The Aesthetics of Violence

Wednesday 3 March 2021
6.00 - 7.30pm

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Hybrid Event:
Online (Zoom Webinar)
ABS LT 1110, Abercrombie Building (H70), University of Sydney


The Living Room Theatre
City of Sydney

We can’t call out violence in its myriad of forms if we don’t know what it looks like, what it sounds like, or what it feels like.

This panel discussion will explore the power of the creative and performing arts to transform abstract concepts of violence, into visceral, corporal experiences, and the responses these embodiments can evoke. Hear from prizewinning author Charlotte Wood and an interdisciplinary panel of artists, scholars and practitioners as they reflect on the many ways violence is represented in their own practice.

On the panel will be Charlotte Wood, author of the multi-prize winning novel The Natural Way of Things exploring power, gender, and violence in Australia. Charlotte’s novel is the inspiration for the upcoming Sites of Violence immersive theatre work The foul of the air. Joining her will be film scholar, Bruce Isaacs, as he extends this examination of the Australian landscape and how it visually manifests a ‘sunlit noir’ aesthetic in filmic portrayals of the hostile outback. Redirecting our attention to the sinister alcoves of road-side motels, visual artist, author and Sydney Law School academic Carolyn McKay, will invite us to confront lingering sensations of discomfort through her research on ‘hauntologies’. And finally, focusing on aesthetics and the performative body, theatre practitioner and Sydney Environment Institute Deputy Director Michelle St Anne will interrogate the visibility of trauma.

Double bassist and composer Will Hansen and Artistic Director of The Living Room Theatre Michelle St Anne will perform And the Curtains are Blowing Slowly… Consisting of several original scenes and texts by Michelle and an ethereal improvised accompaniment by Will, this piece explores alcoholism, violence against women, and musing over your earliest recollections in this lucid series of physical and sonic allegories.


Bruce Isaacs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History. His research focusses on a wide range of film studies-related topics: histories of film (with a focus on Hollywood, though he has abiding interests in various ‘New Waves’ and movements), film aesthetics and style, critical approaches to film production, film and popular culture (including the relationship between film and other pop culture art forms such as television, literature and music). Bruce is currently intrigued by various developments in High Concept Hollywood and its evolution of new aesthetic practices, including digital and 3D cinema.

Carolyn McKay is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School where she teaches Criminal Law, Civil & Criminal Procedure and Digital Criminology. She is also a visual artist and curator and completed postgraduate studies at Sydney College of the Arts before her PhD at Sydney Law School. She has held solo exhibitions, been commissioned to create audio-video works for curated exhibitions, and was the recipient of a 2018 Museums & Galleries of New South Wales exhibitions project award. Her latest criminal law/criminological research examines motel crime scenes through the lens of ‘ghost criminology’.

Killian Quigley is Research Fellow at ACU’s Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, in Melbourne. He earned his PhD in English at Vanderbilt, where he specialized in the relationship between natural history and the aesthetics of spectacle in eighteenth-century Britain and France. He was subsequently awarded a postdoc at the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney. His primary works reside at the intersections of the environmental humanities, literary studies, the history and philosophy of science, and aesthetic theory. He is an Associate of the Oceanic Humanities for the Global South research group. In 2019, he was Researcher in Residence with Underwater New York and Works on Water

Michelle St Anne is the Deputy Director and Operations Manager – Programming, Impact and Engagement at the Sydney Environment Institute. She manages the operation of the Institute as well as curates a strategic and dynamic outreach programme. Michelle is also the Artistic Director and founder of the award-winning Sydney based theatre company The Living Room Theatre. She has produced and written over 23 ambitious new works which have had seasons in Sydney and Melbourne. In 2018 she became an Honorary Associate with the School of Theatre and Performance Studies, School of Literature, Art and Media, The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, at the University of Sydney.

Charlotte Wood is the prizewinning author of six novels and two books of non-fiction. Her latest book, The Weekend, a novel about friendship and growing older, won the 2020 Australian Book Industry Award for Literary Fiction. Her previous novel, The Natural Way of Things, won the 2016 Stella Prize, the 2016 Indie Book of the Year and Novel of the Year, was joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction. Her non-fiction works include The Writer’s Room, a collection of interviews with authors about the creative process, and Love & Hunger, a book about cooking. In 2019 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to literature and was named one of the Australian Financial Review‘s 100 Women of Influence.


Will Hansen is a Sydney-based double bassist, improviser and composer. A co-founder of SPIRAL and a member of Ensemble Onsombl, Will has performed at the Sydney Opera House, City Recital Hall, Palau de la Musica Catalina, Barcelona, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.

This event is in partnership between the Sydney Environment Institute and The Living Room Theatre. It is part of the Sydney Environment Institute’s Sites of Violence research project.

Please Note: this event will be run in-person and online via Zoom. Due to limited capacity, if you would like to attend in-person please email sei.events@sydney.edu.au. This event will be run in accordance with the University of Sydney’s COVID-Safe Guidelines.