Night Shift

In the March-April 2018 edition of visual sociology, I travel to Auckland, Brisbane and Melbourne, and a whole lot by night. Plus, the sociology of trolleys is good to us.

Auckland, New Zealand

Last weekend, I gave a talk on “Ending Sexual Harassment in Science, Technology and Maths (STEM) and Academia,” at Kiwi Foo, in Auckland, New Zealand. The discussion was really wonderful, with many thoughful stories shared about experiences of harassment and how to take collective action. In particular, we talked about how men can be better allies to women and femmes. Kiwi Foo is a weekend getaway, with 180 participants who either stay on site camping or in dorms, or nearby the camp grounds. It is an “unconference” where the schedule of talks are not pre-determined by organisers. Instead, everyone comes together on Friday night and puts forward sessions and people can combine their sessions together if they are closely aligned in topic. The sessions are less about the presenter talking – no PowerPoint slides – just setting the scene and then facilitating discussion. The other talks were wonderful and gave me much food for thought. 10 March 2018

Q&A

I was in the audience for Q&A last week. It was really fun! They have live music for audience members, who are free to float around for an hour until it’s time to film. We also stayed almost an extra half an hour for extra filming which goes online. The panel discussed how trashy politics has increasingly become as well as, worryingly, taking away citizenship from dual citizens who travel to conflict afflicted areas. 11 March

Melbourne

Eleven. 28 March 2018

What are you looking at? Mass, Ron Muek. 31 March

Continue reading Night Shift

Ai Weiwei in Conversation with Mami Kataoka

The Sydney Biennale kicked off on Thursday with a special event featuring Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, in conversation with the Biennale’s Artistic Director, Mami Kataoka. A Japanese artist, Kataoka is the is the first Asian region director of the program which has run for 44 years. Weiwei proved to be a fascinating, but challenging guest.

He was incredibly thoughtful in discussing the plight of refugees, which feature in his works for the BIennale, including a giant raft filled with cowering figures on show at Cockatoo Island, made from giant black rubber. Kataoka was wonderful and incredibly gracious in managing her self-effacing interviewee, who began to make jokes about how the conversation was boring and he started noting the countdown of time.

There was a lot of goodwill from the audience who laughed along with the jokes and cheered Kataoka who valiantly continued to ask about Weiwei’s film, Human Flow, also on refugees, and his other works for the Biennale. Weiwei could have come off as difficult, but instead was endearing and at times sobering.

He talked about being exhausted of talking about his art, which to him is a clumsy expression of his emotions, and specifically in this case, his inability to grasp the lack of compassion we collectively show refugees. He also noted he’s done 350 interviews and did not want to keep talking about works that are meant to be experienced in other ways. He also expressed a sense of futiilty. He noted it probably was uncooth to mention – but did regardless – that art festivals are expensive to produce but are poorly funded. He praised Kataoka for having curated a beautiful program that masks her (relatively) low budget. He also said that despite the turnout that night, the Biennale and his artshows in general, which are exhibited around the world, lack a large audience. He said that art was important, but it is rapidly losing attention.

He noted that the people who will go and see his documentary, filmed in multiple refugee sites around the world, and featuring the voices of hundreds of asylum seekers, will not reach the audience it needs to. It will be seen by people who recognise the crisis, not those who ignore it.

A contemplation of our humanity, through a reflection of our treatment of refugees. Ai Weiwei, “Law of the Journey, 2017,” part of the Biennale pf Sydney.

Colour Wheel of Flavours

In this February 2018 edition of visual sociology, we do fielwork in the Inner West of Sydney, we travel to Melbourne to speak at a panel, and we come back to Sydney for the last gasp of the Lunar New Year and Mardi Gras celebrations.

Inner Western Sydney

Whilst out on fieldwork, the Sociology of Trolleys gets informed! This trolley is a mature age learner who knows it’s never too late to seek out new knowledge. 9 February Continue reading Colour Wheel of Flavours

Let’s Talk

A new year, a new visual sociology! In January 2018 edition, we see colonisation and travel for an equity keynote speech.

40,000 years

“40,000 years is a long time. 40,000 years still on my mind.” This iconic street art mural will be restored. It stands on Lawson Street, opposite the busy Redfern train station. Pained in 1983 by Carol Ruff, the project has been awarded $38,000 by the City of Sydney to re-beautify the art. Ruff will not be involved due to illness. An exciting community project!

