Language is the key to unlocking culture and, in a shrinking, swirling, multicultural world, multilingualism is a crucial tool. Michael Shirrefs asks why Australia, a country that proudly spruiks its multicultural credentials, is still so monolingual.
Our world is a complex organism, more interrelated than the silos in which we typically place it. One area of research to recognise this is the new discipline of participatory architecture, which explores among other things the relationship between music and buildings. But the idea has antecedents, including composers like Benjamin Britten and Edgard Varèse, and architects like Renzo Piano and Carlo Scarpo. Michael Shirrefs explores the search for harmony in the built environment.
Have you ever looked at a building and wondered what it would sound like? I’m not just talking about acoustics and air conditioner hum—I mean, what if that building was a piece of music? … Continue Reading
Rural artists have typically found themselves trying to translate their experiences of living on the land to gate-keeping gallery owners in the major cities. But new informal networks of artists, brought together on the internet, are cutting out the middle man and staging their own shows and happenings. Michael Shirrefs investigates.
One of the truths of rural life is that power and money and modernity usually lie elsewhere—in the metropolitan other. Well, it’s a truth of sorts. But it’s a truth that’s starting to loosen its grip.
Rural life, the world over, is in the midst of changes that are altering, not just who lives remotely, but what they do there. In this mix, artists have often seen rural life as an option that allows them to live and work on meagre incomes, but it usually comes at the cost of profile, access and any semblance of urban arts cool.
However, even that’s starting to change, because technology has begun to make geography less relevant, not only for artists, but for rural communities in general. … Continue Reading
Background to a discovery
The encounter was as innocent as it was unexpected. It was 1988 and I was being taken behind the scenes of the State Library of Victoria, up into the ‘stacks’. These were the areas of onsite storage that filled the spaces above the Library’s magnificent domed reading room and in truth it should have been out-of-bounds for an outsider like me. After wandering around the multi-level colonnades for some time, the full scale of the collection had begun to blur in my mind, until I came upon something unexpected. Behind one of the pillars sat a display pedestal with a massive book open, displaying maps—old maps. It took a while to get the subject of the maps into focus, but it dawned on me that this was Paris. And as I slowly turned the large pages, I realised that, with each new map, I was being taken back in time to some of the earliest visual conceptions of Paris as a distinct city.
The encounter was fleeting, but the impact on me was profound and persistent. Years later, I sensed that this experience of peeling back the layers of Paris in a book had influenced my aesthetic language as a printmaker. I also suspected that it had lent a new perspective to the way I articulated the world in other aspects of my life, not least of which was as a radio program-maker.