October 2011

Arts & Letters

Performance art masterpiece

By Anne Marsh

Mike Parr - ‘Close the Concentration Camps’, 2002

A man sits slumped in a chair; he wears a black suit, white shirt and no tie. His right trouser leg is ripped across the thigh revealing the word ‘alien’ branded into his skin. This is a six-hour endurance piece. During this time his lips, eyes and ears are sewn together, rough surgical sutures cross his face, blood and iodine solution run from the wounds onto his white shirt. The man can’t speak; his vision is impaired. Before him a huge mirror reflects the viewers, mostly standing back against the clean white walls, secondary witnesses to the trauma enacted on the artist’s body.

The text along one wall incites us to ‘CLOSE THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS’. In a separate room excerpts from Not the Hilton: Immigration Detention Centres: Inspection Report, published in 2000, are projected onto the walls. Parr’s action is an empathetic gesture, in recognition of the trauma experienced by ‘illegal’ immigrants who were, at the time, sewing their lips shut as a protest against their prolonged incarceration.

Mike Parr consistently uses his body as a site for radical actions that explore the psychopathology of people and society. Staged almost a decade ago, this powerful work still resonates politically and speaks to the nation’s shame.

—Anne Marsh

Cover: October 2011
View Edition

From the front page

An anti-lockdown rally in Sydney, July 24, 2021

We need to think about post-lockdown rights

Lacking serious debate on the next stage of the pandemic, Australia is ill-prepared

Scott Morrison is welcomed to the US Capitol, by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, September 22, 2021

Plus ça change

Morrison’s cackhandedness leaves him at the mercy of our allies, as French fury grows

Cover detail of Andrew O'Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’

There is a light

Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’ and what might endure from our irresponsible but spirited youth

Scott Morrison in the sheds after the NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys in Sydney, July 25, 2019

Birth of a larrikin

The disguised rise of Scott Morrison


In This Issue

20 Australian masterpieces since 2000

David Gulpilil in 'The Tracker'. Image courtesy of Rolf de Heer.

Film masterpiece

Rolf de Heer - ‘The Tracker’, 2002

'The Street Sweeper', By Elliot Perlman, Random House, 544pp; $32.95

‘The Street Sweeper’ by Elliot Perlman

Prescribing behaviour

The rush to diagnose ADHD


More in Arts & Letters

Photo: “Breakfast at Heide” (from left: Sidney Nolan, Max Harris, Sunday Reed and John Reed), circa 1945

Artful lodgers: The Heide Museum of Modern Art

The story of John and Sunday Reed’s influence on Sidney Nolan and other live-in protégés

Still from ‘The French Dispatch’

The life solipsistic: ‘The French Dispatch’

Wes Anderson’s film about a New Yorker–style magazine is simultaneously trivial and exhausting

Still from ‘Nitram’

An eye on the outlier: ‘Nitram’

Justin Kurzel’s biopic of the Port Arthur killer is a warning on suburban neglect and gun control

Still from Steven Soderbergh’s ‘No Sudden Move’

True to form: ‘No Sudden Move’

Steven Soderbergh’s Detroit crime movie is another formal experiment with commercial trappings


More in Masterpieces

Popular music masterpiece

Sarah Blasko - ‘As Day Follows Night’, 2009

Video art masterpiece

Shaun Gladwell - ‘Storm Sequence’, 2000

Stand-up comedy masterpiece

Justin Hamilton - ‘Circular’, 2011

Ballet masterpiece

Graeme Murphy - ‘Swan Lake’, 2002


Read on

Cover detail of Andrew O'Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’

There is a light

Andrew O’Hagan’s ‘Mayflies’ and what might endure from our irresponsible but spirited youth

Scott Morrison in the sheds after the NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys in Sydney, July 25, 2019

Birth of a larrikin

The disguised rise of Scott Morrison

Black Summer at Currowan

Lessons from Australia’s worst bushfires

Image of Paul Kelly

Unfinished business

Every Paul Kelly song so far, from worst to best