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Museums are places for complex stories for a diverse public. Everywhere, museums are now far more than just cultural institutions. They have moved politically centre-stage, playing a key role in defining and re-defining national and communal identity. 

On International Museums Day, Neil MacGregor while in Australia, shared his wisdom with us. He’s a writer and broadcaster, formerly led London’s National Gallery and the British Museum and founding Director of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum.

In this lecture, MacGregor examines the ways in which museums around the world are attempting to exhibit the past we need to take hold of, in order to confront the future with confidence. Why has this happened?

Listen to Neil MacGregor answer this question
Neil MacGregor/ Museums and memories: The stories that make a community - YouTube

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Neil MacGregor began his career as a lecturer in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Reading in 1975, having studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He was editor of the Burlington Magazine from 1981 until 1987. Then, as Director of the National Gallery, London from 1987 to 2002, he oversaw the opening of the Sainsbury Wing and a complete rehang of the collection. MacGregor raised the profile of the organisation and became a household name in 2000 when he presented the BBC series with the same title as his exhibition ‘Seeing Salvation’, which examined images of Christ in Western Art. In 2002, MacGregor became Director of the British Museum until 2015. He was then Chair of the Steering Committee of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin from 2015 to 2018, unifying five independent institutions under its umbrella..

His books, each accompanied by a series of programmes on BBC Radio 4, include A History of the World in 100 Objects, Shakespeare’s Restless World and Germany: Memories of a Nation.

In 2010, he was made a member of the Order of Merit, the UK’s highest civil honour. In 2015 he was awarded the Goethe Medal and the German National Prize. In 2018 the radio series ‘Living with the Gods’ received the Sandford Saint Martin Award for Religious Broadcasting.

This lecture was presented by QAGOMA in celebration of International Museum Day and supported by the Australian Museums and Galleries Association and the Gordon Darling Foundation.

Feature image: David Wilkie, 1785-1841 / George IV 1829 / Collection: Royal Collection Trust

#NeilMacGregor #QAGOMA

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Born in farthest northern Arnhem Land, Margaret Rarru Garrawurra and Helen Ganalmirriwuy Garrawurra were taught important Liyagawumirr clan designs by their father, and to understand the deep, poetic meanings of ancient creation narratives. When yothu (young), they were also instructed in the cultural meanings of woven fibre objects and a range of weaving techniques.

Margaret Rarru with Märrma’ mul mindirr (two black dilly bags) / Image courtesy: Margaret Rarru and Milingimbi Art and Culture, Milingimbi Helen Ganalmirriwuy with her Mul mat / Image courtesy: Helen Ganalmirriwuy and Milingimbi Art and Culture, Milingimbi

Following the 2006 death of their brother Mickey Durrng, the sisters inherited the right to paint Liyagawumirr sacred geometry. As Durrng once stated, ‘These designs are the power of the land. The sun, the water, creation, for everything’.1 The women of his family understood the importance of their role, and Ruth Nalmakarra (their father’s sister) led their introduction to the revival and reinterpretation of their cultural heritage, which they approached with great creativity.

Installation view of work by Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy at ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9)

Now, Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy paint poles and barks in distinctive red (miku), white (watharr) and yellow (buthjalak) pigments, in variations of Liyagawumirr designs. Stripes reference body painting for ngarra, which is both a funeral ceremony and a celebration of regeneration and renewal. Other designs trace the tracks of buwata (bush turkey), or map, using circles and lines, freshwater springs made by the ancestral Djan’kawu sisters with their digging sticks on their creation journey across Arnhem Land.

Garrawurra women are central to ceremonial songs and dances that retell the Djan’kawu sisters’ story of when they wore beautiful and deeply significant objects, and spilled the Dhuwa moiety clans, languages, names and ceremonies from their woven baskets and mats throughout the land. The Garrawurra women honour this heritage in their art through replicating the Djan’kawu regalia, and imbue their work, both sacred and secular, with spirit and intensity.

Margaret Rarru, Australia b.1940 / Mindirr 2012 / Pandanus palm with natural dyes / Purchased 2012 with funds from an anonymous donor through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Margaret Rarru 2012. Licensed by Copyright agency 2019 Detail of Mindirr Mindirr are ancient basket forms said to be carried by the ancestral Djan’kawu sisters on their creative journeys across Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy’s mindirr are made in the classical conical shape; however, in a contemporary take on the form, the women have dyed the twined pandanus leaves a dense charcoal–black, highlighing subtle gradations of colour and emphasising irregular surface patterns reflecting the handmade process.

As Margaret Rarru has stated:

Baskets, mats and dilly bags are woven from pandanus. We prepare the leaves and dye them with the bark of a plant called guninyi, which creates both the yellow colour and a red/brown colour when ashes from the fire mix with the yellow liquid. The black/brown we make by boiling plants gathered from the bush on Yurrwi (Milingimbi).

The closely guarded process for making the rare black dye was discovered through constant experimentation, and is used to emphasise the iconic lines of the baskets.

The contemporary aesthetic of Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy’s painted images resonates with their basketry, for which they continually invent new forms and techniques beyond the traditional.2 The introduction of the coil-weaving stitch, in particular, has extended their range into larger, more solid forms and, with the discovery of a rare black dye (achieved in a secret process), they have developed their unique bathi mul (black baskets). Pandanus leaf strands, saturated with rich colour, are tightly woven into metallic-looking surfaces, where fields of subtly graded shades of black reveal a gleam of charcoal. In contrast, the twined strands in conical mindirr create a matt, textured surface, highlighted with slight irregularities due to changes in the spacing and tension of the weave.

Aerial view of Milingimbi, Northern Territory / Photograph: B Ward

Raw materials, which themselves have cultural meanings, are harvested locally on Yurrwi (Milingimbi), the surrounding islands and the nearby mainland. The women travel to favourite bush or saltwater sites in the appropriate season, casting their experienced eye over leaves, roots, grasses, bark and hollowed out trees, and gather what they need. A truck- or boatload is processed while fresh — pandanus and bark fibres are prepared for weaving and dyeing, wooden surfaces trimmed and smoothed, and rock pigments laboriously ground and crushed for paint.

