Tethered Skies

by Aileen Wang

I keep the skies on a tight leash these days. No going out beyond my window. Of course, they play against me in little tricks anyway, turning indignant reds by sunset, or sullen greys by day, and only rarely pulling the curtain back to reveal a shining, robin’s-egg blue. For the most part, they stay right where they are: above my kumquat tree, slanting over the slanted road. I am thankful for them, for the most part. Sometimes I resent them their intangibility: you’ve never heard of the sky getting sick, have you? Other times, I wonder what it must be like to be denied, not just temporarily, but permanently, the possibility of touch. Can one ever truly grasp a cloud? 

Some mornings, the windows fog over and the outside world, all that remains of it, disappears from my view and thus from my existence. I am abandoned and rejected by the morning fog, and I sit with my curtains half-raised as the wind comes; change comes on the bosom of the wind. The skies, etherised like a patient, and I, the voyeur, watching in morbid curiousity for the surgeon’s knife. But there is always that moment of uncertainty: perhaps the fog will clear, and the sky will clear with it. I spend long hours studying the familiar view from my window. In doing so, I construct the boundary of my world; I can almost believe that it is at my fingertips, separated by a thin mesh of flyscreen and thicker pane of glass.

Once I have made the world, I inhabit it fully. I construct myself into infinities within the rounded stage. Upon the red-brick courtyard I imbue the significance of an uninhabited possibility, onto the kumquat tree I bequeath a fixed transience. I hold onto the skies, secure and safe in their presence. I make myself into divinity: that which creates without touch, and that which creates alone. Beyond the pane of my window, I am a conductor and the world shapes itself; never around me, but nonetheless to my specifications.

The only imperfection is the road. It scars the scene, leading from before the beginning and going to beyond the end. I trace its path to the end of my windowpane, and I can follow it no more. It is, therefore, an aberration. It reminds me of the outside beyond the outside. I remember walking that road, the feeling of gravel under my boots. The air touched my skin then. The world touched me then, with the sweet touch of a lover. It was a wider world, before.

I would not follow that road now. 

And yet, I am filled with a resentful curiousity. It is a sweet and bitter fruit, a path that I trace in dream and memory. I knew it once, but to know it again would be to stretch, painfully, into the world of the living once more. It would be to break the world, my world. To untether the sky. And once I have broken it, this walled Eden of my mind, once I see that the cage is around myself and not the sky, nor the brick, nor the kumquat tree – how will I keep the insanity at bay then?

A Deserving Father – Part 1

By Giulia Mastrantoni

Content warnings: non-explicit spousal abuse and death.

That very morning, he had wondered whether it would rain or be reasonably sunny. He always asked himself that question first thing as he woke up. His reason to be concerned with the weather was that it would determine what vêtements1 he would pick, what accessoires2 he would be able to pair with his mise3. He wasn’t a vain man, despite what most of his acquaintances said about him. The issue was he knew that the only good things about him were his appearance and his charming talk. So was it vain to make the most out of them? He didn’t think so; it was merely exploiting one’s resources. 

He wanted people to like him. As a child, he had always struggled to make friends. It was a matter of being born in his family; it wasn’t a secret. His père4 was rich thanks to the family’s business, but the money hadn’t sufficed to make up for his terrible reputation as a man. Everyone in the neighbourhood had seen his wife’s bruises under the foulards5 that she wore all-year-long. Russell was quite different from him; he needed everyone to love him. In addition to that, he needed to bring new clients to his own wife’s business. That’s what it all came down to, really: the necessity to network and get by. Père had never needed to be on good terms with anyone; being rich gives you a great deal of free passes, Russell thought.

When Russell’s père had died, he had been neutral to the news. However, he had reacted very badly when he had been told that the family’s maison de haute couture6, one of the most successful in Australia, had gone bankrupt. Mismanagement, the lawyer told him, before explaining how to disclaim his inheritance. It was easy, the lawyer said, given that Russell was the only heir; Russell nodded. He had always wanted siblings, but for once being an only child felt like the biggest blessing. If Père hadn’t already been dead, Russell thought as he signed the papers, he would have choked him with one of his own scarves. How could he have destroyed the maison

Russell had buried Père quietly; then he had driven Mère to Tullamarine Airport. The only thing she wanted, she kept saying with equal degrees of impatience and relief, was to go back to her family in France. Coming to Melbourne had been a mistake for Amélie, whose biggest regret in life was indeed having fallen for David and having followed him to Australia.

“When did you stop loving Père?” Russell dared to ask, right before Mère disappeared in the crowd at the airport. He was expecting Mère to finally admit to the spousal abuse, which she had always denied, but Amélie surprised him.

“As soon as I realised he loved my nationality more than he would ever love me,” she replied.

