Jonathan W Marshall

From 1989, I studied combined Arts/Science at the University of Melbourne, finally graduating with a PhD in History in 2003. During this time, I became involved with university and fringe performances, on and off campus, working with numerous small companies. I have at one point done everything you can do on or off stage, even (once) dancing. I worked as a theatre venue technician, which helped me to see my involvement in the arts in a more critical and self-aware light: it’s not always about the artist, or how they feel! Around this period, I came to realise I could write well about the arts. I began working with the student magazine Farrago, later moving to IN Press (which, with my editors, we helped make Melbourne’s leading source of arts coverage for a while), and eventually RealTime.

My academic career has included seven years at the University of Otago, New Zealand (2009-15), as well as at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts @ Edith Cowan University, where I am currently the Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies. Some years ago, I mentioned to writer and dramaturg Tom Wright that I had initially written on theatre, but increasingly covered dance because no one else did and it was so fascinating, and that from this I had moved on to interviewing composers for dance and sound art. He asked if I would be writing on architecture next, and as it happens, I have! So I follow my curiosity, publishing on diverse topics ranging from the relationship between medical history with performance to Butoh, landscape, animals in art, New Music and noise art, photomedia, 20th century visual arts and other subjects. I’m very proud of my new monograph Performing Neurology: The Dramaturgy of Dr Jean-Martin Charcot (2016), which is currently available from Springer, Palgrave and Googlebooks.


The world is, if you will excuse me, fucked. Whether you concur that global warming is probably going to render the Australian coasts a disaster zone within the next 80 years, or if you just think that contemporary capitalism isn’t providing the universal access to wellbeing it was expected to offer after WWII, everyone agrees there is much wrong in our world today. The creative endeavour has therefore never been more crucial. I myself believe all art is politics (and, as Trump’s success in vernacular vitriol shows, all politics is art), but even if we leave that aside, one must concede that new thinking is the only way we are going to get anywhere in changing anything. Artists, like critics, are still the Fourth Estate. Their insights, their challenges, their provocations, energise our otherwise somnolent experience to new heights and lows. Without these broader perspectives, and—yes—dreams, nothing will change. We must have the courage to insist that freeing and expanding the minds and emotions of the human animal is the greatest contribution to our spiritual, political and material way of being. Or to slip into funk talk, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow” (George Clinton). As a critic, my work is art too. An art which is often more reactive than serving as the starting place for insights in itself, to be sure, but no less vital for that. My aim continues to be to bring new insights to bear on the plasticity of action, movement, sensuality and sound; to critically interrogate and champion culture in all its forms. I work with artists, but I do not serve them. I serve my readers, and any who wish to think hard about the world, and what it is that surrounds us.

Recent articles for realtime

Other writing