Glen Waverley 1968


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Clasical music rises beneath a full moon.

1997, Gloria Acrylic on wood, carved, painted and stained Image for Terra Incognita, Interactive CDROM (1997)

I go with Ian Goding to my first outdoor concert.

Over the oval table in my grandmother's house, a young glaciologist, David Carter, introduces me to Antarctica. He thanks my grandmother for introducing him to art.


Australia's population reached 12 million.

The discovery of a cluster of bones at Lake Mungo proved the Aboriginal people had been living in Australia longer than previously thought. Evidence was uncovered for the human occupation of Australia 40,000 years ago.

Australian forces in Vietnam rose to over 8,000 men as opposition grew within Australia.

The Australian Almanac, Pub. Angus & Robertson 1985



In May 1968 Paris was overtaken by 'Les evenements' (literally the incidents, or events). Students took to the streets in conflict with the police, and the Left Bank became the scene of viscious day and night riots...the country was brought to a virtual standstill. Many supported the students but feared the collapse of the state. The explosion of youth violence arose as a result of years of authoritarian state rule, culminating in the sterility resulting from ten years of patriarchal government by the aging General Charles de Gaul.

In America, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere, the social and cultural transformations of the sixties were underway. Mass demonstrations against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, the revolution in social mores accompanying the arrival of rock music and the hippie movement, as well as the advents of postwar affluence had brought little change in France. The educational system, especially, maintained a strong grip on young people. The school curriculum was rigid in the extreme, culminating in the dreaded baccalaureat exam which marked out success or failure for life. Indeed, the curriculum was so fixed that the minister of education could be certain, at any given hour on any given day, precisely which page of which textbook was being studied in every classroom throughout the land.

The new post-Sartre wave of Parisian thinkers - such as Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, and others associated with the Tel Quel - represented the intellectual protest against the sterility of French society. In such a context it is easier to understand some of the excesses of the movement. Derrida's insistence upon the 'fluidity' of language becomes more comprehensible when seen against a background of the authauritarian edicts of the French educational system. His insistence upon the 'difference' of language, instead of the identity of words with their subjects, subverts the prevailing linguistic orthodoxy. This was, and still is, the preserve of the Academie Francaise, which continues to deliver its pronouncements on French linguistic purity (such as the exclusion of 'Americanisms' and other English words) and the precise meaning of French words. Such constraint produces an intimate sense of oppressiveness. It strikes at the very way one thinks, reaching into the mind itself.

On the contrary, English speakers, whose language has retained its far-flung homogeneity precisely through its ability to adapt, absorb, and withstand. (By contrast, consider the fate of Arabic. Classical Arabic script remains comprehensible from Morocco to the Phillipines; yet spoken variants on arabic can be all but incomprehensible from one country to the next.)

By the middle of the twentieth century, American English had begun breathing new life into the moribund formality of the English that was the lingua franca throughout the British Empire (over a third of the globe). And, arguably, that same English had already contributed a range of articulacy and discipline to the fecund variety of American, Indian, Australian, and African variants, holding the whole together. Precisely this fact has prompted many of Derrida's American critics to see his strictures on language, and their philosophical implications, as irrelevant to the English speaking world. We already know how language can take on a life of its own, how words can aquire new cadences or even entirely new meanings. One has only to consider such words as gay, freak, challenged to see how English is in a constant state of flux. Derrida in many ways was fighting for a freedom that English-speakers take for granted. Yet this was of course not his central aim - which was to show that all language was fluid through and through.

Strathern, Paul, 2003, pp. 22-5, The Essential Derrida, Pub. Virgin.