unfurl /2 writing+art

March 2020 — writing+art /video /photography /music /dance /philippic


Robyn ROWLAND /poetry

Robyn Rowland is an Australian citizen and has been visiting Ireland for thirty-six years and living in both Connemara and Australia for over twenty years. She regularly works in Turkey. She has written fifteen books, twelve of poetry.

Four of her books came out of the Irish landscape and history. Then her interests were caught in Turkey and the old Ottoman Empire. In 2015 came the ground-breaking history in poetry, her bi-lingual This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915 (Five Islands and Bilge Kultur Sanat; republished, Spinifex Press, Australia, 2018). Turkish translations by Mehmet Ali Çelikel.

In Mosaics From The Map (Doire Press, 2018) again history lived in the intimate. Personal stories explored war, change, family and friendship – in Ireland, Turkey, the Balkans and Australia. “Here are powerful, wise poems of humane sensitivity and good sense, a voice pitched always in the true register of compassion,” wrote Theo Dorgan, “luminous meditations that open up original avenues of vision and thought. Straight from the heart.”

Robyn’s most recent book Under This Saffron Sun / Safran Güneşin Altında, Turkish translations Mehmet Ali Çelikel, returns to Turkey; capturing place, friendship, change and uncovering the similarities between peoples which unite us all, rather than divide. It gently alludes to Syrian refugees, to the desire for peace and for stability, to hold onto the things which bind. Mostly, it is about friendship, ‘different ways with love’ and place. Of this book Paula Meehan, Ireland Professor of Poetry (2013–2016) wrote: “Everywhere here a flag is hoisted for our common and shared humanity, in language rich, resonant, precise … From Istanbul to Cappadocia, to Marmaris, a book of the good things we find on this earth: a song of colour, pattern, taste and feeling, weaving that needs the map inside the hands as she so memorably puts it … the ultimate healing solace to be found in the authenticity/ of connection.”

Robyn’s poetry appears in national and international journals, and in over forty anthologies, including Being Human, ed. Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2011) and eight editions of Best Australian Poems (Black Inc.). She has read and taught in Ireland for thirty-six years and has been invited to read in India, Portugal, Ireland, the UK, the USA, Greece, Austria, Bosnia, Serbia, Turkey and Italy, where, along with Canada, Spain and Japan, she has also been published, sometimes in translation.

Her work has been featured on ABC’s PoeticA, the RTE Poetry Program and TG4 (Ireland). She has been filmed reading for the National Irish Poetry Reading Archive, James Joyce Library, University College Dublin. She has two CDs of poetry, ‘Silver Leaving – Poems & Harp’ with Lynn Saoirse, and ‘Off the Tongue’.

Previous to 1996, when Robyn was diagnosed with breast cancer and left academic life, she was Professor, Head of the School of Social Inquiry, and Director of the Australian Women’s Research Centre at Deakin University. Robyn has edited and refereed for a multitude of international journals. In the 1996 Honours List she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia by the Governor General on behalf of the Australian Government for her national and international contribution to women’s health and higher education.

Steve COX /philippic

Photograph of Steve Cox by Jacqui Burnes.

Decrying the new conservatism in Australian art

Over the centuries despots and dictators have destroyed art and literature and have locked up artists and poets. They knew that art was the antithesis of fascism, and it was a powerful and sometimes savage voice of dissent to tyranny. The great artists and art movements of the past usually operated outside of prevailing trends, forging dynamic new ways of viewing the world and, by extension, of viewing ourselves. During their lifetime, great artists are often vilified, their work despised by the bourgeoisie, who do not want to be challenged in their narrow, safe perspective. For culture to thrive it is essential that the complacent bourgeoisie be regularly shaken—it is the only way forward.

Unfortunately, so many artists now seem totally consumed with the idea of being 'accepted' by the establishment. We now witness an endless, dispiriting display of early-to-mid-career artists becoming groveling conformists. Very few artists today want to rock the boat; very few are interested in nurturing any kind of original visual language, which they will stick to and develop over a lifetime; so many are content to make pastiches of previous artists’ work, which they have most often misread in the first place; very few take any kind of moral or political stand on any issue (personal or societal). Australian art has, in the main, become bland, anodyne, conservative and corporate. There is no more danger. There is no more surprise. There is no more energy. Depressingly, it now appears that the primary purpose of much recent art is to please: it has, therefore, been successfully co-opted and poisoned by the bourgeoisie, and has lost the main point it once possessed

