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Ormond Papers- Curious?- Volume XXX 2013

Š Ormond Papers Volume XXX 2013 Printed and bound in Burwood Australia by BPA Print Group Ormond College 49 College Crescent Parkville VIC 3052 Australia T: 613 9344 1100 F: 613 9344 1111 E: ABN: 975 436 240 82


Hana Nihill

The Metabolists


Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman


The Love we Hate


Tom Nicholson

Interview with Joshua Castle and Rhiannon Galleti


William Abbey

White Noise


Seleted Poems


The Paradox of Terror


Interview with Joshua Castle


Hung Drawn and Thwarted?


Jocelyn Deane

The Bloody Tower/All a Stage


Buster Davidson

The Great Russian Conspiracy


And the Fireflies Playfully Risk Their Lives Again


Ink and Paper


Who is Bartleby?


Unifying the Archipelago


Between Worlds


The Building of a New China


Selected Poems


Interview with William Moisis


Posthuman Reconstitution


Interview with Harrison Fenton


Julian O’Donnell

Old Girl


James McArthur

Analysing the Australian Dream


Commencement Address 2013


Brigid O’Farrell Leila Enright

Merry Li Caitlin Clifford Patrick McCaughey Austin Van Groningen

Emina Ashman Max Morris James Sainty Isabella Borshoff Polixeni Papapetrou Hugh Utting Michael E Stone Peter Singer Bobuck Sayed Dan Russell

Rufus Black



’ve never liked Seamus Heaney’s poetry. Particu-

“Minicabs in War with Taximen”? What else is hid-

larly ‘Digging’. It was one of those ‘great’ poems

ing inside the walls around us?

which you were taught in high-school, and you were told to memorise one thousand words on met-

So many questions arose from the discovery of that

aphor, imagery, and the cultural context. However,

newspaper, not just regarding its contents, but about

‘Digging’ is a poem which has strangely returned to

its location. That brief exploratory moment ignited

me this year.

an urge within myself to seek out the hidden corners and unusual spaces in life. The alleyways and dead-

One Tuesday evening, whilst crowded around an

end streets, the cupboards and skirting boards. I had

overly-complicated card game, an Ormond stu-

an urge to ‘dig’ through both history and the phys-

dent accidently leant against the side of a marble

ical spaces around me. As Heaney wrote: “Living

fireplace. A section of the marble, already slightly

roots awaken in my head”, and I now have a desire

cracked, was dislodged from the wall of the small

to follow and question them all.

room, and a pile of plaster and dust covered the carpet. The initial surprise was quickly gone when

This year’s Ormond Papers Editorial Committee

the student realised that where there had once been

attempted to identify what exactly it was that drives

marble, there was now a thin, hollow cavity from

this urge to ‘dig’, moreover, what inspires us to dig

which a wad of folded yellow-brown paper was

where no-one else has, and to learn, understand

wedged. After several minutes of tugging and a size-

and question things which are so far beyond the mo-

able pile of plaster had built up, out came a twisted

notonous norm. Like Heaney, we were a committee

newspaper titled: The Herald: Melbourne, Monday,

who wanted to break a new type of ground. We

March 20, 1961.

came to the conclusion that this urge to question and learn comes from a curiosity within us. Our

Although the newspaper was put inside the fireplace

most defining experiences with learning all came

over half a century ago, the headlines were more

from spontaneous moments and conversations out-

intriguing to the excited room full of Ormondians

side of a formal academic setting, where we could

on that Tuesday evening in 2013, than it ever was

ask uninhibited questions. Fittingly, the theme of

in 1961. Who was the “Blonde Spying for M.I.5”?

this year’s edition of Ormond Papers asks its readers

Who was “The Boy who Vanished”? Why were

a question: Curious?

The following pages contain words and images which were born out of a curiosity to discover, and hopefully inspire a curious mind within those who read them. Ormond Papers 2013 should not be the final source for knowledge or information, but a starting point, a newspaper in a fireplace. The first edition of Ormond Papers was published in 1965, only a few years after 1961 copy of The Herald. Did the first editors of Ormond Papers read this newspaper? Perhaps. What is certain, is that 30 editions later in 2013, Ormond students are as curious as ever. This year we asked questions of the world around us, whether that be on Russian conspiracies, the development of Chinese cities, or interviews and discussions with philosophers, artists and art critics. To me it is clear that Ormondians continue to dig with their pens through their own curiosity.

Joshua Castle - Editor in Chief

“Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.�



would like to thank the Editorial Committee. Hana Nihill, Rhiannon Galletti, Max Morris, Arnesh Kapur, Bobuck Sayed, Sebastian Kitchen and Shireen Tang. I am particularly proud of the time com-

mitments and sacrifices which you have all made at various stages of this progress. It has been an honour to work with you all, and you have consistently inspired me throughout this year. I would particularly like to commend Hana Nihill in her role as designer. Everything that you see in here is thanks to her elegant design skills. I would also like to thank Rufus Black for his generosity and support, Di Bambra for the cups of green tea and biscuits, Sally Heath for her invaluable advice, Deb Hull for her keen editing eye and Will Abbey for his reliable support throughout the entire process. One significant mention must go to John Harris, who has been a mentor for the committee this year. Although we have probably disagreed on more issues than we have agreed on, you have kept me sane and always backed my decisions. You have taken phone calls at strange hours, committed hours on weekends, and used all of your ‘internets’ to keep up with my constant stream of emails. The committee appreciates your endless repertoire of obscure phrases, which you seem to have for every possible occasion. Additionally, I would like the acknowledge that the following have all made this process possible: Louise Curran, David Barrell, Ethan Ziv, Joss Deane, Charles Shenton, Cameron Dunlop, Harry Seward, Mr Ibid, Max Marrows, Pat Karnchanachari, Nico Kunz, Teresa Sun and Lydia Dillion. A note on design: The ‘quatrefoil’ leitmotif throughout the edition is a shape which dominates the stonework of Ormond College. It skirts the top of Main Building, subtly appears in the Common Rooms and is a key feature of chairs in the dining hall. The quatrefoil appears in so many of the communal places that we value as spaces of learning through conversation.


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The Curious Camera project: This year we gave twenty disposable cameras to Ormond staff and students, with the simple instructions to finish the film in one day. The ‘Curious Camera’ project reflects the important idea that everyone’s Ormond experience is unique. I would like to thank the following people for their involvement in the project: Kerry O’Shea, Dub Hull, Georgia Westbrook, Gavrillo Grabovac, Natasha Ashdown, Cameron Muirhead, Jesse Poulton, Saul Colliver, Will Baer, Iris Warner, Sacha Maartens, Seren Oroszvary, Buster Davidson, Vicky Rudolph –Stringer, Walter Grgurovic and Lydia Dillion. Referees: Emily Piper, Advocate, Heritage Programs at The National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Academic tutor at Ormond College Peter Eade, Academic tutor at Ormond College Jane Eckett, Tutor, University of Melbourne, Studying Art History Professor Billie Giles-Corti, Director, Professor and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow. McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing. Academic Centre for Health Equity. Melbourne School of Population and Global Health Tom Newman-Morris, Postgraduate Student, University of Melbourne John Harris, Leading Tutor at Ormond College, University of Melbourne Dr Katharine McGregor, Senior Lecturer, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne

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The Metabolists What has driven postwar architecture in Japan?

Hana Nihill is a second year Environments student


he twentieth century saw great change worldwide. The passing of two world wars caused rents in the social fabric of all nations involved and precipitated the questioning of tradition and history. No-

where was this more evident than in Japan from the 1950s onwards. Defeat in war and economic fluctuations caused social restructuring and new ways of dealing with growth, decline and western influence. The architects Kisho Kurokawa and Kengo Kuma represent two attempts made by the architectural world to resolve the socio-economic problems of their time. This socio-economic context saw growth in the postwar era and decline in the late twentieth century. The visions of the city presented by Kurokawa and the Metabolists reflect the rapid growth they were dealing with. Their proposals for cities echo their philosophical underpinnings and their beliefs about society’s function. Kuma on the other hand was, and still is, designing in a period of recession that began in the 1990s. His rejection of conventional cities and objects arguably reflects disillusionment with the consumerist society that produced the time of austerity he was observing. Finally, the built works of both architects are also indicative of their philosophical approaches to architecture as informed by their context. Kurokawa’s high density capsule housing and Kuma’s small residential and specialized projects signify different attempts to reconnect the Japanese identity lost during the economic upset. The remarkable changes in Japan’s socio-economic climate during the second half of the twentieth century greatly influenced the philosophies and built works of Kisho Kurokawa and Kengo Kuma. Kurokawa was designing in the wake of Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the widespread destruction of other large Japanese cities left a scar on the Japanese psyche. Kurokawa himself describes his home city of Nagoya as the “scorched earth for as far as [he] could see”1. The destruc-

tion of the Japanese city was linked with the destruction of Japanese identity, further reinforced by the American occupation of Japan in the 1940s and 50s and the ratification of the Japan-US Treaty of Cooperation and Security in 1960.2 Interestingly, this period of destruction was also a time of great economic growth. The accompanying population boom sparked debate surrounding the optimum mode of supporting urban development.3 The Metabolists played a significant role in this debate and their designs reflect efforts to repair the physical cities of Japan and ameliorate the destruction of its cultural identity. A change came about in the 1990s with the burst of Japan’s economic bubble. During the 1980s land prices saw a steep rise throughout Japan. This meant that those who owned land both rurally and in urban settings became very rich, in direct opposition to those who did not. This, as well as an increasing stock price index, caused a great social divide between the rich and the poor.4 When the bubble burst in the early 1990s land prices fell and the stock index plummeted, causing widespread poverty in Japan.5 Kuma was educated during the period of rising wealth and began his design career at the beginning of the decline. His experience of the unstable nature of Japan’s economy was arguably what drove his perceptions of the city. In this period of instability he was also faced with cultural identity problems similar to the Metabolists. The way these issues

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Figure one: ‘City Farm’ Kisho Kurokawa

Figure two: ‘Floating cities’ Kisho Kurokawa

were addressed in times of growth and decline is arguably what engendered the differences between the two architectural approaches of Kurokawa and Kuma. In designing their cities for the regrowth and repair of Japan’s cultural identity, the Metabolists looked to natural processes as inspiration for a new and highly responsive urban form. Many of their more resolved proposals were revealed at the 1960 Design Conference in Tokyo, when the Metabolist manifesto Metabolism: proposals for a new urbanism was presented.6 The manifesto suggested that architecture needed to turn to the Japanese respect for nature as its inspiration. It proposed a dynamic architecture of growth and decay where metropolises could respond organically to the needs of their occupants and the development of public and private spaces where harmful dualistic views from the west were dispelled.7 One of the principle organic processes that the group focused on was metabolism, whereby organic matter is created and destroyed so that the whole can continue to function properly.8 The return to naturalistic themes was in many ways an attempt by this group of architects to remind the Japanese people of their traditional roots following the war. These philosophies were manifested in the proposals for cities espoused by the group. For example, in his plan for an agricultural city, presented in 1961, Kurokawa explores an urban form where semi-public spaces are abundant, where agricultural areas are interspersed throughout urban areas and where streets are spaces for living as well as transit (see figure one). This type of urban planning broke down what Kurokawa saw as a false dichotomy between humans and nature. The plan for a linear city that moved away from the centralized model and allowed for rapid growth through a satellite city model was another innovation that allowed for organic growth while maintaining infrastructural integrity.9 Similarly, the floating city proposal (see figure two) reflected Metabolist views about a three-dimensional urban expansion that utilised the ocean as an alternative to limited land space available on island Japan.10 These proposals reflect the urban vision of the Metabolists and reference Japan’s socio-economic context and its shifting cultural identity.


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“Kuma believed that the perceived world was a series of phenomena created by the relationship between an observer and a series of particles, as opposed to a collection of objects that exist independent of perception” Conversely, the work of Kengo Kuma two decades later moved away from the meta-architecture of the Metabolists and towards a particulate experience that rejected traditional urban forms. Kuma’s socio-economic context was one of economic decline following the collapse of land and stock value in Japan. The subsequent decline in urban growth is reflected in Kuma’s architectural philosophy that revolves around the fictitious nature of ‘objects’ and the rejection of the city as ‘dangerous’. In a metaphysical sense, Kuma believed that the perceived world was a series of phenomena created by the relationship between an observer and a series of particles, as opposed to a collection of objects that exist independent of perception. He cites a rainbow as an example of this philosophy, where particulate water vapour interacts with the sun and the observer to create the phenomenon.11 He states that his “aim is to create a similar condition to fine particles floating over the earth. This does not mean I want to create particle-like works of architecture but a condition that is as vague and ambiguous as drifting particles”12. In the context of large, metropolitan conglomerations, Kuma believed that the idea of a city represents an abhorrent condensation of particles, where the form is rendered unresponsive and static.13 Had these issues of responsiveness been addressed through the building of the Metabolists’ urban proposals, Kuma may have instead been an advocate for the city. A further focus of Kuma’s design agenda that bears a similarity to Metabolist thought is his focus on materiality, and the ways that technology is manipulated to explore different mediums. Deeply embedded in Kuma’s approach to materiality is contempt for artifice and respect for nature, which lies at the heart of the Japanese aesthetic.14 This has traditionally been manifested in wooden asymmetrical buildings unadorned by paint and composed of subdued straight lines. However, as Kurokawa observed in the 1950s, very little traditional wooden Japanese architecture remained after the destruction of World War II.15 Instead, concrete structures erected in the postwar rebuilding were, as Kuma suggests, “overpowering to Japanese sensibilities” and discordant with nature.16 In order to counter these massive concrete constructions, Kuma utilised the new technology of computer graphics and modeling to envision highly naturalistic buildings.17 This use of

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Figure four: Capsule House K

Figure five: Takara Beautilion

new technology to explore ancient Japanese architectural traditions is a theme that Kuma inherited from the Metabolists. Further similarities can be found in the built works of Kurokowa and Kuma. Although superficially quite different, the built works of both architects reflect their similar ideologies on different scales. The built work of Kisho Kurokawa can be seen as a physical manifestation of his Metabolist leanings, particularly the Nakagin tower and various other capsule buildings. The Nakagin tower (see figure three) is possibly the most easily identifiable Metabolist building. It was built as an experiment to test the philosophical underpinnings of the Metabolist movement concerning communal living and the relationship between the individual and the communal.18 It consists of a series of fully functional prefabricated capsules attached to an internal concrete shaft. The capsules are attached to the shaft by four high-tension bolts to form an isolated cantilever for maximum ease of removal.19 The capsules were delivered to the site with all services installed. They were then attached to the plumbing, electricity, water and gas that ran through the tower to the mains. A similar use of the capsule-core concept can be seen in Kurokawa’s design for the Capsule House K and the Beautilion Pavilion at the Osaka expo (see figures four and five). The use of prefabrication reflected an attempt by Kurokawa to take full advantage of the most modern forms of technology and industry available and adapt them to a Japanese audience. Indeed, this structural method reflects the way the structural poles of a Shinto Shrine support the ancillary architecture, or the structural and philosophical importance of the heart pillar of the Ise Shrine.20 This reflects an attempt by Kurokawa to resurrect Japanese cultural identity in a time of great uncertainty. The value that Kurokawa placed on the traditional can also be seen in the Metabolist Toshiba IHI Pavilion built for the design expo of 1970. The pavilion (see figure six) is shaped by a roof composed of repeating tetrahedron units. The tetrahedron shape was specifically chosen for the design because of its capacity for growth in three dimensions.21 This versatility of form was a step forward from the simpler core-capsule


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Figure three: Nagakin Tower

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Figure six: Toshiba IHI Pavilion

Figure seven: F&A Museum Figure eight: Jorai Onsen Bathhouse

dualism of Kurokawa’s earlier work. The theme of the pavilion was ‘Forests, the sun and man’. This theme is revealing in itself. It shows, yet again, the Metabolist desire to connect to nature and deconstruct the western dualism between the man-made world and nature that they saw as detrimentally pervasive in the architectural world. Kuma similarly wanted to reconnect nature and Japanese tradition, however, his projects represent a completely different context. His design for the Food and Agriculture Museum in Tokyo (see figure seven) reflects his attention to materiality and the Japanese value of naturalness. The façade of the building is composed of a series of stone panels connected to steel plates by stainless steel bolts, behind which lies a glass curtain wall. The play of light through the stone louvres, as well as the exposure of the bolts and steel plates, gives the building an overall impression of openness. Additionally, it expresses only the true nature of the materials. Kuma’s Jorai Onsen Bathhouse (see figure eight) also aims to connect occupants to nature through the considered use of site and materials. It utilises a narrow ridge in a complex topographical area. The straight lines again reference traditional Japanese design, as does the use of local timber. The roofing sheet is an opaque and corrugated polycarbonate chosen for its ‘ephemeral’ qualities. Although the built works of Kengo Kuma and Kisho Kurokawa suggest completely different approaches, their philosophical similarities and constant references to Japanese tradition indicate that both architects were searching for similar outcomes at very different times. The Metabolists were trying to come to terms with economic and urban growth following Japan’s defeat in World War II and an increased dependence on the western world in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. They were advocating a return to Japanese tradition by moving away from the dualism of the west and towards the synchronicity that has always existed in Japan. Kurokawa helped to develop plans for urban centers that allowed for organic growth and renewal, making the city a mirror of organic human processes. Kuma similarly wanted to return to nature, however his philosophy outlined the falsity of objects and a rejection of the conventional city, reflecting the recession he was


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and is currently practicing within. The built works of both architects reflect their attempts to amalgamate new technologies with traditional Japanese relationships with nature. Kurokawa, with the Nakagin tower, explores prefabrication whilst referencing the traditional Shinto shrine and ideas of renewal and regeneration. Kuma conversely uses advanced computer modeling and the latest in craftsmanship to express the truth of materials in his particulate ‘phenomena’. The similarities between both architects reveal the power of nature in Japanese culture and its defining role in architectural and aesthetic traditions.

Endnotes 1

Kurokawa, K 1977, Metabolism in Architecture, Studio Vista

London, London, p. 23. 2

Pompili, M 2012, ‘The Structural Core as a Totem: Reflections


Tange, K & Isozaki A 1970, ‘Directions in Today’s Architecture’,

The Japan Architect, vol. 45, no. 7-165, July, pp. 23-29. 11

Kuma, K 2009, ‘Dissolution of Objects and Evasion of the

on Form and symbol in the Architecture of Metabolism’, The

City’, in Cooper, G (ed.), Project Japan: Architecture and Art

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Australia &

Media Edo to Now, Images Publishing Group, Mulgrave.

New Zealand, vol. 21, January, p. 69.



Menton, L, Lush, N, Tamura, E & Gusukuma, C 2002, The Rise of

Modern Japan, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, p. 194. 4

Yoshitomi, M 1998, Nihon Keizai no Shinjitsu: Tsusetsu o Koete

Kuma, K 2007, Kengo Kuma, C3 Publishing Co., Gonhang

Ganseo. 13

Cooper, G (ed.), Project Japan, p. 210.


Keene, D 1969, ‘Philosophy East and West’, University of

(The Truth of the Japanese Economy: Beyond Popular Views),

Hawai’i Press, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 293-306.

Keizai Shimposha, Tokyo.


Kurokawa, Metabolism in Architecture, p. 23.


Kuma, Kengo Kuma, p. 12.

Economy – The Great Recession, Inequality, Budget Deficit and


Toyoda, K 2011, ‘Intermediating Patterns’, Domus, p. 952.

the Ageing Population’, Japanese Journal of Political Science,


Lin, ZJ 2011, ‘Nakagin Tower: Revisiting the Future of the Re-

vol. 13, no. 2.

cent Past’, Journal of Architectural Education, vol. 65, October.



Harada, Y 2012, ‘Policy Issues regarding the Japanese

Kikutake, K, Kurokawa, K & Maki, F 1960, Metabolism: The Pro-

posals for New Urbanism, Bijitsu Shuppansha, Tokyo, p. 3. 7

Kawazoe, N 1970, ‘Metabolism II: The Progress of Modern

Architecture’, The Japan Architect, vol. 45, January, pp. 97-102. 8

Kikutake et al., Metabolism, p. 3.


Kurokawa, Metabolism in Architecture, p. 40.




Kurokawa, Metabolism in Architecture, p. 40. Pompili, M 2012, ‘The Structural Core as a Totem’, p. 72. Kurokawa, K 1970. ‘The Takara Beautilion’, The Japan Archi-

tect, vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 130-132.

BARBARA KRUGER and CINDY SHERMAN Who do you think you are? Brigid O’Farrell is a second year Arts student


orking within poststructuralist and psychoanalytic paradigms, Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman both seek to expose and undermine the social and psychic construction of gender identity

through cultural and visual codes of representation. Drawing upon innovative techniques of appropriation and the disjunction of text and image, each portrays deliberately ambiguous messages with the intention of problematising and challenging the power structures and representational systems to which 1980s social, political and cultural life subscribed. Both artists do not so much construct gender identity, as deconstruct it; drawing it away from the dominant masculine discourse of their time and subverting and challenging conventional attitudes towards gender and more specifically, what it means to be feminine. They do not prescribe social positions but rather reveal how such positions are made, illustrating that what we perceive as innately personal perspectives and identities are actually publicly constructed through the configurations of power, language and image in cultural representation.1 Furthermore, by engaging so fully with the public sphere, both through appropriation and presentation, Kruger and Sherman collapse the distinctions between public and private, immersing their work in the discourse of everyday life, so that the “personal is political”2. Fundamentally, what distinguishes these two artists is their radical, confrontational approach, both in technique and subject matter, in using visual representation as a means of deconstructing notions of the dominant patriarchal ideal, and redefining gender identity in a socially engaged and politically informed way. During the 1980s, issues of gender and identity were increasingly viewed as social constructions formulated through the signs of representation.3 Many theorists and artists became interested in “interrogat[ing] the structures, psychic and social, motivating representation rather than accepting it as given”4. There was a strong interest in the complexity of cultural codes that define and influence aspects of human existence. Many debated and questioned how and why social conventions stand, what their role is, the impact they have for the individual. At this time, feminist artists and theories played a key role in reconfiguring Greenberg’s neo-Kantian argument that works are autonomous from their social and political realm.5 Dismantling the modernist concept of representation gave theorists and artists of the 1980s a space in which to assert alternative methods of making, seeing and interpreting art, and coincidently, notions of the self, gender and identity. Increasingly, artistic activity “emphasis[ed] that meanings are socially constructed and demonstrate[d] the importance and function of discourse in the shaping of social reality”6. Kruger herself articulated that “the question certainly is one about the constructions of power and how they work and what perpetuates them and what trips them”7. She wrote, “I’m interested in pictures and words because they have specific powers to define who we are and who we aren’t. And those pictures and words can function in as many places as possible”8.

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“Her images are deliberately ambiguous and include elements that are satiric, humorous and deeply ironic” The question of how linguistic structures and visual representation could deconstruct existing patriarchal forms of identity and representation was often discussed from a psychoanalytic perspective, which was the dominant theoretical paradigm for articulations of gender construction debates in the 1980s. Psychoanalysis provided a model for disrupting the norms inherent in its clandestine system of assigning privilege.9 As Lacan explained, access to the ‘other’ of language, codes, rules and laws – essentially the ‘Symbolic Order’predicates the passage to public power and representation.10 The impact of excluding females from accessing this power structure of the Symbolic Order is evident in the “constitution, articulation, and representation of female subjectivity” (or identity)11. Psychoanalysis makes another valuable contribution to models of identity and meaning formation through its notion of the ‘male gaze’. Following Lacan’s scheme for the ‘Order of the Imaginary’, “the gaze produces women and other dominated subjects as fetishes to palliate male castration anxiety”12. In her work Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey argues: There is an obvious interest in this analysis for feminists... it gets us nearer to the roots of our oppression, it brings us closer to an articulation of the problem, it faces us with the ultimate moment of arrival of language, while still caught within the language of the patriarchy.13 For Kruger and Sherman, psychoanalysis had profound significance in providing a strong theoretical foundation for the comprehension and analysis of their complex and innovative art and ideas. However, as Kruger herself wrote, “The richness and complexity of theory should be periodically broken through the modes of academia and enter the public discourse via a kind of powerfully pleasurable language of pictures, words, sounds and structures”14. Postfeminists such as Kruger and Sherman, have operated


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Untitled (WHO do you think you are?)

Untitled (What big muscles you have!)

within these Lacanian terms and through the psychoanalytic theory of sexual difference to deconstruct the conception of female subjectivity through the patriarchal vision of the ‘male gaze’. By appropriating and dislodging pop-culture references and subverting conventional representations of gender and identity, Kruger and Sherman intervene in the objectifying effects of rendering the female body as a visual spectacle, and work polemically to invert the gender-based power relations that have constructed female subjectivity as subordinate to male domination.15 Kruger primarily relies upon a powerful and innovative use of text-image juxtaposition to dislodge viewers not only from the comfort of knowing and understanding what we think we are reading, experiencing and believing, but also from who and what we think we are.16 The interplay between text and image produces the pairing of an observational critical message (text) in conjunction with the more seductive, imaginative visual aspect. The large, bold billboards and use of short, glib slogans responds to the culture of advertisements and consumerism in which Kruger lived and worked. In his essay Picturing Relations: Images, Text and Social Engagement, Alex Alberro described Kruger’s design as ‘journalistic’, rather than fine art, due to its use of vernacular imagery, lack of emphasis on authorship and focus on the dramatisation of themes with powerful impact.17 Her confronting and forceful graphic, Untitled (“WHO do you think you are?”)18, is accusatory and demanding. The billboard work challenges its viewers to reconsider not only what has informed their identity, but also their presumed sense of entitlement to a defined notion of identity itself. This plays into her consistent method of undermining the ability of language to assign identities and emphasising the notion of subjectivity as a fragmented, fluctuating concept rather than a unified, fixed and stable entity.19

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Figure 3: Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face)

Figure 4: Untitled (Your comfort is my silence) Figure 5: Untitled, (We have received orders not to move) Figure 6: Untitled (It’s a small world but not if you have to clean it)

As well as rhetorical, open-ended questions, Kruger also uses bold and abrupt slogans that make striking assertions against the social construction of gender identity. Kruger’s self-described “direct address” is one of a multitude of paradoxes, clichés and mimicry.20 In her work Untitled (What big muscles you have)21, the bold red declaration stands against a background list of first person possessive, male-encoded titles: “My lordship… My Rambo… My pimp… My doctor”. Although her statement “what big” is offered as an exclamation, it is employed as a question attempting to disrupt the social and political power men possess.22 The text imposed upon Kruger’s image, Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face)23 actively dislocates hierarchical, ‘phallocentric’ methods of visual presentation. Through direct speech, it challenges the scopophilic instincts of a patriarchal society and its objectifying impact on female character.24 By defacing patriarchal representations of the ideal female body, Kruger obstructs the (male) gaze of the spectator and contests the social construction of gender identity. Absolutely essential to the impact and reception of Kruger’s work is the context and format in which her works are created and displayed. Her works consciously implicate and address their viewers by requiring them to “acknowledge their positions, bring women’s lives and voices into popular discourse, and generate new perspectives in the process”25. Works such as, Untitled (Your Comfort Is My Silence)26 and Untitled (We Have Received Orders Not to Move)27, all implicate and even interrogate viewers through the use of inclusive personal pronouns. Her work also employs humour and irony as a linguistic mechanism; this is evident in Untitled (It’s a Small World but Not if You Have to Clean It)28. In creating such public works, Kruger “transforms the spectator from a passive consumer into an active producer of meaning by engaging the spectator in a process of discovery rather than offering a rigidly formulated truth”29. Her work uses an almost propagandistic technique to deconstruct images from popular media that have been formulated in alignment with the patriarchal ideal, and aims to disrupt conventional attitudes towards a socially constructed perspective of feminine identity.


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Figure 7: Untitled Film Still #34,

Figure 8: Untitled Film Still #58

Figure 9: Untitled Film Still #3

Cindy Sherman’s work achieves a similar purpose as she deconstructs a range of feminine roles and draws attention to the lack of a fixed sense of female subjectivity.30 In her black and white Film Stills series, produced between 1975 and 1980, Sherman portrays herself as recognisable, popular female characters to comment on the objectifying iconography of patriarchal culture, such as Hollywood movies, fashion shoots and pornography.31 Not self-portraits in the traditional sense, Sherman models a variety of female roles to reveal the nature of gender as a constructed position and not an innate biological determination. As Mulvey writes: The magic of the Hollywood style…arose… from its skilled and satisfying manipulation of visual pleasure. Unchallenged, mainstream film coded the erotic into the language of the dominant patriarchal order. In the highly developed Hollywood cinema it was only through these codes that the alienated subject, torn in his imaginary memory by a sense of loss, by the terror of potential lack in fantasy, came near to finding a glimpse of satisfaction: through its formal beauty and its play on his own formative obsessions.32 By appropriating the identities of a range of women and posing in sexualised portraits that draw attention to the visual spectacle of the female body, Sherman critiques the culture of the ‘gaze’ which produces women and other oppressed subjects as fetishes that alleviate the male castration anxiety. She highlights the role of “representations of women’s bodies as necessarily participating in the regime of fetishism”33. Sherman works to refuse this objectification and reverse a phallocentric perception of female subjectivity through visual representation. In presenting this multitude of female identities, Sherman comments on the disintegrative condition of the self in an increasingly consumerist commoditised society. Her works act as “portraits of an identity she shares with every woman”34, who is subjected to the construction of her identity through social conventions XXX Ormond Papers


“Kruger and Sherman undertake a rigorous and critical examination of problematic notions of gender identity by breaking down social and psychic constructions and reasserting female autonomy outside of patriarchal hierarchies and voyeurism” and oppressive gender stereotypes. Her images are deliberately ambiguous and include elements that are satiric, humorous and deeply ironic. For example, in Untitled Film Still #5835, Sherman’s defiant, concentrated view upwards implies a sense of strength and vision that undermines the theory of women as passive subjects of the gaze, rather than active makers of it. Similarly, the seductive pose she portrays in Untitled Film Still #336 reconfigures women’s power and sense of control over their sexuality. As a collective, the photographs aim to critically examine preconceived assumptions of femininity - both in terms of body and social status - within media and the popular culture, so heavily dominated by the oppressive effect of scopophilic and inexorable fetishising male desire.37 Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman are equally audacious and bold in their unconventional artistic representations of female identity. Both have critiqued the “phallocentric bias within figurative and gestural traditions, and [have] exposed masculine investments in representations of the female body”38 in innovative and challenging ways. Kruger’s sharp and incisive juxtapositions of text and image work to illustrate the Foucauldian view that power relations permeate all levels of social existence. In her Film Stills series, Sherman also disrupts and re-configures representations of the female form to intervene in the objectifying effect of the ‘male gaze’. In creating such challenging works, both artists prompted a sincere re-examination of how femininity is in fact a social construct determined by the cultural codes of patriarchal representation. Influenced by Lacan’s notion of the Symbolic – the system of myths, linguistic, visual and ideological codes in which we experience ‘reality’ – feminist art and theory in the 1980s critiqued how the Symbolic systematically distorted the psychic and political truths of gender identity and female representation.39 Under the influence of post-structuralism and psychoanalysis, Kruger and Sherman undertake a rigorous and critical examination of problematic notions of gender identity by breaking down social and psychic constructions and reasserting female autonomy outside of patriarchal hierarchies and voyeurism.


Ormond Papers XXX

Endnotes 1

Kwon, M 2010, A Message from Barbara Kruger: Empathy Can

Change the World, Rizzoli, USA, p. 90. 2

Alberro, A 2010, Picturing Relations: Images, Text and Social

Engagement, Rizzoli, USA, p. 206.


Kruger, B 1986, Untitled (What big muscles you have).


Cottingham, L 1989, ‘The Feminine De-Mystique: Gender,

Power, Irony and Aestheticized Feminism in 80s Art’, in Flash Art, no. 147.


Reckitt, H 2001, Preface: Art and Feminism, Phaidon, UK, p. 123.


Kruger, B 1981, Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face).


Jones, A (ed.) 2003, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader,


McDonald, H 2001, Erotic Ambiguities: The Female Nude in

Routledge, UK, p. 34.

Art, Routledge, London.


Ibid., p. 32.


Alberro, Picturing Relations, p. 196.


Barry, J & Flitterman-Lewis, S 1987, Framing Feminism: Art and


Kruger, B 1981, Untitled (Your comfort is my silence).


Kruger, B 1982, Untitled (We have received orders not to

the Women’s Movement 1970-1985, Pandora, UK, p. 316. 7

Mitchell, W 1991, ‘An interview with Barbara Kruger’, Critical

Inquiry, vol. 17 no. 4, pp. 434-448.

move). 28

Kruger, B 2000, Untitled (It’s a small world but not if you have



to clean it).


Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, p. 32.


Barry & Flitterman-Lewis, Framing Feminism, p. 318.


Alberro, Picturing Relations, p. 202.


Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, p. 22.


Ibid., p. 198.


McNair, B 2002, Striptease Culture: Sex, Media and the


Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, p. 38.

Democratization of Desire, Routledge, London, p. 199.


Mulvey, L 1989, Visual and other pleasures, Palgrave Mac-


Mulvey, Visual and other pleasures, p. 34.


Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, p. 18. Danto, A 1990, Cindy Sherman: Untitled Film Stills, p. 10.

millan, USA. 14

Foster, H 2010, Seriously Playful: Barbara Kruger, Rizzoli, USA.



Jones, The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader, p. 36.


Sherman, C 1980, Untitled Film Still #58.


Kwon, A Message from Barbara Kruger, p. 91.


Sherman, C 1977, Untitled Film Still #3.


Alberro, Picturing Relations, p. 194.


Mulvey, Visual and other pleasures, p. 16.


Kruger, B 1993, Untitled (WHO do you think you are?).


Reckitt, Preface, p. 12.


Kwon, A Message from Barbara Kruger, p. 96.


Phelan, P 2001, Survey: Art and Feminism, Phaidon, UK, p. 36.


Foster, Seriously Playful, p. 18.

XXX Ormond Papers


The Love We Hate A script by Leila Enright Leila is a second year Arts student.