Russell had known that Père had always been a businessman more than a man, but he had never considered he might have married Amélie to grow his prestige. As it turned out, that had been the case. On one of his business trips to France, David had attended the fashion show where Amélie had been picked to wear the main piece of the new fall collection. Rather than falling in love with her beauty, which was remarkable, David had fallen in love with the idea of bringing back home a French wife. Upon returning to Melbourne, he had showed Amélie off as much as he could, turning her into an attraction of his maison. David’s French-born parents had been so glad to meet their son’s French wife. They had missed the company of bright, elegant Europeans, they kept saying; Australian were loaded and ready to spend on good-quality chemises, but they simply weren’t up to their standards, they added. As shaking their hands, Amélie understood that she had become David’s wife for all but the right reasons.

As soon as he left the airport, Russell started looking for a way to survive now that the family’s fortune was gone and that his family no longer existed. He knew very well that he would never see Mère again and that she would never call. She was leaving everything behind; it was clear that her relief at David’s sudden death had been considerable. That day, as he was driving back from Tullamarine, Russell panicked. Not only had he lost the only thing he had ever cared for, the maison, but he had also been left alone. When his phone went off, Russell picked it up in spite of the fact that he was on the highway. A text from Mère.

If you learn some French, perhaps you could join me in France someday.

Russell didn’t even bother to reply. They both knew all too well that the only French Russell could speak was fashion-based. That had been his only passion since childhood: fashion. He knew everything there was to know about it, and had no interest in learning any more French. After all, he was Australian and he was quite proud of it. It was the most amazing country in the world and one of the richest. He would find a way to get by, he thought. He didn’t need Mère, nor Père’s foulards.

A few days later, Russell had walked into Hilary’s office well-aware of just how unqualified for the position he was. Hilary was a young, yet smart business owner who had just started her own company. She was very fair during the job interview: she realised straight away that he was faking it and that he didn’t know anything at all about marketing, yet she didn’t kick him out of her office. At the end of the interview, she told him that she would be absolutely mad to hire him. Yet she offered him a job. She was very clear: Russell would take care of the networking, meet with prospective clients and make a great impression on them. He would be responsible for bringing in new clients; nothing else. The creative process and everything else would be in the hands of better-qualified professionals. He was a natural at charming people, Hilary said, so that’s what he should do. Russell accepted the offer and smiled at Hilary; six months later, they were married. 

The marriage raised a few issues; not between himself and Hilary, who had been very honest with each other from the beginning, but with Russell’s colleagues. As soon as he married Hilary, his colleagues started talking behind his back. What did they all care? Russell really couldn’t see why people should keep gossiping about his marriage. They should all just mind their own business, he concluded. He cheated on his wife soon after marrying her, of course, but nobody knew it, so what the hell did they have to talk about? Nevertheless, he stopped taking part in social coffee breaks. It wasn’t pleasant anymore to chat with everyone. He did his job with the least amount of effort possible, and that was it.It was early morning when Russell touched on his Myki7. The air smelt fresh, the sunrise giving a delicious strawberry tint to the sky that had been so dark throughout the night. He was afraid of darkness, which for some reason had always made him feel very uncomfortable. As a child, it had been fine to double-check that every soon-to-be dark corner of his room was free from killers and the likes of them before turning the lights off and closing his eyes. But as a grown-up, and particularly as a married man, it was embarrassing to need the lights on whenever he walked up to the bathroom at night or grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen. Hilary had never cared about it, but she didn’t fully understand just how afraid of darkness he was. In the last few years, his fear had gotten worse. Perhaps he should stop watching horror movies, he thought. But it wasn’t the movies. He knew it wasn’t the movies. And he didn’t want to talk about it.

Footnotes:

Part 2 will be up this time next week. Until then, you can find Giulia on Facebook and Instagram.

Footnotes

  1. Clothes in French.
  2. Accessories.
  3. Outfit.
  4. Father.
  5. Light scarves.
  6. Fashion House.
  7. Melbourne travel card.

“Wholesome Heterosexual Literature” – Shit People Say About Dorian Gray

Gabriel Hanrahan-Lawrence

“Dorian Gray isn’t a gay book.”

I have to resist the urge to laugh in her face, and I manage to tone it down to a breathless giggle. “It was used as evidence of Wilde’s ‘sexual perversion’ in court. It’s pretty damn queer.”

The girl shakes her head, brow furrowed. She is resolute. “It’s not gay. Oscar Wilde wasn’t gay; Dorian Gray is a heterosexual!”

I’ve gone red in the face. My lungs are aching with withheld glee. “Maybe he wasn’t gay” – a break for laughter – “but he did the dirty with a lot of dudes.”
An indignant “No!” and she storms off.

