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culture March 23, 2019

Indigenous activist Thomas Mayor’s clear statement

For months, Indigenous activist Thomas Mayor carried the Uluru Statement from the Heart around Australia, rolling out the canvas as he told its story. With Labor and mining companies now on board, the push continues for a First Nations voice. “We have bipartisanship on the influences of the Australian public, left, right or centre. That’s the mindset we’re transferring to – fighting for the referendum to win.”

film March 16, 2019

The high life of Claire Denis

While Claire Denis seeks to avoid metaphor in her films, the French director’s sci-fi prison drama High Life, starring Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson, can’t help but raise big questions about the universe, the nature of time and even the meaning of life. “Everything in screenwriting is painful and yet it’s great. It’s great because the pain is the price you have to pay to be allowed to dream things, to make them real.”

theatre March 9, 2019

Ellen Burstyn variations

Ellen Burstyn, in Melbourne to star onstage in 33 Variations, has a film career spanning six decades and including such cinematic touchstones as The Exorcist and The Last Picture Show. She talks tabout Beethoven, spirituality and recruiting Scorsese to direct her in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. “I asked that he be the director. He had already made Mean Streets, but it hadn’t been released and he was deeply grateful that I wanted him. This doesn’t mean that I gave him his start. And there was no stopping him, anyway – he would have got there in any case. But, you know, there was never any sense with Marty of working with a monster, with a master in the nasty sense. He’s marvellous, he’s an original. He’s smart and fiery and rough and excitable and alive.”

books March 2, 2019

Sohaila Abdulali on survival

In 2012, a prominently reported rape and murder of an Indian student revived interest in Sohaila Abdulali’s 33-year-old account of surviving her own attack. Since then the author has used her new platform to encourage unflinching debate about violence against women. “When I started writing this book, nobody was talking about rape. And even in that short time, people are now starting to want to speak about their experiences and understand them. That people want to understand and talk about it – makes me feel hopeful. There’s a lot in the world to feel hopeless about too, but there’s still hope.”

books February 23, 2019

Kristen Roupenian on short stories and viral success

Amid the spectacularly divisive response to Kristen Roupenian’s short story about a relationship gone wrong, the author’s conception of “Cat Person” as horror fiction was often overlooked. Here, she talks about reasserting her genre credentials with the release of her debut collection. “The temptation would be to turn the book into 11 stories about dating from the perspective of young women. So I was grateful that editors recognised it was a weird, dark collection of essentially horror stories. They let it be what it was.”

music February 16, 2019

The reinvention of Christine and the Queens

Like her idol Madonna, French pop musician Héloïse Letissier is interested in transformation and reinvention. Her latest album finds her performing in a new persona as Chris, a celebration of her “macho-femininity”. She is, however, aware of the “danger of mainstreaming ‘queerness’… [that] it could invalidate the thing that ‘queer’ is important for. Queer is questioning a norm, questioning the system, subverting it, so if it’s digested and branded and [covered in] glossy plastic to appeal, then the essence of queer is lost.”

music February 9, 2019

Metal singer Karina Utomo’s roar history

Whether singing about the bloody past of the country of her birth in metal band High Tension, or in the wordless growls and screams of Speechless, a new opera about the Forgotten Children, Karina Utomo finds catharsis in unleashing her powerful voice. Etched into her memory is the burning down of a music store, which sold cassettes because CDs remained a luxury item. The shop, she says, was targeted because it was owned by Chinese Indonesians, the long-time targets of racist scapegoating. “Buying music with my father was a treat. That was somewhere we had gone every week and it symbolised access to music, to engage in a culture with which I connected.”

opera February 2, 2019

Where’s home for theatre and opera director Barrie Kosky?

Barrie Kosky’s peripatetic career has led him to work throughout Australia and Europe, before finally establishing a true connection with Berlin. Still, for the Melbourne-born theatre and opera director, nothing says “home” like a rehearsal room. “It just happened that theatre discovered me, and performance and music discovered me, because the very same time that I started to think, ‘Who am I? How does this relate to me?’ and felt that disconnectedness, was the very same time I was experiencing music: Mahler symphonies or puppet shows or musicals or opera. And it was very linked.”

dance January 26, 2019

Wiradjuri dancer Joel Bray’s platypus identity

As a gay Aboriginal Australian who grew up in a largely white world, Joel Bray found purpose and identity through dance. His latest work – the intimate solo performance Biladurang – blends choreography and theatre in a raw exploration of his own very personal journey. “I’ve had people hug me, I’ve had people crying, I’ve had people share their stories of discovering their Aboriginality late in life.”

culture December 22, 2018

Robin DiAngelo, an agent of change

Robin DiAngelo knows a lot about white privilege – it’s in her DNA. The American academic, author and anti-racism advocate talks about how structures of whiteness and so-called white progressives are continuing to damage the lives of people of colour. ‘I grew up in poverty … I was a feminist for most of my life before I realised I could also be an oppressor. But I draw from my experience of oppression … I think that helps. The key is not to exempt myself from being an oppressor, just because I experience oppression. Ask anyone if they’d rather be poor and white or poor and brown – I knew I was poor, but I also knew I was white.’

culture December 15, 2018

Author Melissa Lucashenko aims for the heart

Melissa Lucashenko’s latest novel, Too Much Lip, exhibits a sharp defiance inspired by the author’s discovery of a gutsy family matriarch. She talks about family, country and mysterious mergings of fact and fiction. “I’ve only once started a novel I didn’t go ahead with. A novel is a huge undertaking, so I’m loath to rush in. It’s like waiting for fruit to ripen. There’s a certain berry that ripens at Easter, and there’s no point looking for it at Christmas time.”