The Art of Criticism: from David Bowie to Dick Pics

For the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s Criticism Masterclass we’ve rounded up some of our favourites to dazzle us with their talent and reveal their critic’s bag of magic tricks at our full day of programming on the art. To prime you for the event, we’ve assembled a diverse selection of critical writing by our speakers and presenters, covering everything from David Bowie to dick pics. Want these skills? These critics and more will teach you all they know over a full day of professional development and experimentation at the Masterclass – so get your tickets!

‘The World Needs Female Rock Critics’ by Anwen Crawford in The New Yorker:

“When I was about fourteen, I stood outside science class holding a folder that was decorated with an array of faces which I had carefully cut out from the pages of music magazines. Pointing to a photo of Björk on my folder, a passing boy sneered at me, ‘I bet you don’t even know who she is.’ (This would have been around 1995, when the music press was having one of its periodic crushes on Women in Rock.) I did know who Björk was, because my mother, who was young and groovy, had raised me on the Sugarcubes, the Icelandic band that Björk was a member of before she launched her solo career. I don’t remember raising this point with my accuser, but if I had I doubt he would have believed me. The record store, the guitar shop, and now social media: when it comes to popular music, these places become stages for the display of male prowess. Female expertise, when it appears, is repeatedly dismissed as fraudulent. Every woman who has ever ventured an opinion on popular music could give you some variation (or a hundred) on my school corridor run-in, and becoming a recognized ‘expert’ (a musician, a critic) will not save you from accusations of fakery.”

Anwen Crawford is the music critic for The Monthly magazine. Her work has appeared in Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin, Overland, Best Australian Essays, and The New Yorker. Her book Live Through This was published in 2015.

Anwen will deliver the keynote address at the EWF 2016 Criticism Masterclass.

‘Touching the Face of the World’ by Sarinah Masukor in West Space Journal:

“Mohaiemen observes that there might have been no record of what happened at the airport that day if not for the hijacked plane: the photographs of the attempted coup were taken by passengers sitting inside it. The narrator says, “Tourists become hostages become witnesses.” Witnesses, and also reporters. Sitting inside the plane with a restricted view of the tarmac and a glimpse of the country beyond, I wonder what the photographers thought they were capturing. Were the images accidental, or intentional? Some of them must have imagined that these moments in the plane would be their last, but, caught by chance, they continued to perform the same actions they would have performed on holiday. In the most unexpected of circumstances, their response was to record.”

Sarinah Masukor writes about film and contemporary art. She’s currently one of the critics on ABC Arts screen culture review show The Critics.

Sarinah will be running a workshop, Ways of Seeing, at the EWF 2016 Criticism Masterclass about writing, reading and publishing criticism.

‘The Secret Video Essays of Jenni Olson’ by Conor Bateman for Fandor Keyframe:

Conor Bateman is the managing editor of 4:3, an independent film website with a focus on festival coverage and in-depth interviews. He is also a freelance writer and video essayist, with work published in Fandor Keyframe, The Lifted Brow and Empire Magazine.

Conor will be speaking about video essays at EWF 2016 on the panel Anatomy of an Essay. Look out for more of Conor’s work on our Instagram in the lead-up to the festival.

‘C’s Dick: On Digital Spaces and a New Language of Desire’ by Emma Marie Jones in Seizure:

“There is a certainty to wanting that is almost athletic, born of need, a kind of conviction in your bones that this person has probably, possibly, maybe assessed you, made a broad assessment of you that was like in the ballpark of six to ten out of ten, you are certain of it, or maybe you are just being optimistic. Maybe they are just really horny and it’s  more of a three point five but you continue to stare because you want to know, and maybe that is why they, too, are staring, or maybe they are staring at you because you are a starey-eyed creep and you can’t be sure, so you stop doing it on trams and you start doing it on Tinder. We are too afraid to look directly at one another in public spaces: to objectify is to intrude. The wanting gaze is diluted, filtered through a profile whose construction we read as consent, as invitation: it exists to be looked at. Now that we are doing all the staring from behind screens, we need words to hold the stares. Words tether themselves to order, to structure, to meaning and intent: words are antithetical to desire and its intuitive, unspoken language of looks and breaths, of small currents on the skin. Words are not adequate receptacles for bodies and so we are adapting, language is adapting, our desires are adapting to fit into the spaces we create with text.

Emma Marie Jones is a Melbourne-based poet and writer. Her short fiction, poems and essays have appeared in SPOOK, Seizure, The Lifted Brow, Scum, Meanjin, Chart and elsewhere. In 2015 she was shortlisted for the Scribe Non-fiction Prize for Young Writers.

Emma will be speaking at EWF 2016 about genre bending and experimental criticism on the panel Experimental Critics, Critical Experiments.

‘Eating with my Mouth Open’ by Sam van Zweden for the Wheeler Centre:

“Food is also a battle-ground. It’s a place I can be fiercely myself, by eating differently from my family. I rebel by eating, by not eating, by eating in ways they don’t know about – ways new, foreign, novel. Dangerous or excessive. Hidden.

I can’t remember food without thinking of my family. I can’t remember my family without thinking of food.

