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Name: Doolmarria Louise Mengil

Doolmarria Louise Mengil - Being part of the Canning Stock Route Project [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: Louise talks about her experience as an emerging curator on the Canning Stock Route Project. She explains how she has learned how to look at a painting, and about mapping paintings to the CSR. She talks about the curatorial process and what it has been like working with Wally, Terry and Hayley. She says curating is like a sport - it's competitive. She talks about her hopes for the future and how the curators have helped each other: we're all inspiration to each other.

Date: 4/12/2008
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_189_Louise_Mengil
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Recorded by: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Latitude/Longitude: -31.98/115.8

Cultural Protocols: PUBLIC ACCESS - VERBAL CONSENT
Access: PUBLIC
Full transcript:
Clint Dixon: Can you introduce yourself?

Louise Mengil: My name’s Louise Mengil. I’m 24, on Saturday. My skin group is Nangala [?] and I live in Kununurra.

CD: Since the last meeting, what have you learnt?

DLM: Heaps. I’ve learnt how to look at paintings in a different version, I’ve learnt how to compare works that are emerging, I can tell an emerging artist from a well known artist, so I’ve learnt heaps since the last trip.

CD: Can you explain how you did things differently? Mapping?

DLM: Ok, well that’s all new to me as well, but it’s all part of the experience that I’m learning. So, it was … laying the map of the Canning Stock Route was a layout to where the paintings fit in, and where the stories came in. So when we did that it was more to see what we had to play with, basically, so what paintings we could see were in each area and which country and how it related … yeah, so basically how it related to the Canning Stock Route and how we go about putting it into the exhibition.

CD: Out of the 100 plus paintings, how many are left?

DLM: Seventy-five paintings we’ve actually chosen, so far - without the paintings that haven’t come from the art centres yet, so there’s more to come and we’re thinking of having eighty paintings in the show, so we’re going to compare the new works with what we’ve got now and if it’s stronger than some work which means we have to take some out, so we can replace them.

CD: What's it like working with Wally?

DLM: It’s amazing. I’ve learnt so much from Wally, I mean, I practically now do the gallery presentation in our art centre. So, going from not knowing how to look at painting and then coming down here, learning within a week, learning so much and then going back and having that little bit more knowledge to be able to get to where I am now is huge. But Wally is an inspiration for me, he’s a hard worker, he’s like a guidance, he shows us, he explains to us, he sort of like … he doesn’t leave it all up to us. So he’s basically like a really good teacher at guidance.

CD: What's it like working with Terry and Hayley?

DLM: Personally I think they’re great and I like everything about them. They’re two different people, Hayley is very quiet and shy but also educated in a different way. They’re both older than me and they have a little bit more knowledge in the cultural background than what I have. Yeah, working close with them is good, so, I have no problems.

CD: And working with Terry?

DLM: Um … he’s funny. He’s a bit competitive in some ways, like, I consider him as a mentor as well but also a competitor, it’s sort of like doing a sport, like … doing this is like a sport as well for me. And me trying to tie in with what he knows is really, really hard, but it’s good because I learn a lot from him as well.

CD: How do you choose your paintings?

DLM: I tend to choose my paintings through connections. So I connect through a painting, it mightn’t even be by an artist who is famous, it could be an artist who’s just started off. For instance, Hayley Atkins, I connected to her paintings because she had this emotion that goes through it and I felt it from just looking at it and … when I first seen it I didn’t even know it was hers, and then when I asked it was like, it’s Hayley’s, and it was like, wow. You know, she’s got a natural … she’s a natural artist, so ... it’s more a connection thing for me, not what it looks like.

CD: You don’t go by a strong visual or stories behind the painting?

DLM: Yeah, stories definitely and um … it’s got all to do with my feelings. I guess I could appreciate a painting on my wall if I can connect and feel the emotions, the strength of it, if it’s … if it’s just something that I can see and it looks pretty there’s sort of no touch to it. Yeah, it’s more a feeling than a story background. So, yeah.

CD: How much do you know about the CSR now?

DLM: Well I know that it happened a hundred years ago and that all these horrible events that happened, about how people were moved up and down the Canning Stock Route. How a famous, painter, artist, Rover Thomas, how he ended up in Turkey Creek, or Warmun as people say. I’ve learnt heaps, considering I didn’t know anything.

CD: What were some of the funniest things that have happened?

DLM: I don’t really know, I think every day is a laugh for me. Maybe because … oh, there was one instance where Clint was bouncing around doing a ballerina dance and John singing along to it – I think that’s the most funniest thing.

CD: Where do you see yourself after the project finishes?

DLM: After the whole project? I see myself with a degree, I see myself with accreditation, with a … curator’s background and hopefully able to have the experience and knowledge to run the art centre in Kununurra.

CD: Can you tell us about your favourite painting?

DLM: The artist is Clifford Brooks, we don’t actually know what the story is, but it’s to do with the Canning Stock Route, it’s ochre based, which I’m … it’s a personal thing for me as well because where I come from ochre is used for practically everything – art, artefacts, ceremony, everything. So, it’s personal for me, but the strength of the painting and just to see the fusion of the ochre, or pigments, how it stood up against acrylics was amazing to see, I didn’t even know it was ochre until they told me.

CD: How do you help each other? [The young curators]

DLM: It works three ways. I help Hayley in trying to come out and be a little bit more … coz I can see there’s more to Hayley than what she does. I mean, I used to be that person at one stage, and um, we encourage Hayley to talk about stuff because she has every right to. She has history, background with the Canning Stock Route and it’s nice to be … she’s got strong emotions and feelings about what happened, about her country, about her family, so I sat down with her and just said express all your feelings, but use it towards anyone that wants to know about it basically, and she did, she was, wow, you know, I didn’t think she could speak that much but she did a whole day of talking and she interacted with about everyone who came through that door. And when I seen her do that I had to tell Terry to step back a bit and let her go, let her have that chance and that experience to sort of open up a bit more.

Whereas Terry, he sort of was an encouragement for me, he always used to encourage me, ‘look, don’t be shy, get up there and do an oral presentation’. There was a time last year, or in the last meet that we had, one of our artists had an exhibition down here and she wanted me to do a speech for the opening and I was like no, no, it’s so embarrassing, I can’t do it, I’d choke, and Terry was like ‘don’t worry about who’s there. Think about your grandmother, think about the work and think about your voice, tell them what you’re here to tell them’. So, he’s more of an encouragement to me, and it sort of goes down to Hayley. So I’m sort of in the middle and it’s really nice. We’re all inspiration for each other, like the whole team is great. I think that this whole project is an awesome experience for me, I see a lot of hard working people, I see fun people as well and people who’s just very laid back which I like, so, yeah.

CD: How did you get involved with FORM and the CSR project?

DLM: Well, it was funny. The position I’m in now was supposed to be for another arts broker within the arts centre. He couldn’t make it, due to whatever his excuse was, and Cathy approached me, our manager at the art centre approached me and asked me if I wanted to do it, because she didn’t want to pass up the opportunity, and I was like, well, I don’t even know what you’re talking about but I’ll go along anyway. And I’m actually glad that I did because I’m enjoying it, I’m learning stuff, I’m having experience. It’s great, it’s a great opportunity and I’m grateful that it happened to me.

CD: What's it like working with Clint?

DLM: Very fun, he’s very funny. There’s not a day you don’t go without laughing.

END
Source: CSROH_189_Louise_Mengil

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Putuparri Tom Lawford

Putuparri Tom Lawford - songlines, technology [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Putuparri Tom Lawford describes songlines and boundaries, and talks about how much learning there is in becoming a law man. He also talks about technology, and how sometimes it is needed, but that it can also distract from learning about Country.

Date: 2012-06
Art centre(s): CSR Project, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_279_Putuparri_Tom_Lawford
Date: 2012-06
Transcribed By: Mollie Hewitt
Location Recorded: Newman Creek

Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Access: Public
Notes: This was filmed on the repatriation trip to Newman in 2012. It was transcribed for subtitles, and it is therefore incomplete (and missing interviewer questions) and includes time codes from the film footage.
Full transcript: [Time Code: 22.49]

[Tom Lawford drawing in the sand]

Tom Lawford: Big Country, Australia. Canning Stock Route is just one bit, one little bit there. We will only focus on this bit.

These are the lines right, songlines that travel up and down the Countryside. And across, they go across. And every little circle, this is different tribes, this is their Country. And this mob can’t intrude into their Country, they can’t trespass. They got their own stories. Every little square. This is their own area and you can’t trespass.

[Pointing to his map drawn in the sand] You got up north here, Halls Creek, Billiluna, Halls Creek. And Wiluna down south. And you got the Stock Road. The Canning Stock Road cuts through all these different places. And there is Wells, some say waterholes, in people’s Country.

There are wells on the Canning Stock Route but they are people’s water. Where the Canning Stock Route cut through it took over our water and they made wells. And in a way Alfred Canning, he trespassed onto people’s land, Country.

He took over their waters for animals, to feed cattle. So these lines here, they are all songlines. That is how people are connected, they follow these songline – down, up and across.

[Tom is asked to explain songlines.]

Songlines are ... there’s Dreaming songs for the public and for women and children to hear and there are secret, sacred songlines only for men only. And these songlines they follow a being – like a person. Say this being travelled across this Country and they followed a songline through and the songline even travel across the border – to the territory [Northern Territory]. And then people follow it and then these guys from across the border [of the Northern Territory] they take it on.

Yeah and these songlines have different languages. One songline, one language sing it and then it change for another mob, another language sing it. But it is the same [story].

Well the Canning Stock Route, it broke the Country up. Most of these songlines up north, across here and some down here.

People were living in harmony, in peace. They had their own areas. One mob got their little square there. And the Canning Stock Route it cuts through different people’s land.

[Time code: 27.25]

[Tom is asked about how you know where the boundaries are for different people’s Country.]

Landmarks. Like that hill over there. So if you go over that hill over there it could be another tribe’s Country. You can only go as far as this creek but don’t go beyond that creek.

Well it’s in us because we are Wangkajunga tribe and our area is here [pointing at the sand map] and it’s Martu tribe here and you got another tribe here. And your tribe, you know how far your boundaries are.

It is right across Australia. There is too many tribes, right down to Tasmania.

Well some other tribes, some storyline or songline they cut through that tribe and through other tribes too. You know this songline comes from that area, through this area, cuts through and finishes in this mob area here.

That song itself will tell you. When they are singing a song, it’s a story, it will tell you how far it comes from this tribe to another tribe. And that is the good thing about all Western Desert people, it that we got the one songline that follows on. Even though we come from different parts of the Great Sandy Desert.

