Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Paramontage showing No. 4 - 'United' (a type-1)

This paramontage contains a photo taken one day in Newtown, a place I love but this is painful. It’s titled ‘United’ which represents what happened in our childhood when my brother and I found cause to come together. Other times we were bickering but our fear of our father gave us common cause.

Dad had a rough childhood, his father was a migrant and he was taunted – in fact they both were – so that when he grew up he hated Ginger Meggs because, he said in his memoir, the type had been so abrasive. Most of his adult life was spent escaping the past, I feel, and his attendance at the ballet, his admiration for classical music – especially Beethoven and Brahms – his wanting to be in sunny, warm places near the sea – it all stemmed from hardship.

The poem in this work goes like this:

His memories
won’t protect
his children

from the thing
that dwells
in this house.

I had a comment in response to my last video (‘Syntax prescribes – I’), a video that includes a very complex poem reflecting decades of thinking about First Nations people and colonialism. It was the third work in a series on Myall Creek, where, in 1838, about 30 women, children and old people were slaughtered by settlers. It’s a very sombre moment for many people and the only thing the woman thought to comment on was my accent.

She said she thought I was from Britain. Now, all my life I’ve had this kind of response to my way of speaking. It’s either English or American, I can’t fathom why it’s important and it’s better than someone like Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott who bung on Ocker accents to disguise their roots. I never have tried to cover up who I am. I don’t like it when people talk about how I speak especially when the whole point of the video is to start a discussion – as the Uluru Statement from the Heart asks us to do – on dispossession and Reconciliation. 

These are big themes and in this term of government we’ll be asked to change the very nature of the polity in response. I think that it’s more significant than one Anglo woman’s curiosity about origins. Where I come from is a house where there dwelled something sinister, something powerful and malevolent.


Basia Sokolowska said...

I find that once you make your artwork accessible to the public, there is no way you can control the way people respond to it. Everyone approaches a poem or a photograph from their very individual viewpoint bringing into it their life experience, education, sensibility and whatever else constitutes their perception. And I actually like that. I think this enriches and expands the perception of a work of art. For that reason I titled my first series of photographs "Carmen Infinitum" and refused to title individual works. In this way I opened up my imgages to individual reading, and hid my own narrative. I talk about it in one of my Creative Alphabet videos, actually.

I always stress to my students of photography that someone who looks at an image knows far less that the photographer who took the photo. The viewer sees only what is in the frame and is not aware of the circumstances that produced the image, that is how much or how little work it was for the artist to make it, how long it took to make it, and what was happening in the photographer's life at the moment. All the public has is an image, or an image and a text, and if there is no additional information, such as a caption or artist's statement accompanying the image insisting on a particular way of looking at it, people are free to intepret it any way they wish. They are also free to notice any aspect of the form of the work of art, even if the artist did not consider it particularily important.

Matthew da Silva said...

Everything you say is true but I've spent my life living down my accent and I've never got used to it. It was especially irratating in this case since I gave the woman in question plenty of opportunities to stop her enquiries about my personal story. It was quite traumatic to have to go through all of this again in the context of my artworks, which are a place where I can escape the ugliness of the world. In fact I was shocked by the whole episode and have avoided making any more videos as a consequence.

Yesterday I showed the paramontages I'd just picked up from the print shop to a friend who operates a literary magazine and she said she's publish some, which was nice, though of course more exposure opens me up to further criticism if people feel inclined to object to something. *Sigh*.