There are some stories that my family tell again and again – like any family, we have stories that we recognise from their very first words. There’s a Dutch word, gezellig, which English fails to translate. Gezellig sits somewhere between cosy and comfortable, and it’s related to keeping warm, friendly company. My family’s stories are gezellig – they are about where we have come from and where we are going. They are the legends that everything else balances upon – and like all legends, they exist to explain how the world works.”

Sam van Zweden is a Melbourne-based writer interested in memory, food and mental health. Her work has appeared in The Big Issue, The Victorian Writer, Killings, The Wheeler Centre and others. Her work-in-progress, titled Eating with my Mouth Open, was shortlisted for the 2015 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers.

Sam will be speaking about her work with the lyric essay form as part of the panel Anatomy of an Essay.

‘Humans Pretending to be Computers Pretending to be Humans’ by Oscar Schwartz in The Lifted Brow:

“My name is not actually Beverly. I didn’t wake up at 8:45am, or eat Pop Tarts for breakfast, and I don’t have a husband called Daryl. These experiences belong to someone else. But I did pay for them using Amazon Mechanical Turk—$5 to be precise—and now, in a way, I own them. Amazon Mechanical Turk, or mTurk for short, is a service offered by Amazon that promises a scalable, on-demand workforce for menial, computer-based work that requires human intelligence. This workforce is not made up of Amazon employees, but an internationally dispersed and anonymous group of workers who sign up to mTurk and complete tasks, which usually require no specific skill or training, for small sums of money. mTurk advertises itself as “artificial artificial intelligence.” The tasks that the human workforce complete are rote and repetitive — like transcribing audio or captioning photos — but which computers still find challenging.”

Oscar Schwartz is a writer and researcher for Melbourne. His award-winning writing on the cultural implications of technology has been published in The Monthly, The Lifted Brow and Vice, among other publications. Oscar has taught creative writing at Monash University, and has lectured in Digital Media at Victoria University and University of Melbourne.

Hear Oscar at talk about criticism, digital writing and technology at EWF 2016 on the panel Experimental Critics, Critical Experiments.

‘The Art of Immortality: David Bowie and The Image by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas in Kill Your Darlings:

“Young Bowie’s interest in performance is well documented, and his fascination with mime and Butoh in particular seem to inform his mute, eerie performance in The Image. A major influence on Bowie from this perspective was mime and choreographer Lindsay Kemp: it was from Kemp that Bowie in large part inherited his flair for adopting different characters. On the front of the script for The Image, Armstrong described the film as ‘a study of the illusionary reality world within the schizophrenic mind of the artist at his point of creativity’. It’s virtually impossible to hear this description in the context of what we now know about David Bowie’s remarkable career – with its myriad multifaceted guises – and not consider it at least somewhat prophetic.”

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a film critic on Triple R’s Plato’s Cave programme and the 2016 winner of the Best Review of an Individual Australian Film award from the Australian Film Critics Association. She is a co-editor of the journal Senses of Cinema and has written four books on cult, horror and exploitation film: Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study (McFarland, 2011), Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality (McFarland, 2014), Suspiria (Auteur, 2015), and Ms. 45 (Columbia University Press, 2017). She has also written for Overland, Metro, Kill Your Darlings, 4:3, Bright Lights and Scream Magazine (UK).

Alexandra will be speaking about her work at EWF 2016 on the panel Anatomy of an Essay.

‘Binge & Cringe: Diving Into “Top of the Lake”’ by Stephanie Van Schilt:

“Nominated for a trophy cabinet of Emmys and topping critics’ lists worldwide, Top of the Lake has been revered locally and internationally. And yet while I was watching I was unable to shake a niggling sensation I couldn’t quite comprehend; I wasn’t sure I liked Top of the Lake as much as I wanted to. I was totally willing, but unable. So I pondered this personal mystery: if I was sufficiently intrigued and captured and entertained and satisfied, why was I feeling this way? If I wasn’t any more perturbed by the dark content than I should have been, what was this niggling feeling?

Eventually I worked it out and when I did I wasn’t particularly proud. Because I discovered that, at my core, I was cringing. Culturally.

Nuts. I don’t want to be that guy.”

Stephanie Van Schilt is contributing editor at The Lifted Brow, co-host of the Rereaders podcast and a pop culture nut who lives for watching TV with her dogs. Stephanie’s writing has been published in various local and international publications including The Australian, The Guardian and The Big Issue. In 2014 she was the television columnist for Kill Your Darlings. In 2015 Stephanie was named one of MWF’s 30 Under 30 and this year she was awarded a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship to work on a scripted podcast project.

Stephanie will be running a workshop, Ways of Seeing, at the EWF 2016 criticism masterclass about writing, reading and publishing criticism.

We couldn’t be more excited by the artists we have presenting for you at the Criticism Masterclass on 21 June. For all details on specific discussions and workshops on the day, and to book your place, go here.

Or, you could book a Golden Ticket, which will get you a pass to the whole festival. It’s the best value way to get maximum thrills at this year’s Emerging Writers’ Festival.  We have a limited amount, so book now!

You can read more work by these and other writers throughout the festival by stopping past the EWF Reading Room at Unknown Union, where you’ll find stacks of great reading material from some of the best litmags around, including The Lifted Brow, Fireflies and Kill Your Darlings.