Lights up. Upbeat, natural woman. Jade sings, getting ready in the mirror. Then turns around. JADE: And that, is my getting-gorgeous-for-my-Saturday-night-out-on-the-town-and-maybe-a-sly-hook-up ballad. Amid the hairspray, number five, and body butter I gyrate and belt like a white Jennifer Hudson, so when I leave for the night I have my hip twisting, ass-plumping strut on and I’m glowing with a lacquer of sweat. I’m ready. Lights fade into a smoky dark bar atmosphere It’s one of those heavy summer nights and the writhing, bumping body heat intensifies the longer you sit at the bar, until the only thing that seems like a breath of fresh air is the gin and tonic rising through, up and over the heat. And then, like all other nights, the look happens. I’m peering over my shoulder, eyes sweeping the room, eyelashes batting like little flags on Australia day, and he’s peering over his, looking for that perfect face or ass, whichever comes first. And we find each other, with the fizzling jolt of eye contact, and the shy but promising smile that acknowledges mutual desire. This glorious, sweeping inevitability – from that one look, to the that’s-a–nice-dress-you’ve–got–there approach, to the suggestion of an outside cigarette, each slow sensual drag and releasing puff, heavy with the expectation of more. Sunlight I wake up and peel the damp, sweat-licked sheets off my legs. The morning is still pulsing and dense from the night before. A quick check of my sex-flushed face, and I step out of the cramped terrace, seeped in mid morning light, and onto Lygon Street. When I light up, the smell of dense cigarette smoke is mingling with the soft acid of his aftershave on my hands. In the midst of Sunday morning brunch and coffee clutter; I am Venus, I am Marilyn, I am that girl. Just for a morning. Lights gently fade, and then suddenly come up again with a sterile light What does it feel like? (Jade nervously laughs) Oh fuck me this is awkward. Ah, really painful, like, yeah, crazy painful. Yep, yep, itchy. Yep. All of that. And there’s this kind of, rash, I guess. Describe? Oh god. I don’t know, yes, I’m sorry I’m sorry. No. Not like that, it’s more like a blister or a real bad mozzie bite. Shit. Yep. It’s probably what? Oh god. Oh god, I can’t have that. I don’t even know what it is. XXX Ormond Papers


Sure I’ll take a herpes information pamphlet. Can’t hurt right? Black out. Red light. (Completely matter of fact tone) You know what King Lear called the vagina? “A sulphurous pit of hell.” When I read that line in Year ten, I did the whole “stupid Shakespeare, doesn’t know the first thing about girls, my vagina’s lovely”. Tom, my pimply, jeans below ass boyfriend, who I thought was divine, always seemed to want to touch it, so it must be nice. Now I’m thinking Shakespeare knew a whole lot more than I gave him credit for. Or maybe he just had herpes. Smoking and ripping up the pamphlet sheet I went onto one of those online ‘We have herpes and we still love life’ forums. Hilarious fun. You know the first post to come up? Something titled ‘Desperately needing love’ by someone calling themselves ‘Faceless’. (angrily sarcastic) They really focus on cultivating a supportive environment. Then, to top the whole bloody thing off, all over the site they’re advertising a treatment that’s supposedly one of those miracle ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ cures. It’s this box thing that you hook yourself up to, and it sends chemicals and electric pulses through your bloodstream. Another crazy hippy was claiming that the only way to cure herpes was extra strength oregano oil. For fuck’s sake, a herb that’s going to make my pizza taste better is not going to cure an STI. It’s all such bullshit, all these ‘testimonials’: (mimicking menacingly) “herpes doesn’t change your life”, “I’m glad I have it, I have a new faith in people”, “my boyfriend loves me more for my disease”. Then they turn around and tell you that herpes is so bad, it makes you so …dirty, that you need electricity to literally maim your insides to get it out. So offering a fucking rip-off beacon of hope, pretending there’s a cure, another option, a way out? That’s truly fucked up. Scene change – Daylight I woke up this morning, feeling vaguely okay for the first time in a week. So you know, taking advantage of my new found good mood, I got a little bit dressed up and hit Chapel Street for a Saturday morning shop. For one divine moment in the middle of Prahran markets, smelling pears and licking tapenade and brie from tester stands off my fingers, I forget about it. The shatterer of this momentary happiness comes in the form of a tweed-clad old bird, buying soft rolls from my favourite bakery to placate her dentures. As I’m waiting in line, she turns around slowly, like a


Ormond Papers XXX

character from a horror movie who realises the monster is right behind them, and gives me the filthiest look. At first, I dismiss it as crazy old people behaviour. Then she starts sniffing the air around her in a really suspicious way. Dear god, can she smell it on me? Is she like a herpes sniffer dog? Does she own a manual that everyone over sixty gets, entitled ‘How to Recognise a Herpes Person’? Oh shit, what if she tells everyone, what if she has a hidden megaphone that she brings out to broadcast it to the entire market? Oh god. What if my mum finds out? I ran. Stupid bitch. Jade enters, flinging a handbag around the stage. She is clearly drunk and has brought someone home. Hahahaha, oh god! That’s funny. Yeah, sorry about the mess, I can be a bit of a slob sometimes. Yeah just make yourself at home, dump your jacket anywhere. I like your shirt, very sexy. (She begins to straddle the floor) Yeah, very glad that I met you. She starts grinding, obviously making out with him. Ok, stop stop stop, sorry, I’m really sorry. No, it’s nothing you did; please don’t think that, you’re great. It’s just, before we, you know, go any further, I have to tell you something. (Laughs) no I’m not a psycho killer. I just have this thing. It’s, well. Oh shit. An STI, I guess. It’s herpes, but it’s no big deal if you wear a condom, I just need you to know what you’re… getting into, I guess. No I’m not fucking kidding you. Don’t worry I wish that I was. Yep. Fine. Yep. No, I don’t judge you. No, if I were in your position I’d do the same thing. Yep, good luck to you mate, have a good night. Head down and slowly up I got tested again. No stone unturned, right. They could’ve mixed up the tests in the lab, the doctor might’ve been dodgy. Maybe they just tell people these things to freak them out. They said I’d get a reply in the mail in the next five days. It’s been three. Phone rings

XXX Ormond Papers


Hi Mum. How are you? Yeah, I’m okay. Yeah, I’m good. Oh, you know, just work rumbling along. I bought a new dress yesterday. She picks up the mail, speaking distractedly for the next passage Um…yeah…yeah I’m still here. Hmmm. Yeah, I’m fine. How’s the, ah, dog? Oh good. Yep. Hmmm. Uhhuh. How’s dad? Good. Comes across the envelope and pauses with the gravity of it contents. Mum, can you give me a second? Opens the envelope anxiously. Sees the positive confirmation. Reacts slowly, picks up the phone Mum, can I talk to you about something? Lights go up and down. In the sterile light. Jade stands in the middle of the stage slowly applying lipstick, as ‘A Natural Woman’ by Aretha Franklin plays.


Ormond Papers XXX

Camilla Eustance

Anasha Flintoff

Merry Li

Greta Giovinazzo

Veronica Volfneuk

Tom Nicholson Does ‘dumbness’ have a place in art? Tom Nicholson is a contemporary Australian artist

Interview with Joshua Castle and Rhiannon Galletti


om Nicholson comfortably manoeuvres around

Part of the way that I approached the drawing

piles of books on Manet, decadent picture

component of the portrait was based strongly on a

frames and photographs of past exhibitions. His

photograph, and although there were a whole lot of

Northcote studio space is littered with his own history

interventions made into that image, it was impor-

and decades of past artists. Tom’s charcoal covered

tant to keep its appearance as a photograph. If you

hands lever open his slender laptop to reveal the

look at the picture closely, you notice a whole lot

young Melbourne artist’s latest project- an image of

of edges that represent how an out-of-focus object

his grandmother, and significant figure in Ormond’s

in a photograph functions. This is quite different

past, Jean McCaughey. Even on a small computer

to how we encounter things visually, and so it was

screen, the grey charcoal portrait is of striking photo-

important to me that it registered as a drawing of

graphic resemblance, yet the image elicits meanings

a photograph. In that sense it stands for a way of

and emotions far beyond the literal, mimetic drawing.

encountering a world which is already mediated.

As we continue to speak to Tom, his affinity for pursuing art that connects with a spectrum of historical

It’s interesting that you choose charcoal as your

time and space becomes evident.

medium. It seems like a particularly permanent and

On the front page of your website you have an

paper, it’s on the paper.

unforgiving medium to manipulate. Once it’s on the

image of an open copy of Camus’ The Plague, with a quote from Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe:

It’s a lot more forgiving than you may think. Luckily

“It is as reasonable to represent one kind of

there is a high degree of malleability in the 300gsm

imprisonment by another, as it is to represent

paper which I used. I feel like it’s a medium which is

anything that really exists by that which exists not” Does this quote inform your work as an artist?

It certainly does. The question about the world that we live in, and the way that it’s represented in pictures is one of the more animating questions in my work. Specifically, in relation to the portrait commission, I had to confront both the public meaning of Jean’s life, which was very strongly connected to Ormond, and also a very long-standing connection to her personally. So that question of how you make an image which represents, at least notionally, an instant in her life, and how that might stand for a whole range of experiences of her was particularly acute in this work. I think that anyone who makes pictures has to confront that question.

well suited to indecisive people, like me! I specifically chose to depict this moment, which feels to me like a point of transition between listening and responding, receiving and giving. Her mouth is open, which is unusual for a portrait, but I wanted that sense of air to begin to come out, almost like the whistle before you start giving words. The photograph was taken on a very windy day, and her hair is slightly dishevelled by the wind, so that notion of the movement of air within the picture was very important. For me, this is always connected to charcoal, because if you take a charcoal drawing outside on a windy day the drawing just disappears. It’s just dust; fragile particles on a paper. Because the portrait is behind museum glass it will make the image permanent and it will last forever, but when it’s in its crude form it is quite malleable. XXX Ormond Papers


It’s interesting that you mention ‘lasting forever’ in

respects I am interested in undoing and unmaking

terms of permanence and longevity, as it is some-

the monument. At the very least, to reanimate our

thing which you continually seem to explore in your fascination with monuments. What draws you to use these iconographic structures in your work?

You’re right, I am very interested in monuments, and it’s a funny counterpart to my training and central interest in drawing. In some ways drawing and monuments exist at the opposite ends of the spectrum of Western art. Drawing is marked by a mobility. Classically working on the sketchbook and making drawings is a way of making work in the world, as opposed to working in the studio. You moving around the world, and the world moving around you. It’s also often a way of noting down thoughts, or even designating things which you want to do in the future, like preparatory or architectural drawings. So there’s a likeness in drawing that’s connected to thinking. This is very different to the weight, permanence, immobility and authority of monuments. Part of the reason why monuments are so big and heavy is that they’re designed to last, but also that they are designed to project onto the viewer the idea that what they are saying is important and irrefutable. So part of the interest in monuments comes from an

open up that meaning to undercut or disassemble the way that a monument almost always (in a classical sense) claims a single unchallenged meaning, opening out a different set of, often contradictory, meanings. Certainly, the portrait sits in an interesting place in the relationship between monuments and drawings. If you look, for example, at the portraits in the Ormond College dining hall, you could say many of the same things about those portraits that you could say about a classical monument. They are designed, often for good reason, to try to pay respect to someone who has made an important contribution, but they are also designed to implicitly project both the authority of the sitter, and of the institution. I think the main links between the portrait and the monument is the singular isolated form. Almost all portraits, and this is true even of the greatest portraits at Ormond (specifically Fred Williams’ portrait of Davis McCaughey) is that they are single monumental forms, which the whole picture is designed to focus your attention on. So one of the reasons why I chose that particular photograph for

interest in the different ways that history is manifest

the basis of the drawing is because it has her ‘amidst

to us in visual form. How is it that we make our

the world’. There is another figure in the fore-

collective histories present for ourselves, and through

ground, and she is addressing that additional figure.

that, form a kind of address to the future? Although

This gives a sense of her in the world and in relation

monuments often deal with the past, implicitly they also deal with the idea of an imagined future.

Monuments have a particular role here in Australia, because they are very connected to the way the colonial process took and occupied space. In some


relationship and disassemble that authority, and

Ormond Papers XXX

to other things, and not as a surrogate monument in the middle of the picture. This is partly to do with trying to make a different kind of portrait that is more about the relations between people, but it’s also to do with Jean. I think one of the remarkable

things about her was that her intelligence had many

often come to assume another, or inadvertently have

forms and manifestations, but one of them was her

another range of meanings which contradict the

ability to relate to people, and to bring to bear her

putative or main meaning.

intelligence in the way she connected with people. Activating those sets of meanings behind the ostenDo you think we still construct monuments today?

There obviously aren’t as many plinths and obelisk

sible meanings is something which I’m currently working on now.

type structures being built today, even though our

A significant amount of your work is very text based.

cities are still littered with them. Exactly what takes

Does your art intentionally emphasise the reappropri-

the place of that nineteenth century desire to build

ation of words and text?

monuments is an interesting question. One could argue due to their scale and the idea of a public ad-

Yes, that’s absolutely true. Words certainly bear

dress, that advertisements are the monuments of our

collective memories, and pictures are partly due to

age. They perform a similar role of propaganda, but

this, but there is a different register in the way that

they’re ephemeral in the way they regularly change.

words capture or account for our shared experienc-

The average ‘Coke’ ad is like a privatised monument,

es. The interesting thing about words is that they

whereas Redmond Barry was created by the state

attempt to account for experiences that we can’t

to project ideas of civic virtue. The public visual

capture through images. Particularly when I was

language is being privatised, and those ads have a

at Art School, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985)

subtext regarding how we constitute ourselves. The

was a very influential and formative film for me.

monument of the nineteenth century implicitly

The ten hour long documentary film is about the

said that how we constitute ourselves as a group is

Holocaust, but doesn’t contain a single documentary

by adhering to these Victorian virtues, whereas all

or archival photograph. So the entire film is about

of those ads together tell us something about the

people recalling, through words, their experiences.

way we constitute ourselves today, which is through

This builds an utterly different mental picture of the


events, as you are constantly constructing them in your head. There is a peculiar way that words induce

Much like your appropriation of Jacques Louis-Da-

a certain recalling.

vid’s The Death of Marat (in Flags for Trades Council Hall, 2005), which is of course a very poignant

I understand that you intend to construct a ritual

image of propaganda.

around the portrait?

There is certainly a very long history of propaganda

My response to the portrait commission was in two

that precedes the advertisement and the billboard,

halves. Firstly, the drawing (now hanging in the

but one of the interesting things about propaganda

J. M. Young Room) which was a very site specific

is the subterranean meanings that they hold. Forms

work in terms of its scale and the way Jean looks,

which are designed to have one set of meanings

and the second part being an annual ritual. XXX Ormond Papers


Jean claimed that her first memory was, as an

Strangely, my first memory of Jean is on the same

eighteen month old child, being held up in front of

day that the photograph was taken, which was on

their county house in Antrim, Ireland, and hearing

the day that Fred Williams’ portrait of her husband,

the bells ringing all over the countryside to signify

Davis McCaughey, was unveiled. So there is this

the end of the First World War. It’s a very young first

loop between the two works surrounding memories

memory, but you can almost believe it both due to

and how pictures, sounds and words are a means of

the emotional charge of that memory and also, au-

making our memories individually and collectively

rally, it would have been a very distinct sound hear-

present in the now.

ing all the bells ringing over the country at once. So I hope to construct a kind of aural portrait where

Your works often reappropriate history and investi-

on the 11th of November, at 11 AM in Northern

gate the subterranean elements of history. You said

Ireland, which is dinner time at Ormond College, a female student rings the Ormond College bell in honour of Jean’s first memory. It signifies

in an interview in 2012 that you were “attracted to the archive as a way to address the future, the notion that the possibilities contained within our past are yet to be”.

a transition between a private and public space in that it’s trying to make her first memory public, or

With this in mind, how do you interpret history?

collective. Ringing the bell is a way of having her presence, within a hall filled with male portraits,

The way I usually come to history is through con-

recognised not as a visual image but instead through

crete things like an archival photograph, and it is

sounds and the imagination.

often in quite a ‘dumb’ way that I begin to form a relationship to it. History’s primary importance is

I found it important to register her presence in the

that it animates the way in which we might think

dining hall, which is an important space not just

about the present and the future, particularly this

because everyone needs to eat, but because dining

funny imaginative process of trying to think your

together is implicitly asserting that we are a commu-

way into a historical experience, which is actually

nity that holds certain values together. That is a very

linked to the way that we might imagine the future

rich environment to make an artwork in. I’m trying

to be different from the present. I like the way that

to make a public recollection system and a ritual to

an artwork can make us think into the past, but also

remember Jean’s life, and also to remember collective

think about ways to reorder the future. I’ve found

events in the twentieth century such as the First

this particularly acute in Australia because we have

World War, and the things that formed Jean’s con-

this strange and often willed amnesia towards our

nection with social justice. So it’s not just about her,

past, so there are often unrealised potentials in our

but also about a broader set of meanings connected

past that I think are important to animate. In a

to the histories, which she lived through and which

small way, I think that’s part of what art can do.

formed her.

As an artist I often have a desire to be engaged in real-time events, I wish that I could make an artwork about something that I saw on television that night,


Ormond Papers XXX

and then it would go back out into the world imme-

of walking in a rally, or even the same with eating

diately. But in reality it’s a much slower cycle. Goya’s

together. It’s doing something with a whole lot of

Disasters of War (1810-1820) was a very formative

people. In the case of a march, it’s to do with this

artwork for me as it feels like the video footage of

very simple action of walking, which we constantly

contemporary conflict in Egypt, but in reality it

do without thinking, but through this we make

was published thirty years after the events that the

walking into something that has meaning. Regard-

etchings depict.

less if it’s for or against anything, it’s an act that interrupts the way a street normally is. When all of

Similar to Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818).

Yeah, there are all these kinds of delays in art mak-

these people just decide to walk down together, it suddenly looks like a magical and marvellous thing.

ing which are both a continual source of frustration

Again, it’s your ideas of reappropriation and chal-

in the sense that one desires a direct form of contact

lenging of fixed meanings.

with events as they unfold, but also I think it’s a part of the potency of it, because it means that it’s on a

That very basic idea of the world seeming less fixed

different temporal register, and that’s part of how it

in its forms and also the resignation about the state

unsettles our relationships to the past and the future.

of the world being unsettled is something I like about that participatory structure, where lots of

Many of your works have an interactive element,

people do something together.

whether they are posted on a wall, hanging off an aeroplane or fixed to a fireplace. What do you see as the role of the audience when viewing these works?

I guess it’s partly because the work is often interested with those collective meanings, and so it’s a way to embed that interest in collective meanings, identities or histories within the actual form of the work that literally gets disseminated out into the world. You probably would have noticed that I’ve got a recurrent or chronically repetitive interest in the ‘stack’, which is partly because, for me, the stack is a form of potential dissemination. You have one item in the museum, and then it goes over all these different spaces outside the museum. The way the work has, within its life, the idea of a collective identity or transformation, is important. This relates to my childhood experiences of being taken by my mother to Palm Sunday Peace Rallies, and the phenomenon

Before I start sounding too much like a hopeless utopian, I should say that the work always involves both participation and a kind of imposition, so it’s never totally straightforward. People participate but they have to do something. So there’s a mix of being involved but also having something upon them, which centres around this question of desiring something else but also always being incumbent. You don’t ever dream from a tabula rasa, you imagine the world with all of this ‘stuff’ already on your shoulders. So this idea that forgetting is not as simple as Yoko Ono kissing and making up, is important as well. It’s never a straight-out utopian thing. I think art has to have something of the structure of the world within itself. Maybe that’s just an excuse for being a control freak! But there is always an imposition as well as an invitation. XXX Ormond Papers


There’s a lot of contrast in your work. Light and dark,

elements are generous to the viewer. I find this par-

light and heavy, collective and individual, private

ticularly beautiful.

and dispersed. Is this intentional?

I think almost everything in the work comes into being. There’s always an idea at the beginning that initiates the process. Admittedly often it is quite a dumb idea. I have a lot of faith in the ‘dumbness’ of a starting point and I think that other things are then yielded through the process. That’s why I find it so interesting to make things, because they yield ideas and concepts that you couldn’t predetermine in the outset. That is part of my attraction to the very slow processes that make very big temporal spaces where those things can happen. However, it is true that I would distrust anything I make that didn’t contain some contradictory element. I think that more and more as I go on as

work for Ormond College. It’s a funny mixture of being a public space and a public institution/university, but it’s also where you all live. So it’s the idea of you having a daily relationship to the work that I very much like. I hope when the ritual happens in the dining hall, that most of you have sat in that room with the artwork, and that you have a mental image of that drawing, however the two never actually come together as one. The only place where they can exist together is in your mind. It’s demanding in that sense because it asks you to do the work of imagining a whole lot of things, but as an artwork you always address the most complex and intelligent aspect of human beings, which is quite considerable.

an artist, I realise that artworks are propelled by

For your art you travelled to places such as Portugal

certain contradictions. They don’t ever resolve into a

and Palestine. What distinguishes the art scene in

single position. I tend to trust when those kinds of


tensions you’re talking about arise in the work. That doesn’t mean you don’t resolve them in a certain way because you still have to formally resolve the artwork to be concise. But I think the idea that the work would never completely resolve into one idea but would rather be a wrestle between several different impulses is quite important. I guess the idea here with an artwork is that it’s something you can sustain a long-term relationship with. I mean you can sit with it for hours and hours and then one day something [new] unfolds, which opens out a

One way to answer this question would be in relation to other Australian cities. Melbourne is very fortunate in the sense that it has a very rich history of visual arts. There are also very strong lineages traceable through the art schools in Melbourne and going back to figures like George Bell and John Brack, who trained Ian Burn. Even through very diverse moments in Australian art, there are these clear lineages in Melbourne art, and that’s part of the richness you inhabit in a way if you are an artist

different facet of it.

in this city.

The contrast seems to provide different people with

There’s also the pragmatic thing that it’s cheaper

different interpretations of the work. The multiple


That’s also one of the beautiful things about making

Ormond Papers XXX

than Sydney, and the reason why lots of artists come from Perth, Adelaide, Tasmania and New Zealand

is because Melbourne’s an easier place to be an

are ways to attend very closely to that artwork itself

artist. You don’t have to work as much and there’s

and its concreteness. The ‘dumbness’ of that is quite

more space. Therefore, there are a lot more public

interesting, in the sense that it doesn’t speak through

spaces, and I think that’s one of the remarkable

its complexity, form or intelligence. All of those

things about Melbourne. It’s got a very good visual

elements are present when you attend very closely to

arts infrastructure in terms of public spaces, such

a thing, to matter to its concreteness. That also has

as the Ian Potter Museum at Melbourne University.

a kind of theorising in a way. Part of its intelligence

Because the space is cheaper here, there’s a long tra-

is that you can extract different kinds of knowledge

dition of artists self-organizing and running spaces.

out of that, and an aspect of that is that it implic-

Very few cities of this size in the world have so many

itly theorises something. For me, what’s interesting

spaces of that kind. All of this makes Melbourne a

about art, the way I always teach art, the way I make

very hospitable city for artists.

art and the reason I think art is supremely important, is to do with attending to the concreteness of

Where Melbourne is different to a city like Berlin,

it. However, I also think lots of different kinds of

which is roughly the same size and has many more

knowledge open out from that, and so in that sense

artists, is that they have a lot more transient people.

I’m all for other readings, whether they’re literature

For example, they’re coming for two days from

or theory or whatever. But I believe the enterprise

London, New York or Paris. Whereas in Melbourne

is most interesting when it’s manifested through the

there’s not that same through traffic, and the art

wildness of a concrete thing.

scene is dominated by people from Melbourne. There’s a certain stability that always threatens a kind of parochialism in Melbourne. I think that most city art scenes are quite parochial. It’s like an old-fashioned Italian fourteenth century thing, less about national identities and more about city identities, and Melbourne certainly has a strong identity

That’s quite refreshing to hear.

One of the things I absolutely try to avoid is teaching others to be prescriptive. I think every young artist has to find their own answers to all of these questions. Different young artists find different ways

because of the lack of through traffic.

to deal with the problems of being an artist. The

I understand that you do some teaching in drawing

lot of the teaching is responding to the trajectories

at Monash University. With teaching, what comes

that the student sets up. Above all, in the teaching

first: the art or the art theory?

process, I try to respond to the logic that the artists

The short answer is the art. I try with the teaching to

nice thing about teaching at an art school is that a

set up for themselves.

have an encounter with the artwork. This is on two

Is there any advice that you were given which par-

levels: encounters with the person who is making

ticularly influenced your art?

the work, in terms of how they think about the artwork in evolution, and also encounters of the people

I went to Melbourne University first and studied

who encounter the work. Both of those encounters

Art History, and then decided to go to art school. XXX Ormond Papers


At that point I remember my father giving me a bit

are moments of course in our culture that art is of

of advice. He said, “That’s fine just as long as you

very marginal importance. If you walk down Bourke

realise you’re going to be poor for a very long time”.

Street and ask someone to name an Australian artist

Which is totally true. If you think otherwise then

most people would say Rolph Harris. So compared

you will be very shocked. The pragmatics of surviv-

to football stars and even just film as the primary

ing as an artist are a huge part of it. You need to be

visual medium of our age, art is very, very marginal

prepared to live with a very precarious economic

in that sense. But I’m able to maintain the illusion

situation. I thought that was just for the first fifteen

of its supreme importance.

years or so of your life, but I now realise that it’s actually your entire life. I always think that stub-

There’s parts of the job that aren’t enjoyable and

bornness is the most important quality for an artist

which are just a grind like any other job, like going

to have. It’s not flamboyance or brilliance, it’s just

to work at nine, but there are lots of aspects that

doggedness and a weird mixture of unshakeable self

are particularly enjoyable as well. What I say to my

confidence and perpetual self-doubting. The most

students is that it’s the greatest job there is, because

valuable things I’ve been given in terms of what it is

it’s doing something that we have a lot of autonomy

to be an artist and to make artworks haven’t come

over, and doing something you believe is important

directly as advice, but have come through observing

and extremely interesting. This also sets up relation-

people or objects that are models. That’s the nice

ships you have with other artists. When you have

thing about art; it’s very self-consciously in rela-

interesting and important peer relationships, they’re

tionship to its own history. You make a picture and

incredibly rich. They’re also heavily centred around

you know that you’re making it into the body of art

these spaces, such as studio banter. It’s part of the


great privilege of being an artist.

The profession is heavily encoded with models. I

Whilst working in a shared space are you openly

think the sense of there being models in terms of

critical of each other’s work?

how people conduct themselves as artists but also in terms of what an art object can do, is sort of the most powerful advice that I have received.

With the artists I am close with, we have a relationship where we are critical and I very much like that frankness. It’s quite hard to manifest that in

More broadly, what drives you in your every day

Anglo-Saxon culture. When I lived in Germany it


was one of the things I loved about Germans. They were unbelievably brutal. It sets up different kinds

It’s the fact that I have a deep-set belief in what

of conversations when people are frank like that.

an artwork is and does, and that mainly comes

You respond and you have a great conversation.

from looking at, or remembering things that have

That frankness is an important thing when you can

profoundly moved me. These things remind me that

manage it with other artists.

there is nothing more important than art. But there Thank you for your time.


Ormond Papers XXX

I am that I am/ Jean McCaughey. 2013 Work in two parts: a. Willow charcoal and compressed charcoal on 300gsm Velin Arches paper, sheet 80 x 120cm. b. Framed two-sided instructions for annual bell-ringing ritual, inkjet print on archival paper, sheet 21x 29.7cm. Photography: Christian Capurro Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery

White Noise Where are you? William Abbey is a second year Arts student


hite Noise depicts the effects of media and consumerism on our postmodern society; real disasters are used to rehearse future disasters and tourists travel to be part of the most photographed

barn rather than see the barn itself. Critics employ Jean Baudrillard’s ideas of simulacra and hperreality to explain this experience of postmodernity in the novel.1 The conclusion of John Frow’s reading is that characters are still able to experience an idea of depth but he argues that the novel does not exhibit nostalgia for a previous way of being.2 While Frow presents a convincing reconciliation between a need for depth and a depthless society, it is not clear that nostalgia and sentimental regret have indeed been lost.3 Rather, the novel and its protagonist, Jack Gladney, express nostalgia for the modernist experience, despite being complicit in the simulacra itself. In what follows, Frow’s critical position is unpacked and Baudrillard’s critical framework is applied to White Noise to argue for nostalgia’s possibility. Frow interprets the postmodern world of White Noise as one of constant simulacra; representations of the real have become real themselves. To support this argument, Frow contrasts representations of typicality: nineteenth century realism used typicality to place characters in existent social strata, whereas in White Noise typicality is a deliberately constructed representation to mask truths, such as parents with “well-made faces” seeking “communal recognition” or Jack’s change of name to J.A.K. Gladney.4 The lack of difference between real and representation implodes the distinction between a generality “embedded in life” and “embedded in representations of life”5. Frow introduces two theorists of simulacra: Baudrillard, who criticises the mediation responsible for the loss of the real as a “moral fall”, and Deleuze, who proposes that the world of simulacra is split from the existence of the original.6 According to Frow, primary representations in White Noise are treated as real and only “appear” to proceed or follow the real, suggesting that the novel also reflects Deleuze’s model of simulacra.7 Consumerism and television are central to Frow’s reading of postmodernity. Consumers develop representations of themselves that become real. Garry Kinnane identifies that Jack consumes not for the satisfaction in “acquisition” but for spending and being seen to acquire.8 Moreover, Frow suggests that consumerism is responsible for the “myth” that authenticity remains possible.9 Television has significant cultural power and the distinction between reality and representation is diminished such that when the Airborne Toxic Event is not televised, characters feel the world no longer cares.10 In Frow’s view, characters can perceive this phenomenon: Murray actively analyses television’s powerful social role and his students intend to boycott television.11 However, it appears consumerism, television and their effects are entrenched and inescapable. Frow concludes that depth is no longer found in a “fullness of being”, a phrase referring to Jack thinking satisfaction can be derived through shopping.12 Repeatedly, the characters fail to fulfill themselves by consuming. After being described as “harmless”, Jack shops “with reckless abandon” and feels he is growing “in self-regard”, but afterwards feels empty, silent and “wants to be alone”13. Frow presents this as cultural and XXX Ormond Papers


economic phenomena, such as the German nun who pretends to believe in God because she is aware that society needs people who appear to do so.14 Frow concludes that the individual in postmodernity relates to culture and society differently: depth is located in surface instead of substance and there is not nostalgia and regret for old ways of being.15 Certainly, White Noise enacts Baudrillardian theory. Cornel Bonca notes that White Noise aids our understanding of mediated society and “illuminates” the theoretical approaches to postmodernity.16 Baudrillard believes we are currently in a phase of the image in which the image “bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum”17. Baudrillard distinguishes simulating from representing or “feigning” with an example of illness: “feigning” is simply pretending whereas simulating means “produc[ing] in himself some of the symptoms”18. DeLillo depicts this literally: after the Airborne Toxic Event begins, Jack’s family begin to experience symptoms of toxic exposure, “clammy hands” or “déjà vu”, after hearing each one on the radio.19 For Baudrillard, the result is the collapse of categorical distinctions such as “true and false”, and “real and imaginary”20. Baudrillard believes present society is an inescapable hyperreal. The real and signs of the real are equated whilst the real and imaginary are indistinguishable.21 Murray and Jack’s visit to “THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA” illustrates this; Murray explains that they cannot see “an image” but are part of “an aura” that they “can’t get outside”22. As Bonca notes, Murray is the “true Baudrillardian man” and DeLillo uses him to voice Baudrillard’s theories, which, Lentricchia states, allows DeLillo to describe these positions without endorsement.23 Deterrence machines obscure the existence of the hyperreal, maintaining the “fiction” that our world is real. Baudrillard’s archetypal example is Disneyland, where a perceivably hyperreal version of America obscures the fact America itself is equally simulated.24 According to Ahmad Ghashmari, television and the supermarket are the two realms in the novel most invaded by simulacra; clearly, the supermarket, replete with simulacra, acts as a deterrence machine.25 It appears to be perceptibly hyperreal, the “gleaming and wet” fruit is “self-conscious” while the “dull and unlocatable roar” Jack hears suggests he perceives the hyperreality.26 The evidently hyperreal supermarket obscures the proliferation of simulacra in the home, which Frow identifies with the excess of packaging at meals and in the garbage.27 In his analysis of consumerism in fiction, Christoph Lindner argues that the experiences of consumerism DeLillo presents “emerge from and are enabled by the condition of postmodernity”28. The supermarket enables consumerism’s commodification of society. Baudrillard’s hyperreality is closely related to the mediation of events through television, a medium that combines advertising, fiction, the real and exaggerations of the real.29 In Baudrillard’s view “television is the world”, it’s superficial and responsible for cultural implosions.30 In White Noise, only two places matter: “where they live and their TV set”31. Critical work has established the cultural power of television in White


Ormond Papers XXX

Noise: Michael Hardin writes that in White Noise, “death and disaster are media events and cultural moments” while Thomas Heise argues that society is both “entranced by spectacles” and “desensitised to them by dint of their repeatability as images”32. The mediation of disasters into spectacles diminishes the value of tragic events without television audiences. When the Toxic Event receives no media attention, a man asks, “Don’t those people know what we’ve been through? … Don’t they know it’s real?”33 Similarly, when there is no media coverage of a horrific plane crash, it is asked, “they went through all that for nothing?”34 In Laura Barrett’s view the power of media to provide value underlines the fact that language can “shape the world”35. Baudrillard’s analysis of Watergate is similar; he labels it “scandal-effect” rather than “scandal” because what defines it is not what occurred but the reaction provoked.36 DeLillo’s imagery of the unconscious suggests that the hyperreal is pervasive and unnoticed. Throughout the novel, brand names appear randomly in the text, such as “Mastercard, Visa, American Express”37. Lentricchia states that Jack could only say these unconsciously, as if possesed.38 They are the “chants” and “mantras” that Murray analyses, but Jack appears oblivious to this infiltration of consumerism.39 There is a similar spiritual tone, one of “ritual meaning” and “looming wonder” when Steffie says “Toyota Celica” whilst asleep during the Airborne Toxic Event.40 This utterance, placed during the novel’s apocalyptic event, suggests that consumerism is displacing death as a central motivating concern. Kinnane argues that the “central ethical concern” of White Noise is that consumerism can shape a child’s dreams, which Jack, in his moment of “splendid transcendence”, seems not to notice.41 White Noise is deeply interested in how hyperreality goes unnoticed and shapes our thoughts. Baudrillard’s attitude to the loss of the real is both fatalistic and pessimistic.42 This pessimism is encapsulated in Baudrillard’s “the desert of the real” and underlined in the allegory of Borges’ slowly deteriorating simulacrum-map.43 Murray is an alternate approach to Baudrillard; as Lindner discusses, Murray celebrates the hyperreality, evoking Deleuze’s account of simulacra, which is free from what Frow terms “Baudrillardian melancholy”44. However, White Noise more closely mirrors Baudrillard’s simulacra, as evident in Murray’s discussion of supermarkets. His comparison of supermarkets and apartments to delicatessens and houses are analogous to the effects of consumerism and mediation in society.45 Like hyperreality, they are spaces which obscure the real of death. Despite the pessimism of Baudrillard’s simulacra, Frow is right that characters can locate depth in simulacrum. This is most apparent in the friendships of the novel. Hyperreality is just as pervasive in individuals as it is in commodities, whether within the eclectic, multi-marriage Gladney family or between the odd-couple of Jack and Murray, sincere friendships are formed.

