• Night Walk at Culpra Station,Sam Trubridge, image by Campbell Drake, 2015 (supplied)Source: supplied
By making maps in a non-traditional way, this exhibition explores multiple connections to country through acts of migration and the contrast of regional and urban contexts.
By
Laura Morelli

18 Nov 2016 - 3:53 PM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2016 - 4:59 PM

Exhibition Production manager Campbell Drake says the original aim of the project was to create an intercultural collaboration in order to look at Indigenous and non-Indigenous sensibilities towards country.

"We organised a mapping workshop that brought together 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous creative practitioners to produce interpretive mapping of Culpra station," he said.

"It gave the practitioners insight into the agency of intercultural creative practice and the displayed works help audiences see that it has some form of reconciliation. They also provide insights into Indigenous sensibility towards native country."

Co-curator, Sven Mehzoud says this exhibition enables a deeper look into the land by exploring the understandings of the traditional owners as well as common Australia.  

“Although not every artist is Indigenous, each work has a response to Indigenous concerns and understanding of country, values and culture.”

Mr Mehzoud says a nice element about the exhibition is the inclusion of the farming community that previously owned the land..

“Their stories are displayed alongside Indigenous understandings shows the richness and complexity of Culpra Station’s history. These changes over time are also a way of thinking about migration. We travel through time, we hold on to traditions and at the same time have to adjust to the changes around us,” he said.

Eight works were migrated to Sydney's suburb of Redfern which enabled a further spatial encounter between Australia’s regional and urban Indigenous contexts. This presented a space in which new interpretations and formulations might be created in relation to Redfern’s history and urban context.

"In migrating the works there’s a hope the community of Redfern and Sydney can also have an understanding of Australian indigeneity in both regional and urban contexts," Mr Drake said. 

The works explore connections to country, which are made explicit through both literal and conceptual acts of migration, simultaneously realizing incremental shifts in non-Indigenous understanding of Aboriginal cultural knowledge and its specific relationship to country.

The works of Eddy Harris and Warlpa Thomson provide an Indigenous perspective of country through spatial and material relationships to time.

Spirit of Bakandji: Eddy Harris

Eddy Harris’s work, Spirit of Bakandji Country, encompasses four pieces and represents the Indigenous artist’s response to the stories and feelings experienced through country on Culpra Station.

‘Camp Fire Gathering’ depicts the tribe coming together around a large fire which flickers and glows. Large ants are the elders who tell stories to the younger members of the tribe which are the small ants.

The painting ‘Spirits’ shows the spirits of ancestors along with bushes, wild flowers and landscape. The ancestors looked after the land for thousands of years, hunting, gathering, handing down lore and kinship.

The spelling of Bakandji differs slightly across the tribe and the spelling used here reflects Eddy’s family experience and his interpretation of the stories told to him.

Knapping the World - Warlpa Thompson

Warlpa Thompson’s work engages with the tradition of knapping - usually associated with the production of stone tools including blades and spear points. Knapping techniques have been used by Paakantji people over millennia using local stone including silcrete and stone types traded into the Paakantji lands through neighbouring people. Evidence of knapped stone tools remain in the archaeological record and provide a cultural record of the past.

The pieces presented here provide an engagement with both traditional stone as well as more contemporary materials - glass and ceramic. Whilst the techniques remain similar, the work provides a commentary on the effect of colonization on Aboriginal techniques and approaches to technology, the innovation and adaptation of traditional techniques in response to changing and developing circumstances and the need for the preservation of these techniques. Culture is recognized as being a fluid concept - adapting and changing over time thereby absorbing new materials and techniques.

The work consists of three knapped, bifacial points in a background of soil and leaf litter demonstrating that the old ways of country are always present in the new cultural expressions - there is a grounding. Looking past the obvious allows us to see the beauty of the world and directly relates to the technique of knapping. 

Reflections on Culpra - Elizabeth Langslow & Campbell Drake

Covering 8000 hectares over five parcels, Culpra Station was first delineated and worked by pastoralists in 1846. The proximity of the Murray River and diversity of soil types has seen cropping and grazing of the mallee country and grazing of the river country. Colonial and modern pastoralist histories leave some obvious marks on the land today while other signposts to this history are barely traceable or gone completely.

This pastoralist history represents a very small timeframe in the history and culture of this area.  The land at Culpra Station has a number of significant Aboriginal historical and cultural sites including burials, hearths, scarred trees and an ochre quarry that today offer some clues to this larger history.

In 2002, Culpra Station was purchased by the Indigenous Land Corporation as part of a vision to build a secure and sustainable land base for Aboriginal people. Today the property is managed by the Culpra Milli Aboriginal Corporation under the ethos of protecting the land from practices and actions that may be damaging to both its environmental and heritage values.