We still do that, practice that during our law time. Like the ladies got their own, you can’t interfere with women, men can’t.

That is why you gotta keep it [all that knowledge] in your head. You gotta know, because without that, what would you be? You would just be like a leaf blowing in the wind. You’d be nothing. That is why it is really important to learn from the old people, keep learning. Because, in our culture you don’t count yourself as a man, as a law man, until you know everything. Not half.

[Tom is asked how you become a law man.]

You can’t claim it for yourself, saying, ‘I’m a law man.’ You gotta go through everything to say it. Then the old people gotta go, ‘you’re right, you’ve finished your thing’. Not on your own, they gotta say it. You gotta finish your culture to be how they are. You can be fifty or forty to be a law man, could be eighty. Not twenty or thirty. Not until they say you are one.

[Time code: 32.20]

Some sacred stuff when you keep coming you get taught the real stuff. It gets harder and harder.
Even coming here, to a place like this you are learning. THE COUNTRY IS TEACHING YOU. EVEN THE TREES CAN TEACH YOU.

You gotta cut away technology from your head. Leave the mobile phone and computer aside. And then you have gotta think about your home, for your culture. If you keep that in your mind, and think about what you want to be and how you want to be, without these other interruptions, you can make it in life.

Mobile phone won’t get you anywhere, technology won’t get you anywhere. But we have to use technology, everything is changing, the Country is changing. If you go back to Country, back out to the bush we need a GPS now to find our way back. Most of the old people are all gone now to show us the way through the Country. We need the technology now and then, but not all the time.

To live in this world now you need have both, you have to learn white man way and your own way to live in this world. Otherwise you will never survive.

Yeah I feel it [responsibility]. But looking at things now, how things are changing, you can feel it. And what’s happening to our mob you know, with alcohol and drugs, with rubbish things that are killing them slowly. And it is a big responsibility. Especially when you got kids like these mob here, you gotta be there for them, not for you. You gotta be there for the next mob coming up.

END
Video recording: 03_DAY_THREE
Source: CSROH_279_Putuparri_Tom_Lawford
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Putuparri Tom Lawford; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Murungkurr Terry Murray, Hayley Atkins, Doolmarria Louise Mengil

 

Murungkurr Terry Murray, Hayley Atkins, Doolmarria Louise Mengil - curating the Beijing send-off [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Murungkurr Terry Murray, Hayley Atkins, and Doolmarria Louise Mengil discuss the process of selecting works and curating the show for the Beijing send-off at the Perth Town Hall in 2008.

Date: 2008-06-13
Art centre(s): CSR Project, Martumili Artists
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_197_Murunkurr_Terry_Murray_Hayley_Atkins_Doolmarria_Louise_Mengil
Date: 2008-06-13
Location Recorded: William Street, Northbridge
Latitude/Longitude: -31.95/115.85

Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Access: Public
Full transcript: [Can you describe the process of how you selected the paintings?] Doolmarria Louise Mengil: First of all we went, all three if us, as well as Wally assisting us, go through a whole lot of paintings and picked out most of our star paintings, which are the strongest paintings within the show, and we managed to pick out twenty odd works I think it was. Then we decide how it was going to look on the wall as well as the story, how it would interact and how we were going to put it up. Have you got anything to add to that Terry or Hayley? [What happened during the day?] LM: As the mini-launch exhibition for Beijing? We got to see the paintings for the first time stretched and our job for that day was to actually set up the exhibition and to give sort of an insight to the Australians and what it’s going to look like over in Beijing. It was a very long day. [How did you work out how to hang the paintings?] Murungkurr Terry Murray: Yeah, Hayley and Louise and I were trying to figure out how to make it really strong and eye catching to the public, and how it’s going to be hanging in Beijing. So it was, yeah, all day yesterday trying to put the balance of work, you know, from the nine different art centre about twenty artists and three big collaborative works, so it was … yeah, the help of Wally assisting. And just trying to make it really strong, how it’s going to be hanging in Beijing. [Can you explain the snake?] TM: Oh like, what Wally was saying about you can’t have the small work and a medium sized work and a large work because you call it the wedge, wedgie … from our mentor and overall curator was giving us a bit of insight on trying to make every work balanced and trying to make the show large work, medium work … balance of work, how to. LM: Give the audience basically a rhythm to what the works … how they sit on the wall. The colour difference as well, I mean you’ve got some paintings which have really dark, dull colours but are also strong, and then you’ve got these beautiful bright pink and purple and stunning bright colours that really bounce at you, so you’re trying to … it was really, really hard, I mean we’re trying to put all these paintings to sit with each other and most of them were very colourful, but then we had to balance it out and also have a special rhythm to the wall so we didn’t have audience getting bored, and making sure that we didn’t have two paintings with the same story on the wall, so it was a long process. Hayley Atkins: And how the painting all sits together. [Was it a bit stressful? Was there tension between you?] TM: Well, every time I wanted to hang a work, the girls started to complain and they had to bring it down and we had to try and … and I was asking them first and saying, ‘oh well it’s up to you’, but I was just pulling works and trying to … you know when you look through the gallery space, the entrance, you had to have the balance of work and the outside wall had to have that even line of … strength of how the colours, you know Louise was saying, the colours and the storyline. But, yeah, it turned out alright and we had to show the peace [piece?]. LM: Oh Hayley and I were okay, we were pretty much laid back. But then, like, as the day got later and we didn’t have all the works in place, it was really, really hard, it was very stressful then, wasn’t it? And then ‘cause we had short time as well to go and get ready and come back, so it was more of really tension, concentrating a bit more and … I call it the backbreaking, it was really hard, but we managed, we got together and we managed to get through it and … it turned out to be a stunning little exhibition. [How did you feel when you first walk in?] LM: Relieved and overwhelmed. I don’t know how you guys felt bu t… I thought it was amazing and just to see what it looks like there, I mean it’s not even a quarter of what we’re going to really hang, so to see those paintings hang beautifully in a space where it wasn’t much of a space is going to be amazing in the National Museum of Canberra in 2010, with all the other art works. How do you guys feel? HA: I feel really happy ‘cause how we worked really hard and played with all the paintings and putting it all together, and trying our best to make it work out and stand out. It worked. TM: I was, yeah, really fulfilled that throughout this project we are working as curators as Louise and Hayley and I had to hang the works, and when the gallery space was full, you know like most of these organisations and a lot of other … BHP sponsor and a lot of Government sponsor and people who are coming to the exhibition, had said who hang the show, who was involved in it? Yeah, they were really surprised to see us coming from different organisations, different art backgrounds, and how the young curator team and they were really excited that we were involved … with the FORM team. And yeah, I was really pleased about all those work we were hanging, and really gave their own strength. But it, you know, it’s just a quarter of the works that are going to Beijing, but the next two years we are still working on the bigger picture of this Canning Stock Route. [Were you surprised at how they looked stretched?] LM: Not so surprised, more excited. I mean, we always knew that they were going to be a beautiful piece in the end, but just excited to see exactly what they were going to look like when they were stretched, and they looked stunning. And, I must say, the vibe that we had within the exhibition was awesome. I mean it was very hard in hanging the paintings and, not only we had assistance with Wally but we also had assistance with the paintings, the art works. I mean, if it wasn’t the art works that were so strong it would have been too hard to be able to hang something and being able to have some art work a bit stronger than the others sort of played it all out as well. [How did you feel talking to people? Listening to speeches?] TM: Well for me I was, yeah, I was relaxed and just … had a good time and, like … like the young curating team, what we were saying, and Wally speaking on behalf of FORM and the Canning Stock Route Project was really … really excited that, yeah, I’m part of the team. LM: I was happy and moved. By the speeches as well as just … just about everything, the vibes, the hang, but most of all the speeches put the icing on the cake basically. TM: And yeah, Hayley had to steal the show because … yeah, just standing in front of everyone and I was really … really praising her on because I was just … you know, Hayley and I and Louise we’re on the ground with all this nine art centre and coming from … coming from a different organisation and expressing what we do, like, on the ground and professionally in hanging all this work, it’s come a long way and we have to show that we are part of history and part of what we do in our profession. [Hayley, how did you come up with the speech? (They talk about it)] HA: As I was on this Canning Stock Route trip and I learn a lot of things from old people that was talking to me and telling me all these Dreamtime stories and … ‘cause I didn’t know, I don’t know what they was painting and I didn’t know anything really ... I was learning from them. And, learning how they survived in the desert and dancing and keeping their culture strong and I wanted to tell the audience about that, our background, Aboriginal people and how we related to that land. They painting stories about their great, great grandfather’s Country, their dreaming and keeping it strong and important to the younger generation, like us. I was happy to get up and talk for the whole nine art centres because we all in one talking about the canning stock route. [Talking about Hayley’s ‘one voice’ line] LM: Yeah, we all come together and have one big voice, carry one big voice. That was mind blowing, yeah, that was amazing. But you could tell it wasn’t a speech written up, you could tell it was deeper than that, it was something … you could tell her connection within the art centres, within the people and … it’s great that she was able to do it because there was no one else I’d rather actually … I would rather Hayley or Terry had the speech, I wouldn’t have wanted to do the speech ‘cause I’m actually learning from these two as well to how their traditional old people lived on their Country, it’s completely different to my background and it is great that she got up and spoke. It shows where she’s coming from. [Terry talking about the team and Beijing] LM: Watch out Beijing. TM: I like to say something. How the curating team and the camera crew team, I think it’s started to get stronger throughout from last year to 2010, to where the bigger picture’s gonna be even more stronger in our minds and our hearts are going to grow with this project and it’s going to be mind-blowing. And the Beijing Olympics is just a … LM: Tip of an iceberg TM: A little piece of the puzzle that’s going to bring wider audience to the bigger picture, but it is gonna be, history’s gonna speak for itself and the team is gonna get more stronger. And everybody else is gonna shout! LM: Actually there is one more thing terry, we didn’t acknowledge Tom [Putuparri Tom Lawford], he also assisted us. I mean, not all of us knew stories about each paintings and he assisted us with putting labels up to the right paintings, so that was the most important part as well. So thank you Tom. HA: And thanks everybody. END
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: Tape 37
Source: CSROH_197_Murunkurr_Terry_Murray_Hayley_Atkins_Doolmarria_Louise_Mengil
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Murungkurr Terry Murray, Hayley Atkins, Doolmarria Louise Mengil; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Wally Caruana

Wally Caruana - art galleries and museums [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Wally Caruana speaks about the historical divide between art galleries and museums and the different ways this divide has impacted on the reception and understanding of Aboriginal art. He also talks about the approach that the emerging curators in the project have taken.

