Sometimes I just shake my head. Why has Australian cultural psyche become so dogmatic with our ‘exclusivity’ between various sporting disciplines and different forms of artistic expression?
There was an old class distinction cliche that sport and art made for a useful division between high-minded artists and the low-brow unwashed working class. This has largely ceased to exist – except for the uses of the media, which we do often witness. Celebrated playwright David Williamson is reported as saying in the 1970s: ‘It was believed that anyone with talent in writing, theatre or film should leave the country immediately and work elsewhere before they were stifled by the deadly distrust of creativity in sports-obsessed Australia’. Back then, this was largely true, and I grew up in the middle of it often quite confused as to my identity in our society’s framework. John Clarke in his recent series on ABC TV, Sporting Nation, dissects our obsession with sport over the years – refreshing and entertaining, highly recommended if you want to take a long hard look at yourself. Fortunately, as Clarke notes, we have started to mature as a nation. Through a combination of ‘normal’ people have been recognized as achieving wonderful creations in the arts, and greater access to all forms of art we as a public are starting to catch up with much of the rest of the world and appreciate art in a more developed sensibility. Further, the general public has seen through the myth that we are a world leader in all sports, have begun to deal with that reality and have actually begun to look around, appreciate beauty, and ‘smell the flowers’.
How can I say this? I am one of those weird individuals that live in both worlds. I am intimately involved with both camps: a sculptor and a still playing sportsman (both hockey and sailing). You can appreciate and be involved with both, and anyone who says otherwise really does need to pull their head out of the sand and look around at the wonderful things both aspects of our societal makeup have to offer – celebrate both and become richer for it!