Reflection on materialism and the power of ideas.

The topic of my post today is about materialism and what we consider precious in society, and the run on effect that has in context of schools and the way we educate young people. Just recently, some good friends of mine, a couple in their thirties with a three-year-old daughter, lost something very precious to them. On September 5th 2013, at three in the morning, police knocked on their door to inform them that their Art House in rural South Australia had burned down in a devastating fire. I received an e-mail later that day telling the Art House followers the outcome of the blaze; the entire building was gutted, leaving behind only a collection of teacups that filled a single shopping bag.  Before I go further I would like to just recognize that this particular Art House was the dream project of a family who have lived through many wonderful, artistic experiences, but as is the case for many artists, it was a financial struggle to put such an inspiring project together. It is for this reason that the Art House was uninsured; the costs to insure such a project would be unimaginable, especially for a family so committed to non-for-profit community activities.


Black Cockatoo Arthouse fire


A building is just a building. But this space that had been created was somewhat of a refuge, hidden within a bustling world. I have a strong sensual memory of when I first walked in there. The family served the customers homemade organic curry, local cider and delicious pastries; the kind of smells that penetrated the very fabric of the building. I sat in the back row to watch a touring band perform – The Rising Lotus with local guitar legend Chris Finnen. Every seat was unique, arm chairs and sofas, dotted with cushions and vintage throws. The warm lights were golden and soaked in to the rich artworks that lined the walls. This was the kind of space that I felt at home in. This was comfort and belonging. But for the creators of this space, this was the embodiment of an idea, the life form of their vision. I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel to lose something that precious in just an instant.



I suppose that brings me to what I want to say. The owner, creator, curator and father of this special place, the visionary, had lost – along with his unique space – a collection of personal items including over fifteen years’ worth of photographs, valuable DJ-ing equipment and a record collection, that he estimates was 10,000 strong, that he began compiling as a youth. When I spoke to him today he said he was sad to lose everything but that the vision will not perish in the fire. In under a week he has already made plans for alternate venues to present his performers, and a pop-up cinema to showcase indie films like the Art House once did. It got me to thinking, why is it we hold so much in store of our material possessions? If someone like this man, who has lost so much he holds dear, can bounce back and hold on to his dream, can’t we all? Isn’t that the type of ideal we want to see in future generations of young people? I know I want to inspire my students to always dream big, and to always struggle as strongly and passionately as possible to realise those dreams. I want my students to know that they might fail, and they might lose, but when they do they can hold on to the ideas, and rebuild. The phoenix will rise.



I reflect on James McTeigue’s (2005) V for Vendetta, in which the premise is that an idea can outlast man, that ideas can withstand any trial, that “ideas are bulletproof”. This is how I feel about the Art House, and about the visionary. By not letting it waste away in the fire, his idea is invincible. The entire world is materialistic, and yet our society thrives on ideas, on science and on art, on people’s visions and dreams, and on bringing our ideas to fruition by exploring beyond our perceptions of the impossible.  As educators we need to always encourage our students to explore, to be visionaries and to understand that sometimes people, or even nature, might destroy the things we care about in the material world, but that as long as we strive to always better ourselves, to always pursue our dreams and never give up when we are challenged, our ideas will truly be bulletproof. Our ideas will be untouchable.


To donate to the Black Cockatoo Arthouse Emergency Fund please click here.

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