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Sydney Morning Herald Column

The Art of the Spanish Flu

August 4, 2020

Anyone who thinks COVID-19 has claimed a huge number of lives should look at the Spanish flu of 1918-20. In Pale Rider (2017), a compelling history of that earlier pandemic, Laura Spinney writes: “Between the first case recorded on 4 March 1918, and the last sometime in March 1920, it killed 50-100 million, or between […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Wollongong Art: eX de Medici, Hana Orszulok, Pamela Griffith

July 28, 2020

Earlier this year French President, Emmanuel Macron, announced a €7 billion support fund, largely intended to help small companies and independent artists. It’s a far cry from the $250 million Scott Morrison is sprinkling on the arts sector in Australia. To think of the arts in France is to think of the Opéra Garnier and […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

John R. Walker, Elisabeth Cummings, Ian Grant, Maria Kontis

July 18, 2020

After months in lockdown memories of this season’s bushfire crisis have already begun to fade. People are so fixated on the moment, so ready to focus on present circumstances and forget past vexations, that the fires might have happened in ancient times rather than a mere six months ago. For our beloved Prime Minister that […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Tom Gleghorn

July 9, 2020

Robert Hughes once explained his reasons for leaving Australia by saying that if he’d stayed he would have ended up as the world expert on Tom Gleghorn. It wasn’t a swipe at one particular artist so much as an airy dismissal of Australian provincialism, but it left me with a lingering impression of Gleghorn as […]

Sydney Morning Herald Column

Shadow catchers

July 2, 2020

In Adelbert von Chamisso’s gothic tale, Peter Schlemihl, the hero sells his shadow to the devil in exchange for a purse perpetually filled with gold, but all the wealth in the world is not enough to compensate for the horror he inspires when his lack of a shadow is noticed. For “shadow” we might read […]

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Sydney Morning Herald Column August 11, 2020

Sydney Ball

For over a century each new artistic style or movement was viewed as a momentous historical breakthrough, but when everyone started doing it or buying it, the same stuff became mere “fashion”. As the pioneering sociologist, Georg Simmel, noted in 1895, with fashion, the moment of mass circulation spells the end of a particular look, […]

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Film Reviews

Echo in the Canyon

August 7, 2020

It may seem a big call to suggest that one day historians will mention Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s alongside Vienna fin-de-siècle, and the Paris of the 1930s, but Graham Nash has no doubts. It’s even more startling to bracket Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys with Mozart, but Tom Petty manages this feat […]

Film Reviews

The Burnt Orange Heresy

July 31, 2020

In The Square (2017), Ruben Östlund’s wicked send-up of the contemporary art scene, Claes Bang was a self-serving curator who couldn’t take a trick. In The Burnt Orange Heresy, Bang is back, as a louche art critic playing a dangerous game. It’s not uncommon for actors to get type-cast as tough guys, criminals or cowboys, […]

Film Reviews

Babyteeth

July 24, 2020

Last year I spent some time trawling back over the history of Australian cinema, a process with mixed outcomes. It was exhilarating to rediscover the way local movies have captured moments of national anxiety and brash self-confidence. On the other hand, the boldness of past efforts, particularly during the 1970s, casts a withering light on […]

Film Reviews

A White, White Day

July 18, 2020

All nations are works in progress, but Iceland is a place in which even Nature is still experimenting. Volcanoes, glaciers, snow-topped mountains, chasms, hot springs, and a latitude that ensures whole days in summer when the sun never seems to set and days in winter when it barely shows its face. One imagines living in […]