During a 30 year period between 1950 and 1980, Culpra Station was owned by the Duncan family. This video work focusses on the Duncan brothers, Kevin and Bruce, who spent most of their childhood at Culpra Station working it as a farm with their Dad.

With the Duncan brothers as guides, this project seeks to locate some of the traces and remnants of heritage sites such as the old homestead and the adjacent Aboriginal burial ground.

Comprising a series of interviews conducted on site, the video explores themes around the markers of ones country or home and the possible crossovers, connections, and/or tension between Indigenous and European sites of significance.

In looking at these particular connections to land and country and some of the marks left during this timeframe, the project combines visual mapping, oral storytelling and walking as a means to explore interpretations of the land and of time passing at Culpra Station.

Mr Mehzoud says it shows how the land was occupied before Aboriginals were given the land.

“The car migrated from the industrial sides of Sydney to the country side. It’s been returned in an urban context with a whole new layering of history.”

Night Walk - Sam Trubridge

A performance work and process conducted as a blind navigation with the landscape, as part of the artist’s ongoing study into nomadic states – Night Walk maps the landscape through two parallel processes: dialogue with local communities and custodians of the land, and a negotiated passage through the terrain.

A large sphere of inflated black plastic is inhabited by a walker. As the journey proceeds, movement across various surface terrains perforates the thin plastic, creating a constellation of pinpricks for the walker to navigate by. The clandestine movements of this object reveal a hidden interior motive, for these acts of blind passage produce a dialogue with each terrain encountered.

Surfaces, materials, spatial qualities, rhythms and other movement systems are imprinted upon the fragile black membrane: a dark intrusion creating alternative, non-linear, nomadic narratives in relation to landscapes. The condition of blindness reveals tensions between the body and the geological, geographic, cultural, technological and architectural terrains that are encountered.

In the specific Australian context, a walk in the landscape has significance as a cultural artefact - the ‘songline’ of Aboriginal tradition. Arriving in this ‘storied terrain’ the work is challenged by its intersection with Indigenous practices and narratives as well as the harsh, thorny environment of an overgrown pasture. 

Blind to the Facts - Anthony Magen

Mr Magen used a hydrophone to record the sounds of a shrinking summer billabong in Kemendok National Park on Christmas Day 2015.

"I watched packs of carp sweep through the water, I listened intently on the bank to the sounds of the invisible underwater world of a neglected ecosystem."

Macroinvertebrates are a whole collection of bizarre and wonderful creatures that spend some or all of their lives in waterways. Some are soft and squishy, some have hard crusts on their bodies, and some carry a 'home' wherever they go. They look strange and are fascinatingly alien. They live weird lives in ponds, streams, estuaries and stormwater and irrigation drains. 

Singing to Country - Jeremy Taylor, Matt Wood, Thomas Honeyman + Warlpa Thompson

 

Singing to Country explores and challenges the territorial through the relationship between country and language. The work is a site specific audio visual interpretation of local knowledge and stories and the ways in which this challenges and is affected by dominant value systems. It highlights the grandeur of nature leaving you with a sense of timelessness and awe that questions the human need to draw boundaries, invoking the cyclical nature of time and it’s relationship to and collision with subjective understandings of truth.

Abridgement - Thomas Cole

The inhabitation of land is embedded with histories and cultural values; Indigenous Australians have been gathering this knowledge for tens of thousands of years. In large tracts of contemporary Australia, the land has taken on a different set of tenets, re-examined through lenses of financial production and evaluated by distanced technological systems — situated far away from the inhabited surface.

Tom Cole’s Extract piece explores territories of knowledge. Abridgement demonstrates the naivety of this re-evaluation of landscape as an economic resource. An understanding of land without the understanding of place; an abridged description that is confused, abstracted and absurd

Custodian Boots - Mick Douglas

We’re growing into country. He and I both have skinny legs hanging out of short pants. And we wear boots. He has no socks showing. He leaves his boots at his Nanna and Pop’s place and wears them when he is here. His adolescent boots are getting too small: need to ir sget another paoon. R.M. Williams boots. I notice how he gently steers the younger kids – toward play, away from danger, to relate somehow with what else is going on with everyone else and everything here. And he follows his Pop around, picking up the way, listening in for a sense of it all. A call is felt and unspoken. A transmission is happening. So many bends in the river ahead. Access to country. Reclaiming language. Uptown life and this living Culpra country. Balancing ways. Time on country.
The boot’s-eye view invites a shift in our perception: to the rhythm and gait of walking country, to the intimacy of the foot’s fall on land, to how it might constantly negotiate kinship and country in ever challenging circumstances. Perhaps we are always growing into country.

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