Australian Art Does not Exist

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Diary

Walking along Brisbane’s South Bank in the rain, the first few cafes we pass have closed their kitchens by 3pm.

Ron Hurley’s Bradman bowled Gilbert

The purple blossom falls as the rain beats it from the trees. We find a tapas bar that is very open and also seems to have the speediest revolving waiter service. Every time one approaches us – to take the order, bring the water, deliver the order, retrieve the plates – it is someone different from before, to the point where you might wonder if a psychologist is secreted in a hide disguised as an outdoor heater taking notes. 

We return to Queensland Art Gallery where I take in Albert Tucker’s Image of Modern Evil 29 and Ron Hurley’s Bradman bowled Gilbert. It convert the story of Eddie Gilbert an Aboriginal fast bowler whose bowling was described by Bradman as “like thunderbolts” but who, rather than become revered, was marred by allegations of “throwing”.  18 years after his match with Bradman, he was committed to Goodna Mental Hospital and died, forgotten, 30 years later. 

He was part of “the stolen generation”, removed from his family when he was three years old. He was not allowed to room with his team and had to sleep in a tent on the pitch. There is now an Eddie Gilbert award for Queensland’s best indigenous sportsperson.

I also take not of Richard Bell’s Judgement Day (Bell’s Theorem) which declares that “Australian Art Does not Exist”. 

The light rain accompanies me back to the hotel and I stop off at the Dymocks for a brief browse, finding two copies of The Importance of Being Interested there. I turn them both face out, covering up the books of my enemies. 

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Saturday’s crowd are possibly more ebullient than Friday’s and there is further cheering and whistling followed by an intense silence during the equations.

Tonight’s audience questions include –

Paige (8) wants to know how Robin takes his tea ? Hayley (11) wants to know which moon in the solar system does Brian think could harbour life (us?) after the sun expands ?

My 10 year old son has a ongoing concern that the sun is going to go Supernova and kill us all before the World Cup (Round Ball). What science can I convey to him to assuage his fears, that this end is a long way off and he should worry about things closer to home!

why is Luke’s light sabre not infinitely long?

After the show, we gather in the green room, eat cheese and drink wine .

Back at the hotel, I decide to go to bed, but Simon and Brian decide that they want the finest wines available to humanity…and they get them.

On Sunday, at breakfast with Jack, we consider the possibilities of Boris Johnson and whether the spectacle of destruction of party through narcissism will ultimately be more beneficial to the country than the illusion of a “safe pair of hands” which, due to the precarious and rapid swing of the Overton window to the right, will be better for all. Then I eat more melon.

I had imagined I might exercise in the gym, but enter it to find two people huffing and puffing so mightily that I decide not to disturb them. Hypervigilance and rowing machines do not lead to a happy state of mind.

I finish Tig Notaro’s autobiography on the plane and eat some chick peas.

She writes of calling to tell her brother she had cancer and it reminded me of when one of my closest friends called to tell me she had cancer. We talked at length and I remember the tremendous battle I fought not to burst into tears as I knew that would not be helpful and, though very encouraging of others to express emotion honestly, I am not adept at that myself. Eventually, so close to saying goodbye, I cracked and then apologised profusely.

It was a few months after my mother died and she was someone I still feel that I did not cry enough for. (I am pleased to say my pal is well now).


The flight is only a couple of hours but just enough, with Adelaide’s eccentric half hour time difference, to become the whole day. In my hotel room, I read more of Sean O Hagan’s conversations with Nick Cave. He wrote Into My Arms while in rehab – not swanky rehab, but shared dormitory rehab. A recently arrived addict, covered in sores who was spraying himself all over with Lynx deodorant asked him what he was doing. When Cave replied, “writing a song”, the junkie said “why?”

We eat in the hotel restaurant and, retiring early to bed, I turn the TV on. Something I rarely do in hotels. I watch an implausible episode of NCIS (perhaps they all are) and feel sad that David McCallum is as right wing as he is, more Steel than Kuryakin, then find myself watching a documentary about the rise and fall of Screech from Saved by the Bell.

I fall asleep but wake up wildly, lurching spasmodically with my mind making up a story that I dreamed I was falling downstairs.

Listen to the Horizons tour podcast, Taking the Universe Around the World HERE.

Bibliomaniac is available for pre-order now at with exclusive art cards.

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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