt furious that I had been replied to when he actually has tickets to see the Robin Ince and Brain Cox show which he bought months ago and I don’t because I left it too late and they sold out.
‘You could always suggest this’, he added, sending me a link to a map of the city which you can use to explore urban art work – something which he has done and enjoyed and which frankly he knows a lot more about than I do.
I erased the reply I had started and modified it. I mean, even if the Perth Art Gallery is a crashing disappointment – which it may not be – at least visiting it will allow Robin Ince to complete the set, and Perth is a very, very long way to travel back to once you have left it. We may not have haunting exhibits of figures knitted from the unifoms of the soldiers who died in them – damn you, Adelaide – but I am sure we will have something, right?
‘Well’ I said, ‘It is a long way to come back just to see it. Go, but I set your expectations low – or try this after’ and I put in the link to the urban art map, which unfortunately for Robin Ince in this current weather is outdoors, but frankly the best I could do.
Robin Ince also presents a great podcast with Josie Long called Book Shambles. It does exactly what is says on the tin.