XXX Ormond Papers


DeLillo presents Wilder as the only character who exists outside the simulacra. He has limited language and Babette hopes he “stays the way he is forever”46. Babette equates having language with “radio”, a mediated reality, as illustrated in this dialogue: “Is it my imagination”, I said, “or is he talking less than ever?” “There’s enough talk. What is talk? I don’t want him to talk. The less he talks, the better.” “Denise worries about you.” “Who?” “Denise.” “Talk is radio,” she said.47 Wilder is not hypnotised by television like his family. Whilst watching Babette, “only Wilder remained calm”48. While the Gladney family are normalised to “calamity and death” in the spectacle of television, Wilder can be moved, “crying softly”49, after watching his mother, a response which fascinates Murray. Wilder is the subject before desensitisation to the televised spectacle of death. In the final chapter, Wilder appears to challenge ideas of postmodernity. Earlier in White Noise, Murray outlines his reading of car crashes: they are “positive”, “optimistic” and “full of the old ‘can-do’ spirit”, which appears to be a postmodern perversion of the American dream.50 As Hardin notes, DeLillo’s use of the car crash ties him to Andy Warhol and the Baudrillardian idea that “death is the simulation”51. Wilder can, whilst “mystically charged”, cross the expressway unharmed.52 DeLillo appears to be defying the logic of postmodernity that expects car crashes and simulated death. Babette and Jack adore Wilder as he is not trapped in their hyperreality. The nature of hyperreality is that eventually Wilder will grow and become part of the simulacra. James Berger notes that “escape” from the simulacra is not possible; Wilder represents only the “insufficient way out”53. While the inaccessibility of childhood innocence suggests that the characters cannot emulate Wilder’s attitude, he shows hope that postmodern hyperreality is not all consuming. The view that the characters desire the real is reinforced by DeLillo’s imagery of death. As stated above, death has become a media spectacle in White Noise, leading Leonard Wilcox to ask how any authentic meaning is possible.54 DeLillo presents a range of views regarding death, what Elizabeth Rosen sees as “an academic-style dissection of apocalyptic sensibilities”55. Postmodernism commodifies death, whether that is


Ormond Papers XXX

in the spectacles on television or in Murray’s statement, “Here we don’t die, we shop”56. Winnie Richards’s speech provides an alternate, somewhat nostalgic view: “I don’t know what your personal involvement is with this substance,” she said, “but I think it’s a mistake to lose one’s sense of death, even one’s fear of death. Isn’t death the boundary we need? Doesn’t it give a precious texture to life, a sense of definition? You have to ask yourself whether anything you do in this life would have beauty and meaning without the knowledge you carry of a final line, a border or limit.”57 Consistently, characters try to infringe this boundary to fill an emptiness. Jack comments that participants in Babette’s posture class seek to “ward off death by following rules of good grooming”58. Dylar has the ability to take away the fear of death and Lindner suggests that it symbolises the emptiness that “is the postmodern condition”59. Similarly, Thomas Peyser notes that death’s role in providing boundaries is intensified in the globalised world where national and cultural boundaries have been diminished.60 However, two critics have identified moments of engagement with the real through death. Hastin argues that the only real moment of death is when Jack is shot.61 Hyperreality ceases to obscure death as Jack sees “all those vivid textures and connections buried in mounds of ordinary stuff”, stating that he “was disappointed”62. Hardin describes this as the moment “death has become tangible” and argues that postmodern works from DeLillo, Ballard and Warhol all feature a similar crucial moment where death “must be confronted as real”63. David Wyatt’s analysis of Babette is remarkably similar. After hearing of Jack’s exposure to Nyodene D., Babette’s reaction is unlike “anything she’d ever done, anything she seemed to be”64. Wyatt highlights this as a unique moment of emotion that is not mere “reproduction”. Rather, it is Babette’s closest experience of the real.65 Her use of the phrase “seemed to be” indicates that her regular exterior is a falsehood, emphasising the importance of this brief moment of the real. Evidently, DeLillo’s use of childhood imagery and death illustrates a strong desire for the real. In these brief moments of actual engagement with the real, real emotion is felt, be it Jack and Babette admiring the innocent Wilder or the characters’ raw fear of death. Throughout, DeLillo appears to place value on real emotion, as if he is nostalgic for the previous world of an authentic reality. Jack does not fit in with White Noise’s postmodernity. He sees “narcotic undertow and eerie diseased brain-sucking power” in television and is out of place when the American environments department ask “where were you when James Dean died?”66. Further, Jack derives his understanding of the world empirically; whilst driving with Heinrich, Jack believes it is raining because he sees rain on the windshield whereas Heinrich believes sense perception is often wrong and all he will commit to is that “it’s going to rain XXX Ormond Papers


tonight”, because he heard it on the radio.67 DeLillo takes our existing doubts regarding sense perception and skepticism of weather presenters but applies the logic of hyperreality, where radio is trusted because conventional true/false distinctions have imploded. DeLillo demonstrates this idea further when Howard, Jack’s German teacher, praises the “self-assurance and skill” of a weatherman, a category that journalists are not conventionally known for.68 Critics state that Jack represents a late modernist in postmodernity.69 Unsurprisingly, a characteristic of this modernist position is nostalgia for a pre-postmodern world. As Wilcox notes, Baudrillard sees changes in subjectivity in the shift from modernity to postmodernity, changes Jack cannot fully comprehend.70 Despite Jack’s skepticism of the simulacra and the aforementioned desire for the modernist world, he is complicit in the simulacra. Lindner illustrates this in the opening chapter, where the simulated identities of returning students and parents are constructed for an audience, of which Jack is a member.71 Equally, Jack has been shaped by television; his questions to Heinrich about the murderer with whom he plays chess evoke sensationalist reporting: “Six people. Did he care for his weapons obsessively? Did he have an arsenal stashed in his shabby little room off a six-storey concrete car park?” …. “A rooftop sniper. Did he write in his diary before he went up to the roof? Did he make tapes of his voice, go to the movies, read books about other mass murderers to refresh his memory?”72 Like Heinrich’s understanding of weather, Jack’s understanding of murderers is shaped by mediated images. Furthermore, Jack is part of the consumer culture, as previously discussed in the example where Jack shops prolifically when he is described as harmless outside of his academic persona. This shopping trip becomes what Karen Weekes terms a “mock-epic quest”. In her view, consumption replaces fear of death in the novel as an individual’s key motivation.73 Ultimately, Jack contributes to the hyperreality of which he is skeptical. Certainly, Jack’s identity as an academic is simulated. To create his academic identity, he changes his initials to J.A.K., alters his appearance and wears glasses. Now, Jack is “the false character that follows the name around”74; his simulated self is more real than he is. Mark Conroy identifies that Jack’s authority is a result of the “aura” and the relationship with a historic figure, highlighting Jack’s comment that they have “an aura to maintain”.75 Modernism and nostalgia are problematised by the instability of meaning in hyperreality. When categories of truth are imploded, it is no longer clear that Jack’s position as a late modernist or his nostalgia are not themselves simulated. Baudrillard articulates this, saying that in the hyperreal “nostalgia assumes its full


Ormond Papers XXX

meaning”76. Stacey Olster argues that Jack depicts simulated nostalgia, suggesting that his nostalgia is a parody or pastiche form, such as when he evokes the American “manifest destiny” in the opening chapter’s arrival of station wagons.77 However, the final chapter suggests that the reflective, critical perspective required for nostalgia is possible. As Jack describes the supermarket, he has a detached and authorial voice that is not lost in the paraphernalia and sensory confusion of the bright colour and advertising material experienced earlier in the novel.78 Wilcox suggests that the final image of Jack is of a “modernist last stand” and a “wish to retain some aspects of the legacy of modernism … in a postmodern world”79. Despite the implosion of meaning in the novel, DeLillo appears to allow Jack an objective perspective. This provides the possibility of exhibiting authentic nostalgia within the novel. Furthermore, the use of satire within the novel offers an alternate critical position for nostalgia. There is a distinction between the ideas exhibited by Jack and by the novel. While Jack’s nostalgia can be contested as simulated or real, the novel evokes nostalgia for a past age through ridiculing the present. This can be seen in the American environments department: their behaviour is childlike as they compete to identify where they were when celebrities died, and as the chapter ends, lunch begins devolving into a food fight.80 Similarly, SIMUVAC, a government agency that simulates evacuations, uses the novel’s key apocalyptic event, the Airborne Toxic Event, as an opportunity to “practice”81. In both instances, the world of White Noise is so dissimilar to our understanding of academic and government departments, that the novel cannot avoid expressing a sentimental attachment to old ways of being. In showing the way characters find depth in surface, Frow captures an element of White Noise’s optimism, however, as shown above there is also room for nostalgia. Certainly, in a world where all traditional binaries have been imploded, Frow’s argument that nostalgia cannot exist is powerful. Accepting the simulacra whilst allowing for nostalgia or authenticity is unavoidably problematic. In assessing postmodernity, DeLillo is deeply interested in the mediated society and how notions of simulacra can explain it. However, the hyperreality of White Noise is distinctive; at times characters are afforded a critical view of hyperreality and, occasionally, brief glimpses of the real. It is in these moments that DeLillo presents a nostalgia that the hyperreal cannot undermine or question. White Noise confirms our fears of postmodernity, but finds a place for the self within this world.

XXX Ormond Papers


Endnotes Wilcox, L 1991, ‘Baudrillard, Delillo’s ‘White Noise,’ and the End


Ibid., p. 365.

of Heroic Narrative’, Contemporary Literature, vol. 32, no. 3, pp.


Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, pp. 427-428.


19 Bonca, C 1996, ‘Don Delillo’s White Noise: The Natural Lan-



Hardin, M 2002, ‘Postmodernism’s Desire for Simulated Death:

Andy Warhol’s Car Crashes, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, and Don


Delillo’s White Noise’, Lit: Literature Interpretation Theory, vol. 13,


no. 1, pp. 21-50.

(ed.) 2001, Jean Baudrillard: Selected Works, Stanford University


Frow, J 1990, ‘The Last Things before the Last: Notes on White

Baudrillard, J 2001, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, in Poster, M

Press, Stanford, pp. 169-187.

Noise’, South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 89, no. 2, p. 427;


Ibid, p. 171.

Osteen, M 1998, White Noise: Text and Criticism, The Viking


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 36-130.

Critical Library, New York, pp. 1-326.


Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, p. 171.

Jameson, F 1991, ‘The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, in


Ibid., p. 170.

Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 13-15.

University Press, Durham, pp. 6-27;


Bonca, ‘Don Delillo’s White Noise’, p. 38;


Lentricchia, F 1991, ‘Tales of the Electronic Tribe’, in Len-



Barker, C 2008, Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, Sage,

London, p. 207. 6

Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last: Notes on White Noise’, p.

416; 7

DeLillo, D 1985, White Noise, Picador, Oxford, p. 19.

Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, p. 416; 8

Wyatt, D 2010, ‘The Postmodern’, in Secret Histories: Reading

tricchia, F (ed.) 1991, New Essays on White Noise, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 87-113. 28

Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, p. 171.


Ghashmari, A 2010, ‘Living in a Simulacrum: How TV and the

Supermarket Redefines Reality in Don Delillo’s White Noise’, 452ºF: Electronic journal of theory of literature and comparative

Twentieth-Century American Literature, Johns Hopkins University

literature, vol. 3, pp. 171-185.

Press, Baltimore, p. 234.


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 43-196.


Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, pp. 427-428.


Lindner, C 2003, ‘Shop Till You Drop: Retail Therapy in Delillo’s


Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, pp. 419-420.

Ibid., p. 421. 10


guage of the Species’, College Literature, vol. 23, no. 2, pp.

Kinnane, G 1998, ‘Shopping at Last!: History, Fiction and

White Noise’, in Fictions of Commodity Culture: From theVictorian

the Anti-Suburban Tradition’, in McCann, A (ed.) 1998, Writing

to the Postmodern, Ashgate, Burlington, pp. 137-167.

the Everyday: Australian Literature and the Limits of Suburbia,


University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, p. 53.

H (ed.) 1983, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture,

Baudrillard, J 1983, ‘The Ecstasy of Communication’, in Foster,


Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, p. 419.

Bay Press, Port Townsend, pp. 126-133;


Ibid., p. 420.



Ibid., pp. 423-424.

Jean Baudrillard: Selected Works, Stanford University Press,


Ibid., p. 427;

Stanford, pp. 188-209.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 24.


Barker, Cultural Studies, p. 343.


Ibid., pp. 99-100.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 78.

Ormond Papers XXX

Baudrillard, J 2001, ‘Fatal Strategies’, in Poster, M (ed.) 2001,

Hardin, ‘Postmodernism’s Desire for Simulated Death’, p. 48;

Don Delillo’s Novels’, in Apocalyptic Transformation: Apocalypse

Heise, T 2013, ‘Don Delillo’, in Parrish, T (ed.) 2013, The Cam-

and the Postmodern Imagination, Lexington Books, Lanham, pp.


bridge Companion to American, Cambridge University Press,


Cambridge, pp. 290-300.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 45. Ibid., pp. 262-263.


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 188-189.



Ibid., p. 110.


Ibid., p. 31.

40 Barrett, L 2012, ‘Don Delillo’, in Duvall, J (ed.) 2012, The Cam-


Lindner, ‘Shop Till You Drop’, p. 166.

bridge Companion to American Fiction after 1945, Cambridge


Peyser, T 1996, ‘Globalization in America: The Case of Don

University Press, Cambridge, p. 248.

Delillo’s White Noise’, Clio, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 255-271.


Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, pp. 175-177.


Hardin, ‘Postmodernism’s Desire for Simulated Death’, p. 47.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 119.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 360.


Lentricchia, ‘Tales of the Electronic Tribe’, p. 102.


Hardin, ‘Postmodernism’s Desire for Simulated Death’, pp. 22-


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 61.



Ibid., p. 180.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 233.


Ibid., p. 181;


Wyatt, ‘The Postmodern’, p. 251.


Kinnane, ‘Shopping at Last!’, p. 52.


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 18-80.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2007, ‘Jean Baudrillard’,


Ibid., pp. 25-28.

viewed 23 January 2013, <


Ibid., pp. 65-66.



Ghashmari, ‘Living in a Simulacrum’, p. 348. Wilcox, ‘Baudrillard, Delillo’s ‘White Noise’, p. 348.


Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, p. 169.



Lindner, ‘Shop Till You Drop’, pp. 148-149;


Lindner, ‘Shop Till You Drop’, p. 141.


Frow, ‘The Last Things before the Last’, p. 420.


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 72-74.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 45.


Weekes, K 2007, ‘Consuming and Dying: Meaning and the


Ibid., pp. 42-271.

Marketplace in Don Delillo’s White Noise’, Lit: Literature Interpreta-


Ibid., p. 303.

tion Theory, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 285-302.


Ibid., p. 124.


DeLillo, White Noise, p. 20.




Conroy, M 1994, ‘From Tombstone to Tabloid: Authority Fig-


Ibid., p. 251.

ured in White Noise’, Critique, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 97-110.


Hardin, ‘Postmodernism’s Desire for Simulated Death’, pp. 26-


Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, p. 174.


Olster, S 2008, ‘White Noise’, in Duvall, J 2008, White Noise, Cam-

39. 58

DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 370-371.

bridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 79-93.


Berger, J 2005, ‘Falling Towers and Postmodern Wild Children:


DeLillo, White Noise, pp. 374-375.

Oliver Sacks, Don Delillo, and Turns against Language’, PMLA,


Wilcox, ‘Baudrillard, Delillo’s ‘White Noise’, p. 363.

vol. 120, no. 2, pp. 341-361.


DeLillo, White Noise , pp. 81-82.


Ibid., p. 162


Wilcox, ‘Baudrillard, Delillo’s ‘White Noise’, p. 353.


Rosen, E 2008, ‘All the Expended Faith: Apocalypticism in

XXX Ormond Papers


Mushroom Washers We were a family who washed mushrooms: the mushroom washers. In the heavy breath of autumn afternoons pale grey shreds of rubbery skin fell from between my mother’s fingers into a Pyrex bowl of water. Her nose used to scrunch and shrivel at the idea of simply wiping with a damp paper towel. Visiting my father’s office on Sunday nights, I hung off my mother’s finger like a key ring. We walked up slatted stairs with no backs – I hated them, saw feet falling through the illogical gaps, bodies following into the smell of carpet and chemistry. Later, I saw the precariousness of crossing a road, choosing a word. One night I found a rabbit on our neighbour’s driveway, held out my hand and breathed the silence of their new car as it stopped and the rabbit ran through the gap.

My mother’s knuckles were cling wrap skin over ridges of stone as we walked home. In year seven Chinese we watched Mulan with Mr Wang, who, after we begged for fifteen minutes, showed us the morning calisthenics of 1960’s China while we cackled and spent the rest of the year ridiculing the pictures in the textbook. And one day my friend stabbed me through the tartan skirt, leaving a dot of point five lead in a vein. And the year my mother bought me a razor at the supermarket, when the sun made four o’clock faces and I waited for the bus home, I still named the one obese goldfish in the pond, as if this act of preservation was any use at all. Merry Li

Sunset on Marine Parade it was the second weekend of March and still the air fell down our throats in shards like something cremated. on one side of the glass at IGA, men in parkas stacked tubs of Connoisseur. you did a Catherine Tate impression â&#x20AC;&#x201C; gooseberry and cinnamon yoghurt? on the other side, we marvelled at the ugliness of middle-aged men, bellies pregnant yet lifeless, and vowed never to buy parking tickets, vote and pay fines. later, when Marine Parade was drowning in the candied-orange sun, we ate our disappointing pale reincarnations of Frosty Fruits while the clouds continued faceless. as the cyclists drew straight lines over circles of dog prints, we watched the sand flick up from behind loversâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; feet. over there, men were erecting sculptures and one had been pre-rusted, as if in resignation. Merry Lii

First year Science student

XXX Ormond Papers


The Paradox of Terror Are we just paranoid? Caitlin Clifford is a second year Arts student


he impact of terrorism manifests through acts that transcend their physical threat to our security. It operates as a discursive force, imbued with discourses of fear and fragmentation.1 Terrorism incul-

cates fear, eliciting anxiety among citizens from the often-promulgated target of Western democracies.2 This essay analyses Bourke’s assumptions about fear in order to interrogate why, in the context of counter-terrorism, it is our fear that concerns us. It adopts Bourke’s description of fear to denote a mode of unrelenting anxiety evidenced in Western responses to terrorism. Countenancing Freud’s assumption that fear constitutes “a rational appreciation of a real danger”3, this essay treats Bourke’s description of ‘fear’ as a force analogous to anxiety. Since terrorism emerges as both a real and illusory threat, anxiety is a more useful instrument to measure the impact of terrorist violence – a peril that is simultaneously “sensed but unspecified”4. First, terrorism inculcates fear through three key mechanisms. First, it compounds pre-existing anxieties linked to our precarious state in ‘risk societies’. Perceptions of unalloyed terror disrupt the paradigm of an infallible sovereign state and undermine our deluded perception of security. Second, propagated methods assured to assuage our fears of terrorist violence are authoritarian and arbitrary, rendering the terrorist enemy a hostile ‘Other’. This compromises our capacity to fear for those persecuted by counter-terrorism measures. Third, it is the compounded ‘fear of something that may befall us’ – evoked by the state’s arbitrary violence against terrorist suspects – which is the prevailing emotion that we associate with the fear of terrorism. Terrorism has emerged as a competing threat in an already perilous society pervaded by fear and anxiety. Cash and Mackay posit that terrorism has simply compounded pre-existing fears occasioned by the onset of modernity.5 6 The ascendancy of risk as a “chief contour of everyday life”7, has enabled terrorism to enhance anxieties that permeate modern communities preoccupied with safety and security. Here, the threat ‘of something that may befall us’ is rendered “omnipresent” and “impossible to evade”8. Terrorism elicits a discursive response because it disrupts the paradigm of an infallible sovereign that may have previously assured our protection. Terrorist violence threatens the foundations upon which sovereign authority derives, and undermines our deluded impression of immunity.9 As a consequence of terrorism, our faith in institutionalised order is “eroded”, and the state’s exercise of biopower – chiefly, its ability to control a social body – is challenged.10 Since territorial control confers legitimacy for the use of biopower11, terrorism threatens the authority of the state by proving its security measures to be “porous” and “easy to penetrate”12. Perceived as a “scandalous inversion of power”, terrorist attacks produce conditions “dominated by a sense of insecurity”13. Here, states can no longer assure their citizens’ protection against an indiscriminate enemy that proliferates in the civil imaginary. As a consequence, formerly coherent communities may “dissolve into a mass of anomic individuals” preoccupied with “personal survival”14. The aftermath of September 11 provides a cogent example. While unified in their patriotic response against the perpetrators of the event, American society was dislocated by the discursive impact on an attack that placed at risk “the continuity of XXX Ormond Papers


the operations of the United States Government”15. Similarly, the London Bombings formulated conditions in which Britain’s government was forced to act “on the basis of prediction not certainty”16. In order to alleviate the experiences of anxiety and dislocation occasioned by the threat of terrorism we turn to tough political sanctions that purport to safeguard our security.17 According to Mackay18, bureaucratic responses to terrorism appeal to an underlying and “desperate desire” to “get things under control”19. Indeed, just as Freud’s grandson used the ‘fort-da’ game as a means to gain “symbolic control” over his traumatic exposure to the whims of his mother, so too do citizens threatened by terrorism “draw upon [an] available set of cultural resources” to assuage their anxiety.20 This involves citizens endorsing an elevation of state control that targets a popularly propagated perception of the imagined terrorist enemy.21 In response to the moral panic produced by terrorist violence, governing authorities channel social anxieties towards a specific target for persecution.22 In the United States, the uncharged terrorist is exposed to torture and the prospect of indefinite detention if labelled an unlawful combatant23. Similarly, suspect terrorists in Britain can be detained for up to 28 days in the parallel hope of imposing a “sense of control” in situations “that are perceived to lack such property”24. This supports Cohen’s claim that moral panics require “the delineation of a scapegoat” – an identifiable object onto which “social fears and anxieties [are] projected”25. A chief manifestation of this symbolic control issued against the terrorist is the proliferation of a friend-enemy binary. Here, the terrorist suspect is rendered virtually ‘abject’; their identity subsumed into a dangerous spectre of fear and violence.26 This sharp delineation of citizens and terrorist suspects compromises our capacity to fear for those persecuted by counter-terrorism. According to Cash, exclusivist friend-enemy mentalities “offer an answer to the anxieties of insecurity” by relying on ideologies of exclusion, hatred and dehumanisation.27 Since the efficacy of counter-terrorism is measured by its capacity to identify and contain “an evil ‘Other’”, terrorist suspects become a site upon which we project our social suffering.28 Since the norms governing those whose lives are “grievable” are “circumscribed and produced” by the state, terrorist suspects fail to elicit our sympathy.29 Tougher sanctions against the purported enemy – which operate outside traditional realms of state authority – become “mesmeric mantra” that dehumanise and persecute terrorist suspects to offer a false pretence of security.30 The traumatised or incarcerated body of the terrorist becomes a site to alleviate anxiety; a vehicle upon which the sovereign’s restored order becomes “dramatised” for civilian’s reception31. However, in order for the state to renounce its accountability for the persecution of the uncharged terrorist, suspects must be imagined first as “a figure of fear, and a threat to another form of life”32. Here, the terrorist suspect is positioned as an “unlawful combatant”33: an “exemplary site” for the state to demonstrate its enduring power.34 As Warner describes, in order for the state to reduce the cogency of “enemy powers” and provide assurances of safety, it must make terrorist suspects visible through spectacles of persecution.35


Ormond Papers XXX

Indeed, while motivated simultaneously by concerns about state security, the incarceration of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay provided a violent spectacle to “render visible” the invisible enemy.37 By propagating terrorist suspects as “enemies of the state” and “the worst of the worst”, American bureaucrats rationalised a violent suspension of the law that affirmed the prevailing dichotomy between citizens and the terrorist Other.36 Legislative responses to the London Bombings similarly entrenched a discursive friend-enemy mentality.38 The killing of de Menezes by London police – a Brazilian-born electrician mistaken for the homegrown terrorist suspect Hussain Osman responsible for the London Bombings – highlights the prevalence of this binary logic.39 Rendered a racialised victim of the anxiety-fuelled social imaginary, de Menezes’ ordinary denim jacket was deemed ‘bulky’, and his run for the departing Tube train was considered a dangerous leap over the barrier. His subsequentmurder illustrates forcefully the invocation of caesura between ‘the public’ – the representative white corpus of society - and the racialised target of purported “Middle Eastern appearance”40. While September 11 and the London Bombings elicited contrasting bureaucratic responses, both reduce the terrorist suspect to a political commodity; an emissary imprinted with “discourses of domination”41. This demonstrates cogently the way in which counter-terrorism measures designate those who sit outside the imagined political community, and do not warrant our grief, fear or sympathy.42 Indeed, it is this dichotomising distinction between terrorist and citizen that compromises our capacity to fear for ‘those people on whom we inflict suffering’. Counter-terrorism measures – which include heightened surveillance, torture and the indefinite detention of suspects – see the “commodification of the body” through acts of political violence.43 Here, terrorist suspects are staged violently as “political texts” through means that make it difficult to evoke sympathy or fear from the observing civil subject.44 Complex personal histories are “obliterated”, reduced to an injurious framework of friend-enemy binaries.45 Bush’s crusading declaration that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” emphasises the “dehumanising distinctions” made between citizen and suspect that compromise our ability to sympathise.46 While the victims of September 11 and the London Bombings were “individuated” at memorials, terrorist suspects are “decorporealised”, considered only “collateral damage” in the war on terror.47 While this friend-enemy binary constrains our capacity to fear for those persecuted by counter-terrorism, it paradoxically heightens our anxiety, compounding our fear that ‘something may befall us’. By targeting terrorist suspects through means that are unrestrained and arbitrary, the state establishes a mode of existence in which life exists only at the “whim of the sovereign”48. Here, the suspension of the law implies that the conditions of the terrorist suspect are always potentially the conditions of every subject.49 This confers a precarious mode of existence – a ‘state of exception’ – in which the sovereign “produces and guarantees the situation entirely”50. Sites such as Guantanamo Bay and the Stockwell Tube Station emerge as XXX Ormond Papers


lawless sites of unchecked imperial power that affirm the sovereign’s position as the ‘ideal-ego’, like Lacan’s “God-like Other”, who has the right to circumscribe truth and exercise indiscriminate authority.51 As Bush’s presidential aide explains “we are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”52. By demonstrating that the demarcation of terrorists as ‘fear-inducing’ is sufficient to justify their exemption from legal protection, the sovereign wields “principally unlimited authority” and emphasises that the inoffensive person could be construed as a terrorist suspect.53 Therefore, measures invoked to alleviate our anxiety paradoxically heighten our fear ‘of something that may befall us’. Here, the sovereign produces conditions in which – if we fail to adhere to the propagated norms – we fear that our security will be threatened.54 Since zones of exception communicate an arbitrary suspension of the law, it creates conditions in which neither the sovereign nor the subject’s desires are guaranteed to align “beyond a moment”55. Indeed, it is the law’s “indeterminate element” – which corresponds to the whims of the sovereign – that reduces our faith in state security to a “fantasy of incommensurability”56. The persecution of uncharged terrorists operates in a “continuum of spaces” including the abject body, the state and an “imagined community of utopian completion”57. However, this imagined community of completion – free from the threat of terrorism – is a fallacy due to the arbitrary nature of counter-terrorism controls. As Bauman and Butler assert58, while counter-terrorism offers the promise of enduring “sameness” and “homogeneity” – a “reinvigorated fantasy” of former order – assuring this security remains elusive “precisely because of the ways in which [it] is sought”59. This perpetuates a state of unrelenting anxiety dominated by a fear ‘of something that may befall us’. Counter-terrorism measures propitiate and inculcate fear. By rendering terrorist suspects ‘abject’, counter-terrorism techniques provide compelling emissaries upon which we project our pervasive anxieties. This compromises our capacity to fear for those whom we persecute in the name of homeland security. However, counter-terrorism measures simultaneously heighten our fear that we too could fall victim to the sovereign’s indiscriminate violence. Therefore, Bourke’s assumptions about the relationship between fear and the ‘terrorised Other’ hold credence in the context of counter-terrorism. However, it is only by extending Bourke’s assertions that the paradoxical nature of counter-terrorism is revealed, emerging as a force that inculcates and compounds our anxiety.


Ormond Papers XXX

Endnotes McMillan, N 2004, ‘Beyond representation; cultural under-


Hutchison, ‘The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism’, p. 388.

standings of the September 11 attacks’, Australian and New


Bush, G 2001, ‘Military Order No.1 Detention Treatment, and

Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 380 – 400;

Trail of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism’,

Aly, A & Green, L 2010, ‘Fear, Anxiety and the State of Terror’,

Military Order Administration of George W. Bush, vol. 66, no. 22,

Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 268 – 281.

pp. 1665-1668.



Kaplan, A 2003, ‘Homeland insecurities: reflections on lan-


Bully, D 2008, ‘Foreign’ Terror? London Bombings, Resistance

guage and space’, Radical History Review, vol. 85, no. 4, pp.

and the Failing State’, British Journal of Politics & International


Relations, vol. 10, pp. 379-394.


Hutchinson, M 1972, ‘The Concept of Revolutionary Terrorism’,


Bell, V 2005, ‘The scenography of suicide: terror, politics and

The Journal of Conflict Resolution, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 383-396.

the humiliated witness’, Economy and society, vol. 24, no. 2, pp.

4 Aly & Green, ‘Fear, Anxiety and the State of Terror’, p. 269.



Cash, J 2009, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, Australian Feminist Law

Journal, vol. 30, pp. 87-107.


Mackay, ‘Seeking Security in Turbulent Times’, p. 9.


Ibid. Cash, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, p. 95. Zizek, S 2002, ‘Are we in a War? Do we have an Enemy?’


Mackay, H 2005, ‘Seeking Security in Turbulent Times’, The Age,






Hier, S 2003, ‘Risk and panic in late modernity: implications

London Review of Books, vol. 24, no. 10, pp. 1 – 7.

and the converging sites of social anxiety’ British Journal of


Hier, ‘Risk and panic in late modernity’, p. 8.

Sociology, vol. 54, no. 1, pp. 3-20.


United States Department of Justice 2002, ‘Memorandum for


Cash, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, p. 87.

John Rizzo’, Office of Legal Council, pp. 1 – 18;


McMillan, ‘Beyond representation’, p. 384.

Committee of Federal Courts, 2004, ‘The Indefinite Detention

Mackay, ‘Seeking Security in Turbulent Times’, p. 9. Foucault,

of “Enemy Combatants”: balancing due process and national

M 1979, ‘10 January 1979’, in Senellart, M (ed.) 2004, The Birth

security in the context of the war on terror’, The Association of

of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collége de France 1978 – 79,

the Bar of the City of New York, pp. 1-154.

Palgrave MacMillan, New York, pp. 1-27.




Brown, W 2010, Walled States and Waning Sovereignty, Zone

Books, New York, pp. 43-70. 12

Bauman, Z. 2004, Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts,

Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, pp. 63-93. 13

Pugliese, J 2002, ‘Penal Asylum: Refugees, Ethics, Hospitality’,

Borderlands e-journal, vol. 1, no. 1.

Library of Congress (LoC) 2012. ‘Pre-Charge Detention for

Terrorist Suspects: United Kingdom’, viewed 10 April 2013, < php#current>; Hier, ‘Risk and panic in late modernity’, p. 8. 25

Hier, ‘Risk and panic in late modernity’, p. 8.


Bourke, J 2005, Fear: a cultural history, Virago Press, London.

XXX Ormond Papers



Cash, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, p. 98-105.



Bourke, Fear, p. 372.

tion, Stanford University Press, California, pp. 1-30.


Butler, J 2004, Precarious Life, Verso, London.


Feldman, Formations of violence, p. 8.


Mackay, ‘Seeking Security in Turbulent Times’, p. 9.




Feldman, A 2003, ‘Political terror and the technologies of


Cash, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, p. 102.

memory: excuse, sacrifice, commodification, and actuarial


Bush, ‘Military Order No.1 Detention Treatment’, p. 100;

moralities’, Radical History Review, vol. 85, pp. 58-73.

Bauman, Z 1991, Modernity and Ambivalence, Polity Press,


Zembylas, M 2010, ‘Agamben’s Theory of Biopower and


Immigrants/Refugees/Asylum Seekers’, Journal of Curriculum


Pugliese, ‘Asymmetries of terror’, p. 6.

Theorising, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 31 – 45.


Rogers, J 2011, ‘The Pure Subject of Torture, or Lyndie Eng-


Zizek, ‘Are we in a War?’


Feldman, ‘Political terror and the technologies of memory’, p.


land does not exist’, Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 35, pp. 75 – 87. 49

Rogers, ‘Torture’, p. 237. Schmitt, C 1985, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the


Bourke, Fear, p. 373.



Rogers, J 2010, ‘Torture: A Modicum of Recognition’, Law

Concept of Sovereignty, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 5 – 15. 51

Rogers, ‘Torture’, p. 236.


Pugliese, ‘Asymmetries of terror’, p. 6.

body and political terror in Northern Island, The University of


Schmitt, Political Theology, p. 2.

Chicago Press, London;


Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, pp. 28-29.

Foucault, M 1978, The History of Sexuality Vol. 1, Random House,


Rogers, ‘Torture’, p. 239.

New York.


Agamben, G n.d., ‘The State of Emergency’, University of Vero-

Critique, vol. 21, pp. 233 – 245. 37


Feldman, A 1991, Formations of violence: the narrative of the

Feldman, ‘Political terror and the technologies of memory’, p.


na, Verona, viewed 25 March 2013, <http://generation-online. org/p/fpagambenschmitt>;


Cash, ‘Negotiating insecurity’, pp. 89-90.

Rogers, ‘The Pure Subject of Torture’, p. 79.


Pugliese, J 2006, ‘Asymmetries of terror: visual regime of racial


Feldman, Formations of violence, p. 9.

profiling and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezies in


Butler, Precarious Life, p. 30.

the context of the War on Terror’, Borderlands, vol. 5, no. 1, pp.


Hier, ‘Risk and panic in late modernity’, p. 15.

1 – 16. 41


Butler, J 1997, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjec-

Feldman, Formations of violence, p. 8.

Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


Patrick McCaughey Why does Australian art matter? Patrick McCaughey is an Ormond alumnus and Art Historian. He now lives in New Haven, Connecticut

Interview with Joshua Castle

In your Times Literary Supplement article ‘Too Orig-

phasis over the last few years and opening numerous

inal’ you identify a lopsided focus on Indigenous art


within the history of Australian painting. What is your attitude towards Indigenous artwork?

It’s the greatest revolution in Australian art in our lifetime. The movement, which began in Pupunya, absolutely transforms the face of Australian painting and the face of our culture. Consistently, year in and year out, you might see one exhibition of Indigenous art, normally of bark from Arnhem Land. You certainly can’t be respected as an art dealer in Australia without having an Indigenous artwork in your back room. Private collectors collect it like mad. It has absolutely had one of the most revolutionary effects. I think what’s happened is that the first generation that came through in the 1970s and 1980s were probably the strongest artists we’ve seen. Artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Rover Thomas.

