By Sarah Dowling

614w3EVREeLIn October this year, Melbourne hosted the Australian premiere of the internationally acclaimed contemporary ballet Tree of Codes. The ballet is a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, installation artist Olafur Eliasson and electronic producer/musician Jamie xx, inspired by American novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s work of the same name. Foer’s Tree of Codes is, itself, an adaptation of an existing artwork: its abstract narrative emerges through drastic redaction of Polish author Bruno Schulz’s collection of vignettes, The Street of Crocodiles. As the creators of the ballet have publicly noted, these successive re-imaginings of Schulz’s work illustrate the inevitable interplay between appropriation and originality in the creative process (Pasori). However, as a result of Foer’s emphasis on memory, trauma and poststructuralist theories of language, and in light of Schulz’s murder by a Nazi officer during World War II, the two Trees of Codes also problematize the very the nature of language and commemoration.

Schulz is a beloved national icon in Poland, where he is considered one of the country’s literary greats for his idiosyncratic prose style (Paloff). The Street of Crocodiles narrates a series of episodes ostensibly taken from his own life, which circulate around childhood experiences, family life and his father’s evolving madness. His stories are not plot-driven but, rather, invite the reader simply to luxuriate in the decadence of his prose, which is crammed with exuberant, lush imagery. Consider, for example, the wild garden full of “bestially liberated, . . . empty, overgrown, cabbage heads of burrs—enormous witches, shedding their voluminous skirts in broad daylight, throwing them down, one by one, until their swollen, rustling, hole riddled rags buried the whole quarrelsome bastard breed under their crazy expanse” (Schulz 51). A German SS officer shot the Jewish Shultz dead in the streets of Drohobycz ghetto in 1942 in an act of retribution, according to popular telling, against the Gestapo officer Felix Landau, for whom Schulz was painting a mural.

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Living Under the Veil

October 15, 2016

Written by Talitha Fraser

As recent media coverage and political rhetoric suggests that there is something to fear hidden beneath a burqa or the wearing thereof might be considered “un-Australian” I found myself thinking that, most likely, what the burqa covers is a naked woman.  How do we live well in a world where so much of who we are feels obfuscated by the power of things seen and unseen to influence and affect our lives? This photo series seeks to invite exploration of the layers, applied internally and externally, at personal, public and political levels through an exposition of the veil and its religious significance.

In considering some of those impacting powers, seen and unseen, that might prevent all humanity from fully encountering God (or becoming all we have the potential to be and “naked”) I made a wedding veil with the following five layers: media, culture, society, family and experience. Naming these layers as veils that must be peeled back in order to see clearly. We, all of us, are navigating these layers – visible or not. How can we know and be known through such thickness that clouds and blinds us?

The burqa sits in juxtaposition to this invisible veil challenging our ideas of what is visible and what is hidden and calling into question what shelters and what smothers. Dr Nora Amath, founder of AMARAH (Australian Muslim Advocates for the Rights of All Humanity) shares this:

I first wore the headscarf at the age of 18 (with no pressure to wear it from parents at all even though they are very devout religious leaders in our community). My reason for wearing it was that I was at a point in my life where I was growing in my faith journey and wanted to make my surrender to God visible. For me the headscarf was an extension of my prayer (it is exactly what I wear when I pray).  The act of wearing a scarf had nothing to do with a man, whether it was my father, brother or husband. In fact, my husband did not see me without a scarf until we were engaged. This in itself raises an interesting function that many women who wear the scarf also acknowledge- that the scarf can liberate their bodies from the insistent objectification of women in the public space. It demands that people deal with them based on their intellect, values, manners, behavior, ideas, etc and not based on their looks. Quite a strong feminist statement.

Islam, Feminism and Interfaith Dialogue –  Part 2, GirltalkHQ

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Sally Dalton-Brown started her painting career in the 80s in South Africa, holding her first co-exhibition in Johannesburg and selling two abstract seascapes, images of which – being from that long-ago time of polaroids – have long since faded.

“From 1982 I was building an academic career and paying the bills. Also, living in small and rented houses across six countries didn’t help because, as my partner will tell you, I’m an extraordinarily messy painter.”  The artist immigrated to Australia in 2003 but even after fixing up the shed, painting was sporadic as work both for the residential College (in the academic and administration areas) and Foundation Studies (teaching literature) took precedence.  Events in 2014 however “provided me with a timely reminder that life is too short to procrastinate so I started painting again, watched by the spiders in the shed and the studio cat. When winter arrived, my long-suffering partner took pity and cleared some space inside.”

The artist works loosely within the style of abstract expressionism, influenced by both Russian and South African artists. She works organically, sometimes starting without plan, dragging the image towards coherence through the interplay of light and form without trying for too representative a construction. This has developed into a “palimpsest” style of painting; overpainting the canvas and scraping back the build-up of paint several times, taking the painting through various iterations. The result leaves a tracery that adds some dynamic depth to the painting. Treeland, for example, was originally a landscape, but after multiple iterations, during which the landscape refused to come into focus, the artist turned the canvas through 90 degrees and removed the top layer. The paint lines excavated revealed the ghostly possibility of a tree, rising from a fluid, slightly glassy base.

Link to Sally Dalton-Brown art page: