“The reason protesters went out is that they had enough of the world where recycling your Coke cans, giving a couple of dollars to charity, or buying a cappuccino where 1% goes towards developing world troubles, is enough to make them feel good. After outsourcing work and torture, after the marriage agencies started to outsource even our dating, they saw that for a long time they were also allowing their political engagements to be outsourced – and they want them back.”—Occupy first. Demands come later | Slavoj Žižek
“THE theme of this year’s festival was “Coming together”, two words that Australians have difficulty linking. We hate any sign of people coming together for any purpose other than shopping or sport; and nothing inspires so much horror as the sight of people coming together to talk and express a view. In a city conditioned by the current lord mayor, a festival that proposes the great unlikelihood of Australians coming together is culturally significant and highly topical.”—Coming together as Melbourne comes apart
In this era of online presales and ballots and all manner of retail-related social distancing, there’s something rather old-fashioned about standing outside a shop like cows headed into a dairy, and yet, if their tendency to get in line is anything to go by, Melburnians like nothing more than a good queue.
What is FORMER WEST? FORMER WEST is a long-term international research, education, publishing, and exhibition project (2008–2014), which from within the field of contemporary art and theory: (1) reflects upon the changes introduced to the world (and thus to the so-called West) by the political, cultural, artistic, and economic events of 1989; (2) engages in rethinking the global histories of the last two decades in dialogue with post-communist and postcolonial thought; and (3) speculates about a “post-bloc” future that recognizes differences yet evolves through the political imperative of equality and the notion of “one world.”
Unsettling resonances proliferate. In a long, extemporised sequence, the director (Woods) embodies everything from political correctness gone haywire (praising an actor who has left the stage to have a shit) to opposite tyrannies - a rehearsal dispute morphs into the ugly spectacle of a skinhead bashing a disabled youth. Before that, the audience gets accused, directly, of attending to watch some ”freak porn”. Is this an accusation we can entirely dodge? I doubt it. And that sense of doubt - so important to an ethical life - pervades every moment. This is theatre that knows the swastika will always speak of Nazis as well as ancient religions, just as theatre by disabled performers can never escape the history of fools and freak shows. Back to Back struggles to find, and succeeds in finding, the profound beauty in that double vision.
Those early encounters were as much about my desire to connect with strangers as the strangers’ desire to connect with me. I was alone in this new place, with no real friends. The fact that I engaged with the men under the premise of art created, to an extent, a level playing field: everyone was taking a risk. Although you can never level the playing field when a man and woman are in the same room. It’s not possible. I grew up in the Midwest, which shaped my expectations of the world. To make the kind of work I do – which hopes for a beautiful thing out of an encounter with a perfect stranger – I have to be an optimist, I have to be trusting in humankind. My home town was in the middle of nowhere. It created an odd dichotomy of knowing everyone, yet having a screaming desire to get out and experience the world, experience something giant and real. Growing up I was part of one of only three Asian-American families in our area; I didn’t feel like anyone around me, so have no comprehension of only hanging out with people the same as me. I’ve always felt vulnerable and that has given me, I think, a kind of meeting point with the strangers I encounter.
Did people question what you were doing?
Yeah. ‘You’re a young girl,’ they’d say. ‘Why are you toying with these weird old men?’ But those men were my friends. The videos question people’s judgements about who should be friends with who. I think that’s important.