However, I think at some stage someone is going to have to be prepared to stand up and weed out the best from the not so good. A very distinguished American director went through Canberra and said “my God, there is so much of it. Half is brilliant, but the other half isn’t as good. They’re not all geniuses”. In a very cruel way he is right. That doesn’t devalue, for Indigenous people, the value of telling their story. It may be, simply, that our Western eyes don’t see how good it is. I find particularly with someone like Clifford Possum, I like the awkwardness and the gnarly side to him that’s not easy to like. The over narrative, over decorative, storytelling, dreaming side. Resistance in the object is always a sign of its quality. Speaking more broadly about Australian art, recently, at London’s Royal Academy there was a ‘best of’

It may just be a movement, like other movements

sort of exhibition of Australian artwork under the

in modern art, which has a certain limited lifetime.

broad theme of ‘landscape’. The exhibition received

It may not exactly end, but [it may] not continue as

particularly negative reviews, including a John Olsen

strongly as it began. It absolutely did two fantastic

piece compared to diarrhoea, and similar comments

things: it gave an insight into Indigenous culture and the Indigenous mind and spirit, and it gave us a new kind of painting in Australia. Both maps and mythologies. They contain knowledge as well as beauty. Given this limited lifespan, what do you think of institutions looking to purchase Indigenous art, almost as a mandated requirement?

Well, thank God they’re doing it. First of all, both Canberra and Melbourne, quite spectacularly with the Felton Bequest, have been giving quite a big em-

were made about Fred Williams’ work. Do you attribute any reason to this negative reaction?

I actually recently saw that exhibition. Have you seen the catalogue? Admittedly, I haven’t.

In all honesty, the exhibition falls off a cliff when you get past 1970 to 1975. Up until that point, the story was generally told through two or three examples of an artist. But when you get past 19701975, it’s a story of ‘everybody’, and the result is a XXX Ormond Papers


complete mishmash; you have no idea what you’re

Are Australian artists still concerned with these

looking at. There is no rhyme or rhythm, or con-


stants between the works on the wall, and some of it is just bad. Then you discover other strange curatorial decisions. Jan Sensberg is represented with a silk screen print, Peter Booth is represented with a pastel on a very modest scale, John Olsen is represented by a ceiling picture which is skied twenty feet in the air, about twice as high as it was installed in the Sydney Opera House when it was commissioned. It was a non-event, and these are some very serious flaws. It is partly because they were absolutely hooked on the idea that all goodness in Australian painting flows from the land and the landscape. That’s a simplistic view, because it’s not just that. It’s the condition of living in Australia, not just the landscape. They mention early in the catalogue that 85% of Australians live in cities, and that it is one of the most heavily urbanised countries in the world, along with Hong Kong and Singapore, but nobody has that question mark in their heads. So Jeffrey Smart is hardly represented in the exhibition. It’s not about the landscape, it’s about the total condition

Not so much. I have to say that one of the things about source and influence in Australian art is how much the European sources fed Australian artists and enabled them to see and say things that they otherwise couldn’t have done. Grace Cossington Smith couldn’t have painted her pictures of Sydney and the Sydney Harbour Bridge if she hadn’t seen quite a lot of contemporary British art of the time. James Gleeson is an obvious example as well.

Exactly. With the case of Drysdale, he saw surrealist pictures in the 1930s when he was in Europe. This exposure enabled him to see and say things about Australia that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. So it’s always a very subtle point, that these European influences aren’t necessarily bad, but that they enabled artists to find their voices. Do you think that European art equipped Australian artists with a language in order to express themselves?

of living in Australia. A feeling of both living in a sophisticated place, and being absent and distant

Yes, to a certain extent I think that is right. It goes

from certain things.

back to Eugene von Guerard and Louis Buvelot who all, in one sense, brought European ideas over and

Personally, when I track the trajectory of Australian art I find that it is terribly aware of itself and its relationship to Europe. Throughout its history, particularly its early history, I find that there is an emphasis on an archetypal exploration of Australian society. Sidney Nolan is an obvious example, but also Frederick McCubbin’s affinity with painting bushmen, miners and pastoral characters.

then found them. They all had a European schema in their minds, and then experience corrected and altered that schema. Strangely, your career as an art critic is similar to many of the antipodean Australian artists. As an Irish-Australian living in the United States, I’m sure that this has granted you a particularly unique perspective on how Australian art and culture is perceived in the United States.


Ormond Papers XXX

It’s hardly perceived at all. Only Australian writers,

It’s very easy to be a philistine about art theory. Its

Peter Carey certainly and, to an extent, Les Murray,

extremes are absolutely maddening and it sometimes

David Malouf and Murray Bail, are the only ones

reduces people to stuttering jargon. But, the great

who have any impact at all, or are even read. There

thing about theory is that it continues to be the

will not be the name of a living Australian artist

hygiene of your mind. It makes you stop and not

who is known in New York, except possibly Tracey

just be the victim of your prejudices, repeating over

Moffatt or Bill Hensen.

and over again the same observations you’ve made. It makes you stop and say “there is another vantage

Australian art and culture brushes the brow of

point here which I should think about”. All sorts of

American culture like a feather. Right now I’m

things, not just the three great themes of art history

working on a book that discusses why Australian

(class, race and gender), but also all sorts of things in

art matters. It’s one of the last great, undiscovered

theory should make us stop and think. For example,

national schools. In a way, this exhibition in London

reception theory; how the work is received, and how

is a warning of how not to do it if you are going to

it changed in its reception. All of those things are

do it in America.

very, very important. You free yourself from being a victim of your own prejudices.

As I’m sure you know, on Fred Williams’ return to Australia from England he commented on the Aus-

As an art history student I’m finding the courses very

tralian landscape as one without a centre. When you

prescriptive. They are more ‘cultural studies’ than

return to Australia, does your attitude towards the

they are actually about the art.

landscape change?

That becomes a bloody bore. You want to grapple One time I was away from Australia for longer than

with the work of art, and some of you may well say

usual, and on my return I was driving with my fami-

“let’s look at it from the view of class, for example,

ly down the Hume Highway. I was looking out the

what does the Heidelberg school disclose to us about

window marvelling at the landscape. I was abso-

class in Australia?” That’s an interesting question to

lutely overwhelmed by how beautiful the landscape

ask. There are other questions, apart from purely the

looked, even as we drove up somewhere that isn’t the

aesthetic, to be asked. Theory that’s prescriptive and

world’s greatest or most spectacular highway. The

lays down the law is not good. Theory quickly turns

sheer lucidity and brilliance of the landscape struck

to dogma, and that’s what I find repellent about it.

me. I always like spotting Fred Williams’ gum trees exploding off the horizon line.

As a gallery director, I’m sure there is a tension between populist exhibitions and perhaps less commer-

We interviewed Tom Nicholson and asked him

cial or popular artworks. Can you comment on how

about art versus art theory. My equivalent question

you may mediate that tension?

to you is: what is your take on ‘isms’ within the realm of cultural studies and art history?

You have to watch art museums that say “even though very few people came, it was worth doing XXX Ormond Papers


for itself ”. I’m always very sceptical of this argu-

A very broad question, what is interesting you in the

ment. The punters through the door make an enor-

art world at the moment?

mous difference to the health of a museum. That doesn’t always mean you have to do impressionist shows and so on, but you’ve always got to make sure that it’s not just institutional narcissism, not just rewarding yourself for doing things which no one is actually coming and seeing. Galleries exist for the public benefit. You have to listen to the public mood and what the intelligent public want to come and see. One is always surprised when taking the public seriously. Examples are always at the Metropolitan in New York where they put on the Zurbarán show thinking they’d get a very small crowd, and it knocked the socks off New York! They had huge attendance as a result. Recently, they also put on an exhibition of fifteenth century Sienese paintings with lesser-known names, but it absolutely wired New York, and they had to extend the show because it was so popular. Provided that the quality of art is high, a determined and imaginative curator and director can, in fact, make seemingly less commercial topics engaging to the public. How did cultural life at Ormond shape your personal interest in art, poetry and culture?

I have to say that Ormond’s influence on my views on art and culture was slender. In those days there was a division between the ‘hearties’ and the ‘arties’, and the arties were always in the minority. We read our heads off all of the time! In particular, James Bond books instead of studying for exams. A small group of people had an impact on me, but Ormond as an institution was limited in its influence.


Ormond Papers XXX

I’m interested to see if this present, rather limp and formless moment in contemporary art begins to assume a real sense of form, shape and direction. That applies to Australian art and what I’m seeing here in New York. I’m interested to see if at some point there will be a critical assertion of the aesthetic quality as being a significant criterion or not in art. I’m rather waiting for that moment, and once I’ve finished this unfinishable book, I’d rather like to direct my critical attention to that particular issue. It’s been an absolute pleasure.

XXX Ormond Papers


Hung, Drawn and Thwarted Does our electoral system work?

Austin Van Groningen is a recent Ormond alumnus and is currently finishing his undergraduate Arts degree


nusual outcomes in electoral systems, including hung parliaments, minority governments and failure to produce immediate results, are often cited by political commentators as undesirable. While such

rare events can attest to deficiencies in electoral systems, unexpected outcomes do not necessarily evince fatal systemic flaws. In fact, spinoff benefits have arisen historically from unexpected electoral results. By assessing case studies from the Australian, UK and US electoral systems, this analysis will demonstrate that unexpected results can lead to unexpected benefits. Before examining cases, however, key terms must be defined. An ‘electoral system’ will denote the political machinery designed to elect an executive government. Specifically, the models employed in Australian Federal Elections, UK General Elections and US Presidential Elections will serve as examples of electoral systems. By extension, a ‘faulty electoral system’ is one that does not fulfil the election of a government, or does so in an undemocratic manner. An ‘unexpected result’ will be defined as an electoral result that does not initially produce the absolute majority required for single-party executive authority. Such a result therefore entails the lack of an absolute, single-party majority in the Australian House of Representatives, the UK House of Commons and the US Electoral College. For this analysis, ‘unexpected results’ will not encompass unpredictable swings, as in the 1993 Australian Federal Election and the 1945 UK General Election, or decisive but dubious outcomes, such as with the 2000 US Presidential Election. ‘Unexpected benefits’ within electoral systems will be defined as second-order effects arising from unexpected results that augment the strength of the electoral system or fulfil other democratic virtues, such as greater representation for small parties and independents or their duopoly-breaking influence in minority governments. This piece will focus on three case studies to illustrate the potential nature and benefits of ‘unexpected results’. The 2010 Australian Federal Election will first be investigated, followed by the 2010 UK General Election. In both cases, hung parliaments and minority governments were produced. Thirdly, the 1800 US Presidential Election will be assessed, in which a drawn Electoral College vote and subsequent Congressional deadlock ensued. In all cases, it will be demonstrated that the unexpected events led to spinoff benefits. In the Australian and United Kingdom examples, democracy was arguably furthered by the unusual results and electoral systems proven intact. Conversely, the United States case revealed a glaring deficiency in the electoral system; however, opportunistic reforms corrected these faults in the wake of the split outcome. Finally, a concluding statement will affirm the overall constructive contribution of unexpected results to the ongoing evolution of democracies. Defying predictions, unexpected electoral results frequently culminate in effective governmental operation. Furthermore, apparent deadlock allows greater legislative influence for minor parties and independents, who act as power brokers and more efficaciously represent their constituents.

XXX Ormond Papers


The 2010 Australian Federal Election produced, for the first time since 1940, a ‘hung parliament’ in the House of Representatives. A hung parliament entails the need for two or more non-aligned parties or independents to form a government, in contrast to the norm of a single party or pre-established coalition winning an outright majority of lower house seats. Thus, hung parliaments in Westminster bicameral systems produce minority governments, considered particularly unusual in modern Australia and the United Kingdom.1 The Liberal-National Coalition and the Australian Labor Party (ALP), Australia’s traditionally pre-eminent parties, each took 72 seats from a total of 150 in the 2010 election. A further six seats were shared between five independents and one minor party.2 Immediately, this entailed deadlock; with neither major party obtaining the absolute majority required for government, no government could be formed. Three weeks later, the ALP successfully formed a coalition government; the Greens and three of the five independents’ ‘declaration of confidence and supply’ contributed to a 76 to 74 majority in favour of the ALP.3 Such a result had not occurred for 70 years. The two previous periods in which hung parliaments ensued from a federal election, between 1901 and 1910, and between 1940 and 1941, were punctuated by instability and frequent leadership changes. In those eleven years, the Prime Ministership changed ten times, a stark contrast to the relative surety of the post-war era.4 The stability of recent decades is in part testimony to the increasing electoral dominance of the Coalition and ALP.5 The gradual convergence of Australian politics towards a duopolistic system dominated by two major parties, predicted by Duverger’s law, greatly increases the likelihood of a one-party absolute majority in the lower house, simultaneously decreasing the chance of a hung parliament.6 The 2010 result was considered unlikely by observers and certainly constituted an unusual outcome.7 Predictions of great difficulty in the formation and management of a minority government followed the initial result. Ultimately, Julia Gillard’s ALP convinced the Greens and three independent MPs to join a makeshift coalition constituting a narrow majority and subsequently government. Onlookers had questioned the stability of the new minority government, but the Government persisted through numerous threats of leadership change, a proposed vote of no confidence and the prospect of a double dissolution election in the case of failure to pass legislation.8 These were all cited as major obstacles to minority governance prior to the event.9 Gillard hitherto remained Prime Minister, [at the time of writing] the Government’s supply assured and legislation passed with the compromise expected of bicameral democracies. The electoral and structural system allowed a hung parliament to work effectively, highlighting no critical faults in contrast with predictions once the unexpected divide emerged. In the aforementioned Duverger’s Law, the ‘duopolisation’ of politics is considered symptomatic of most democratic systems. Minor parties and independents, where viable, are cited as healthy elements of democ-


Ormond Papers XXX

racy.10 Arguably, these actors’ hold over the balance of power in the aftermath of the 2010 Australian Federal Election enhanced the influence of otherwise impotent minor candidates normally relegated to observer status by the dominance of the traditional parties.11 As will be discussed, this has also been adjudged a drawback in some quarters. Nevertheless, the rise to prominence of figures such as Adam Bandt, whose Greens party collected over 11% of the first-preference vote in 2010 to win one seat,12 as influential legislative forces within the ALP’s minority government must be weighed as a fulfilment of significant minority representation that would not likely have occurred to such an extent without a hung parliament. It is readily apparent that a functional electoral system was elucidated from the unusual Australian hung parliament of 2010 in combination with a diversification of legislative inputs and, hence, representation. In addition to offering a surprising operational viability and expanding minor party influence, unexpected electoral results can place minor party candidates directly in positions of executive power and transform small parties into major political forces. Operating under the same Westminster system as Australia, the United Kingdom also witnessed a hung parliament in 2010 for the first time since 1974. In structure, the British and Australian electoral systems and hung parliaments were similar. Additionally, as in Australia, the ultimate result of functional minority government was achieved in the United Kingdom. However, two important distinctions exist between the cases. Firstly, it must be noted that many political observers and commentators predicted a hung parliament in the immediate lead up to the 2010 UK General Election.13 The relative influence of minor parties within the House of Commons and politics generally, contrary to Duverger’s Law, had increased in preceding decades. The Liberal Democrats, ever-popular in Scotland and Northern England, were widely slated to ‘steal’ a number of seats from the long-entrenched Conservative-Labour electoral duopoly.14 The UK hung parliament thus contrasts with the Australian case because the result was not, from a media perspective, wholly unexpected. Nevertheless, given the historical oddity of the election, it is considered for the sake of this analysis ‘unexpected’. As in the Australian case, a twenty-first century hung parliament was seen as inoperable by observers including The Guardian’s Andy Beckett; this was intuitively visible considering all three parties’ public animosity towards one another in some form during Gordon Brown’s Premiership in the preceding years.15 The fact that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were able, within five days, to form a majority coalition government and subsequently retain functionality for the next three years of governance, belies notions of a faulty electoral system. Secondly, the UK case featured a genuine sharing of leadership in the resultant coalition government rather than the outright dominance of one party in minority government, as with the ALP in Australia in 2010. This difference is attributable largely to the ascendance of a genuine third party in UK politics: the Liberal XXX Ormond Papers


Democrats. Unlike in the Australian example, the Liberal Democrats alone held ‘balance of power’, wielding tremendous influence on behalf of the 22% of UK citizens who voted for them.16 The pre-eminence of the Liberal Democrats in governance considerations is perhaps best indicated in Nick Clegg’s status as Deputy Prime Minister to Conservative David Cameron. This direct engagement in top-tier cabinet leadership from a non-major party candidate has not occurred since the Second World War.17 Between Clegg and Cameron’s parties, a combined 54.5% of the 2010 popular vote was represented.18 This broad base of popular approval can be considered an unexpected benefit despite early concerns about the viability of a coalition government in the wake of a hung parliament. The UK system permitted a continuation of governance, allayed concerns of systemic fallibility and catapulted a well-supported minor party into direct, executive co-command. Even when unexpected outcomes expose serious weaknesses in an electoral system, substantive reform and a stronger system can arise from the aftermath. The third case to be investigated involves the 1800 US Presidential Election, in which Thomas Jefferson was elected President after the exposure of serious systemic and Constitutional weaknesses. Although voters in the US system directly preference a Presidential candidate, they elect members of an ‘Electoral College’, who in turn cast their votes directly for President and Vice-President. In most US states, all Electoral College votes within that state are awarded to the candidate with the greatest plurality of citizens’ votes. The US electoral system of 1800 exhibited a key difference to today’s model. Not anticipating the rise of political parties, the US Constitution allowed each Electoral College voter two votes which were required to be used for different candidates.19 The Presidential candidate with the highest vote total and an absolute majority was elected President and the second highest, Vice-President. However, electors could not nominate whether votes indicated preferences for President or Vice-President.20 Thus, when parties in the late eighteenth century began running specific Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates as a single ticket, it was required that one or more electors nominate a different Presidential candidate to their party’s intended Vice-President. Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party’s electors failed to do this in 1800 when Jefferson and intended Vice-President Aaron Burr tied on Electoral College votes.21 The Constitutionally enumerated resolution entailed the US House of Representatives’ determination of the outcome by ballot, with each state allowed one vote.22 This had never been previously exercised as a method of election decision. Federalist Party members of the House, confronted with two opposing candidates in Jefferson and Burr, chose to humiliate the Democratic-Republican cause by supporting Burr for Presidency.23 After 35 drawn ballots spanning seven days, Jefferson won the 36th ballot after public endorsement from Federalist leader of the House, Alexander Hamilton.24 Thus, after one week of deadlock and the aversion of what John Adams deemed an undemocratic outcome, Thomas Jefferson was duly announced President-Elect of the United States.25


Ormond Papers XXX

This result was unexpected, stemming from a Democratic-Republican failure to fulfil procedure combined with a Federalist blocking of Jefferson’s Presidency in the legislature. The happening, as asserted by Larson, exposed critical weaknesses in the US electoral system despite the outcome satisfying the people’s choice for President and Vice-President.26 Had the House elected Burr instead of Jefferson, the result, according to Adams, would have amounted to a travesty for the party and the people of the nascent republic.27 Three years later, a Constitutional amendment was passed allowing a Vice-Presidential candidate to be designated in the Electoral College and removing the issue for all future elections.28 Thus, the strengthening of the electoral system ultimately resulted from the unexpected, if brief, electoral deadlock of 1800. It has again been argued by Larson that the long-term health of American democracy was augmented by this development, even though it indicated potentially fatal weaknesses in the Presidential electoral system.29 The broader political realm was able to adapt despite the difficulty of 1800. Even in instances of substantial systemic faults, longterm benefits can arise from unexpected democratic results. While parviscient popular attitudes and hypotheses depict bleak prospects for a nation’s successful negotiation of hung parliaments or other non-majority deadlock situations, the practical experience of three major democracies suggests otherwise. As observed in the cases above, there is much historical reason to believe that exceptional electoral circumstances and outcomes lead to unexpected benefits. Effective government operation often surprises cynical observers. Enhanced legislative authority for minor parties better reflects democratic representation, as does an executive function for minor parties. Finally, where major flaws exist, unexpected outcomes catalyse the correction of electoral system faults. The exigencies of unexpected results, while not always comfortable, induce innovation and improve democracies.

XXX Ormond Papers


Endnotes 1 Craig, M 2013, ‘Politics of a Hung Parliament: The Minority

Hung Parliament on British Politics’, Parliamentary Affairs, vol. 61,

Gillard Labor Government in the 43rd Federal Australian Parlia-

no. 2, pp. 396-407.

ment’, Kwansei Gakuin University Social Sciences Review, vol. 17,

14 Ibid.

February, pp. 37-43.

15 Beckett, A 2010, ‘Britain’s last hung parliament’, The Guardi-

2 Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) 2010, ‘House of Repre-

an, 26 March 2010, viewed 15 June 2013, <http://www.guardi-

sentatives Results’, 29 September 2010, viewed 15 June 2013,>.


16 BBC News 2010, ‘Election 2010: National Results’, viewed


15 June 2013, <

3 Rodgers, E 2010, ‘Labor day: Gillard retains grip on power’,


ABC News, 7 September 2010, viewed 15 June 2013, <http://

17 Hough, A 2010, ‘David Cameron becomes youngest Prime

Minister in almost 200 years’, The Daily Telegraph, 11 May


2010, viewed 15 June 2013, <

4 National Archives of Australia (NAA) 2010, ‘Australia’s Prime


Ministers’, viewed 15 June 2013, <



18 BBC News, ‘Election 2010’.

5 Mackerras, M & McAllister, I 1999, ‘Compulsory voting, party

19 Kimberling, W 2008, ‘The Electoral College’, MO Election

stability and electoral advantage in Australia’, Electoral Stud-

Board, viewed 15 June 2013, <

ies, vol. 18, no. 2, June, pp. 217-233.


6 Riker, W 1982, ‘The Two-Party System and Duverger’s Law: An

20 Ibid.

Essay on the History of Political Science’, The American Political

21 Library of Congress (LoC), 2013, ‘Presidential Election of

Science Review, vol. 76, no. 4, December, pp. 753-766.

1800: A Resource Guide’, viewed 15 June 2013, <http://www.

7 Brent, P 2010, ‘Hung-up over Nothing? The Impact of a Hung>.

Parliament on British Politics’, The Australian: National Affairs

22 Kimberling, ‘The Electoral College’.

Mumble Blog, 13 August 2010, viewed 15 June 2013, <http://

23 LoC, ‘Presidential Election of 1800’.

24 Ibid.


25 Larson, E 2007, A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous

8 Glenday, J 2013, ‘Has Australia’s hung parliament been

Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign, Free

unworkable?’ ABC News: Off the Hustlings Blog, 18 March 2013,

Press, New York, p. 251.

viewed 15 June 2013, <

26 Larson, A Magnificent Catastrophe, p. 83.


27 Ibid., p. 251.

9 Ibid.

28 Kurland, P & Lerner, R 1987, ‘Amendment XII’, The University of

10 Riker, ‘The Two-Party System and Duverger’s Law’.

Chicago, viewed 15 June 2013, <http://press-pubs.uchicago.

11 Lipset, S 2001, ‘Introduction’, in Karvonen, L & Kuhnle, S


(eds.), Party Systems and Voter Alignments Revisited, Routledge,

29Larson, A Magnificent Catastrophe.

London. 12 AEC, ‘House of Representatives Results’. 13 Kalitowski, S 2008, ‘Hung up over Nothing? The Impact of a


Ormond Papers XXX

The Bloody Tower/ All a Stage Here the crown and sceptre; kept holy from the public touch behind a palisade of glass, entombed within medieval stone. Here the bodies and the bone the generations’ footsteps pass; where bloody centuries of such unwanted secrets darkly slept: A heinous traitor named in red royal ink; a harlot queen who could not bear the royal blood; mad catholic terrorist straw men, taken, and never heard again. Here all have lined the rain-damp mud, seen in the places to be seen, and blossomed into myths instead; Ravens beating shroud-grey wings as a hunchback put a prince to death - A flowering, white York-rose boy blond by his portraits, fit and tall he needn’t have ever lived at all; painted into innocent joy at some old Tudor’s strict request: History filled with dramatic things. Jocelyn Deane

First year Arts


Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


The Great Russian Conspiracy and The Tsarnaev Brothers Is Putin a double agent? An Editorial Opinion by Buster Davidson who is a second year Arts student. This article won the Intercollegiate Activities Committee Arts and Writing Award 2013


n 19 April 2013 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested for carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. Dzhokhar’s brother, Tamerlan, had earlier been killed during a shoot-out with Watertown police in

which a Massachusetts Bay Transport police officer was critically wounded. However you already know this, it is the narrative of the Boston Marathon bombing, a narrative corroborated by video and photo evidence, ballistic evidence and countless eyewitnesses. Yet this series of events and their initiation are disputed by conspiracy theorists the world over. The hashtag “#FreeDzhokhar” (or it’s diminutive ‘#FreeJahar’) has been popular on twitter, the central forum for the exchange of such theories. Many claim, without a coherent reason or motive, that the Chechen brothers were set up, deployed, funded or framed by the Federal Bureau of Investigaion (FBI) or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Scores of people want to know ‘where the gun is’, while others believe the fact that there is ‘no DNA evidence’ or footage of the brothers planting the bombs proves their innocence. Producing such evidence does little to slow the claims. While advocates for Dzhokhar Tamerlan’s freedom disseminate grainy video footage ostensibly depicting the 19-year-old fleeing the scene after the bombing, myriad theories of the bombing’s true origin have been suggested. Of course, so much of this seems ridiculous. Assertions of government involvement or even endorsement emerge after every tragedy, and the anger and vituperation directed at Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi, a Saudi who witnessed the bombing, seems to have its roots in a decade old suspicion.1 2 A casual

search of the Saudi’s name reveals that it is a popular fixture on conservative websites and conspiracy theory forums. The current evidence put forward by parties proclaiming Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s innocence includes a photo in which his legs are not visible, which is believed by some to be a sign of photoshopping, videos and photos showing multiple ‘Dzhokhars’ fleeing the bombing with backpacks, and a photo-montage which apparently shows the same trio of police at both the Sandy Hook massacre’s aftermath and the bombings. In order of descending obviousness, Dzhokhar Tamerlan’s legs are obscured in the photo because he is walking, all of the fleeing ‘Dzhokars’ are dressed differently and the three police photographed at Sandy Hook are plainly not the same police as those detailed in the Watertown photos. This much is unavoidably clear, yet people persist in accusing the government of framing the pair and carrying out or even staging the bombings. People are often convinced of US government involvement and even appear suspicious or fearful of the very concept of government. It is now seen as a sprawling secretive apparatus that controls every newsworthy event and reaches into citizens’ households via the government sponsored ‘mainstream media’. For the third time I state it is clear that these people are paranoid, scared, malicious and mistaken. Their conception of the United States government is closer to that of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR). It is an easy comparison but an interesting one. When reading Masha Gessen’s biography of Vladimir Putin, The Man Without a Face, one struggles to comprehend the complexity and amorality of the KGB and Putin’s various schemes.

XXX Ormond Papers


This is where the distinction must be made. The Russian conspiracy ranged against the American conspiracy, is it a matter of opinion and political persuasion or sheer evidence? The most cursory research will reveal very little is known of Putin’s life before he came to power and even less can be proven. Despite this, Putin’s rise and reign contain ambiguities and implications that appear as absurd and convoluted as any of the evidence proffered by supporters of Dzhokhar Tamerlan. Committee for State Security (KGB) and Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) involvement has been suggested in everything from Putin’s university placement and the Russian Apartment Bombings to countless political assassinations. While American conspiracy theories are rooted in a fear of a government they see as incomprehensibly complex, all-powerful and modern, the theories of Russians, for I do not denigrate their suspicions with that odious qualifier ‘conspiracy’, have come about after decades of disappointment and shocking treatment at the hands of their government. These are the theories of a people that have lived under an oppressive, totalitarian and omnipresent government. They recognise a false flag when they see one and many have long been suspicious of the tricolors above Putin’s palaces. We start with the most extensive conspiracy theory in contemporary Russia. After the attempted disassembling of the KGB many critics of the Putin regime, both civilian and media-affiliated, suspect FSB involvement in every major crisis. In September 1999 a series of bombs went off in public areas and apartment buildings. It was a period of terror that would come to be known as the Russian Apartment Bombings. At the time, Russia had received multiple threats from Chechen militia and the shadow of the Mujahedeen hung over them. On 31 August 1999, a bomb tore through a shopping centre in Moscow, killing one and injuring thirty. Just five days after this initial attack a bomb demolished an apartment building in the Dagestani city of Buynaksk. This time sixty-four died. The ravaged building was a barrack housing Russian soldiers and their families. Four days after the Buynaksk bombing, another bomb was detonated, this time in a densely packed Moscow apartment block. Two wings of nearly 75 apartments in total were reduced to the finest rubble, among which were 100 dead. By this stage a large proportion of the Russian citizenry was paralysed with fear. A bland concrete apartment block, indistinguishable from the thousands of such buildings dotting the capital, had been bombed. Just five days after the first Moscow apartment building was blown up, and fourteen days after the shopping centre bomb, another building, this time on the outskirts of Moscow, was atomised. Concrete buildings, having a greater structural unity, explode outwards. The apartment building that was blasted on the 13 September was made of brick and collapsed inwards when the bomb in its basement was detonated. This time the dead vastly outnumbered the survivors, with seven injured and 124 killed.


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The saturnalia of carnage ended on 16 September when a bomb went off on a crowded Volgodonsk street, killing nineteen and injuring over 1000 people. Countrywide panic set in. The bombings were blamed on Chechen terrorists. A commander in the Chechen Mujahedeen, Ibn Al-Khattab, had told German and Czech newspapers just days before the Moscow bombings that “Russian women and children will pay for the crimes of Russian generals”, adding later in the interview that “this will happen not tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow”3. During the same interview the Mujahedeen terrorist would go on to claim that attacks, or ‘reprisals’, would be carried out across Russia. Ibn Al-Khattab is the man who was officially held responsible for the attacks, he was the Osama bin Laden to Russia’s 9/11 and on 20 March 2002, Al-Khattab was assassinated by the FSB. The current gold standard among Russian conspiracy theories is that the FSB planned and executed the bombings. It’s origin lies in an incident that would occur in the early hours of 22 September, the stillborn bombing of a Ryazan apartment building. A bus driver by the name of Alexei Kartofelnikov was returning home when he saw a white car pull up to the rear service entrance of the building. Reportage here is contradictory; some sources, including Scott Anderson’s infamous GQ article ‘None Dare Call it Conspiracy’ (2009), claim that two men emerged from the car, others report a man and a woman exiting the Russian-made vehicle. No matter their sex, Kartofelnikov saw two people carry three large sacks into the basement of the building. At this point Moscow media had reported that previous bombs had been placed in the basements of their respective buildings. Furthermore, eyewitnesses had reported seeing alien sacks in their stairwells prior to the explosion. Kartofelnikov noted the make of the car and its license plate. The section of the plate that shows the region of the car had been covered by a piece of paper showing the relevant symbol for Ryazan. The bus-driver called the police, who arrived three-quarters of an hour later. Inside the basement, police found three sacks labeled ‘Sugar’ and filled with wires, a timer and powder, amongst other things. On-site tests were positive for Research Department Explosive (RDX), a military explosive more powerful and brisant than Trinitrotoluene (TNT).4 The building was evacuated and many people were so terrified that they left their apartments unlocked. Days after the incident, it would emerge that most of the apartments had been looted. Kartofelnikov became a national hero, with city dignitaries and politicians praising his vigilance; notably among them was the head of the FSB’s local chapter. A manhunt for the would-be bombers commenced with 1,200 troops brought in to lock down and search the city. It seemed likely that they would catch the bombers since they knew the make and model of the car and had identikit sketches of the assailants. Here the intrigue commences. On 24 September, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo spoke on the topic of the bombings, saying that progress had been made and a “bombing prevented in Ryazan”. Just half an hour after this pronouncement the Head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, held a press conference and claimed Rushailo had been incorrect. The supposed bombing had been a training exercise to test the readiness of the local law enforcement and the vigilance of the Ryazan citizenry. He is quoted as saying “nothing was XXX Ormond Papers


prevented” and that “it was a training exercise”5. Patrushev went on to state that the people who had planted the ‘bomb’ were FSB agents from Moscow and that the sacks had contained nothing more nefarious than sugar. It would take two days for Ryazan authorities to agree with the FSB’s story, as not even the local chapter of the Federal Security Service had been informed of the training exercise. The FSB explained that the sugar had tested positive for RDX because the testing equipment had been contaminated while being used in Chechnya. Years later Alexander Litvinenko would uncover a story reported by Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow magazine, while researching a book about the bombings.6 The article claimed that in 1999 two soldiers had snuck into an air-force warehouse looking for something to sweeten their tea. Finding dozens upon dozens of 55-kilogram sacks marked ‘sugar’, they stole a handful and duly sweetened their tea. The taste of their tea was so strange they reported the incident in full to their superiors. Once their reporting officer had heard the story, he ordered the substance to be tested and found that the powder was hexogen, or to use the common Anglophonic name, RDX. Uncommon in such conspiracy theories, all of the facts seem to line up in syzygy. The sacks in the air-force warehouse are identical in description to those found in the basement of the Ryazan apartment building. Litvinenko went on to find evidence that the warehouse was used by the FSB to store explosives. Alexander Litvinenko would die in 2006 from polonium poisoning in London, widely reported as a ‘Russian Spy’ or ‘defector’. As an ex-FSB agent, he had been an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, writing endless scathing attacks against the President’s conduct and character, ultimately composing a letter to The Mail on Sunday entitled ‘Why I believe Putin Wanted Me Dead’ (2006). 7 In death he left behind a series of questions and suspicious circumstances. To be killed with polonium is a statement of intent and a demonstration of power. Despite the widely broadcast inaccuracy that “anyone can buy polonium for $69”8 (the company advertising this price, United Nuclear, claimed one would need to purchase 15,000 of their ‘needle’ sources just to produce a ‘toxic amount’)9 10, the fact remains that polonium can only really be procured from a nuclear reactor. The two main methods of manufacture are the bombardment of bismuth and separation of the element from uranium. Even after polonium-210 is acquired, strict safety procedures must be observed lest someone inadvertently become exposed to alpha radiation. Due to the nature of the element, a nature I cannot rightly elucidate on, it is easily detected and tracked.11 In addition to Litvinenko’s body, traces of polonium-210 were found in his hospital, corridors and his hotel room. Moreover, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that it had been detected in Russia and on two British Airways flights.12 The procurement, the transport and the agony it causes all seem to stake out assassination by polonium as an impractical scheme. However it is almost impossible to detect in humans.13 As Russian newspapers gleefully reported, choosing to turn a blind eye to assassination


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theories, that it had left British authorities ‘worrisome’ and that if any credence were given to the scarcely mentioned theories, they only served to highlight the shortcoming’s of Britain’s intelligence agencies. Litvenenko would be one of many investigating the FSB’s involvement in the bombings to be killed or silenced by other means. Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist famous across Europe though relatively unknown inside her own country, was poisoned and eventually executed outside her home after speaking out against Putin for years. Two members of an independent commission that investigated the bombings, Sergei Yushenkov and Yuri Shchekochikhin, also died during proceedings.14 Yushenkov, like Politkovskaya, was shot dead outside his house. The same year Shchekochikhin would die after succumbing to a mysterious illness just sixteen days after its first symptoms manifested. The independent commission’s legal council, Mikhail Trepashkin, an ex-KGB agent and friend of both Boris Berekovsky and Alexander Litvinenko, was arrested and harassed multiple times. Trepashkin went on to act as the primary source for Scott Anderson’s GQ exposé. The commission disintegrated under the pressure. It is also interesting to note that hours after the second Moscow apartment bombing (6/3 Kashirskoye Highway in Moscow) Gennadiy Seleznyov, a Communist speaker in the Duma (Russian Parliament), announced that he had received word “from Rostov-on-Don, an apartment building in the city of Volgodonsk was blown up last night”15 . The Volgodonsk bombing would take place three days later and when Vladimir Zhirinovsky, another speaker in the Duma, questioned Seleznyov as to how he came to know of the bombing before it happened, his microphone was cut off. Selenyov would later go on to claim he was referring to an incident involving a detonated hand-grenade in which no people were injured or buildings destroyed. Although the episode did indeed occur, it remains to be seen why Seleznyov felt it necessary to report it to the Russian Parliament and why he did not immediately supply this excuse when questioned by Zhirinovsky. Most skeptics have variously interpreted this slip-up as the mistake of the FSB agent in Seleznyov’s office: an incorrect date, the wrong piece of paper, any menial misunderstanding. 16 The bombings helped galvanise the government’s strength, allowing Putin’s hard stance on Chechnya to bring him the adulation of Russia. Soon after the bombings a second war in Chechnya would commence. Arranging every fragment of evidence and speculation conjures a fearsome scheme. Putin had worked for decades in the KGB, under Yeltsin he would rise to become the head of the FSB, going on to become the Prime Minister before taking the throne. If current theories are to be believed, the FSB organised the bombings as a way to unite the country in fear, choosing the right moment to unite Russia behind their candidate, Putin. Given that Putin was the Head of the FSB just months before taking office under Yeltsin, and the extensive nature of the bombings, if we accept FSB involvement we ultimately must accept Putin’s coordination. Although by this stage it might seem redundant, there is even more contingent evidence to give weight to this assertion. Months before the bombings a Swedish journalist, Jan Blomgren, would write an article for the daily Svenska Dagbladet claiming the Kremlin was considering a string XXX Ormond Papers


of bombings across Moscow that could be attributed to Chechen militia.17 On 22 July 1999, just over a month before the first bombing, another newspaper, this time Moscow’s Moskovskaya Pravda, published leaked documents detailing a proposed operation called “Storm in Moscow”18. The operation would consist once more of a series of bombings designed to induce a state of emergency and unite the people under Yeltsin, saving the flailing regime. It seems then that under the weight of so many coincidences, inconsistencies and circumstantial evidence, FSB involvement is undeniable. As Scott Anderson showed with his article ‘None Dare Call It Conspiracy’, it is still an exceptionally fraught subject for many Russians. While meeting mourners at the site of the second Moscow Apartment bombing, Anderson met a man whose daughter had been killed in the bombing. The man is quoted as saying; “They say it was the Chechens who did this, but that is a lie. It was Putin’s people. Everyone knows that. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone knows that”19 . His words highlight the tense attitude still surrounding the apartment bombings and those that orchestrated them. To stake out a stark contrast with America, Russian conspiracy theorists seem more often to be hounded by the police than denigrated and pushed to the periphery. Their theories are vindicated as much by evidence and investigation as they are by the reactions they provoke. On the 23 October 2002, the Nord-Ost theatre in Moscow was stormed by Chechen rebels and over 800 hostages were captured. The siege would last three days. The terrorists managed to hold off Russian authorities with the threat of mines and explosive vests strapped to women at each of the entrances. Russian Spetsnaz went on to bungle the rescue mission by pumping the building with Naloxone, rendering all inside unconscious. Surprisingly, no explosives were triggered and no hostages executed. Undoing all of this planning and luck, the unconscious bodies of hostages were piled outside, many choking on their own vomit or anaesthetized, insensate tongues. All of the terrorists were summarily executed, shot where they lay. One hundred and seventy would die and once more the FSB was implicated. It appears from records that many of the women that ostensibly wore the explosive vests had been released from prison just days beforehand, some of them years before their sentences were up. The fact that no explosives were triggered during the Naloxone gassing has also been taken by many as evidence that there were no explosives. The now familiar protagonists - Anna Politkovskaya, Sergei Yushenkov, Alexander Litvinenko and Mikhail Trepashkin - helmed the claim that the FSB was involved. On an episode of Dateline, Litvinenko named two FSB agents “Abu Bakar” and “Abdul the Bloody”, who had supposedly acted as organisers and agent provocateurs, encouraging the attack. The former, the apocryphal “Abu Bakar”, is widely regarded to be Khanpasha Terkibayev. Terkibayev was the FSB agent that acted as a handler for the Chechen terrorists when they had arrived in Moscow. Although both Terkibayev and ‘Abdul’ were inside the church they were not found among the dead, implying that the FSB retrieved its agents before the rescue mission commenced.