In an article about “Why I Don’t Teach Women’s Literature”, a male academic tries to justify his misogynistic superiority complex by claiming that literature written by women is not as “wholesome” or “powerful” as those written by men. His examples of strong, heterosexual, masculine works?? The likes of Homer’s The Iliad, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

And I’m astounded. I’m actually shocked speechless by straight people who feel the need to so vehemently defend these characters’s firm residence in Straighty-Straight’s Lane, Straighttown, Straightbury, Straightsylvania. They can stake their claim on a character’s sexuality and turn around and ban the same book for being “too lurid”, as if the mere presence of queerness makes something inappropriate. It’s reminiscent of a child who licks all the food to mark it as theirs, and then realises they can’t eat everything they’ve taken.

I’m the first to admit that I’m hungry for queer characters. Queer biographies, queer fiction, queer films, queer television, queer music; you name it, I’ll take it. But once I have my hands on a character/book/film/song, I will defend it to the death. I have written a 2,000 word essay about how Enjolras from Les Miserablés is most definitely, irrefutable, hands down, no arguments, not straight. I once went on a 40-minute tirade about people who try to deny Zeus’s homosexual relationships. I will deck a guy who tries to deny that Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby is bisexual. It’s a subject very close to my heart, because there’s so little material to defend. If I don’t stand up for the small pickings I have, I won’t have anything.

The first time I ever even knew you could have queer characters in media was in 2009, when my friend showed me BBC’s over-the-top, painfully flamboyant television series Beautiful People. I watched it all in two days – and I may or may not have cried. It was so precious for me, to see people who were just a little bit like me, on television, doing their thing. It was tiny scraps like this, predictable two-dimensional characters, that pulled me through high school.

Fast forward to now, and I have whole shelves dedicated to queer books and shows. I hear stuff like “You’re only reading that because it has a gay character in it” or “you only like that because you think it’s kinda queer”. And yeah, I feel a little guilty about it sometimes, but finding queerness has become a honed skill. People have careers in it. I get to say that I wrote an essay about the homoerotic subtext in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and got full marks for it. And I get to loudly, proudly, angrily declare that yes, The Portrait of Dorian Gray is a gay book.

Anti-Trend: Your Source For What’s Hip-O-Critical!

If you’re bored of weaving caveats for children in developing nations out of recycled newspaper, learning the tenets of Hinduism from the Qu’ran or just want something to vlog about before it gets down the clothesline, then Wankie has just the gluten-free vegan cupcake for you.

If you haven’t already heard of Svpply, the ‘social, online retail “discovery” site’, then you need to grab your monocle ASAP, weave a daisy chain pronto and Instagram yourself standing pigeon-toed whilst lazily reading this article in a field of Pattersons Curse (calling it a noxious weed is soo homo-centric).

According to its website, Svpply “exposes you to smaller shops, higher-quality merchandise from artisans or from more local manufacturers. It’s all about buying smarter and buying cooler”. This gets rid of all the effort you have to go to removing the “H&M” tags from your clothes, and with the time you save, you’ll be able to perfect your carpentry/sewing/baking/photography skills. Parfait!

Not that you care, as celebs are totes fin, but indie-darlings Lana Del Ray and Chloe Sevigny have even (probably) been spotting surfing this amazeballs site. You see, Svpply is so bitchin’ because it allows you express your ultra-coolitude persona and shun all that vom materialistic/conformist products by tagging shit you wanna buy. Note, there’s even an option to tag items you already have, which is also a deck way to assert and validate your very middle-class what-the-hell-is-Pho? existence publicly whilst conveying your philosophy of minimalism.

Displaying such material is not only the ace-est way to show your informed and educated progressive views to the world and helps fight tha power, but it also might even help you to nab yourself an ethnic life-partner, who are pretty hot right now.

Nothing says ‘I definitely did not come from La Perouse’ more than collecting finding an ‘other’. However, you’re not going to find them in one of your usual lairs racking up at the cross, so open your mind and head to your local Bhangra dance hall, or an African drumming collective (don’t forget your claddagh ring).

However, If you just can’t bring yourself to stray from your fav techno-folk-synth-swing-patagonian-prog rock genre, some have found that merely reading your favourite Communist Manifesto tome in a different script in public places is a simple but effective method attract foreign attention. Others have found that the lack of pictures could not occupy their MTV-generation attention spans, so if this is you, simply take the cover of your favourite book you never read but Wikipedia-ed for intellectual debates and place it over the That’s Life! you surreptitiously bought. The point is that you don’t need to actually be able to speak the language, for people to think you do, just try to look apathetically superior and simultaneously sexy and you’ll be sweet.

If proceeding with this strategy, it’s best to know your suburbs. Kingsford’s great for sinophiles (and close to uni too!), Leichhardt’s for those seeking Italian stallions, and for those wanting to rock out with Bangladeshi’s, Hillsdale is fab. However, if remembering this information, AND the words to your favourite band The Vagina Economy Gentrification proves too taxing for your uber-superfluously-descriptive-cerebellum, just remember Bankstown is a great all-rounder.