Date: 2008-06-13
Art centre(s): CSR Project
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_200_Wally_Caruana
Date: 2008-06-13
Location Recorded: William Street, Northbridge
Latitude/Longitude: -31.95/115.85

Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Access: Public
Full transcript: [Talking about the difference between art galleries and museums]

I suppose what’s really interesting about this project, and we spoke about it on previous occasions even on tape, is that in Australia still and in many parts of the world, there is this …

[Noise interruptions]

In the course of art history, if you like, or museum history, the way things have developed in Australia and overseas, is there always seems to be a conflict between the art museum or the art gallery and the museum, in so much as what they collect but also in the way that they display things to the public. And this is very much I guess … it’s got a very historical basis, especially in terms of Aboriginal art and Aboriginal objects. Traditionally, the way things developed in the Western world, the art gallery was a place for ‘fine art’ paintings and sculpture, where as the museum was a place where ethnographic objects were collected and displayed. And that’s got a lot to do with the whole notion of colonialism and the fact that things were brought back as trophies of other cultures. In the course of time attitudes have changed a little bit, but even now, like two hundred years after the first public museums were opened, even in Australia there’s still this discourse between what should go into an Art Gallery and what should go into a Museum – and by museum we mean a museum of social and cultural history, we’re not talking about museums of plants and animals and things like that. So there’s this debate about what comes first, the object or the narrative, what’s most important?

Now traditionally in Western art, pictures are exhibited, and have been for a long time, with just minimal information beside them on the wall. In other words you would have the artist’s name, their birth and death date, perhaps what country they came from, the title of the work, the date it was made and the materials from which it was made. Now, when people started to exhibit, in the late 20th century, especially when people started to exhibit Aboriginal art, this debate started to rage whether you needed to describe the works on the walls or whether that simple very brief description was enough. What people tended to forget was that traditionally, again in the Western model, people would, through their education, we’re talking about Western Europe, people who grew up with art around them, down the street there’d be religious statues and in the churches that they’d go to would be paintings, their history and their art is intertwined – and people grew up knowing about the history of these things, as they do in other cultures, especially in Asia. So when they come to an art gallery there’s really, traditionally, been very little need to have further explanations because people come with a certain amount of knowledge. Now when you place Aboriginal art into the same context as the Art Gallery, you’ll have an audience, a non-Aboriginal audience, that’s coming through and that doesn’t understand the background to these works. So in a sense in that way you can’t really present them in the same way, if you want to achieve the same level of understanding. So one of the challenges that people in museums face is how do you get that information across … in art galleries rather, how you can get that information across, but also how did you get that across but still retain the primacy of the work of art. In other words, paintings, works of art and this, particularly relevant to this project because there are so many narratives, so many stories, so many oral histories etc.

But a work of art is not merely an illustration of these things, it’s also got a life of its own. And also that people have an experience of going to a work of art, it’s not like looking at an illustration in a book, the physical presence is very important. And that has a lot to do with, traditionally European nations but also traditionally Indigenous nations, and I’ll explain it this way, that a work of art actually makes you feel things that you can’t experience any other way. For example, in the Western world we’re very much accustomed to listening to music and feeling emotion from music, even if it’s music without words, if it’s abstract music so to speak. But we find that more difficult to do with pictures because we’ve lost the ability, or we haven’t been trained to have the ability, to actually respond to paintings in that sort of abstract way. Now, in traditional Indigenous art as well what these paintings, especially say in this exhibition, are about is surely they’re about the ancestral narratives and in this case they’re about the Canning Stock Route and more recent histories and that sort of thing, but it comes back down to this notion of what is it that the paintings do beyond illustrating all that. And a lot of this has to do with that physical sensation, in other words artists in many cases are celebrating their ancestral country, their lands, and they want to express this notion that the land is full of the power of the ancestors. Now how do you paint the power of the ancestors, what sort of formula do you use?

Ok, this sort of thing has been, I suppose, a problem for artists in every culture throughout time. In Christian art for example, in the history of Christian art, how did artists express the grace of God? And they found various solutions to do that, in Western art for example, in Christian art the use of gold leaf was predominant, especially in medieval times, because it gave you a surface that was shiny, that was reflective, that was animated, it wasn’t just flat paint on a flat surface. So it started to move out of the two dimensions of the picture and produce a different sort of effect, and it’s exactly the same sort of effect that you’ll see in a lot of the paintings in this exhibition you see in a lot of Indigenous work, where you get exciting visual surfaces – which take you away from that … you forget that it’s just paint on canvas, or ochre on bark, it’s now become something else. So you’re taking people into another dimension. So that, in a sense, explains the necessity to see the original work of art, to actually get the full experience and to treat it as something more than just an illustration.

But that whole history of how Indigenous art has been viewed and received in the West, and exhibited, it’s an ongoing process. Until the end of the 19th century, really as far as Australia was concerned, in fact some of the early explorers wrote that Indigenous people were such poor people that they were people without art, which of course they were failing to see a lot of things that actually existed. By the end of the 19th century people were collecting Aboriginal artefacts as ethnographic examples of the way … of people’s material culture, the things that they made and used to survive in the world. They had very little understanding, although that was the beginning of investigation and research into the fact that notions of Aboriginal spirituality and thinking beyond the mundane and looking at examples of how this is expressed – other than just the obvious ones like dance and ceremony and song etcetera. And it was a bit difficult to collect body paintings, it’s also very difficult to collect ground paintings, but these things began to be recorded around the turn of the century. By the early 20th century we had the first official collections of Aboriginal art as art. And one of the prime movers in Australia was an anthropologist called Baldwin Spencer in Melbourne who went to West Arnhem land in about 1911, 1912 and started putting together collections of bark paintings. Where he actually paid the artists for their work, which 100 years ago was pretty phenomenal, and then eventually in 1927 had an exhibition of Aboriginal art at the Museum of Victoria.

So this was the beginnings of looking at Aboriginal work as art, still there was a lot of controversy, I mean people in hindsight, and that can be a bit difficult too, saying, ‘well, why is it in the museum and not in the art gallery, not in the National Gallery of Victoria?’, and even at that time people were already talking about this thing, ‘well if it’s art it should be in the gallery’. Over the following decades there was more art being collected and produced, and it was collected mostly by anthropologists in museums; now that sort of makes sense too because it was the anthropologists really, apart from the missionaries, who had the most contact with Indigenous people, especially in what we call remote parts of Australia. So there was a tradition of Aboriginal art going into museums of Social and Cultural History. That all began to change after the Second World War. People like the anthropologist Ronald Catherine Byrne from here in Perth were doing field work in the desert, up at Balgo, up at Yukala and Arnham Land, and they were collecting things, and in fact in 1957 they put together the first exhibition of Aboriginal art here in Perth, where the artists were actually named, their biographies were given, their clans were given, their kinship associations were all recorded. So these people were treated as individuals as artists and it wasn’t … and this is another myth, this notion that everything has to be so communal that, in Aboriginal society, that the individual disappears.

A few years later at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the Deputy Director, a guy called Tony Tuxon, who was also actually a practicing artist as well, through the help of a benefactor called Stuart Scugel, went to Arnhem Land in the top end and started to collect art for the art gallery. So that was the first time there was a concerted effort to look at Aboriginal art as art and collect it for an art museum within this country. But really it wasn’t until the 1980s and this gradual, what became actually a very rapid interest in Aboriginal art by the public and by galleries and museums, that Aboriginal art began to be collected by the art institutions. And now, just about every public institution in Australia collects Aboriginal art as art, but you know the museums still collect it to, but they’re looking at it from different perspectives, which is reasonable, but you can imagine there’s a lot of crossover.

In my experience, I remember going back twenty odd years ago, that the two people who knew about Aboriginal art by then were the anthropologists and the art historians, but try and get them in the same room and that was impossible, that’s all changed thank goodness and people realise that a lot of these barriers are quite artificial because, in a sense, people are looking at Aboriginal art as being one dimensional, in other words, is it art or is it anthropology? Well it’s actually a lot of things, and more besides, and you can look at it in various contexts. So therefore with this project, one of the beauties of this, we’ve got the opportunity of addressing that debate. I’m not sure how it’s going to resolve itself at this stage, but it’s important that we understand that, what the history of how work like this has been treated and exhibited before. And look forward to coming to solutions that cross over those boundaries and I think we’re all committed to do that and it’s important that this becomes an essential part of the final project.

[Talking about an exhibition with no painting information]

But in some ways you think that’s such a beautiful way of showing work. And in fact there are exhibitions, and I’ve seen and even worked on exhibitions where you actually present the work that way, but you … there are certain things that … it all depends on context. For example, if that was an exhibition of a single artist’s work it’s a lot easier to do that sort of thing. In other words, what we’re looking at were paintings on the walls with no information whatsoever around them but they looked pristine, you could contemplate the works very easily, you were drawn to them and you felt a certain piece in being able to appreciate what you were looking at. And in some ways you often want to achieve that sort of effect, but you can do it in a number of various means, I mean there are exhibitions where for example you would have a list of the works, on a typed list or a sheet that you’d take with you, or a little pamphlet, so you don’t need that information on the walls because you’ve got it in your hand as you walk around. Sometimes people will put numbers on the skirting board on the bottom of the wall so you can match it up to your list and you know exactly … all the information is there and it’s not detracting visually from your experience and interaction with the actual work and I think that actually works quite well. And I’m not suggesting that this will be the solution in our case, although you never know.

[Tom was saying that he felt great about his name going overseas]

Yeah well I think that’s a great reaction because again it takes away from this notion of anonymity. Look, there’s this, even though we’ve … non-Aboriginal people have got to know Aboriginal society fairly well, to some degree, I mean there’s a long way to go obviously, but there’s still this popular belief that everything that Aboriginal people do has to be so communal that the individual is not important. Which seems unnatural. We are all individuals and we’re all social people too. And you behave in different ways in different circumstances. I mean you show me an Indigenous dancer at a ceremony who doesn’t want to show off how good they are. We’re all human after all. And isn’t it the same with artists, with painters. So, yeah. The two things aren’t in opposition at all, you behave individually, you behave socially and sometimes you do both at once.

[What was your experience yesterday?]