Clement Greenberg maintained that art should ‘keep its distance’; it should keep the viewer at arm’s length, retain its mystery, and give up its secrets slowly, over years. He said that art which comes a few steps towards the viewer is minor art. Yet, we now see that the bulk of new art gallops towards its audience, and falls prostrate in submission. This is an unedifying and unfortunate position for art and for artists. As an example, look at much of the current crop of young abstract painters at work now. It is difficult to imagine that they have ever stood, enthralled, in front of a Motherwell; a Krasner; a Tuckson; a Gorky etc. There is now little sense of a continuance of artistic heritage down through the ages. The bulk of new abstract painting (or zombie-abstraction as it has been called) is invariably slick, bland, decorative and ultra-conservative to its shallow core. These are Nothing Paintings; they are about nothing; they signify nothing except emptiness (and not in a productive, conceptual way); they are enervated and pointless. They are as empty and bereft as a drained swimming pool. Within these paintings there is a complete absence of any suggestion of human life, emotion or experience—because all of that would be too messy, too difficult, and too meaningful. Art with meaning is now being written out of the equation: it appears that society now wants its culture depthless and empty. The great abstract paintings of the past were layered with all the trauma, joy, sorrow, bliss, horror and vitality of life itself. Those older artists developed their language slowly, over a lifetime. They were very serious about their work, and they were in touch with their emotions and frailties, and by extension, with the humanity of us all. This humanity is now rarely seen in art.

Also symptomatic of this present-day conservative malaise, is the disheartening preponderance of photo-based painting, whose single, overriding objective is to demonstrate the painter’s skill (if it can be called such) in replicating a photograph—the fact that this kind of work should be particularly prevalent in Australia is, I think, an indication of the great conservatism of the place. Art which relies solely and entirely on technique is always minor—an artistic dead-end before it even leaves the studio.

During the mid-to-late 1970s, Photorealism was an important and valid art movement. It served an essential role during that period. But it was also underpinned by a rigorous conceptual framework, which nourished it and gave it depth and meaning beyond the mere mimicry of photographic source material. It served its purpose long ago—it did all it could possibly do to stretch what we knew of painting, at that time. A few of the artists associated with this art form, such as Chuck Close, continued to expand their visual language, within the parameters of ‘the photograph’, over an entire career, finding ever-inventive ways to elaborate on the theme. Many, however, found themselves caught in an ever-decreasing spiral of diminishing returns, with fewer and fewer options available to them. This is what happens when an artist paints him/herself into a cul-de-sac. With this fairly recent historical example in mind, it seems even odder that contemporary painters would limit themselves, today, to a redundant ‘photorealist’ track, which really has so little scope to evolve, beyond perfecting technique—and, with the technique perfected, the gigantic elephant in the room is the question: Why?

We are all being successfully stupefied by the powers above, who have a vested interest in keeping us docile and manipulable. The media (comprising Hollywood, television, newspapers, advertising etc.) is ensuring that we are increasingly unable to think for ourselves. And today, within this vapid consumerist abyss that most people have bought into—car(s), house(s), shopping—we are also witnessing the rapid erosion of any possibility of art to have any significance whatsoever. The malignant tumour of International Art Fairs has successfully rendered art just another meaningless, shining, consumer-item bauble.

Added to this mix are art schools, which are almost all under the nefarious stranglehold of universities (now mere tools of late capitalism), which actively discourage students from making work that might be controversial or political, or which might be considered in any way challenging to the prevailing status quo. In many Australian high-schools, art is now barely considered on the syllabus. Art reviews and columns have now all but been eradicated from most newspapers, meaning that the general public is no longer exposed, even casually, to art, and that art is no longer being seen as a vital intellectual pursuit—one which enriches society. Our ‘masters’ are winning the war on art and artists and the associated free-thought and free-speech. Art has now been successfully neutered. A dispiriting number of artists have been co-opted in the most ingenious way: many have willingly adopted the conservative perspective and are contentedly suckling at the poisonous teats of the establishment, when they really should be snarling and baring their teeth. When even artists are happy to roll over to get their bellies rubbed, culture is dead in the stagnant water.

Philippics-in-reply should be sent to <unfurleditor@gmail.com>.

Steve Cox is an artist and writer. He has a forty-year exhibition history and his work is held in major public and private collections throughout Australia and internationally. As an arts writer, since 2000, he has contributed articles and reviews, and has conducted interviews with artists, for numerous newspapers, journals and magazines, including The Guardian; VAULT: Australasian Art & Culture; Gay Times, UK; FilmInk.com, amongst others. Cox writes on a range of subjects, including contemporary and historical art; LGBTQI issues; social issues; cinema; contemporary music.

Between 2013–2014, he was the London Arts Editor of NakedButSafe magazine. In 2019 he was on the judging panel for the Young Arts Journalist Award (YAJA). Also in 2019, he was the inaugural Writer in Residence for Brunswick Street Village, an innovative building complex, which espouses green values and arts in the community as a primary concern. During the residency, he produced a collection of fifty poems, on a range of subjects.

