herstory

Melbourne 1969

Introduction

1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

Moon

On my first day at the National Gallery Art School, shop windows flicker with TV pictures of men walking on the moon.

1969 Blue nude, Pen and ink on paper, Private collection, Melbourne.

Because she lived closer to Melbourne University, where I was a student, I lived with Nora in Kew. David Carter, returned from Antarctica, was boarding with her again. This time he stayed for a whole year, writing up his report on Antarctic ice dynamics.

Carmel Bird came to visit the Goding's house in Mount Waverley. I spent the whole afternoon drawing her portrait.

 

Mining company Poseidon NL announced the discovery of a mmajor nickel lode at Windarra, Western Australia. By the end of the seventies Australia was producing approximately 11 per cent of the world's nickel, the biggest producer being Western Mining Corporation.

Standard gauge railway completed, creating a complete and unbroken line from Sydney to Perth.

Mount Newman began iron-ore production, transporting over 30 million tonnes of ore annually through Port Hedland from the world's largest open cut iron ore mine.

The principle of 'equal pay for equal work' established by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission.

Hair performed in Sydney.

The Australian Almanac, Pub. Angus & Robertson 1985

 

 

Foucault's cultural relativism was in accord with Derrida's linguistic relativism. Both were seen as leaders in the movement known as post-structuralism, which regarded all knowledge as textual (i.e., a relative interpretation of text). History, psychology, philosophy, anthropology - all these dealt not so much with concepts but with words. For Foucault this led to epistemes (or paradigms) of knowledge in which power was invested. These structured the thinking of any given age, directing the way in which it thought, and thus determining what it thought about, the aims of its thought, the lacunae (blanks, missing bits) of that thought, even ruling out the possibility of thinking in certain ways. For instance, the mediaeval era, which believed that the world ultimately consisted of earth, air, fire and water, and mixtures thereof, simply could not conceive of atomic elements. With the advent of each new era - such as the transformation from the Renaissance to the Age of Reason - an entirely new episteme (knowledge basis) of thought was established. Foucault saw Descartes as the epitome of the Age of Reason. After using one reason to doubt everything, to unpick the very fabric of his existence (and by implication the certainties of the previous age and its episteme), Descartes had arrived at his basic certainty: 'I think therefore I am'. But Derrida took issue with Foucault's analysis. In using the language of reason to describe Descartes's method, Faucault had himself subscribed to the episteme of the Age of Reason. Descarte's doubt had in fact unwittingly undermined the very reason it sought to establish as paramount. Reason too could be doubted. Descartes's text was open to a far more drastic interpretation that the one placed on it by Foucault. It was a delusion to assume that thought can use a language that stands 'outside' the very language it describes.

Foucault not surprisingly reacted with some passion to this critique, which threatened to undermine his entire intellectual project (and, it would seem, any other intellectual project). In foucault's view, Derrida's nit-picking attack was just an intellectual game. This spat eventually led to a split in the entire post-structuralist approach.. while foucault retained the emphasis on the text, expecially the historical document, he insisted that it was possible to anlayse the power structure adherig to a particular text. The episteme that controlled and limited its writing implied a system of political power. Such a historical text was open to a particular interpretation. Derrida insisted that, like any text, it was open to a multitude of interpretations. The view of any historical document was liable to change from age to age. This may have freed the text from a single authoritative interpretation, but it left Derrida open to the charge that such a text could seemingly be given any interpretation.

Strathern, Paul, 2003, p.27-8, The Essential Derrida, Virgin, .

Derrida's divergence of opinion from his Parisian countempoary Roland Barthes was less violent and apparently less fundamental. Barthes was the champion of semiology, whereby a text is studied for its 'second order' meaning. Intellectual innocents who read a text in order to discover its author's intentions were dismissed as hopelessly naive. The real meaing of any text lay in the analysis of the symbols and interconnected signs whose structure underlay the surface. Barthes daringly extended such analysis far beyond the texts of philosophy and literature, into such diverse realms as fashion, the Eiffel Tower, and even wrestling (where all manner of interconnected signs were to be found grappling beneath the surface).

This method of analysis led Barthes to announce the 'death of the author'. What he (or she) said didn't count. The author was merely a cultural construct: the product of an age, class, sex, socially determined expectations, and appetites, and so forth. At its best, Barthe's analysis showed how surface language could overlay a hidden structure of assumptions, making these wholly artificial assumptions appear 'natural', 'universal', or even inevitable. This was the case, for instance, with the bourgeoise novel and the unquestioned cultural values upon which it rested.

Derrida had mixed feelings about the so-called 'death of the author'. He naturally applauded Barthes for stripping bare hidden assumptions and revealing how the 'universal truths' of bourgeois values were in fact no more than an arbitrary construct of prejudices and assumptions. This coincided with his own deconstructionist approach. Here was more evidence of the transcendental 'presence' of Western metaphysics. It was always necessary to expose the 'truth' as purely humanistic. On the other hand, Derrida deplored any assumption that such criticism itself could go beyond the humanistic and, so to speak, emerge 'on the far side' of humanistic ideology, that one day it would be possible to make judgments entirely free from humanism and its inevitable bias. This was impossible. The very language in which such criticism was couched would inevitably contain traces of the humanistic assumptions on which it was based, on which it had grown throughout its history. This argument may sound somewhat circular, but the point was clear enough. We are bound within the circularity of our discourse. Our speech will always be subject to the language we use. We can never step outside its inevitably humanistic colouring. This may appear depressing with regard to any notion of truth beyond the socially agreed construct. Yet it does have distinctly hearteningly implications. The truth as we know it, in the only way we can know it, must remain humanistic. It must remain 'of the human, for the human'. Unfortunately, as recalcitrant deists and meta physicians are quick to point out, the same can be said of of the metaphysical and religious assumptions that have for so long been a part of our language. Derrida argues that we can never get rid of this 'presence', yet at the same time he argues that we can never get rid of the human 'presence'. It is difficult to see how he can have it both ways - except of course in the realm of 'free interpretation' he advocates, which is presumably free to contradict itself.

Strathern, Paul, 2003, p.28-9, The Essential Derrida, Virgin.