Yeah, I suppose this is, in some ways, it’s one of the high points in a project of this sort. You do all the leg work you’ve collected 200 canvases, you’ve sorted, you’ve discussed, you’ve analysed. A group of people working along such a long and incredibly interesting process, but that’s one of the first highlights, when you actually take them off the floor literally and have them displayed in such a way that they look … you’re doing the works physical justice, you’re giving them … well, close to proper lighting which we had yesterday, close to pristine walls, not quite. But it’s that experience of actually, suddenly you’re elevating them from something that’s … they actually don’t change, it’s your attitude towards them that changes, you know. They’re always as great as always, if you turn off the lights in a room the pictures are still great. But it’s this thing of just presenting them in such a way that this is where they’re going to be doing their work, in other words expressing things to the public, to other people. And just to be able to get to that stage and see the first of the paintings properly stretched, properly hung, properly lit, they glow, and the glow’s always been there, it’s just that you’ve done the right thing by the pictures. And that was I think a valuable exercise in this whole process because of course we’re going to be doing it on a grander scale with four times the number of works and grander spaces, bigger spaces. And because of the tour, it’s not going to be one space, it’s going to be a number of different spaces.

In the coming stages of the project we’ll be looking at the design of the exhibition, we’ll be looking at the themes that are going to run through the show and how we’re going to align the works with the themes so to express them to their fullest degree. But I think it was important simply firstly just to see the pictures up on a wall with air around them so you could look at them, from our curator’s point of view especially, to actually appreciate what it is that your working with. But one of the real interesting things that I saw, that I noticed last night at the reception, what there were two hundred people walking around there, not a lot but quite a number of the people who were there last night had at some stage seen some of the canvases, either here or in the other venues we’ve worked in as we’ve gone through the project. But they’d seen them unstretched lying on the ground, and you could see that they were walking around thinking ‘hmmm, oh yeah’ but that weren’t actually 100 per cent convinced that these were great works of art. And those very same people, when they saw them on the walls last night, were incredibly effusive about what brilliant things these were, and they’re looking at the same things. But it only goes to show that the presentation is paramount in getting people excited, interested, and once you do get people interested and excited, then you can start to get messages across.

[Is their way of looking at the paintings different? (The young curators)]

Well I suppose there are a number of things. Yes, everyone’s background is different anyway and you have your own personal experiences that train your eye, because as a curator that’s what a large part of your job is, or the training and the process is to get your eye. In fact people talk about having a good eye or a bad eye and that doesn’t mean that you can’t see properly or you need glasses, it’s being able to appreciate works of art. So everyone’s got their own personal journey to get to developing their particular eye, but of course it’s not just a matter of another culture, it’s also your particular environment and your own education and history. So everyone, even in this particular case, I mean, Hayley, Louise, Terry, they bring not only their cultural eye but their own personal eye from what they’ve experienced. But what I’ve found fascinating about this process is, and we’ve done that right from the very beginning, despite the wealth of information that we’re dealing with here we’ve always gone back to looking at the pictures as paintings and talking about them as powerful pictures, why things work, why … so in a sense talking in the abstract but about the aesthetics of the work. And suddenly you find that in fact a lot of the language and the ideas that you’re talking about are identical, there is a whole lot of overlap. So it really is a reflection of a human condition, this is where as human beings we are actually able to … we do share a lot in common, even though histories, experiences, all sorts of things are very different, you come down to the essence of things. And I’m not musical, but I think with music you can do the same sort of things when you start talking about tone and pitch and sound and all that sort of thing. You’re taking away all the narrative in a sense and your looking at the elements which go to making a work of art.

[Overall, how did they do with their first hanging?]

Out of ten? Hehehe. I thought it looked great last night. I though the installation, and it was their choosing … Well we’d already selected the works that were intended to go to Beijing, but… and we did that at the last curatorial meeting, earlier this year, two months ago, whenever it was. But the actual installation, the decisions where pictures went on the walls and how they were hung, was theirs. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, I mean there were things there that you look for in exhibitions, there were rhythms, there was excitement, there was surprises. Each of the artists was done justice by the way their work was hung, there was no one hidden around the corner or anything like that. For me the proof in the pudding was the public reaction to it last night, people were … we could have sold a whole collection last night, people were so enthusiastic. And you know, in a sense, I suppose the essential thing about that hang too last night, and I think this is one of the things I think is important to all exhibition design if you like, you want to make the installation look really natural, like it falls into … this is the only way you could hang it, it falls into place really and it looks clean and simple. And you think, yeah, it’s rational, it makes sense that this picture’s here and that one’s opposite it and that one’s there. But to get to that pure essence of clarity, and it’s clarity, because you don’t want to put too many obstacles between the viewer and the work and the experience of the exhibition, you want to make that experience as immediate as possible, so you need clarity in the way you display things. The hardest thing is achieving that clarity. You do a lot of work to get to the most simple solution. And in fact quite often you’ll see really badly installed exhibitions that are just full of stuff, to the point they become confusing and you’ve put obstacles between the viewer and the work. Is that okay Clint? KJ? Can I sneeze now?

END
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: Tape 37
Source: CSROH_200_Wally_Caruana
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Wally Caruana; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Clint Dixon

Clint Dixon - curators' meeting interview [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Clint Dixon talks about seeing the exhibition for the first time, and going out in Perth afterwards.

Date: 2008-06-13
Art centre(s): CSR Project
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_184_Clint_Dixon
Date: 2008-06-13
Location Recorded: William Street, Northbridge
Latitude/Longitude: -31.95/115.85

Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Access: Public
Full transcript: KJ Kenneth Martin: When are you going to get a haircut?

Clint Dixon: I don’t know. Sometime maybe next week. Yeah, try to dye my hair too.

KM: How was your week?

CD: Yeah it’s very good, pretty cold but I think I’m adapting to it. I think, yeah. Yeah it’s pretty good, good to see everyone again.

KM: Was this time as fun as last time?

CD: I think it’s just the same, yeah same things. As I said, get to know everybody again. Back working, I think we had lots more dinner out this time, thanks to Carly and the Form crew. Yeah, I guess, then KJ and Thomas joined the crew this time, made it much better, more boys than two separate boys and girls.

KM: There weren’t as many boys last time?

CD: Nah, it was only me and Terry. Yeah.

KM: So do you mean it was more fun this time, with more boys?

CD: Yeah, you could say that.

KM: What was your most fun part?

CD: My most fun part would be the four of us going out, no plans, just go to a bar, a few drinks from there go dancing. We were supposed to look for a pool table to play pool but we ended up going to a pub, or nightclub or something like that, just down the road from the Ibis Hotel. There was no pool table so we ended up taking over the dance floor, well not me, there was a big tall fella, I forgot his name. Nah, I can’t name drop. So, yeah he just took over the dance floor all night.

KM: Would you like to give us an action replay of KJ's dancing?

CD: No room here. Need a bigger floor. Nah, it’s alright, probably next time.

KM: Did you get any girls phone numbers?

CD: Nah, nothing. Nothing. I think I was just too happy dancing, I was running amuck dancing. Good music, good beat. Yeah, someone pulled out the ‘plane’ move, I think it’s the plan, someone the ‘sprinkler’ or something and I think I tried doing the John Travolta move, but I think it didn’t work out. Maybe I need more practice. We should have a little dance off. Just bring it, we’ll all bring it.

KM: How did you feel about the launch yesterday?

CD: Yeah, after watching all the paintings we laid out at the last curator meeting we had, for the first time we finally saw it straightened out and yeah it looks amazing. And yeah, just like to congratulate all the curators for putting up the show last night, worked real hard right through the week in choosing works to put up, like, their own design and how to match what walls, like make it all even. I think what they did is got four of their best, put it on each wall and from there the rest they just tacked, put pieces together, didn’t work so they put another one there, and started like that. It was a good turnout last night and … yeah, I didn’t expect it to be like that. I was really excited and amazed at how the … is it gallery? What do you call it? The show? ... The launch, yeah, for the Beijing Olympics. Yeah, it was actually my first show that I’ve been to, arts show. So, yeah, especially seeing from up above the layout and design of how they got the three big paintings in the middle and all the rest of the paintings on the sides. And, yeah, I enjoyed it. Very proud of them for what they’ve done, um, how they sorted it out, worked together and got it all done and yeah. It was a good relief for them as well since …

KM: Any girls there?

CD: There was plenty, plenty There was a lot. I was on the camera so I was keeping watch up top, top of the stage. I think one of my mates KJ was walking around, roving, so a pretty good chance … a lucky guy he is.

KM: What was the highlight of last night?

CD: I just … it was just amazing. Brilliant. It was beautiful.

KM: Are you going to do anything tonight?

CD: I was thinking about going, there are two places … thinking of going to the casino, see what everyone else is up to, but if they don’t want to go to the casino, I think I’ll have to go my own way and probably look at the pole dancers. Only my mates was dancing the pole, that’s not enough fun for me. It’s coming close to the week so I’ve gotta bring my camera out, taken some home.

KM: What's the difference between here and Broome?

CD: More ladies.

KM: So you’re flirting?

CD: I don’t know how to flirt? How do you flirt? What’s a player?

KM: What else? (Difference between Perth and Broome)

CD: Oh just good coming down here, getting out of home for a while. Good to see you all again, like I said, makes me laugh, happy, back with you after a while not seeing you guys. KFC again, another one. I don’t get much KFC. Yes, it’s being back with the crew again I guess.

KM: How do you feel about the project going on for another two years?

CD: Yeah excited, happy, more wanted. Yeah more work, get more experience. Yeah, just learn lots. For me, this project, yeah I’m really excited. Just get more experience out of it, met lots of new people on the way this trip around, just to do with the museums and curators and stuff like that. Yeah and … what I say again?

KM: Are you interested in making a film?

CD: Yeah, I’m interested in doing more documentaries. Just been asking Nikki Ma on some more tips on documentaries, how should I go about it and how can I plan it and do research and stuff like that. Yeah I’m leaning towards more on the documentary side now, that I’ve been working with Form for this project, the Canning Stock Route. Yeah, just more on documentaries and this project’s going two more years, yeah, really excited. Going to stick with it right to the end, yeah, so once I start a project I like to finish a project.

END
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: Tape 35
Source: CSROH_184_Clint_Dixon
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Clint Dixon; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Name: Wally Caruana

Wally Caruana - Being a mentor on the project [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: Wally Caruana speaks about becoming involved in the Canning Stock Route Project, his favourite painting, and the project's biggest challenges. He talks about his role in the project as a mentor and how it is important to give back to communities. Wally also discusses the process of choosing works for the exhibition, and the way everybody brings their own perspective and responsibility to their families and community.

