Ep 50 – QUEER NGV, Titicut Follies at ACMI

It’s official! Across the Aisle is back for a 5th season after we can’t quite believe it 3 years hiatus. In June 2022 we cover the monumental QUEER exhibition at the NGV and Titicut Follies as part of the Frederick Wiseman retrospective at ACMI. We hope you enjoy having us back in your ears, and please tell your friends.

Titicut Follies (along with many other Frederick Wiseman films) is available for viewing on the Kanopy platform. You can get access to this free resource through your school or local library.

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Credits

 

 

Carla: Hi there and welcome to Across the Aisle your occasional pop up on demand guide to the Arts in and beyond the City of Melbourne. This is episode 50 of our show. So, let’s celebrate the half century with our award winning recipe of confrontational content and informal but engaged banter about the arts. In this new pandemic informed season of the show, we’ve become more fluid in our approach to consuming and reviewing culture. So today we’ll be discussing a couple of items that are not too time bound.

Carla: But are location specific. Well, one is.

Carla: Indeed. First up is Queer at the NGV. This one is free and open until late August, Melburnians. Then after intermission, we’ll discuss Frederick Wiseman’s 1967 documentary Titicut Follies, which is available on demand, including through the fabulous Kanopy with a K, an online service giving access to film through your local library membership. So, consider joining us not only right now but on St Kilda Road and on your post-lockdown sofa of choice or at ACMI at Federation Square, where a retrospective of Wiseman’s documentaries is screening on Sunday afternoons for a while. I am Phillip Thiel and I’m joined by my tree changing co-host, Carla Donnelly. Carla, happy 50th episode.

Carla: Yay! Thank you.

Carla: We’re so mature.

Carla: I know. It’s it’s unfathomable. Phil and I have been. Post COVID, post, everything. Just absolutely marvelling at this show that we used to do every month.

Carla: So rigid.

Carla: I know, but hopefully that’s where we’re going now Philip.

Philip: Amazing. So, let’s get ready to dive in. This all comes with a spoiler alert. So, if you like to protect your first impressions, press pause and come back later. Otherwise, Carla, tell us about Queer.

Carla: How long have you got? Okay, let me get the little blurb from the NGV site because I feel like it really sets the scene. Queer in all capital letters shines a light on the NGV collection to examine and reveal the queer stories works of art can tell. This exhibition of works from the NGV collection spans historical errors and diverse media, including painting, drawing, photography, decorative arts, fashion, video, sculpture and design, and explores queerness as an expression of sexuality and gender. A political movement, a sensibility, and as an attitude that defies fixed definition. Rather than attempting to provide a definitive history of queer art the exhibition explores the NGV collection from a queer perspective presenting and interpreting queer concepts and stories. Many works in the exhibition are by artists who identify as queer. Some are by artists who lived in times when identification was not possible, and some works are not by queer artists but have connection to queer histories. So, I was a bit apprehensive going into this, as you can imagine. I identify as queer, as an identity, not only culturally but as a sexuality and you would not be surprised how often the Q gets dropped off things or it’s just an umbrella term.

Philip: Interesting.

Carla: And I was ready to be erased, which it’s difficult to talk about well we can unpack it. But anyway. I absolutely loved this. I felt like it it actually it was. It was a salve for me. Mm hmm. Because, you know, like, we know that our histories have been erased. The histories that we have are because, you know, people have risked their lives, risked their standing in culture, risked their privacy, risked their freedom to archive, to live their lives if they possibly can, in the open. So the little bits and pieces that we have are because we as queer people generally stumble upon them in trying to look for, you know, versions of ourselves out there or in history and to have all of this in one place, this incredibly and this is just from the collection, you can sort of start thinking about how it fractals out, you know, into the world and the history and also what a great loss we have experienced as well, considering that, you know, how much has been burned or destroyed or whatnot. But this was so just. Amazing. It really made my heart sing to see the total breadth of all these historical works. So many people I didn’t know were queer, bisexual, genderqueer across history. Overall, I just found it really elating and I didn’t get through a lot of it. I probably only really dove into about half of it.

Philip: It is monumental.

Carla: It’s enormous. But how did how did you feel about it?

Philip: Top floor NGV Official.

Carla: Yes. Level three.

