JONATHAN PIE: THE FAKE NEWS TOUR

A few years ago, Jonathan Pie racked up over one hundred million views with a profanity-laced tirade about a certain someone getting elected President of the United States. The general gist of this rant was not that he was annoyed at Trump’s victory, it was his white-hot visceral rage at the other side for becoming what they’d become – elitist, aloof, unwilling to engage with people holding opposing views or ideals. Of course, being a lefty he was also rather unimpressed with the President-elect, but it was more a case of how could they have let this happen? Four years on, not much has changed.

His latest tour is on the back of his fictional firing by the BBC – Pie is in fact played by comedian & actor Tom Walker, with occasional help from Andrew Doyle – for making a pretty reprehensible statement that he freely admits he really shouldn’t have done, or at least made sure the camera wasn’t still transmitting. As far as excuses for swanning about Australia in the middle of summer go, it’s a pretty good one. Bit of a working holiday; enjoying the sunshine, getting up on stage for a handful of nights, and giving the people what they want – dick jokes, tearing shreds off of Tories, big-‘L’ Liberals, small-L liberals, Labor, Labour, Republicans, Democrats, and some blunt opinions about cancel culture, the professionally offended, and of course, wantonly attacking just about everything else, especially Twitter. By god he hates Twitter.

Pie maintains that the media, specifically the 24-hour news cycle that was normalised post-9/11 and fuelled by instantaneously published ‘opinions’ on Twitter, has accelerated the moral decay of political discussion to the point that now almost immediately in any situation a vast majority of people have adopted the ‘Brexit Face’ – where they just glaze over and stop listening, waiting only for the other person to stop talking. Kicking off with the origins of Brexit, the lecture – not a stand-up routine, he’s at pains to explain – gradually morphs into a diatribe where he questions how we’ve gotten to this point; climate change, crackpot world leaders, divisiveness, and identity politics.

Having previously admitted that Pie was a manner in which to vent when Walker was struggling for acting jobs, the character has become a version of The Thick of It Malcolm Tucker, if Tucker was secretly a bleeding-heart lefty who could accept that reducing his carbon footprint and being a bit more open-minded about things could actually be beneficial. Happily swinging a rather precise axe at everything he deems a worthy target, The Fake News Tour is equal parts Pie’s/Walker’s utter despair at the current state of affairs and his bright hope for the future.

4 / 5 stars


Words by Mikey Della Porta

Jonathan Pie – The Fake News Tour was on for one night only at the Royalty Theatre.

Interview: Tom Walker / Jonathan Pie

“No, no, no, absolutely not.” Tom Walker’s just broken my heart. I’ve put to him that he could consider taking his character Jonathan Pie to Westminster, or maybe even Number 10. Personally, I think he’d be better suited to Canberra, where he could potentially form a heavyweight tag-team of Australian politics with Penny Wong. “No, I’ve got this tour, and that wraps up in a few months, and then the diary is free.” Right in time for the 2020 US Elections, I tell him. “Oh god yeah, you’re right.”

Thing is though, he’s a bit sick of the constant supply of box office gold that keeps getting served up. “I’d really like it to level off a bit now. I’ve had my fun. When I started out the world wasn’t so strange and now we’ve got Trump and Brexit, and it’s time to swing back towards a bit of normality, you’d hope. Trump sort of set the standard where he can now seemingly get away with anything and everyone looks at him and tries to emulate him. It’s worked, our politics is now full of lies, it’s madness, isn’t it? And it’s really difficult to satirise Trump, he does it for you! All you have to do is read out his tweets, he can’t even spell!” Walker sounds resigned when he glumly predicts another term for Trump, but at least the source material will still be top shelf.

One thing that he’s loving is ‘Scotty from Marketing’. “It’s such a great insult. It’s so to the point, isn’t it? It’s great.” Allegedly Morrison utterly detests this nickname. “Good! I’m glad.” The topic of politicians giving themselves nicknames irks him, though. “It’s mad, isn’t it, we’ve got BoJo, but we’ve always just called him Boris, instead of Mr. Johnson, and it makes him seem friendly, and nice, when he’s far from it. I mean, Boris is a prick, isn’t he? He’s this bumbling bloody affable idiot, when he’s anything but. He’s a dangerous right-wing populist.”