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Just two years later, in September 2004, a school in the southern town of Beslan was captured by Chechen terrorists. The story is horrifically similar to that of the Moscow theatre siege. Over a thousand parents, teachers and children were held hostage before a final bloody assault by Russian Military. Damage to the school buildings suggests close-range tank fire and Russian authorities have since admitted that Russian special forces used flamethrowers during the school’s liberation. Once again we see Litvinenko leading the conspiracy charge, claiming the terrorists were arrested by the FSB days before the attack and that the siege was staged as a false flag operation. Suspicion surrounding the President, and what Bernard Henri-Levy calls the “Crimes of Putinism”, even extends as far back as the young President’s university career.20 Masha Gessen entertains the possibility that the KGB got Putin a place at Leningrad State University because his grades were insufficient to earn him a place at the prestigious institution. Putin met with the KGB months before applying in an attempt to land a job with the intelligence agency. As he told official biographers following his first election, he was turned away and directed towards studying law if he wanted to be recruited. He would later go on to study law, earning a place in a course for which each spot is applied for by 44 candidates.21 Can this all really be true? Could it be even truth-adjacent? It seems as if every major internal tragedy to strike Russia since Putin’s rise has been attributed to the President at some point. The Russian Apartment Bombings were used to justify a second war in Chechnya and both the Nord-Ost and Beslan sieges heralded harsher treatment of Chechnya by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Putin’s stance on Chechnya got him elected. It was during his inauguration speech, accepting the reigns from Yeltsin on 31 December 1999, when Putin claimed “If we catch them in the toilet, we will rub them out in the outhouse!” 22. Yet to suggest that Putin, murders his citizens in this fashion to maintain power is a damning indictment, all the more damning for the ease with which people entertain the notion. Even the Boston bombings have been used by Putin to suggest harsher treatment of Chechnya. It seems like the Federal Security Service were involved in most of these incidents. They are heavily implicated in the Apartment Bombings, with so many inconsistencies so publically exposed. Once involvement is assumed for the Apartment Bombings and the sheer perversity of a government terrorising its own citizens is overcome, it is easier to look at both Beslan and Nord-Ost in a more cynical light. The quartet of modern conspiracy causes (confirmation bias, patternicity, agenticity and hindsight) may well be relevant.23 Families of victims would certainly have sought a reason, a concrete cause. Yet none of these four concepts offer up an alternative reading for why two people arrested with Alexei Kartofelnikov’s identikits produced FSB membership cards. Yet nothing changes. The people accept possible government involvement. Journalists and commissioners fall ill with sudden ‘allergy syndromes’ or just ‘mysterious sicknesses’. Some are shot when they fail to succumb more cleanly. A series of very high-profile bodies pile up and the President who has been described as cold-eyed, dead-eyed, grey-eyed and entirely lacking in affect or charisma remains thoroughly XXX Ormond Papers


in control. In 2011, Putin’s United Russia Party resoundingly won yet another election. In some regions voter turn out exceeded 140% and in both the indubitable Chechnya and a Moscow mental hospital United Russia won 99.95% of the vote.24 25 It seems that at the root of all conspiracy theories there is dissatisfaction. In the case of the American conspiracy theory this dissatisfaction stems from the tacit understanding that there is no omnipotent totalising, malevolent government. This imagined regime is standing in for the much more confronting reality that their enemy is a nebulous collection of antagonists that hate them because of their religion, their culture or the foreign policy they endorse by proxy. In contrast, Russian dissatisfaction is derived from the understanding that no matter the volume of evidence, in spite of the overt acceptance of a conspiracy, nothing will change. The conspiracy theories that pockmark the history of modern Russia do not read like conspiracies at all. Perhaps it is simply that I am more amenable to these narratives of conspiracy than those of reported ‘truth’. Yet there is something more to the theory of the Apartment Bombings: a cynicism, an implicit admission, a government happy to use menace and violent rhetoric to achieve its aims. The blind thrusts of the #FreeDzhokhar seem paltry in comparison. The most recent target of their anger and suspicion is Jeff Bauman, a 27-year old Bostonian and double-amputee after the bombings.26 Bauman bears a passing resemblance to Lt. Nick Vogt and even though their eyebrows, hairlines and noses are different, we have not been spared a series of photomontages with ‘False Flag?’ splashed across them.27 It seems inevitable that people will deny the truth even when it lies in plain sight.



1 Conservative Tree House 2013, ‘Following the Saudi

(America), viewed 23 January 2013, <

Angle-Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi Terrorist Ties and Obama


Administration Avoidance’, viewed 20 April 2013, <http://

5 Gessen, The Man Without a Face.

6 Ibid.


7 Litvinenko, A 2006, ‘Why I Believe Putin Wanted Me Dead’,


Daily Mail, 25 November 2006, viewed 23 January 2013,

2 Walid, S 2013, ‘“Innocent” Saudi has ties to several Al-Qae-


da Terrorists’, Shoebat, viewed 17 April 2013, <http://shoebat.



8 McKie, R 2006, ‘Hundreds face polonium test after ex-spy’s


death’, 26 November 2006, viewed 23 January 2013, <http://

3 Gessen, M 2009, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of>.

Vladimir Putin, Riverhead, New York.

9 United Nuclear 2013, ‘Radioactive Isotopes’, viewed 23

4 Anderson, S 2009, ‘None Dare Call it Conspiracy’, GQ

January 2013, <

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21 Gessen, The Man Without a Face.

10 Royal Society of Chemistry 2007, ‘Polonium-210: a deadly

22 Arnold, C 2007, ‘The Great Terror: Seventy Years Later,

element’, viewed 23 January 2013, <

Stalin’s Image Softening’, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 15


August 2007, viewed 23 January 2013, <

11 Gessen, The Man Without a Face.


12 Russian experts fail to find polonium source in Litvinenko

23 Shermer, M 2009, ‘Why People Believe in Conspiracies’, Sci-

case’, Ria Novosti, 2 October 2007, viewed 23 January 2013,

entific American, 10 September 2009, viewed 23 January 2013,



13 Gessen, M 2009, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise


of Vladimir Putin, Riverhead, New York.

24 The Economist 2011, ‘Voting, Russia-style’, 10 December

14 The Moscow Times 2003, ‘Worries Linger as Schekochikhin’s

2011, viewed 23 January 2013, <

Laid to Rest’, 7 July 2003, viewed 23 January 2013, <http://


25 Gessen, The Man Without a Face.

15 News Russia 2002, ‘Gennadiy Seleznyov was warned of the

26 ‘Boston Strong! Bombing double amputee Jeff Bauman

Volgodonsk explosion three days in advance’, News Russia, 21

leaves hospital just 19 days after blast to open Bruins

March 2002, viewed 23 January 2013, <http://www.newsru.

hockey game’, The Daily Mail, 5 May 2013, viewed 5 May


2013, <

16 Gessen, The Man Without a Face.


17 Cockburn, P 2000, ‘Russia planned Chechen war before


bombings’, The Independent, 29 January 2000, viewed 23 Jan-


uary 2013, <

27 Zolna, G 2013, ‘MOV02571 27 Year Old Victim, Jeff


Bauman Positively Identified Bomber’, Youtube, 19 April

18 Zhilin, A 1999, ‘Storm in Moscow’, Moskovskaya Pravda,

2013, viewed 23 January 2013, <

viewed 23 January 2013, <


entity.jsp?entity=aleksandr_zhilin_1>. 19 Anderson, ‘None Dare Call it Conspiracy’. 20 Levy, B & Houellebecq, M 2009, Public Enemies, Vintage, London.

XXX Ormond Papers


And the fireflies playfully risk their lives again Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like inhaling an eclipse as your voice slices against my clothes Sharp like the blade of the night crescent We roam like the river that has stripped off her skirt with the moon on her back A dark lavender wind hangs loosely over our tropical intentions Desire bursts like a breath of a diamond A crystalline sheen camouflages the careless air between the legs of the love-making mangroves and the fireflies playfully risk their lives again A cold whisper escapes from us and flows into the opal waters of our mystery We drink up a sweet pressure as warm as tensions between the skyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s night spies and the airplane lights Our gasps between the silence are silver darts flickering like a collage pressed against glass Once as still as sleek silhouettes now seduced into curious contours yielding like the paper-thin tree shadows to the shakes from the Dusky Leaf and the fireflies playfully risk their lives again

Emina Ashman

Second year VCA student

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Madeleine Mills


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Madeleine Mills XXX Ormond Papers


Camilla Eustance

Ink and Paper It teaches to think but not to live How to love but not forgive It teaches you to have the world In ink and paper Bought at Searle’s A sonic roar and a rattling chain Production lines are all the same Wood and paper/ink and pigment Two chance tags The same old scent A different sound in a similar place Involving here another trace Ink and paper aren’t too distinct Although this brand Can make you think They say it teaches you to think Learn about Christ or medicine But what I’d learned and what I thought Didn’t force the memory out

Max Morris

Second year Arts

Who is Bartleby? Deconstructing Herman Melville using Jacques Derrida’s ‘Signature, Event, Context’. James Sainty is a recent alumnus who is studying Arts


t is the indeterminacy and abstruseness of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener1 that lends the story

to a deconstructive reading, one facilitated by Jacques Derrida’s ‘Signature, Event, Context’ [SEC].2

Melville’s text, when approached as such, emerges as a text that ‘responds’ to this method of reading more than it does other modalities (if it ‘responds’ at all). The text interacts with this mode of reading, where the term ‘interact’ refers to a somewhat clairvoyant and oblique ‘awareness’ of the principles that guide Derrida’s approaches. This is first illuminated through the inversion of the narrator’s logocentrism which, when examined contiguously with Derrida’s debunking of logocentric schools of thought, is assisted by the perpetual shift of context in Bartleby as per Derrida’s assertions in SEC. More specifically, the notion of copying in Bartleby lends itself to analysis using Derrida’s theorising on the drift of signs and signifiers away from not only their producers, but from their signifieds and referents as well. Following this, the essay, whether the indeterminacy of the story’s titular character and his ostensibly reductive utterance “I would prefer not to” can be explicated using Derrida’s thinking on performativity, différance and absence. The concepts of iterability and citationality are constantly operative throughout SEC and, as such, are used as pivotal notions throughout this essay. Bartleby’s compatibility with Derrida’s thinking, subsumed under the notion of deconstruction, realises an application of his theories on language to experience. Of course, this is an application that Derrida acknowledges as foundational to the processes he evinces as “the inevitable consequences of these nuclear traits of all writing … would be valid not only for all the orders of signs … but for the entire field of what philosophy would call experience, that is, the experience of Being: so-called presence”3. Melville’s text affirms this consequentiality, between the written and the experienced

(and all orders between these once polarised notions), with its concluding metaphor, “Dead letters! Does it not sound like dead men? … Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!”4. The deconstruction of Logocentrism in Bartleby Nina Baym posits that Bartleby is a text that “invites us to supply interpretations”5 . Clarifying this invitation, Todd Giles points out that “historical, biographical, psychoanalytical, metaphorical, Marxist … readings, while attempting to elucidate, often go counter to what/who Bartleby is”6. As a text in which “the unknown is permanently available”, which “means only what it says”, in which the titular character is “the secret of literature”, Bartleby lends itself to deconstruction, a process expressed by the notion that “any attempt to fix and delimit a distinctive philosophical or critical position called ‘deconstruction’ has the effect of undermining precisely the deconstructive questioning of closed systems and fixed limits”7. Derrida describes the project of deconstruction using the idea that “deconstructive inventiveness can consist only in opening, in uncloseting, destabilising foreclusionary structures so as to allow for the passage towards the other”8. That is, the inversion of hierarchies to demonstrate the dependence of the dominant (the centre) on the marginalised (the other), and the undoing of this structured hierarchy altogether in order to illustrate their interplay. Of concern in SEC and in Bartleby is the deconstruction of logocentrism or, in basic terms, the Western philosophical tradition of privileging speech over writing. In Bartleby, the logocentric bias of the narrator and of the office is evident throughout the story. The narrator’s bias towards the spoken word XXX Ormond Papers


is evident in John Jacob Astor’s name, “for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion”, which is reinforced by the verbal communication through which the entire office operates, “he oratorically assured me”9. He acknowledges the “dull, wearisome and lethargic affair” that involves verifying the accuracy of copies (of course, this involves reiterating the already iterated marks verbally), yet expects a cheerful disposition from his scriveners as they do the same in writing. “I should have been quite delighted … had he been cheerfully industrious”10. Such is the logocentric bias established in Bartleby; when speaking is explicitly reiterative it becomes a chore (the subtext being that it is normally productive, original, and from consciousness), yet writing in the story is subjugated because, like copying, it represents sheer reiteration. In SEC, Derrida dismantles logocentric thinking by demonstrating the similarity of writing and speech using iterability. He ties together three “essential predicates in a minimal determination” of writing, these being a written sign that iterates in the absence of its producer, a written sign that breaks the context of “the set of presences which organise the moment of its inscription” and thus make it impossible for enclosing by any context, with this contextual rupture further enabled by separation from a present referent in the spacing that comprises the “emergence of the mark”11. He states that these predicates are “also to be found in … spoken language, and ultimately in the totality of experience … it is not separated from the field of the mark … of difference, of units of iterability”12. This conformity of speech and experience to the same predicates used to subjugate writing deconstructs the logocentric bias set up in Bartleby. Just as the written documents produced by the narrator adhere to these predicates, his speech acts and his experiential roles within the text iterate in his absence, and the spacing is infinitely graftable between contexts. This iterability becomes evident in the cyclic repetition of utterances and reactionary experiences undertaken by the narrator. After Bartleby’s initial performative on page thirteen, the narrator undergoes a sequence of seven near identical contemplations about Bartleby, incidents that mix hostility, sympathy and uncertainty. These contemplations are difficult to capture by way of example; two read: “Bartleby … in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me”, “that same melancholy [did] merge into fear, that pity into repulsion”13. In the space of one page the narrator’s description of Bartleby shifts from a being of an “all-wise Providence” to an “intolerable incubus”14. Bartleby’s own indeterminacy aside, the constant repetition of rapidly cycling polarities illustrates the movement of such experience through non-saturated contexts and away from its original referent, the un-polarised Bartleby. These polarities highlight the text’s ability to iterate in the absence of the narrator’s consciousness, the argument being that ‘consciousness’ would not needlessly undergo the same ruminations over and over, and certainly not with such erratic judgment. Thereby, via iterability, the difference between writing, speech, experience and even consciousness in Bartleby is deconstructed. Assisting this deconstruction is the role of context in Bartleby. As context constantly shifts, the notion of a “saturated context”, either temporally or spatially, becomes voided.15 The temporal and situational contexts of the text go through a series of oscillations. Nipper and Turkey’s diametrically opposed dispositions and the narrator’s own cyclical rearrangements create a context that is constantly shifting and disrupting any possibility of fixity. When the narrator confuses a bet on an election with Bartleby’s depar-


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ture, his “intent frame of mind” or, conversely, “momentary absent mindedness” suggests that for his self (itself not fixed by any determination), context is never constant or literal.16 In response to John Searle’s proposition that “written communication can exist in the presence of the receiver, as for example, when I compose a shopping list to myself ”, Derrida writes that the ‘future-you’ is not, in fact, present: From the very moment I make a shopping list, I know … that it will only be a list if it implies my absence … the sender of the shopping list is not the same as the receiver even if they are … endowed with the identity of a single ego.17 The impossibility of a single, determinable context that deconstructs the logocentric bias in Bartleby denotes the structural significance of iterability to the mark, or that that renders it recognisable in infinity of contexts, which switch momentarily despite a drift away from signification. In Of Grammatology, Derrida proposes: The idea of … a natural totality, is profoundly alien to the sense of writing. It is the encyclopedic protection of … logocentrism against the disruption of writing, against its aphoristic energy … against difference in general.18 Writing as speech, experience and consciousness are each unified by their lack of totality and thus, their component iterability. The Act of Copying With specific reference to the written mark, such iterability is depicted throughout Bartleby by the action of the scrivener’s copying, relevant to SEC’s discussion of signatures and the drift of signs, not only from their signified and referents, but also from the intentionality of their subject. The profession of the narrator is grounded in the written mark, a lawyer who “never addresses a jury, or in anyway draws public applause, but … do[es] a snug business … that of a conveyancer and title hunter, and drawer-up of recondite documents”19. Just as he appears to orientate the office by this supposed consciousness, so he narrates when he mentions the “indispensable” details concerning himself that are apparently essential to an “adequate” understanding “of the chief character”20. The fact that one reads from his perspective seems to suggest who the chief character in his conscious really is. Allan Singer’s suggestion that the “self-aggrandizing” narrator represents a “marker for a site of intentionality” is accurate and further emphasised by the adjectival descriptions he generates from Allan Emery, who suggests that he is “self interested” and morally defunct.21 This characterisation assists the aforementioned dismantled logocentrism of the narrator in assuring the reader

XXX Ormond Papers


that despite his “presumption to speak with the … universal voice” his intentionality is not exempt from the effects of iterability.22 In SEC, Derrida suggests that: To write is to produce a mark that will constitute a kind of machine that is in turn productive, that my future disappearance in principle, will not prevent from functioning … yielding itself to reading and rewriting.23 He nominates that this “break with the horizon of communication”, this “essential drifting … from consciousness” breaks with its own context, part of which is “the meaning which at a given moment would animate his inscription”24. In this latter, relational break away, the sign’s iterability is constituted and its status as “a grapheme in general” is assigned the “structural possibility of being severed from its referent or signified”25. While Derrida establishes the consideration of “any element of spoken language”, it finishes with the qualifier “and I will extend this law even to all experience in general, if it is granted that there is no experience of pure presence, but only chains of differential marks”26. Signs, or series thereof, break from two things: the subject that produces them and/or what they refer to/signify. This disconnection of the subject from the referent and from the signified “constructs the mark” for Derrida, a construction which implies that every mark, “linguistic or non-linguistic, spoken or written … can be cited … thereby it can break with every given context, and engender infinitely new contexts in an absolutely non-saturable fashion”27. Thereby, the documentation that the narrator produces in Melville’s text is citational, undergoing the same drift from not only his artifice of consciousness and presence,28 but from the nominal referents and signified(s) within these documents. As the scriveners copy for the narrator, they enact this drift, further removing the already absent intentionality of the narrator from his marks and affirming the marks’ status as writing in their reiteration. Furthermore, and somewhat ironically, the narrator’s insistence that “an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business is to verify the accuracy of his copy”, his self-important conviction that leads him to ask “Am I right?”, only further undermines the force of his presence. The further reiteration enacted by the reading of these documents removes them from their moment of inception and the signified(s) to which they refer, thus emphasising their citationality. This action, which occurs blatantly in Bartleby, implies equally operative, yet less discernible, reiterations occurring in adjacent degrees of communication, i.e. speech and experience. This notion also allows one to use Bartleby in order to make connections in Derrida’s writing. Just as the chain of separation between the signified and the sign grows with each reiteration of the lawyer’s documents (whether copying or verifying), the levels of gradation from consciousness to writing, assigned by logocentric discourses, also diminish. This diminishing occurs in an inverse relationship that recalls the commonality of iterability and citationality between all levels of communication. Likewise, as the copyists presumably counterfeit the narrator’s signature, it drifts further from the narrator’s intentionality. The signature of a man who prides himself on his distinguishing characteristics, “my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method” and a capacity for signification, implicit in his statement


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that to not reveal Bartleby’s complete biography would represent “an irreparable loss to literature”29. As the “first person present indicative” in Bartleby, the narrator verbally takes pride in the perceptible ‘presence’ the indicative assigns him. As he signs his documents, he denotes a concurrent presence “by appending his signature”30. Derrida does concede that signature “marks and retains his having-been present in a past now, which will remain a future now … in the transcendental form of nowness” thereby allowing “the enigmatic originality of every paraph … the pure reproducibility of a pure event”31. However, in order to assign this level of presence, it again drifts, allowing its iteration; “In order to function … a signature must have a repeatable, iterable, imitable form; it must be able to detach itself from the present and singular intention of its production”32. Thus, in Bartleby, as the narrator’s signatures are reiterated by his scriveners, they acknowledge not his presence but his marked absence, a notion incongruous with his evocation of self-presence. From this the story not only draws irony but can also be used to extract the narrator’s simultaneous incompatibility and affinity with Bartleby, a relationship instructed by Derrida’s ambiguous theory (or non-theory) of différance. “I would prefer not to” Such an “irreducible absence” as the word différance accounts for, permits the indeterminacy of Bartleby to be explicated only as much as both the entity, in Bartleby, and the (non)contingencies of this absence allow.33 The performativity of Bartleby’s phrase and its illocutionary role in the text accounts for the utterance’s relationship to différance. In his non-presence, Bartleby should not be understood as standing in diametric opposition to the narrator, as this employs a binary logic that deconstruction preliminarily disavows. Bartleby is more appropriately and accurately read by his indeterminacy, which is in accordance with différance. In SEC, Derrida, using the work of J.L. Austin, identifies that due to the “communication of an original movement … by the impetus of a mark” the performative facilitates its ability to ‘act’ on its own accord, because “the performative’s referent … is not outside it … it operates … this constitutes its internal structure, its manifest function or destination”34. Their agreement thereby concludes, and Derrida suggests that despite the illocutionary force of the performative, the “structure of locution … already bears within itself the system of predicates [that] I call graphematic in general”35. Austin’s reliance on an “exhaustively definable context” means that performative acts are exposed to failure, a notion which Derrida uses to illustrate the role that the iterability of a performative plays in making it conventional, which is what its success, or failure, relies on.36 This possibility of failure is what makes a successful performative recognisable as such, which Derrida explains as: A certain intrinsic conventionality of that which constitutes locution itself, everything that might be summarized under the problematic heading of the ‘arbitrariness of the sign’ … Ritual is not an eventuality, but, as iterability, is a structural characteristic of every mark.37 XXX Ormond Papers


The inscribing of every mark, or chain of marks, carries a possibility of failure in the potentiality of their non-occurrence, by which we understand them to exist, and in the case of performatives, we understand them to succeed. This is essentially a rephrasing of Ferdinand de Saussure’s proposition that “in language there are only differences without positive terms”38. At the heart of every sign, every mark’s existence, lies a non-presence, an absence, which constitutes the space (be it syntactical, temporal, spatial, or otherwise) that designates the mark as itself. Bartleby embodies this absence; he consists of only differences in not-positive terms. His performative “I would prefer not to” works by refusing to act, it “responds without responding”, and it constitutes the possibility at the heart of the performative, while also enacting this possibility39. It is a statement which Deleuze describes as a “formula, devastating because it eliminates the preferable just as mercilessly as any non-preferred”, it is an utterance which in its abstinence from affirmation or negation, portrays the same relation between the absence and presence that constitutes the marks it is formed from.40 The iterability that constitutes its operation manifests its citationality. As the utterance drifts from Bartleby’s ambiguous intentionality, the other scriveners adopt an active version of it, with a positively charged alternative to his neither passive nor active utterance “I’d prefer”41. In one incidence, Bartleby follows suit with “I would prefer to be left alone”, after which he quits copying.42 While the causality here is difficult to determine, his decision to stop reiterating the marks of the narrator may stem from this lapse into an ‘active’ utterance, a form of intentionality, consciousness and presence. His withdrawal from copying, rather than representing a concession to the totality of any intentionality or suggesting that absence is totalising, instead frames a wider withdrawal from any participation in the polarisation between absence and presence. As a function of making present, copying follows, albeit temporarily, a series of signs defined by their differance and is elaborately analogous to his momentary lapse into ‘presence’ when “mobbed” by the other scriveners. His statement referring to his desire for absence is only realised in the active voice, which for him is regrettable.43 Finally, Bartleby’s indeterminacy evokes the determinacy of the narrator through a supplementary relation rather than a dialectic opposition. Throughout Bartleby, the text’s namesake is “strangely disarmed” by the scrivener, and in his search for determinacy two loaded anecdotes emerge. The first is the narrator taking Bartleby’s refusal to be determined as sheer negation or passivity, when he says, “it was generally understood that he would prefer not to – in other words, that he would refuse pointblank”44. The second occurs when he assigns Bartleby as totalised affirmation, as activity and as presence: “Bartleby was billeted upon me for some mysterious purpose of an all-wise Providence”45. In these attempts to seek out meaning, to place the elusive Bartleby on a continuum of determination, the very nature of the absence that drives Bartleby’s (non)characterisation is questioned. This nature emerges from the problematic ”value of literal, proper meaning”, the “structural nonsaturation of context”, the structural iterability of every mark or sign or chain thereof and above all, différance, which allows one to “posit the general graphematic structure of every communication”46. The indeterminacy of Bartleby is in the différance of the marks, which not only structure language, but are also akin to the lack of totality of experience in general.


Ormond Papers XXX

When observed deconstructively, Bartleby follows the dismantling of logocentrism with an emphasis on the différance and iterability evident in the structure of the mark. In Melville’s text, these Derridean concepts speak not only back to SEC, but help to illustrate the indeterminate operation of activity and passivity in relation to the self, to consciousness and to presence. These are structured by absence, or by the non-presence of self. Who is Bartleby? This secret propels us forward because at the novel’s close everything we know, which is not much, finds us only closer to nothing.

Endnotes 1 Derrida, J 1982, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, in Bass, A (ed.)

ak, G (ed.), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p. 18.

1982, Margins of Philosophy, Harvester Press, Brighton.

18 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, pp. 4-10.

2 Ibid., pp. 316-317.

19 Ibid., p. 3.

3 Melville, H & Busch, F 1986, ‘Bartleby’ in Busch, F 1986, Billy

20 Singer, A 2003, ‘Aesthetic Corrigibility: Bartleby and the

Budd, Sailor and other Stories: Herman Melville, Penguin Books,

Character of the Aesthetic’, Journal Of Narrative Theory, vol.

New York, p. 46.

33, no. 3, pp. 151-153.

4 Ibid., p. 920.

21 Ibid., p. 159.

5 Ibid., p. 128.

22 Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, p. 316.

6 Baym, N 1979, ‘Melville’s Quarrel with Fiction’, Publications of

23 Ibid., p. 317.

the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 94, no. 5,

24 Ibid., p. 318.

p. 920;

25 Ibid., p. 320.

Deleuze, G 1998, ‘Bartleby: Or, the Formula’, in Deleuze, G 1998,

26 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, pp. 12-15.

Essays Critical and Clinical: Gilles Deleuze, Verso, London, p. 68;

27 Ibid., pp. 3-4.

Derrida, J 1998b, Resistances of Psychoanalysis: Jacques Derri-

28 Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, p. 328.

da, Kamuf, P, Brault P & Naas, M (eds.), Stanford University Press,

29 Ibid.

Stanford, p. 24;

30 Ibid.

Frow, J 2005, ‘Deconstruction’, New Keywords: A Revised Vocab-

31 Ibid., p. 327.

ulary of Culture and Society, Blackwell, Oxford, p. 70.

32 Ibid., p. 321.

7 Derrida, J 2008, Psyche: Inventions of the Other: Jacques

33 Ibid., p. 322.

Derrida, Kamuf, P & Rottenberg, E (eds.), Stanford University

34 Ibid., p. 323.

Press, Stanford, p. 45.

35 Ibid., pp. 323-324.

8 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, pp. 4-7.

36 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, p. 88.

9 Ibid., p. 12.

37 Derrida, J c1995, The Gift of Death: Jacques Derrida. Wills, D

10 Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, p. 317.

(ed.), University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. 74.

11 Ibid., p. 318.

38 Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 71.

12 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, pp. 14-24.

39 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, p. 27.

13 Ibid., pp. 35-36.

40 Ibid., pp. 27-28.

14 Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, p. 310.

41 Ibid., p. 27.

15 Melville & Busch, ‘Bartleby’, p. 31.

42 Ibid., p. 20.

16 Derrida, J 1988, Limited Inc., Gerald Graff. Weber, S (ed.),

43 Ibid., p. 35.

Northwest University Press, Evanston, p. 49.

44 Derrida, ‘Signature, Event, Context’, pp. 309-327.

17 Derrida, J 1998a, Of Grammatology: Jacques Derrida, Spiv-

XXX Ormond Papers



Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


Unifying the Archipelago Under what circumstances will nationalism flourish?

