Personal reflection on the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World Project’s exhibition EcoCentrix held at the Bargehouse, Southbank Oct-Nov 2013
Please note all the views expressed below are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the artist’s or curator’s opinions.
Behind the tower. OXO. Not stock or anything like that. Four levels, a former warehouse of sorts. Ghosts leer through the walls, as paint peels and dust simmers.
The journey starts below the surface. A wigwam calls, pulses panorama views, recasting the story for our times. The light shifts. I can’t tell if there is a deeper meaning amidst the tumult of children’s voices and and church bells.
I hear Peter sing. Through earphones of course.This is after all 2013. But the heaters still buzz. And the window watch the naked bricks as they offer space for kings. Mohawk kings. Though one wasn’t The volunteers murmur beneath Indigenous royalty, 40..36.
Remember photography is prohibited warn the stairs. Its Edward Curtis and his project. And the project on the project. Fitting that these smiles and stares should lead to a diorama where to see you need 3D glasses. Because its not just colour says one chocolate woman. To another.
Outside the rain dwindles, too tired to continuously weep down upon the soggy Londoners as they valiantly plunge through the metropolitan melee. But inside the light grows softer. Theories of foam and familiar scapes of Bondi beckon I join to watch brown skin wrapped in blue bags advance upon Sydney
But the water change and corn appears Bird song rises, the earth laughs life back into the ground Oil spills, hands push hair as trees falls Nobody smiles, they sit, arms folded as factories file past Petrol stations mock the ghosts of the field
Fly higher. The sea eagles fly, high above the concrete floors. Brightly coloured costumes that came in a box. Did I see you move? Black eyes blink as stars twinkle and green tongues stare, stare, stare. Samy in Kichwa means life energy You can’t help but dance.
Puppies and sardines. Smoke on hair. But of course I can’t smell it. Blackened chicken feet tell me to old on tight because I’m scared They left me without you Grandpa. God has not made anything ugly. Do turtles bite I wonder? Two cars, one night. Would you keep a diamond ring or sell it?
The answers are in the kite. Or here they have been divided. paper upon paper. Layer upon layer. Ancestors. serpents. I love the red corn. Pop. Pop. Rivers of black, yellow and brown. Colours of our Earth, colours of our flag. Blood is made of kernels. So says the recycled newspapers as they flap in a non-existent wind.
The only exhibit not complete. Always in process. Room Nine. I’m more than halfway through. A live installation Human bodies, printers, coats and heaters..a distinct hum mmmm….mmmm…mmmm… I think they spoke of tea.
Further into the walls, 1928 beckons.Bolivia, Canada, Australia. This could be a great way to learn geography. And protest. The screen is blank, and then I stand. But not me. The throng rows A child darts in and a missing piece of the puzzle flashes and then there is darkness once more.
The top floor is never the top. often it is a graveyard. Red dress smack of lust and love but these are different. It is not romanticizing, this is reality. Our reality. Signs are meant to be read, in a myriad of ways. Each lit up by our different experiences. See the sign. Write your own.
The big room (there seems no better name) is aptly named. The large screen sings to the music of Miss Chief as windows pour in watery sunlight. The music is a huge drawcard while Foley’s film, silent and powerful, provides an unrelenting witness. The space is one of gathering, learning, listening, sharing, re-imagined.
But don’t turn away just yet. Rosanna’s costumes are around the corner. This is story through plastic, colour and pose. Strong resilient, sky and earth. Rangi and papa. A chance encounter to look into their eyes.
And finally, just when I thought it was all over. I step up. to visit Julie’s wigwam, to listen to my Bangarra family and to honour Hinemihi and her daughter. made into objects, but outside museums. Pavlova might have useful to make the plinth. In the darkened room, white looks very very bright.
But then… I step outside. Four flights of stairs and friendly nods and I wonder… and I don’t just stop there.
I wonder…I wonder. I wonder.