Walker as Pie doesn’t mince words, he’s quite happy to make sure everyone knows about the elephant failing to wear a lampshade in the corner – regardless of whether the elephant is left or right, liberal or conservative – and so the degree of separation between him and Pie is welcome. “It’s quite nice to have that. The majority of people come up to me and say, ‘Hey Jonathan!’ it’s absolutely fine, I quite like it. I find it a bit weird when people go ‘Hey Tom’, like, how do you know my name?” plus it gives him a bit of freedom, he’s always got that ‘it’s not me, it’s Jonathan – he’s a character’ get-out-of-jail-free card, but you can tell that he knows his words carry some weight; 600,000 subscribers on YouTube, over 67 million views, a few live tours, but everything has a shelf life. He admits he’s yet to make that solid jump to mainstream though, and so Pie might be taking a sabbatical. In a field where making it to prime-time is pretty rare, a self-described underdog punching above his weight deserves a title fight.

 


Words by Mikey Della Porta

Jonathan Pie: The Fake News Tour, February 24th at the Royalty Theatre, Angas Street

For more information and to book tickets, click here

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum with Expats

Drink Rum with Expats is one of the many highly acclaimed productions currently on show at Holden Street Theatres. Presented by Sh!t Theatre – the collaboration of UK based duo, Becca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole – this production offers itself as a recount of Becca and Louise’s venture to Malta, a small, idealistic, sun-kissed island in Europe. Specifically, the pair take us to Valletta, ‘The European Capital of Culture’. This comical telling quickly shows its full depth as the pair take a deep dive into the political climate of this small country.  The production highlights the profound cultural tensions that lie beneath a country’s touristic offering and also explores the constructions of expats and immigrants.

On our entrance we were poured a beer and given cheese: Sh!t Theatre were welcoming in us in with the same pleasant rituals that expats experience when establishing their communities abroad. Soon after introductions, Becca and Louise begin to unpack the privilege of an expat and the marginalisation of an immigrant, yet they are not arrogant or overpowering in this political discussion. ‘Expats’ and ‘Immigrants’ are lined up alongside of each other, exposing their constructed similarities and differences – it is suggested that the former comes from a ‘rich’ country, and the latter from a ‘poor’ one. This is symbolically presented many times throughout the production, such as when we see our expats wearing life jackets and drowning themselves in alcohol, while the screen behind them plays a photo reel of immigrants drowning at sea. Before we know it, Becca and Louise plunge into one of Malta’s, and the world’s, greatest predicaments: who is entitled to citizenship?

This piece of theatre is by no means traditional; instead, it is a rich melting pot of various theatrical genres, mediums and devices. There is song, dance and elements of physical theatre. The set, in its structure, is rather simple but decorated with humble props that bring the space to life, with each prop serving as a connection to travels or the political discussion at hand. The use of real audio recordings, photographs and videos from Sh!t Theatre’s travels contributed not only to the humour of the piece, but in realising the authenticity and intensity of the unfortunate truths that sit behind the comedy.

A specific note of praise must be given to the inclusion of song within Drink Rum with Expats. Revised lyrics and touching harmonies were applied a familiar sea shanty tune and the audience were invited to sing along, establishing a sense of community and belonging within the quaint theatre. The singing was at times jovial but also offered the sensation of nostalgia and a melancholic connection formed within a patriotic community when under threat.

The execution of this production was sharp and seamless.  It was fast paced and engaging with an improvisational tone. It felt like highly organised chaos, a whirlwind, allowing 75 minutes fly by in an instant. The organic chemistry between Becca and Louise was evident, heightening the comedic appeal of the production. The fact that there was, arguably, no fourth wall ever built to be broken encouraged a relationship to be formed quickly between performers and audience members. Such a relationship enabled the uncomfortable undertones of this piece to be received without resistance. A hearty commendation should be given to Becca and Louise for their writing. Layering comedy with harrowing political commentary takes remarkable intelligence and acute social awareness.