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Living remotely in their Arnhem Land island home, Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy work tirelessly and professionally at their practice, and have established a reputation as two of the finest and most innovative textile artists in Australia.

Diane Moon is Curator, Indigenous Fibre Art, QAGOMA

Endnotes
1 Mickey Durrng, quoted in Brenda Westley and Steve Westley, ‘Mickey Durrng: Artist of East Arnhem Land’, Aboriginal Art Online,<https://web.archive.org/web/20170221074637/aboriginalartonline.com/resources/articles2.php>, viewed May 2018.
2 The artists’ works were a commission for APT9.

Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Margaret Rarru Garrawurra and Helen Ganalmirriwuy Garrawurra on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in-store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Margaret Rarru Mindirr 2012

#MargaretRarru #HelenGanalmirriwuy #APT9 #QAGOMA 

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Idas Losin’s paintings are characterised by their fine brushwork and stark composition, typically foregrounding their subject matter on a flat, open pictorial plane. A Taiwanese artist of Truku and Atayal heritage, her works range from expressions of aboriginal identity — incorporating tattoos, woven patterns and other cultural objects — to dreamlike renderings of island settings and seascapes. For ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9), Losin’s works focus on the tatara fishing canoes of the Tao people and their home of Lanyu (Orchid Island), off the south-east coast of Taiwan.

Idas Losin, Taiwan b.1976 / Waiting to sail 2016 / Oil on canvas / 80 x 105cm / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Idas Losin

With limited opportunities for aboriginal contemporary artists in Taiwan until the late 2000s,1 Losin came to painting relatively late. Prior to her work as an artist, she spent several years working on documentary films of Taiwanese tribes, focusing on the stories of elders. When she saw ‘The Native Born: Objects and Representations from Ramingining, Arnhem Land’ at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003, Losin was inspired to travel to Australia.2 With further exposure to Australian Indigenous art, she had the opportunity to reflect on the status of Taiwan’s aboriginal people, and became determined to explore her own heritage and tell the stories of her community through painting.

Following a joint residency with leading Māori artists George Nuku and Tracey Tawhiao, Losin also took an interest in the notion of Austronesian migration and the potential for dialogue with cultures from South-East Asia, Oceania and Madagascar, which linguistic and anthropological evidence links to Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes. Curiosity has since driven her to travel further to study the artistic expression of indigenous and First Nation perspectives in North America and around the Pacific, including Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawai’i, Guam and Aotearoa New Zealand, in what she describes as her Island Hopping Art Project. Losin draws creative energy from the diversity of indigenous Asian and Pacific cultures, their harmonious mixing of old and new, and the ways in which they negotiate the influence of Westernisation, while maintaining local culture.

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Idas Losin, Taiwan b.1976 / Floating 2017 / Oil on canvas / 135 x 179 x 5cm / Courtesy: Idas Losin Idas Losin, Taiwan b.1976 / Tatara 2018 / Oil on canvas / 180 x 135 x 5cm / Courtesy: Idas Losin

Losin’s ‘Orchid Island’ paintings reflect the significance of fishing in Tao life, centring on the form of the tatara at rest, preparing to launch, and afloat in calm waters. These symmetrical vessels, with their distinctively upturned bow and stern, are typically decorated with carved and painted geometric emblems representing the sea, ancestral beings and the flying fish that play a major role in ceremonial cycles. With eyes at both ends, the boats are regarded as extensions of the human body, linking heaven and earth. Other paintings show topographic renderings of Jimagaod (Lesser Orchid Island), an uninhabited volcanic islet to the island’s south. In addition to their subject matter, Losin’s works are notable for their painterly range, the artist varying her approach between photorealism and flatter, stylised representations. At times, she playfully exploits the texture of her brushstrokes, as in the alternating golden waves that form the ground of the tatara in Floating 2017.

Idas Losin describes her engagement with Austronesia as a learning process, one that offers new perspectives on creativity and identity. For Losin, participation in this broader cultural community forges a deeper personal connection with her home of Taiwan.

Reuben Keehan is Curator, Contemporary Asian Art. QAGOMA

Endnotes
1 Though two indigenous artists were included in the 1996 Taipei Biennial, the words ‘aboriginal’ and ‘contemporary’ were not used together until 1999, and dedicated collection and exhibition programs did not exist until 2006, when the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts initiated its significant Austronesian art program. On the role of Austronesian art in Taiwanese cultural policy, see Sophie McIntyre, ‘Navigating “Austronesia”: Contemporary indigenous art from Taiwan and the Pacific’, Art Monthly, no.232, August 2010, pp.45–8.
2 The exhibition was a touring project of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, curated by Djon Mundine

Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Idas Losin and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in-store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image detail: Idas Losin Waiting to sail 2016

#IdasLosin #APT9 #QAGOMA

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Ayesha Sultana’s graphite works meander between delicate drawings and austere minimalist sculptures. They are created through numerous applications of graphite, using sticks, powder and soft brushes on layers of paper to develop seductive metallic tones. The thickly rendered sheets are carefully cut, folded and fixed into various sculptural compositions, creating rich combinations of shape and depth. At a glance, both the surface and the structure appear streamlined with a burnished, machine-made rigidity, but on closer inspection, a softness and fragility, as well as the natural variation of the hand-drawn, becomes evident throughout the intersecting surfaces.

Installation view of works by Ayesha Sultana during APT9

Although her process is inherently monochromatic and limited to a single material, Sultana finds numerous ways to harness the illusory qualities of her medium in order to explore movement and spatial conversations between the two- and three-dimensional. She uses graphite’s natural reflectivity to produce varying tonal shades in configurations of converging planes, acute repeated shapes, and softly raised surfaces with subtle shifts in tone.

