Tonight was the exhibition/presentation/artist talk about my residency at la filature. I exhibited all the paper creations I had made during these past two weeks, from the gigantic woven book, to tiny mini woven books, chatterboxes, moth prints, pinpricked kozo paper, handmade rounds of paper and even postcards from my #91 days project made while I've been in Lasalle.
At the beginning of my speech, I wanted to personally reference all those other many speeches I have made over the past 20 years since Project Wappan began in 1999 when I began my artistic activism in earnest. This is the except from the first part of my presentation which Isis translated.
"In Australia we have a tradition of acknowledging the country on which we are standing, and the elders past and present who have and are, looking after it. Here in Lasalle I would like to thank the maire for inviting me to be an artist in residence at La filature du pont de fer, and to those people who have worked in this building over the centuries, for it is their unspoken voices which have guided me throughout my time here."
No one except me, understood the significance of those words, which were very important for me personally. They connected me to my past and the nascent stirrings of my social and political thinking. I remember chairing the Delatite Indigenous Reference Group meetings all those years ago, always beginning with an acknowledgment of country.
It seemed such a radical thing to do in those years dominated by John Howard’s fear mongering government, before reconciliation before the National Apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia for the government sanctioned genocidal policies inflicted upon them. Now it seems, every public event, every meeting and exhibition opening has a recognition of country. And rightly so!
I wanted to honour all the spirits of those women from the Lasalle spinning mills whose lives had been curtailed by their work, the regulations they worked under, the harsh heat and cold. The dormitories they slept in, while the factory owners became rich from the proceeds of this hard labour.
I had never really thought about these issues before this residency. It became quite personal for me, to record the sounds of people talking and then to weave this into the women’s work pages of my artist book so that voices could be heard in la filature. To print images of silk moths who were able to fly off the page, their incubation from worm, to cocoon, to moth allowed to occur naturally, not interrupted by the silk thread industry.
Pedro interpreted this through a series of choregraphed movements as he wrapped himself in a modern abstraction of silk, plastic cling wrap. Spinning and winding and wrapping to create a metaphoric cocoon. Mesmerising. All this to a playlist of sounds recorded during my time here. Church bells, cicadas, birdsong, firecrackers and Pierre’s cousin talking about working in the modern day silk industry raising silk worm eggs.
The object of my residency was to respond to the environment by making a series of sound and visual field notes, notes de terrain. This exposition was a great way to showcase a town, a place and la filature interpreted through the eyes and ears of a stranger. I felt that through this process I got to know Lasalle better; its eclectic mix of townsfolk and shopkeepers, artists, film makers and musicians, dancers, activists, interesting people from all around the world drawn together through the invisible silken threads of the past. Together weaving a new tapestry of stories of which I was privileged to become one small part.
This project was assisted by a grant from Create NSW, an agency of the New South WalesGovernment. The NSW Artists' Grant is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).