Isabella Borshoff is a second year Arts student


nder what circumstances will nationalism flourish? This is a question that has increasingly piqued the curiosity of historians throughout the last century. The seemingly obvious answers – cultural and

ethnic homogeneity within certain geographic bounds – may explain the rise of the nation-state in many cases. However, other cases, such as Indonesia, seem anomalous. Unlike other emergent nation-states, Indonesia lacked pre-colonial political and cultural unity. In fact, for Robert Elson “the material for national unity could not be more unpromising”1. The Indian Ocean archipelago was riven by ideological, religious and ethnic differences, yet within the colonial borders of the Dutch East Indies, a nation-state flourished.2 How did nationalism evolve in the midst of such heterogeneity? This essay focuses on the development of nationalist sentiment from the late nineteenth century to 1930. Firstly, it explores the manner in which colonial oppression paradoxically acted to solidify nationalist thinking. Secondly, it highlights how the experience of modernity and its globalising effect was formative in the creation of national identity. Finally, however, it asserts that to focus on colonial and modernising forces alone is to neglect the agency of the Indonesian people in the creation of their own national identity. It argues that individual leaders engaged the wider population in the nationalist struggle, providing a vital base for the construction of a national identity. Antlov and Tonnessen have defined nationalism as “an ideological movement for attaining or maintaining a nation-state”3. This definition captures the fluidity of the concept, but leaves open the question of what a nation really is. Benedict Anderson has posited “imagined community” as an appropriate definition.4 The

community is ‘imagined’ insofar as it exists as a visualised, rather than physical, entity; it is impossible for each member of the nation to know or meet more than a small percentage of the overall population.5 Thus, rather than physical ties, it is shared experience that facilitates the creation of this communal identity. On the other hand, the “imagined community”6 cannot be all inclusive because, geographically, other nations always lie beyond its borders.7 Hence, these borders play an important role in the construction of the nation-state. Ironically, it was the colonial demarcation of the Dutch East Indies that geographically facilitated the birth of Indonesian nationalism.8 The island archipelago did not comprise the kind of ethnic homogeneity that often lends itself to the rise of nationalist sentiment. Rather, more than 200 different cultural and linguistic groups found themselves part of the Dutch East Indies.9 Although there were historical periods when kingdoms ruled substantial parts of the archipelago, ‘localism’ remained the major source of communal identity.10 Elson notes that there was “nothing by way of broadly conceived, modern, decisive, Indigenous leadership”11. Therefore, the ‘idea’ of Indonesia was largely born of the colonial boundaries that marked Dutch territory, imposing a sense of unity on this otherwise disparate smattering of communities.12 This acted as a geographic base for the emergence of Indonesian nationalism.13

XXX Ormond Papers


However, the influence of colonialism on the construction of Indonesian nationalism extended beyond geography. In an attempt to reinforce the inferiority of the Indigenous people of the archipelago, labeled ‘inlanders’14, the Dutch symbolically conflated the ethnically diverse population into a unified, subjugated race. In combination with the geographic boundaries of the Dutch East Indies, this fuelled what Anthony Reid calls “anti-imperial nationalism”15. Out of a shared grievance against Dutch oppression rose a desire to deconstruct the racial hierarchies perpetuated by colonial society.16 Examining the writing of Kartini, the feminist daughter of a Javanese noble, provides a useful insight into this process. In her series of letters dated between 1899 to 1904, Kartini states: “In many subtle ways they [the Dutch] make us feel their dislike. ‘I am a European, you are a Javanese,’ they seem to say, or ‘I am the master, you the governed.’”17 It is interesting that even Kartini, who, as a member of the Javanese aristocracy enjoyed significant privileges not afforded to the rest of the Indigenous population, identified with a common quest for Indigenous rights. A similar sentiment is evoked in Suwardi Suryaningrat’s ‘If only I were a Netherlander’ article (1913). Suwardi, also a Javanese aristocrat, was amused by the irony of Dutch independence celebrations in the colony:18 I wish that for a moment I could be a Netherlander… How would I rejoice when later in November the long-awaited day would arrive, the day of the Independence celebrations… I would not want the natives of this country to participate in this commemoration… First of all we would hurt their finely attuned feeling of honour, because we would be commemorating our independence here in their country which we keep in subjection…19 Therefore, it can be argued that nationalist sentiment was born in part from a shared sense of oppression powerful enough to overcome considerable ethnic difference.20 The colonial racial hierarchy assumed yet another unifying force: the introduction of low Malay as common language. Dutch colonialists felt that preventing the use of Dutch language amongst the Indigenous population would help preserve the racial divide and the perception of Dutch superiority.21 Kartini emphasises this in her letters where, in a mocking tone, she notes that “Dutch is too beautiful to be spoken by a brown mouth”22. What the Dutch failed to predict, however, was that the use of Malay broke down the “parochial penchants”23 of the linguistically diverse Indigenous groups and solidified an overriding sense of common identity, rather than inferiority. Low Malay did not favour dominant ethnic groups, nor did it privilege class divides.24 The benefit of a common language for the nationalist movement would become apparent in the first decades of the twentieth century, in particular with the Youth Oath of October 1928, in which nationalists rallied in support of “one Motherland (Tanah Indonesia), one people (Bangsa Indonesia) and one Unifying Language (Bahasa Persatuan, Bahasa Indonesia)”25. Clearly, a common language formed a base for the construction of Indonesian identity.


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Furthermore, with colonial rule came the ramifications of European modernity. On one hand, its impact was less widespread than it had been in European societies. Colonial exploitation prevented the native population from reaping the economic benefits of industrialisation, and thus an entrepreneurial Indigenous middle class did not evolve as it did overseas. As Kahin notes: if the term ‘middle class’ can be used as pertaining to those nonaristocratic members of Indonesian society whose economic position was well above the average, it can then be said that the Indonesian middle class that existed during the last two decades of Dutch rule was predominantly noncapitalistic.26 As late as 1928, only 2% of Western-educated Indonesians were self employed.27 Despite this, the inclusion of a small portion of the native population into the colonial machine played an important role in fostering the nationalist movement. As Dutch business in the Indies grew, an increasing number of bureaucratic employees were needed in the cities to run the day-to-day affairs of the colony.28 The growth of the colonial economy resulted in significant mobilisation and urbanisation.29 The close living quarters of the city nurtured collaboration between individuals who were becoming increasingly conscious of Dutch oppression. This provided a platform for discussion and, consequently, the exchange of nationalist ideas. This increasing political consciousness was intensified by a shift to the so-called ‘Ethical Policy’ of 1900, which saw Western education become available to an increasingly large number of natives.30 For the Dutch, the Ethical Policy was a response to criticism regarding the exploitation of native workers under the ‘cultivation system’, which saw the forced collection of crops to fuel the colonial regime.31 It aimed to ‘civilise’ the Indonesian population in what seemed a kind of moral quest for the Dutch.32 It is important to note that this policy was not an attempt to abolish the racial hierarchy.33 While emphasis was placed on education, it was not intended to encourage self-rule, but rather to make the natives more amenable to the Dutch regime.34 There remained a belief that the colonised were inherently inferior. Even Colonial Officer Snouck Hurgronje, a critic of colonial oppression, hinted at this in his assertion that “our rule will have to justify itself on the basis of lifting the natives up to a higher level of civilization in line with their innate capacities”35. In fact, despite the façade of ‘ethical’ treatment of the colonial population, it seems that the Dutch had other motives for broadening educational opportunity. There was a common perception that pan-Islam would arouse dissent against colonial rule, and thus Dutch authority sought to combat this expression of non-Western identity with European education.36 By 1928, almost 75000 native children had graduated from Western primary schools, with roughly 6500 children continuing on to Western secondary schooling.37 Ironically, the increasing availability of Western-education played an important role in fostering nationalism. Textbooks, uniforms and certificates were standardised throughout the colony. The uniformity of the system played into the hands of the nationalists as students with culturally diverse histories from all over the XXX Ormond Papers


archipelago now had a shared experience to draw on.38 Furthermore, Western education was responsible for exposing Indigenous students to the realities of the modern world. It increased their awareness of nationalist movements overseas and highlighted how geographically small the Netherlands was, in comparison to how large it had loomed in their minds.39 Thus, not only did the pilgrimage to the cities bring native students closer together, they also found themselves part of a community with a relatively homogenous experience.40 They were able to ‘imagine’ themselves as part of a group whose similarities engulfed their ethnic differences, and where Dutch authority no longer seemed so infallible. As such, the colonial school system was a significant base upon which national identity was constructed. With the expansive education system came an increasingly connected and literate Indigenous youth who played a formative role in the genesis of the nationalist movement.41 This youth, largely drawn from the priyayi, the native aristocracy employed in the colonial bureaucracy, was increasingly urbanised, as colonial operations and education were largely based in cities. By living in close proximity, the ease of collaboration gave rise to some of the first nationalist organisations. For example, Budi Utomo (Pure Endeavour), the first nationalist organisation in Java, was founded by mostly priyayi students in Jakarta in 1908.42 Over time, however, the organisation showed a willingness to comply with colonial rule and its popularity with the young, progressive, student body decreased.43 Other political groups began to emerge, namely the Eurasian-led Nasionale Indische Partij (National Indies Party) and the most influential of the early groups, Sarekat Islam (Islamic Association).44 Thanks to its emphasis on religious unity, the latter drew support from a variety of ethnic groups, unlike many of its Javanese precedents and by 1919, it enjoyed a membership of almost 2.5 million people.45 Yet the first to embrace ‘Indonesia’ as an idea were a group of students in the Netherlands in 1917, founded formally in 1922 as Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Union).46 These Indigenous students, afforded the opportunity to study overseas in the Netherlands, were “determined to create a new nationalist party based on neither Islam nor communism”47. Upon returning to Indonesia, they founded study clubs to unify the Indigenous youth. It was here that they joined forces with Sukarno, an engineering student and member of the General Study Club, to form the Perserikatan Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Party).48 It is clear that educational opportunities facilitated collaboration between an increasingly literate and politically driven Indigenous youth, who were able to stimulate national consciousness amongst the wider population.49 Much of this was facilitated by advances in mass print communication brought about by the onset of modernity. As Kratz notes, “the development of the press had gone hand in hand with the development of the nationalist movement as a whole”50. For example, Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Association of Indonesia) set up a nationalist journal titled Indonesia Merdeka (Independent Indonesia) in the Netherlands, yet most of its readership lived in Indonesia.51 Suddenly, distance was no longer an obstacle for communication, and the ideas of the early nationalist movement could be diffused with relative ease. Furthermore, the widespread use


Ormond Papers XXX

of Malay as the national language helped to foster the “imagined community”52. This was another way that modernity acted as a base for the construction of Indonesian national identity. Nevertheless, to express nationalist sentiment as a product of colonial rule, exacerbated by the global experience of modernity, is to categorise Indonesian nationalism as the product of external forces. Given this argument, Indonesians came to learn about nationalist movements overseas and facilitated the co-option of these ideas to their own situation. Post-colonial scholars such as Partha Chatterjee have challenged this argument, noting that Anderson’s “imagined community”53 can only ever be imagined in terms of the colonial experience. Within Anderson’s framework, he says, “even our imaginations must remain forever colonised”54. McVey also asserts that nationalism did not just arise from a series of historical junctions. Rather, independence “was wrestled from the Dutch with revolutionary force”55. The construction of an Indonesian national identity was not a passive process whereby colonial oppression and modernity combined to produce a nation. Instead, key individuals harnessed these elements to validate the “imagined community”56. Perhaps the most significant leader in the struggle for independence was Sukarno, who was to become the first President of Indonesia after independence in 1945.57 He understood that nationalism could not advance while the population remained divided and, as such, sought to unite different political, social and religious groups in their struggle for independence. In 1926, he posed the question “Is it possible for these spirits to cooperate and form a common front against the colonial authorities and combine to form one great spirit, the spirit of unity which will bring us to greatness?”58. Yes, he affirmed, “Marxism, which was previously so anti-nationalist and anti-religious, has now altered its tactics, especially in Asia, so that its previous bitter opposition has turned into comradeship and support”59. By emotively evoking this sense of ‘comradeship’ between Indonesians across the archipelago, Sukarno created a unified foundation for national identity. Furthermore, Sukarno understood that Indonesian nationalism had to find its roots in something deeper than modernity and the colonial experience. His powerful speeches drew on historical memory to validate a sense of Indonesian identity. He emphasised that Indonesia, far from simply being a colonial creation, had an identity dating back to ancient times. In Java, there was a popular belief in “prophecies (ramelan) attributed to the twelfth-century king of Kediri, Prabu Joyoboyo”60. These prophecies spoke of Java’s vacillation between periods of jaman emas (prosperity) and jaman edan (misery).61 Sukarno commonly invoked these prophecies in his speeches, persuading his listeners of the ‘golden bridge’ that would lead them towards this prosperity.62 He also drew on the ancient Javanese puppet tradition, drawing parallels between its stories and the plight of the Indonesians for self-control. He emotively described the Dutch as “foreign ogres”; thieves who had stolen the Javanese kingdom.63 As Carey notes, Sukarno “was able to marshal the glory of the past

XXX Ormond Papers


to give Indonesians a sense of purpose for the future”65. Interestingly, Sukarno himself made this explicit in a 1930 speech: First, we show the people that they have a past, a glorious past. Second, we increase the people’s consciousness that they have a present, a dark present. Third, we show the people the rays of the future, shining and clear, and the means to bring about the future full of promise.65 Evidently, Sukarno’s ability to engage emotionally with the Indonesian people played a crucial role in solidifying the growing national sentiment. Lacking Sukarno’s leadership, nationalism may have failed to overcome the divergent forces at play within Indonesian society. The emergence of an Indonesian national identity was a multifaceted process. Without the colonial experience, Indonesian nationalism would not have developed in its current form. Both the physical and psychological boundaries constructed by the Dutch imposed a sense of unity on the culturally disparate archipelago. Furthermore, the processes of change that accompanied modernity led to the expansion of the colonial economy, thus increasing the need for an educated bureaucracy to take charge of daily operations. The urbanisation and education of a portion of the native population allowed for the development of nationalist groups and the diffusion of their ideas. However, to consider Indonesian nationalism as the product of external historical forces fails to acknowledge the agency of the native population.66 Ultimately, it was the power of individuals, such as Sukarno, to validate public perception of what Chatterjee refers to as an “essential cultural difference”67, which unified and strengthened the Indonesian national identity.



1 Elson, R 2008, The Idea of Indonesia, Cambridge University

11 Elson, The Idea of Indonesia, p. 91.

Press, Cambridge, p. i.

12 Kahin, G 1952, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia,

2 Ibid., p. 4.

Cornell University Press, Ithaca, p. 5.

3 Antlöv, H & Tønnesson, S 1996, Asian Forms of the Nation,

13 Ibid., p. 5.

Curzon, Richmond, p. 2.

14 Elson, The Idea of Indonesia, p. 91.

4 Anderson, B 1983, Imagined Communities, Verso, London, p. 6.

15 Reid, A 2010, Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and Political

5 Ibid.

Identity in Southeast Asia, Cambridge University Press, Cam-

6 Ibid.

bridge, p. 8.

7 Ibid., p. 7.

16 Ibid., p. 9.

8 Rigg, J 1981, Southeast Asia: A Region in Transition, Unwin

17 Kartini, R 2005, ‘Javanese Aristocracy and the Dutch’, in

Hyman, London.

SarDesai, D (ed.), Southeast Asian History: Essential Readings,

9 Vickers, A 2005, A History of Modern Indonesia, Cambridge

Westview Press, Boulder, pp. 135-139.

University Press, Cambridge, p. 2.

18 Vickers, A History of Modern Indonesia, p. 75.

10 Ibid.

19 Soerjaningrat, R 1913, ‘If only I were a Netherlander’, in

Ormond Papers XXX

Penders, C (ed.), 1977, Indonesia: Selected Documents on Co-

43 Nagazumi, ‘National Awakening’, p. 15.

lonialism and Nationalism, 1830-1942, Queensland University

44 Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, p. 70.

Press, St. Lucia, pp. 232-233.

45 Korver, A 1988, ‘The Islamic Movement’, in Wild, C & Carey, P

20 Elson, The Idea of Indonesia, p. 15.

(eds.) 1988, Born in Fire: the Indonesian Struggle for Independ-

21 Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, p. 39.

ence, Ohio University Press, Athens, pp. 17-21.

22 Kartini, ‘Javanese Aristocracy and the Dutch’, p. 139.

46 Ingleson, J 1988, ‘Sukarno, the PNI, and Perhimpunan

23 Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, p. 39.

Indonesia’, in Wild, C & Carey, P (eds.) 1988, Born in Fire: the

24 Anderson, B 1990, Language and power: exploring political

Indonesian Struggle for Independence, Ohio University Press,

cultures in Indonesia, Cornell, Ithaca, p. 139.

Athens, p. 52.

25 Carey, P 1988, ‘Myths, Heroes, and War’, in Wild, C & Carey, P

47 Ibid.

(eds.) 1988, Born in Fire: the Indonesian Struggle for Independ-

48 Ibid.

ence, Ohio University Press, Athens, p. 6.

49 Korver, ‘The Islamic Movement’, p. 20.

26 Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, p. 29.

50 Kratz, E 1988, ‘The Press’, in Born in Fire: the Indonesian

27 Ibid.

Struggle for Independence, Ohio University Press, Athens, p. 48.

28 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 115.

51 Ibid., p. 49.

29 Vickers, A History of Modern Indonesia, p. 60.

52 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 6.

30 Reid, A 1981, ‘Indonesia: Revolution without socialism’, in

53 Ibid.

Jeffrey, R (ed.) 1981, Asia, The Winning of Independence, St.

54 Chatterjee, P 1993, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial

Martin’s Press, New York, p. 125.

and Post-Colonial Histories, Princeton University Press, Princeton,

31 Gouda, F 2008, Dutch Culture Overseas: Colonial Practice

p. 5.

in the Netherlands East Indies, 1900-1942, Equinox Publishing,

55 McVey, R 1996, ‘Building Behemoth: Indonesian Construc-

Jakarta, p. 24.

tions of the Nation-State’, in Lev, D & McVey, R (eds.) 1996,

32 Ibid.

Making Indonesia, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 11-25.

33 Vickers, A History of Modern Indonesia, p. 17.

56 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 6.

34 Ibid., pp. 21-22.

57 Elson, The Idea of Indonesia, p. 71.

35 Hurgronje, C 1911, ‘The Ideal of Association’, in Penders, C

58 Sukarno 1926, ‘The Quest for National Unity’, in Penders, C

(ed.), 1977, Indonesia: Selected Documents on Colonialism and

(ed.) 1977, Indonesia: Selected Documents on Colonialism and

Nationalism, 1830-1942, Queensland University Press, St. Lucia,

Nationalism, 1830-1942, Queensland University Press, St. Lucia,

p. 157.

p. 308.

36 Kahin, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, p. 44.

59 Ibid., p. 310.

37 Ibid., p. 40.

60 Carey, Born in Fire, p. 9.

38 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 121.

61 Ibid.

39 Elson, The Idea of Indonesia, p. 211.

62 Ibid., p. 10.

40 Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 21.

63 Ibid.

41 Carey, P 1988, ‘Introduction’, in Wild, C & Carey, P (eds.)

64 Ibid.

1988, Born in Fire: the Indonesian Struggle for Independence,

65 Sukarno as quoted in Wild, C & Carey, P (eds.) 1988, Born in

Ohio University Press, Athens, p. xxi.

Fire: the Indonesian Struggle for Independence, Ohio University

42 Nagazumi, A 1988, ‘National Awakening’, in Wild, C & Carey,

Press, Athens, p. 10.

P (eds.) 1988, Born in Fire: the Indonesian Struggle for Inde-

66 McVey, ‘Building Behemoth’, p. 11.

pendence, Ohio University Press, Athens, pp. 12-16.

67 Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments, p. 26.

XXX Ormond Papers


Polixeni Papapetrou Between Worlds

Polixeni Papapetrou is an Ormond alumna and an artist. Her photographs ask questions about identity and self-awareness. She is based in Melbourne

The Caretaker

The Digger

The Debutants

The Harvest

The Loners

The Players

The Provider

The Reader

The Wanderer

The Watcher

The Mourner

The Visitor

The Violinist

“‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was!’” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland -Lewis Carroll

The Building of a

New China Can China Change?

Hugh Utting is a third year Environments student


ities are viewed as a reflection of a society’s economic and cultural progress and are a fundamental agent of change. Modernity, on the other hand, is the process of thorough social, economic and polit-

ical transformation of a society. Thus, the city has been essential for Chinese political leaders, intellectuals and businessmen to establish a modernised China. Leaders of the various regimes that ruled China during the twentieth century focused on modernising their major cities in order to establish China’s power and dominance in the modern era. This paper will argue that during the Qing Dynasty Chinese cities were perceived as backward, before Republican rule modernised Nanjing to reflect their modernisation. Finally, under Mao, the Communists focused on modernising both the city and the countryside. However, the city remained the symbol of the regime’s modernity. Among historians there are conflicting conceptions of the Chinese city during the Qing period. Throughout Chinese history, cities have occupied the “commanding heights of political economic authority” . German sociologist Max Weber perceived the oriental cities of China to lack the modern urban civic communities and infrastructure of European counterparts. Chinese capitals, he claimed, were predominantly focused on administrative matters. They were purely the “capital of the mandarins” . Chinese cities were centres of intellectual and political affairs and did not have significant merchant cultures. In contrast, European cities actively fostered “scientific… capitalist enterprise in industry” . Modern Chinese history scholar John Friendmann argues that ancient Chinese cities developed and maintained a distinctive urban tradition during the Qing Dynasty, clearly not recognised by colonial scholarship. Jonathan Fenby points out that the rural economy was still primitive, inefficient and struggling to modernise. Nevertheless, during the twilight years of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese cities failed to match the modernisation occurring in the colonial quarters of the treaty ports and Western concession cities. New Chinese intellectuals influenced by Western colonial industrialisation, architecture and culture during early Chinese modern history, led cities to become the crucible of modernity. The Treaty of Nanjing (1842) prompted the establishment of treaty ports and concession cities by European colonial powers along the coast of China. This led to the development of Hong Kong, Canton, Ningpo and Shanghai, which all developed rapidly at the forefront of urban modernisation in China. By the 1920s, Shanghai had become China’s most economically advantaged and populace city, with a population of three million. The International Settlement of Shanghai “boasted a skyline graced with classical Greek columns that still look more like Oxford Street than the Orient” . This emphasises Shanghai’s comparative advancement to other Chinese traditional cities and the countryside. The Western-style architecture of contractually defined concession areas in Chinese cities largely influenced architecture outside these areas. The concessions of international settlements enabled a new urban consciousness to develop amongst the Chinese that had previously not occurred in traditional Chinese cities. Moreover, a “vernacular literature emerged in the pages of many new journals” in Shanghai, a city home to many modern writers including Lu Xun. Jianfei Zhu notes that “Chinese industrialists, intellectuals, students and revolutionary activists lived amongst the foreign concessions” and created a XXX Ormond Papers


new modern, intellectual public separate from the Manchu Confucian-orientated, Qing dynasty sanctioned public sphere. The considerable influence of the international concessions allowed them to foster the development of a new intellectual movement, reflecting the ability of the city to be the crucible of modernity. New Chinese cities thrived on the innovative, new business produced by the blending of Western business practices and Chinese culture. Hong Kong’s Sincere and Wing On department outlets established stores in Shanghai during the early 1900s. These stores expanded rapidly by applying Western models intertwined with traditional Chinese cultural values. The Sincere and Wing On department stores “physically and figuratively marked the fuller modernisation in China […] Western stood for quality and superiority” . Under Republican rule, the creation of the ‘modern city’ Nanjing demonstrated the value that the new regime placed on utilising the city as an embodiment of the power, dominance and modernity that the Chinese endeavoured to establish. The Republican era under Sun Yat-sen was characterised by the beginning of a “New China […] progressive in spirit” , open to Western methods and systems that were previously shunned by the Qing Government. In 1927, the Nationalists moved the capital from Beijing to Nanjing, believing that the Nationalist regime could only break free from “Manchu rule if it left Beijing and crafted Nanjing into a new capital city”. Nanjing demonstrated the importance of the city as a symbol of power. However, the Nanjing of the early Republic was neglected and hardly the opulent city of the Ming era or the modern capital that Sun Yat-sen had aspired to. The reformers in Nanjing were inspired by Western planning history and styles, and adopted the international planning principles of the City Beautiful Movement with “little heed to local context and tradition” . By 1937, over 107 miles of roads had been paved, electricity was available on a large scale and progress was occurring in the development of water and sewage systems. For the Republican Government, the modernisation of Nanjing on Western planning styles established its legitimacy in the modern world. The Nationalist government wanted to transform China through its capital. This reflects the belief that cities were the ‘crucible of modernity’ and an agent of change in society. The Mao era differed from the Republican in its equal focus on the development of cities and rural areas. The rise of the peasants was instrumental in Mao’s rise to power in 1949 and consequently he turned his focus to the countryside. By re-instating the capital as Beijing, the proletariat saw the capital as a symbol of the People’s Republic and the centre of the new modernity. Mao promised to eliminate the “three great differences” between worker and peasant, city and countryside and mental and manual labor. The Communist regime acknowledged that China could only industrialise if agricultural productivity improved. This marked a key difference from the Republican and colonial era modernisation that largely ignored the countryside and focused instead on urban centres. Mao’s efforts to modernise the countryside changed drastically during his reign, according to these prevailing political movements. Ultimately, Mao’s agrarian commune reforms and the Great Leap Forward were unsuccessful, causing a widespread famine and a failure to modernise either the city or the countryside as hoped.


Ormond Papers XXX

The Communists’ pursuit of modernisation was similar to that of the Republicans as they both strove to industrialise Beijing by developing it into an economic capital, as well as the political and cultural centre of China. Mao’s vision of urban modernisation “was a reaction to the bourgeois city of consumption during the Republican and Western colonial era” . He demanded a socialist city of production for the proletariat, allowing for the creation of a strong Chinese state. During the Communist regime, the industrialisation of Beijing’s factories and public housing superseded traditional Buddhist and Taoist temples. Soviet planners were used in the early years of industrialisation to improve traffic, including the construction of arteries and the ring road where the former city wall was previously positioned to improve traffic. This demonstrated how the Communists were still influenced by foreign methods. In addition, cities were used as ideological propaganda tools to project the regime’s socialist proletariat goals. Squares were constructed with great enthusiasm through the 1950-70s in cities, so that the regime “mobilise[d] endless political campaigns” . Mao reconstructed Beijing into both a socialist propaganda tool and an industrial centre, which embodied communist, urban modernity. Through the twentieth century, the city has been used by different governments to project their modernised social ideologies over the rest of China. This demonstrates the importance of cities in reflecting new aspirations in developing the crucible of modern history in China.

XXX Ormond Papers


Endnotes 1 Yu, KP 2008, ‘The Development Logic of Chinese Culture

13 Denison, E & Guang, YR 2008, Modernism in China: Archi-

under Modernization and Globalisation’, Boundary 2, vol. 35,

tectural Visions and Revolutions, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester,

no. 2, pp. 157-82.

p. 98.

2 Yeh, WH 2000, Becoming Chinese: Passages to Modernity

14 Wellington, V 1917, ‘The New China and Her Relation to the

and Beyond, University of California Press, Berkeley, p. 99.

World’, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science in the

3 Weber, M 1964, ‘Confucianism and Puritanism’, in Gerth, H (ed.)

City of New York, vol. 7, no. 3, July, p. 5.

The religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, The Macmillan

15 Lipkin, Z 2005, Useless to the State: Social Problems and

Company, New York, p. 242.

Social Engineering in Nationalist Nanjing, Harvard University

4 Ibid., p. 242.

Press, Cambridge, p. 55.

5 Friedmann, J 2006, ‘Four Theses in the Study of China’s

16 Greco, C & Santoro, C 2008, Beijing: The New City, Skira,

Urbanization’, International Journal of Urban and Regional

Milan, p. 52.

Research 30, vol. 2, pp. 440-51.

17 Lipkin, Useless to the State, p. 55.

6 Fenby, J 2009, The Penguin History of China, Penguin Books,

18 Brown, J 2012, City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China:

London, p. 102.

Negotiating the Divide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,

7 Zhu, JF 2000, Architecture of Modern China: A Historical

p. 3.

Critique, Routledge, New York, p. 43.

19 Fenby, The Penguin History of China, p. 414.

8 Lincoln, T 2012, ‘Revolution in the streets’, History Today, vol.

20 Lipkin, Useless to the State, p. 230.

62, no. 8, p. 45.

21 Friedmann, ‘Four Theses in the Study of China’s Urbanization’,

9 Ibid., p. 45.

p. 443.

10 Ibid., p. 45.

22 Greco & Santoro, Beijing, p. 20.

11 Zhu, Architecture of Modern China, p. 44.

23 Lipkin, Useless to the State, p. 232.

12 Chan, W 1996, ‘Personal Styles, Cultural Values, and Man-

24 Wu, H 2005, Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the

agement: The Sincere and Wing On Companies in Shanghai

Creation of a Political Space, University of Chicago Press,

and Hong Kong, 1900-1941’ The Business History Review, vol.

Chicago, p. 23.

70, no. 2, p. 141.


Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


Michael E. Stone Proffessor Michael E. Stone is an Ormond alumnus. He was Gail Levin de Nur Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University for many years and is now retired.

He lives in Jerusalem.

Selected poems

The Way From the Sea Life crawled up onto beaches from the sea, and our blood is still salt like sea. Stones from the sea are dotted with fossils, and rock layers striped with silt and sand. The sea strives, beats angry the shore, salting the land, to kill the earth. Sea lives, sea threatens, fertile sea, deadly sea. The heavens colour it, Leviathan guards its heart.


Common flowers

When the sun shines

Ordinary flowers,

there are shadows.

unnoticed common flowers,

The brighter the sun,

viewed close up are

the darker.

beauty unsuspected.

Medieval paintings

People, ordinary people,

show no shadows,

ordinary everyday people,

just light and dark.

known close up show beauty unsuspected.

Hounds howl at the moon, at the shadow selves, on its far dark face. Here below, faces are well-lit but shadows stay.

Peter Singer Can ethics and economics coexist? Professor Peter Singer AC is an Ormond alumnus and philosopher.

Interview with William Moisis


n general, what obligation do people in a privi-

only a sentence or two in that article, that I’ve taken

leged position have towards the world’s poorest

more seriously over the years, and it’s that way of


thinking that lies behind the scale suggested in The Life You Can Save.

I think anyone who has enough to be able to meet all their needs comfortably, and still have significant

Do you think there is any relevant moral distinction

amounts left over for things that are not necessary

between our obligation to those people who are the

but enjoyable, has an obligation to do something significant for the world’s poor. And the question is then, “What does something significant mean?” In The Life You Can Save, I suggested a kind of progressive scale which said perhaps start with giving 1% of your income, work up towards 5%, and then if you get over a certain income level, which was around $USD100,000 a year, think about working up to 10% and then increasing for those who earn more. That is a scale I suggested. The distinctions you make are somewhat arbitrary, but the idea was to think of something that wasn’t too demanding of people, so that people wouldn’t just throw up their hands and say, “it’s impossible”. Nevertheless, it’s something significant and if you could get a lot of people to do it, it would make a real difference to problems regarding global poverty. In the strong argument for charity you present in

poorest in the world and our obligations to those closest to us, like our friends and family?

I think that if you look at it from a purely objective point of view you could say that your obligations are to do the most good, so if you could do more good for people who are strangers or more distant to you, then that’s what you want to do. But I also think you have to take account of the fact that firstly, you know your friends and family better, and you will be able to better judge what they will do with the money. So, you might say that “I can be highly confident that helping my friend in this situation will do a great deal of good, while I can’t be as highly confident about the good that an organisation will do with my help; even if I look at the most effective charities. So, that’s one difference. And one might also think in terms of what you can reasonably expect people to do. Friends and family

Famine, Affluence and Morality, you argue that we

are important to us; that’s the kind of beings we are;

are morally bound to give away our income up to

that’s the way we are able to live and to continue to

the point of marginal utility – so that we are as poor

work for good causes. If we did not have good social

as the next poorest person.

support, I think a lot of people might abandon that.

I put forward that principle and said that it was the principle that in one way has the greatest coherence, but I also suggested a weaker principle. I said that it might be the case that it’s actually better to advocate a lower standard if the result is that you get more people giving, or you get a greater total sum given as a whole. So it’s really that particular point, which is

Very few people can really maintain their motivation and concern if they don’t have support from friends and family. So I think it’s also reasonable to say that in order to be in this for the long-term; in order to live a life that I can find sufficiently satisfying and attractive to live in the long-termf, I need to have friends and I need to feel part of a close family unit,

so that’s inevitably going to involve giving some

ly critical and that’s unfortunately the way our

priority to their needs over the needs of strangers.

attitudes are formed by the idea that somehow if you are a member of the species Homo-sapien you

Do you think there are elements of a flourishing human life that can’t fully be expressed in utilitarian calculation?

No, I don’t think there are as long as we understand the goods we are talking about in terms of the utilitarian calculation, whatever that is, and whether it understands happiness or pleasure broadly enough. I think we can encompass all of the things that we would need to flourish in human life. I don’t know if you have any particular examples you would like to suggest?

have some special moral status that you don’t have if you’re a member of some other being, irrespective of any other differences that may or may not exist between other beings and members of the species Homo-sapien. I think that’s just another boundary like the boundaries that we are familiar with from the past: the idea that if you’re European or white you are somehow more important than if you’re African or black; or the idea that if you’re male you have got some right to rule or lead and that if you’re female you don’t. I think that’s just another example of this group putting a boundary around themselves;

Just in terms our capacity to fully comprehend the

that we are the ones that matter, and who are we?

consequences of our actions. So, for example, if it’s

Well we are male or white or Homo-sapien. That

a decision between donating money to educational

really can’t be morally decisive, so you have to start

institutions versus donating money to save the lives

looking for other characteristics.

of the world’s poorest. While the latter may maximise the good in the short term, donating to institutions may have better consequences over the long term, but it’s difficult to be fully aware of the long-term consequences of that kind of decision.

Well, if it may happen in the long-term then we can say fine, that’s what you want to be doing. So, I’m not saying that utilitarians are actually able to do all the calculations and therefore confidently say that you know this is what you want to do rather than that; that’s a difficult question. But in terms of including what we might think of as important in a flourishing life, I do think utilitarians can do that.

Do you think that society is making progress?

Yeah we are making progress, we are making progress quite slowly but we are definitely making progress. Even since I started writing about it, just to give you one example in terms of the use of animals in experiments, Steven Pinker, the psychology professor and writer, said in one of his recent books that one of the worst things he’s ever done was a psychology experiment he did as a graduate student on a rat, which was considered perfectly normal at the time. It’s not that he alone has suddenly shifted in his view, graduate students in psychology just

On the position on the suffering of animals, why do

wouldn’t do it today; they just wouldn’t treat animals

you think they are morally relevant?

that way. So, you know, that’s a sign of progress, and I think we’re seeing more awareness of the wrongs

I think they are morally relevant because I don’t think that what species you belong to is moral-


Ormond Papers XXX

of factory farming. I think there’s a wide consensus

about that now and even if people consume their

bled by the idea that parts of my life in some sense

products, even if people don’t know anything about

are not private; but I’d be more troubled by what

it, generally it’s wrong and even governments are

was done with that information.

starting to reform in minor ways. They are trying to get rid of the worst forms of confinement. When I started thinking about this issue, nobody was talking about it and there was no suggestion by governments that anything wrong was happening. Regarding the case of Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified NSA documents, what is your ethical take on the extent of the United States’ surveillance over its own people?

Firstly, it’s important to know what the government was actually doing. It’s not as if the government was listening to my phone calls and having somebody record or keep the content of my phone calls; they are simply monitoring the traffic. I think there is less concern about that than there would be if they were monitoring the recording of content. But also, in general, I think that we ought not to be as concerned about privacy itself, but about abuses or invasions of privacy. In other words: if it helps the government to prevent terrorism. Let’s assume it does. The government’s form of monitoring various forms of communication leads to them prevent-

As it seems you have no preference for an intrinsic right to privacy, how would you feel about further violations of privacy? For example, if there were security cameras in every home – that level of security may have consequences that are objectively better (due to vastly decreased crime rates). Is that outcome justified, given the objections many people may have?