Continue reading Let’s Talk

Sociology of Rembrandt

This is my sociological reflection over the exhibition, Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age. There was only one woman artist in the exhibition, White Dutch artist Rachel Ruysch. There were no people of colour, except in one landscape depicting slavery of African people, in a work celebrating the growth of Amsterdam. Other than this, no other references to colonialism, even though there was a giant ship in the exhibition and a landscape of Brazil referencing an “outpost.”

There was a painting of the Burghers, a group descendent from Sri Lanka and various European origins, especially Potugese and Dutch, but the exhibition makes no reference to class or race. The term Burgher derives from the Dutch word for “citizen” or “town dweller”, mixed with the French word “bourgeois” which refers to the upper class. The Burghers were actually upwardly mobile middle class who made a good living as merchants and commissioned paintings to reflect their modest wealth. While most were of mixed racial background, they are painted as White.

Finally, in one of the photos you see Rembrandt’s painting “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress,” depicting a White man wearing a turban – an example of White upper class appropriating the culture and religion of Others, but the exhibition explains this as “exotic looking garb.”The exhibition is excellent, but like many, it whitewashes history and replicates racial, gender and various inequalities by papering over relations of power in art.

The exhibition is on in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.

[Photos: 1/ woman with long white hair stares at “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress. 2/ a White man and Asian woman outside the exhibition. 3/ A young man walks towards the camera as other art vistors wander around the gallery. 4/ people take photos of the large paintings on display. 5/ a bald man stares closely at photographs of Rembrandt. 6/ a man and a woman look at a large golden painting featuring architecture. 7/ visitors walk around the busy exhibition.]

Anti-Blackness Amongst Non-Indigenous People of Colour

Let’s talk about anti-Blackness amongst non-Indigenous people of colour (POC) in Australia. In July 2017, a young family was trying to get a taxi after they marched for NAIDOC Week, a week of events recognising the cultures, languages and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in Naarm (Melbourne). Five cab drivers refused to take them, making up the same excuse that they had just dropped someone off, or that they were waiting for another passenger, only to drive off alone. It is illegal to refuse a fare. The two drivers here are non-Indigenous POC. Continue reading Anti-Blackness Amongst Non-Indigenous People of Colour

Bangarra: Ones Country

Ones Country – The Spine of Our Stories by Bangarra Dance Theatre was phenomenal. The dancing was based on mythology and storytelling from North East Arnhem Land, the Torres Strait Islands and contemporary Sydney. Nathu was about the elusive cycad nut; Place was about being Black and gay (incredibly pertinent given the recent success of the national postal survey on marriage equality that was passed by the Senate at the end of 2017); and Whistler was about the sacred significance of the dugong, a grey whale-like marine mammal. They’ve been protected by conservation legislation since 1999.  Continue reading Bangarra: Ones Country

You’re Killing Me Susana: Film Review

At CineLatino, the Latin American film festival, I watched, You’re Killing Me Susana, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. As always, his performance is charming and the movie has lots of affable comedy. But his character and the story is not endearing. He is an unfaithful and selfish husband who does not take any interest in his wife and her writing. He is disparaging of her teaching, which supplements her writing aspirations. He has repeatedly talked his wife out of going away on writing trips because he is suspicious and jealous. Continue reading You’re Killing Me Susana: Film Review

Visual Sociology of the Year’s End

This visual sociology for December 2017 begins with a reflection on the need for a Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the nation of Australia. The rest of this post has us visiting a Peruvian restaurant in Sydney, the LEGO exhibition in Melbourne, the sublime Pipilotti Rist and of course, my annual visual sociology of Christmas nonsense.

Treaty Now

Australia is the only Commonwealth nation without a treaty with First Nations people. In national consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, published as the Uluru Statement, a pathway to (and beyond) treaty was outlined through truth telling and a makarrata. This is the Yolngu word for various overlapping processes of peace negotiations, as well as an agreement to solving conflict and restoring justice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have attempted to negotiate treaties since colonialism began, and a makarrata since the 1970s, to address formal recognition that the land belongs to Indigenous people, along with plans to address other cultural and socioeconomic issues.

Both sides of Government addressed national media and promised to establish a makarrata at the Garma Festival in August 2017, but have since rescinded their support.

Continue reading Visual Sociology of the Year’s End

Reflections and Rituals

Visual sociology of the rest of November 2017 with gorgeous blooms, an urban bunny and mass displays of social identity.

Tourists caused a kerfuffle on McDougall Street in Kirribilli, by taking photos of the jacaranda trees in bloom. The trees are plentiful around Sydney and other parts of Australia and warm climates. 6 November 2017