October 2011

Arts & Letters

Contemporary dance masterpiece

By Deborah Jones
Tanja Liedtke - ‘construct’, 2007

There are no Ring Cycles or Mahabharatas in Australian contemporary dance. The scale is frequently small and it is a fleeting art that depends crucially on its performers in a specific time and place. Since 2000, Stephen Page’s Skin, Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain, Lucy Guerin’s Structure and Sadness, Gideon Obarzanek’s Glow and Meryl Tankard and Paul White’s The Oracle live alertly in the memory, which is their only repository. But if one work must be selected to be first among equals, it is Tanja Liedtke’s construct.

construct premiered in London, with Liedtke in the cast. She died in an accident three months later, making this her last work. The physical reality of making things, particularly something as emotionally charged as a home, framed a study of the building and breaking of relationships. Construction implies competence, practicality, strength and creativity. There is a need for balance, ingenuity, problem-solving and co-operation. A structure can be a home or a prison; it can stand or it can fall. In Liedtke’s hands these literal and metaphorical notions were effortlessly entwined and animated with wit, joy, playfulness, sorrow, anguish and loss. The resonances were deep and intimate, sometimes troubling, yet rarely losing touch with life-affirming humour.

—Deborah Jones

Deborah Jones
Deborah Jones is the former arts critic for the Australian.

Cover: October 2011

October 2011

From the front page

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

What elitism looks like

Flagrant conflicts of interest abound at the top

Image of Guy Sebastian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, June, 2020

And now for something completely indifferent

The Morrison government is yet to fully realise that sidelining the arts hurts the economy

Image of Anne Ferran, Scenes on the Death of Nature I, 1986

‘Know My Name’ at the National Gallery of Australia

An exhilarating exhibition considers a persistent gender bias in the visual arts


In This Issue

Scene from 'The Theft of Sita'. Image courtesy of Melbourne Festival.

Music theatre masterpiece

An Australian–Indonesian production - ‘The Theft of Sita’, 2000

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Robert Helpmann & Anna Pavlova

Theatre masterpiece

Tom Wright & Benedict Andrews - ‘The War of the Roses’, 2009

The incendiary Meow Meow, 2011. © Magnus Hastings

Queen of the night

Meeting Meow Meow


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Dividing the Tasman: ‘Empire and the Making of Native Title’

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Shirley Hazzard’s wider world

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Citizen plain: ‘Mank’

David Fincher’s biopic of Orson Welles’s collaborating writer favours technique over heart


More in Masterpieces

Poetry masterpiece

Jennifer Maiden - ‘Friendly Fire’, 2005

© Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images

Design masterpiece

Marc Newson - ‘Qantas A380 Economy Seat’, 2008

Fiction masterpiece

JM Coetzee - ‘Summertime’, 2009

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Architecture masterpiece

Lindsay & Kerry Clare - ‘Gallery of Modern Art’, Queensland, 2006


Read on

What elitism looks like

Flagrant conflicts of interest abound at the top

Image of Anne Ferran, Scenes on the Death of Nature I, 1986

‘Know My Name’ at the National Gallery of Australia

An exhilarating exhibition considers a persistent gender bias in the visual arts

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Morrison’s climate flip

Australia has a lot of catching up to do on emissions reduction

Image of album artwork for Brazen Hussies soundtrack

Song sisters

The soundtrack to documentary ‘Brazen Hussies’ shows a breadth of feeling about women’s liberation in Australia


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