Date: 2008-04-12
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_199_Wally_Caruana
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Latitude/Longitude: -31.98/115.8

Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Access: Public
Full transcript: Clint Dixon: So this the second curators meeting?

Wally Caruana: That’s right yeah. And the one we had the middle of last year, which we actually held at the Western Australian Museum stores, which is where the paintings are being kept. But this one’s … this one’s actually been much better because we had a wonderful space to work in, which meant that we could actually lay out the exhibition on the floor of the theatre and through a number of little strategies we’re actually able to logically lay it out – so everyone working on the project, especially the curators, can see how all the pictures fit in together, how they relate to each other. So we started off by actually drawing a map, well Terry did, a map of the Canning Stock Route on a piece of butcher’s paper which runs the whole length of the theatre, and on that we marked out each of the wells, starting from one to fifty-one. And the next the next thing we did was actually place, along that piece of paper next to each of the wells which it related to, all of the documentation, or a list of the documentation that we already had for each place. And on the other side we started putting little thumbnail photographs of all the pictures that relate to each well, having done that we then started to … well, early in the week, we started bringing out the paintings themselves and lining them up either side of that map.

So we started off with what 180 or 170 paintings, so they were actually overlapping each other quite a bit, but you could see right from the very beginning that there was a sort of logic in the way the paintings went together, you could see related styles or related artists coming through around one particular water hole, one particular well, or whatever. Once we started going through, in the middle of the week and selecting the works for the exhibition, it was sort of like the first cut but nowhere near the final one, it meant that we started taking things out from the show itself. So these were works that either may be reproduced in the catalogue or the book, which accompanies the exhibition, or they may not actually appear anywhere – however it’s important to record and keep all of those things because they’re part of the larger collection, which in fact is sum total of the curatorial part of this project. So we ended up with something like 75 paintings which were left for inclusion in the exhibition and just seeing those 75 on the floor, they began to make a lot of sense. And, I suppose, a lot’s come out of that in terms of all of us knowing exactly where things fit in the overall big picture and also thinking about visualising the exhibition, about how it will all hang on the walls when we eventually get to that stage.

CD: How has it been working with Terry, Louise and Hayley?

WC: Yeah, I think that … see, even though I’m meant to be mentoring them, and I hope I am to a degree, when you’re working with people it’s always an exchange of ideas and you find that you actually learn from people, whoever it is that you’re working with – especially in a situation like this where we’ve got so much in common and where we talk about, in fact, what it is that we’re trying to achieve by working on this project. And every individual brings their perspective to it and everyone’s got their own view of how this project’s going to work.

But also, there’s this wonderful dialogue between the three of them, and I participate in that of course, to tease out ideas about the show – and some of them are real technical things or detailed things, others are the broader picture, we talk about how things may hang together and how we can make contrasts and rhythms in the exhibition, how we can tell particular stories through the pictures etcetera. But, as I say, everyone brings their own ideas to it and I tell you what, they’re not short of ideas. But one of the, I think, unifying and driving forces for each of those three people is that they feel this real sense of responsibility to their communities and their families, in the sense that most of them come from artistic families anyway and they see their role in all of that as being able to be in a position to actually look after their artists’ needs within the community, their family artists’ needs, their family’s needs and to be able to deal with their work, and perhaps help them and guide them with directions so that they can further their careers – especially in the art world, beyond the communities. And I find that’s such a wonderful driving force, this is why these guys are here, and it’s just wonderful to be able to, personally, to be able to participate in that whole process.

CD: What's your role?

WC: Well my role is as a mentor to the curators. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many years, in fact more than two decades of experience working in art museums and working with art, in fact I started working with art some thirty-eight years ago in a sort of professional capacity. And I’ve always felt too that when one accumulates knowledge, as I’ve been lucky enough to do, that one has always got to give back to the community – you know, whether it’s black artists or white artists it doesn’t really matter in a sense, but you do have an obligation.

I mean, I’ve been very privileged to work in the jobs I’ve worked in, I’ve been extraordinarily privileged to meet all sorts of wonderful people right across the Country, to visit places which very few white people have ever been to, to be taught about Aboriginal cultural and society and to be taught about Aboriginal art from the artists themselves. That sort of knowledge is fine for an individual and personal thing but you want to be able to pass that onto future generations, the younger generations. And it’s not, I hope, a selfish thing, because really you can teach people about things, but really what you want to do is to help them make their own decisions, so you just provide them with the tools by which they can go out and work things out for themselves, rather than like being at school and being told this is the two times table and memorise it.

CD: How did you get involved with the CSR project?

WC: I suppose basically it came through my association with Carly Davenport, because we worked together at the National Gallery of Canberra more than ten years ago. And, we worked on a couple of projects together there, once … when Carly left the gallery and eventually I did too. We also crossed paths when she was on Melville Island, working as an art coordinator. So we’ve always sort of kept in touch … and, then I was lucky enough to be invited by her to participate in the project, and I must say that I … I told her I’d ring her back, but I think it only took a couple of minutes before I did.

CD: How is the project going now?

WC: I actually think it’s going brilliantly. I think it’s one of those wonderful projects where you’re constantly learning about the subject that you’re actually dealing with, I mean, we’re not experts in anything really, in one sense, and our role here is to help present the stories that the artists want to present – both visually and orally. There are so many facets about the project which are really exciting and which, you know, demand your attention. I have to think to myself what would I prefer to be doing right now and I can’t think of anything else, other than doing this project.

There are a number of things which are really exciting. I mean, there are a number of art centres in the project or artists who I’ve known for a number of years, or known their work for many years, although there’s also a whole lot of new art centres that are involved in the Canning Stock Route show, and consequently a lot of new artists as well, or at least new to me. So I find it fascinating to look at their work. But what’s really coming out … one of the things that’s coming out of the project is that we’re beginning to realise, in fact, there’s the whole art history, there are a lot of other things too of course, but from the curatorial point of view there’s a whole art history about this part of the Country, running along the nine communities up and down the stock route, which has not really been studied before, and when you think that over the last twenty years, over the last twenty to thirty years, Aboriginal art becomes so popular, not only in Australia but overseas, so many exhibitions have happened and so many books have been written etcetera. As a result of all of that we know very well the story and the art of Arnham Land and the history of it there, we know the history and the art of the desert, and in more recent years we’ve learnt the history and the art of the Kimberly, but by and large, with a few exceptions, but by and large this part of the Country, the art history has been totally … well, no one knew it existed really. So what we find ourselves doing, as part of this project, is actually trying to piece together that art history – where artists fit in, where the styles relate and how they developed, and of course this is inseparable from the actual human movement of people up and down the stock route, which is part of the historical aspect of the project. And it’s all beginning to make sense, we haven’t resolved it yet and I don’t know whether you ever will, but at least you can … it is the possibility to study the art of this area in a new way – and I think that’s really exciting.

CD: Can you explain about the Olympics?

WC: Yes, that’s right. Well, this is, as far as I know, an initiative of the major sponsors BHP. And to actually have a showcase at the Olympics in Beijing, I don’t know exactly how this works but apparently each Country is invited to take a stall, and which is basically because it’s a huge expo of sorts – so countries can decide what it is, it may not be art, it may be … well it could be anything. But, it seems that BHP want a presence there and they want to illustrate or showcase their presence through this very project. What it means to the project itself, and to the artists particularly and the art community and the art centres they come from, is pretty fantastic. I mean, they’re going to be selecting … and it’s only a taste, it’s only going to be a small number of works because of space and cost limitations. But none the less we’re going to represent each of the art centres who are taking part in the project and within a group of works, perhaps twelve, fourteen works, which we’re actually working on right now … and it’ll be a showcase which will be seen by, from what we’re told, four-hundred thousand people. So that’s pretty good international exposure for a start. And … that’s not an end in itself, I mean that’s only a means to an end I think, and if we can start to get the messages across about this particular, but more importantly perhaps art from this region, across the world, I think we’ll be doing good for all the communities and art centres.

CD: What do you look for when choosing paintings?

WC: Now this is a huge curatorial question, yeah. Where do you start and where do you end? You never … you measure, I suppose, the importance of pictures by a number of different criteria. And especially in a project like this, which in a sense is wonderful because it brings in so many different things, in that you’ve got the styles of painting from a particular area or that of a particular artist at their individual hand. You’ve got … and again they work in the traditions which are millennia old, you’ve got that whole ancestral realm that’s referred to in the paintings themselves – because these aren’t just landscape pictures without any reference to the origins of law and culture. And then you’ve got, overlaying that sort of ancestral history, you’ve got the more recent history of the Canning Stock Route and its effect on Aboriginal people up and down that route. So you’ve got … and they’re only three of the basic layers that form part of the total mix.

It’s important in a project like this to be able to tell a story through the pictures, but again it’s like with any good art, the stories or the interpretation of the pictures actually depends on a lot of other things that you need to know. If you want to look at Renaissance paintings in Europe, you could say yes it’s a pretty picture, great composition, lovely line, great colour and stuff like that, you know, appreciate something aesthetically, but when you know the history and the time it happened, you understand the politics and what was going on, why people were depicted the way they are, you start to delve into all these sorts of deeper levels of understanding – and it’s exactly the same with an exhibition of this nature. However, we’re also dealing with art, so it is important to select works primarily for their artistic qualities, their artistic and aesthetic merit. Because in the end, if you have an exhibition with second-rate pictures, no matter how great the stories are, not many people will be interested. But if you do have a great visual exhibition, a great visual experience and an aesthetic experience, then it becomes a lot easier for people to actually delve into the stories behind what they’re looking at – and I think that’s incredibly important.

Our problem is that we’ve got so many good paintings that it’s very difficult, it is actually difficult, and it’s a nice position to be in, to decide what to leave out rather than what to actually put in. But, you have to look at … there are so many qualities, and if you look at paintings as paintings, and one of the wonderful things about this whole mentorship process, is that with Hayley and Louise and Terry we’ve had time, both this week and the last time we got together, to actually talk about the pictures as art. Not what Country they represent, not about the stories that they’re telling whatever, but just to look at them from an aesthetic point of view only, and the discussions have been pretty lively and these guys are incredibly articulate when it comes to talking about it, which is a lovely thing to see happen. You think, well, with talent like that, you really need to nurture it, these people will go places.

