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Autoluminescent (ATOM Study Guide)

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Autoluminescent is a documentary on the life and career of Australian musician Rowland S. Howard. From his involvement in the nascent punk scene of Melbourne in the late 1970s, the film charts the knotted development of Howard's distinctive poetic vision and innovative guitar sound. Howard's personal and professional choices centre his journey in the film, granting us a moving and complex picture of a driven artist riding the ups and downs of life.

While the topic of Autoluminescent is a fairly rarefied subgenre of music (post-punk) and its subject a cult figure of underground music, the aim of the documentary is to open up these fields and illustrate their relevance to a wide audience. At the heart of Autoluminescent is a very human story: a tragic one, yet one which is neither sentimentalised nor glorified. It is this precise tone that allows for the documentary to be used as the basis for a range of discussions and activities.

Autoluminescent depicts a type of 'underworld' – not just through punk musicians' political rejection of mainstream society, but more so through musicians like Howard choosing to forge a career based on an uncompromising artistic vision and a serious commitment to reflecting on his sensibilities and the sensations he experienced. This qualifies Howard as being an artist, not merely a musician. By allowing others to express this view, Autoluminescent presents music as a creative and personal endeavour despite the industrial and economic parameters that define music as product.

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