Sh!t Theatre were right to present such a show to Australian audiences. An ‘Australian expat’ and ‘expats in Australia’ are common pairings. However, the relationship between Australia and immigration is not nearly as friendly and sometimes forgotten. Australian citizens have often exercised the privilege of living and travelling abroad, immersing ourselves in a foreign culture and then returning home to be welcomed with open arms by everyone in our country – even those working at airport security – all because of our Australian documentation. Becca and Louise’s experiences were much the same.

It has never been more important for people to see such pieces of art, and Becca and Louise make this piece of political theatre an absolute pleasure to watch.

 

4.5/ 5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats runs until March 15.
To find out more and to purchase tickets click here.

Heather Taylor Johnson and the #metoo Movement

Earlier this year, Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, and Miriam Sved produced the anthology #metoo, an anthology of essays and poetry by Australian writers on the subject of the #metoo movement. The Tulpa team has recently been in contact with writer Heather Taylor Johnson to discuss her involvement in the anthology and the importance of #metoo as a political movement.

Why is the #metoo anthology so timely?

Feminism has always been inevitable (it existed long before a man named Charles Fourierit so generously named it for us) and it will forever be a force. The #metoo movement is another phase of history’s (herstory’s) feminist wave and so it follows that the #metoo anthology is a document of its time. Look around at what’s happening now with the rise of populism and the eerie what-if of The Handmaid’s Tale. This is where we are and it’s scary times. Toxic masculinity is killing women at regular and alarming rates through domestic violence, killing hoards of people through mass shootings, encouraging rape cultures in universities and rugby clubs, forcing women to be compliant if they want to keep their jobs. At this point in feminism, I’d say most of the women are on board. Here is where we gather the men. In my opinion this anthology is about educating ourselves, women and men – especially men – so that we can responsibly raise the next generation of boys. Here is where we make a radical cultural change.

How does the #metoo movement in Australia differ from its American counterpart?

I don’t see the two as separate, maybe because I’m American Australian. I left America as a fiery twenty-five year old woman who thought she could do anything so long as no man ever kicked in her front door to touch her while she’s sleeping again. Now an angry forty-five year old woman baffled that a man at the gym thought he was complimenting me by saying he was glad to be sparing with me and not the man in the corner because that man ‘boxes like a girl’. Nothing has changed in the nearly 14,000 kilometres I’ve travelled and nothing has changed in the last twenty years. I’m sure the movements, as geographical entities, have been influenced by and will continue to influence each other, but I see #metoo as universal – that’s what Twitter is meant to do for political issues today. That a 280-word story can be broadcast to the world and that the world can respond through a love heart or a retweet or a shared hashtag proves that this movement is community-making, and that’s what ‘global’ should mean.

Where do you see the future of the #metoo movement in Australia?

I think it’ll keep pushing the boundaries of intersectionality. Just as with Trump’s brand of popular sexism, I think, too, his overt racism – indeed the racism we’re becoming so accustomed to seeing all over the world and in shocking regularity in our own country – encourages more outspokenness among racial minorities, and people seem eager to listen. I see this in the publishing industry now where publishers are actively pursuing stories by people of colour and suddenly literature is opening up. I think the confluence of women’s stories and minority stories is where the movement is at now (and thankfully where the anthology is situated) and where it will continue to go. ‘Minority’ can mean race, it can mean disability, it can mean sexuality or gender, and these stories are enlivening the #metoo movement. There’s more discussion. There’s more room for empathy. This can only mean growth.

What does the #metoo movement mean to you and why did you decide to get involved with the anthology?

It’s not any small coincidence that the #metoo movement gained momentum during Trump’s first year as president. Women were angry, unwilling to quietly accept that someone can get elected President of the United States after saying “When you’re a star, they let you do it, grab ’em by the pussy, you can do anything”. I’m an American Australian, still struggling with what Trump means to me as a displaced citizen and still ANGRY as a woman whose body seems to be fodder for legislative decisions. Seriously? We’re still arguing about the right to have an abortion? The best I can do as an artist is to work harder, so I’m trying to focus on issues that matter to me. The poem I sent into the anthology is about a lifetime of innate fear and low expectations due to gender, and how I’d like things to be different for my daughter, and how I get the feeling that they won’t be. I didn’t know until I’d finished the poem that I was writing it for my daughter, and that’s sort of what we’re all doing: trying to make change for our daughters.

