Contemporary Australian Cultural Practices

Cultural practices provide one key site for Australians to engage with issues that are significant to the nation and to national identity. Understanding the contribution of the cultural sector to new ways of being, identifying and representing Australia, both to itself and internationally, is vitally important to the vision of the nation.

This field of research will bring together current and new work across the following areas: literary studies, creative writing, theatre and performance studies, cinema, television, visual art, dance, publishing, new media, and social media. The aim is to develop and disseminate a sophisticated sense of contemporary cultural forms and practices in Australia, informing Australians' sense of their relationship to the nation and the world.

Rachel Fensham, Linda Barwick, Jakelin Troy, Lyndon Ormond-Parker, Tiriki Onus et al., Reclaiming indigenous performance in southeast Australia, 1935-75

This ARC Discovery Project (2018-2020) aims to reframe a period of Australian history, the Assimilation era (1935-1975), to demonstrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' active intervention in public affairs through performances of music and dance. The project will collaborate with present-day communities aiming to construct an alternative history of cultural resilience and agency. Outcomes directed at academic, community and public audiences aim to better inform current debates on Australian identity, support the work of contemporary practitioners, build international networks and validate histories hitherto hidden at the heart of Australian nationhood.

Anthony White, Charles Green, Grace McQuilten, Outsider artists and the reformulation of Australian art

This ARC Discovery Project (2018-2020) aims to produce an understanding of outsider artists, their lives, their histories, and the socio-historic context in which they made their work. “Outsider artists” includes artists experiencing incarceration, disability, mental illness and other forms of marginalisation. Integration of their work will lead to a deeper understanding of mainstream art in Australia to paint a richer, more complex picture of the history of Australian art. The project will alter the perspective of arts policy and agencies, and of Australian artists themselves.

Bella Li, Land Before Lines, 2014
Bella Li, Land Before Lines, 2014
Photo: Nicholas Walton-Healey

Justin Clemens, Australian Poetry today

This ARC funded Future Fellowship (2015-2018) project surveys the field of contemporary Australian poetry, its products, personnel, institutions, and processes. Through interviews with poets, publishers, booksellers, academics, editors and managers, as well as extensive archival research, it will provide the first major synoptic research into the state of Australian poetry today. This project aims to establish possible future directions for Australian poetry and its importance for Australian culture more generally.

Mark Davis, Elizabeth Driscoll, Sybil Nolan, Emmett Stinson, New tastemakers and Australia's post-digital literary culture

This ARC funded Discovery Project (2017-2019) aims to investigate the effect of digital technologies on taste-making in Australian literary culture. The project will examine how digital media and platforms such as eBooks, online forums, blogs and social media have changed how Australian literature is produced, distributed and consumed, and what this means for the future of Australian literature. The project expects to understand the effect of digital practices on Australian literary culture, and support the continued development and cultural significance of Australia's book industry in a globalised market for literature.

Lucy Guerin's Weather with Talitha Maslin, LillianSteiner, Lee Serle
Lucy Guerin's Weather with
Talitha Maslin, Lillian Steiner,
Lee Serle. Credit: Heidrun Lohr

Rachel Fensham and Denise Varney, AusStage, Phase 6, 2016: Australian live performance and the world - global networks, national culture, aesthetic transmission

This multi-institutional ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) Grant administered by the Flinders University of South Australia (2015-2016) internationalised AusStage by: developing new methodologies for analysing aesthetic transmission between Australian and international artists; collaborating with international partners to share data and enable research across national borders; and extending the data set to support research on global markets, international distribution and cultural diplomacy. New developments supported innovative research on live performance of international significance and collaborations with international partners.

A Cheery Soul, Union Theatre Repertory Company, 1963
A Cheery Soul, Union
Theatre Repertory Company,
1963. Credit: Henry Talbot

Rachel Fensham, Julian Meyrick, Joanne Tompkins, Maryrose Casey et al., Visualising venues in Australian live performance research

This multi-institutional ARC LIEF Grant administered by the Flinders University of South Australia (2017-2018) aims to construct a two- and three-dimensional visual interface and digital curatorial space, improving the existing AusStage open-access live performance database. This new interface, "Phase 6", will create visualisation infrastructure, map relationships between Australian artists, audiences and venues, and collaborate with leading performing arts collections to foster compatible models and projects. Expected benefits are better understanding of the physical parameters of live performance and improved decision-making for metropolitan and regional communities about managing theatre sites and venues.

Denise Varney, Patrick White and Australian Theatrical Modernism: from modern drama to contemporary performance

This ARC funded Discovery Project (2014-2016) addressed the question of Patrick White, a canonical but contentious novelist, whose contribution to Australian theatrical modernism is under-recognised. This new analysis of White that focused on his drama and the numerous theatrical performances of his plays from 1961 to 2012 aimed to develop a significant new narrative for Australian theatre that maps the journey from modern drama to contemporary performance.

Drawing on the considerable archive of reviews, photographs and annotated scripts, this study of White's theatre aimed to re-assess the impact of Patrick White on Australian modernism and reposition his work within a twenty-first century context of reception.

Research publications