Arts + Culture – Articles, Analysis, Comment

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Fossilised ancient human footprints at the Mungo National Park. How are we to engage with a history that spans 65,000 years? Michael Amendolia/AAP

Friday essay: when did Australia’s human history begin?

Over the past half century, Australia has experienced a 'time revolution' with Indigenous history pushed back into the dizzying expanse of deep time. The latest discovery reminds us that science, like history, is an ongoing inquiry.
Jason Mamoa as Aquaman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are the best things about Justice League. Atlas Entertainment, Cruel & Unusual Films, DC Comics

Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the only charismatic leads in Justice League

The makers of Justice League embed the film in a post-9/11, post-global warming, post-Brexit, post-Trump context. But it is loud and disappointing with some genuinely unimaginative action sequences.
A still image from Pipilotti Rist’s Ever Is Over All, 1997, single channprojectors, players, sound system, paint, carpet, courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine. © the artist

Here’s looking at: Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All

In 1997 Pippilotti Rist walked down a street of cars and smashed their windows in a vivaciously feminist call to arms. You might recognise the homage to Risk's work in Beyoncé's Lemonade.
Simon Leys intervened on a broad range of topics: Mother Teresa, the continuing relevance of George Orwell, conservative values, and the role of the university in the pursuit of truth. Black Inc

Simon Leys, navigator between worlds – a unique Australian intellectual

Pierre Ryckmans - also known by his nom-de-plume, Simon Leys - was an inspirational teacher, the bête-noire of sinology and an outspoken public intellectual. A new biography tells his story.
The income gap between men and women is wider in the arts than the average gap across all industries in Australia. This is especially so for female writers, visual artists and musicians. Dmytro Zinkevych/shutterstock

The gender pay gap is wider in the arts than in other industries

The average Australian female artist is better educated than her male counterpart but earns significantly less than him, new research shows. And artists' incomes are declining in real terms.
Poppies at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. katatrix/shuttershock.com

Flowers, remembrance and the art of war

The wildflowers that WWI soldiers encountered in Europe become symbols of remembrance and the fragility of life. The red poppy in particular is a powerful motif in Australian war art and photography.
Exhibition installation view of Robert Mapplethorpe: the perfect medium at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 27 Oct 2017 – 18 Feb 2018. All artworks © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission. Photo: AGNSW, Christopher Snee

Friday essay: Mapplethorpe and me

The distinctive visual style of Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautiful, oversized images seems now more classical than shocking. But he can still reveal the subconscious of an era we think we have outgrown.
Chidi (William Jackson Harper) attempts to teach ethics to Eleanor (Kristen Bell) in comedy series The Good Place. NBC/Ron Batzdorff/IMDB

Kantian comedy: the philosophy of The Good Place

The Good Place is a high concept comedy about what it takes to be a good person. One of the show's charms is the way it draws on real philosophers and philosophical dilemmas.
Installation view: Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of the Rainbow at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2017. Natasha Harth, QAGOMA

From selfie to infinity: Yayoi Kusama’s amazing technicoloured dreamscape

Yayoi Kusama, arguably Japan's most famous living artist, has been making art for 65 years. A new exhibition traces her output: from her dazzling mirror and polka-dot infused installations to paintings and sculptures.
A scene from Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Lore: the oldest continuing culture in the world resonates with overseas audiences. Jeff Tan/Newzulu

‘Australia has no culture’: changing the mindset of the cringe

Why do students still describe Australia as a 'young' country lacking culture? Are our universities doing enough to to teach Australian films, artwork and books?
The pyjama girl mystery, as featured in Famous Detective Stories no. 6. State Library of New South Whales

A criminal record: women and Australian true crime stories

Once typecast as 'bad' or 'good' in true crime tales, women are now more likely to be presented as complex figures in them. And many more women are writing true crime themselves.
Members of the original 1978 Sydney Mardi Gras in 2008. Older gays and lesbians grew up in more radical times, and some don’t support same-sex marriage. AAP Image/Jane Dempster

Gay rebels: why some older homosexual men don’t support same-sex marriage

When it comes to same-sex marriage, there's a big gap in support between old and young gay men. Older gay men often see marriage as conservative, and fear marriage will create a "gold standard" for gay relationships.
Detail from Little Big Woman: Condescension, Debra Keenahan, 2017. Designed and made by Debra Keenahan, Photograph by Robert Brindley.

Friday essay: the female dwarf, disability, and beauty

For centuries, women with dwarfism were depicted in art as comic or grotesque fairytale beings. But artists are challenging these portrayals and notions of beauty and physical difference.
A scene from Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 2014 work Patyegarang. An Eora woman, Patyegarang became the main informant for William Dawes, the first European to sympathetically chronicle the language and culture of the Sydney landowners. Jess Bialek/AAP

Indigenous lives, the ‘cult of forgetfulness’ and the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Just 210 of nearly 13,000 biographical entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women. A new project aims to change this.
Luther’s act quickly came to be seen as the foundation of the Reformation, as shown in this centenary broadside, Göttlicher Schrifftmessiger, 1617. Jfhutson, Wikipedia

Revisiting the Reformation: how passions sparked a religious revolution 500 years ago

Greed, guilt, fear, anger and love gave power to a spiritual movement that was catalysed 500 years ago this week.