His collection of short stories, A Month of Sundays, and An Artist’s London Journal are available on Amazon.

AI Weiwei /Dumbass

Dumbass (2013) Duration: 5 minutes

Dumbass is a music video inspired by Ai Weiwei’s 81 days of secret detention following his arrest in 2011. The music video satirizes the claustrophobic delirium Ai experienced while being guarded around-the-clock by two officers at his side, while he ate, slept, showered and used the toilet. The cell depicted in the music video is a precise recreation of the room he was held in, which Ai had memorized. The song is a single from Ai Weiwei’s album “The Divine Comedy” with musician and friend Zuoxiao Zuzhou.

Ai Weiwei - Dumbass (Explicit)

Music video for Dumbass by Ai Weiwei. Song by Ai Weiwei with music by Zuoxiao Zuzhou. Cinematography by Christopher Doyle. © 2013 Ai Weiwei.

From the forthcoming album, The Divine Comedy, everywhere June 22, 2013.

Download Single + Video: http://aiweiwei.com/music/dumbass

Dumbass (Explicit Lyrics)

When you're ready to strike, he mumbles about non-violence.

When you pinch his ear, he says it's no cure for diarrhea.

You say you're a mother-fucker, he claims he's invincible.

You say you're a mother-fucker, he claims he's invincible.

Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life's invincible.

Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life's invincible.

Oh dumbass, oh such dumbass! Oh dumbass, oh such dumbass!

Oh dumbass, oh such dumbass! Oh dumbass, oh such dumbass!

Lalalalala, lalalalala Lalalalala, lalalalala

Lalalalala, lalalalala Lalalalala, lalalalala

Stand on the frontline like a dumbass, in a country that puts out like a hooker.

The field's full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.

The field's full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.

Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life's invincible.

You say you're a mother-fucker, he claims he's invincible.

You say you're a mother-fucker, he claims he's invincible.

The field is full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.

The field's full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.























Nigel CROSS /photography

« I was given a Voigtländer Vito B in the 1970s and started taking photos. Since then I’ve never stopped taking photos but am only now beginning to understand how difficult photography really is. I make images that satisfy my inner need for simplicity and tranquility.

I haven’t arrived at a 'style,' but I recognise that my frames do have a ‘look.’ Always distracted by light and practically addicted to contre-jour images—I have no explanation of why that came to be my way of making images. It may be just the edges and contrasts backlighting brings to an image. Also, I like my images to capture drama and serenity in equal measure—and landscape really helps with that.

Because I learnt photography on film and with old-school chemical darkroom technique, I had to unlearn a lot of technical things about exposure when transitioning to digital. I can get wrapped up in the technical aspects of photography, sometimes even to the point of losing what I’m shooting for! I’m more likely to get a keeper by simply responding to the light of a scene.

I was born on the north-west coast of Tasmania and grew up there before running away to sea, and then becoming an educational systems designer by way of industrial design and teaching. I live and work in Hobart and most of the images in the gallery are from Tassie.

I’ve been lucky to travel to Iceland twice and have recently been to Cornwall and Japan. There are only a couple of frames in this gallery from those islands but plenty more on flickr.»

—Nigel Cross

Photographs by Nigel Cross

Arnarfjörður - Iceland 2017 Nigel Cross
Dark Forest - Tarkine 2019 Nigel Cross
Fagus - Mt Field 2018 Nigel Cross
Far Ahead The Road Has Gone - Iceland 2017 Nigel Cross
Fuji-san - Japan 2019 Nigel Cross
Glacier Bones - Iceland 2017 Nigel Cross
In Mourning - Mt Field 2018 Nigel Cross
Java Sea 2017 Nigel Cross
Jökulsárlón - Iceland 2015 Nigel Cross
larapuna - Tasmania 2018 Nigel Cross
larapuna ii - Tasmania 2018 Nigel Cross
Manuscript - Bicheno 2016 Nigel Cross
Mountain Pepper - Tasmania 2016 Nigel Cross
Much Snorting - Tasmania 2016 Nigel Cross
Ocean Beach - Tasmania 2014 Nigel Cross
Sisters Hills - Tasmania 2016 Nigel Cross
Snow Gums - Tasmania 2015 Nigel Cross
Spectral - Tasmania 2019 Nigel Cross
Takayama - Japan 2019 Nigel Cross
The Gerry - Tasmania 2017 Nigel Cross
The Road to Mars - Iceland 2017 Nigel Cross
The Whole Crazy - Japan 2019 Nigel Cross
Trees Dreaming - Tasmania 2018 Nigel Cross
Uneasy Chairs - Devon 2017 Nigel Cross
Emu Rising - Tasmania 2019 Nigel Cross

« The Milky Way core rising over Maria Island and the Tasman Sea. Jupiter and Antares making a big show over Mercury Passage and the effects of fires inland can be seen in the colour of the core right on the horizon.

