Everything is art/work.

another artists sharism.

Month: October, 2012

Art + Ballander + Maningrida

Day 1: Branches and Leaves

Day 2: use of Polgyglot tangle: coloured elastic tied together to form long pieces (unable to show photos as they are very much entwined in majority of photos!)

Day 3: tracing bodies and painting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




I was handed this book: Why Warriors Lay Down and Die by Richard Trudgen. The community here was given a PD by him, and the book is very revealing into the history and continual mis-communications between Ballanders (white) and Yolngu (indigenous to Arnhem land) . I’m only at the beginning but can see the complexity of issues up here. History, bad decisions repeated over and over, war, acts of support, acts of bullying, moments of apathy, and so much misunderstanding.

The school I’m at is fenced in. This is considered a good thing, because it creates a safe space for the kids. Only a small percentage of kids actually come to school, one class has 50 on its enrolment form, and anywhere between 2 and 18 actually attend.

There are 7 different clans in Maningrida, so 7 different languages spoken. And with such low attendance at school, the kids’ english is really poor.

I’m employed by Corrugated Iron, who have been funded by the Education Department. Two artists have been here for 8 months. Their role is to support literacy and numeracy through arts for the prep to yr 3s. They are one of many arts projects that are provided to remote communities. The school is ridiculously well resourced with technology (a green screen!) hidden in cupboards long forgotten.

The kids are masters at getting by answering “yes” all the time. Very quickly you realise their level of understanding isn’t good, that they’re just saying they understand, when in fact they don’t.

How these teachers get through any curriculum is beyond me. Yet this is what’s pressurising their days. This stringent curriculum. And as Ken Robinson says, it’s all systemised under a method of producing for an industrial revolution: something that is beyond irrelevant here.

These kids are going to straddle two worlds. Ballander and Yolngu. And hats off to them how they do this.

Here is a list of things that trouble me. And perhaps I’ll answer them in more detail later:
– the lack of questioning from the kids to Ballanders. When things don’t make sense, they just go with it. My colleague told a beautiful story of a child drawing a white cupboard atop an owl because she didn’t understand “white snow covered owl”
– why does the school terms out here not have the long “summer” break in dry season? The communities all head to Maningrida over wet season. And during dry season they’re out on country.
– why are there so many first year out teachers here?
– what is the role of a Ballander artist out here, when there is a very tight curriculum set and beautiful and strong Yolngu culture?
– Yolngu kids don’t have a good understanding of things pretend, imagination etc. In their culture things are real. Its a very western idea to have fairy tales, imagination etc. Why do we have this? is it a good thing?
– the amount of waste out here is huge. They are brought up in a school of consumerism, knowing that if something breaks it can be replaced. And it is. The amount of paper, packaging, electricity, water used is unexpected.
– There are constant requests for fracking & mining gas & oil. This disturbs considerably the land that many Yolngu rely on when living on country. Which generates disempowerment, reliance on subsidy/government for support and a myriad of other social issues.



I believe in people.

A colleague told me they’d stopped believing that people are inherently good.
This angered me. (and they know this…because when I get angry I tell people, and perhaps the fault there is, a little too quickly)
Because if you don’t believe in people, then there are many things you can’t believe in that I know they do.
Like democracy.
And friendship.
And generosity.
And empathy.

They lost this belief because people weren’t supporting them.
Or taking sufficient political action.

We all have our off days. But when we say things like this in a public setting, it does exactly the opposite of your intention: to shake people up into action. It’s an apathetic action without empathy to the fact we are all human.

Today I sat in the melbourne CBD as part of an artwork in an animal-type costume. I was trying to engage people in a small interaction.

I soon realised people thought I was busking.
Or doing some form of marketing ploy.
And had trouble understanding it was free.
They therefore were avoiding me at any cost if I approached them.
(oh the joys of interaction – the learning!)

So I tried a different tactic.
I sat there, knitted and whenever someone looked at me, or the stunning set, I waved and smiled.
That was it.

And I got hundreds of genuine waves and smiles back.
95% of the people i waved to, waved back. Isn’t that great?

Learning #1: we live in a world where public space has been monopolised by commercial interest. Isn’t that a bit sad? It made me sad.
But I completely understood the reactions.

Learning #2: people still react to a generous and simple wave and smile.

Challenge:  how to get that wave to be more than a wave.

Because when people do the interaction, they write things like this:

And this was not the exception.
It was the rule.