Philip: And look, I have complex feelings about even that fact. You know, the giant letters of queer, the places you can get your photo taken with a rainbow backdrop. The big stamp of approval the NGV is giving to itself with a little question mark over some former staff members. It’s all very fraught and problematic in a delicious kind of way. I’ve been back to this exhibition a few times.

Philip: And I experience it differently each time and notice elements of it that either invite me in or alienate me a little bit more. The more I think about the exhibition, the more I notice that the NGV is essentially performing itself and interrogating itself, which is itself a fascinating and worthwhile task. They’re really looking at their long history of collecting and erasing and marginalizing and doing this massive mea culpa in front of our very eyes. Some of the elements of the exhibition that I find most confronting are the inclusions of ancient artworks from different spiritual traditions interpreted through a queer lens. This is my whole story. This is what I’ve always done as a visitor to art galleries and a reader of the canon, right? As queer people, we know how to find ourselves, affirm ourselves, and be aroused by content that isn’t actually for us, or is only secretly and subversively for us at great risk to the artist. And so, to see, for example, an icon of three Greek fathers of the church, an object explicitly designed for religious veneration, curated in order to highlight the homophobia of the men in the image, was so jarring to me, let alone placing that particular object in a room where the walls were painted black because this was a kind of anti-shrine to homophobic art curation over the years. It’s just a very emotional set of experiences to go through in these various spaces. So, while on the one hand fabulous collages of beautifully erotic images by Paul Yore and David McDiarmid throughout amazing reinterpretations of Sidney Nolan paintings, Jeffrey Smart and others, it’s all very exciting and kind of titillating. And the real thing that sunk in for me, in fact, was that queer people and queer art has always been, by its nature, Avant Garde and modernist, right? Like you cannot have.

Carla: Absolutely.

Philip: Advances in culture without us. And so, for an institution like the NGV to have curated itself in such a homophobic way for so long takes real effort. Okay, it’s a, it’s a force the way that things have been denied and deleted and marginalised. So, what a relief to finally have I guess coming back full circle, those giant capital letters finally telling the truth about the fact that this is what was made by queerness and by queer people.

Carla: I’ve got tears in my eyes that really, I’ve got all these notes saying, you know, queerness is the place in between. It’s a magical liminal space between worlds, between realities. And this is like that was what was really enforced to me through this exhibition that through queerness, we have, you know, sci fi. Yeah, we have like we have the worlds of limitless possibility and imagination, you know, of people being, people needing to project themselves into other places or feeling completely otherworldly and needing to express that through art. That was the thing that made me so emotional to see what – I mean these are the things that we know as queer people, but to see it so literal, so prescriptive, so just boldly on the walls was just beautiful. And I’d never really thought of it in that way. You know, that that the other you know, that is a world of limitless possibilities.

Philip: And sometimes all it takes is a heavily revised note. Okay. Like part of this is about the curation. Hmm. And I collected or started collecting some of my favourite little elements from the introductory notes alongside the paintings. Some of them are so gossipy. Yeah. Like, of course, I’m learning a lot about all these queer artists, but did I need to know, quote, she and her husband never shared a bed.

Carla: Hmm.

Carla: Did I really need to know that? The artist of a fabulous ceramic work lemon describes the shape of the stool as resembling a butt plug.

Carla: Oh, my God. I loved that work.

Carla: It’s like Butt Plug has now been on the wall of the National Gallery, darling, and finally his fingers cradling an unmistakably phallic rock. And it’s like unmistakably only to queer viewers throughout history. But thanks for telling us, you know, and so you can hear, I don’t know, I’m so moved as you are and with you about the fact that this is a great act of acknowledgement and visibility. And yet I’m still queer and I’m still troubled by the idea of this archiving, of this content, this stamp of approval that the NGV seems to be giving itself. And I want to just allow for that complexity of the queer experience. It’s not always a victory in a clear way to have visibility and recognition because there’s a kind of domestication that can come about through that. I don’t necessarily want to get my queerest experiences at the most established art institutions in my city, and I predict that I won’t like, no matter how hard they try, no matter how fantastically confrontational and anal the content is on the walls, there’s always going to be things queerer and more subversive than what these institutions can manage.