How does poetry compare to the essay as a means to discuss issues surrounding the movement?

Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was the beginning of a new type of political awareness for me in terms of my art. I’ve written dozens of poems calling out sexism since then and not because I want to be didactic or self-righteous, but because I simply need to get this anger out (apologies I keep bringing him up but he certainly has a lot to answer for). I write poetry and I write essays – I also write novels – and the choice to use one form over the other is often process-driven. When I need to explore questions and ideas, I write novels. When I need to rip apart incongruities and find commonalities, I write essays. When I need to release intense emotion, I write poetry. Poetry is the quickest, most satisfying way for me to dig into something I’m feeling too much and violently regurgitate it. Then I can move on. The fact that I’m still writing the poems calling out sexism means there’s a lot more for me to discharge, plenty more word-vomiting to come. I’m envisaging a collection that does just that through imagery and testimony, and the poem in the #metoo anthology is one of them.

 

You can read more about the #metoo Anthology here and the book is available for purchase online and from all good bookstores.

 


Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

 

 

A Guide to the Australian Government

So, there’s a federal election campaign taking place at the moment. While many people know the structure of the Australian Government and how it works, there are others who don’t.
If you’re one of those who don’t know, read on, because I’m going to explain it to you. It will be useful for you to know for when you vote.

The Constitution

The Australian Constitution, written during the 1890s and passed in 1900, is the most fundamental law in the country. Like all other constitutions, it sets out the basic rules for the government.
Chapter One of the Constitution confers legislative power (the power to make laws) onto the Parliament, Chapter Two confers executive power (the power to administer laws and conduct the government’s business) onto the Executive Government, and Chapter Three confers judicial power (the power to determine legal disputes conclusively) onto the Judicature (otherwise called the ‘judiciary’).

The Executive Government

Head of State

Because Australia is a constitutional monarchy, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is our head of state. But because she lives in the UK, her powers and duties are exercised by a “representative” here, known as the Governor-General.
Governors-General are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Constitution does not impose any term limits on Governors-General, though the unofficial length of a single term is five years. So far, no Governor-General has served more than one five-year term.
Governors-General open new sessions of federal Parliament; give new laws Royal Assent (the method used by a monarch to officially approve new laws); swear in government officials; represent Australia at big events; appoint new federal judges; and are the Commanders-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force. He/she also has the power to fire government ministers (so far, this has only happened once, when Governor-General Sir John Kerr gave 21st Prime Minister Gough Whitlam the flick in 1975). They also have to receive foreign leaders, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners who visit Australia.
Because the Governor-General is an important role, it comes with a few perks. Governors-General have their own jet and fleet of cars to travel in, a mansion to live in, and even a holiday house. They also get a decent salary ($425,000), which can’t be changed during their time in office.

The Prime Minister

The role of Prime Minister isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore, according to Kevin Rudd, “it is as large an office, or as small an office, as you choose to make it”.
Despite this, the Prime Minister is the official head of government. He or she appoints members of their political party to ministerial positions. They also decide when elections are to take place, and is also the public face of the government. Prime Ministers earn a very attractive salary as well ($527,852 a year).
But there are also restraints on Prime Ministers. For example, they need to maintain support from their colleagues. Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull all lost the support of their colleagues, and so were ousted as Prime Minister.
No-one actually votes for Prime Ministers during elections. We vote for political parties instead. A party becomes the ruling party when they gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and the leader of the party then becomes Prime Minister. A person can only become the leader of a party by being elected by party members.

The Federal Executive Council

The Federal Executive Council meets every two weeks. Its official purpose is to “advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth”. The Council consists of all senior federal government ministers. The Governor-General is President of the Council and presides at meetings. According to the Parliament of Australia website, ‘the matters dealt with at each meeting are recommendations by Ministers, for the approval of the Governor-General in Council, that something be done – for example, that a regulation be made, a treaty be ratified, or a person be appointed to a position’.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet, made up of senior government ministers, makes all the important decisions of the government. The Cabinet is chaired by the Prime Minister, who is also responsible for appointing ministers to serve on it.
The Cabinet isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, but it has been ratified by the Executive Council, therefore granting it legal effect.
Cabinet ministers earn $350,000 a year.

