24hrArt: NT Centre of Contemporary Art,
There has been much dialogue in recent times concerning the issue of boarder protection. Whether it is terms such as ‘queue jumper’, 'illegal immigrant’ or ‘boat people’, the plight of the refugee is by its very nature a sensitive and complex topic. Moreover, the philosophical issues that arrise from the detainment of refugees in Australia raise important questions about nationalism, place, identity and memory.
On the one hand, the refugee is fleeing their native environment – their native place – due to a number of reasons that may include war, religious or political persecution. In doing so, a new place is sought to inhabit. However, the unsolicited entry into Australia is often met with hostiliy and suspicion resulting in the forceful detainment of these individuals into a foreign and unfamiliar place.
On the other hand, memories of these native places are often mapped onto the localities that are experienced within the places of detainment. For example, if someone inhabited a village for most of their life, the memories of such a place would become part of their identity. Moveover, the design of architecture, family traditions and cultural practice, in particular, would be unique to their specific surroundings. However, when the same person leaves their native environment for the aforementioned reasons the manner in which that person interacts with their new surroundings is characterised by the comparisons made between what they perceive in the present with the memories of experiences located in the past. If the mapping of such perspectives involves the places of both the past and the present, what is to become of a person identity? Can the places of internment define a new identity or is it a corruption of an old one? Perhaps these memories of the past are traumatic and triggered by objects in the places of internment – razor wire might prompt a memory of war just as uniformed staff might prompt memories of military or terrorist action.
One might argue that memory and place have such impact on the identity of the refugee that internment places open up another kind of space – a modern topography. These are the philosophical spaces developed by those who experience and move through internment places that are characterised by the memories of another.
Responding to this idea I have developed a series of miniature landscapes that depict internment places from both interior and exterior views – those who look in and those who look out. By videographing these artworks a secondary artwork emerges that reflect other places, namely the extracts from topographical views documented through standard 8mm home movies. By doing so, the viewer witnesses a morphing of scenes that combine the idyllic with the traumatic. Here, we see the modern topography come to life through a kaleidoscope of memory and narrative that seeks to question and discover.
- Shaun Wilson, July 2004.