TRIBES SPEAKING TO TRIBES
A note from the Editor
I love the poet, Muriel Rukeyser, because she understood that “the world is made of stories, not atoms”.You don’t have to be a poet to understand this, but it helps. Have a look around. Stories are a force of nature. We didn’t evolve from apes; we sprang into life, full-blooded and thoroughly anxious, embodied by "tales of the tribe".
Story is our essence, the source and expression of every dream, dread, vision, death, birth and discovery. Our humanity and inhumanity is rooted in it, tangled in the mystery of “how come?” and the suspense of “what next?”
When James Joyce was asked where he came up with the stories that inhabited his books, he gestured round the pub: “from that couple over there, and those men by the door, and that woman washing up behind the bar…”
Story is Nature’s way of becoming conscious of itself, and as storytellers we work with it in order to become conscious of ourselves. One writes a story to find out why one is writing it, and in the process discovers that the story is writing us as much as we are writing it.
This issue of THE GROUP was meant to be an exploration of screen storytelling, but alas - it has taken on a life of its own. What is common to all the contributors in this issue is their willingness and ability to "enter the drama", and through that courage to offer their audience a chance to enter it as well.
Many of the writers, artists, filmmakers and poets that appear in this issue work as "mediums". To work as a medium is not so much a matter of what an artist does, as what he/she doesn’t do; it is akin to the Chinese idea of wu-wei (non-action), a concept that denotes effortlessness, spontaneity, or what Chuang Tzu refers to as “flowing”. It is the ability of getting out of the way and letting the event, emotion, experience express itself-as-itself.
Every well-told story and poem flows, as does the act of every artist when he/she operates "mediumistically". The art of flowing, requires that the artist/writer get out of the way. A dramatist must become “empty”, unobtrusive, so that the characters can become whatever the characters are, so that that which is yet-to-be can come into being, allowed to birth itself through the agency of the storyteller-made-medium.
Indeed, one might say that unless a story - or any work of art - is birthed in this manner it can have no lasting raison d’être, and as such, cannot endure.
Billy Marshall Stoneking, Editor, GROUP 3
F E A T U R E S
Earlier this year, Sanaz Fotouhi travelled to Afghanistan with filmmaker, Amin Palangi, to work on a documentary film for the Afghan-Australian charity organization, Mahboba's Promise. This was her third trip to Afghanistan since 2006. Because of the way she traveled and lived during this time, and the intimacy of some of the relationships she formed, she decided to chronicle her odyssey into "the place of sorrow" . This is an early draft of what might be the introductory chapter of that tale…
Andrew Dominik is the director of Chopper and The Asssassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His concerns with violence, mortality and what might be described as negative forms of celebrity - or, more simply, notoriety - distinguish his work along with a deeply poetic style of filmmaking. Mark Mordue speaks with Andrew Dominik here about the making of Jesse James, one of the truly great Westerns in modern cinema, which was recently released to the DVD market.
Writers speak of those moments when their work takes on a life of its own, appearing to write itself or reveal its true meaning. Others claim someone else has taken over the pen or the keyboard to provide more than a little direction. Lisa Sweeney talks about learning the mediumistic practice of automatic writing, making new friends and discovering new talents in the process.
The Hand of Fatima is an ancient theme in Islamic art, and an integral part of social and religious life in Iran, Morocco and all Maghreb and Middle Eastern countries. The original sculpture "The Hand of Fatima" holds the unifying influence of the Islamic and Persian culture. Many designs and motifs carry a written verse from the Quran. Such verses are believe to have protective power. One of the most powerful reasons for the use of the "Hands" is as a charm against spirits. Such meaning is common to Muslims, Christians, Jews and their family members against clamaties beyond beyond anyone's control. As Professor Sasha Grishin of the Australian National University writes, 'The human hand is one of the most poignant images known to humankind. A fully extended hand is the universal symbol to stop. A hand shown from above, from a cloud or the arc of heaven, is a symbol of divine presence, while a hand outstretched towards heaven is a symbol beseeching divine intervention. as in the words of the Bible "Stretch out thine hand towards heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt." (Exodus 12:8)'
Farideh Zariv, has been collecting examples of the Hand of Fatima for 10 years. Her original artwork has been partly inspired by these collections. I have Brought together images of the Hand of Fatima, geometric patterns from Persia and Persian and Arabic calligraphy covered with talismanic Writings.
MEMOIR : MEETING ROBERT GRAVES
I remember at the time (mid-70s) hearing Larry Buttrose speak about his adventures in Mallorca and his time visiting poet and author of The White Goddess, Robert Graves. I think I was even aware of this article, though never had a chance to read it. For myself and those others who missed it the first time around, here it is, along with an update from 1997.
