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books July 20, 2019

Novelist and playwright Peter Polites

In his second novel, The Pillars, Peter Polites uses Australia’s fixation on home ownership to explore the intersection of race, class and sexuality – as well as a growing conservatism within the queer community. “If you look at the generic images coming out of the queer community, there is a very specific aesthetic going on that’s obviously tied to race and class … You can be a total slut monster but still operate within a hegemonic discursive framework. There’s nothing radical about reinforcing dominant discourse. To me, that’s the opposite of sexual liberation.”

art July 13, 2019

Artist Michael Armitage

With his bold, sumptuous paintings, Michael Armitage is intent on challenging colonial assumptions about East Africa and revealing the region’s complexities. “Sex, poverty and dictators: if you are talking about this part of the world, you always come up against those stereotypes and that’s been very difficult … For me, it’s been important to use an exotic language but show that it is also a form of dumbing down.”

theatre July 6, 2019

Actress Zahra Newman takes on Wake in Fright

Renowned Australian actor Zahra Newman knows what it feels like to be an outsider. In bringing that experience to the Malthouse Theatre’s one-woman adaptation of Wake in Fright, she shines a light on discrimination and toxic masculinity in our society. “Part of the thing that is nightmarish about Wake in Fright is the culture having to stomach the reality of that reflection without just lashing out against it.”

film June 29, 2019

Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon-ho

Rather than worrying about the nuclear threat from his homeland’s northern neighbour, South Korean director and screenwriter Bong Joon-ho has used his latest Palme d’Or-winning film, Parasite, to home in on the country’s increasing economic divide. “Of course we do worry about North Korea and want peace to come and our relationship to improve, but it’s not something that happens right next to me. What we really feel with our skin are economic issues.”

art June 22, 2019

Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao

Chinese dissident cartoonist Badiucao is observing the Hong Kong demonstrations, finding new heroes to join Liu Xiaobo and tank man in his art practice. “I think being brave is a kind of novelty, it’s not a common trait within everyone. Everyone has the potential, but I don’t believe we must force everyone to be brave. That is why when you see people sacrifice themselves, people like the tank man, it’s so inspiring because it’s beyond our nature. It’s something we should celebrate.”

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.”