Sultana’s works are abstract and minimal, recalling the rigorous line-work and dexterity of touch of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–90) and Zarina (Hashmi) (b.1937). Her style, however, developed in a context not normally associated with modern abstract art, and naturally evolved following a period of study in Lahore and then a return to Bangladesh, where she became closely associated with the experimental collective Britto Arts Trust. It was a long process for Sultana to find ways to transform the techniques and knowledge that she had gathered, in order to investigate the abstract qualities of images and her Dhaka environment:

Instead of reading into an image or work of art, I slowly began to discover what ‘looking’ could be. Drawing is useful and concentrated in this manner in that I’m able, to an extent, to assimilate experience by recording myself looking. It was a gradual but deliberate process of discarding the narrative content in the work.1

Ayesha Sultana, Bangladesh b.1984 / Vortex 2018 / Graphite on paper / 61 x 61cm / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ayesha Sultana

Sultana’s works are fundamentally about sensory perception. Working in a number of abstracted styles, she translates observation into line, form, depth and texture. Early in the development of her graphite works, she was inspired by the corrugated tinned roofing throughout the city. Similarly, the ‘Untitled (Fragments)’ series of small gouache, ink and graphite works is inspired by the windows and jaalis (lattice windows or screens) of her neighbourhood. Composed of tiny repeated geometric forms, they are experiments in symmetry and uniformity. Other series, including watercolours in monochrome or restrained palettes, are also intimate and delicately scaled, revealing an interplay of geometry or showing a single line softly vanishing through a gradation of spectral colour.

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Ayesha Sultana, Bangladesh b.1984 / Untitled 2018 / Graphite on paper / 48.2 x 38cm / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Ayesha Sultana

While Sultana’s works are not specifically architectural studies, they evoke the built environment and its sensibilities of space, time and memory, bringing to mind Bangladesh’s modernist architecture. The vernacular architecture of Dhaka and the heightened sensory experience of living in the city maintains a particular relevance to her practice, where a glance of the constantly changing streets reveals numerous types of structures in a dense conglomerate of shapes, voids and textures. Sultana attempts to bring these observations into her practice, occasionally working from photographs or with collected objects, and also by considering smells, sounds, objects and materials that are in plain sight, but which are often overlooked.

Ayesha Sultana has developed her own techniques and processes for transforming a multiplicity of sensory experiences into an interplay of space, texture and form. Her approach ensures an abundance of inquiry and possibility, and allows her to develop unique ventures that examine the relationship between materiality, abstraction and observation.

Tarun Nagesh is Curator, Asian Art, QAGOMA

Endnote
1 Ayesha Sultana, email to the author, 18 May 2018.

Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Ayesha Sultana and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in-store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image detail: Ayesha Sultana Vortex 2018 

#AyeshaSultana #APT9 #QAGOMA

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Enkhbold Togmidshiirev is a painter and performance and installation artist best known for his large-scale, monochromatic canvases executed in materials derived from his nomadic culture, and improvised performances using the ger, the traditional Mongolian home.1

Created in parallel to his performance work, Enkhbold’s restrained colour-field paintings incorporate unusual media — horse dung, felt, shrubs, ash, rust, sheep skin and tripe — which are either laid over the canvas or worked into its fibres.

These materials are sourced from the countryside, when the artist returns to his homeland, and undergo extensive preparation before he uses them in his paintings. The dung, for instance, is dried and crumbled, and sifted three times to ensure a fine consistency. It is then applied over a base of gelatine and gel, or mixed into the base directly, after which it is covered in acrylic paint. Horse dung can differ in colour and texture depending on the season and the specific environmental conditions of the animals, and so the material provides the artist with a shifting palette.

Occasionally, Enkhbold incorporates collage into his paintings, and fabrics such as cotton, silk and hessian vary the surfaces of his works, introducing formal devices like Rothko-esque horizontal fields through stitching and textural contrast.

Enkhbold’s vast planes of colour and tone are determined exercises in abstraction, an abstraction that the artist also emphasises in the form of his performative ger. It is the materiality of his works, like the performances they complement, that preserves a strong connection with both traditional and contemporary Mongolian life.

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Enkhbold Togmidshiirev, Mongolia b.1978 / Benevolence 2013 / Silk, cotton thread, rust and gel medium on canvas / Diptych: 200 x 400cm (overall) / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Enkhbold Togmidshiirev Benevolence 2013

The surface of the left panel of Benevolence 2013 is constructed from strips of silk in vivid sapphire, while the right panel is a highly textured compound of rust and acrylic medium. The blue silk, known as ‘khadag’, is a traditional sign of benevolence, offered to elders, married couples and others as a gift of long life and happiness. The ‘khadag’ in Benevolence is one of two Enkhbold inherited from his parents, and is one of many personal items that have found their way into his works. It is partnered with a square of rust, part of a strategy of creating dialogues between different materials. The square format represents stillness, and is a shape the artist finds meditative.

Enkhbold Togmidshiirev’s Benevolence (Detail) 2013 highlighting the blue silk ‘khadag’

Born and raised in rural Mongolia, Enkhbold was taught traditional woodcarving by his parents, and studied art at a private technical college in Ulaanbaatar as a young adult. His later studies at the Institute of Fine Art saw him tutored by Enkhbat Lantuu, one of the few Mongolian artists working with abstraction at the time. Lantuu encouraged Enkhbold’s conceptual bent, which developed further on contact with the Blue Sun Contemporary Art Group, and its founder Dalkh-Ochir Yondonjunai, an important interpreter of the work of postwar German artist Joseph Beuys, whose persona and use of unconventional materials are an abiding influence on contemporary art in post-Soviet Mongolia.