But, when you see the exhibition, you can see there’s a whole range of different styles and different approaches to painting, but there are a number of things that you find in common with pictures, and that is things that actually, in some sense, give you actually an experience which you can hardly put into words and that’s why you paint it, you know. If you could just say the story better than you can paint it, well then just tell the story. But there are things, I think … you know, the basic qualities, the brush marks, the colour, the sensitivity that the artist brings to actually applying paint to canvas, creating a surface which is visually exciting or interesting or reflects moods, if you like, and emotions, and all these things come out in these paintings. And one of the underlying things that goes right across the exhibition, however, is this notion of … there’s a sense of light, in other words, not like this in terms of colour but light in terms of knowledge. If you talk about different cultures and talk about spirituality where people are always talking about light representing knowledge, and of course in Indigenous culture knowledge is one of the most important things that you can possess. And you get the feeling, by looking at some of the great works in this collection, that it is there and there’s that forcefulness, that understanding of the world and interpretation and knowledge of it.

By the same token, and this is not a criticism of it at all, I think its also a strength of the project, but we’ve got various generations of artists. We’ve got artists like Eubena and Tommy May and Stumpy Brown, and a number of others who are actually really well known and have been practicing in the public domain for many years. But we’ve also got the young up and coming and emerging artists in the collection, and I think this is an important part of the process of this project itself, that you can see the different generations in one go if you like and all working in the same context. And I think that’s the foundation for whatever these artists in their communities and their art centres do in the future.

CD: Can you tell me about the three young curators?

WC: Well … Well, they all come from, well they all come from communities, so each of them has a slightly different background. And really, it’s hard to say where they’re going to end up, but I really believe that, well, for a start they do have the potential, but even now I think they’ve got the ability to work … to contribute into the art centres from where they come – in terms of, as I said, best serving the careers of those artists in that community and their families. But I’ve got no doubt that if they were to pursue this profession that there’s no reason why they couldn’t work in the big cities and in the larger museums in Australia – they’re quite capable. And I suppose, in a sense I mean, you can never tell people what to do or predict what they’re going to do, but hopefully the experience of this project will make them realise that they actually have opportunities to go on to do bigger and better things, or just bigger things, not necessarily better.

CD: Why have you chosen the painting behind you?

WC: It’s Cory Surprise from Mangkaja Arts in Fitzroy Crossing. I think it’s one of the strong pictures in the collection and I suppose one of the reasons I selected it was because the … well partly the theme, the major underlying theme of the project is the water holes, the wells along the Canning Stock Route and the history of what happened with them and how people treated them and all that. But … and this is an integral part of the story and the exhibition, it’s also represented in … throughout the show and the paintings themselves and particularly this one … this notion that people’s identity is totally connected to the land, to the Country, it’s expressed in various ways and one of the ways people express that is through the notion of major water holes on their land, their sacred water holes. And on the one level fresh water is the source of all life, on the physical sense, but it’s also getting back to the idea of light that I was talking about before, it’s also the source of nourishment spiritually. And as people believe that the souls of the unborn clan members, or tribal members, actually live in the water hole, and when people die part of their soul goes back to that, there’s this intrinsic link between the individual and that water hole – which in fact is the beginning and the point of describing your identity as an individual, as a communal person, as a family person, as a ritual person as also as an artist. And I think this is one of those lovely things that runs throughout the exhibition and I selected that because this painting … I love it.

CD: What's the greatest challenge that faces the project?

WC: There are a number of challenges and if there weren’t challenges then these projects aren’t worth doing. There are a lot of challenges on a very basic level, in the sense of the physical level of putting together and making sense out of such a large group of works that we started off with and, you know, the hours and hours of oral history that have been recorded and the filming and footage that you guys have taken and putting it together into one coherent whole. And in a sense the real challenge there is you want people to come and see this exhibition, but feel like they’ve actually had an experience, and that experience happens on a number of levels, that they’ve learnt more about the history of this part of the Country, and this is Australian history not just Indigenous history. You want people to come away with the experience of, you know, having seen breathtaking paintings and works of art. Yeah. And it is a challenge to be able to do that in a very sophisticated way, but in a way that is totally accessible to people, and you look at the audience during an exhibition like this and we’re going from primary school children to tertiary students, you know, we’re looking at the broader community, we’re looking at people who are interested in Aboriginal art, we’re looking at people who are interested in history generally and all that. But the challenge is for people to go through this exhibition and when they’re coming out of it at the other end, as it were, they’re much better informed, much… I don’t know, derived some satisfaction. It’s not going to change people’s lives, well it will for some, but that they are in fact much more enlightened in that sense.

But there is another challenge, and it’s a bit of a personal one for me, which is part and parcel of what we’re doing to. In Australia especially, and this applies right across the world, at least in the Western world. There has been this distinction between what art goes into a Museum of Art and what art goes into a Museum of Anthropology or Social or Cultural History, and … it’s hardly unexpected, but so far the institutions that have been interested in hosting this exhibition have been museums of Social and Cultural History – and not the fine art museums themselves. I think that argument is a little bit outdated and I’m hoping that, no matter where this show ends up, that it actually will go a long way to breaking down that division, that you can have both, in fact you can have a lot of things at once. You’ve got great fine art but you’ve also got wonderful stories to tell too.

END


Video recording: Tape 14
Source: CSROH_199_Wally_Caruana
Rights: © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Name: Murungkurr Terry Murray

Murungkurr Terry Murray - Family connections and CSR Proejct [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: Murungkurr Terry Murray tells some stories about the artists connected to the Canning Stock Route. He speaks of personal family connections to the Great Sandy Desert, and how art can express feeling and show the Aboriginal side of the story. He thinks the Canning Stock Route Project has a 'strong and friendly approach' with a balance of Aboriginal and European perspectives. Terry also speaks about learning from Wally Caruana and how is happy to be a part of the Canning Stck Route team.

Date: 2008-04-10
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_194_Terry_Murray
Interviewed By: Nicole Ma
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Latitude/Longitude: -31.98/115.8

Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Access: Public
Full transcript: Nicole Ma: What’s different between the first CSR project and this one?

Murungkurr Terry Murray: Well, um … the first time we had to work with the nine art centres to bring in painting about what happened in the Canning Stock Route. Like the history side and also, um, what artists and family members around the stock route.

NM: How did they do that?

MTM: Well um … we work closely with the nine different art centre. With Hayley Atkins that works in Newman, and me in Fitzroy Crossing with Mangkaja Arts and also with Carly and Mon visiting all these other Art Centre – like Warlayirti [?] Art and …

NM: So did you travel around?

MTM: Um … I didn’t travel on the Canning Stock Route but I helped in that, um, on the top end with Mangkaja artists and the Wangkajunga artists that relate back to the Canning Stock Route.

NM: Do you have a connection with the CSR?

MTM: Well, um, most of my family are more in really central, Great Sandy Desert. But my mum and family members are connected to different family groups that are in the Canning Stock Route. But, like, in those early days they used to hunt and gather and trade different objects and … also, um, yeah just visiting different waterhole and come to ceremony time, like different ceremony in different areas and …

NM: And did that happen around the stock route?

MTM: Yeah … in the Canning Stock Route. There’s a lot of history, good side and bad side. But most, I think the top part of the Canning Stock Route, to Well 33, is in the Great Sandy Desert area, that most of my family members are familiar people coming from different areas and meeting them at different waterhole – jilas, we call them.

NM: So the Canning Stock Route goes through more than one desert.

MTM: Yeah, bout four or five desert. And yeah um … Canning Stock Route is, yeah, made up of about four or five different desert and about six or seven language in the … in the five different, in the Western Australia, from Halls Creek down to Wiluna.

NM: So your family is part of one of the deserts?

MTM: My family is more right in the central Great Sandy Desert, but, I was involved in helping this project in other different ways of how we look at art work and dancing and ceremonies and other way of … how, um, yeah, Aboriginal people in Australia are expressing the feeling through art and different way of getting their … the wider of Australia and the public to know where they’re from and how they’re connected to land … themself.

NM: Do you think this project is important?

MTM: Yeah, um, this project is really important to the Aboriginal side of … way of looking at the history and the European side of looking at their history. How Canning and different tribes and family in the Canning Stock Route were involved in making all this well.

NM: Can you talk about what you’re learning?

MTM: Well I’m learning to um, how you’re looking at making it a strong … strong way of looking at … the both different history, like the European side and the Aboriginal way of telling that history in a more public and a friendly approach to how in the earlier days that Eurpoean meeting Aboriginal people and Aboriginal tribes seeing European people for the first time and how … you know, we, now we’re living in two different culture. The modern way of living and the traditional way, and now it’s … you know, the change in our lives, the younger generation, that we have to tell the story.

NM: What do the paintings have to do with the project?

MTM: Well, the painting tell the story about how different tribes lived in this big area, the Canning Stock Route, and also how they related to different language groups, different family grouping, and how in those days we didn’t have all this technology and all this … you know, how we come together in … you know, in all these different waterholes and jila [ancestral being-snake] and also how … the painting tell the story how we are really expressing our feeling and what is in our mind, and how to tell the story about what really happened in those days. And how, the Canning Stock Route came to all these different wells and waterholes and how Aboriginal people reacted in different ways of telling the story through their art

NM: What reasons are you using to choose the paintings?

MTM: Well the reason is to get much … much work from different areas to get that history, in the good way and the bad way and the sad way and the good stories and how … tribes and Aboriginal people were affected in those area of the Canning Stock Route.

NM: Difference between last time and this time? What have you learnt?

MTM: Well, um, last year we started to um … yeah come to Perth to meet the team. And started to talk to all these art centre about how this Canning Stock Route’s gonna be, um, showing them the history of how all this nine art centre … of how these Aboriginal people are … like, associated with the Canning Stock Route and which family members and tribal members and the language groups of how we … yeah, putting a possible together, like each piece. It’s still early stages of how we are looking at this whole show.

NM: So what’s the difference between last time and what’s happening this time?

MTM: Well, the last time it was like the starting point but now we are getting into how the setup’s going to be, of the exhibition. And how we got, like from Well 1 to 51, how we’ve got really strong works and oral history and 3D stuff that surrounds the Canning Stock Route. And it’s, yeah, it’s been a while from last year, that it was the starting point to go out and talk to all these art centres and all these language groups and … you know, it’s still early days that we are getting more information, and the team is getting stronger as we progress throughout this year. So it’s coming along slowly but we just taking as much we can get and how the team’s gonna set it out and how we still moving round the works … like, the painting itself, how we … you know there’s more stronger works come in, or are we going to bring work back in, or if maybe family members been missing out. So we have to still, um, we’re still in the starting of the stage, like how to get more into the stories and the artwork.

NM: What was the process? Was there a structure?

MTM: Oh well we just … well we’ve got 170 works in total, we just trying to bring out the best work and stories and oral history and we started to get a clear picture of where we are heading.

