Too Many Cocks: On the (im)possibility of graffiti re-writing colonial narratives

Graffiti observed on signs and monuments associated with Captain James Cook are used here as a departure point for considering the ways in which different narratives about Cook (e.g. authorised, monumental, vernacular, imaginary) are assigned value. Our particular focus here concerns the role that graffiti has played in producing counter-narratives to the hegemony of a particular national discourse that celebrates Cook—with a focus on a theme in Australian popular culture that strips Cook of his pants and his dignity. This leads to a consideration of how graffiti might be approached in some instances as a legitimate mode of reparative writing against colonialism and its effects. In the Australian context the intensification of activist graffiti on monuments may signal a growing community awareness of historic injustices, the surfacing of rituals of recognition and reparation, and a growing desire of the broader community to play a role in the (re)construction of public memory. Interventions of this kind could be construed as an unconventional channel through which the dialogue of democracy can take place.

Visible Stitches: Towards an aesthetics of repair

Using examples taken from my own text and textile-based poetry, this essay demonstrates how an aesthetics of repair may suggest both restoration and fragility. The essay starts with a discussion of Tenter (2020) in which the ‘darned’ and repaired panels of the Bayeux Tapestry suggest a poetics with which to engage with post-war commemoration. In these poems, collage features as a repair strategy although the text demonstrates not all wounds can be healed. In Little red mouth (2020), an extended, contemporary poem based on the ancient Homeric Hymn to Demeter, I preserve the damaged manuscript of the original within my own text, stabilising the edges of the torn text through my use of poetic form but also exploring the significance of what has been torn away. The essay pursues the complexities of a repair aesthetic into a discussion of one of my recent, textile-based visual poems, Persephone (2021), and discovers that torn fabric may pose different questions to a damaged text. In the context of this piece, and of visual work by other artists, I discuss the importance of an aesthetics of repair which keeps visible traces of the often systemic violence which caused the original damage and acknowledges the fragility as well as the resilience of what has been harmed. and the Carnival of Care is a collaborative online comics project which repurposes the advice column formula. Anonymous users write in with their problems and comics artists create comics in response. In this paper I closely observe the dialogical and embodied thinking-and-feeling strategies that the comics artists employ in their responses to the letters, contextualising these strategies within Bakhtin’s notion of the carnival as a folk phenomena.

Breaking/Un-breaking, Un-making/Making

In this paper, I provide an account of the cultural and historical context that motivates and shapes my creative practice as an artist and critical designer. My creative works address the industrial production and consumption of new furniture, stresses on forests and wildlife habitat, and concepts of waste. I argue that my approach to creating art works demonstrates an approach to reparative practice that advances through a paradoxical process of caring by breaking. I describe the methods and accretionary processes I used in the conceptualisation and construction of the works, which are sympoietic hybrids of flora and furniture. These works highlight issues of overconsumption, waste, and habitat degradation, reflect on the relationship between humans and other nature in the Anthropocene, and propose both bleak and optimistic possible futures.

[Thread]baring my soul: Regrets and reparation

This creative essay is a retrospective look at a body of work created by the author in 2018. The work, Thread Bare[ing]: a confessional response to witnessing dementia, was a personal exploration of the emotional impact of bearing witness to a parent’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease. This essay describes the process and thinking around the creation of four artworks that embodied the emotional context of bearing witness: guilt, frustration, sorrow and fear. The aim of this autobiographical and deeply personal project was to generate discussion about the emotional fallout for carers as a result of dealing with a loved one’s dementia. With the hindsight of three years and the death of the author’s mother, additional insights into the reparative nature of the work became possible. A re-examination of the project, through this paper, reveals how the act of making can facilitate a longer term healing influence on relationships, even retrospectively.

A Matter of Balance: Visual Arts in the Australian Defence Force ARRTS Program

This paper examines visual arts practices in the context of Arts for Recovery, Resilience, Teamwork and Skills (ARRTS), a four-week intensive residential program for ill or injured serving Defence personnel, which has been hosted twice annually by the University of Canberra since 2015. Two datasets of visual material sit in the public domain and invite opportunities to undertake close reading of the visual artworks produced and processes pursued. Our work considers the intersections between participatory, expressive creative practice, and art instrumentalised for its therapeutic benefits. We attend to the tensions between stakeholders operating in an explicit hierarchy that does not reward expressive individualism, vulnerable participants emerging from this social and professional context, and researchers defined by an obligation to critically evaluate. Navigating this delicate space challenges ARRTS mentors to achieve a productive balance between artistic critique that reflects the professional legitimacy, rigour and worthiness of creative activity, both intrinsically and for its beneficial effects, and creative practice for solace and escape. Interpretations of participants’ own published disclosures, combining visual artwork with descriptive statements protected from a clinical gaze, enable us to better understand how the program’s participatory and expressive agenda aids recovery. This supports a tentative finding that positive health outcomes in ARRTS are enhanced by sidelining health contexts and goals.

Who Cares, Why and How: What kind of care can we expect during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

This article analyses the Australian Federal Government, and the Victorian State Government’s 2020 and 2021 response to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the lens of key theories of precarity. The article includes a short literature review, outlining the concept of precarity, and its two broad streams of critical theory, which can be summarised as economic and affective, which will be used as frameworks to interpret the Australian pandemic response. The following section posits that the economic stimulus provided during the pandemic, has displayed the potential for the implementation of a radically redistributive Universal Basic Income in Australia, a form of economic care which could permanently ameliorate precarity. The final section uses Judith Butler’s theory of precariousness to articulate the affective shift during the pandemic concerning practices and practicalities of care. This article will include autobiographical writing concerning my relationship to work, care, precarity and writing, asking the question what sort of care we can expect, as citizens, subjects and bodies, from the state and from others, during times of crisis and normality.

Writing creatively about cancer

What motivates people to write creatively about cancer? How do people write lyrical poetry about cancer, and how does the resulting creative artefact impact on them as poets and their audience? Cancer poetry addresses the challenging issues of disease, illness, death, dying and bereavement, as well as the conundrums of living with cancer, and surviving. Cancer is a disease with a persona of mystery, often referred to through the use of negative metaphors such as the alien, evil and the foreign, while its medical treatment and recovery phases are described with warfare metaphors such as battle, fight, and losing the war. For the individual diagnosed with cancer there is often a sense of loss, particularly of the ‘self’. This essay explores the meaning that poets who have cancer have found in creating literary poetry about their experience and discusses the motivations and outcomes the author experienced as a result of writing cancer poetry.

Making Mending Visible

Community repair spaces, such as repair cafes, play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of clothing and textiles by taking repair skills out of the domestic sphere and into the public realm. They make visible the process of repair, and normalise clothing repairs as a social practice. Globally, consumers currently purchase around 80 billion new items of clothing every year but this could be reduced by regular maintenance, which would enable clothing to be worn more frequently before being discarded, thereby reducing the demand for new clothing. Community repair spaces highlight the value of repairs in reducing both consumption and landfill, foster repair skills and increase awareness of the environmental impacts around the purchase and disposal of consumer items.