Australia

States of the Arts

 
 

Heat

by Christian Thompson
Video art

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Underestimate the desert at your peril. Let the temperature get the better of you, and you may start to see things. In Heat, Aboriginal Australian artist Christian Thompson reveals the outback’s lethal symmetry, as his kaleidoscopic, triple-lens film captures real-time portrait busts of three young women. From somewhere just outside the camera’s reach, warm jets of air buffet their brown hair, soft strands drifting and hanging as if suspended. With the suggestion of mesmeric warmth, the images begin to converge, all else melting away into blistering sand.

Words by Elizabeth Brown


Picnic at Hanging Rock

directed by Peter Weir
Feature film

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Valentine’s Day, 1900. A handful of private schoolgirls and their teacher disappear without trace into the ether of Hanging Rock, a vast geological formation in Victoria. Their vanishing inspires a series of theories, from kidnap to the supernatural. The mythic reputation of the landscape only deepens the enigma, while the pre-Raphaelite silhouettes of the costume design suggest a ghost story. The white petals, pearly dresses, and blonde tresses may contribute to a light filmic palette, but Picnic at Hanging Rock’s laconic mystery leaves us in the dark.

Words by Elizabeth Brown


Hot Little Hands

by Abigail Ulman
Short story collection

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‘I was yet to work out exactly what it was that guys found sexy in women, but I knew whatever it was, I had it.’ Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands inverts the trope of the inarticulate adolescent, compiling a collection of startling narrative voices. The protagonists are all teenage girls or twenty-something women, each facing the burden of adult life, negotiating her own challenges. One character parachutes out of a nascent novelist career to have a baby. Another is disillusioned with horse camp. Here, porn pops up on a computer screen. There, a PhD thesis withers in neglect.

Words by Elizabeth Brown


Buttons

directed by Kris Moyes
Music video

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In the video for ‘Buttons’, Kris Moyes documents a three-minute exercise in facial distortions. Sia’s iconic bob is scraped back, tied up asymmetrically, and knotted into a moustache. Netting and tights are dragged over her head. Sticky tape raises her eyebrows as she blinks. Clothes pegs stretch her lower lip as she mouths the song’s lyrics. Inflated condoms and plastic packaging cling to her cheeks. In a brief instrumental interlude, such materials are forgotten in favour of flaring nostrils. The result is amusing and arresting, adopting discomfort as a mission statement.

Words by John Wadsworth


More to discover

Heat: You can watch an excerpt from Heat here, and visit Christian Thompson's website here. You can also read a booklet about Heat, including text by Dougal Phillips and Kat Sapera, for Chalk Horse here.

Picnic at Hanging Rock: You can view the trailer here, and read about the filming locations here. Megan Abbott has written about the film for The Criterion Collection, as have Darragh O'Donoghue for Senses of Cinema, and Luke Buckmaster for The Guardian.

Hot Little Hands: You can read the first two stories of Hot Little Hands, 'Jewish History' and 'Chagall's Wife', on the here. Donna Lu has interviewed the author for Writer's Edit, as has Andrew Cattanach for Booktopia.

Buttons: You can watch the video here, and visit the websites of Kris Moyes and Sia here and here, respectively. Luke Bather has interviewed Kris Moyes for Word Is Cheap, where you can also see behind-the-scenes images from the shoot.


Question of the day

Which Australian artworks would you recommend, and why?
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Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, an album by Courtney Barnett. Barnett's characters inhabit a world of dark wit, crammed with cultural references, from soy linseed Vegemite to SimCity. (→)

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