Yes, if the only consequence were the reduced crime rate, I would. But it’s possible that how people live would be affected if there were CCTV cameras in their homes. They would have the sense that they were being watched, which would have a bad effect. Maybe their lovemaking would be constrained, who knows? So, given the way we are, there are likely to be costs. But, in fact, if there were no other costs, if nobody changed their non criminal behaviour because of the monitoring, and nobody enjoyed what they were doing any less because of the monitoring, and the only result was that some crimes, let’s say what we all agree to be crimes – violent acts on other people – were prevented, yeah I could accept that.

ing some terrorist attacks. I think that’s justifiable, unless the violations of privacy lead to abuses of

What do you think are the biggest moral issues my

government power. For example, if governments

generation will have to face?

were to call me up and say, “you better stop criticising the government and if you don’t we are going to

Climate change is the obvious one. I think climate

make public these embarrassing emails you sent to

change is real. I think it’s very serious. I think it’s go-

somebody”. Then obviously that would be an abuse

ing to have an effect on everyone. I think it’s already

of government power, and that would be a way of

having an effect. I think it’s going to have a bigger

effectively silencing critics who do not want to have

effect on your generation. And it’s going to have the

their personal correspondence made public. So, that

greatest effect on people who are poor, on people

would clearly be wrong. But I’m not really that trou-

who rely on rainfall to grow food, or alternative XXX Ormond Papers


income to obtain food if their crops fail. And that’s

Following on from that, what do you think the role

hundreds of millions; perhaps a couple of billion

of philosophers in the public discourse ought to be?

people. So to me that seems to be a very serious situation. It’s a very difficult situation to deal with because it’s a prisoner’s dilemma problem where everybody says, “well, you go first and we’ll follow. But if other nations don’t do it, then there’s no point in me doing it”. And that, plus the fact that the consequences of what we do now are somewhat distant in the future, plus the fact that we don’t have any kind of innate response to emitting greenhouse gases, because in our evolutionary past there have been no bad consequences from emitting greenhouse gases, so unlike things like eating faeces which we find disgusting, we don’t have any kind of disgust reaction or innate moral response to emitting lots of carbon dioxide. So, it makes the problem very difficult to deal with. It is a huge moral challenge,

I think that philosophers have an important role in addressing these questions, in communicating with the wider public and talking about what the ethical issues are and in raising the level of question or debate in the community on these questions. I wouldn’t say they ought to be more academic; academic debate ought to make itself more relevant and accessible. I think it’s really important that the work philosophers and academics do is accessible and comprehensible to the general public and that it addresses relevant ethical questions. You were at Ormond between 1964-1966. How did you find it? And did you think that living in an environment like that shaped the way you think about ethical problems?

because any individual might say, “I’ll be better off if I just enjoy my comfortable lifestyle, because

Being at Ormond definitely had an effect on where

the difference I make is trivial”, but if everybody

I am now, because I think it had a significant effect

says that then the differences are going to be very

on me deciding to do philosophy. When I came


up to university I was originally going to do law. I talked to a law faculty advisor – Sandy Clarke – and

So you’re pessimistic about the chances of effectively dealing with climate change?

Well put it this way, let’s say I’m genuinely optimistic about our ability to solve problems that face us. This just seems the toughest to solve within a kind of time frame that we need to achieve a solution in. Because if we leave it too late, things may simply get out of control. Feedback loops release more methane, or permafrost, and that means that even if we cut back our carbon levels dramatically, things will still keep unravelling.

he looked at my results and said you’ve done well in humanities, history and literature, and you might find law a bit dry, and so why don’t you do a law/ arts degree. So then I had to decide what to do for the arts part of it, and I’d always liked history in high school so I wanted to do some of that. My sister’s then boyfriend had done some philosophy and so I talked to him about that and it sounded interesting, so I decided to do first year philosophy. The lectures here were a little bit dull, and the tutorial I was in wasn’t really exciting either. But what actually did excite me were the college tutorials. The college tutorial that was given by the vice master, John Alex-


Ormond Papers XXX

ander, was really interesting. I saw through them the

interesting, I think, is important and doing well in

issues that were important and I really enjoyed the

your studies is worth doing for that reason. I think

discussions we had. I think it’s quite possible that

it makes a difference. But finding the areas that you

if I hadn’t been at Ormond and hadn’t had those

really want to do, and that you want to explore, I

discussions, I might’ve dropped philosophy at the

think is important. Seeing your privilege, in some

end of first year. So it made a big difference! Dis-

sense, as giving you a kind of responsibility to then

cussion outside of this too had quite a stimulating

make a difference for the good.

life, but for me that was with quite a small group of people. I’m not sure what Ormond is like now, but there was a fairly hefty sort of emphasis on sport and drinking and things of that sort, which was not really what I was interested in, but there was a small group of people who were interested in exploring intellectual issues. There tended to be one table at dinner that I would sit at, and we did have some good discussions there, including some philosophical discussions. Bill Garner was one year ahead of me, doing philosophy, and we had some good talks. Rod Kemp – a politician – was there, and although we had quite different political views, we had a lot of good discussions. So yeah, I got a lot from that. And what advice would you give to Ormond College to live a moral life?

I think if you are at Melbourne University, and particularly if you are at Ormond, you are in a reasonably privileged position. But I don’t think you need to feel bad about that in any way, what you need to do is say, “I’m going to make the most of this, in terms of using the opportunities for my own development at the university and what the college gives me; to make myself both somebody who thinks about important issues and is aware of them, and is motivated to do something about them; somebody who is well qualified later in life to do something about them. So, getting a degree in an area where you can do something effective and XXX Ormond Papers



Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


Posthuman Reconstitution Can we know ourselves? Bobuck Sayed is a second year Arts student


ike Narcissus doomed to serve his enchanted reflection, the posthuman precariously perches on the brink of the signifying chain’s elusive pond, lusting at its radiating reflection composed entirely of

ripples. Fixed convictions of selfhood undergo radical transformation as the limitations and implications of being human are challenged.1 The Enlightenment man, as theorised by Immanuel Kant, rebelled against subjection to theocracy, postulating reason and rationality as the fundamental underpinnings of autonomy. I argue that Kant’s utopian vision constitutes man’s first clear, collective understanding of himself, whilst contemporary poststructuralist conceptualising of the self deconstructs Kant’s egocentric ideal, unthinking the autonomous self as categories of selfhood implode, producing a fragmented ‘posthuman’ scattered throughout the signifying chain, feasting off its newly transformed subjection.2 The Enlightenment

liberated the eighteenth century individual from a wilfully oppressive theocracy, but with the unstable posthuman manically sucking upon the cyber teat of a new theocratic oppression - Google replacing God–could another enlightenment liberate us? Or do our iPhone screens provide enough light already? The chaotic and volatile twentieth century produced a new human, a posthuman, whose very core reflects advancements in its world. This posthuman abides at the intersecting crossroads of postmodernism and poststructuralism. Using Kant’s outdated humanist as referent for my posthuman imaginings, the following explores the posthuman’s determining and/or subjugating forces, and the consequences of embracing a posthumanist conceptualising of self. These consequences fall within two broad strands; the first unpacks the poststructuralist instability, universality and new reflexivity, and the second explicates the posthuman’s fear, reconstitution and manipulation. Before thoroughly engaging with the adaptations of the twentieth century posthuman, the Enlightenment referent must first be sufficiently unpacked. Enlightenment ideologies promoting science, courage, individual freedoms and reason emancipated man from doctrines exacerbating a self-incurred tutelage of faith and tradition.3 Kant’s ‘What is Enlightenment’ (1784) encapsulates the optimistic fervour seizing man during the crux of Enlightenment, the individual on the cusp of infinite possibility. Kant believed that courage was paramount to the release of man’s intellect and autonomy from theocracy’s shackles of convention. Fear, then, was the crippling legacy of oppression, an artefact that the Enlightenment aimed to liberate man from through establishing his sovereignty.4 Without this fear, Kant postulated, man could finally realise his innate capacity for autonomy, the behavioural obstacle surpassed by a simple cognitive rethinking. The individual was glorified for his rationality, ushered in by his courage to exercise intellect. The Enlightenment ideology encouraged redemption for the past with a new path towards a greater perfection of human progress, not removing human nature from the equation, but acknowledging it as an essential constituent on that path to progress.5 6 But insofar as the Enlightenment’s theoretical move authorises and extends autonomy through courage to some, it also excludes and forecloses that quality for others.7 Kant’s degrees of civil freedom acknowledge the societal distinctions upon which any notions of courage, autonomy and reason are necessarily based.8 The Enlightenment deployed freedom according to the structured and hierarchical foundation that stabilised the community.9 Thus, Kant’s autonomy is better equated to an ambitious mentality than a XXX Ormond Papers


newfound behavioural capability, reducing the movement to a cultivation of privilege. These distinctions confined and bracketed the human within fixed parameters that the poststructuralists later accursed. Kant’s hypothesis of Enlightenment, then, is effectively undermined beneath the poststructuralist gaze, which offers a mode of critique that contests any foundationalist move.10 Derrida believed that this mode functions as a perspective-shaping chip within our brains, not a task at hand.11 If the Enlightenment encouraged an optimisation of the fixed categories confining humans, poststructuralism acknowledges that any radical upheaval of the human subject must relinquish distinguishing foundations. Poststructuralism obliterates the Enlightenment’s positing of the subject as branching from conflicting and subordinating distinctions, hierarchies or categories of selfhood.12 It vehemently refutes natural architecture that constrains system design, evaluating any object or persons in terms of disassembly and reassembly.13 Through this poststructuralist deconstruction, categories, the basis for the Enlightenment man’s privilege and differentiation, implode. The subject, realising this categorical and referential implosion, becomes gradually effaced as well.14 Though more in line with postmodernism than poststructuralism, this subject that once embodied integrity and unity, no longer does.15 The human being morphs and reconfigures under the poststructuralist gaze into a multiplicity of signifiers floating through a nebulous abyss.16 The poststructuralist reformation of the self opens up its identity to re-usage or deployment without foundations, providing the conditions to mobilise the signifier in service of multiple significations.17 This is the chimerical posthuman, whose past is preserved only as the destruction of the past, whose individuality is now displaced and incorporated into its environment, and whose once fixed, but relative, position on the signifying chain is now scattered throughout, an absent referent and indeterminate signification cohabitating simultaneously.18 19 Though rapid-fire desire acquisition and convenience compose the benefits of embracing posthumanism, the negative consequences of its inherent instability are far more nuanced.20 If the Enlightenment man’s autonomy depended upon his individual rationality, the volatile posthuman world distributes cognition amongst itself.21 For the posthuman unthinking a Kantian autonomy, the autonomous will is merely the fabricated story that consciousness tells itself to explain results that actually come about through chaotic dynamics.22 Along with any belief in autonomy, the posthuman has lost its individual fulcrum. If, as Derrida notes, centres are an illusion, then the difference here between the Enlightenment man and the posthuman is that the posthuman is brutally aware of his fulcrum’s absence.23 Though both lust over reflective portraits of autonomy, stability and individuality, the posthuman knows that only a different frame will yield its desires. The decentralising of formerly centred subjects or psyches24 integrates and positions the posthuman as a social identity within a social order, aggregating identities25 into an amorphous universality at the epicentre of the poststructuralist categorical implosion. Though categorical distinctions employ a polluted framework of privilege, a consequence of their poststructuralist breakdown is this universality, a totality of identity whereby the posthuman finds stability only in the sharing of that instability with its peers. In turbulent solidarity, the posthuman cathartically consumes,


Ormond Papers XXX

shaping an identity of itself as irrational consumer and of its complementary environment: the consumer culture.26 The complex interplay between the two fosters both a dependence upon this universality and a reproduction of the system’s singularity.27 This universal force is the antithesis of Kant’s exclusionary categories because homogenous inclusion is its primary intention. In the consumer culture of flexibility and deprivation of safeguards and permanence, the illusory infinitude of choice buffers the posthuman from despairing within an identity that fluctuates transiently through an absence where categorical distinctions once lay.28 Given that the impotence and pliability of the masses grows with the quantitative increase in commodities and choices, totalising consumer society produces and reproduces diligent and homogenous consumers.29 30

With its instability having assimilated any individual nuances into social identities within social orders,

the posthuman searches desperately for its reorienting referent, for validation that it exists. But the signified has been conflated with the referent, and debris from the implosion obscures both.31 Simply knowing that it is consuming fulfils the posthuman’s social identity and satiates its capacity for reason. The deconstructed posthuman finds only images of itself, pseudonyms, spectacles, and simulacra of an original it yearns for, but that no longer exists.32 Aware of the stagnation and irrationality its obscurity engenders, the posthuman must adapt. Once oppositional characteristics conflate in the wake of poststructuralist deconstruction of all categorical distinctions and previous narrative paradigms, an entirely new reflexivity is created.33 This reflexivity involves the amorphous posthumanist dominating, disarming and absorbing any cultural resistance into its universality.34 Universality refuses the possibilities of positioning the cultural act outside massive being, undermining mutual exclusion with feedback loops that infiltrate elements of independent categories into each other.35 Many posthumanist theorists, including Hayles, have equated this reflexivity with the system-observer example.36 In this dominance-deploying model, the system captures and affects the observer even as the observer tries to position itself outside of the system. Power, here, is the crucial determinant of observer/ system, or absorber/absorbed; in fact, power pervades the very conceptual apparatus that seeks to negotiate the terms of this new reflexivity.37 38 This interrelation reaches fruition in DeLillo’s White Noise (1985) in the form of Willie Mink. By the close of the novel the side effects of Dylar, a drug that Mink collaboratively invented, have absolved his rationality entirely, rendering him fearful of signs, such as ‘plunging aircraft’, not their referents.39 DeLillo establishes Dylar’s power in its agency over Mink’s autonomy, absorber of Mink’s individuality, and hegemonic force dominating the posthuman. The chimerical formation of the posthuman elicits multi-pronged and unpredictable signification, however theory does not paint a clear enough picture without literary corollaries.40 The volatility that posthuman instability necessitates finds personification in the narrator of Acker’s Great Expectations, whose absence of fulcrum, chronology, and subjecthood invite comparison to Jameson’s schizophrenic breakdown in the signifying chain, whereby the process of signification is subverted.41 42 In her typically jagged fashion, Acker slips interchangeably between commentary of the New York City art scene and the history of France’s royal XXX Ormond Papers


family, before the reader can even acknowledge a transition has been made.43 Acker’s schizophrenic narrator’s style and lack of a stable subjecthood undermine the conventional path from signifier to signified, and reveal a relationship between multiplicities of signification. If personal identity is itself the effect of a certain temporal unification of past, present and future, then Acker’s style of homogenous volatility reflects her identification with the posthuman: amorphous, socially adaptive and schizophrenic.44 This schizophrenic posthuman, then, implies a conception of human radically independent of Kant’s notions of foundation, temporality and autonomy. The Enlightenment man determined to uncover and enhance the uncertainty of his world premised a synonymy between power and knowledge that time has not since extinguished.45 Knowledge temples, however, have shifted, such that the posthuman is now dominated by sheer ignorance of its constitutive forces, e.g. the information systems it is exposed to.46 Kant’s ideals of courage unlocking autonomy are irrelevant in light of the power that these information systems command, the enormity of which the human mind is simply incapable of cognitively representing.47 These systems, interchangeably called technology, crucially augment the posthuman.48 Relinquishing power to the external realignment of knowledge temples elicits fear in the posthuman,49 who becomes a passive terminal, vulnerable to the subjugation that its indeterminacy of possibility permits. DeLillo negatively depicts technology’s formative influence on Steffie, who recites brand names in her sleep, and contrastingly illustrates Wilder divinely, who retains an archaic humanism that the Gladney’s glorify.50 51 Due to the intimate and absorbed relationship that the posthuman boasts with its technological systems, the uncertainty of its capabilities are its most frightening component.52 It has potential to draw unprecedented power from unbeknown reserves and exact devastation upon the posthuman it essentially constructs, and thus controls. In the enigmatic readiness of the technologically educated masses to fall under the sway of any despotism and in their self-destructive affinity to popular paranoia, the weakness of the transformed modern theoretical faculty is apparent.53 Haraway, too, acknowledges technology as an agent for reconstitution, blurring the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed.54 This is reminiscent of poststructuralists’ ignorance of the contemporary force that technology engendered to their deconstructive purposes. Fear is a dark corollary of embracing one’s technologically constituted posthuman self, but ignorance and reconstitution can also be harnessed innovatively. Assuming the poststructuralist belief that subjecthood is indeed absent from the universality of human experience, then removal of the human actor from the sociocultural system reinvigorates and redeploys a new subjecthood.55 Still constituted by the power of its technological and social relationships, this power does not cease at the moment the subject is constituted, for that subject is never fully constituted, but subjected and produced repeatedly.56 Understanding the posthuman as part of a distributed system demonstrates the full expression of human capability as dependent and empowered by the splice rather than imperilled by


Ormond Papers XXX

it.57 Employing that power during its multiple reproductions for its own creative means exploits those very models of its domination.58 This indicates that a reinvigorated subjecthood simultaneously ushers in a more resilient, alternative sense of autonomy, one that accepts reconstitution as a redefinition of organic, or as its own adaptive function. This newfound figment of autonomy releases the oppressed human by redefining its shackles as an empowering instrument, liquidising the limitations and significations of fixed conceptions of humanity.59 60 Kant’s notion of courage finds a contemporary application. Courage must drive the posthuman to subvert the hegemony of information systems by channeling the power these systems engender to further its own capacity for knowledge. The performance artist ‘Stellarc’ embodies the posthuman negotiating autonomy, employing his body as a map of power and identity.61 A Wi-Fi operated ear on his arm, human-robot installations, and regular metal-hook suspension practices reproduce the reconstitution of his body, bridging a divide between posthumanism’s reconstituted self with a wilfully reconstituted body. His premise of ‘fractal flesh’ recalibrates the technological subject for artistic exploring bodies connected to the Internet.62 Stellarc focuses on extending embodied awareness in highly specific, local and material ways.63 In response to the dominating power of information systems, Stellarc incorporates, manipulates and channels those information systems through his body and into his art. If the twentieth century was a process whereby the posthuman teetered on the edge of the signifying chain’s elusive pond, it is now well and truly submerged. Kant’s Enlightenment man promoted an essential human nature unfulfilled, postulating courage as the key to unlocking the full capacity of human autonomy. For the posthuman, courage remains integral. But the fundamental fabric of human composition reconstituted over the course of the two centuries, and hegemonic information systems and dynamically inverted power structures have since called the very notion of an essential humanity into question. A categorical and referential implosion theorised by the poststructuralists instigated an unthinking of autonomy, individuality and identity. The consequences of this mode of critique fall within two schools, the first explores the poststructuralist instability, universality and new reflexivity, and the second explicates the posthuman’s fear, reconstitution and manipulation. Performance artists like Stellarc have revitalised a redefined emergence of autonomy, subjecthood and individuality. By exercising and adapting Kant’s notion of humanity, the posthuman manages to subvert its own subjugation and excel alongside it.

Endnotes 1 Hayles, N 2010, How We Became Posthuman: Ten Years On.

3 Kant, I 1784, What is Enlightenment, p. 5.

Interview with Katherine Hayles by Arthur Piper, Edinburgh Uni-

4 Adorno, T & Horkheimer, M 1986, Dialectic of Enlightenment,

versity Press, Edinburgh, p. 329.

Herder & Herder, New York, pp. xv-4.

2 Levi-Strauss, C 1987, Introduction to Marcel Mauss, Rout-

5 Turgot, A 1750, ‘The Fact of Progress’, Progress and History:

ledge, London, pp. 63-64.

Selected Documents, Paris.

XXX Ormond Papers


6 Kant, What is Enlightenment, p. 4.

34 Ibid., p. 48.

7 Butler, J 1992, ‘Contingent Foundations: Feminism and the

35 Hayles, Ten Years On, p. 326.

Question of ‘Postmodernism’’, in Butler, J & Scott, J (eds.) 1992,

36 Butler, ‘Contingent Foundations’, p. 7.

Feminists Theorise the Political, Routledge, New York, pp. 6-14.

37 Ibid., p. 6.

8 Kant, What is Enlightenment, p. 5.

38 Delillo, D 2011, White Noise, Macmillan Publishers Limited,

9 Ibid.

London, pp. 46-356.

10 Butler, ‘Contingent Foundations’, p. 7.

39 Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, p. 285.

11 Derrida, J 2006, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

40 Acker, K 2002, Great Expectations, Grove Press, New York,

Jacques Derrida, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford.

pp. 103-105.

12 Ibid.

41 Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 26.

13 Haraway, D 1991, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Rein-

42 Acker, Great Expectations, pp. 78-79.

vention of Nature, Routledge, New York, p. 470.

43 Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 40.

14 Jameson, F 1990, Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of

44 Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 4.

Late Capitalism, Duke University Book Press, Durham, pp. 22-43.

45 Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, p. 470.

15 Butler, ‘Contingent Foundations’, p. 14.

46 Kant, What is Enlightenment, p. 8.

16 Levi-Strauss, Introduction to Marcel Mauss, p. 64.

47 Hutchins, E 1995, Cognitions in the Wild, The MIT Press,

17 Ibid., p. 63.

London, p. 383.

18 Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. xv.

48 Ibid.

19 Levi-Strauss, Introduction to Marcel Mauss, p. 65.

49 Delillo, White Noise, p. 62.

20 Bauman, Z 2004, Work, Consumerism and the New Consum-

50 Ibid., p. 46.

erism, Open University Press, London, p. 28.

51 Hutchins, Cognitions in the Wild, p. 384.

21 Hayles, N 1999, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies

52 Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. xiii.

in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, University of Chicago

53 Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, p. 466.

Press, Chicago, p. 288.

54 Hutchins, Cognitions in the Wild, p. 363.

22 Ibid.

55 Butler, ‘Contingent Foundations’, p. 13.

23 Derrida, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

56 Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, p. 290.

24 Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 29.

57 Ibid., p. 14.

25 Bauman, Work, p. 25.

58 Hutchins, Cognitions in the Wild, p. 368.

26 Ibid., p. 32.

59 Hardison, O 2004, Disappearing Through the Skylight:

27 Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, p. 290.

Culture and Technology in the Twentieth Century, Penguin, New

28 Bauman, Work, p. 35.


29 Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. xv.

60 Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, p. 471.

30 Butler, ‘Contingent Foundations’, p. 13.

61 Stellarc 2013, Lecture at the Victorian Centre for the Arts,

31 Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 22.

Melbourne, 13 April 2013.

32 Ibid., p. 43.

62 Hutchins, Cognitions in the Wild, p. 365.

33 Ibid., p. 49.


Ormond Papers XXX

XXX Ormond Papers


Dan Russell Is sharing caring? Professor Dan Russell is a philosopher and classicist, and the Seymour Reader at Ormond College

A Discussion with Harrison Fenton

Economics is fundamental to human society, but

Bastiat provided important insight in his essay ‘Cap-

seldom well-understood. An episode of South Park

ital and Interest’. Here’s the basic idea: imagine that

(an under-utilised source of economic truths) satiris-

George makes furniture for a living. After analysing

es this reality, with the citizens personifying, or more

his business, George realises that if he built himself

accurately, ‘deifying’, “an angry and unforgiving

a carpenter’s plane, he could make better quality

economy” who has been “mocked… and now has

furniture and would come out ahead of the previous

cast its vengeance upon us”. Whilst it would do a

year’s sales (even after subtracting the time lost to

disservice to my economics lecturers to suggest that

building a plane instead of making furniture). So, he

economics, as a whole, is a simple field, the basic

builds himself a plane. Now, Fred is also a carpenter.

principles upon which it relies are scarcity, opportu-

Fred catches wind of George’s plan and makes him

nity cost and incentives. To learn more about these

an offer: “lend me your plane for a year, and I’ll

issues, I talked with Ormond’s current Seymour

replace it good as new”. George agrees; a plane for

Reader, Dr. Dan Russell, who expanded upon the

a plane is a fair exchange. Yet, herein lies the crucial

relevance of these principles to today’s world.

point: not only has Fred asked George to make this exchange, Fred has also asked for the opportunity to

With the U.S. Federal Fund Rate at historical lows,

use the plane in his workshop for a year; an oppor-

economics has become a topic of great interest for

tunity that George will have to give up if he lends

many people. At risk of sounding like a character

Fred his plane. Fred’s return of the plane completes

from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, I asked

the first exchange and makes George whole, how-

Dr. Russell about his thoughts on the morality, or

ever, there must also be something to complete the

the necessity, of charging interest. He responded

second exchange to account for George’s year-long

that making a ‘gut-level’ case against interest is

loss of his equipment. Perhaps, then, Fred might

really easy. Suppose Fred needs to borrow $100

offer to bring George a new piece of hardwood

from George, but George will lend it to him only if

when he returns the plane. This offering would

Fred agrees to pay back $110. It looks like George

make George whole for the opportunity that he

is exploiting Fred, pure and simple, that if George

relinquished to Fred.

wins, Fred has to lose. Much of our history has been shaped by this very assumption, whereby charging

Now, imagine that instead of lending Fred a plane,

interest is ‘negative-sum’. However, charging interest

George lends him the money to buy a plane.

is an exchange that benefits both parties. It’s not just

There’s no difference, after all. In this case, Fred

necessary, it actually makes the world a better place.

will pay back the money for the loan, and instead

Unfortunately, this is a somewhat controversial

of a piece of hardwood, Fred could pay back an


equivalent sum of money; again, no difference. In other words, George could lend Fred money and

Nonetheless, Dr. Russell presses on. To see how

Fred could repay the loan with interest. Interest is

interest works, you have to understand opportunity

simply the price of having money (or, if you like,

costs. Eighteenth century French economist Frederic

the things money buys) now instead of later. There’s XXX Ormond Papers


no exploitation here; paying interest is just the price

used to pay them is drawn from future citizens in

of a valuable service, like any other. There is no

the form of taxes or inflation (which is, essentially,

loser here: George wins, and Fred wins too, since he

another kind of tax). So, of the factors attributed to

places more value on having the plane now than on

GDP, few have anything to do with being wealthier,

having $10 a year from now. The exchange, in other

much less about being better off. Kennedy was dead

words, is ‘positive-sum’.

right about that.

A fantastic result for all parties involved! Howev-

So, what is the relationship between happiness and

er, not all aspects of economics are so rosy. In our

wealth? If we’re going to think of happiness as that

discussion about the many problems of the U.S.

which “makes life worthwhile”, then instead of

healthcare system, the topic of Quality Adjusted

thinking about happiness merely as a feeling, we

Life Years (as a means of evaluating a person’s life)

should think of it as a future, a good life, the same

emerged. Dr. Russell expanded on the economic

as envisaged when we wish newborns and newly-

and ethical considerations that arise when trying to

weds ‘every happiness’. In this sense, Dr. Russell

assign such a value.

thinks about happiness more or less as Aristotle did: happiness is making good use of the time you’re

Robert Kennedy famously said Gross National

given. And that’s why wealth can’t buy happiness. In

Product (GNP) “measures everything, in short,

order to make good use of your time, you must be

except that which makes life worthwhile”. Measures

able to make your own use of your time. And that

of wealth aren’t good measures of happiness; that’s

is what wealth is about. People are wealthier when

just a simple truth. Moreover, indicators, such as

more of their time can be devoted to the things they

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or GNP are also

are living for. Spending your time on something

weak measures of wealth if we’re being honest. For

better than drudgery requires replacing scarcity with

instance, GDP measures the total goods and services

abundance. So again, the key here is to recognise

brought to market in a given year (plus the goods

opportunities. Wealth is not the meaning of life. But

and services provided by the government). So, of

wealth is about having the opportunities to give life

course GDP doesn’t count the value of the things


we do for each other outside the market—that is,


where so much of what’s good in life takes place—

Another topic that arose was the issue of misaligned

and yet it does count what government bureaucrats

incentives in regards to the morality of a privatised

provide, whether anyone cares or not. Even worse,

health care system, subservient to the cold ration-

as economist David Henderson points out, GDP

alism of capitalism. Dr. Russell outlined the role of

doesn’t count the opportunity costs of spending one

medical insurance in the U.S. workplace and the

way rather than another. For example, if the gov-

effect this has on their incentives, as well as those of

ernment went into debt to pay people to dig ditches

medical professionals.If a genie came out of a bottle

and fill them in again, that spending would count

and offered to grant him one wish, provided it was

as boosting GDP, regardless of whether the money

a wish about U.S. health policy, Dr. Russell knows

Ormond Papers XXX

exactly what he would wish for: an end to the tax

been since the World War II era. Evidently, nothing

exclusion for employer-provided healthcare. In the

short of a systemic change will do, and ending the

United States, people can pay for health services

tax exclusion would be the best place to start.

with pre-tax dollars, provided they pay for these services with health insurance purchased through an

Now suppose that you buy private health cover, but

employer. This practice was originally intended as a

not from your employer. Not only are prices for

way for employers to improve compensation pack-

services still inflated, but the cover to pay them has

ages, but its effects have been not simply bad, but

to be bought with after-tax income: the tax exclu-

catastrophic. Because the tax exclusion is basically

sion is a double disadvantage for these people. It’s

a public subsidy for healthcare insurance, people

also a disadvantage for smaller businesses, who find

tend to buy more than they need, driving insurance

it harder to offer health cover to their employees and

prices up. Moreover, because people pay for health

therefore have a harder time offering competitive

services almost exclusively with insurance, patients

compensation packages. The tax exclusion also has

almost never shop around for a better price. On the

regressive effects, since people with lower incomes

contrary, they rarely have any idea what the prices

are also less likely to be offered employer-based

are, and more importantly, providers wouldn’t know

health cover. Conversely, the higher your income,

how to tell them even if they did ask, which ulti-

the more likely you are to be offered cover, and the

mately drives up the price of the services themselves.

more you save by excluding part of your income

So whether we’re talking about health insurance or

from taxes. To make things even worse, private

health services, prices are significantly distorted by

health cover is heavily regulated to be as uncompet-

the tax exclusion.

itive, comprehensive and expensive as possible, no matter how little cover you actually want to buy.

On the other hand, the more that public cover schemes approach these distorted prices, the greater

Speaking of tax inequality, there was a lot of furore

the strain they place on the federal budget—and this

about the matter during the lead up to the U.S Pres-

strain is immense. Over the past fifty years, federal

idential election last year (there probably still is in

spending on public health cover has grown rapidly,

some quarters). I asked Dr. Russell a slightly loaded

both in absolute terms, and as a proportion of all

question about whether there was a lot of misinfor-

legally required spending (or ‘mandatory spending’).

mation about how progressive the U.S. income tax

In fact, in 2012 the Congressional Budget Office

system is relative to its peers, and whether or not

determined that even if all non-mandatory spending

this misrepresentation extends to the distribution of

(including defence spending) dropped to historically

income/wealth in the United States.

low levels, tax revenues would grow to historically unprecedented highs. Even if everything else

He reiterated that recent public debt in the United

effecting the economy went impossibly well despite

States has been approximately three-quarters of

mandatory spending staying the same, the federal

GDP, which is extremely high, and moreover, the

government’s debt would still be the highest it has

second highest in U.S. history (after World War II). XXX Ormond Papers


This is attributable to a number of factors: a major

1970s to the mid-2000s. In the 2000s, the wealth-

recession, multiple wars, a woeful combination of

iest Americans were paying a smaller proportion of

tax cuts and increased spending. Not surprisingly,

their total income in taxes, but so were all Ameri-

debt was a major issue in the 2012 Presidential Elec-

cans. The main difference was that the reduction was

tion, with voters divided into those who thought

greatest towards the bottom of the income spectrum

the debt was primarily a spending problem and

and lowest towards the top. Measured by changes in

those who thought it was mainly a revenue problem.

effective rates, taxes therefore became more progres-

One of the major candidates believed the issue was

sive. The other thing you find is that the proportion

a result of spending, but somehow in his mind this

of total revenue paid by the top 20% of earners

meant cutting things like public broadcasting, as if

went up while for the other 80% the proportion of

deficits in the trillions could be addressed by paring

total revenue paid went down. In other words, taxes

an expense in the millions; even worse, an expense

became more progressive when measured in terms of

that keeps something as beloved as Big Bird on TV.

relative shares of tax liabilities. Moreover, the latter result holds weight even if we adjust for changes in

Of course, the winning candidate argued that debt

shares of total income since 1979. By that measure,

is really a revenue problem, and his approach was to

a 2008 report from the Organisation for Economic

“pay down our debt” by making taxes more progres-

Cooperation and Development found that the Unit-

sive, asking “the wealthy to pay a little more” and

ed States had the most progressive taxes of the 24

permanently extending prior tax cuts for everyone

OECD countries (Australia ran a very close second).

else. That was a pretty easy sell, considering that the

So the idea that U.S. taxes have become less progres-

dominant view in the United States today suggests

sive is a myth. But it’s a myth that sells so well it has

that taxes have become dramatically less progressive.

become an accepted truth, and people have stopped

When evidence is given for this view, it’s usually

asking for evidence to support it.

about how marginal tax rates have changed: down from 70% in 1979 to just 35% in 2003. How-

It’s appropriate that we end this discussion with a

ever, the problem with this figure as a measure of

mention of both myths and truths, for I hope we

progressivity is that it tells you nothing about how

have indicated that these misconceptions are rife in

much people are actually paying in taxes; it depends

contemporary views about economics. Economics is

not just on marginal rates but also on income levels

a system that is based around the efficient distri-

and the thresholds at which those rates are applied,

bution of scarce resources, and explores the mech-

which is why, historically, the U.S. government has

anisms and incentives that drive this allocation. I

remained remarkably close to collecting about 18%

think it’s safe to say that when people see economics

of GDP in revenue, even though the marginal rate

problems occurring (or at least see them reported),

has fluctuated very widely.

it’s better to assume this is a result of a perversion in the system and not a fault of the system itself.

When you factor all of those variables in, you find a couple of interesting things in the shift from the late


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Old Girl A short story by Julian Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Donnell Julian is a second year Arts student

The cover story was about the boys, except they called them ‘men’. A photograph larger than even the headlines landscaped a suburban street. People gathered, our friends, around a burnt tree, blackened to its highest leaves by a petrol-fuelled bulb of flame. The tree base was alive with flowers, unlit cigarettes, notes and photographs. A wrought object sat on the road by the bike lane, blackened also. It looked rubber in the photograph, but the night before I had picked it up. It was metal, fallen from the bumper. Under the heat a plastic guard had dribbled over the footpath and crusted on the gutter. Over to the left, almost out of sight, clusters of brickwork sprawled across a stranger’s garden. Onlookers watched. Then, at the bottom, there were two separate photos. Faces. My eyes were drawn first to Mike Mason. The photo they picked wasn’t very flattering. Chosen in a rush, I suppose. His mouth was half open and his eyes were three-quarters closed. Bad choice, he was a handsome kid. It was a dull morning in August when all that appeared on the front page. Death hadn’t been such a big part of my life, except for when the old girl went a year earlier. A few days before she did, I was sitting outside with old Dalila, and she started making noises. Did she have to piss? I told her to get up, she didn’t. I waved a biscuit in her face, but she just couldn’t. I slung a towel around her belly and tried to help the animal up. She rose, but her front paws shook under stale bones. I just stood there with her dangling for a moment and then she started carrying on like she was in pain. I asked her, “what’s the matter … what’s the matter girl?” as if she was supposed to look around and tell me. But she just shook a bit more, she didn’t like it. I finally let go of the towel to see if she would stay up, but her backside just flopped back on to the brick floor and her front half followed like a bridge with snapped cables. I pulled a chair up next to her bed and just sat there after that. I couldn’t leave her there, about to pee on herself or defecate down her hind legs. So I just sat there with my legs stretched out, and soon after I began to cry. Not just sob. I was huffing and spluttering all over the place and for some reason I kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m just so sorry” to the dog sprawled out on her side. She wagged her tale and sniffed up at me like when she wanted me to scratch her belly. So I reached down and scratched her belly. I kept saying it, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, Dalila.” I didn’t really know what I was sorry for. I had some idea of what it was like to know someone to die. But nothing could have prepared me for when Mike Mason crashed his dad’s car with Jack Wyatt in the passenger seat. Mike Mason was my best friend as well, for a bit. He had this beach house on the Great Ocean Road that he invited me to one Easter, but the weather was really lousy so we just stayed inside most of the time and talked about God.