Watch Enkhbold Togmidshiirev’s performance

APT9 performance/ Enkhbold Togmidshiirev in Brisbane - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes at events and exhibitions / Enkhbold Togmidshiirev’s improvised roving performance, 10.00am Sunday 25 November 2018 at GOMA

Arguably, Enkhbold has attained his greatest visibility through his performances, most notably his Ger Project. The ger is at once robust and eminently portable, highly suited both to a nomadic lifestyle and to low-cost living in Mongolia’s crowded capital.

Since 2008, Enkhbold has created a number of personalised structures derived from the form — the bowed, wooden latticework of Blue sentient 2015, for example, takes on a spherical shape — in order to forge a connection with his surroundings. Setting up a ger creates a temporary home that Enkhbold equates to a spiritual space. His improvised performances have taken place on the frozen steppes (plains) of Mongolia, in the desert, at the edge of the sea, by the side of a highway — sometimes in visual harmony with their surroundings, and in apparent contrast at others.

Reuben Keehan is Curator, Contemporary Asian Art. QAGOMA

Endnote
1 A traditional ger or yurt (from the Turkic languages) is a portable, round tent with a collapsible wooden infrastructure, covered with skins or felt, used as a dwelling by nomadic peoples in Central Asia.

The spherical Blue Sentient 2015 featured in the APT9 opening weekend performance, and as a sculptural installation. Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Enkhbold Togmidshiirev and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in-store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image detail: Enkhbold Togmidshiirev Benevolence (Detail) 2013

#EnkhboldTogmidshiirev #APT9 #QAGOMA 

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Despite the ravages of colonisation, Palawa people have made necklaces of lustrous strings of pearlescent shells collected from the cool waters surrounding Lutruwita (Tasmania) and its islands in a cultural practice extending back thousands of years.

Though for most of us a shell necklace captivates with its beauty and mystique, for the makers it is a profoundly meaningful emblem of their integration with the land and with history 1

Like many Palawa women, Lola Greeno first learnt to string shells in the classic style from her mother. Their creative partnership lasted for over 20 years, during which time Greeno mastered techniques and absorbed cultural wisdom and precise protocols around the making of shell necklaces. Growing up on Cape Barren and Flinders Islands in Bass Strait off the north-east coast of Tasmania, collecting shells was an intrinsic part of her childhood. It was later in life that her deep knowledge of the shells’ habitats — and of the tides and seasons when they could be found in abundance — enabled her to develop a rich repertoire of unique designs.

Related: Some kind of island paradise

Lola Greeno, Australia b.1946 / Netepa menna (and detail) 2018 / Abalone shells spaced with echidna quills / 43.5cm (diam.) / Purchased 2018 with funds from The Hon. Ashley Dawson-Damer AM through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lola Greeno

Reflecting the brilliant colours of the sea, multiple strands of each species included in the artist’s works in ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9) emphasise the shells’ particular characteristics. The translucent green/blue of maireener shells, the icy tones of pointed silver kelp, the iridescence of abalones, and the patterned warrener, contrast with ten long strings of dense black crow shells, which act as a foil for the others’ brilliance.

Lola Greeno, Australia b.1946 / Winnya (and detail) 2018 / Warrener shells / 41cm (diam.) / Purchased 2018 with funds from The Hon. Ashley Dawson-Damer AM through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lola Greeno

Perhaps the most spectacular is the aptly named king maireener (rainbow kelp shell), found amongst slippery jagged rocks, where leathery kelp fronds undulate beneath the water’s surface. Taking as long as a year to collect enough for one work, their rarity and preciousness is acknowledged by Greeno in Teunne (king maireener shell crown) 2013, a ‘crown’ of the large shells threaded on stainless-steel wire.

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Lola Greeno, Australia b.1946 / Green maireener necklace (and detail) 2007 / Green maireener shells threaded with double strength quilting thread / 180 x 1.5cm / Purchased 2008. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lola Greeno

In ancient Palawa tradition, shell necklaces, given as gifts to those arriving and departing, and as a mark of esteem, are often presented to important visitors. Over a two-year period, Greeno sourced 143 shells for a 2014 commission for Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art to honour performance artist Marina Abramovic. After meeting Abramovic, Greeno was satisfied that the intensity of the visiting artist’s personality matched the brilliance of the stunning neckpiece.2

The essential beauty of Greeno’s work lies in the natural materials she uses, enhanced by the artist’s selection, and in the centuries-old cleaning and polishing processes involved. Greeno’s intimate knowledge of shells and her inherent sense of design are evident in the harmonious pairings of luminous colours and perfect forms that require only minimal presentation to highlight their subtle elegance.

Greeno’s shell necklaces speak to our essential need for stillness and simplicity — states of being implicit in the meditative process of threading shells — and maintain the artist’s connectedness with her island home. As a Palawa Elder, she ensures that their ethereal light shines through the generations, teaching others with great patience and dedication, and engaging the support of her family to continue ancient traditions. It is little surprise that Lola Greeno was the first Indigenous artist to be recognised as a ‘Living Treasure – Master of Australian Craft’ in 2014.3

Diane Moon is Curator, Indigenous Fibre Art, QAGOMA

Endnotes
1 Julie Gough, Lola Greeno: Cultural Jewels, Object: Australian Design Centre, Surry Hills, NSW, 2014, p.113.
2 Lola Greeno, interview with Diane Moon, Launceston, 21 November 2017.
3 An initiative conceived in 2004 by the Australian Design Centre, Sydney; see ‘Living Treasures: Masters of Australian Craft’, Australian Design Centre, <https://australiandesigncentre.com/explore-promo/pastexhibitions-and-events/living-treasures/>, viewed June 2018.

Lola Greeno collecting maireener shells at Yellow Beach, Flinders Island, Tasmania / Photograph: Rex Greeno Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Lola Greeno and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in-store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Lola Greeno Green maireener necklace 2007

#LolaGreeno #APT9 #QAGOMA 

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Hou I-Ting’s work consistently examines the way the human body is represented in images from distinct historical periods, and she is particularly interested in the depiction of women through different technologies, from photography to augmented reality. Her recent work explores the role of women in the workforce, the products of their labour, and the ways these reflect the various regimes that have ruled her home of Taiwan. Taiwan has a complicated history of Dutch, Spanish and Qing Chinese colonialism, Japanese occupation and Kuomintang martial law, which preceded the global liberal democracy of today.