Ministers and Members of Parliament

The Prime Minister selects all government ministers. There can only be up to 30 ministers at a time under current legislation. Some senior ministers are in charge of major departments, while others administer specific areas within each department.
Members of Parliament (MPs) are the official representatives of the Australian people, all elected to office. The income of a backbench MP is currently $203,020 a year.

 

Parliament

The Parliament of Australia is bicameral (which means it consists of two chambers), and is modelled on the United States Congress. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. All bills of law have to pass both the House and the Senate, and be signed by the Governor-General on the Queen’s behalf, in order to take effect.

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives currently consists of 150 members, each of whom represents an electoral division. There will be 151 divisions at this year’s election.
They’re elected by preferential voting (people vote for candidates in order of preference), and serve three-year terms.

The Senate

The Constitution states that each state shall have an equal number of Senators, regardless of population. This is different to the allocation system in the House of Representatives.
There currently 76 Senators. Each state has twelve senators, and the territories only have two. The twelve Senators are elected to six-year terms, while the remaining Senators have to retire after three years due to a system of rotation.

The Judicature

The Constitution states that judicial power is to be vested in the High Court of Australia. Its roles include, but are not limited to: interpreting the Constitution; and reviewing laws passed by Parliament (this is called judicial review).
The High Court is headed by a Chief Justice. The current Chief Justice is the Honourable Susan Kiefal. She’s the first woman to hold the position.
There can be no less than two justices on the High Court at a time.
There’s no set term length for justices, though it’s compulsory for them to retire at seventy years of age.

 


Words by Callum J Jones

 

Quilty, Art Gallery of South Australia

The intense stare and bearded jawline of the artist, both as self-portrait and ‘hero shot’ photograph, features extensively in the publicity for AGSA’s Quilty exhibition. This is hardly surprising given Ben Quilty’s high profile, with his combination of down to earth interview style, progressive politics and bravura technique helping generate his regular media presence.

Quilty is best-known for his emotive, vigorous oil paintings. These dominate the present exhibition, although examples of his sculpture and ceramics also feature. Confronted with the frequently aggressive character of his paintings, with slashings of paint and violent distortion and fragmentation of forms, it seems perhaps ironic that his socially-engaged artistic practice began with works critiquing the destructive characteristics of youthful masculine identity. Quilty’s highly painterly style, with its connotations of combat, domination or competitive displays of physical prowess, could be read as a testosterone-driven performance of machismo, vis-à-vis Abstract Expressionism.

Similarly, Quilty’s expressive style suggests an outpouring of passionate emotions. This approach is typically used by artists to convey their angst or anguish, which can sometimes come across as egotistical and self-absorbed. However, the dominant themes of Quilty’s art suggest that he is primarily harnessing his feelings out of compassion for others, directing his aggression towards political and historical injustices which have caused unnecessary suffering.

Besides toxic masculinity, issues addressed in Quilty’s art include the intergenerational trauma (and guilt) stemming from colonisation, post-traumatic stress disorder and the current refugee crisis. Given the combination of weighty themes and Quilty’s meteoric art world acclaim, I approached this survey exhibition with a certain disquiet. It concerned me that by assuming the role of celebrity-artist-as-social-justice-warrior Quilty was effectively capitalising on the suffering of others for the advancement of his own career. However, this exhibition has convinced me that he is sincere in his convictions.

INSTALLATION VIEW -20190219 Ben Quilty sRGB 2000px Photo Grant Hancock 0157
Quilty featuring Irin Irinji and Fairy Bower Rorschach, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2019; photo: Grant Handcock.

Particularly moving is the group of twelve canvases depicting levitating orange life jackets. Like the relics of martyred saints, they serve as stand-ins and memorials for the asylum seekers who wore – and in many cases died – in such life jackets during perilous sea crossings. Adding a further emotional punch, each work is named after a refugee who committed suicide while held in detention. These are powerful statements about protection sought and denied, counterfeit life vests which sink rather than float serving as a potent metaphor for Australia’s border security policies.

