Tag Archives: Melbourne

One Just world – guilt trip or global duty?

Forum – What responsibilities do Australians owe the global poor?

  • Tuesday, 16 February 2010 6:00 PM
  • The Carrillo Gantner Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre
    Cnr Swanston Street and Monash Road, The University of Melbourne
  • Website

Panellists including Peter Singer and Tim Costello consider the status of ‘white man’s burden’ in a changed world. Questions include:

How do ‘Southern’ countries perceive the issue of responsibilities and obligations? Do they see it as just Western paternalism mixed with liberal guilt and some hypocrisy? Do they see such obligations as necessary to identify and then insist on?

After the Missionaries events

These events relate to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink, which includes articles about how artists are negotiating their paths through a more reciprocal world. For more information go here.

10 June FORUM Has the world changed?

  • Has the Kyoto Protocol changed how rich and poor countries relate to each other?
  • Is Australia moving away from the Anglosphere?
  • Is the Global Financial Crisis a time to look at alternative economic models?
  • Is ethical the new black?
  • Have artists changed in how they relate to the world around them?

You are invited to join a discussion in real time with live people in the same space. These people will include contributors to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink. With luck, there will also be some copies, hot of the press.

TIME: 6.00 -8.00 pm Wednesday 10 June
PLACE: Domain House, Birdwood Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
For more information, click here. To submit a question, email here. This event itself occurs in the context of Evolution – the Festival and the Amnesty of Ideas program of Southern Perspectives.

18 June OPENING World of Small Things: An exhibition of craft diplomacy
Craft Victoria, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, opening 18 June 6-8, show open until 25 July
To be opened by Soumitri Varadarajan, Associate Professor of Industrial Design RMIT

20 June LAUNCH After the Missionaries issue of Artlink
The ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink will be formally launched at Craft Victoria, Saturday 20 June 4pm, by Dr Connie Zheng, senior lecturer in management at RMIT and expert in how Chinese do business. This will be preceded by a forum on working with traditional artisans (for more details, see here).

27 August THEREAFTER After ‘After the Missionaries’
There will be an opportunity to reflect on the questions raised by After the Missionaries at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, 78-80 Curzon Street North Melbourne.

Copies of Artlink will be on sale from 15 June.

Nikos Papastergiadis considers a ‘spherical consciousness’

Nikos Papastergiadis is Professor of Cultural Studies and Media & Communications at the University of Melbourne. His recent publications include Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place and the Everyday (Rivers Oram Press, 2006), Metaphor + Tension: On Collaboration and its Discontents (Artspace Publications, 2004) and The Turbulence of Migration (Polity Press, 2000). He has taught at the University of Manchester and was a co-editor of Third Text. Nikos has been at the forefront of thinking about the political and creative nature of South in articles such as ‘South-South-South’ Complex Entanglements: Art, Cultural Difference & Globalization, ed. Nikos Papastergiadis (Rivers Oram Press, 2003).

What role does South play in contemporary thinking?

The idea of the South has a long history. In the recent past it has been revived as a possible frame for representing the cultural context of not just regions that are geographically located in the South, but also those that share a common post colonial heritage. In this essay I explore the affinities and tensions between the south and parallel terms such as third world, antipodes. I argue that the South can extend the existing debates on cross cultural exchange, and provide a useful perspective for representing what I call a ‘spherical consciousness’ in contemporary art.

How does the current flow of ideas around South connect with the post-colonial discourse fostered by journals like Third Text?

From the outset in 1987 the art theory and art historical journal Third Text contested the terms, questioned the structures and challenged the history of western art. The tone of writing has varied from the academic, poetic to the polemical. While the journal was founded to develop a third world perspective on contemporary art and give voice to artists who have worked in a postcolonial context, and despite the shift in editorial policy which is more sceptical of post-colonial theory,[1] the journal continues to provide an invaluable documentary function that recovers and repositions the artistic practices that was either ignored or marginalised by the dominant art historical institutions. It also plays a leading role in presenting new methods for measuring the value and meaning of art. Art history is more than capable of discovering new entrants into its own canon, but the capacity to re-think the terms of entry and the field of relations that constitutes art is not generated from within, but through an interplay with different theoretical and cultural perspectives. The postcolonial critiques of Orientalism, hybridity and the subaltern that were first developed in literary and historical accounts provided vital stepping stones in this reconfiguration of art historical methodologies. A key challenge that confronted this discourse was to develop new ways of seeing and interpreting the differences between and within cultures. For instance, the introduction of the Derridean concept of supplementarity and Homi Bhabha’s interpretation of the process of cultural translation provided new means for understanding both the tensions that arise from the interaction between different cultural practices, and the emergence of novel forms of expressions. In short, this approach not only provided more evidence of emergent practices and the historical legacies of art from the South, but it also prompted the invention of critical tools for overcoming the classification of the South as exotica, periphery and primitivism.