Carla: Oh, absolutely. And I think that the way that they skirted around the edges of that was really telling as well. You know, like I wrote down David McDormand’s body language that it’s almost like a like a disco ball mosaic with just a glaring anus with the sun beaming out of its kind of thing. And I’m like, this is my tax dollars at work, my friends.

Carla: I’ve got an anecdote about that because some kids came in and posed in front of it for their mum to take a photo. And she was saying, point at the penis, point at the penis. I was like, this was not my childhood. Right? So that’s an endorsement. Bring on more of that.

Carla: Absolutely.

Philip: And then the complexity of the artwork, of course, because on the back of the figure are the names of those who have died from AIDS. And it is a joyful commemoration of a tragedy. And look, that’s one single artwork that itself contains all of the paradoxes and complexities of queer identity just so masterfully done and so visible, as you say. Like you can see. You can see that. But from the corridor, it’s fantastic.

Carla: What other? I’ve got a few other works that really spoke to me. I mean, a lot of the works I had seen before, a lot of the ancient works I was quite interested in, but I was waiting for, I was like, oh, am I just going to enjoy this conceptually but not enjoy this artistically? But I was waiting for the gut punch, and I had quite a few in the end. So, the David McDiarmid piece, which I just talked about, did you see the Tracey Moffatt?

Philip: Heaven!

Carla: Did you want to talk about it?

Philip: It’s listed here with a love heart! O-m-g We are such a match.

Carla: That was wild.

Philip: I stood in front of that telle so long.

Carla: I want to go back and watch the whole thing.

Philip: Tracey is a genius. It’s so pervy, it’s so playful. It’s so low brow.

Carla: But it’s so. Feminist. And it’s so like. Queer feminists.

Philip: Yes. So, in this video that is amazingly curated in a like old school television.

Carla: Yes,

Philip: She is…

Carla: It’s from 1997.

Philip: Amazing. She filmed surfers getting changed and they banter with her as she looks at their jocks and their butts.

Carla: But it’s really, it’s like it’s almost like Hard Copy kind of behind them, you know, her cameras. She’s standing behind a van or from a balcony.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: And taping these men, undressing as they do at the beach, you know, next to their cars with their car doors open or with their vans open. And it’s 30 minutes nonstop of just this voyeuristic lens. And, you know, when they finally make her or she calls out to them because she’d obviously have to get their permission, just this kind of. It’s it’s an it’s an unbelievable uncovering of masculinity.

Philip: Definitely.

Carla: It’s so deconstructive.

Philip: Oh, yeah. It just obliterates the male gaze permanently.

Carla: Yes. Yes. The world is my world is forever changed.

Philip: Absolutely. Oh, I can’t stop thinking about it.

Carla: Me neither.

Philip: And look, the fact that you and I both landed on that means that I have hope for this exhibition. That there will be other, cultural, sexual, gender narratives that find their Tracey Moffat content. I mean, it is so encyclopedic and there are hundreds and hundreds of objects on display. So maybe that’s how we approach it. We just sort of go in, watch a video of people in their bathers for 30 minutes and then get out again.

Carla: Do you have another one?

Philip: Not really, it was really just that collage by Paul Yore.

Carla: The collage by Paul Yore is incredible.

Philip: Love him.

Carla: Yeah, I love him too. I see him. What? Pretty wildly, widely derided. And I don’t know why. Because he’s a collage. He’s ultimately a collage artist. That’s what he does.

Philip: His work is incredible.

Carla: I agree. Yeah. The last one that absolutely fucking blew my mind was the gum nut ball gown by Paul McCann. Did you see this? It’s this. It’s from two years ago. There was an indigenous the first Indigenous only runway for Melbourne Fashion Week. Mm hmm. And Paul McCann made this. It is so camp but so beautiful. That absolutely took my breath away. It’s like this big green ball gown.

Philip: At the entry to that final gallery?

Carla: Yeah. It’s got a gum nut, a crown made out of gum, nuts, costume, gold, and the little gum nut rings. And it’s actually made for a man because it can’t fit a bust. And it would sort of sit below the nipples, the bodice. And I think a drag queen did wear it on the runway, but it was just. That’s the kind of. That’s what I that ultimately is what I went there for that that moment.

Philip: The fact that metres from that garment there is RuPaul Charles officially quoted on the walls of the gallery, talking about how as queer people they get to choose our families. Is so extra. And I’m still processing what it means and doesn’t mean for that to be there. But what a mind boggling experience this has been for both of us.

