← Philament 4: Untitled

A Few Words on Philament 4: Untitled

Helen Young


In an untitled revival review published for the first time in the current issue of Philament, Alison O’Harae argues that Untitled, as a theme, is “pregnant … yet vacuous.” It is an observation which may be extended to the type editorial note. A list yoking disparate pieces of text? Of little interest to anyone but the bibliographer, the Philament editorial committee, Philament‘s regional observers. The editorial note’s explicit schematic resounds with the concept of Untitled, its empty procedural. And yet where else to record the fact that in this issue we have Philament‘s largest Commentary section to date, with a broad range of topics which includes literature, theology, philosophy, poetry, music, theatre, and architecture? To notice that it seems our aim of achieving a truly interdisciplinary publication within the fields of literary arts and cultural studies has been successful? To tell you of:

  • Anne Chalard-Fillaudeau, who shares her vision for the possible interactions between comparative literature and cultural studies, arguing that the former can be seen as an important facilitator and illustrator of the latter;
  • Daniel Johnston, investigating philosophy, theatre and the nature of truth in the theories of Heidegger and Artaud;
  • Greg Levine, relating the difficulties of writing lyrics that come from the hearts of girls with nice voices (difficulties necessarily experienced when you’re a man who can’t sing);
  • Helen Young reviewing the latest poetry from Les Wicks and sharing her views on the Literature Board of the Australia Council;
  • Sam Spurr negotiating the twists and turns of Iain Borden’s architectural and cultural theory treatise, Skateboarding, Space and the City;
  • Jayne Fenton Keane, who explores the innate performativity of poetry and the ways in which it can challenge contemporary notions of reading and deconstructive criticism;
  • Denise O’Dea using the shift untitled to retitled in relation to Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things, and thus revealing an abiding generic parody in Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, the novel upon which the film was based; and
  • our thrill at presenting Philament‘s first ever dramatic piece: a play which explores gender performance and ambiguity among a quartet of friends in a bar?

Or, indeed, the initial difficulty experienced by the editors in sourcing referees for Thomas Marchbank’s piece on the socio-cultural phenomenon of flashmobbing? As it happened, the apparent anarchy of Thom’s subject matter was reflected in the cultural order of our peer review process, where potential referees mimicked the ephemerality of the flashmob: they gathered in the space of possibility, performed a brief gesture of genuine interest, and spontaneously dispersed. The struggle to publish this article more than indicates its originality and timeliness. That something should be rejected on these grounds, however, would surely be at odds with Philament‘s claim to publish “uninhibited academic debate … and creative expression.” Thus it is with pleasure, relief and triumph that Philament is able to signal the publication of “Intense flows: Flashmobbing, rush capital and the swarming of space” in its Untitled issue.

Untitled says … not a lot. It is not prescriptive. We were not inundated with contributions, either relating to our theme or otherwise (and indeed, are contributions with no palpable link to the theme ignoring or fulfilling Untitled’s proclivities?) Untitled bespeaks the vacuum, tentativeness, paradox. Like this editorial note, it clears a space to be heard; it signals a conscious textual act. This border of being pregnant yet vacuous—apparently innocuous—is precisely what is at stake. Damien Riggs’ essay “Benevolence and the Management of Stake: On Being ‘Good White People'” sees the realisation of Untitled’s political utility: how the status of Australian indigenous sovereignty as unnamed and unrecognised enables and perpetuates a “hegemony of whiteness.” Using our collaborative Untitled experience and taking Riggs’ cue (and cue paradox: taking cue is exactly what Untitled does not ask us to do), Philament‘s editors would encourage readers to take the opportunity this issue presents to consider Untitled’s power to underwhelm, to obscure, to elide.