The Harbour International Arts Residency
The Harbour International Arts Residency was an experimental creative laboratory that brought together established and emerging artists from Australia, Indonesia and Timor Leste. Over four weeks, four artists will collaborate, experiment and exhibit new works at the DVAA artist run studios as part of the 2015 Darwin Festival. International artists Jompet Kuswidananto from Indonesia, and Mariano Goncalves from Timor Leste, plus Australian artists Dale Gorfinkel and Weniki Hensch. Project developed by Darwin Visual Arts Association artist run space in partnership with Darwin Festival and Charles Darwin University.
Culture Projects Nature Objects
(bird cages, bird whistles, air mattress pump, gardening irrigation, local feathers, DC motors, data projector)
In human to human interaction, there has been much discussion about objectifying ‘the Other’ especially in regards to colonial cultures and forms of racialization. These things are often about domination and power. ‘The Enlightenment’ for some coincides with slavery for others. Ideas are projected onto others which affects the perception of reality. It is complex because it is not just a one-way interaction. Those being viewed can have the ability to move, dance around the gaze, and gaze back too.
So what about the human to non-human relationship? It is clear that people’s perspective of ‘nature’ or ‘the environment’ is influenced by their different cultures and societies. Nature is entwined with culture. It is important to be aware of how people project onto the non-human world and why. For example the creation of anthropocentric cultures might be useful for purposes of exploitation. There are other kinds of projections too, such as romanticisation and animism.
This work plays with projection/screen, human/non-human, and analogue/digital. Things are not black and white. The birds too can dance around and reveal the colours of our projection.
Banality of Evil
(gardening irrigation, sprinkler, ceiling fan, latex gloves, bullets, plastic containers, horn, back scratchers, plastic knives, motor, air pump)
Before coming to Darwin I spent a few months in Indonesia. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with Jompet. Some of the issues we talked about included violence, crowds, and the relationship between the individual and the state. Since Jompet grew up under authoritarian regime in Indonesia, our personal experiences of these things are very different. However looking beyond personal perspectives, I came to realize that there are global social, political and economic systems at work. An act of individual violence can be an impotent response to systemic violence which pressurizes communities. Situations arise which create a latent violence that can emerge at any time.
In Indonesia people lived under an authoritarian regime where education and the media was completely government controlled. So at Reformasi in 1998, when the Suharto regime ended, artists such as Jompet started searching for the ‘truth’. Jompet’s work in Darwin shows how issues in Indonesia and Timor Leste were really affected by broader global conflicts, particularly the capitalist/communist struggles of the Cold War.
Liberal capitalism sees itself as neutral or normal, avoiding the extreme and ‘system’ labels that it applies to the Others eg dictatorial, authoritarian, communist, totalitarian. It is the elephant in the room full of spectacle and kitsch, and almost impossible to talk about without being framed in stereotypical ways eg lefty/communist/artist/hippy etc. A system free from critique is dangerous, as dangerous perhaps as an authoritarian regime which can be labeled as such.
What lessons can be learnt from history? The title ‘Banality of Evil’ comes from Hannah Arendt’s book on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official charged with carrying out The Final Solution. She says: “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.”
In this work Indonesian bullets have been transformed into warning whistles, hands inflate and deflate, and crowds gather in pathetic revolution.
(Brass instrument, brass tap, brass bullets)
‘Top brass’ refers to the intersection of music and social organization. The institution of an orchestra is arranged in a hierarchical regimented way like the military under the general’s baton. Perhaps this way of arranging people is no longer relevant in today’s world. Music can provide a space to safely explore different social structures. ‘Top brass’ is a phrase given to those up the top of the hierarchical ladder but it is also the name given to trumpets and bugles, instruments which have historically been used to signal battle and acknowledge the dead. Lest we forget the blood that top brass spills.