ArtSS in the City: Bright Young Things

20 November 2012

'Dean of the Faculty Professor Duncan Ivison, with speakers Rosie Findlay, Sophie Wiesner and Senthorun Raj
Dean of the Faculty Professor Duncan Ivison, with speakers Rosie Findlay, Sophie Wiesner and Senthorun Raj at the Mint.

On Thursday evening, in the sunny courtyard of The Mint on Macquarie Street, alumni and friends gathered for our annual ArtSS in the City event, aimed at, but not exclusive to, our young alumni living and working in Sydney.

As drinks and canapés were shared, guests mingled with old university friends, and were given the opportunity to meet new faces with which they share a connected past at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

The theme for this year of Bright Young Things featured some short TedX-style presentations by an exciting mix of our young talent.

Welcoming guests and introducing the speakers, Dean of the faculty, Professor Duncan Ivison, made reference to the breadth of topics to be discussed, each of which were united by the speakers' "passion for their subjects," and which highlights "the extraordinary quality of our students". The first speaker to be welcomed onstage was Sophie Wiesner.

Fresh from her experience at Venice Film Festival, where her short film Marla (created with fellow Arts graduate Nick King) was showcased to acclaim, Sophie Wiesner gave a presentation of the film's trailer, and then recollected the journey that lead them to Venice.

She reminisced about the first time Nick King mentioned the idea of the story to her, "the idea was, 'what if a guy met a girl, who wanted him to illicit strange fits in her?'"

"I remember thinking, it was provocative, so it was something we should be doing…it wasn't finished, didn't have an ending, but I liked it!" she recalled.

Deciding to pursue the idea of making a play "about a girl with a hole in her head", Sophie and Nick created the theatre version while still students in the Department of Media and Communications, on which they spent $300. It played at the Cellar Theatre for three weeks and approximately ninety people came to see it. A start hardly indicative of the success Marla would go on to achieve.

So when asked to present the film version in Venice, Sophie's initial reaction was "Oh my God, Sophia Coppola has shown there!" And with Nick currently "holed up in LA trying to make the feature film happen," the Marla journey may continue still.

The second speaker of the evening was our prolific alumnus Senthorun Raj, who Professor Ivison introduced as being "involved in some of the most important issues of the day".

Senthorun is a social justice advocate soon to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts/Law, with his arts major in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies. He is the NSW President of Amnesty International Australia, a former Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby Senior Advisor, and has a popular column on The Vine.

He spoke with passion about "marriage equality from a different perspective", a topic he says involves "political rhetoric which is intensely effective, no matter which side of the debate you sit on."

Senthorun went on to dispel many of the common arguments given against same-sex couples being allowed under law to tie-the-knot. He pointed out that if it is believed we should not be changing a law that is steeped in tradition, we should note that the Marriage Act has been amended 20 times since it's inception in 1961. Also, he explained, if it is argued to be a religious ceremony, it should be taken into account that civil servants perform 70% of marriages in Australia.

He then spoke of the Family Law Act, which has already acknowledged same-sex couples and given them parental rights, and also about 'unofficial' marriages that are already being performed.

Senthorun concluded that gay and lesbian couples "are already getting married, having ceremonies, and having families with children," and that given the weak nature of the justifications around tradition and religion, "that is where this argument should lead."

Professor Ivison introduced the third and final speaker, PhD candidate Rosie Findlay, as "working on another core area of the humanities and social sciences - the relationship between image and body and our contemporary culture."

Aptly named The Fashademic, Rosie is doing her doctoral thesis on personal style blogs in the Department of Performance Studies.

She explained personal style blogs, predominantly the domain of girls and young women, as being "a particular kind of fashion-based web blog, particularly concerned with the personal style and interest in fashion which is practiced in an individuals life."

Professor Duncan Ivison, Rosie Findlay, Sophie Wiesner and Senthorun Raj
The Fashademic teaching the 'oh, a camera!' pose, L-R: Professor Duncan Ivison, Rosie Findlay, Sophie Wiesner and Senthorun Raj.

To the audience's delight, she then gave a demonstration of some of the poses used in outfit posts, otherwise known as 'what I wore' posts, including the 'pidgeon toed foot gaze', 'my hands are a corset, which makes me laugh…over there', and 'I'm just walking and, Oh! A camera!' pose. She says that these posts are, for the style blogger, "an expression of themselves made literal through their outfit".

Rosie then offered a comparison between personal style blogs and traditional fashion media, explaining them both as "manifestations of fashion's imaginary," but with a style blog post, the images are "presented as naturalized and effortless", despite them being an "online performed self rather than the offline version of themselves."

Following the speeches, guests continued to mingle and have a drink among the company of their fellow ArtSS community. It was clear by the chatter and laughter that continued into the evening that an enjoyable event was had by all.

To listen to a podcast of the speakers, click here.

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208, 0434 561 056

Email: 3a0f5f1f7a0b0d181d3e180a0d3c34074f432623205d0012