Hou I-Ting discusses her work
APT9 / Artist Stories: Hou I-Ting - YouTube

Hou I-Ting, Taiwan b.1979 / White Uniform 2017 / Single-channel video: 11:39 minutes, colour, sound / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Hou I-Ting

White uniform 2017 looks at women’s work in creating a local variant of the bento box — known as bendong in Taiwanese Hokkien and biantang in Mandarin — which has persisted as a cultural legacy of Japanese occupation. Consisting of a short film and a series of photographs, the work was produced in collaboration with the employees of the Taiwan Railways Administration kitchen in Qidu, near Taipei. The film focuses on a group of women as they use stencils to finely cut sheets of seaweed to be placed over rice, reproducing historical designs from the covers of bendong boxes. The accompanying photographs document these designs, which were created during the Japanese colonial period (1895–1945), a time when Taiwan’s railway was intensively developed to facilitate the transportation of natural resources for export. Most designs are innocuous, their Japanese text advertising sandwiches, chicken lunches or bananas from Taichung; however, others are more ambiguous, resembling wartime propaganda.

Hou I-Ting, Taiwan b.1979 / White Uniform No.1 2017 / Type C photographs on paper / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Hou I-Ting

The film also highlights a division of labour between male and female workers. We learn that men, occupying the background of most shots, work on heavier tasks, such as packing and lifting, while the women, hunched over tables, take care of more delicate jobs, like arranging food within the boxes. Intercutting historical footage of Taiwanese rail travel, Hou uses the device of interviews with staff members and their supervisor to emulate the tendency of the mind to wander — during long journeys and repetitive work, alike. Employees detail their working day, with its long hours and budgetary constraints; they explain the history of the bendong, and describe its enduring popularity, in which eating habits and nostalgia play significant roles; they introduce their own recollections of their jobs; and they reminisce about their experiences of railway meals when they were children.

Hou I-Ting, Taiwan b.1979 / White Uniform No.4 2017 / Type C photographs on paper / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Hou I-Ting

Hou was inspired by the persistent practices of homemade and hand-prepared meals in an age of fast food, drawing on the diligence and flair with which Japanese mothers prepare their children’s bento boxes, the complex networks that enable the delivery of tiffin lunches in India, and the unfailing, romantic association of bendong with railway travel.

The kitchen that creates these boxed meals is itself a gendered organisation, pointing to the more complicated, rationalised production lines of ubiquitous fast-food outlets. This only deepens the complexity of the politics into which the artist delves in her work — a configuration of sexual difference and labour relations, colonialism and national identity, collective history and personal memory. With Hou I-Ting’s White uniform, these intricacies are articulated in the simple enjoyment of a packed lunch on a long train ride.

Reuben Keehan is Curator, Contemporary Asian Art. QAGOMA

Hou I-Ting, Taiwan b.1979 / White Uniform No.3 2017 / Type C photographs on paper / Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Hou I-Ting Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read about Asia Pacific artists View the work of Hou I-Ting and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Discover more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Hou I-Ting White Uniform (video still) 2017

#HouITing #APT9 #QAGOMA

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Though not a painting of a named sitter, George Washington Lambert’s Portrait group (The mother) 1907 nevertheless belongs to that category of art — Edwardian salon portraiture — which flourished in England in the first decade of the twentieth century. These were works especially characterised by flamboyance and bravura, where old master techniques were combined with a freshness that was distinctly modern, and they disappeared,along with the elegant and unhurried lifestyle they depicted, with the arrival of the First World War.1

Portrait group (The mother) is one of a series of works that feature the artist’s wife, Amy, and their children, Maurice and Constant. It is also one of several works, which include Lambert’s friend and colleague, the artist Thea Proctor.

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George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / The artist and his wife 1904 / Oil on canvas / 81.2 x 81.5cm / Purchased 1965 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

George Lambert met his future wife Amy Abseil in 1898 while he was studying at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School with her sister Marian. Amy worked as a retoucher at Falks, the photographers, and had aspirations to write. In May 1899 Amy published two short stories in the Australian Magazine, the short-lived journal started by several Sydney artists including Lambert, Thea Proctor and Sydney Long as a rival to the Bulletin.2 While not quite a suffragette, Amy was nevertheless rather anti-establishment, particularly so for the times. Tall, thin and elegant, she was given to wearing large, flamboyant hats; her dark eyes and hair and high cheek-bones giving her beauty an exotic, almost mysterious quality.

George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / Self portrait (unfinished) c.1907 / Oil on canvas / 92.1 x 71.3cm / Gift of Dr Robert Graham Brown 1942 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

George, in contrast, was blond and blue-eyed — a ‘job-lot Apollo’ according to his friend W. B. Beattie. His energy was like that of a comet, Amy wrote, but with a touch of remoteness, as if he were above other people, a quality she found particularly attractive.3 He had a ‘fine, baritone voice’ and a flamboyant personality; something of a dandy, even in the midst of the most dire poverty he would maintain a sartorial presence.4 He had little desire for an ordinary life and neither did Amy. She idolised him from the beginning and remained absolutely devoted, despite years of neglect and then widowhood, until her death at the age of ninety-two.

Two days after they married in 1900, the Lamberts set off on board the SS Persic for England. They went immediately to Paris where Lambert and his friend Hugh Ramsay studied at Colarossi’s studio. Their life was spartan as they tried to eke out a living from the proceeds of Lamberts Bulletin money and the last of his NSW Society of Artists’ Travelling Scholarship. After the birth of Maurice in June 1901, the circumstances of their lifestyle became intolerable and they returned to London so that George could seek portrait commissions to improve their income. Amy coped well with their continual need for money, perhaps as a result of her working-class upbringing, often doing the hard domestic work that a servant would normally have carried out.

