Lunchtime Series


Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery




General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni

audience 250

Talking Allowed

‘Talking Allowed’ is a new series of presentations offered by the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies and the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.

On the second Wednesday of every month, a UWA academic will give a short presentation on a topic of current relevance to the arts and culture before inviting the audience to participate in discussion and debate.

‘Talking Allowed’ is designed to be thought-provoking, challenging, stimulating and engaging. Come along and join the dialogue on matters that are of great importance to our society.

18 September

The Art of Surveillance

with Dr David Glance, Director of the UWA Centre for Software Practice

David Glance    Lens

The way in which artists have represented the nature of surveillance illustrates Art’s unique and powerful ability to explore, explain, and critique surveillance's role in society. This exploration highlights humanity's conflicted relationship with technology. A relationship that brings a price for every benefit, and a cost which is often borne by those not in control of the technology including those who struggle to understand it.

This talk will explore how surveillance is viewed as the “benevolent, omniscient eye of God” by artist Miriam Stannage as a contrast to the largely unseen tool of control and oppression by almost everyone else. Artists have explored not only the obvious forms of surveillance through video but increasingly through the digital footprints on the Internet and even the discarded parts of genetic material we leave when we drop a piece of chewed gum.

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13 June 2018

Why Speak English?: Nationalism and the order(ing) of language in colonial Melbourne.

with Dr Nadia Rhook, Lecturer, School of Humanities, and Indigenous Studies, The University of Western Australia

You probably speak English everyday, but have you ever stopped to think about how and why English came to be so widely spoken in Australia?

This talk explores the spatial order of language in 1890s Melbourne, from the boarding houses and shops of the polyglot Little Lon area to the men’s clubs, banks and Parliament of Anglophone dominated Bourke and Collins Streets. We’ll track how this linguistic order was produced through the colonisation of Kulin land and focus in on the dynamic decade of the 1890s; an era that saw the politics of Chinese and South Asian migration intensify in ways that culminated in the use of a language test to enact racial exclusion, which would remain a cornerstone of the White Australia Policy for decades to follow.

This talk opens up thinking about the ways that language works as a tool of racial inclusion and exclusion; thinking about how, and where, the ability to speak English became bound up with Australian identity.

This event takes place on Whadjuk Noongar land.

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Talks held in 2018

9 May 2018

Thinking Aloud about Head Covering (and other relevant clothes)

with Krishna Sen FAHA, Professor Emerita, Social Sciences, UWA

In Australia, in March 2017 a red-headed Anglophone woman covered herself from head to toe in a black garb and showed up in parliament. In India, in 2013, 1 February was declared International Hijab day and women of all faiths were invited to don this particular form of clothing. In Indonesia, when I first started asking young women in their 30’s why they wore the hijab when their mothers didn’t, friends who had my best interest at heart responded: ‘Ibu, this is a very sensitive question. Please be careful’. 

In each of the three nations where I have spent my life-time, and indeed in many other parts of the world, there appears to be some sort of a moral panic around a particular item of women’s clothing on all sides of the argument. Is there something particular about the hijab in our time or is ‘to cover or not to cover’ always a central political question?

Krishna Sen, a Bengali Indian by birth, Australian by choice, is Professor Emerita and Senior Research Fellow in Social Sciences, UWA. She is internationally recognised for her research and publications on Indonesian media and politics. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a member of the New Colombo Plan Reference Group. 

11 April 2018

The Virgin, the Madame, and the Greenie Girlie-man: an art scholar’s tale.

with Dr Ann Schilo, School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University.

Kehinde Wiley’s recent official portrait of the former US president, Barack Obama, has caused debate over dinner tables and in conference rooms. Looking unlike the conventional figure of conservative, patriarchal power, Obama is pictured seated, amidst a forest of flora. While it has been discussed as a shift in the portrayal of American presidents, the painting has also been seen as a sign of African-American empowerment.

Using Wiley’s portrait as a springboard for a personal reflection on portraiture, or more specifically the figure in a floral setting, Dr Ann Schilo will spin a tale that encompasses some favourite pictures from the annals of art history, a few ideas about representation and the presentation of the self, as well as a notation on the all-pervasive symbolism of flowers. In so doing, she will consider how images are embedded in their social cultural milieu and embroiled in the circulation of meanings.

Dr Ann Schilo has published widely in the visual arts, creative practice research, and cultural studies. In addition Ann works as an independent curator. Her edited volume, Visual Arts Practice and Affect: place, memory and embodied knowing was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2016.

14 March 2018

A van Gogh, a toilet, and the trumping of Trump

with Associate Professor Clarissa Ball, History of Art, UWA School of Design and Director, UWA Institute of Advanced Studies.