Nasser Palangi is an Iranian/Australian artist who has gained widespread recognition and respect within Iran for his courageous recording of events at "the front" during the Iran/Iraq War. His murals and sketches of martyrs and women - among many other mediums - are celebrated around the world.
The centerpiece of Nasser’s art is a series of collages that use photographs and artifacts of Iranian history to evoke memories of the past. Viewing the past through the lens of modernity, the works of Nasser show a continuation of ancient traditions and themes in contemporary media. GROUP 3 is proud to present this selection of work by Nasser Palangi from 1999-2005 which have been exhibited in CANADA, CHINA, USA, Australia, Dubai and Iran.
ONCE A HOME
George Smilovici presents his haunting film memoir of another time and place; a photographic journey conceived and written with original music composed and played by the filmmaker. He writes: "All these photos of my family where taken before 1959 in pre-revolution Cuba. We lived in Havana. My parents were from Romania and they'd arrived in Cuba ('The Sexiest Country in The World') in 1947, just after the War. Once Fidel and Che (his Poster Boy) had started making waves, my father, Dan. a pianist and nightclub owner, decided it was time to leave Paradise. So we escaped Cuba's Revolution and moved to El Salvador. We left El Salvador just before the Revolution and moved to Guatemala. We then left Guatemala just before the Revolution. My father said "George, we have to find a place where they are too lazy to have a Revolution".
NEAR MUMBAI - November 2008
Martin Kovan presents a poetic tour de force, masquerading as journal 'reportage', that offers an unusual glimpse of an upside-down world from the edge of Mumbai's terror-attack last year. All the significant details are true. It seems that when the stakes are high - higher than they are in fiction, at least - real experience offers up stories uncanny enough to be more than true...
POETRY : Ravi Shankar
Novelist and poet, Djelloul Marbrook, reviews Ravi Shankar's latest collection of poems, Instrumentality.
Further reading/listening: http://www.fishousepoems.org/archives/ravi_shankar/
"At Nublu, in New York City last September, I was totally blown away at a performance (pre-war blues and hokem) by a man from Australia named C.W. Stoneking. As a blues fan, I have always been concerned that all the true greats are not among the living. Well, I am very excited to say that we have amongst us probably the most talented blues musician alive today...and over time he could end up as one of the all time greats. He is a great singer, storyteller and picker. He will make you laugh and cry....and you will be blown away by the singing. This is not hype. If you have a chance to see his live show.or you can get him to come to your town....Do it." - Larry, New York City
The empirical investigation and extrapolation of an organism’s relationship with its physical environment is preminently the domain of the science of ecology. The identification of ecological fields are expressible as sets of dynamic, vital relationships occuring as natural processes that affect the sustainability of all members operating within that system. While the value and scientific usefulness of such investigations is undeniable, the application of an ecological model to areas of human endeavour not previously interpreted in ecological terms is also capable of producing a number rather unusual and useful insights that are both surprising and illuminating. This is particularly the case when it comes to dramatic, screen storytelling as experienced by the storyteller in the act of finding “the drama”.
JELLY'S PLACENTA - The Film
Leith - an obsessive transvestite in her mid-30s - has been involved in a ten-year relationship with her lover, Jelly, and Jelly's dead mother, whose spirit inhabits the fig tree in the garden beneath which Jelly'splacenta is buried. Consumed by jealousy for the mother, and by a primordial urge to possess Jelly - a slippery and seemingly passive drama lecturer - Leith's world is cracked wide open by the arrival of Jelly's student - the exotic Chinese beauty, Hart Sommerstein. When Jelly arrives home, Leith accuses him of having an affair, and, in ashattering confrontation, they spill the horror of their relationship. In her frenzy to destroy the mother's dominance, Leith slays chops the tree down, unexpectedly freeing Jelly.
View excerpts from the film at
Read Christina Conrad Interview re: JELLY'S PLACENTA
ARE WE SICK OF SERIAL KILLERS?
US screenwriter Paul Schrader thinks the film industry has reached a state of "narrative exhaustion" because every possible plot line has been done to death. Lynden Barber has his doubts.
LITERARY PRIZES: How To Judge A Brilliant Career?
From the Miles Franklin to the Man Booker, literary prizes can raise the ire of many. Sam Cooney peeks behind the curtain of judging panels to discuss how and why we choose to canonise our authors with such pomp and circumstance.
Lisa Sweeney has been a journalist and manager of news programs since the early 80s. After a beginning in newspapers, she spent almost two decades at the ABC as a radio producer, editor newsreader and executive producer before moving into management. She spent many years running all of the ABC’s radio, TV and online news output including the 7pm TV news, managing more than 500 journalists in 50 locations.
