The Politics of Art


The Politics of Art

Melbourne Law School
Room 920, Level 9
Carlton VIC 3053


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Australian politics is fraught – yet the Australian public is disengaged. The Constitution is being rethought with respect to Indigenous Australians, and treaty-making is on the agenda – yet the Uluru Statement from the Heart was roundly ignored by the Federal Government. Public funding is being stripped from the arts – yet millions are spent on the Australian War Memorial and a monument to Captain Cook. It’s a time when politics has never been more important for the future of Australia, and when the future of art has never been more in peril. It’s time to look at the big picture:

  • What is art’s importance for politics in Australia today?
  • What role do images play in the framing and conduct of political debate in the 21st century?
  • Can artworks offer public spaces that open up rather than close down debate on the past, on the relevance of that past for the present, and for our future?

From a monument to Captain Cook that celebrates the inauguration of a nation, to films that raise the ghosts of colonisation and the spectre of genocide, to representations of imperialism, revolution and human rights, we invite you to join a discussion featuring three of Australia’s leading public intellectuals: Professor Desmond Manderson, the author of a new book on the importance of art to how we think about law and justice; Professor Hilary Charlesworth, world-renowned international jurist and Hague Lecturer on the art of international law; and Dr Julie Gough, one of the most important artists working in Australia today.

Funded by The University of Melbourne McKenzie Fellowship.

Image credit: Gordon Bennett, Possession Island (1991)

*Collection: Museum of Sydney on the site of the first Government House, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. Purchased with funds from the Foundation for the Historic Houses Trust, Museum of Sydney Appeal, 2007.


  • Mr Paul Barclay
    Mr Paul Barclay, ABC Radio National Presenter
  • Professor Desmond  Manderson
    Professor Desmond Manderson, Australian National University (ANU)
  • Professor Hilary Charlesworth
    Professor Hilary Charlesworth, Melbourne Law School
  • Dr Julie Gough
    Dr Julie Gough, Writer, Artist, and Curator