A Response: The Secret River | Arts Centre Melbourne presents A Sydney Theatre Company Production

March 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

The author lives. Despite protestation to the contrary, we must now reasonably conclude that the author still plays an integral role in both the context and the reception of a piece of art. It is with this declaration in mind that we turn to Sydney Theatre Company’s The Secret River.

First, however, we need to contextualise the issues. My first case study is this: last year Best American Poetry published a poem written by an Asian-American female, or so the editor was lead to believe. It turned out, however, that the author was a white male. This ignited a discussion about race and marginalisation that dramatically illustrated the continuing importance of authorship. While some would argue that the blind publication of the poem proves that authorship is irrelevant to the reception of a piece of work, this ignores why the piece was published in the first place, namely to include more people of colour in the annual, thereby reaffirming the importance of the author. Furthermore, those within the community, whose identity was misappropriated, argue an incident like this adds to their erasure from the socio-cultural fabric. An already privileged individual is exploiting a marginalised group for personal gain — therefore the artistic act is not a matter of ‘righting wrongs’ but of an individual colonising an identity for capitalist gain (as well as artistic notoriety, one presumes). This example typifies a wider response to contemporary practices concerning authorship. In particular it illustrates the way that marginalised groups and concerns are not treated as serious until a white man says exactly the same thing. Women often bare the brunt of this; during group situations a woman’s voice is often ignored or overlooked until a male raises her points.

Moreover, this case study elucidates the way that the Other is often reduced to their trauma; the idea that they cannot talk about their place in society unless it is about their suffering, which perpetuates the notion that to be Other is to suffer (how many ‘gay’ films have you seen that don’t involve HIV?) It is incredibly difficult for those seen as different to then talk on behalf of ‘the everyman’, as they can only be seen through the lens of their Otherness — even though those who can speak on behalf of ‘the every man’ (straight white men, by and large) actually do not represent the majority at all. The fact is, this case study is not an isolated issue and it typifies a broader philosophical discussion that gets to the heart of what is corrupt at the centre of modernity. « Read the rest of this entry »

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