George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / On the Strand 1909 / Pencil on thin wove paper / 28.5 x 11.8cm (comp.) / Purchased 1960 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Though continually struggling to make ends meet, the Lamberts moved in a large circle of artists, musicians and writers and led an active social life that revolved around activities such as the annual Chelsea Arts Club Ball.5 George organised tableaux vivants, pageants and costume balls during this period and revelled in the theatricality of it all. As his biographer Anne Gray has stated, his paintings are frequently the pictorial equivalent of these performances in which artifice played a necessary role.6 George also supplemented their income by giving horse-riding lessons in Hyde Park and doing book and magazine illustrations.7 Always a good draughtsman, he now honed his drawing skills to a point few artists reached and is deservedly known now as much for his drawings as his paintings. Two such works are On the Strand 1909 and The simpler life 1905 — the latter a portrait study of Thea Proctor — and would seem to confirm the generally held view that it is in these simpler sketches that Lambert best caught the expression of the sitter.

George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / The simpler life (portrait study of Thea Proctor) 1905 / Pencil on thin wove paper / 24.7 x 28.1cm (comp.) / Gift of Miss Maria Theresa Treweeke 1938 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / The three sisters 1906 / Pencil on cream wove paper / 34.6 x 42.6cm (comp.) / Purchased 1962 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

In the summer of 1903 Thea Proctor re-entered the Lamberts’ lives. She had come to London to study and both George and Amy greeted her warmly and compassionately, understanding at once her homesickness and loneliness. She became a daily visitor to the Lambert household, taking tea with them and sharing visits to concerts and the theatre. At first she visited both husband and wife, until Amy began asking if they had to see ‘quite so much of Thea’. Soon she began to sit for Lambert in his studio. At 24, Thea was six years younger than Lambert (Amy was one year older). An elegant young woman from a solid country background, she was child-free and freespirited — a younger version of his wife — and was, in addition, as obsessed with art and art-talk as Lambert himself. She soon developed a habit of coming and going from both studio and house as she liked. In August 1905 a second son, Constant, was born and Amy became totally taken up with the childrens welfare.8 As their small flat was now very crowded, Lambert took a studio in Chelsea where he spent most of his time.

Related: George Lambert’s war compositions

George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / Kitty Powell 1909 / Oil on canvas / 127 x 101cm / Purchased 1989 from the estate of Lady Trout with a special allocation from the Queensland Government / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

As Lamberts career as a society portraitist grew, he was busier and busier, and Amy threw herself completely into motherhood, a role she truly relished. A distance developed between husband and wife, reinforced by the nature of Lambert’s social and professional life which, as often as not, excluded women. In 1906, for example, he had joined the all-male Modern Society of Portrait Painters and many evenings were spent socialising with expatriate artists Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and George Coates, as well as the British painters. By 1907 Lambert was earning a sizeable income from his society portraits, thus enabling him greater freedom outside the home.9 The household became a complex one of competing egos and it is this domestic drama that Lambert — subconsciously perhaps — has painted in Portrait group (The mother).

George W Lambert, Australia/England 1873-1930 / Portrait group (The mother) 1907 / Oil on canvas / 204.5 x 162.5cm / Purchased with the assistance of S.H. Ervin 1965 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Portrait group (The mother) depicts Amy in a billowing cream silk dress, her hat in hand and her hair tied casually behind. She seems to be a woman totally at peace with her life and with her role as the mother of the two small boys.10 Thea Proctor, her arm placed lightly on Amy’s shoulder, is dressed much more formally and wears a large, plumed hat. The two women, leaning towards each other in a fond embrace, are represented very much as equals, though quite differently and subtly distinguished as the maternal woman and the professional woman. The older boy, Maurice, stands independently of the two women and stares at the artist, in a pose reminiscent, as Anne Gray identifies, of several well-known seventeenth-century portraits.11 The baby, dressed in luxuriant cream silk taffeta, all but merges with his mother, to whom he clings.

The composition, an unbalanced triangle,constantly forces the eye’s attention back to the face of the mother. The rich effects of silk, taffeta, feathers, lace, ribbons and velvet effectively conjure an impression of an earlier period and resulted from Lambert’s study of the work of Velázquez. Lambert’s friendship with Hugh Ramsay, when both were students in Paris, also reinforced his interest in the problems posed by the use of white-on-white. It is the technical mastery achieved in the handling of colour and texture that makes Portrait group (The mother) one of Lambert’s best.

Lambert also achieved a dazzling boldness through silhouetting his models in front of a pale blue and white sky, a technique he used in most of his major paintings. As he wrote in his unpublished autobiography, he was interested in Revivalism, in finding a way to combine the traditions of the great masters of painting with a modem technical proficiency.

Edited extract from ‘Family and a special friend: George Washington Lambert Portrait group (The mother)‘ from Lynne Seear and Julie Ewington (eds). Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850-1965, Queensland Art Gallery, 1998. Dr Candice Bruce is former Curator, Australian Art, QAGOMA.

