From Russia with love
Non-fictionIn 1914, Roderick Jones, the general manager of the Reuters wire service, had approached the imperial authorities to place his company ‘at the disposal of the government for the fullest dissemination all over the world of British and Allied intelligence’. The British government accepted his patriotic offer, thereafter using Reuters’ cables as a conduit for articles selected, and in some cases entirely fabricated, by the Department of Information. That meant, for instance, that the infamous (and totally bogus) account of a German ‘corpse factory’ rendering cadavers into soap made its way down the wires to the Ballarat Courier (‘Boiling down the dead, Huns crowning infamy’), the Sydney Sun (‘Fat from the dead: Horrible German method’) and the Melbourne Herald (‘The German Beast: A nation dehumanised’). The local press was not, however, entirely innocent of manipulation by the imperium. In Australia, as elsewhere, the Great War brought tremendous political polarisation, a genuine social crisis now obscured by the twenty-first-century perception of Gallipoli as a locus of national unity.
IntroductionThe pieces in this edition mine the social, cultural and emotional ramifications of our shifting relationship with reality: the power of deepfakes, the possibilities of AI-generated art, the changing face of cosmetic surgery, the performance of pornographic pleasure, the dangers of corporate greenwashing, the allure of conspiracy...
A passing phase
In ConversationI 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.’
How do we discern what's real and what's not in a time of influencers and identity scams, counterfeits and cosmetic surgeries, disinformation, fake news and threats to democracy?
Free to Read
How can you write a novel without killing it?
On this land that has, for many millennia, seen the flourishing of language upon language, and now finds itself home to a population of which almost 30 per cent were born overseas, translation is part of our national identity.
‘Do food bloggers realize how awful their recipe pages are?’ a Reddit user innocently enquires in a thread I stumble across while googling food blogs bad. ‘Do they take reader satisfaction into account?’
According to more than 600 replies, the answer is largely no.
Beware the funky murals
Yet increasingly murals are rolled out by local government with the aim of rapid redevelopment and gentrification of traditionally working-class areas… The broader function of officially sanctioned public art like this is to make a place more attractive to developers…and middle-class home buyers.
Cloak and swagger
There is a tension that I am trying to provoke – a back-and-forth between invitation and denial, visibility and invisibility, surface and depth – that arises in various ways throughout the work. It is in the presentation of the figure and its ‘lingering traces’, the cloak of costumes with their vibrant materiality, the seductively polished yet impenetrable terrain of the images.
From cream buns and vanilla slices to cheese-filled sausages and salad sandwiches, working-class culinary culture would not be the same without the lunch bar. Typically tucked away in a corner of the city’s suburban, industrial and commercial districts, lunch bars have sustained the work force with an array of no-frills fast food since the 1950s.
Cosy, all too cosy
I had such fun doing the project, which was sort of like organised yarn bombing… It was a project for a specific area, a swimming hole in a small town outside of Warrnambool, and I created floating waterlilies that went in the pond as well as birds and nests and things that went in the trees – about half-a-dozen pieces.
One of the first poems MacDiarmid wrote, with his new name and his new sense of what was required of his existence, was ‘The Watergaw’. No doubt it came as a bolt out of the blue and required much fastening to the jinker, but it reads like a bit of the earth’s speech. It’s a burn steadily chanting over the brae, as they’d say in his part of the world.
Bennett chose to excavate representations of colonial history. Old paintings, drawings, stamps, newspapers and textbooks – the kit and caboodle of scenes, images, stories and tropes that, in sum, form something like Australia’s visual common sense. It is just this assemblage that Gordon Bennett sought to unsettle in Possession Island.
Looking for Johnny Burnaway
In suburban Brisbane, Johnny discarded his teenage nickname, Zap, and adopted a new identity: Johnny Burnaway. The name, which he took from a minor character in Anthony Burgess’ cult novel A Clockwork Orange, served as both punk persona and an accurate description of his future.
The empathy machine?
His first VR documentary, made in collaboration with creative director Gabo Arora, was Clouds over Sidra in 2015, a ‘canonical’ VR empathy piece according to Jeremy Baileson, the head of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Made in collaboration with the United Nations to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis, Clouds over Sidra is proof, Milk claims, that VR ‘has the potential to change the world’.