Sunday, November 29, 2009

tayenebe and meditation on a photograph



I am coming across a range of links to the Oyster Cove photographs by Nixon and representation; yet both unsatisfying - neither of them approaching nearby the heart of the matter. At least the The Representation Of Trucanini essay acknowledges the subjectivity of the photographer or the observor: "It is clear that no archival photograph of the Tasmanian Aborigine can be viewed as a document of truth, as the decisions of the photographer inadvertently affects the way in which the subjects were represented" . But how in 2009 can this writer place his whole study within the 'doomed race' theory of Tasmanian history! It's incredible. Just visit tayenebe
for the living dynamic presence of the culture of Tasmanian Aboriginal people today.

Bishop Nixon's photograph of the Elders at Oyster Cove (1858) haunts me. It always has – from the moment I first saw it in 1982 in the State Library of Tasmania collection. The photograph is a ‘trace’ of the real. But, I am white and I have obtained a copy of it, and now I carry it around – slowly becoming aware of the ethics involved in having it in my possession; There is no return back to some fantasy of Tasmania as a ‘good’ white place. Sitting with this photograph, with the survivors of invasion, I look at the hands of the women, the comfort of their physical closeness to each other and their dogs. As the camera apparatus captures their image on silver nitrate for me to gaze at them – they look back at me – and for this moment, as observer, I stand in photographer Nixon’s place . I am his camera. I look at the women – Emma, Trucanini, Flora, Wapperty. They look back at me. I know it is their country. They belong to this island. Dispossessed by the British, yet the photograph speaks their possession.

This is a photo of their sovereignty of their own country. I allow this photo to possess me back. The women, their dogs – their gaze at me – is grounded, strong: ‘this is our country, back off, you stranger – white ghost’. They speak to me, not in words, but they affect me. I dream of them, at night. I see them as I walk the streets of Hobart. Their spirit is there, whispering to me to reckon with their presence. They are not gone, as the British hoped, as most of the whites in Tasmania hoped, that they would be gone forever. No, I ‘let them come visit. I allow myself to be haunted and, as I do, I sense myself as the stranger: ‘making whiteness strange’ and the risks involved. I am the interloper. Once, this island felt like home, but now I am in another country – strangeness, dislocation. I do not belong to this nation called Australia. This nation is a Thing, a fantasy space. The Oyster Cove photograph disturbs; it is a kernel of The Real.

tayenebe is now; tayenebe makers discuss their work today.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oyster Cove, Tasmania, photography and Bishop Nixon 1858


"The fact that Nixon saw art as a means of recording may explain why he was one of the first people in Tasmania to experiment with the newly invented camera.... About 1858 he visited Oyster Cove and made several photographs - the earliest known - of the Aboriginal community" (SLTAS website). In Island Home Country (2008) , my recent documentary film, there is a discussion around the ethics concerning the use of these photographs.

Nixon's work as a photographer is little researched. I am gathering material on his work. Please post any links you may find. Here is one I have recently located: Thomas J. Nevin, Tasmanian photographer 1842- 1923.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

‘ricky maynard: portrait of a distant land’

Ricky Maynard, in his photographs and in the documentary, Portrait of a Distant Land, communicates a sense of place – a genealogy of thousands of years – embedded in the way he places his camera in country.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

ethics and documentary film

A few years ago I was at a Conference and Michael Renov gave a paper where he spoke about his notion of the 'four fundamental tendencies of documentary' : 
1. To record, reveal, or preserve 
2. To persuade or promote
3. To analyze or interrogate 
4. To express
He then named a 5th tendency - which he called 'the ethical'. I have been searching for further writing by him on this - in order to extend documentary theory into thinking around the site of the web 2 environment and to extend, Adrian Miles essay, 'Blogs: Distributed Documentaries of the Everyday' Metro.143 (2005): 66-70. Today I found it! A conversation with Renov and André Bonotto and Gabriel de Barcelos Sotomaior, in São Paulo, April 2nd and 8th 2008: What’s at stake for the documentary enterprise? Conversation with Michael Renov.

Also my documentary  Island Home Country (2008), has taken five years to produce and has been deeply engaged in a process around ethics, memory and  history and Tasmanian Aboriginal protocols - Renov's conversation around ethics and documentary is relevant to my process with the film.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

the disobedient reader...viewer


Why an image from Sunless? Well, a blog on Sebald, Vertigo: Collecting& Reading W.G. Sebald, compares Marker and Sebald.
This site also reviews Australian author Deane Blackler's book, “Reading W.G. Sebald: Adventure and Disobedience”. I have found her analysis of Sebald's narrator persona insightful. She looks at how we read Sebald and argues that his books call forth a proactive reader: one who is challenged to question the text by his use of seemingly documentary photographs, the pseudo-autobiographical narrators.

In Island Home Country I peer into my own ‘white’ mind, and create a narrator – a staged performance – of white instability, uncertainty, fissure. As Blackler reflects in her study of W.G. Sebald ‘how can the reader trust this mad writer narrator as a guide'… as in this film, I create a narrator who is ‘trying’ to make a film, a filmmaker who ‘forgets to turn on the microphone’, a narrator who says, ‘this film is dissolving’; a narrator who loses her way. ‘Where is the reader to go? If we follow a ‘mad’ narrator, won’t we be implicated in (her) pathology?….This self-conscious writer, this constructed ‘I’ is not a stable authorial figure. Blackler argues that this unstable, figure gives birth to a ‘disobedient reader’, one who has to break ranks, cross an unstable line, in order to stay empathic.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Island Home Country- Current news 2009

Distribution of Island Home Country: where to purchase DVD's, & the recently published ATOM Study Guide. Island Home Country is a poetic cine-essay (52 mins) about Australia’s colonised history and how it impacts into the present. It offers insights into how various individuals reckon with the traumatic legacies of British colonialism and its race based policies.

Island Home Country was recently offered a broadcast contract with National ABC Television: Sunday Arts Program July 2009.
Screenings:
TAC International Film and Video Festival, Oregon USA May 2009.
Premiered at Brisbane International Film Festival August 2008.
Screened in the Film Program, 'Re-Orienting Whiteness' Conference (Monash University) December, 2008.
Awards
Nominated: Best Achievement in Sound for a Documentary, Australian Screen Sound Awards 2008. (Sound Designer Sharon Jakovsky; Sound Consultant Danielle Weissner).
High Commendation - UTS Reconciliation Award, UTS Human Rights Awards, October 2008.

The Island Home Country ATOM Study Guide is now available a free PDF from Metro ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media)

Purchase DVD's direct from Anandi Films or
The Education Shop