NM: What’s the method you use to look at a painting?

MTM: Well, um, I’ve got two of the young curators working beside me, like I’m a young curator as well, and the help of one of our main man Wally Caruana. So he’s, yeah, the team is really strong and looking at all these works. So it’s … yeah, it’s been fun and sometimes it’s a bit hard but we have to go through all this work and bring out the best and looking at both sides, the Aboriginal side and the European side of things, how do we bring out the message, of you know, the history of the Canning Stock Route.

NM: What has Wally taught you?

MTM: Well, Wally he’s, yeah, um, really important to this exhibition and he’s been working in the art world for many years and he’s … yeah, I’ve learnt a lot by … yeah, he’s giving us information, how you go about setting things up the right way and how, you know, we’re just learning as it goes along to the lead up to the, in another two years, we’re getting all this information and training and how we’re gonna show this, all this history of the Canning Stock Route and … you get that feeling working how with somebody that’s been working strongly with artwork and Aboriginal history … that the team is, you know … I’m really happy that I’m part of this team and yeah, it’s been a stepping stone and a learning point for me.

END


Video recording: Tape 10, Tape 11
Source: CSROH_194_Terry_Murray
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Murungkurr Terry Murray; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Name: Nicole Ma

Nicole Ma - Mentoring and filming for the project [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: Nicole talks about becoming involved in the Canning Stock Route Project, the challenges of the six week Canning Stock Route trip, and finding a film crew who could handle the work and film in a fresh way. Nicole also talks about working with emerging filmmakers and the way young people act as role models. She also discusses her favourite painting.

Date: 2008-04-12
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_193_Nicole_Ma
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Latitude/Longitude: -31.98/115.8

Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Access: Public
Full transcript: Clint Dixon: Can you introduce yourself?

Nicole Ma: OK, my name is Nicole Ma and I’m Chinese. I live in Melbourne. I’m a documentary filmmaker. And … I’ve been working in film for over twenty years

CD: How did you get involved with the CSR project?

NM: Um … the Canning Stock Route … originally I was asked to film the trip, the six-week trip from Wiluna to Halls Creek, and at the time they were talking about an exhibition and they wanted media for the exhibition, so they said could you come along and bring a crew and film sort of a … whatever happened on the stock route. And when we started we didn’t really have much of an idea what it was all going to be about so I had to just think through, well, what would we need on the trip and how can I film … I knew there would be painting camps along the trip, so I was thinking to myself how … what can I bring, because it’s a six week journey in a very remote area, I had to bring all the equipment and think through how to film paintings in particular in a way so that could have different looks, you know, so that it wasn’t all the same way of recording a painting – because it was a long trip. So it was quite an exercise in thinking through what equipment to bring and also crew-wise, who to bring, because they needed to be people who could have the stamina to do a six-week trip up the stock route.

CD: How many were in the film crew?

NM: In the crew there were three of us. I was the producer/director, we had a director of photography and a sound man who was also … he was also the grip as well which meant that he could rig … we brought a little mini crane as well so that we could do moves along the canvases and we also brought a steady cam, so that we could do, sort of, flowing walks along the sand and film tracks and film the paintings, you know, as they’re lying on the ground.

CD: Do you know much about the CSR?

NM: Not when I started, I knew nothing about the Canning Stock Route. Prior to going I read a book about it, but … the Canning Stock Route is … and when I said to people in Melbourne I’m going on the Canning Stock Route, we’re going on a trip and we’re filming it, most people had no idea where the Canning Stock Route was, so they were like me, we had no idea what the Canning Stock Route was, had no idea that it had a history. I didn’t really, in particular, know that there was any Aboriginal history associated with it.

CD: What has it been like working with the emerging filmmakers?

NM: It’s been fantastic for me to work with the three emerging filmmakers. Originally it was not something that was planned. When we … when the Canning Stock Route Project was initiated they said we’re going to have some emerging filmmakers come along, but they didn’t have one filmmaker come – I think Morika came for her Country with her art centre and you yourself came at the end, so you were at the Late Stretch section and KJ came for about three quarters of the way, he was probably there the most. Initially it wasn’t an emerging filmmakers program, initially it was just having interns come along and watch us as the crew, as a professional crew work and have them help us and then maybe, you know, do some work with the professional crew. But then as we were going along the stock route we also brought with us a little computer so that we could edit stuff as we went along and I thought it might be a good idea to have the curators … the young filmmakers make their own film about the stock route, because we had the cameras and we had the editing and we could, you know, do it pretty quickly. So everyone made their own film on the route and I think that’s what started the thought process about including an emerging filmmakers program within the whole scope of the project. And as the project has gone along it’s just gotten bigger and bigger, you know, more programs have been added in and the importance of having, of … allowing young people the experience to head this project has emerged as being one of the most important components of the whole thing.

CD: Have you worked with young filmmakers before?

NM: I have gone to remote communities to do filmmaking workshops, so it’s very different. So they were people who might have an interest in it but have never done it before, so I would have to teach them, you know, filmmaking from the very beginning - they didn’t know how to use the camera, they didn’t know how to use a computer. But the people who came on the Canning Stock Route were on a level above that, they had some experience, in your case quite a bit of experience, in the field so they knew how to operate a camera and they knew about editing and understood the process of filmmaking. And so as professionals we could take them and we could mentor them on a much more sophisticated level. So that, by making it … I think, personally, the only real way you learn anything in film is to make them yourself. So by them watching what we were doing and then having a chance to make their own film, they could … we could guide them in the process and supervise their needs. So if they needed … if they wanted to know something they had the opportunity to have someone support them in the project, but in fact do the films themselves – and I think that was the best way to learn for most people.

CD: Can you tell me about the movie nights?

NM: Yeah, we had … not every night, but when we stopped at a camp for a few days we’d set up this bush edit suite under the trees and we’d have two computers going and at night after we’d had dinner we’d sit down and start editing the footage of the emerging filmmakers. And we cut two films, which once they were finished we hung up a painting, back to front, on a car, and screen the films. So we’d have film nights along the stock route as well. Not only footage that Morika and KJ had made, the films they’d made, but we’d also show people the footage that we were taking – you know of Country, and of the people painting and whatever else was happening because we not only filmed the landscape, the paintings, we were also filming the reality of the journey and what was happening along the way. So we’d screen those as well, in the evening.

CD: How are you feeling about the project as it progresses?

NM: Well, as it’s going along … as the project has progressed I have gradually started to feel more and more excited about it, because I feel that it’s not just the project anymore, it’s more … it’s the ramifications of what we’re doing is much broader. It’s moving into the whole of the Kimberly, into the Northern Territory, it feels like the waves of what we’re doing because of the emerging curator’s program and because of the emerging filmmaker’s program is going to reverberate through the whole of the North of Australia because it means that these young people are going to become known for what they do, they’re going to act as role models for young people in remote communities who can say well, if they can do it I can do it too. So we need to … the opportunity for the emerging … these emerging young people to actually be a voice for the project, which I think is what’s happening - they’ve become the voice of the project, it’s going to encourage a lot of other young people in remote communities to want to do something too and … and that it’s not that difficult, as difficult as they imagine, to do something that they really love. And if we can find a way to get that across to the young people, that these young people, this is what they’ve done you can do it to, I think would be the greatest achievement of the Canning Stock Route Project.

CD: Do you have a favourite painting or artist?

NM: My favourite artist comes from, and I’m probably saying this really badly, the Ngurra claim because since I’ve been working in the Kimberly, you know it’s been seven years now that I’ve been actually going up there and filming a lot, I have started to learn more and more about what the old people’s stories are and what the stories are for the canvas and I like … because I feel close to them, I feel like they’re my friends and because I feel like they’re my friends I feel like their paintings are my friends and their paintings … I just love them all because I actually like them all very much and that’s why I like … well, any painting from that area I feel close to, I feel a relationship to and I feel that it speaks to me, the stories, because of what they’ve been teaching me, the old people from there.

CD: Anything else to add?

NM: Lets stop it, I’ll think about that.

END


Video recording: Tape 13
Source: CSROH_193_Nicole_Ma
Rights: © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Name: Kenneth KJ Martin

KJ Kenneth Martin - CSR Project and Halls Creek [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: KJ Kenneth Martin, one of the first Aboriginal members of the Canning Stock Route trip, discusses his background and the challenges and highlights of becoming involved in the Canning Stock Route Project, especially the Beijing exhibition and learning from Wally Caruana. KJ also speaks about the impact of negative media about Halls Creek, making good friends in the team, and how his involvement in the Canning Stock Route Project makes him feel proud.

Date: 2008-06-13
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_188_KJ_Kenneth_Martin
Interviewed By: Nicole Ma
Location Recorded: William Street, Perth
Latitude/Longitude: -31.95/115.85

Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Access: Public
Full transcript: Nicole Ma: Can you introduce yourself?

KJ Kenneth Martin: My name is KJ Martin from Halls Creek, up in the Kimberly, and I’m from the Kija tribe, my skin is Jungkurra. And I’ve got two kids, I work at the radio station, Language Centre and sometimes a drive up to Argyle taking workers to and from Halls Creek.

NM: How did you get onto the CSR project?

KM: One of my bosses from the Language Centre said she knew someone in Fitzroy who was going on the Canning Stock Route and she thought it would be good for me to go out there and work with some of the film crew that was on the Canning Stock Route, to get some more training – and a little bit in Final Cut Pro and how to … on the job training for camera and all that sort of stuff.

NM: What's been good about it? Bad about it? [Being in Perth]

KM: Well, it’s really cold, that might be one bad thing about it, but other than that everything’s been alright, you know. Watching the curator team select their paintings and sort of from the outside, behind the scenes, us mob watching and recording what they’re doing and what makes them select certain paintings is sort of a good thing about being here. Like, when I first started off a lot of people heard my opinion on what I thought about paintings and it’s changed a little bit then and it’s changed a whole heap now, just looking at … especially that gallery last night.

NM: What was special about the gallery last night?

KM: Oh just how they, the curators, put all the paintings together and moved them around so they make each other stand out, the paintings.

NM: What's the best thing you've learnt from being on the trip?

KM: I suppose having a talk to Wally, I spoke to him when we had dinner down at that Italian restaurant down the road somewhere. We were talking about how to look at paintings or what too see, I suppose, what to look for in a painting. I haven’t learnt that but I’ve been looking at paintings a little bit harder this week rather than I used to, I just had a quiet look and just head off, but now I’m really having a look at the painting in detail.

NM: What are you learning within this project?

