Barangaroo and the Four Thousand Fish

Two people walk along the foreshore. In the background, other groups gather at the pier taking photos and looking around, while others are near a giant vessel. The sun shines brightly as it sets over the water

My Weekends With A Sociologist series is going to start coming to you more frequently and completely out of sequence. I will share with you my visual sociology adventures from different places, at different points in time, showing you what has captivated my sociological imagination most recently, through to what has lingered with me over time. The purpose of this series is to showcase what it is to see the world through a sociological lens. (For visually impaired readers, descriptions in the alt.) So let’s get started!

What better way to restart our journey, than with the enduring legacy of a strong Aboriginal woman, Barangaroo.

Beginning in the first week of January, Sydney annually hosts the Sydney Festival, with various sites around town housing performances, public art and sculptures, including many interactive installations. The best this year was the artwork, Four Thousand Fish, curated by Emily McDaniel, artist from the Kalari Clan of the Wiradjuri nation in Central New South Wales. The artwork blends sea song, visual story telling, sound, lighting, sculptures, landscape photography, music and of course, a beautiful nawi (bark canoe).

Held at the Cutaway in Barangaroo, every weekend this past January, the site was transformed into a public art sculpture that was set ablaze nightly at dusk. I attended an event hosted by the beloved street photographer, Legojacker (formerly from Melbourne, they had moved to Canberra in recent months).

Barangarro is named after the mighty Cammeraygal woman of the Eora nation, who defied colonialism in Gadigal, her homeland (also known as Sydney).

Continue reading Barangaroo and the Four Thousand Fish

Sexual Harassment in Australian Science

I’m featured in the ABC investigation into sexual harassment in Australian science. “It’s important that they [Academy of Science] don’t stay silent because silence tells the rest of the science community that any woman who speaks out is going to be met with a wall of nonresponse, non-action, that she’s alone and it discourages survivors from coming forward and reporting…”

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.

Off to Kiwi Foo in Beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand

 

I’m off to beautiful Auckland in Aotearoa (New Zealand) for Kiwi Foo! My second time Fooing.  Last time was wonderful. I was very apprehensive before arriving, because while I’ve lectured, done dozens of conferences, and led hundreds of presentations and workshops, Kiwi Foo is an “unconference,” which I’ve never experienced. It is a unstructured event where none of the day talks are pre-organised. Instead, the 150 participants arrive on Friday night, introduce themselves to everyone else one by one and then together negotiate individual talks and panels. The idea is to put your idea for your talk on the wall (newbies first) and then see if others are talking on a similar theme and try to collaborate. A broad aim of the conference is to bring together people from many fields to work together on a better future. Continue reading Off to Kiwi Foo in Beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand

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

Indigitek Presents Wayne Denning and Nancia Guivarra

I’m at an Indigitek event at Google. Nancia J. Guivarra and Wayne Denning will be speaking about how to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Derek Harte from Google begins the event, speaking on importance of diversity on innovation and importance of Indigenous talent to the future of technology.

Continue reading Indigitek Presents Wayne Denning and Nancia Guivarra

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