Theoretical Drag & Textual Disco

I was a drummer in Art & Text

symposium talk transcribed for Impresario: Paul Taylor, The Melbourne Years, 1981-1984 Monash University Press, Melbourne, 2013


"(...) I was more into cinema and music. → ↑ → was definitely a kind of entity that used film and music as its material basis, as well as its cultural basis. I was informed about the history of cinema and music in all sorts of ways, in every way possible. It was the George Paton Gallery in its openness that allowed something like that exhibition [“What is this thing called ‘Disco’?”, 1980] to enter the gallery space.

There was the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre, which was a very small place where very few people went. It had an open door policy, and lots of people just tried out different things there. There was no strategising, no professionalism, no career aspect to it.

The ease of just being able to try things out — to manipulate things, coalesce things, make different types of cross-references — is also what set up things for Paul. Paul essentially ‘tried out’ at a theoretical level. (I don’t know how he found the time to read the books he was meant to read; frankly … I remember we used to talk about that. ‘How does he read all these books? Was he up all hours?’) Anyway, Paul ‘tried out’ in terms of critical discourse and in terms of social engagement — by connecting different scenes, and stuff like that.

Paul must have got my number through Judy and contacted me. He ended up coming around one day when Maria Kozic and I were in Northcote (that would have been late-Septemberish, 1980). What we mostly talked about was disco. The interesting thing was that I was coming to disco from the postpunk angle, like the Bowie/Iggy Pop collaboration The Idiot in 1977, which is kind of like the start of all postpunk flirtations with disco and dance culture. Paul had come from a gay subcultural disco background, and so a lot of the stuff that he liked I just hated. But we met at this point just when Grace Jones was kind of crossing over with Warm Leatherette. Paul kept saying, ‘you should have said more about Grace Jones in your essay!’ Still to this day, I think it is the Grace Jones from Warm Leatherette that is more interesting — more than the sort of queeny, black, post-Stonewally kind of like gay-gay disco before that.

Our discussions were always about movies and music: they were always about existing cultural forms. They were quite materialist discussions. That type of discussion was very good to have with Paul, because the discussion was still about the objects, but we would be talking at a deeper, more textual level about them. (...)"

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Maria Kozic.