Not so strange bedfellows


Collaborating in 2015 with the Asian Australian Democracy Caucus

AADC LogoUnderstandings of the relationship between art and society, and the role of the artist in civic life, differ depending on a range of perspectives and backgrounds. The notions of political art and the art of politics have changed greatly over time, morphing as we develop our ideas of how art is made, seen and consumed, and as notions of citizenship are tested and reshaped to societies in a constant state of flux.

Providing a comprehensive or even comprehensible redux of the various definitions of these terms represents a kind of interdisciplinary minefield, and is probably beyond the patience of anyone’s Friday evening. But before you disappear into the weekend’s social or practical haze, we would be happy to devote just a little time to thinking about the way that art and politics will be mixing at Peril in 2015.

In the coming year, Peril is delighted to announce that it will be making space for writers from the Asian Australian Democracy Caucus (AADC) to share reflections on the current state of Australian politics as it relates to its Asian Australian communities and constituents. The editors for this project, Jen Tsen Kwok and Shinen Wong, will be providing some further insight into the AADC in the early part of next week, but in the meantime, some background to and rationale for this exciting new collaboration is provided here.

For those not aware of what it is that Peril seeks to do, or those joining us for the first time, since 2006, Peril Magazine has sought to be an active multimedia platform for Asian Australian voices that empowers the creativity agency and representation of Asian Australian people in arts, society and culture. The primary way that we do this is by showcasing new literature, whether in poetry, prose, drama, translations, memoir, essays, biographical profiles or other stories. We also try to foster dialogue and conversation around cultural production and issues of relevance to Asian Australian communities via our blog and social media presence. In recent years, your increased engagement and feedback to our blog content, via comments or social media, have been among the most exciting demonstrations of how vibrant the creative and critical dialogue is between Peril readers.

In line with this mission, and ways of working, is an implicit acknowledgement that the arts and literature provide a conceptual and practical place for the discussion of politics in the arts. Not every story or poem or visual arts reflection that we publish is necessarily “political” in its intent from the artist or writer, nor would we consider that a desirable outcome of Peril’s mission. Nevertheless, underpinning Peril’s existence and its work, is a framework of considerations as diverse as and as changeable as: What are the institutional, discursive and ideological constructs that shape the things we call “art”? What elements of “culture” are made visible or rendered invisible by dominant cultures and forms of cultural production? What links or ruptures exist between cultural spaces – particularly digital spaces – and the realms of politics? How do we pass cultural issues and cultural production through the intersectional analyses of gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, nation, colonialism and somehow find insight into the hyphenated-hydra of “Asian Australian”?

Hyper-distilled to their most basic definitions, both art and politics are acts of representation. Both are ways of rendering the person, or peoples, in particular ways. And at Peril, we’re curious about challenging both.

Whether through poetry, propaganda or Pussy Riot, we believe that the arts contribute to the formal and informal political processes that impact on the communities in which we live. And that politics form an integral component of the ecology and economy in which we seek to make art. It would be limiting to consider what we do at Peril solely or even predominantly as “political art”, but separating the historical, cultural, structural, political and artistic realms of Peril’s work feels just as difficult and misleading.

To add another dimension to this discussion, we are therefore delighted to welcome a new set of perspectives, those of the AADC, to the Peril conversation. The AADC’s mission is explicitly political: they are committed to building greater political inclusion and lifting stock of civic knowledge and awareness in Asian Australian communities. By providing them with space to start conversation and debate around key issues in the Australian domestic political context, we want to respond to your energy for thoughtful debate and to demonstrate our commitment to empowering Asian Australian people in the arts, society and culture in new ways.

Over the next year, at periodic intervals, writers from the AADC will provide dedicated content that we hope will engage your minds and enrich the quality of public debate in Australia. All writers provide their work in an unpaid capacity and we strive to present views that are non- or bi-partisan in nature, and to make clear any potential for bias or conflicts of interest. As always, we are happy to ask more questions than we answer, and to engage with our readers in the messiness of challenge of participating in “culture”.

Welcome to the weekend.

Author: Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and community radio broadcaster. Eleanor Jackson is a former Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of Peril and currently Chair of the Board.