Tag Archives: Austria

Nothing known and forgotten

Arrived in Vienna this morning stiff and achy. There’s far too little leg room in Austria Airlines flights. I’d promised myself I’d not fly with them any more, but hard to tell who’s flying who with all the carrier deals going. I thought I’d be on Thai Air, but they took me from Melbourne to Bangkok only.

I’ll be based in Graz for at least a couple of months with plans for a white Christmas, the first ever, with family here. It’s been a long while since I’ve worked on a gallery piece. The ESC Gallery is giving me that opportunity with my new installation, Nothing Known. When I think about it, I’ve had more invitations like this from Austria than any other country and certainly far more than at home.

Bakun elder, Sarawak
Kenyah elder, Sarawak

I want to put the faces of indigenous Sarawak on large screens, the larger the better. At very slow frame rates one will see the faces shown in detail, in close up with the camera tracking over contours of skin, facial outlines, eyes…

I’d learnt in Sarawak that archiving cultural knowledge, indigenous cultural knowledge does little to protect it. It becomes remembered in research, coffee table chatter, gossip… the deepest transmission occurs through presence… physical, immediate presence. The songs, the dances, hunting, farming, the stuff of life, accumulated generational knowledge, wisdom… from what I’d seen, from the interviews we had with the eldest people in one of the Bidayuh Kampongs, one generation is all it takes to lose their story-tellers and musicians.

The story was the same in South Africa. Meeting the anthropologist Barbera Tyrrell (on her 94th birthday!) it was clear her attempt to record traditional and ceremonial garments from many African tribes was but a drop in the proverbial ocean. She’d told me that there were few people in the various Diaspora on the continent that could remember what their own people had worn let alone danced in at least one to two generations past.

More when I’m less tired and a charged laptop…

Visiting the family in Graz

And again...

During my recent trip to Europe I visited my Uncle and Aunt in Graz (mothers side). This is a remarkable trip as it was the first visit I was to make with a translator! Gustov, on the far left, is the man. I hope to return and spend more time with him and his family, to learn that which the forests have taught him.