Carla: I just have one more fact that I learned from this because I don’t know a lot about I don’t know anything really about Greek mythology or Roman mythology, but I learned that wine is queer.

Philip: Thank you. Tell me more.

Carla: So Dionysus, who is famously, famously the God of wine and grapes, was also extremely horny party God mostly known for his female exploits, but became obsessed with this satyr, this male satyr, or as a I guess, and ended up in a jealous rage, turning him into the first grapevine.

Philip: So delicious.

Carla: So wine is queer.

Philip: Drink up, lads.

Carla: And speaking of queer wine, shall we go and get a drink?

Philip: Oh, yes, indeed. Let’s. In fact, I’ve got an alternative plan. Let’s deploy our NGV membership cards for a discounted long black or a trip to the exclusive lounge. Have you been there?

Carla: No, I haven’t.

Philip: With its absurd design of furniture, unread art magazines and cookies.

Carla: Sounds like a perfect space for me to be extra loud in. Let’s go.

Philip: So, Carla, it’s intermission. I want an update. How has your winter been? And what are you watching?

Carla: As you can hear from my voice, I’ve been quite unwell. I had COVID last week for the first time, but I really don’t feel like winter kicked in until a couple of weeks ago.

Philip: And then it really kicked.

Carla: Yeah. And then it really kicks. I live out basically on the surf coast now and. It’s much colder out there.

Philip: That’s interesting.

Carla: Much colder, like.

Philip: Because of the sea.

Carla: Who knows? Maybe it’s just colder. But I have to wear mittens every day now. Yeah. So. But I love that.

Philip: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Carla: I love getting all rugged up and my house is super toasty. I watched a lot of things while I had COVID, but I really binged. It’s been the first time I’ve actually wanted to solidly binge something for a long time, and that was the Drop Out, which is the dramatization of the Elizabeth Holmes – shwas Theranos, the blood testing woman. And it’s I thought, oh, God, an eight part TV show. I mean, like, really.

Philip: With an actor.

Carla:  So long. But I fucking loved it. I just, like, drank it in.

Philip: Good.

Carla: How about you?

Philip: Well, I was, um, in Melbourne while Rising.

Carla: Oh, of course. And tell me everything.

Philip: I’m just so relieved that it happened for all of their sake.

Carla: Of course.

Philip: I mean, the timing could not have been worse for these poor people trying to take over the International Arts Festival and make it more like Dark Mofo or whatever. But look, I saw some things. My highlight was The Dancing Public, which was a sort of ritual dance event at Melbourne Town Hall, performed by and curated by the amazing Mette Ingvartsen who was obviously an international guest of the festival, who also performed a work called 21 Pornographys at Arts House. No, at the Meat Market. And this person is so energetically frank, weird, disturbing and calm at the same time. Like Scandinavians can be sure and combine.

Carla: Fatalistic.

Philip: Storytelling with movement and gesture in ways that are really memorable. So you can imagine me and my partner, Julian, at this event where we just basically had to fall into a trance as she recited or rapped or intoned stories about kind of wild dancing epidemics through history.

Carla: Oh, and Footloose.

Philip: Yeah. So she was really telling the story of Danse macabre time. Since the Middle Ages that people have suddenly started just losing the plot post plague. They just start moving. I mean, she she made that happen in a controlled way within the audience experience as well.

Carla: Wow.

Philip: Yeah. So that was that was worth it. And I kind of turned to Julien after the 21 Pornographies show. He was sort of dutifully attending with me. And he said, Is this what happens when you go to shows? I’m like, Well, since meeting Carla, yes. So dance is still where it’s at, I guess?

Carla: Oh 1,000%. It’s been really interesting because I’ve been trying to avoid getting Covid I’ve been interestingly observing what actually gives me FOMO. And it’s been very little. Very, very little. Like I wanted to go to Orville Peck. I didn’t get COVID in time to feel safe enough to go, because now I’ve had COVID. I feel like I can go out for a few months. Oh, yeah. And the ballet recently was the one thing that I was like, I really want to go. And then I just thought, Oh, I can’t risk it. But really, it’s only been those two things that I felt like, Oh, that really big tug of FOMO.