Steer clear of The Shire or the North Shore though, they’re like totes midtown. Whatever your taste, remember, the point is to conceal your ignorance of other cultures. So there you have it! Wankie is all about fusions and blends, so now you’ve learnt of ANOTHER social media site (can there ever be too many?) AND how to help create an omniculture, fuck off and sponsor a child or occupy something. I don’t care.

Briony Jonkers

Kitty Kat

Each week, Wankie heads out to the COFA campus at Paddington to have a chat with one of the cool cats of art school.

This edition’s featured kid is Wallacia Horn-Matton, a third year undergrad in the new discipline of Performative Aesthetics (haven’t heard about this one yet? It’s a new Pop-up Stream that will mainly take place among the unfinished building detritus around COFA – talk about underground!)

Wankie: Hi Wallacia, great to chat with you. I think we’re all wondering the same thing – what is Performative Aesthetics?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Yeah a lot of people are wondering that! It’s a pretty specialist field I guess. Because the Gateway@Cofa project is aiming to dissolve all these rigid structures between disciplines like painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc, this is a sort of pilot program that doesn’t really specify what medium you use to reach your creative goals. The reason it’s called ‘performative aesthetics’ is because the only stipulation is that you either wear a costume or create artworks naked.

Wankie: Whoa!! That sounds pretty wild – do you find that the performative aspect helps to unlock you creatively?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Yes absolutely – it just becomes so much more of a free and bohemian kind of vibe, everyone’s really supportive of each other and you do things in a costume that you definitely wouldn’t do otherwise. I also find this methodology really complements the artwork, because sometimes I’ll just think, “oh my god, what pile of cat shit have I just created?” but then if you actually dress up as a cat and make sexual feline performative movements around the artwork then everyone just becomes spellbound and tells you its great!

Wankie: That’s an interesting use of the adverbial ‘sexual’ there Wallacia – do you ever feel like there is a danger of objectifying yourself in a performance such as this?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Of course! That’s actually the whole concept behind the piece.

Wankie: You mean the pile of catshit and the sexual cat was a real artwork?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Depends on what you mean by ‘real’. If you mean that substantial pre-documentation, tangible ideas through discussion, and influencing the ways people think about the relationships between felines, female sexuality and piles of shit then it was more real than this conversation we’re having right now, you and me. Anyway what I was trying to say before was that as seemingly ‘empowered’ women we have a responsibility to challenge the dominant belief that being a woman is not equal to being a cat – in fact I suggest you keep this reverse irony in mind when seeing the next batman film.

Wankie: I like your quirky but self-aware interest in Pop Culture! I think that Pop Culture is like, sooo underrated… Anyway lets get back on track! What are your current motivations in your creative drive?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Cats! No but seriously there is a lot of interesting mythology about cats that has actually influenced the way that cat flaps and litter baskets are designed. When you have these codified objects or apparatuses in your house what you think is a cat-flap is actually a gateway back to a premodern mythological realm where cats ruled the world with the help of female mediums who would interpret there messages through an cross-disciplinary form of dance and poetry… Sorry I just get so misty eyed talking about my art! Although this is my primary motivation at present, I’m also really interested in the ethics of using knitting and quilting as a contemporary art form if you are using the technique to make a subversive costume, and the Third World.

Wankie: What about the Third World?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: I’m interested in it – I find all those cultures really inspirational

Wankie: Yes don’t we all… all those colours and smells… Do you feel that by engaging with Third World Issues you’re able to make a difference?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: I like to think that as an artist I can act as a medium in interpreting all these amazing signals and codes that the Third World have created in a way that is beautiful, and that people in Australia can understand. They have such a deeper spiritual connection over there, its like all they worry about is what they will eat and where the will find shelter. I think that is something we have lost in the Developed World, and why I find Newtown to be a really great place to live, because there are so many people there who have all had life-changing experiences in the Third World who I can relate to.

Wankie: Yes absolutely, although Marrickville is apparently really good for that sort of thing too now. But alas it is time to wrap up! Just one more question – what are you working on now Wallacia?

Wallacia Horn-Matton: I’m working on an interactive performance-based project where I will knit cat-outfits for performers of all different races will wear. The work itself will involve me leading the group of knitted cat people through the streets of Sydney (actually it’s funded by the City of Sydney). I will be naked except for a cat tail. The reactions from the crowd are going to be documented, and this documentation will be exhibited at Galeria Mosca Morta in Dulwich Hill from the 13 – 25 of July. Hope to see you at the opening!

Wankie: Fantastic Wallacia – Wankie will definitely be there in support. Thanks so much for your time and good luck in your future artistic endevours!

Wallacia Horn-Matton: Thanks!

Lee Min Ho