profile

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.”

culture December 8, 2018

The Native Cats’ music for Tasmania

As The Native Cats, Julian Teakle and Chloe Alison Escott make poetic and unusually stripped-back music that riffs on gender and sexuality by way of a James M. Cain pulp novel. “Life after transitioning is the closest that you ever get to time travel, in a way,” Escott says. “You try to be somebody that you wish was there in the past. You see people who remind you of yourself at a certain time, so you think, ‘What’s the thing that I can say or do for this person?’”

culture December 1, 2018

Boots Riley’s latest coup

Boots Riley has turned from music to film to raise consciousness of the need for collective struggle against capitalism, as seen in Sorry to Bother You, his satire set in the dispiriting world of telemarketing. “Unless you engage in collective class struggle, you’re not making things better. You’re not making things better by making some art that exposes the way things are. You’re not making things better by not buying Starbucks and buying this other thing instead. The way you make things better is by being involved in class struggle, which is kept out of so many films. Any rebellion, especially class struggle, is just not in that world.”

culture November 24, 2018

The passions of artist Saskia Boddeke

The immersive works of multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke reflect her belief in the need for deep, emotional engagement in art. It was a passion shared by Matisse’s Russian patron Sergey Shchukin, the subject of Boddeke’s film installation in the Masters of modern art from the Hermitage exhibition. “Art is an absolute necessity; it is a universal thing we share. All over the world, we express ourselves in painting, in music, in speaking, in putting words in an order that touch your heart. That is how we recognise things. Art makes us civil. Art makes us look – not only at paintings, but at other people. It shows us the beauty in difference.”

culture November 17, 2018

Gillian Flynn’s dark inquiries

Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn developed a taste for the macabre at an early age, but she’s keen to dispel the myth that she is who she writes. She talks about her depictions of deeply disturbed and disturbing women and the release of her latest film project, Widows. “There’s a reason we’re fascinated with domestic-based murders. It allows us to talk about marriage and family and what goes on behind closed doors. It gives us a strange vocabulary and permission to talk about those things we wouldn’t otherwise.”

culture November 10, 2018

Hoda Afshar’s lens on Manus

Building on her earlier works essaying colonialism and her experience as an Iranian migrant to Australia, photographer Hoda Afshar turned to presenting the humanity of the men detained on Manus Island. “Photography has turned into this whole trend of empty landscapes – no sign of human presence whatsoever, just traces of human beings. Traces of a tyre on asphalt, rubbish, leftover food, signs that say there were people here, but no human presence. It shocks me. I think, yes, it’s important to acknowledge the history of photography, how image-making has abused and manipulated narratives. We have to acknowledge the relationship between image-making and power. But to dismantle it is not to completely avoid that dialogue.”

culture November 3, 2018

Nils Frahm’s melody makers

Nils Frahm brings a playfulness to his serious compositions for piano and electronics, which leaves audiences delighted as well as enraptured. He vividly remembers crying when listening to English jazz saxophonist John Surman’s 1987 album, Private City, which mixes synthesisers with improvised saxophone.“It’s overwhelmingly powerful, emotional music that made me feel things that I didn’t know were in me. And that’s a great discovery – when you realise that music is not just invoking emotions, but creating emotions.”