Philip: Well, look, my hot take on Rising remains my initial skepticism that taking big ticket items out of the festival was probably a bad idea. Right. You know, like this, there’s a sense that it’s all very millennial and edgy and FOMO inducing or attempting to be so Instagram friendly. Storytelling ready? Look, I wouldn’t mind saying something grandiose and expensive and lurid and camp next year as I wrote in my feedback to the festival.

Carla: Well, let me tell you that White Night still exists regionally.

Philip: Oh, good.

Carla: And it’s being staggered per month per city. So I think Bendigo is now and then it’s going to be in Ballarat and then it’s going to be in Geelong in August.

Philip: So see you there.

Carla: Come out to Geelong and come out to White Night.

Philip: Yes, please.

Carla: Oh. Oh. Time to go.

Philip: We are back. Talking about Titicut Follies. The imperative tagline for Frederick Wiseman’s 1967 doco, Titicaca Follies is “Don’t turn your back on this film if you value your mind or your life”. It’s the filmmaker’s first of many documentaries that patiently observe life inside institutions, this one being Bridgewater, the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, for the, quote unquote, criminally insane. The film was banned for decades, but is now widely available and offers viewers a highly confronting view of mentally unwell men being treated appallingly. There are so many questions to ask and comments to make about this movie, but I’ll start by acknowledging that my main interest in the film relates to Wiseman himself, who subsequent documentaries present a highly unified aesthetic and politics that I think can be traced, having seen it now to this original object. No voiceover, no soundtrack, no interviews, just lightly edited footage of what really happens in the world and in the 20th century. This is what happened to those unlucky enough to be, quote unquote, institutionalized. So I will say that I was not expecting this short Wiseman film to be as traumatizing and dark as it turned out to be.

Philip: And in a way, it’s not surprising to me at all that shortly after its release it was banned unless you were professionally working, ironically, in this kind of institution. And I did have to pause the film and literally lie down and ask my partner to bring me water after some particularly gruesome scenes in which human beings are not treated with any humanity. And yet there’s this sense, isn’t there, that documents like this are of historical significance? Alongside the point I was making about Wiseman, who seems to have from the very beginning, which this is, created a completely individual language of filmmaking. He’s reminiscent to me of the cubists in the visual arts, somebody who has invented a way with a medium that seems to be somehow innate to him. And there’s something so unapologetic, uncompromising and harrowing about the work that he keeps producing. Although I will say, Carla, that my first thought as I watched this with Julien was, I can’t believe I’ve done this to Carla. Will she ever forgive me? So maybe it’s time for you to let me know how you.

Carla: If I forgive you? Wow. What an. Absolutely. Unbelievable work. It’s interesting because I just finished a psychology degree and so much of psychology degree is being exposed to stuff like this, which is just completely unethical, inhumane treatment of people. And that’s how we got our data right. You know, so this kicks off, you know? Sort of in the middle. You know, modern psychology really kicked off post-World War Two because it got a lot of funding and it got a lot of interest and stimulation because people were like, how do things like this happen? You know, so they just threw money at it and they just trusted, you know, that we would get these answers or at least start digging. But really what I saw specifically in this text was how those kinds of atrocities were just repeated at a micro scale.

Philip: Mm hmm.

Carla: You know, the question of modern psychology was, how can Hitler brainwash so many people to exterminate, try to exterminate a race of people or a religion of people? But then we look at this and we see the exact same behavior in trying to exterminate poor people.

Philip: Mm hmm.

Carla: Essentially, it’s just poor people. Like I questioned that these people were potentially even mentally ill to begin with.

Philip: Mm hmm.

Carla: You know, there is so much data to say that if you sleep rough, within three days, you start exhibiting psychotic tendencies.

Philip: Mm hmm.

Carla: Most of these people seem to have been. Incarcerated naked. They weren’t even allowed to have clothes. It was absolutely… Could you imagine what that would do to you psychologically if you would just. Well, you weren’t even allowed to have clothes.

Philip: One of the inmates, Vladimir, is a kind of voice on behalf of those people who says this place is doing me harm. Yes. He says that to the doctor.

Carla: Very insistently.