What do you see as the relation between the geographic South and the Global South? Is it purely coincidental?

I understand the concept of the South as a loose hemispheric term that refers to a series of places that share similar patterns of colonization, migration and cultural mixture. For me the South is also expressive of a cultural imaginary that looks outward from its own national base and against the grain of its colonial past. This appeal to a more open-ended identity is, in one critic’s eye, a betrayal of a deep imperial history.[2] In other words, any use of the language that draws from metaphoric associations with the cardinal points of cartography risks being embedded in the naturalistic discourse of magnetic polarities.

In my mind the South is a more ambivalent concept.  It oscillates between a clarion call for antipodean rebelliousness and the stigmatic expression of the cultural cringe. Throughout Australia’s incomplete pursuit of republicanism the image of the Southern Cross has been a recurring symbol of resistance. It has been the trump card against the cultural imperialism of the North. Refusing to be defined by a measure that favours the North the Southern cultural chauvinist inverts this logic and declares that everything of value is already and always in the South. Peter Beiharz notes that the choices are not confined to the bad options of superior recognition according to metropolitan exclusivity or the provincial self-identification through splendid isolationism. He takes inspiration from the fact, and not just hollow boast, that distance from the North has enabled Australia to figure as the ‘world’s social laboratory of policy experiment.’ Indeed throughout the twentieth century Australia has been at the forefront of reforms and innovations in the three pillars of social welfare—wage arbitration, women’s right and multiculturalism. However, Beilharz’s narrative of the emergence of Antipodean civilizational tropes is bittersweet. While he duly notes that earlier achievements were influential in the Fabian social democratic debates, he is also painfully aware that Paul Keating’s realignment of the Labour Party with neo-liberalism paved the way for Tony Blair’s ‘third way’.[3] Keating’s own southern cultural imaginary that promised to take shape through a nascent republicanism and closer integration with Asia, was soon transformed into the target of populist scorn for the successive generations of political leaders.

In Central and Latin America a similar pattern of ambivalent identification is expressed in examples that stretch from Borges short story of the South as a frontier metaphor, Joaquim Torres Garcia’s corrective claim that the ‘North looks South’, to the analysis of cultural inferiority complexes in the writings of Octavio Paz, Gilberto Freyre and Eduardo Galeano, and more recently, the speech by Hugo Chavez in which he quoted Mario Benedetti’s poem ‘The South also Exists’.[4] Such enduring pathos for regional solidarity alongside the persistent failure to build a common cultural framework prompts a number of questions. Is the concept of the South the best frame or point from which to start, once again, as if for the first time, the endless task of collective identification? Is there any point at which the path of identity splits from the imperial past? Can such a wide spherical concept inflect the debates on planetary and cosmopolitan identity with a different historical texture and geo-political valency?[5]

How does living in Melbourne influence the way you think about the South?

I grew up in Middle Park. My strongest childhood memory is looking down the street and seeing an open horizon—the sea. My idea of the spherical consciousness starts from that view.

How can Australian universities connect with the South?

Less greed and more curiosity. Alan Davies made the call a long time ago. More than two decades ago the Australian political scientists Alan Davies suggested that ‘we should spend less time in awed upward contemplation of the great metropolitan centres and a good deal more looking sideways at the experience of like small nations, whose solutions should be better scaled to our problems, and whose definition of their problems are more likely to help us understand our own’.[6] He imagined a form of cultural exchange that would reveal insights and develop skills that would be more worthy of emulation because their fit would be closer to our own experiences. The transferability of knowledge would not be a form of adopting and applying models, but in the grasping of what Davies called the ‘nuances of likeness’.