1 See Andrew Wilton, The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630-1930 [exhibition catalogue], Tate Gallery, London, 1992.
2 Andrew Motion, The Lamberts: George, Constant & Kit, Chatto & Windus, London, 1986, p.28.
3 Amy Lambert, The Career o f G. W. Lambert, A. R. A.: Thirty Years of an Artist’s Life, Society of Artists, Sydney, 1938, p.25; reprinted by Australian Artist Editions, Sydney, 1977.
4 At his death, George Lambert’s estate listed great quantities of clothes amongst his possessions (see Lambert Papers, MSS 97/13, Mitchell Library, Sydney).
5 Amy’s father, Edward Abseil, had migrated from London in the 1890s to Sydney hoping to continue his work as a cooper. Shortly after their arrival, however, he lost all his money (see Motion, p.31).
6 See Anne Gray, George Lambert 1873-1930: Art and Artifice, Craftsman House, Roseville East (NSW), 1996, p.59.
7 Motion, p.49.
8 Baptised Leonard Constant, the Lamberts’ second son was always called by his middle name.
9 See Gray, George Lambert 1873-1930: Art and Artifice, p.42. Gray contexts Lambert’s art particularly well in relation to the work of his British contemporaries, especially William Strang, Glyn Philpot and Augustus John.
10 It is not surprising to know that, of all the family portrait groups, this work was Amy Lambert’s favourite (see Anne Gray, George Lambert 1873-1930: Catalogue raisonné, Bonamy Press in association with Sotheby’s and the Australian War Memorial, Perth, 1996, p.23).
11 Gray, George Lambert 1873-1930: Catalogue raisonné, pp.22-3.

May Moore, New Zealand 1881-1931 / George Lambert c.1929 / Gelatin silver photograph / 20cm x 14.2cm / Purchased 2015 / Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra / Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Read more about your Australian Collection

Feature image detail: George W Lambert Portrait group (The mother) 1907

#GeorgeLambert #QAGOMA

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Known internationally for its history as a nuclear testing site, and home to one of America’s most advanced military bases, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is also on the frontline of the global struggle against climate change. Yet, intertwined within the narrative of human disregard, and an increasing susceptibility to the dire effects of global warming, the people of the Marshall Islands are writing a story of their own — one distinguished by collaboration, resilience and hope. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is one of many community members and artists giving voice to this story on a global stage.

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Aerial view of the Marshall Islands / Photograph: Chewy Lin / Image courtesy: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner at the Jaki-ed weaving workshop, Majuro, Marshall Islands, September 2017 / Photograph: Chewy Lin / Image courtesy: Photographer and University of the South Pacific Majuro Campus

Jetñil-Kijiner is a spoken-word poet who was chosen to address the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2014. She has since spoken and performed around the world on related issues. As has become the norm for an increasing number of Marshallese, the pursuit of education and other opportunities means that she has spent most of her life ‘off-island’. Even so, the approach she takes to her work manifests a marked sense of responsibility to her homeland, and a determination to better equip herself to tell the story of its people.

In the lead-up to ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9), Jetñil-Kijiner became interested in the recent revival of Marshallese jaki-ed weaving and the dynamics of the weaving circle as important symbols of cultural resilience. A unique opportunity to participate in a 21-day weaving circle was made possible through a partnership between QAGOMA and the University of the South Pacific.

APT9/ Weaving hands: JakI-ed Project - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / JakI-ed Project, Established 2017, Republic of the Marshall Islands / Weaving hands 2018 / Single-channel HD video, colour, radio sound / Courtesy: The artists / Video supplied by Taloi Havini / © Taloi Havini

In a traditional hut located on the university’s new Majuro Campus, overlooking the expansive and idyllic lagoon, 13 expert weavers gathered from atolls across the Marshall Islands, working together to complete a series of special jaki-ed mats. The hut has no walls, making it ideally suited to the needs of the weaving circle. The women gather here to support and encourage each other. They weave as their conversation, riddled with laughter and wisdom, flows through and beyond the space. The hut is open in more ways than one — open to new ideas and innovation, the gaze and curiosity of bystanders and admirers, the questions and imitation of family, and interaction with the natural environment. It is a sacred space, where collective knowledge is both honoured and generated.

Related: The wild world in APT9

Jaki-ed weaving workshop, Majuro, Marshall Islands, September 2017 / Photograph: Chewy Lin
Installation view of the Jaki-ed mats in APT9

Jetñil-Kijiner’s spoken-word performance, commissioned for the opening weekend of APT9, is rooted in what she experienced in this space completing a mat of her own, while working under the instruction of master weaver Terse Timothy. According to Jetñil-Kijiner:

I was grasping at a new art form — I told myself this. A friend said, ‘You’re going back to your roots’, and I scoffed at the simplicity of this statement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again, and connecting, only slightly. There was never an arrival. There was a grasping. ‘There’s a gap over there.’ There’s a gap between the words I weave inside my own head . . .1

Performance: Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018

APT9 performance/ Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner: Lorro: Of Wings and Seas - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, Republic of the Marshall Islands/United States b.1987 / Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018 / Spoken word performance: 25 November 2018, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane / Commissioned for ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9) / Courtesy: The artist. Supported through a grant from Oregon Arts /© Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

In her work — performed in the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and recorded for APT9 — Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner uses the symbolism of the weaving process and weaving circle to explore how women’s roles and identity are shaped by Marshallese culture, the nuclear legacy and a climate-threatened future. Its closing segment draws inspiration from the Japanese dance art form of butoh to capture the metamorphic influence of the nuclear legacy on the bodies of women. This work is a weaving of words and movement. Each strand connects local wisdom with discourses of global relevance, opening the weaving circle to a new audience in APT9 — a circle defined by the open flow of learning, creativity, and a spirit of humble resilience that connects and characterises the weavers of the Marshall Islands.

Ruha Fifita is Research Assistant, Pacific Art, QAGOMA

Endnote
1 Blog post by the artist, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, 11 October 2017, <https://www.kathyjetnilkijiner.com/weaving-workshop-reflection-part-i/>, viewed June 2018.

Performance: She Who Dies to Live 2019

Performance/ She Who Dies to Live - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and presented in conjunction with the PAA XIII International Symposium and QAGOMA

She Who Dies to Live is a multimedia spoken word experience asking us to consider how we tell the lives of Pacific women in our societies. With an all-female cast representing Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, and Hawaiʻi, She Who Dies to Live reimagines formative stories of the Pacific into a contemporary epic.

The Australia premiere of this production at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane on Tuesday 26 March 2019, features a collaborative performance by Jocelyn Kapumealani Ng, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, and Terisa Siagatonu, with contributive writing from Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, and direction by Lyz Soto.

