Welcome to GR Online, a new series of short-form articles that take aim at the moving target of contemporary culture as it’s whisked along the guide rails of innovations in digital media, globalisation and late-stage capitalism.
In 2023, we’re delighted to be publishing three regular online contributors: Jumaana Abdu, Sam Elkin and Amber Gwynne. In addition to work by these three stellar writers, we’ll also be publishing occasional pieces by other contributors throughout the year. Stay tuned!
Animals are extremely important and extremely neglected in our public discourse. We’re not even paying enough attention to human rights and human justice issues, and we’re paying next to no attention to non-human rights and non-human justice issues. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care – people do care about animals, and they want animals to have good lives – but we’re either unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge all the pain and suffering that animals experience as a result of human activity.
All kinds of interpretation are a form of fiction. These are fictions that we need in order to connect with the larger environment. When our current thinking has failed to make us think of ways to connect with the environment, art may be the only way we can have access to new ways to think about where we are in relation to the environment.
In 2011, I was invited to a writers’ retreat in Santa Fe. It was held on a lovely old ranch with beautiful horses – Western Paints, Appaloosas – and one of the wranglers noticed me admiring them and invited me on a trail ride. It was an ecstatic experience.
My first bull-riding job was a portrait of a young rider named Ian ‘Irish’ Molan from Cork, Ireland, for the upcoming event in Darwin that weekend. I attended the event that weekend and photographed behind the scenes and focused on Ian Molan in action. When it was the Irishman’s turn, he was thrown off the bull, who stomped on the rider’s chest repeatedly. I thought Ian was going to die. The bull was relentless.
There’s so much we can learn from the plants, even the little annual plants, and we don’t take notice of them. Gymea lily flowers can tell you when the whales are coming. One of the things I’ve investigated is why the ants can tell the weather – I carried out an experiment when I was at Macquarie University, and what I found was that if the groundwater level rises, you can expect rain, and the ants will pick this up.
Public art in particular is a great way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to tell different histories and narratives that are site specific. There are lots of hidden histories that we know as community but that lots of other people don’t, and so we use these public spaces as opportunities to install different types of artwork to allow people to engage with these histories and stories during their everyday commute...
I’m often hearing about odd jobs that musicians or performers had and how it’s tied to their identity. You read about Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, who really identified with blue-collar people and railroad workers. After Kerouac got infamous, or famous, he went off to be by himself in a cabin in the forest as a fire lookout. So he went into a very solitary existence, and I like that kind of thing...
Hip-hop was about taking this mainstream look – a nice, acceptable, appropriate look – and, like, changing it up. Sampling it like it’s a song and turning it into something new. So when preppy emerged in mainstream white corporate culture, it started mixing with denim in new ways and mixing with sneakers in new ways and becoming a form of streetwear.
Even though I grew up on a small, remote island, I was still heavily influenced by television – particularly the sort of cartoons that would play on Saturday mornings, mornings before school, after school and so on. When it comes to DC and Marvel and all of those superheroes, for me that was ignited by my late grandfather Ali Drummond, my mother’s father, who had boxes of Phantom comics. Phantom was my early introduction to the strong, powerful male being who had supernatural strength and abilities.
Prior to Homo sapiens, populations might have just moved on or gone extinct in the face of environmental risks, whereas with Homo sapiens we were able to disperse widely across the world despite great ecological challenges. The underlying reason for that may be rooted in our social relations, our high level of co-operation – we don’t necessarily see that with earlier human species.
I grew up when women were viewed as decorative, appraised for their sexual currency. It’s hard to disassociate from powerful formative experiences. Particularly my childhood observations of glamour fused with my interest in the macabre.
I went to Tim’s Guitars years ago and I saw Grant Hart from Hüsker Dü do a solo thing and he had a Q&A after the solo. And some guy went, ‘How often do you practise guitar?’ And then Grant Hart said, ‘I never practise guitar, practising guitar gets in the way of my personality.’ And I was like, ‘Oh wow, that’s actually really true.’