KM: I don’t know what I’d like to do in this project, really. It’s good training. This week I learnt how to use a boom mic, we don’t usually do that at home, we just get a microphone and a stand and put it in front of them old people to have a yarn, and then we just put the camera on a tripod to record them.

NM: What do you want to do in the future?

KM: Well, make documentaries on where I live and stuff like that. For myself, about myself and maybe about where I’m from. Them sort of stuff. I’m interested in trying to make a documentary on Halls Creek itself about my point of view of Halls Creek, you know, being a person from there and growing up there, so I know all the people there. And I just want to let the people know that it’s not as bad as it sounds in papers and on television when something bad happens up north.

NM: So you want to tell stories from your point of view?

KM: Yeah. I’d like to. I think, maybe I’ve got good friends and a good family and a good sort of life. For this story I’m talking about in Halls Creek, the documentary I want to make is based around me and what I see, so I want to sort of get other people to see what I see and all the friends that I hang around … there are pretty good people, they’re funny people, and my family, they are a really happy family and we’re really tight, close together. It’s totally opposite to what people hear in the news, ‘cause there’s people who just come in and they think that’s all Halls Creek is. Yeah.

NM: How did being involved in the launch make you feel?

KM: Yeah, I felt good. I felt good when it all come together at the end. Wally had a speech there and sort of thanked all the people who were involved, which was good, made me feel good. You know, somebody coming from a place where there’s a lot of negatives in the news, and not many people who see this side of Halls Creek, me leaving Halls Creek to go for three weeks on the Canning Stock Route, working with you and Cam and everybody else, and Carly with FORM and Tim, so that may be one story in itself … but yeah, a little bit of recognition from Wally and I think it was BHP spokesperson there who said something last night about all the workers, with inputs into this Indigenous arts or the Canning Stock Route arts. So I felt really good about that, but, you know, it’s only for the people who were there I suppose. They’re not going to say that somebody from Halls Creek came down and had a really good part in what’s going on here. It’ll still be negative up there, but the positive that I’m down here, sort of thing. Yeah, well it’s been going on for two years now, ay. And this is my first time down here with this group of FORM.

[Helicopter flies over]

This project has been going for about two years, and I was on the last part of the Canning Stock Route, with all the painters, and some people come at lake Stretch, big corroboree and everything there, but this is my first time down in Perth with all the curators, and I’m working alongside Dixon there with operating the boom mic and maybe on the camera now and then, and it’s good on the job training sort of thing.

NM: What was the most fun thing that happened on the trip?

KM: What night was it? Wednesday night? Wednesday night we went down and had a few beers at down Rubix bar next to Ibis and we headed off to the club Carnigans, I think it is, and we were dancing there the whole night, ay. But I can’t say too much about that, people will be getting divorces. One bloke there he chatting up some girl there, we can’t mention no names, you guys have to figure out all that stuff yourself.

NM: So it's not all work? You're making friends?

KM: Oh yeah, I think this whole week’s been fun, you know. Even while you work, at least we can sort of socialise while we work. It’s been really easy. You know, have a break when you want to have a break and get back to work when you finished your little break. Yeah, heaps of friends. They’re all there in the back, do you see them behind me. Yeah, making some new mates and old mates and mate’s mates, mate’s rates. That’s it? Good.

END


Video recording: Tape 35
Source: CSROH_188_KJ_Kenneth_Martin
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: KJ Kenneth Martin; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

Name: Hayley Atkins

Hayley Atkins - background and the CSR Project [ORAL HISTORY]


Synopsis: Hayley Atkins speaks about her background, her involvement in this curators' meeting and where paintings sit in relation to Country. Hayley discusses the strength of works, her favourite painting and why she began painting herself on the Canning Stock Route Project. Hayley also speaks about her work at Martumili Artists and how she wants to learn more so she can go back and teach others.

Date: 2008-04-12
Art centre(s):
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_185_Hayley_Atkins
Interviewed By: Clint Dixon
Location Recorded: Old Masonic Hall, Nedlands
Latitude/Longitude: -31.98/115.8

Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Verbal Consent
Access: Public
Full transcript: Clint Dixon: Can you introduce yourself?

Hayley Atkins: My name Hayley Atkins and I’m a Jungala and I’m from Jigalong community. But … I’m Hayley Atkins and I’m a Jungala and I’m from Jigalong.

CD: And how old are you?

HA: Twenty-five.

CD: What's different from the last curators meeting to this one?

HA: This one is … the second one is different ‘cause we had to match the paintings together, to come on the wall, how to look and match the colours and the shapes and strong paintings.

CD: How did you plan this curators meeting?

HA: We planned it … how to stand on the wall and to match other paintings, smaller paintings.

CD: Can you explain how you plan the CSR paintings?

HA: We rolled out a long paper and started drawing a long line and started to write the wells, like from 1-51 Well, and then we started putting all the Art Centres and put all the paintings there next to it, next to art centres and the painting … what number well they was painting, putting all the paintings to match the wells.

CD: So to get a better understanding of where all those nine art centres and language groups?

HA: Yeah, yeah, and which well they painted, and which story goes to which well.

[Nicole says they’re running out of battery on one of the cameras]

CD: Can you say your name, where you come from and what your background is?

HA: Hey I’ve gotta turn this phone off, somebody could ring me.

CD: What have you learnt since the last curators meeting?

HA: Um … I learnt that … choosing all the paintings, and we had to pick which one was a good painting, and which one was strong and good stories, and which one was weak and wasn’t standing out properly.

CD: Was it hard to choose the paintings?

HA: At first it was easy ‘cause we knew which painting was strong and which painting wasn’t standing out and … yeah.

CD: So you Terry and Louise had the same idea?

HA: Yeah, at the first … first meeting we came down here.

CD: Out of the 100 plus paintings, how many are left?

HA: We went down to eighty paintings.

CD: Are you still trying to reduce the number of paintings?

HA: Um … we just picked fifteen paintings, or, I think twenty, twenty-two, that we’re trying to put it down for an exhibition in Beijing.

CD: Is that your favourite painting behind you? Can you talk about it?

HA: Yeah. She’s a … her name is Mulyatingki Marney and she live out in Kunumu community and in two places and in Kunawarritji, that’s on the Canning Stock Route, Well 33, and she’s an old woman, old lady, who paints her Country and paints her stories about her life and her family, and what was really happening out there in the desert.

CD: What sort of style is it?

HA: Um … she have her own styles of ways she paints and she always paints dot paintings, ‘cause this is her traditional way, and … what am I gonna say? Um …

CD: Was it hard choosing your favourite five?

HA: No, it was easy, it was hard, but I just picked five paintings because I liked it and I like how they paint, plus it’s got a strong story as well, and meaning.

CD: Can you tell me about your paintings?

HA: Um, that’s my first painting that I paint and that painting of when we went on the Canning Stock Route project and I was working with old people, collecting all the paints, mixing paint for them and giving my canvas out to them and … I kind of seen all my family and all my people sitting there and painting and I was thinking to myself I’m missing out on the good opportunity, plus I went out there to learn to … how to paint, do painting and learn some stories and history about that place, whereas I didn’t know any history.

Yeah um … we went on this, oh … I seen old people and middle-aged woman painting so I seen myself wasn’t doing anything. We had biggest mob people there painting and I was the only person that was walking around and helping, so I felt something ‘cause I seen myself as an Aboriginal person not doing painting, like I needed to learn something and to learn history and stories and what they painting. So I just got a canvas and people started telling me, ‘go on just paint, paint, do painting your way, how you want to paint, as long as you can learn from us, see how we painting’. I was thinking really hard, and I just painted the hills, what I was looking around, I looked around I seen hills and trees, then my boss told me … just paint where we got bogged. And I thought I’ll paint that so that was my first painting.

CD: So what was the story behind it? With the car and trailer?

HA: The trailer, it had my nanna and me and some other people were there, like Dadda Samson and Lily Long. It was going along in the track, we got bogged and we had a trailer behind with a lot of food and stuff, and we got stuck and the biggest mob of Toyotas was behind us, so everyone had to get out and help us and we just couldn’t get it out, and the old people started saying we stuck, you know, we’re gonna stay here. Yeah.

CD: Any bad experiences during the CSR project?

HA: Yeah, we … going on the Canning Stock Route was … you need a … new Land Cruiser plus spare tyres and a lot of food and water – ‘cause you out there in the desert and no hospital, no help out there. But as long as there’s Toyotas going past there, tourists and … plus you need a lot of water. Some wells got clean water, drinking water. And we, on that trip we broke down a spring brake underneath, so lucky we had all our bush mechanics out there. They was fixing … they broke the branch and started chopping it, they tie it up in this … made it as a … hold it, so they fixed it and we just packed up and kept going.

CD: What have been the fun moments?

HA: The fun part was getting to the best painting, choosing the best, outstanding painting that stand on its own, like, brings out the bright colours from the painting and plus stories too.

CD: Any funny stories about the crew?

HA: Yeah, it’s … the first curators, yeah emerging curators’ meeting was, it was like a few people, but on the second one it’s like we all here. And it’s been fun too. And we all working together and …

CD: Can you tell me about John Carty's song?

HA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, John Carty made a song, made a funny song, and making a joke out of the song and making it funny as well and made us all laugh.

CD: What was the song about?

HA: [Laughs]

CD: What do you want to get out of this project?

HA: Yeah. Yeah. I’d like to learn more and more other stuff so I can go back and teach others, because when I go back I work at school as well, with kids, with painting. And … getting more experience.

CD: Can you tell me about your work?

HA: My work … I work for the Martumili Art Centre in Newman and we work for six communities, Kunawarritji, Punmu, Jigalong, and Parnpajinya, and all our office is based in Newman. And, in Newman we pack everything like paints and canvas, we make canvas there, and we take it out to the six communities and when they finish they send it back to us, we catalogue it, take a picture of it and some goes to the gallery and some we sell there. The rough and ready work we sell there in Newman every August, festival time, and basket, some we keep for exhibitions. And … the other place I work at is the school with kids, I paint with kids, learning them what to paint and how to paint and what colour to use.

CD: When you're curating, what do you look for in a painting?

HA: We look for a … um …. a painting that stands out on the wall. Yeah, strong story and … yeah. Strong story and strong painting with light colours and colour that shines, bright up the room.

CD: Anything else you'd like to add?

HA: [Doesn’t add anything further]

END


Video recording: Tape 13, Tape 14
Source: CSROH_185_Hayley_Atkins
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Hayley Atkins; © FORM, transcript only

Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.

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