Philip: Says it repeatedly. And you learn towards the end of the film that the result is that they tranquilize him more. Of course, the other darkly disturbing thing about this document is that it’s pretty clear when you think about it, that the really nasty stuff would have been off limits to Weissman. This is a curated view.

Carla: This is the sanitised, for lack of a better word, the sanitized version.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: I couldn’t watch the scene where they force fed that man.

Philip: Outrageous.

Carla: I had to skip that.

Philip: And that is I’ll just pause on that scene, because that’s the most editing I’ve ever seen Wiseman do. So he splices the death of the person with the torture of the person. And so even as you view this unwatchable footage of force feeding, you see that person’s body being prepared for burial. And that is as didactic, I think, as Wiseman ever got. And he actually became sparer and sparer since that moment. But it is devastating, memorably as an act of filmmaking.

Carla: But I think also, like he is complicit in this because and I know it wasn’t the thinking of the time, but. The reason why we don’t have documents like this is because they’re completely unethical.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: Because people who are hospitalized or institutionalized by definition don’t have any power. They are unable to consent. So. Although this is an important document, it feels like the same thing of. We say that like, oh, we got people into space because fucking Hitler, you know, drowned people and got scientific data on that. You know, it’s like it’s.

Philip: Justifying the means because the ends have some merit.

Carla: And they, you know, the judge that allowed this to become distributed in the early nineties was on the basis of that. He’s like this, you know? More people need to see this. So these things don’t keep going, but we know that these things happen. You know, family members, we know.

Philip: Yeah.

Carla: You know, like, of course, a lot of these inmates may have not had loved ones, but there’s enough people out there that know these things happen. These people work in these institutions. There’s it’s the complicity.

Philip: We don’t need a filmmaker.

Carla: No, yeah, it was. Just in terms of like work. And you know, it’s funny because the only work I ever saw of his was the one in the Crazy Horse.

Philip: Crazy Horse.

Carla: And I was like, I don’t need to sit here for 2 hours looking at butts, you know?

Philip: Well, going back to Tracey Moffatt.

Carla: But now that I pan out and I look at his body of work, no pun intended, I understand where it fits. And I think it was probably the worst place to start with him as a filmmaker. But I think, like, in terms of this, is this being your first film? Like, what a fucking shot over the bow, you know, and. I it’s interesting because it is not edited per se in the way that it to create a narrative or anything like that. It is just edited for coherence and for time.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: But the thing that really struck me about it is, is that and it’s something that I bang on about all the time is that we all have a narrative. We all because to live, to continue living is to have desire. And our desires are the motors that drive us, whether we’re aware of them or not. You know, so there was a narrative to that film. Every single character, quote unquote, had the desire that they were inherent, like marching towards.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: You know, so like as part of documentary filmmaking is absolutely unbelievable.

Philip: And to trust viewers to carry that, I mean. Wiseman Documentaries do have a craft but rely on the viewer to deduce so much and to see connections as they develop. I mean, most of his films now go for hours and hours at a time. So I admired the kind of concision of the storytelling here by his standards. But his documentaries have been some of the most profound viewing experiences I’ve had, especially when I am stuck in a cinema and can’t leave halfway through.

Carla: Right.

Philip: My favorite is Le Danse about the Paris Opera Ballet, which is the great dance and ambition and France documentary of all time. It just gives you all of the information you need about all three of those things in one incredibly aesthetic document. And there were moments in this film Titcut Follies, which, although problematic, were aesthetically incredible and strange. I mean, there’s a moment where a figure is singing a song with the word Chinatown in it as a kind of karaoke in front of a television that appears to be. Blasting some great song.

Carla: Nana Mouskouri. It was Nana Mouskouri.

Philip: Okay. And so that held, in your view, is so disorienting. Yes. And the film ends almost with somebody standing on their head and singing as their fate remains sort of strangely static in the air.

Carla: That one scene with him standing in front of the TV was just unbelievable because here’s Nana Mouskouri on the TV and it’s like, Oh, yeah, this actually happened. This existed in a world that I live in. This isn’t this isn’t some thing from the, you know, something, because I became so disassociated watching this.

Philip: Yes.

Carla: You know, like, oh, that’s American. That’s men. That’s the past. That’s this that the other. And it’s like, no, this happened in the world that I live in.

Philip: Yeah. Indeed.

Carla: You know.

Philip: The dynamics especially of the bullying guard.