This immersive performance explores the survival of culture and story in the face of colonization, nuclear testing, militarism, diaspora, and climate change.

Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the Jaki-ed weaving display and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s performance Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018

#KathyJetnilKijiner #APT9 #QAGOMA

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Known internationally for its history as a nuclear testing site, and home to one of America’s most advanced military bases, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is also on the frontline of the global struggle against climate change. Yet, intertwined within the narrative of human disregard, and an increasing susceptibility to the dire effects of global warming, the people of the Marshall Islands are writing a story of their own — one distinguished by collaboration, resilience and hope. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is one of many community members and artists giving voice to this story on a global stage.

Stay Connected: Subscribe to QAGOMA Blog

Aerial view of the Marshall Islands / Photograph: Chewy Lin / Image courtesy: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner at the Jaki-ed weaving workshop, Majuro, Marshall Islands, September 2017 / Photograph: Chewy Lin / Image courtesy: Photographer and University of the South Pacific Majuro Campus

Jetñil-Kijiner is a spoken-word poet who was chosen to address the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2014. She has since spoken and performed around the world on related issues. As has become the norm for an increasing number of Marshallese, the pursuit of education and other opportunities means that she has spent most of her life ‘off-island’. Even so, the approach she takes to her work manifests a marked sense of responsibility to her homeland, and a determination to better equip herself to tell the story of its people.

In the lead-up to ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9), Jetñil-Kijiner became interested in the recent revival of Marshallese jaki-ed weaving and the dynamics of the weaving circle as important symbols of cultural resilience. A unique opportunity to participate in a 21-day weaving circle was made possible through a partnership between QAGOMA and the University of the South Pacific.

APT9/ Weaving hands: JakI-ed Project - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / JakI-ed Project, Established 2017, Republic of the Marshall Islands / Weaving hands 2018 / Single-channel HD video, colour, radio sound / Courtesy: The artists / Video supplied by Taloi Havini / © Taloi Havini

In a traditional hut located on the university’s new Majuro Campus, overlooking the expansive and idyllic lagoon, 13 expert weavers gathered from atolls across the Marshall Islands, working together to complete a series of special jaki-ed mats. The hut has no walls, making it ideally suited to the needs of the weaving circle. The women gather here to support and encourage each other. They weave as their conversation, riddled with laughter and wisdom, flows through and beyond the space. The hut is open in more ways than one — open to new ideas and innovation, the gaze and curiosity of bystanders and admirers, the questions and imitation of family, and interaction with the natural environment. It is a sacred space, where collective knowledge is both honoured and generated.

Related: The wild world in APT9

Jaki-ed weaving workshop, Majuro, Marshall Islands, September 2017 / Photograph: Chewy Lin Installation view of the Jaki-ed mats in APT9

Jetñil-Kijiner’s spoken-word performance, commissioned for the opening weekend of APT9, is rooted in what she experienced in this space completing a mat of her own, while working under the instruction of master weaver Terse Timothy. According to Jetñil-Kijiner:

I was grasping at a new art form — I told myself this. A friend said, ‘You’re going back to your roots’, and I scoffed at the simplicity of this statement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again, and connecting, only slightly. There was never an arrival. There was a grasping. ‘There’s a gap over there.’ There’s a gap between the words I weave inside my own head . . .1

Performance: Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018

APT9 performance/ Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner: Lorro: Of Wings and Seas - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, Republic of the Marshall Islands/United States b.1987 / Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018 / Spoken word performance: 25 November 2018, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane / Commissioned for ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9) / Courtesy: The artist. Supported through a grant from Oregon Arts /© Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

In her work — performed in the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and recorded for APT9 — Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner uses the symbolism of the weaving process and weaving circle to explore how women’s roles and identity are shaped by Marshallese culture, the nuclear legacy and a climate-threatened future. Its closing segment draws inspiration from the Japanese dance art form of butoh to capture the metamorphic influence of the nuclear legacy on the bodies of women. This work is a weaving of words and movement. Each strand connects local wisdom with discourses of global relevance, opening the weaving circle to a new audience in APT9 — a circle defined by the open flow of learning, creativity, and a spirit of humble resilience that connects and characterises the weavers of the Marshall Islands.

Ruha Fifita is Research Assistant, Pacific Art, QAGOMA

Endnote
1 Blog post by the artist, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, 11 October 2017, <https://www.kathyjetnilkijiner.com/weaving-workshop-reflection-part-i/>, viewed June 2018.

Performance: She Who Dies to Live 2019

Performance/ She Who Dies to Live - YouTube

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes / Produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and presented in conjunction with the PAA XIII International Symposium and QAGOMA

She Who Dies to Live is a multimedia spoken word experience asking us to consider how we tell the lives of Pacific women in our societies. With an all-female cast representing Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Fiji, and Hawaiʻi, She Who Dies to Live reimagines formative stories of the Pacific into a contemporary epic.

The Australia premiere of this production at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane on Tuesday 26 March 2019, features a collaborative performance by Jocelyn Kapumealani Ng, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, and Terisa Siagatonu, with contributive writing from Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala, and direction by Lyz Soto.

This immersive performance explores the survival of culture and story in the face of colonization, nuclear testing, militarism, diaspora, and climate change.

Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to be the first to go behind-the-scenes / Watch or Read more about Asia Pacific artists View the Jaki-ed weaving display and more on Level 3 at the Gallery of Modern Art until 16 June 2019 during ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ APT9: Extended. Buy the APT9 publication Read more in The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art available online or in store. The publication represents an important and lasting document of the current artistic landscape of Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

Feature image: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s performance Lorro: Of Wings and Seas 2018

#KathyJetnilKijiner #APT9 #QAGOMA

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The use of this feed on other websites breaches copyright. If this content is not in your news reader, it makes the page you are viewing an infringement of the copyright. (Digital Fingerprint:
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