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They didn’t mention God at Mike’s funeral. Nor did they talk about how the circumstances were unfair, or cruel. They just talked about Mike. The whole afternoon was dedicated to him. They had the funeral in a huge function room and about nine hundred people came. People I didn’t even think existed anymore made it. Mike’s dad got up to thank everyone for coming and I thought that was pretty great. Then Nick Thompson’s dad Anthony, or Ant as we called him, introduced a bunch of speakers. I thought Carly Marshall held it together well, she even managed a smile and a joke about halfway through which sent momentary relief through a struggling audience. But I really lost it when my best mate Nick got up and couldn’t even finish the speech. I’d never seen him upset or anything, he was such a chirpy bastard and could laugh at anything. I felt like going up there myself and giving him a big kiss on the top of the head but no one moved for a couple of minutes. We just watched him cry for a bit. Two days later the Wyatt’s had their son’s funeral in a church in South Melbourne. It was hot in the building, but freezing outside. The chaplain of our school got up and opened with a prayer. He started talking about the accident, about the consequences of love, about how we had to forgive God. He said we should look to God for comfort, for salvation. We sat there for about an hour and only a few words were said about Jack and his big stupid nose. His sister said them; she got up and started laying into him about his goofy walk. She showed some real spine that day. After she said a few words she sung a song, played guitar and, finally, cried as she struck the last chord. But the rest was about us, the survivors, and how we were supposed to deal with the whole thing. At the end, we were supposed to turn to God again and give our farewells to the late Jack. If they’d fixed him a wooden box, he’d be writhing in it. I thought about him smoking cigarettes through his nostrils and dancing like an idiot around his kitchen while his parents were away. I thought of how he could pour a beer down his throat in five seconds. A photo of him in his school uniform came up, I almost laughed. I was friends with Jack, but we had a weird relationship. To be completely honest, and I feel bad saying this, I thought he was a bit pathetic. He would always stay home from school if he got a blocked nose or a headache and then come to school complaining about it non-stop. When we were much younger he tried to kiss me once when I stayed over at his place. He said he wanted to practice for when we started having sex with girls. I didn’t let him anywhere near me and felt at odds with him ever since then. But I’m not a homophobe and I didn’t tell anyone about it because chances are they’d be a homophobe. Ten years after he tried to kiss me, we went back to his place after his funeral.


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The adults stayed in the kitchen, talking. The first hour was pretty quiet; his friends spent it in the lounge room by a muted television showing re-runs of football matches. There were about seven of us left, and all of our parents got louder and louder from the other room as the hour got older. I went to the bathroom at one point and when I walked past the adults I saw that they were laying into the wine. Ant was standing at the sink looking out the kitchen window with a half empty glass of red in his hand. He ran his eyes across the fence as if trying to identify architectural faults in its design. My father was talking to Mr. Wyatt, who nodded up at him through drooping, drunken eyes. “One day at a time. Hell, one hour at a time. A minute”, I heard my father say. On my way into the bathroom I found that Ms. Wyatt was heading out. I didn’t say anything to her, she just passed me and kind of grabbed on to me for support as if she was keen to get back into the kitchen and drink. She used me to sort of propel herself out of the bathroom doorframe and I looked up at her thinking she wanted to kiss my cheek. I just pecked air like a fool. After relieving myself I came out and Jack Wyatt’s uncle, who was always lurking around football matches, was standing there. Well, he wasn’t exactly standing. He was leaning against the wall with his feet propped up on the opposite side of the hallway. It was a narrow hallway so he could reach with his gangly legs. He looked like he could have fallen asleep there but when he saw me he jumped up and grabbed me. ‘It’s very important to cry,’ he said, and put my face into his chest. Then he just held me there for what felt like a few minutes. After shrugging the lanky man off, I tried to walk quickly through the kitchen. But as I did, my own mother tried to get up in front of me. She reached for the chair frame to help herself, but missed. She fell right on her backside. The others managed a giggle. Ant came from the window and helped her up and she shook her head as if she was ashamed. I left. I went out the door and straight to Clarendon Street where I sat and waited for a tram. It took forever, but I didn’t want to get a taxi with my parents. While I waited I thought of the boys, and how the papers had called them men. I thought of Wyatt’s poor sister and her guitar. Then I got angry because I started thinking about the parents in the Wyatts’ kitchen, and Jack’s uncle trying to breastfeed me outside the bloody bathroom. I thought of Dalila and mum, falling on their backsides, getting ashamed of themselves and not wanting me to look. I thought more of Dalila, and how I’d said sorry about a hundred times to her for no real reason. I was still sorry. Sorry for Jack and Mike, that they didn’t get to go on and be what they wanted to be, or have kids, or get old and die normally. I probably started shouting like an idiot right there at the tram stop. XXX Ormond Papers


“I’m fucking sorry”, not caring who heard. When you talk to the dead, everyone hears except the people you want to hear. Even the skaters who were trying to grind handrails stopped when they heard me apologising, in my shitty suit and all, waiting for a tram. The drunks back at the Wyatts’ probably heard. I didn’t even want to think about them. So I shut up and tried to think of when Dalila and I were pups together. I wondered again why I had said sorry that day. Now I know why. It was because we were both puppies once, and there she was, dead, and I wasn’t even through with being a pup. That stupid dog, she used to run into the surf at Urquart Bluff, and when the waves got too tall she would look back to the shore, and I’d have to rescue her. Clothes and all.


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Vicky Rudolph-Stringer

Vicky Rudolph-Stringer

Vicky Rudolph-Stringer

‘As recieved- Side’ William Mosley

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Analysing the Australian Dream Can you bet your house on it? James McArthur is a graduate student studying a Masters of Finance


he motives for home ownership are imbedded in us all. The innate desire to own the shelter we use has been a centrifugal force directing us away from rational financial decisions and towards auctions,

banks and financial indebtedness for many decades. Australia is currently experiencing a large housing bubble that is yet to fully correct. The Australian market has been somewhat sheltered from the economic storm that battered global markets in recent years. This insulation, created by government policy and a huge resources boom, has delayed the event, but not the outcome. For extreme periods of asset price inflation to occur the following conditions are historically common: •

Large divergence from inflation trend line

Increasing housing debt to housing assets

High household gearing ratios

Negative rental carry

High relative price to income ratios

Accessible (i.e. large loan to value) and or loose credit standards

Restrictive planning policy

Each of these factors will be addressed in greater detail throughout the piece. Historical context – The road already travelled The 1996 Australian housing boom saw the most rapid increase in Australian house prices in at least 130 years (Figure 1.1). Numerous factors have encouraged this growth including: progressive deregulation of housing finance since the early 1980s, changes to the Capital Gains Tax in late 1999 and the introduction of both GST on housing and the First Home Owners Scheme, in the mid-2000s.1 After accounting for inflation and changes in the quality of houses, there has been a 300% increase in house prices since the mid 1960s. Preceding this boom however, house prices experienced little change for nearly a century. Figure 1.1: Australian constant quality real housing price index (1880 – 2012, 1880 = 100)

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Historical precedents – Lessons from history History is littered with examples of asset bubbles and the irrational exuberance of markets. The most prominent example however, is the credit fuelled housing boom and its subsequent bust as a result of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, experienced by many developed countries. In the United States, for example, house prices returned to their long-term inflation adjusted trend line (Figure 1.2). Similarly, Ireland also began to converge with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) trend-line. Australia however, has been sheltered from the losses experienced by most of the developed world in housing and has not yet experienced a correction. 
 Figure 1.2: Australia, United States, Ireland house prices and CPI (1986-2012, 1986 = 100).

According to Reinhart and Rogoff, most governments, and in turn, market participants attribute
the large divergence from the mean to various temporary and unsustainable factors. The housing market is no different. In fact, because of the strong emotional attachment that comes with housing investment, market participants try even harder to convince themselves that ‘this time is different’. Instead, as history has proven, the divergence is only temporary. This message has been made painfully clear for example, to those in the United States, Italy and the United Kingdom. Australia has experienced the same credit driven divergence from the CPI line but due to favourable economic factors the market is yet to fully correct. Based on this measure, Australian housing prices could drop approximately 56% before returning to the long-term trend line. Housing affordability – ‘How can I afford it?’ One of the most telling signs of unrealistic house prices is affordability. The key considerations in housing affordability are levels of gearing (debt to equity) and debt service capacity (interest-only or principal and interest relative to incomes). According to Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) data, between 30% and 60% of new investor loans over the past decade have been interest- only loans. This shift to a ‘minimum service’ approach has been so significant that (in terms of
the stock of credit outstanding), more than a third of investor housing credit is now in ‘interest- only’ terms.2 Given that most ‘interest only’ loan terms offer an initial ten to fifteen year period of principal-free debt servicing, the actual


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prepayment rate may continue to decline until the principal- fee periods lapse.According to RBA data, the aggregate household balance sheet is comprised of $4.2 trillion worth of real estate assets, and $1.3 trillion worth of mortgage debt.These findings imply a modest gearing ratio of around 30%. This analysis, however, is flawed as it ignores the concentration of mortgage debt. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 34% of occupied private dwellings in Australia are owned outright, 34% are owned with a mortgage and 28% are rented.3 It is reasonable to assume that of the rented properties not all are owned outright. Therefore one can also assume that approximately 50% of households are encumbered by a mortgage. As a result, the aggregate balance sheet of leveraged property investors will take the following form: •

$2.1 trillion of real estate assets (50% mortgagees of $4.2 trillion).

$1.3 trillion of mortgage debt,

$800 billion in equity 

When measuring debt over total assets ($1.3/$2.1), the real effective gearing level is approximately 62%. This analysis represents the true state of the aggregate balance sheet of leveraged property investors and thereby indicates that investors are well above historical and economically sustainable debt levels. Rental yields – Locking in a loss looking for capital gains Rental yields also indicate that gearing is too high. Based on RBA and ABS data, the rental yield is 3.7%.4 Excluding other costs of home ownership i.e. depreciation, strata, council fees and maintenance costs, the net rental yield could be 0.5% to 1% lower than the gross yield. Hence, the average net rental yield on property is approximately 3.2%. Currently the costs of housing investment (standard variable mortgage rate is approximately 6.5%) are significantly above income available from assets (rental yield is approximately 3.2%). For a leveraged investor to break-even on their property purchase, the most they could afford to gear is 50% (3.2% divided by 6.4%). Leveraged households however, have gearing much higher. Overall, it appears that gearing is 10 to 20% too high and that investors are being forced to subsidise debt service out of incomes, due to negative net rental yields in the hope of future capital gains. In an environment where house prices stagnate or fall however, this behaviour becomes unpalatable and breaches investors’ pain threshold, forcing them to deleverage. This over-geared situation also makes investors extremely vulnerable to payment shocks e.g. loss of employment. Given normal market conditions one would expect the cost of buying and renting to be comparable. This relationship is driven by factors such as taxes, risks and interest rates. Historically this relationship has been strong, with notable divergence or upswings experienced only during previous bubbles or unsustained booms, such as those during the mid-70’s, early 80’s, late 80’s, and today (Figure 1.3). Assuming that rents remain stable, house prices appear 40% overvalued based on this measure. In the United States, the house XXX Ormond Papers


price to income ratio has shown to be mean-reverting over time, and this is expected to happen in Australia as well. Figure 1.3: Australia and United States housing price to rent ratio (Australia: 1880 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 2010, United States: 1976 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 2012)

Fundamentally, there are two major reasons why investors would buy assets. Firstly, if the present value of the future cash flows exceeds the initial investment cost, then the investor should pursue the investment. Secondly, if the present value of terminal cash flow (asset sale) is likely to exceed all the interim costs and the cash outflows, including the initial purchase. The latter is the higher risk approach, as the terminal cash flow is difficult to predict and must be some time in the future. For the first time in history investors are willing to sustain large losses in the hope of a considerable terminal cash flow. Aggregate annual losses on rental properties of around $6 billion demonstrate a lack of fundamental pricing in the market (Figure 1.4). Figure 1.4: Aggregate residential property investor real net rental income (1978/79 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 2009/10).


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Homeowner income – Living on the edge The next piece of the affordability puzzle is gross income. The health of the housing market is directly linked to the health of the current and future homeowner. Despite low interest rates and interest only loans, today’s average Australian household has a very thin income buffer. To illustrate this, consider the following findings from the 2009 to 2010 household expenditure survey.5 According to the survey, owner-occupied households: •

Had 1.8 income earners on average, earning $2,238 per week, supporting one dependent child.

Paid $407 income tax per week, and $79 per week in superannuation and life insurance contributions.

Spent $1,272 per week on goods and services.

Repaid $136 per week of mortgage principal, and $322 in interest (total $458).

Saved $22 per week. 

Given this break-even cash flow situation, even a small increase in weekly costs or a decrease in weekly income would drive households into a negative cash flow situation. Furthermore, this implies that over 26% of the average owner-occupied households gross income is absorbed by mortgage payments. 
Incomes have not kept pace with this sharp rise in housing debt. Instead, households have added debt with no meaningful increase in their capacity to service it. This is evident in the tripling of housing debt to disposable income over the past 40 years, during which interest payments have also reached an all-time high (Figure 1.5). Investors appear to have reached a ceiling in their ability to physically service more debt, thus making them sensitive to payment shocks. 
 Figure 1.5: Australian household debt, total interest payments, housing interest payments to disposable income (%) (1977 – 2012).

As with inflation and rental rates, housing prices have also outstripped incomes. Price to income ratio is commonly used to measure housing affordability. According to Demographia, which assesses 337 housing markets in seven countries, Australia is ‘severely unaffordable’ with a median multiple over 5.6. Based on this measure, and excluding Hong Kong, Australia now ranks as the most expensive market in the world XXX Ormond Papers


(Demographia, 2013). Given that median multiples were historically 3.0 or less, the Australian market appears 40% over-valued based on this measure. Credit growth – A leading indicator with an ominous trend Credit growth is a critical element in the housing equation. Credit growth has proven to be a key demand driver for the increase in housing prices. For property prices to continue to rise credit growth not only has to increase but it would need to increase at an accelerating rate. There is a strong relationship between credit growth and house prices (Figure 1.6). Despite low interest rates in Australia, the recent growth in credit has been declining. This is an ominous sign for a market that has been heavily supported by credit growth. In the United States, annual credit growth was a leading indicator for the bursting of the housing bubble. Figure 1.6 : Australian and United States mortgage credit growth and real house prices (1991 = 100) (1991 – 2012). Foreign investment – Not changing the equation

Critics of the housing bubble argue that declining domestic credit growth has been supplanted by strong international demand for Australian housing. However, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board’s (FIRB) latest annual report, this is not the case (2012). For example, the total number of applications targeting Victorian real estate amounted to only 11% of new dwelling construction and an almost meaningless amount of total inventory. Given that Victoria attracted 45% of total real estate applications, foreign buying is not a material factor driving the Australian housing boom. To balance this analysis, supply-side factors must be considered by asking the following questions: 1) How do restrictive housing and land policies contribute to housing bubbles (noting that 
restrictive policies does not always mean a shortage)? 2) Are there restrictive housing policies in Australia that could contribute to a bubble? 3) Despite restrictive housing policies, is there oversupply in the Australian housing market?


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Historical Context – Restrictive housing policies contribute to housing bubbles O’Toole from the Cato Institute perfectly captures how restrictive land and building policies create housing bubbles. Notice that inelastic supply not only makes housing prices rapidly increase with small increases in demand; it also makes housing prices rapidly fall with small decreases in demand. This is exacerbated by lengthy permitting periods that can put homebuilders out of phase with the market. Thus, land-use restrictions create conditions ripe for housing bubbles.6 In Australia, Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB’s) exemplify restrictive planning policy. Melbourne and Adelaide both implemented UGB’s in 2002 to contain urban sprawl in their respective cities.7 However, this has caused speculators to buy land relatively cheaply outside the boundary, hoping to enjoy the significant capital appreciation once their land is included within the boundary. For example, in Baw Baw Shire outside Melbourne, a house-and-land package was $30,000 cheaper than in Pakenham, a nearby suburb located inside the boundary.8 Another example of this is captured in an extract from an interview with Kieron Barnes, senior planning officer at Adelaide Hills Council.9 “The South Australia Labor government created an urban growth boundary around Adelaide three years ago [2002] with the intention to stop the sprawl and to consolidate the city. But you could have guessed what happened then: People decided to move behind the growth boundary to places like Mt Barker from which they then commute to work in Adelaide. I was actually lucky to have bought my house there just before the growth boundary was put in place because after it was introduced land prices in Mt Barker soared.” How did the state planners respond? “Well, now they have created more growth boundaries around the smaller cities as well to stop this kind of leapfrogging.” Furthermore, in its September 2012 Bulletin, the RBA identified additional factors that contributed to restrictive housing policies in Australia:10 •

Complexity of the planning process – Creating uncertainty, lengthy delays and risk for developers, as well as significantly increasing costs for developers.

Provision and funding of infrastructure – Gone are the days of Government funding for roads, utilities and community services out of the tax base. The report states “developers often fund at least half of new utility and transport infrastructure in Sydney,

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Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.” Often the costs fronted by developers are negotiated across each project, providing an uneven playing field and planning uncertainty. •

Public attitudes towards infill development – Infill developments (redevelopment and repositioning of urban space and structure) are subject to community opposition which result in non-approval, restrictions on development approval and a loss of project viability. 

The final factor to be considered is whether, in spite of Australia’s restrictive land and housing policies, there is oversupply in the market. 
Housing inventories – Oversupply is a reality 
Currently, the housing bubble is justified by Australia’s severe housing shortage. Therefore by virtue of the laws of supply and demand, decreased supply (coupled with unmet demand), leads to these inflated prices being completely justified. This however, is not the case. 
In June 2012, Morgan Stanley researchers found that the 228,000 home undersupply initially predicted by the National Housing Supply Council (NHSC) was actually a 341,000 home oversupply (accounting for discrepancies between NHSC data and ABS Census Figures.) The census found there were 1.1 million fewer households than estimates used by the NHSC, and 595,000 fewer private dwellings. Given that Australia’s population is around 22.9 million and there is an average of 2.6 people per household, it follows that there are a total of 8.8 million households in Australia. Hence a 1.1 million discrepancy in this case is quite significant, calling into question the NHSC’s methodology.11 A housing shortage assumes that all houses are lived in, and that there is unmet demand in the market. However, data from a Department of Infrastructure and Transport study shows that the percentage of total unoccupied dwellings not only remained stable above 9% from 1990 onwards, but actually rose above 10% in 2010.12 Clearly, simultaneous increases in housing prices and the percentage of unoccupied dwellings does not justify oversupply conditions. In addition, a study by EarthSharing Australia, entitled “The 2012 Speculative Vacancies Report” estimated that there are 90,730 vacant properties around Melbourne itself, enough homes to provide housing for nearly a quarter of a million people. The study suggests that: The theory as to why so many homes are empty is due to the torrent of annual capital gains outweighing net rental income by a multiple, thus some landlords may believe it is better to let properties sit empty while the land appreciates in value.13 In fact, over the last decade Melbourne increased the size of the Urban Growth Boundary by at least 97,000 hectares, which is enough land to house over 1.6 million people.14 Speculative vacancies have also been observed in other major Australian cities, such as Perth and regional Western Australia with 20% of homes in regional WA vacant. Figure 1.7: Australian occupancy rate and percentage of total dwellings unoccupied (1860 – 2011)


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Apart from statistical evidence, oversupply is largely confirmed by various market reports of developers

unable to liquidate inventory. For example, an article in the Sunday Age in early 2012 highlights a rental apartment glut in inner city Melbourne, causing vacancy rates of 21.6% in the St Kilda area and 11.2% in Docklands. According to property experts, a vacancy rate of 3% represents a balanced market for tenants and landlords. Robert Papaleo, research director for Charter Keck Cramer, estimated that 12,000 new apartments are under construction right now or are very likely to be built by 2015, and that forecast population growth won’t be enough to keep up with the rate of new supply, especially in the CBD and Southbank areas.15 This trend is not limited to the inner city. The Age reported in July 2012 that there was a housing glut in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, with a record 55,290 homes unsold.16 From a logical standpoint, one could conclude that things would not have drastically changedover a 6 month to 1 year period. This phenomenon of oversupply is also seen in Sydney.17 Given that oversupply and speculative vacancies occur in Australia’s most populous cities, it would be reasonable to assume that it was occurring over the entire country. Despite the clear oversupply scenario in the current market, developers and politicians consistentlymake the argument of ‘underlying demand’, and the claim that the supply of housing cannot keep up with this demand. The following chart, however, debunks this theory.
 Figure 1.8: Quarterly dwelling Starts versus Population Growth (1982 – 2012).

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To better account for household occupancy, dwelling starts has been scaled up by 2.5 (average number of people per house hold.18 This is then directly comparable to population growth. As a result, the data now illustrates that only in 2009 was the demand, based on population growth, greater than the supply. On this basis, in every other year, the number of people that could have been accommodated by the new housing starts was actually more than the growth in population. Finally, the rhetoric of Australian commentators touting housing shortages is reminiscent of the behaviour of housing bubbles in various other countries. For example, in the United States (US): Leading institutions such as the Federal Reserve, National Association of Realtors, California Building Industry Association and Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies produced sophisticated studies to show that the $8 trillion housing boom was caused, in part, by dwelling shortages ... Yet, their expertise was as illusory as the shortage when the housing market crashed. The same again occurred in Ireland and Spain to the point where these three countries are now bulldozing entire neighbourhoods to reduce some of the massive oversupply19. Overvalued – By how much? The Australian Housing market appears to be in the midst of a price bubble. Various data points frame a market that is stretched, vulnerable to exogenous shocks and likely to experience a significant correction. Various data points allude to an average correction of 48% (Figure 1.15). Although the valuation and direction of a housing decline appears to be obvious, the timing of such an event is difficult to predict. A continued slow-down in China and/or a sharp deterioration in the labour market could bring on waves of forced deleveraging (asset sales) that initiates the downward trend in prices to more reasonable levels. Figure 1.9: Valuation summary: CPI trend line reversion, price to income multiple, price to rent ratio.

The future – How will it unfold? If these assumptions are correct, and in fact, the Australian housing market has produced a bubble, what then can we expect on the decline? Recent housing crashes in other countries like the United States and Japan provide useful insight into the correction and deleveraging cycle, both in quantum and duration. Economist and author Steve Keen presents a historical analysis of the Japanese and the United States corrections


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and the possible trajectory for Australia (Figure 1.16). The correction could take between six and eighteen years. Given the monetary and planning policy similarities, the United States appears the most probable case. Therefore, the downward trend could take up to six years to work through with declines of over 30%. Figure 1.10: House prices in the United States, Japan and Australia following identified peaks (Peak = 100).

The RBA still has some policy tools at its disposal to support the market in the case of major declines. Given the high probability that the RBA would act, these estimates have been cautious for the size of a correction. Nevertheless, a correction will eventually be felt as housing becomes increasingly less affordable, credit growth decelerates and oversupply weighs on the market.`

Endnotes 1

Australian Treasury 2008, Australia’s future tax system: Consul-

tation paper, Australian Treasury, Canberra. 2

Credit Suisse 2012, Australian Equity Strategy. Underweight


Van Onselen, L 2011, ‘Jumping the Urban Growth Bound-

ary’, MacroBusiness, 6 March 2011, viewed 9 April 2013, <

banks in anticipation of job cuts, payment shocks and declin-


ing house prices, Credit Suisse, Sydney.



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011b, ‘Housing tenure

Dobbin, M 2010, ‘Melbourne jumps its urban growth bound-

ary’, viewed 11 April, <

data in the Census’, viewed 22 April 2013, <






Evans, A & Hartwich, O 2005, ‘Bigger Better Faster More:


Credit Suisse, Australian Equity Strategy.

Why some countries plan better than others’, Policy Exchange,


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011a, Household Ex-

viewed 10 April 2013, <

penditure Survey 2009-10, ABS, Canberra. 6

O’Toole, R 2009, ‘How Urban Planners Caused the Housing

publications/bigger-better-faster-more---why-some-countriesplan-better-than-others/BBFM.pdf?attredirects=0>. Lawless T 2012, ‘Four reasons why Australia’s housing sector

Bubble’, Cato Policy Analysis Series, viewed 9 April 2013,



hasn’t responded to demand’, RP Data Research Blog, 14

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September 2012, viewed 9 April 2013, <http://blog.rpdata.

Stapledon, N 2007, Long Term Housing Prices in Australia and


Some Economic Perspective, University of New South Wales,




Hurley, B 2012, ‘Housing undersupply? You shouldn’t count on

it’, The Australian Financial Review, 3 July 2012, viewed 10 April>.

2013, <

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2012, Australian Demo-


graphic Statistics, ABS, Canberra.


Department of Infrastructure and Transport 2012, State of

Keen, S 2012, ABS figures show Australia’s housing price bubble

Australian Cities, Department of Infrastructure and Transport,

is bursting: Steve Keen, <




Soos, P 2012, ‘Speculative Vacancies in Melbourne: A

2012 Report’, Earthsharing Australia, 21 June 2012, viewed 9 April 2013, <>. 14

Fitzgerald K 2013, ‘Doctoring the supply: The housing fix we

are forced to ignore’, Prosper Australia, 19 April 2013, viewed 11 April 2013, <>. 15

Vedelago, C & Partenza, N 2012, ‘Rental squeeze begins

to ease’, The Age, 28 January 2012, viewed 10 April 2013, <>. 16

Vedelago, C & Houston, C 2012, ‘Housing glut hits suburbs’,

The Age, 8 July 2012, viewed 10 April 2013, <http://www.>. 17

Zhou, C 2013, ‘Oversupply hurting Sydney rental market’,

Smart Property Investment, 30 January 2013, viewed 10 April 2013, <>. 18

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2010, ‘Year Book

Australia, 2009–10’, viewed 19 April 2013, <http://>. 19

Soos, ‘Speculative Vacancies in Melbourne’.

FIGURE REFERENCES Central Statistics Office Ireland 2012, Ireland house prices, <>.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 2012, United States, <http://

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A Learning Revolution You say you want a revolution?

Rufus Black is an Ormond Alumnus and Master of Ormond College


couple of years ago a few students began a revolution here at Ormond. They weren’t alone either. Other students were lighting similar fires in universities all around the world. Quietly, these fires


I judge that before long they will start to burn down universities as we know them. The thing about revolutions is that they often start small and in unexpected places and then suddenly gain unstoppable momentum. Consider one of our most recent examples: Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit seller in Tunisia, whose protest sparked the Arab Spring. So what were our fruit sellers doing? As with most revolutions, it can be difficult to get an accurate account of events. However, to the best of my knowledge, this is how it happened. There was a group of science students who discovered that they had a less than inspiring lecturer on campus. Being an enterprising group, they searched around and found that a genuinely great lecturer taught a very similar course at MIT in the United States. As you might know, MIT put their lectures online for free. Well, you can guess what happened next. They would get together each week to watch the MIT lecture, skipped the university class and then found an Ormond tutor to explain anything that was unclear. They handed in their assignments, turned up to their exams and did very well. Perhaps to a social-networked, tech-savvy generation of TED talk watchers, this doesn’t sound very revolutionary at all. This is really the point! However, consider it from the perspective of the university. In this story, the university is no more than an assessment centre. The poor lecturer has been replaced by the best teacher in the world, the cavernous lecture theatre has been replaced by a comfy couch, a couple of bean bags and a good internet connection, the university tutorial of over twenty individuals who don’t know each other has been replaced by five friends who have chosen to work together. Ultimately, a college tutor whom you catch up with after dinner has replaced the overstretched university tutor who you never get to know. Herein lies the beginning of a revolution that will bring down the walls of universities as we have come to know them. I, for one, celebrate this revolution. Like President Reagan before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I think we should all call upon universities to “tear down this wall”. Why is my heart so immersed in this revolution? Firstly, modern universities are artefacts of the industrial era and have reached the end of their useful life. In their time, they served the important social purpose of using the techniques of mass production to increase the percentage of the population who became tertiary educated. It was, and still is, a worthy goal. But as the

scale of production has grown, lectures have also grown to hundreds of people, tutorials to more than tens of people and universities have become larger than towns with populations of 30, 40 and 50,000 students. Alienated from their teachers, making a means to an end, university life and its student population have become an ever narrowing educational enterprise. The educational returns on this model have been diminishing for a long time. Secondly, the limits of this industrial model restrain the reach of higher education. However, we can no longer afford for this to be the case. In the developed world, society is dividing into those with an education that enables them to participate in the global economy and society and those who don’t. Some describe it as the death of the middle class, others as the new inequality. Whichever way you describe it, the only viable solution is a radical democratisation of higher education that makes it practical and affordable for a far wider portion of society. Finally, and most importantly, the post-industrial world of higher education puts the learner in charge and that can only be good for learning. Let’s think about the story of our fruit sellers, not from the perspective of universities, but from the perspective of students and learning. First, this isn’t a story about an isolated individual, it’s about a group of peers committed to a common enterprise. That is an important distinction. We know that the most effective learning that people can do occurs in peer groups. Second, students took charge of their learning. They literally invented a new and better way of going to university that enabled them to learn what they wanted to know. It was a unique blend of the online and the real world, the college and university. They put themselves firmly in charge of their own learning. Third, our fruit sellers made great use of their community to find another tutor and to be in a convivial place of learning. Perhaps why I feel so strongly about the importance of what these students did is that in an age before the internet, I personally experienced the power of taking charge of one’s own learning. My first year of university was a rather mixed experience. I had exciting subjects taught by dull teachers, and potentially dull subjects, like legal history, taught so well that the lecturer would be applauded at the end of virtually every class. In law, I learnt far more from teaming up with a friend to win the first year mooting competition than from the lectures, where the sex and violence of criminal law was made tedious. My results were as varied as my interests. But, I was determined that I wouldn’t let the university define my learning. If the lecturer was lame I would get the reading list and start exploring on my own. If the lecturer was great I would take the person rather than the course; I wanted to find out what they thought. I chose courses with essays rather than exams so that I could pursue what I was interested in. When I could, I did joint work. I


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made great use of College tutors. Conversations with other Ormondians shaped my thinking. My results took off accordingly and my learning accelerated greatly. I went from being average to being at Oxford. So how are we to respond? How are we to join the revolution? I am glad to say that our university is taking a lead. Last year, The University of Melbourne joined with other notable universities around the world in a global consortium called Coursera, which puts free public courses online. This sort of course goes by the acronym ‘MOOC’ (Massive Online Open Courses). When Melbourne did this people wondered if there would be any real interest. Within months of Melbourne posting the four courses they offered, more than 50,000 people enrolled. That is more than the number of students at the university today. If you doubted the democratising potential of this revolution these early signs provided stark evidence for a spontaneous uprising of interest in education for education’s sake. You don’t get a degree or credit, you just get an education. Still, there is much that we need to do. The university may be democratising its offering but it is not transforming its offering for today’s students. So it is time that we join the uprising, time we take the lead and join our fruit sellers abroad. How do we do that? We need to follow our fruit sellers. Most importantly, take charge of your learning. What does that mean? For a start, determine what you want to get out of a subject. Lecturers provide goals for courses and set exams and assignments. But what are your goals? At the end of it, what do you want to know and be able to do? Determine the sweet spot between meeting their requirements and your own goals. Sometimes there won’t be much tension between them, sometimes there will. Negotiating the tension is indicative of a student in charge of their own learning. In my final years of law I decided that managing pollution, Indigenous issues, law and religion would be my primary themes. By assessment time, I chose the topics I wanted to focus on and I turned Japanese law into a subject on pollution regulation. Natural resources law became a research project on the economic instrument to reduce pollution. Indonesian law turned into a study of how they recognised Indigenous law, whilst Chinese law became a study on law and religious freedom. I transformed my final year thesis into a study of the nature of law in the Uniting Church. I would note that if you pursue your own agenda, it can have an impact. That research project on the economic regulation of pollution was done with Greg Hunt. It was groundbreaking for its time. It ended up a published article in The Age, a reference in books and would be cited in the Parliament twenty years later, when Greg became Shadow Minister for the environment. For many here, the first year or two of university life might be working out what your agenda is. It was for me. I suggest that you make it an active goal to have an agenda: a set of issues, a set of questions that you are passionate about. XXX Ormond Papers


Secondly, be active about your learning. Make it a rule never to turn up passively to a lecture or a tute. Lectures and tutes donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t start when the lecture begins or when the tutor walks in. If you are going to make good use of them, they start when you take ten to fifteen minutes to figure out what your agenda is for them. What are your questions? What do you want to get out of them? Lectures and tutes are not low-grade forms of passive entertainment; they are an interactive game or a contact sport. Remember that the scarcest resource at university is time with academics. Make good use of it and get as much of it as you can. Being active, rather that passive, also means finding the place for online opportunities in your learning. Are the lectures online better than the ones on campus? How can you use the offerings from other institutions to deepen your knowledge of areas you are passionate about? My key advice is to monitor the ratio between surfing to deep sea diving. Surfing is fun and tempting as you can easily map the ocean of knowledge that way, but to truly learn you need to get off the board and plunge deeper. Dive the depths that you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see from the surface, to the places where the creatures are strange. Go to the places that my children call the lands of the light eye fish. Thirdly, create a peer group to learn with. I watch those groups of students who work together in a tute room, mapping a subject on one of those long white boards, or the Commerce students who colonise a table in the Academic Centre and push each other along, and I note when their results come in that these groups tend to perform better. So take charge, be active and learn with your peers. Do that and you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t just do better and learn more, you might even find in history records that you were the generation of the revolution that changed higher education forever.


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Ormond Papers Music


rmond’s musical culture is melodically woven into the very fabric of our experience. The culture’s forms, nuances, manifestations and spaces reflect the eclectic diaspora of musicians that Ormond

accommodates. Events such Pickenfest and Open-mic nights provide a performative platform for some musicians, however, often the more classically trained crafters of sound, typically secluded in the remote sanctuary of Allen house or heard distantly reverberating through the brutalism of McCaughey, are sidelined. This year, Ormond Papers strived to showcase the brilliant spectrum of our community’s creative pursuits by encompassing the multiplicity of approaches to self-expression and artistic creation that Ormondians actively employ. Ormond’s community of performers is essentially artistic. 2013 is testament to this truth. A Conservatorium composer and pianist occupied the directorial role for the year’s major dramatic production. Furthermore, the Art Show saw a VCA violinist commanding enchantment in the games room, a DJ spinning atmospheric hypnosis in the Chapel and an orchestra of mystic whales underwater in McCaughey. The artistic community at Ormond is one of triumph and charisma. Cohabiting together congeals skills, visions and spaces to reveal the power that music and art hold as agents of sensory engagement.

Bobuck Sayed For Ormond Papers music see the Ormondian Website

Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll dig with it. -Seamus Heaney


noun \,kyr-ē-ä-s(e-)tē\

1. The desire to learn or know more about something or someone 2. Something that is interesting because it is unusual

2013 ormond papers