Carla: Oh, my God.

Philip: The sort of senior guard dickhead figure who hosts this Follies show and makes them all sing and dance and cheerlead.

Carla: Well, I think that, but I think that that’s an editorial moment to open the film with the talent show that they ostensibly force the inmates into. Participating in with the nurses and the guards. They do a talent show, a revue called Titicut Follies, to start to open with that and then to close with it, I think is a very defined editing moment.

Philip: Do you think that it’s Wiseman participating with that project?

Carla: I think it’s him creating. I think it’s him setting his agenda.

Philip: Mm hmm.

Philip: And I mean, ultimately, it’s the truth, because it’s a very encapsulated moment of everything that is happening in this place. It is a circus. It is enslavement. It is humiliation. It is fun. It is follies to these people, these people’s lives. You know? And it’s also such an encapsulation of the post atomic era. You know, it’s like it kills me that, you know, like there’s that whole scene where he’s shaving that man and it’s like, Oh, even in this place, everyone still has to be clean shaven. You won’t give them clothes, but you’ll enforce them being cleanly shaved.

Philip: And you will mock them for their lack of cleanliness that you are imposing on them. The level of disgust I felt as I viewed this film was just immense. And then for Wiseman to cut from that final scene of the Follies to his signature silent credits that simply unspooled across the screen was just so confronting and so strangely successful. And I do encourage people if they’re wanting to explore more, to head to ACMI and watch Central Park or watch the National Gallery, you know, take in one of his less problematic features as an entry point to his work. And because I have found it really very profoundly shaping of my way of seeing the world.

Carla: I’m definitely keen to see more. And, you know, nice little Capricorn he’s 93 and still working is still putting out film.

Philip: Legend,

Carla: You know. So maybe that’s why they’re getting longer and longer.

Philip: But more and more to say.

Carla: I won’t say thank you. But I will say. Oh no I won’t say anything.

Philip: Exactly. At least I don’t sense that I need to seek forgiveness.

Carla: No, I actually. Three years of a psych degree really put all that trauma in. So I was able to watch it a lot more dispassionately. But I think maybe for the average viewer, it might be pretty harrowing. Too much. Approach with caution, fellow Aisler.

Philip: Yes. Okay. On that note, it is coming soon. Now that things are on again, off again, off again. On again.

Carla: I think they’re fully on again.

Philip: Yes, but just in denial. Baby. So what are your plans?

Carla: Well, I’m. I don’t know.

Philip: Me, too. I mean, I was thinking that I would just say MIFF is on and doesn’t have, like, a half in its name. They’re doing a proper, full blown film festival in August. So, you know, I’ll see people on the footpaths there. That’s exciting.

Carla: I might check that out. I one thing that did give me FOMO that I’m like, okay, I’m definitely going to go to that is Looking for Albrandi at The Malthouse. So very excited for that. I think we’ll do it on the show next month. So I’ll go and go and see and then we’ll talk about it. Otherwise, I haven’t really checked anything out. I’m going to go to Tassie in a couple of weeks and go and check out what’s left of Dark Mofo that’s still sort of installed around the place and go to Mona.

Philip: Your mention of Bendigo earlier reminds me that Wagner’s Ring Cycle is being completely presented at Bendigo.

Carla: Wow.

Carla: So if you’re into very over-the-top Germanic content and a bit of a regional experience, I might see you there.

Carla: I want to go to the Elvis exhibition.

Philip: All I’ve been. Oh, it’s very to do like it’s very object rich naturally. You know, it’s it’s about stuff.

Carla: Yeah, of course. Well, that’s all was about memorabilia. Yeah, stuff, stuff, stuff.

Philip: Fabulous. Well, that’s that for our 50th episode. Thank you so much for listening both today and since day dot of this labor of love do get in touch even for no reason via email at us@acrossaisle.com or on Twitter @acrossaisle. That’s where you can keep up to date on our evolving plans and send us your recommendations for how to stay engaged with the arts in 2022. Across the Aisle is recorded in Naarm on the stolen lands of the Boonwurrung and Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. Sovereignty has never been ceded. We pay our respects to their elders and express gratitude for their custodianship of the land we live on. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. And thank you, Carla.

Carla: Thank you, Phil. Good to be back.

Philip: See you next time.