Art and About

With handmade goodies, llamas in Newtown, a Mexican mural, and weird commemorative plates, this visual sociology for September 2018 is a doozey! Let’s start with the highlight John Mawarndjul’s work.

Highlight: John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon 1985-2008

John Mawurndjul, Lorrkkon (1985-2008). These are ceremonial logs that have been hollowed out and painted to honour the dead. 22 September

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Don’t Ever Forget Where You Come From

Our visual sociology for August 2018 gives us the gift of union-inspired art, 130 years of contemporary works and a blue zebra.

State of the Union

Exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, about student and workers’ industrial action (mostly at Melbourne University and local industrial rights movements). Very interesting look at social protest and solidarity across groups. Banner art has been a staple element of the union movement, but eventually waned. The artform rose once more in the 1980s. One of the quotes is by Melbourne Union alumni, Christos Tsiolkas, who was the first in his Greek migrant family to graduate from university. His uncle pointed out that his working class labour made the university buildings possible. He warned his soon-to-be successful nephew, ‘Don’t ever forget where you come from.’ 9 August

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The Social Construction of Migrant Youth Deviance in Public Spaces

Silhouette of figures wearing baseball caps with the sunset in the background

This cartoon below by Charles Barsotti is a good illustration of the social construction of group deviance in public spaces. This cartoon points out how some social groupings can be given negative labels, such as a “cult.” The beliefs or the practices of particular socio-economic groups can are treated with suspicion by a dominant group where they do not conform to society’s norms, values, behaviour or appearance. Non-conformity can lead to the creation of stereotypes; that is, labels that simplify specific qualities of some people as typical of the group they belong to (hence the cartoon, where one wolf says to another, “We’re a pack, not a cult.”).

In most circumstances crowds that “blend in” and meet society’s standards of “acceptability” escape the stigma of social deviance. Cases where “ordinary” groups might be negatively labelled by authorities might occur during times of civil unrest, such as during political protests, or due to other political cycles, such as the lead up to an election.

Racial minority youth are often labelled as deviant simply for being in public. In the case of Aboriginal youth, even something as routine as being in a shopping centre is mired by harassment by security (Perry 2018: Powell 2018). In another example, Muslim girls have been forced to leave a school excursion at a public exhibition centre because other visitors felt “uncomfortable” (Foster 2017).

Let’s take a look at this problem of stereotyping racial minority youth in public spaces, focusing specifically today on migrant minorities. We’ll examine how labelling these youth as “deviant” keeps society from paying attention to pressing social problems, such as structural inequality and interpersonal gender violence.

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Vivid Festival 2018 and Other Delights

The Vivid Festival, which lights up the streets of Sydney over June, is a big feature for this month’s visual sociology for June-July 2018. We marvel at the wonder of an enchanted Cinderella-esque Sociology of Trolleys. We meet a cool watermelon and other creatures along the way. The highlight of the past two months is Dark Emu. Guess who had front row tickets to this vanguard work by Bangarra Dance Theatre?

Dark Emu

Based on Bruce Pascoe’s wonderful and important research into Australia’s pre-history – the agrarian and aquaculture innovation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prior to invasion is the focus of this beautiful dance performance.

“This work cultivates a physical and visceral response to Uncle Bruce Pascoe’s book and our deep Australian knowledge. Whether we embrace it or not, we are this country – we are of the land, the water, the stars & the dark in between. As Australians awaken from a kind of collective amnesia, these are stories, ideas and practices we should all be able to access, learn from and respect… I feel like Australia is ready…. Dark Emu is a sense that we are part of something greater.” – Yolande Brown, co-choreographer.

“We’re told every day that the world is falling apart around us, but maybe if we just gripped onto something that was there before all this, it would ground us a little. Dark Emu reminds us to take a breath and cling to our piece of land.” – Daniel Riley, co-choreographer.

You must experience this work. The choreography and music are stellar. The dancers carry large props to phenomenal effect – from large rocks, to wood that is rearranged into shelter for the women and later fences to entramp them. A dizzying sequence centres on blow flies representing the contempt of the colonisers for the traditional custodians and their land, which they tried to destroy.

Played in Sydney until 14 July then touring nationally.

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Thelma: Film Review

Let me tell you about Thelma, screening at the Scandinavian Film Festival. A young woman, the titular Thelma, has led a sheltered and conservative Christian upbringing in the country. She rocks up to university having never really partied, including no alcohol or drugs, and without experience with dating. While she has a strong bond with her parents, especially her dad – with whom she shares all her deepest thoughts – she is very lonely in her new environment. That is until she meets the vivacious Anja.

As it turns out, Thelma starts to be attracted to Anja, who promptly breaks up with her boyfriend. It seems Anja begins to fall in love with Thelma too. Thelma struggles with self loathing and tries to deny her sexuality and at the same begins to have inexplicable seizures that baffle doctors. Around this time, I was thinking: if I have to watch another ‘internalised homophobia’ horror (oh, forgot to mention it’s promoted as a horror), I’m going to throw my popcorn at the screen. (Except not really as someone would have to clean it up.) But the film goes in an unexpected direction. Continue reading Thelma: Film Review

Police Brutality of Young Aboriginal Girls

Police brutality in Glen Innes, New South Wales, against a group of young Indigenous girls. You can hear one of the girls say she’ll comply with police but she wants to call her parents as they’re under 16. The policeman says no. It seems his partner, a woman’s voice off camera, tells the girls to comply: ‘Don’t make it worse for yourselves.’ Policeman says: ‘It already is worse for yourselves.’ Continue reading Police Brutality of Young Aboriginal Girls

Aboriginal Families Seek Action Over Uranium in Drinking Water

Racist policies are making remote Aboriginal communities sick. At least three communities in central Australia have levels of uranium in drinking water that exceed health guidelines, with dozens more not meeting good quality.

“It’s an international scandal that this is allowed to happen in a country like Australia — a rich country like Australia… If that was happening in Victoria, you’d have a hell of a row… Because they’re bush people and not a concern to politicians, they don’t worry about it.”

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The Ranger: Film Review

The Ranger is a hark back to 80s horror films. A group of young punks run into trouble during a concert and retreat to an abandoned holiday cabin, inexplicably located deep in an isolated area of a national park. Will they be okay? Highly unlikely. The film was very silly, with plenty of hammy humour and over the top gore. It was fun. 6/10.
It was preceded by a short, The Shopper, directed by Dev Patel and story by Aussie Leigh Whannell. Another slasher flick with dark humour about a seemingly bored housewife who has an emotionally abusive husband. But maybe not for long. Also 6/10.

What Keeps You Alive: Film Review

I have a rule of faith when it comes to film festivals – I don’t watch trailers or read reviews. I read the program and decide to see movies based on the blurb. I make an effort to see movies written or directed by women first and foremost (documentaries or dramas especially), or about minority groups and women in general in the second instance. Third, I try my hardest to see horrors because they’re rarely released in Australian cinemas. ‘What Keeps You Alive’ hits two of three: a movie about two (White) women and a horror flick. Directed by Colin Minihan (of Grave Encounters, which I disliked) was not what I expected. What I knew about the plot: Jules and Jackie are celebrating their one year anniversary in an isolated cabin in the woods. It is a horror. That’s it! The leap of faith paid off. It was so strong! Great characters. Lots of bad decisions but cleverness too. I won’t say more. Slick 7/10.

(Postscript: Now on Netflix)