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The foot is the basic unit for what we consider to be romantic and beautiful: poetry. Khánh Hmoong

Explainer: poetic metre

Poetic terminology can be alienating, off-putting. Whispering "dactylic hexameter" in people's ears won't necessarily tempt them into reading heroic verse. But there is hope – and poetry – for us all.
Jazz was the most influential musical movement of the 20th century. What’s its story? The Count Basie Orchestra.

Explainer: the history of jazz

Jazz evolved from the fringes of American society into one of the most influential, and enduring, musical movements of the 20th century. How did it get from what it was to what it is now?
The ability to make sense of sensory feedback in more refined ways is central to Feldenkrais. waltercolor

Explainer: the Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method is a way of exploring movement, posture and breathing through hands-on touch, used by dancers, musicians, athletes, actors and people living with and rehabilitating from a range…
Breakdown was an interactive audiovisual dance performance at Ears Eyes and Feet in May this year, Austin Texas. Rodrigo Carvalho, Yago de Quay, Sunny Shen

Explainer: interactive composition

Computers have shaken up how we create and listen to music, and there is more radical transformation to come. The potential for digital music to be interactive is leading to new ways to experience and…
In the early 20th century, cubism seemed difficult and wild, and it was a favourite target of conservatives. Juan Gris, Fantômas, 1915, National Gallery of Art. Wikimedia Commons

Explainer: cubism

There’s a problem with the history of western art: we face it from the wrong side of decades of discursive dismantling. The conventional “story” of early 20th-century modernism, in which an advanced guard…
Light levels in film have markedly declined from 1935. Mirjaleed Biteng

Explainer: film lighting

Lighting is a fundamental property of cinema. So called “writing in light”, photographed images, whether live-action or cell animation, need illumination. It is the most essential part of a cinematographer’s…
Extreme duration can transform otherwise simple activity into something strange and powerful. Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present, 2010, MOMA, New York. Andrew Russeth

Explainer: extreme duration in the performing arts

Last September, I sat down in the Capital Theatre in Bendigo to listen to American composer Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No.2 played by the Flux Quartet from New York. Sounds a nice way to spend an…
Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs some indie, 2014 style. Will Oliver/EPA

Explainer: indie music

Today, indie-rock, indie-folk, indie-dance, indie-hip-hop and even indie-classical are common terms used to describe the sonically discernible offshoots of an evolving genre once referred to as “indie…
What does the term “classical music” mean to us in the 21st century? Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti. AAP/ Dean Lewins

Explainer: classical music

Classical music means more than one thing and explanation is in order. Sometimes I make the distinction between big “C” and little “c”, but even that doesn’t fully solve it. The starting point is this…
It’s probably easier to say what contemporary dance is not. John Hogg/EPA

Explainer: what is contemporary dance?

Contemporary dance is a catch-all phrase used fairly indiscriminately, meaning many things to different dance communities across a wide range of cultures. In fact, it’s probably easier to say what contemporary…
A rich and complex mise-en-scène activates the viewers’ entire sensorium. American Hustle, courtesy Roadshow Entertainment

Explainer: mise-en-scène

Out of all the intoxicating phrases that emerge from the study of film, my personal favourite is mise-en-scène, translated from French to mean: what is in the frame. The phrase conjures up the splendour…
‘Bang’ composed of 886-three legged wooden by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the German during the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice, Italy, 2013. EPA/ Andrea Merola

Explainer: what is a biennale?

Chances are you’ve heard of an art biennale, even if you haven’t visited one. This year’s Biennale of Sydney hit the headlines with a controversy over sponsor Transfield’s links to off-shore refugee detention…
Modernism is typified by a commitment to exploratory experimentation. Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Edouard Manet (1862-63), Wikimedia Commons

Explainer: what is modernism?

I first came across modernism through the lens of postmodernism in the early 1980s. At that time postmodernism – explained here – was washing through the academy, promising to transform everything by placing…
Intervention by a conservator on an object has to be reversible. IAEA Imagebank

Explainer: what does an art conservationist do?

Cultural conservation is concerned with how cultural material is preserved as it moves from the past, through the present and into the future. This material may be books in libraries, documents in archives…
Australia’s most prolific Oscar winner, Catherine Martin, was awarded her fourth Oscar for production design on The Great Gatsby. What is it that production designers actually do? AAP

Explainer: what is production design?

When we watch a movie, how do we know where and when it is taking place? This is just one of the questions a production designer working on a film or TV show helps audiences answer. They do so through…
The content of zines can be as idiosyncratic as individual publishers choose. scott_bl8ke

Explainer: zines

Zines are small-circulation, self-published magazines. Their emergence can be traced back to fanzine, a term used by science-fiction fans from the 1940s to set their amateur publications about popular…
2013 Oscar Winners (L-R) Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway and Christoph Waltz EPA

Explainer: the Oscars

The first thing to understand about the Oscars is that, as a measure of the aesthetic value of films, they are completely unreliable. To understand why this is the case, we need to know what exactly “The…
‘Success Kid’ – with its various slogans – has been an enduring meme of recent years. Know Your Meme

Explainer: what are memes?

Nothing defines our use of the internet as clearly as the concept of the meme (pronounced “meem”). Every day, millions of people laugh at LOLcats, dog shaming, and music videos without music, while others…
The kitsch consumerist art of Jeff Koons at Versailles: Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988, ceramic sculpture. dalbera

Explainer: what is postmodernism?

I once asked a group of my students if they knew what the term postmodernism meant: one replied that it’s when you put everything in quotation marks. It wasn’t such a bad answer, because concepts such…

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