In two of the works Quilty has sought to invoke the exiles’ agony more explicitly through the surreal addition of a screaming mouth or mournful eye. However, this is just as strongly conveyed through the seething impasto of his painted surfaces. The global refugee crisis is an issue most viewers have only encountered through media representations, but the sheer physicality of Quilty’s paintings helps invest the topic with a forceful immediacy. We are compelled to recognise that these are real flesh-and-blood people, not just statistics or fleeting images on a television screen.

In some works, when Quilty’s highly-textured paint surfaces butt up against areas of unpainted canvas, the stark contrast feels like an act of violence. In Captain S after Afghanistan (2012) the writhing soldier’s torso becomes devoid of volume when presented as an expanse of plain white. Thus, his physical strength is rendered useless as a defence against his mental torment.

The most technically and compositionally sophisticated works in the exhibition are Quilty’s recent series titled The Last Supper. Despite admiring their virtuosity, I found these paintings both overly melodramatic and too strongly reminiscent of earlier artists, such as André Masson.

By contrast, I considered Quilty’s Rorschach paintings more memorable and satisfying. In these works views of tranquil Australian landscapes have been doubled as mirror images, resembling the eponymous psychologist’s inkblots. Adding further depth and poignancy, some of the locations depicted were the sites of colonial massacres of local Aboriginal communities. These paintings deliver an immediate, stark visual impact, before gradually divulging more menacing undertones. They succeed in being simultaneously dramatic and understated. For me they were the most haunting works in the show.

This is a powerful exhibition, but the perpetual visual and emotional intensity of Quilty’s paintings can quickly become exhausting. Consequently, it was only after leaving the gallery that I felt able to properly contemplate many of these thought-provoking works. At its best, Quilty’s art makes a compelling impression, both in the direct physical encounter and in its after-effect.

 


Words by Ralph Body

Ralph Body is an art historian, researcher and reviewer.

Title Image: Ben Quilty; photo: Daniel Boud

Stieg Larsson – A Biography

Everyone has either read or heard of the Millennium novel series.

If you haven’t, it’s about a journalist and computer hacker who work together to fight Sweden’s right-wing forces. The first three novels, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were written by Swedish journalist and writer Stieg Larsson. After Larsson’s sudden death in 2004, the fourth and fifth novels were written by Swedish author and crime journalist David Lagercrantz.

But who was the man who wrote the first three books?

Stieg Larsson entered the world on 15th August 1954. He lived with his grandparents in the Swedish countryside until he was nine-years-old. He loved the small wooden house his grandparents owned, but didn’t like the city of Umeå, where he lived with his parents after the death of his grandfather.

Due to conscription law, Larsson served in the Swedish Army between 1974 and 1975. He was trained as a mortarman.

Larsson started writing at age twelve, using a typewriter his parents bought him for his birthday. He wrote science fiction stories, which were all published in magazines. He would later become editor or co-editor of some of these magazines. Between 1978-79, he was the president of Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction, Sweden’s largest science fiction fan club. He also wrote for, and edited, the Swedish section of the Fourth International.

Larsson started engaging heavily with far-left political activism during his writing career. He joined his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League, and researched right-wing extremism in Sweden in his spare time. He even published a book on the subject in 1991. In 1995, he established the Swedish Expo Foundation “with the aim of studying and mapping anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies in society”. He also wanted the Foundation to protect “democracy and freedom of speech [in Sweden] against racist, right-wing extremist, anti-Semitic and totalitarian tendencies”. He also became the editor of the foundation’s magazine, Expo. He spoke publicly about right-wing extremism, and fast became instrumental in exposing Swedish extreme right and racist organisations. He was subjected to heavy criticism and hate for this, and even received death threats.


The death threats, whether they were legitimate or not, naturally made him fear for his life. He replaced the front door of his home with a fireproof one. He also travelled to and from work at different times each day, and frequently changed the route he would take when going home
.

In 2002, he started writing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He then wrote the two sequels after finishing it and was working on the fourth book at the time of his death. He wanted the series to comprise ten books in total. He wrote the novels spare time, and often ended up working on them long into the night. But he didn’t make any attempt to get them published until just before his death, having decided that the royalties would serve as his retirement fund.


He submitted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels to a publishing company, but they turned them down. The second publishing company Larsson contacted, Norstedts Förlag, accepted the novels, and they’ve since sold millions of copies.


