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Creative Complex: Art, Legacy and Accountability


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The idea of the eccentric, outrageous creative genius – the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ artiste – has proved surprisingly durable over centuries.

It’s a mythology that has insulated a certain type of artist from public censure over bad private behaviour. Lately, though, the mood is far less forgiving for artists who have caused serious harm and hurt in their personal lives. But as a re-setting of standards takes place, we’re left with some wicked problems. As Ashleigh Wilson has written in his recent essay, On Artists: ‘If we denounce the artist, then what do we do with the work? Once we start removing paintings from walls, where do we stop?’

On 12 June at the Wheeler Centre, Wilson will be joined by Luke Carman and Shaad D’Souza for a broad discussion about accountability and creative legacies, in conversation with Bhakthi Puvanenthiran. They’ll talk addiction, mental illness and cults of personality in the arts, as well as cancel culture and boycotts in the era of #metoo.

Who decides what qualifies as bad behaviour? Are we on a slippery slope of moral panic? And while individuals can make up their own minds about the art they enjoy in private, how should public institutions and media navigate this tricky terrain?

Dymocks Camberwell will be our bookseller for this event.


Ashleigh Wilson

Ashleigh Wilson is a journalist who worked at The Australian for two decades, including as arts editor. His series on unethical behaviour in the Aboriginal art industry won a Walkley Award and led to a senate inquiry. He is the author of Brett Whiteley: Art, Life and the Other Thing (2016) and On... Read more

Luke Carman

Luke Carman is the author of An Elegant Young Man, which won the 2014 NSW Premier’s New Writing Award and was shortlisted for the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal, the Steele Rudd Short Story Prize and the Readings New Writing Award. He was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Nov... Read more

Shaad D'Souza

Shaad D’Souza is a writer, editor and critic from Melbourne. Currently the FADER‘s Australian News Editor, he has written on music, art and culture for publications including Pitchfork, the Guardian, the Saturday Paper, Billboard, i-D and New York Magazine. Shaad was previously Australian ed... Read more

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

Bhakthi Puvanenthiran is the Entertainment Editor at the ABC. Previously the Editor of ABC Everyday and Managing Editor of Crikey, a journalist and editor at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, she has also co-hosted podcasts, worked at various literary festivals and is a regular media commentator. B... Read more


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176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.