[1] Rasheed Araeen, ‘Re–thinking History and some other things’, Third Text, Spring 2001, No 54, p 93

[2] Margaret Jolly, “The South in Southern Theory: Antipodean Reflections on the Pacific”, Australian Humanities Review, Issue 44, 2008, 79

[3] Peter Beilharz ‘Rewriting Australia’ Journal of Sociology 40, 2004

[4] Kevin Murray ‘Uruguay also Exists’ http://ideaofsouth.net/idea/idea-zero/uruguay-also-exists

[5] See Paul Gilroy After Empire London, Routledge, 2004, and Ulrich Beck ‘The Cosmopolitan Manifesto’ World Risk Society, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999

[6] Alan Davies, ‘Small Country Blues’ Meanjin Volume 44, Number 2, 1985, p 248

Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design by Paul Carter




Paul Carter’s new book is a protest against the dumbing down of imaginative thinking. It champions a common reader who resists being patronised, and who is hungry for a deeper understanding of the places we live in – how they came into being, and how, if their creative origins are remembered, they can be changed for the better.

Carter has a long-term interest in the poetic mechanisms of colonialism – mapping, naming, marking – and in this book he presents a critical philosophy of placemaking that recognises the historical burden of our ‘designs’ on the world. He transforms this into a new language of drawing, writing, and choreographing places into being. This, unlike its colonial predecessors, preserves the possibility of meeting, of something un-prescribed happening.

The key to this is what he calls ‘dark writing’: the elemental marks, historical traces, place associations, and other phenomena that shadow our positivist history of placemaking. But to take agency over our places, we must also relocate our thinking, as this will determine where and how we arrive. The place of Carter’s own thinking – situated, poetic, dynamic, opportunistic, and evolving in the laboratory of professional collaboration – complements his notion of ‘material thinking’. This approach respects the intelligence of circumstances and performs in relation to them.

Disregarding the disciplinary stand-offs that endure in our institutions, Dark Writing moves with ease between historical geography, continental phenomenology, major public artworks he has co-designed, a radical reappraisal of the Western Desert Painting Movement, and a survey of ‘dark writing’ in tomb art, photography and handwriting. But Carter’s goal is clear: to free our senses to occupy public space differently, not as passive spectators but as mobile bodies creatively endowing our environment with meaning.

Paul Carter’s many books include the acclaimed The Road to Botany Bay, The Lie of the Land and Repressed Spaces. He is Creative Director of Material Thinking, a placemaking research and design studio, and is currently designing a public space project in Darwin.

Peter Beilharz

Peter Beilharz is Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University where he edits Thesis Eleven, an interdisciplinary academic journal on theories of modernity. Here he offers his perspective on the way south.

My planned research includes a co-written book on the life and work of the founding mother of Australian sociology, Jean Martin; a book on the peculiarities of Australian modernity across the twentieth century; a shared book on the history of rock music in Australia; and a study of the work of Robert Hughes, to follow on my book on the work of Bernard Smith, Imagining the Antipodes. All this work is animated by the idea of thinking about the antipodes, rather than the south; and by the idea that culture works through cultural traffic . These concerns cross over with some of the agendas of our journal, Thesis Eleven. The Thesis Eleven Centre pursues some of these interests with collaborators in India, the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand. We would be very pleased to take them into South America. In addition, I have cause to consider my own location in all this – Australia and el Norte – as we construct the hundredth issue of Thesis Eleven, and begin to narrate our own stories, and as I work with Sian Supski , who is writing about my own work in its antipodean inflexions .

I find Bernard Smith’s thinking both interesting and innovative. Innovation often happens on the edges, and goes unnoticed . For Smith, the antipodes matters as a relationship rather than a place: wherever we are, we are always here and there at the same time. And then, culture is best understood not as emanation of place  but as the negotiation of these relationships .

I can see the effectivity of the idea of the South as a political slogan, but it has limits that cause me to have reservations. Culture does not map neatly onto geography . Much of the south is in the north culturally, and the other way round. What interests me is the traffic between peoples, cities and regions. We have a great deal to learn by looking sideways. I would like to see more dialogue on a southern axis, across Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa. But all these worlds are co-constituted by other worlds, and cannot be separated out from these entanglements any more than el Norte can be understood without reference to us. In this context I do not have especial priorities – everything should be open for discussion, where stories can be told in a comparative way, and actors can feel comfortable talking about experience or intellect in ways that get the sparks of imagination flying.