Communications and media studies senior lecturer Dr Tony Moore gave a seminar at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Kings College London, on December 4, about his book, Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians Since 1860.
In this seminar he discussed the history of Australia’s bohemian artists, their contribution to culture, politics and identity and consider the impact of this larrikin brand of bohemianism in Britain.
Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians Since 1860, a who’s who of painters, writers, larrikin journalists, actors, filmmakers, comedians and hackers who have become as famous for their controversial, eccentric lifestyles as for the subversive work they produced.
Dr Moore said the word ‘bohemian’ came from nineteenth-century Europe where it was used to describe the primitive, exotic and mysterious power of gypsies and was soon adopted by renegade writers and artists.
“I’ve always been attracted to free spirits; subversives who buck against conformity and servility and especially champions of the carnivalesque in life, which in Australia is often characterised as larrikinism,” Dr Moore said.
“As an historian I also like to map cultural and political traditions, so we can make sense of what is going on in the present.”
The book gives a vivid account of the various bohemian circles, subcultures, and movements that have flourished across Australian creative arts and media from the nineteenth century right through to the present day.
“Since the nineteenth century many of our maverick artists, such as Norman Lindsay, Kenneth Slessor and Barry Humphries, have happily danced from the avant-garde margins into the mainstream, from fringe to famous, smuggling subversive ideas and aesthetics into Australian popular culture,” Dr Moore said.
“The bohemian tradition has continued to thrive in Australia over the past three decades through a mix of Gen X and Gen Y inner city music scenes and youth subcultures such as ravers, goths, street artists and steam punks, and sexual and other identity movements.
“Bohemians have long formed around do-it-yourself media projects, from little magazines, public radio, indie bands, fanzines, short films and now blogs and social media.”
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