Australian indigenous peoples used the dark spaces in the sky for their Dreaming stories. The Coalsack Nebula forms the head of an emu and the dust lanes leading back to the core form the neck and body.

This is a two frame composite image blended crudely in PS and my first real shot/s in anger with three elements all at once. The Z6, the Nikkor 14-30/4 S and a Skytracker.

I think the lens is sharp enough in the dark but my alignment of the tracker was off just a fraction—the stars are not as sharp as they could be. Aligning the tracker isn't that easy as we have no Polaris in the southern hemisphere—just a faint fourth-magnitude star that takes a bit of finding.

My takeaways were to raise the ISO and drop the exposure time. Turn High ISO NR to 'ON.'

Anyway, it was a nice night to be looking out to sea. »


  • Stapletons Beach, East Coast, Tasmania
  • Nikon Z6, Nikkor 14-30/4 S
  • Sky – 120 sec at f/4.5, ISO 500
  • Sea – 25 sec at f/4.5, ISO 3200

Stuart BARNES /poetry

Stuart Barnes was born and grew up in Hobart and lived in Melbourne for seventeen years before moving to Rockhampton, Australia. His first poetry collection, Glasshouses (UQP), won the Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, was commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award and shortlisted for the ASAL Dame Mary Gilmore Award. From 2014–2015 Stuart was poetry editor of Verity La and from 2013–2017 poetry editor of Tincture Journal. Since 2017 he has been a program advisor for Queensland Poetry Festival. In 2018 he served on the advisory board of Bent Window Books and guest co-edited, with Quinn Eades, Cordite Poetry Review’s TRANSQUEER issue. Stuart’s writing has been published/is forthcoming in Australian Book Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, Overland, Plumwood Mountain, POETRY (Chicago), Poetry Ireland, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Southerly, Transnational Literature, Verity La, Westerly and The Weekend Australian Review. Commissioned poems have been published in Peril Magazine and at Red Room Company and are forthcoming in Australian Poetry Journal. Stuart’s working on his second poetry collection, Form & Function, and a novel.

Twitter/Instagram: <@StuartABarnes>

Website: <https://stuartabarnes.wordpress.com/>

Glasshouses, described as ‘playful, subtle, moving, witty and outrageous ... a major achievement’ (William Yeoman), ‘an impressive balancing act between a love of precursors and the strategies of the avant-garde’ (Geoff Page) and ‘[a] complex but compelling collection that captures joy, pain, beauty, darkness and adventure, sometimes all at once’ (Sally Piper), is available from a number of bookshops.

Peter LACH-NEWINSKY /poetry

Born in Germany to German and Russian parents, Peter Lach-Newinsky came to Australia as an infant and grew up in Sydney speaking German at home. After studying English, French, German, Theatre and Political Philosophy at Sydney, Munich and Frankfurt universities, he lived and worked in Germany from 1967 to 1987. He returned to Australia with his wife and son after the Chernobyl disaster.

Peter’s three poetry books are Cut a Long Story Short (Puncher & Wattmann 2014), Requiem (Picaro Press New Work 2012) and The Post-Man Letters & Other Poems (Picaro Press New Work 2010). His awards include the Varuna-Picaro Publishing Fellowship Prize (2009), the Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize (2009 and 2010) and the Vera Newsom Poetry Prize (2011). Published in Best Australian Poetry 2015, he has also been twice shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, and been runner-up or commended in the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets, the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Poetry Prize, the Shoalhaven Literary Award.

Peter lives with his wife Barbara in Bundanoon in the southern highlands of New South Wales. Their twenty-acre working property is designed along permaculture lines and includes 120 heritage apple varieties.

Website: <https://peterlachnewinsky.wordpress.com>.

Peter's other website of translations from the German is 'Passing on the Flame': <http://peterln.wordpress.com>.


Music masterclass with Jascha Heifetz

Tony Schwartz: The Truth About Trump | Oxford Union Q&A

Oxford Union on Twitter: @OxfordUnion

Website: http://www.oxford-union.org/

Announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination back in June 2015, Donald Trump stated "We need a leader that wrote 'The Art of the Deal' ". Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter of the book Trump calls 'his proudest achievement'. Schwartz has been vocal about his regrets in working on the piece, but, having worked intimately with Trump, provides a fascinating perspective into the personality and idiosyncrasies of the Republican nominee

Created By
Stephen J. Williams