She left the ABC two years ago to live in a small ski town in Canada where she worked as a freelance writer and spent time skiing and hiking with her family.
She’s returned to Australia and continues to write fiction from her home in Sydney. She’s working primarily on her first novel, a literary mystery set in the Australian Snowy Mountains.
Larry Buttrose is the author of more than a dozen books, the most recent being the nonfiction work Speeches of War and Peace. His current project is writing a new stage adaptation of Don Quixote for the Bell Shakespeare Company. http://larrybuttrose.blogspot.com/
"I live in Paris, study at Goldsmiths in London for a PhD. in Buddhist ethics, and write fiction and non-fiction in whatever time that leaves me. I've spent substantial periods living in the U.S., France and over two years in India. I've taught English language and literature in Paris and India for the last five years, including a period at Krishnamurti's 'Rishi Valley School'. The interface between Pacific Rim poetics, Buddhist thought, neo-fictional genres and ethical enquiry informs much of my work. And Australia as it manifests interlinearly, escaping so many of the traditionalisms of a global materialism."
"I have always been one of the obsessed. From birth. I could stare at the head of a pin for a million years. I am subject to crushes, obsessions, fetishes. Each time I fell madly in love, the object of my passion was never available. Delay was my closest lover. Yet Lucidity came to me. I learnt to work with suffering, ruthlessly applying it. I worked with the bloody tangle, unwinding the cords that threatened to strangle, working like a mad silk worm, year after year... In darkness, in blinding light light, I studied the somber jewel of sorrow. Stumbling upon secret seams of joy, I found a type of balance. Working like a medium, I called up many influences, sorting them blindly, perceptively. This is the way with creative people - they are born with an excess of mental energy. If not used properly it rots. In this way one must be careful with obsession. One must work with it... the energy must be conducted... and one must learn how to do this, otherwise it turns back on the creator causing stagnation and torment..."
Djelloul Marbrook’s book of poems, Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008) won the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. His story “Artists' Hill,” from an unpublished novel, won the Literal Latté fiction prize in 2008. Recent poems have been accepted by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Oberon, Reed, The Same, The Ledge, Istanbul Literary Review, Arabesques Literary and Cultural Journal, Damazine, Attic and Perpetuum Mobile. He worked for many years as a reporter and editor for newspapers including the Providence Journal, Elmira Star-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, Winston-Salem Journal, Washington Star, and others. He lives in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley with his wife, Marilyn.
Farideh Zariv, a Canberra-based Iranian-Australian artist, was the first ever Muslim woman to exhibit in Iziko Bo-kaap Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. Farideh arrived in Australia with her husband and children in 2001 on a distinguished talent visa, which is a rare sub-class of visa issued to highly achieved artists and sportsmen. Farideh has had formal training in the Arts with a degree in Fine Arts and one in Graphics. Currently she is continuing her education at the Australian National University doing a Master of Arts in Fine Arts focusing on Persian traditional patterns. She has been a practicing artist for nearly twenty years and has exhibited globally in America, Asia, Europe, Australia and recently Africa.
Nasser Palangi graduated in visual arts from the Tehran University in 1984. While lecturing at different universities, he pursued his research in painting and art education in Tehran until 1998.
At the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), he spent three years working as a war artist close to the front line, creating series of drawings, paintings and photographs. In addition, he created a series of mural paintings entitled My Memory of the War for the congregational mosque of Khorramshahr, Iran, 1981.
Nasser’s works are exhibited in art galleries, public spaces, festivals, and is represented in Iranian and Australian public collections. He has been taken artist residencies in the USA, UAE, Australia and China, and has been the recipient of the local and international commissions, including an Arts ACT commission grant in 2005.
His photo media collage work has been collected by the British Museum's Middle East collection and is published in ‘Word into the Art’ book.
Sanaz Fotouhi is a writer and researcher with extensive writing and editing experience. She is interested in Middle Eastern women’s issues as well diasporic literatures. Sanaz has recently finished teaching part the syllabus of the postgraduate diploma of creative writing at the University of Hong Kong.Sanaz has also been involved in various film projects including as a producer for Hidden Generation (2006). In Journey of Hope Sanaz will be a co-writer and will bring her expertise and interest in Middle Eastern women’s issues and writing to contribute to the project.
Lynden Barber is a Sydney-based journalist specialising in film and music, a feature film script assessor, and a curator for the National Film and Sound Archive.
Visit Lynden's BLOG at http://eyeswiredopen.blogspot.com/2008/03/on-screenwriting-billy-marshall.html
Billy Marshall Stoneking
EDITOR, Group 3
*NOTE: Mask at top, courtesy of Christina Conrad