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Tabula Rasa (2003)

Go to Gallery Page Tabula Rasa
Related EntriesAudio Visual Gallery
Gallery Installation and Temporary Installation
Location: Yarra Sculpture Gallery
By Antonia Chaffey. Exhibited in Hearing Place 12 - 29 March, 2003.

This installation is a segment from a body of work I have been developing over the past five years in the Murray Mallee region of Northern Victoria as well as Lake Mungo in South Western New South Wales. My work is about Land, Memory and Place.

I have made an intimate space created by an arc of Casuarina fronds suspended from the ceiling. This space houses a small wooden school desk with the ochre stained word “Listen” inscribed into its lid. The public is invited to walk in on a bed of quartz gravel, the traditional early settler material used to cover grave beds and has its own particular sound.

Through headphones connected via the ink well the haunting voice of the wind in the Casuarina christata (Belah), indigenous to the Mallee region, accompanied by ghostly footsteps on forgotten graves, speak of ancient memories from that place.

A partly submerged blank marble book, the kind which can be seen on European graves appears to have been washed up amidst a bank of river pebbles. There is no text, only the bloodstain of colonial memory: a reminder of the past and an invitation to begin anew.

Since 1995 when I began a series of field trips to Mildura and Lake Mungo, I have been responding to questions surrounding the matter of environmental and cultural degradation in Australia since European occupation.

My Canadian great grandfather, William Benjamin Chaffey and his brother George first came to Australia in 1886 on the invitation of Alfred Deakin to irrigate the River Murray at Mildura and Renmark. By all accounts they and their families treated the local Aborigines with dignity and respect. However, I was particularly interested in responding to the notion of the Palimpsest created by their government -sanctioned treatment of the landscape. (They knew not what they did)

They had already had experience of the indigenous peoples in the lands of what became California and even named one of their irrigation settlements after an Indian chief Etiwanda. In Mildura the naming of streets and the whole settlement was done in the memory of their previous ventures. Even the home of W.B. is called Rio Vista (river view) and was landscaped with European species “…to erase all that might be ugly in the distant view”.

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 15 April 2003

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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