But Larsson didn’t live to see the phenomenon the Millennium series would become. Seven months after he signed the contract with Norstedts Förlag, he suffered a fatal heart attack after climbing the stairs to the Expo offices. He was fifty-years-old. The heart attack was caused by his unhealthy lifestyle: he was a fast food-eating, coffee-drinking, chain-smoking workaholic.


In his will, Larsson stated that he wanted his assets to be left to his local branch of the Communist Workers’ League upon his death. But the will wasn’t witnessed, so it was invalid under Swedish law. Larsson’s estate (including the royalties from book sales) instead went to his next of kin: his father and brother. This sparked controversy because Larsson’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, wants to control his work, but she has no legal right to do so because she and Larsson never married.


Despite this, the original three Millennium novels have remained popular to this day. Eighty million copies had been sold by March 2015, and Lagercrantz’s contributions to the series (The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye) have only boosted sales even more. The novels have been adapted into films. There’s no doubt in my mind that the series will continue to be popular.


Words by Callum J Jones

Anya Anastasia and a Decade of Fringe

Late last year I had the opportunity to meet Anya Anastasia, a cabaret performer celebrating a decade of performing in the Adelaide Fringe. Anastasia has a diverse range of skills including riding a unicycle or maintaining perfect pitch while doing a handstand—something not many of us could do, I’m sure.

Since first seeing Anastasia perform in 2015 with Torte-e-Mort: Songs of Cake and Death, I have been eagerly following her career and booking tickets for each of her new shows at the Adelaide Fringe. For the past few years Anastasia has presented two shows: one new and the other back from touring. This year brings the premiere of The Show and the return of The Executioners—both shows that are a departure from her previous work. I was eager to talk to Anastasia about this in her show The Executioners which has a strong environmentalist message.

The Executioners is a collaboration between Anastasia and Gareth Chin, both very socially aware individuals, they want the show to effectively to open up conversation about the power of the individual to contribute to change. Anastasia’s character is presented much in the “millennial fashion” while Chin maintains the humble authenticity of a man who knows not just to take care but repair all of his possessions. The onstage dynamic of these two is described by Anastasia as “the gift that just keeps giving”.

“The show explores the hypocrisy or the dilemma of modern life; where we’re so aware of the damage we’re doing to the planet and the impact of all of our little actions and aware of all the little things we can be doing. But then at the same time we do live in this world where it’s a consumer society. Where there is still a demand to participate and be present in that if you want to thrive.”

While admittedly quite cynical and confronting, Anastasia wanted to showcase these social issues surrounding environmentalism and politics as well as produce music that could be enjoyed. She also wanted to reflect the digital world that we live in and the influence that technology has (both positive and negative) on society.

With a soundtrack of entirely original music, Anastasia and Chin put their musical talents together to present a diverse range of music, from acoustic through to electronic, designed to accompany the performance and their characters. “We wanted everything to be still tied together in a coherent style, even though it goes from acoustic numbers through to a raging fight scene with digital accompaniment.”

Anastasia wants to “create a whole aesthetic and soundscape that did that and reflected how much technology is a part of our lives” through incorporating both traditional and electronic compositions. Chin was responsible for crafting the piano parts and incorporating the accordion, but they also had another collaborator who is based in Berlin and responsible for more of the electronic side of things.

Anastasia’s second show, premiering for the first time at the Adelaide Fringe in 2019, is simply titled The Show. Anastasia told me a little about what we can expect from this new performance—an even greater departure from her previous work. The Show explores some big “what if” ideas about Anastasia’s life as a performer and what she would have left if she quit. She interrogates ideas about what cabaret is and the ridiculous things that make up her life. She says it’s “it’s quite funny, self-deprecating, and very honest.” I for one, am quite keen to see it.

As a fan of Anastasia, I would highly recommend seeing The Executioners and/or The Show while they’re in town!


The Executioners is playing at Gluttony’s Masonic Lodge until March 3 nightly.

The Show is playing at Gluttony’s Masonic Lodge across selected dates from March 5.

Words by Kayla Gaskell.

National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.

There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.

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I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.

Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.

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As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.

Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.

Zine Collection

 

Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.

NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.

Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.


 

Words and photography by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.