In late 2017, Donald and Melania Trump asked the Guggenheim Museum if they could borrow a van Gogh painting for their White House private quarters. Their request was rejected and countered with an offer of Maurizio Cattelan’s America, (2016) a fully functional 18-carat solid gold toilet that more than 100,000 people had already used. While some considered the Guggenheim’s offer a contemptible act of profanity, others claimed that the real work of art here was the suggestion that for the Trumps, a well-used toilet that reportedly cost in excess of $1 million to make was a more fitting artwork than a van Gogh.

This first Talking Allowed of 2018 considered the complexities of this incident and asked, what’s the fuss? After all, the toilet as subject and object of art has a long and noble history.

Talks held in 2017

Beauty in Unexpected Places: aesthetics and mathematics

with Dr Sam Baron, Lecturer, Philosophy, The University of Western Australia

Choices in mathematics are often made for aesthetic reasons: a degree of freedom is added here to preserve symmetry; a partial derivative is employed there because it establishes harmony and so on. The use of aesthetic considerations in mathematics hides a deep mystery. Mathematicians make progress by following their aesthetic instincts. Soon enough their mathematical results are picked up in physics and used to describe nature.

One striking example of contemporary relevance, is the use of results in number theory for cryptography. According to the number theorists G. H. Hardy, mathematicians pursuing results in number theory were producing art. This artistic endeavour seemed all but useless until it was picked up as the basis for cryptography and, subsequently, cyber security as we know it today (your home wifi is protected by number theoretic cyphers, involving primes).

Is, then, the beauty of mathematics a guide to the truth? And if so, what implications does this have for our understanding of mathematical and artistic practice and their relationship to the scientific method?


Is it OK to remove statues?

with Associate Professor Clarissa Ball, Discipline Chair, History of Art, UWA School of Design, Director, UWA Institute of Advanced Studies.

The recent removal of Confederate statues in the United States has resulted in extraordinary acts of violence, heightened racial tensions and death. Debate continues to rage about whether or not the removal of public statues is akin to erasing the past and “changing history”, as President Trump put it. Is Trump right, or is the truth far more complex?

Closer to home, debate is mounting about Australia’s colonial monuments. Stan Grant’s statement that the inscription on the statue of James Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park “maintains a damaging myth” has been met with astonishing claims. One commentator has gone so far as to liken Grant’s questioning of the statue’s plaque and its doctrine of discovery to the cultural destruction of the Taliban Left.

This Talking Allowed discussed what it is about statues that render them the focus of struggle and explored some of the complexities that surround their removal or modification.


Art and Leadership

In this Talking Allowed, Robin McClellan explored the ways in which art can be used as a galvanising tool to provoke thought leadership, by challenging and encouraging discussion whilst also evoking emotional connection to social issues and new ways of being.

Robin is the Chief Executive Officer of Leadership WA. Prior to this role, Robin was the Director of Minerals Research Initiatives at Curtin University. Before that she was based in Singapore as ExxonMobil Corporation’s Senior Advisor for Asia Pacific Government Relations. From 2004 to 2007 she served as the US Consul General during her 24-year career in the US diplomatic service.


The Arts, the Law, and Freedom of Expression (with one eye on that cartoon)

In 2016, Bill Leak’s controversial cartoon generated widespread debate about free speech and racism in Australia. Following Leak’s death on March 10, and in light of proposed amendments to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, those debates have resurfaced and intensified.

In her talk, ‘The Arts, the Law, and Freedom of Expression (with one eye on that cartoon)’ Jani McCutcheon from the UWA School of Law spoke to a number of ethical and legal issues that underpin the complex relationship between the arts, the law, and freedom of expression.

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Visual Influences on Legislation: Culture Jamming the Perth Modern School relocation proposal

Culture Jamming is defined as a movement that mixes politics with graffiti, and satire with paint. Said by some to scramble "... the signal, injects the unexpected, and spurs audiences to think critically and challenge the status quo", this presentation, by Professor Camilla Baasch Andersen, UWA School of Law, and artist Desmond Mah examines a new way for law and visualization to intersect. We showcase some of the many artistic works produced by artists and children to protest the recent proposal to relocate Perth Modern School to an inner-city high-rise, as well as jamming sites which promote racial equality, and ask the question: Is this controversial way of visually expressing public resistance and opinion effective in influencing legislation? Should it be?

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Seeing Allowed?

Over the last two years and with the rise of the citizen photographer, there have been radical changes in how we respond to photographs and images, particularly those that reveal unimaginable suffering. Whether it is a photograph of the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi washed ashore near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, the images of Dylan Voller spit-hooded and shackled to a restraint chair, or the photograph of the Muslim woman amidst the carnageon Westminster Bridge, images appear to have acquired a new status in their capacity to prompt indignation and action. Which images can we say have changed the course of history? And what makes an image powerful at a particular moment? In her talk ‘Seeing Allowed?’, Professor Jane Lydon (Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History) spoke to a number of issues that surround images of suffering. While it would seem that in 2017 photographs and images are becoming central to socio-political and ideological tensions, Professor Lydon explored whether or not real change can be wrought by harrowing images of suffering.