Editorial

Why not just burn the town down?

Our celebratory/incendiary cover image text is but one of many that cascade across the screen in alarming and witty juxta/transpositions and lateral/literary narratives, often to fine jazz, in the web-based work of YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES from South Korea who will feature in this year’s MAAP: Out of the Internet international media art event out of Brisbane and libraries and galleries around the world (p2). Go to www.yhchang.com for a great collection of YHCHI works.

MAAP is just one of a host of festivals we’re covering in this edition and there are many more on the way. Historically, festivals were sometimes events of ritual inversion—of power, of the sacred, of gender relations—and often celebrated with fire—bonfires and fireworks. The intensity of any festival can engender a sense of transformation, of an old self purged and the world viewed anew. That’s what we hope of art festivals, renewal of our senses and values and a reinvigorated appreciation of art and its capacity to change itself and transform us.

In these dangerously conservative times we expect a lot from art and arts festivals. We ask them to keep us intellectually alert, politically aware and to protect our senses from being restricted, even shut down, by the dark forces of censorship and narrow views of what constitutes human experience. Nigel Jamieson’s Honour Bound (p42) powerfully merged a direct demand for justice for David Hicks and an immersive theatricality; Version 1.0’s Wages of Spin wickedly reframed the world of politics and media, distilling verbatim the appalling illogic of our politicians and their Iraq war so that we could not, as we laughed and gasped, ignore their criminality. With the works of Romeo Castellucci, Robert Wilson, Dumb Type and others in the coming Melbourne Festival we will be expecting no such direct appeals to our consciences, but we hope that they will rewrite the world for us in some way. The worlds conjured by these artists are strange ones that can take us far away from our everyday selves; others are more alarmingly familiar.

In his essay on Michael Haneke’s remarkable film, Hidden, Hamish Ford (p18) attributes some part of the film’s greatness and the considerable dialogue it has generated to the proximity between the lives of the film’s central couple and its audience. Hidden is neither bourgeois melodrama nor social comedy, where such proximity can provide a cosy refuge. This is an uncomfortable affinity and one distressingly difficult to categorise and put aside—hence the depth of the film’s challenge to our sense of responsibility and the intricacies of our complex connections with nation and history. In an era of comfortable narratives and perpetual demands for closure, Haneke, as Ford sees it, demands of us an adult response: “[His] seemingly bleak world view actually grants the audience the ultimate respect and space so that, separately and together, we might take responsibility for processing the ethical conundrums played out on screen—because in many ways they are our own, or our culture’s—and only thereby, albeit provisionally, ‘completing’ the film and creatively re-entering the world.” KG

RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 pg. 1

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2006