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Tiger Snake and Runner of Light (2001)

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Performance and Composition
Location: South Melbourne Town Hall, Victoria, Australia
Compostion by Eve Duncan. Performed as part of Rhapsody of Motion, a collaboration of three composers, two sculptors and a poet. Commissioned: by Anna Monea as part of the Federation celebrations of 2001.


This was a project devised by Anna Monea which was of epic proportions, in that it wished to examine issues arising from the Federation of Australia. The collaborative group met with creative producer Anna Monea for a year. In this time there was a great deal of discussion and reflection upon cultural perspective, and the collaborative process was given strong foundations in regular meetings and appraisals. The fact that this group of artists, poet and composers were of diverse cultural origins, including fourth generation Anglo-Australian, Italians and an Aboriginal poet, opened the project to realizing deep issues of Australian identity.

Engaging with the Space

In this case ‘space' had four dimensions, because it meant engaging on the space in the present, one hundred years earlier when it was used for Federation celebrations, and much, much earlier when it was a meeting ground for Aboriginal tribes in the district. It is still a space that resonates with old atmospheres that pre-date white settlement.

Sculptors Heidi Knoepfli and Sue O'Callanan explored many possibilities for utilizing the physical space of the South Melbourne Town Hall; considering even the external surfaces and high roofs and tower. They eventually decide upon placing a huge suspended screen in the middle of the hall, on which a photograph of celebrations that took place earlier in the twentieth century was projected and manipulated by light processing. Thus the audience, many years on, were viewing the same space above them, and participating in a similar celebration. Only this time the work was reflecting upon the deeper aspects of Federation, including the point of view of race (Federation Year was the year of the White Australia Policy, which condemned most Asians to leaving Australia unless they could pay the expensive Poll Tax, as well as a time in which Aboriginals were subject to the imperialistic treatment of the British).

The suspended photograph gave a context for recitations of the poetry of Aboriginal poet Lisa Bellear, the three twenty minute musical compositions, and performances by the Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance ensemble. The Aboriginal dancers and Aboriginal poet Lisa Bellear's confronting view of the White ‘discovery' of Australia was a context for composer Peter Myer's Sacred Land , powerful musical expression of the brutal stealing of land by the British. The Anglo-Saxon appearance of the audience in the 1901 photograph was contexturalized by composer Joseph Giovinazzo's lyrical work Pictures From Home which was a plea for examining Australia's republican status.

Eve Duncan's work Tiger Snake and Runner of Light was for soprano, piccolo, flute, didjeridu, trombone, cello, double bass, percussion and string orchestra. The text was by Lisa Bellear and was taken from her index of the autobiography of Lisa's Aunty Marg Tucker's If Everybody Cared . The text is a list of words that are compressed indications of huge areas of emotional, spiritual and physical experiences of an Aboriginal born early in the twentieth century; roughly through the Federation era. These words range from afraid, alcohol, terrible disturbance and inwardly timid to tribal days, ancestors, supreme being and Aboriginal hearts. The work related to the space four dimensionally, that is, in time, for South Melbourne Town Hall was once an Aboriginal meeting ground. The piece was about people who through the processes encapsulated in Federation, were displaced and suffered greatly the loss of their traditional existence.

See also website: www.RhapsodyinMotion.com

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 27 January 2004

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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