Screening notes (brief)

For extended writing on individual works, see the core blog posts.
1. John Gillies (AUS)
Divide 2006
DVD, colour, sound, 23:00mins
A voice speaking from the Old Testament – of the colonisation of the land of Canaan through the genocidal acts of the Israelites – is juxtaposed over a group of non-indigenous male figures journeying into an Australian landscape. The cultural layering and ambiguity in Divide speaks of the foundation of Australia, it’s current fears and neuroses and the intruder as both destroyer and powerless witness. Sheep flock together in fear and panic, but are easily led by leaders who wander across the country, unreconciled. Divide stars 4 men, 35 sheep, a Chinese opera singer and a horse.

2. Stella Brennan (Aotearoa/NZ)
South Pacific 2007
DVD, colour, sound, 10:30mins
This evocative work explores the legacy of World War Two and the impact of that era’s technologies on geographical and narrative perceptions of the Pacific. The video blends ultrasound, radar and grainy aerial footage with running text. The artist as channel-hopper, Brennan introduces the viewer to competing visions of the Pacific’s oceanic space: as a technicolour musical, a network of runways, a sea of islands. South Pacific is haunted by colonial fantasy, wartime reportage and outmoded spatial visualization technologies.

3. Rachel Rakena (Aotearoa/NZ)
Pacific Washup 2003
DVD, colour, sound, 6:00mins
Pacific Islanders traditionally trace lineage along ocean currents, through historic connections to specific Island homelands. This Performance Space collaboration is the creation of three artists who had not previously met: Maori artist Rachael Rakena, and Fez Fa’anana and Brian Fuata, Australian performers of Samoan heritage. Pacific Washup presents their performative take on the Pacific Island diaspora. The plastic stripy bags that roll on to Sydney’s Bondi beach in this work are recognizable to many as a cheap and easy way to gather and lug belongings. The artists playfully acknowledge their ubiquity as the typically chosen luggage of relocation for young Islanders migrating to Australia from Pacific homelands. This work touches on the importance of the sea in narrating identity, as well as the economic and cultural challenges that accompany this contemporary rite of passage.

4. Merilyn Fairskye (AUS)
Connected 2002-2006
DVD, colour, sound, 25:16mins
Local knowledge, anecdote, and radical conjecture are imbricated to address the impact of US satellite tracking station, Pine Gap, upon the community of Alice Springs in Central Australia. Officially named the Joint Defence Facility, Pine Gap was established in the 1960s as the result of a post-Cold War treaty between the American and Australian governments. While much of its operation remain secret to Australian government representatives, the facilities are known to be involved in military satellite signal processing. Visual distortions and sound recordings give testimony to the awkward and longstanding coexistence of Pine Gap staff, indigenous locals, activist communities, and the facility itself.

5. Vernon Ah Kee (AUS)
Whitefellanormal 2002
DVD, colour, sound, 0:30mins
Whitefellanormal is a short conceptual work of text and performance, informed by the problems of representation that connect portraits to maps. Anthropologist Norman Tindale traveled to Palm Island from the 1920s-1960s as part of his project to map Australian indigenous tribal lands and language groups. Brisbane-based artist, Vernon Ah Kee first discovered his relatives in these images, holding a catalogue card with only a number on it to represent their identity. They were relegated by force to Palm Island – essentially a penal colony for indigenous peoples who most strongly resisted resisted relocation. On the official versions of these image that were released to Ah Kee, the numbers were cropped off, alongside any references to the place of Palm Island. Only a head and shoulders remain, neatly centered. In Whitefellanormal Ah Kee performs these portraits purposefully off-centre out of an interest in retaining evidence of the uncomfortable local truths of strategic dispossession.

6. Peter Alwast (AUS)
At the Rotunda 2005
DVD, colour, sound, 20:00mins
This disaffecting conceptual video work employs documentary tropes to explore discrete vernacular takes on belonging. Invited by the artist, a local politician addresses a crowd of gathered residents at the Colgate Palmolive Park in Queensland’s Gold Coast, detailing local government achievements. A representative from Colgate Palmolive publicizes strangely parallel commitments to community, and a group of youths in fancy dress perform a series of language ditties for the crowd. Alwast’s ambivalent, ambling camera explores the role of language in the construction of community and place on one overcast afternoon in the Australian suburbs.

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