Nora Sumberg on Virginia Woolf’s language for “undescribable” things such as the punk act of painting


 “There’s this other undescribable thing that’s going on as well, which is just the act – the act of painting, which is where, you know, you’re not in control of what’s happening and don’t want to be. And that’s, I think, the sort of writer she is, and why I see her as an allied spirit as a punk.”

Nora Sumberg on Virginia Woolf Literary Punk episode #4 ‘To the Lighthouse’


To the Lighthouse

[And a big shout out to James Lloyd (aka James Wave, bassist with X-Ray-Z, 1977-8) for the podcast’s title track. Up louder, punker, more offensive this episode for my guest in the podcast studio: artist, teacher, PhD candidate in Fine Art at the VCA, and Melbourne punk queen, Nora Sumberg, as she gives us ‘the low down and the high down’ on the birth of the Australian punk scene, her art school days with Nick Cave and The Boys Next Door in Melbourne c.1976]




God Save the Queen: All hail Virginia Woolf!

The latest episode #4 of Literary Punk in podcast form is up on Hookturn!

For this month’s show we’re discussing To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf’s 1927 prose poetry revolution.

My guest in the studio is artist Nora Sumberg, Melbourne’s queen of punk: “…I really believe that Nick Cave and me and about 2 other people started punk in Australia.”

Sumberg is an artist with an extensive exhibition history going back to 1979. Her work is in numerous public collections, including the National Gallery of Victoria. She has had several Australia Council grants, as well as enjoying local and international residencies, including  a scholarship to the New York Studio School in 1978, where she met and mixed with the punk elite. She lived at the Chelsea Hotel in room 101, next door to… you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out.

Join Nora and I as we talk about To the Lighthouse: the way it undoes you, and encrypts you into its wandering processes, as Virginia Woolf explores writing as being, and being an artist, from the inside out.


  Cumuloaccumulo   Nora Sumberg, 2003 

[Image courtesy the artist]




A famous blue dress with an A-shaped semen stain that really needs drycleaning

Literary Punk podcast episode #3 is launched!

For this episode featuring Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter I’m joined by Melbourne cultural critic and journalist Mel Campbell, author of Out of Shape – Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013).  We talk about Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photos in the context of a couple of strange bedfellows: what Tara Moss has called “the axis of desire and contempt” (2014). We interrogate the famous semen stain on Monica Lewinsky’s little blue dress; and discuss Jackie Kennedy’s blood stained pink suit. And we talk about Hester Prynne’s self-identification in the shadows of the scarlet letter “A” as a literary emancipation, which can be read as a surprisingly radical model for modern subjects of shaming.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s peculiar Romance The Scarlet Letter (1850) stages Hester Prynne’s pillory in a chapter called ‘The Market Place’. Since Mistress Prynne’s public ordeal on the fictional 1650 Boston scaffold, America has been trading in private acts of desire. The Sex-God-State ménage à trois is an obsessional part of that society’s culture and currency – especially its ideological currency – right now and right back to as far as the mid 17th Century colony, when Hawthorne’s Puritan ancestors were Salem magistrates and witch hunters, men of the sword and the Bible. His great-great-great grandfather William’s New England notoriety was built on the relentlessly cruel persecution of a single Quaker woman. One wonders, what could she have possibly done to have inflamed His Majesty’s magistrate’s (des)ire so?

lewinskiDress (1)

Sex-God-State   [Image courtesy Hookturn]

What if Macbeth had read his Marx?

With the Manifesto Marx “…delineated the endlessly inchoate, incessantly restless and unfinished character of modern capitalism as a phenomenon. He emphasized its inherent tendency to invent new needs and the means to satisfy them, its subversion of all inherited cultural practices and beliefs, its disregard of all boundaries, whether sacred or secular, its destabilization of every hallowed hierarchy, whether of ruler and ruled, man and woman or parent and child, its turning of everything into an object for sale.”

Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘Introduction’, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, London: Penguin Classics, 2oo2.


…Macbeth, or machine?!


Macbeth and the difference between Paris and Rome

The blood thing.

Macbeth’s language is the difference between Paris and Rome. Paris is elegant, it accommodates good taste. I can speak the language. Whereas my knowledge of Italian comes from the 2 great canons of opera and pizza. Music and appetite. Desire.

Paris suits me but Rome I want to go back to.

I hate it when I’m there: it’s bruta. It’s about hard bodies pushing up against me in steaming buses. Dripping lacerated Christs. A nun who makes hourly the story of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. Body. Visceral. Headspin.

But it’s the city I remember.

Macbeth is my Rome. It’s the body play; the eating, sexing, the bloody, desiring, the operatic playscript.

Callas Macbeth3