In August - October 2014 Campbelltown Arts Centre presented The List. This exhibition was a multidisciplinary arts project offering complex insights into daily rituals and current issues within youth culture through socially engaged practices. Twelve newly commissioned works will reveal the collaborative experiences shared between contemporary artists and young people in Campbelltown.
Artists | Abdul Abdullah & Abdul Rahman Abdullah, Zanny Begg, Kate Blackmore, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Shaun Gladwell, Michaela Gleave, Uji Handoko Eko Saputro (aka Hahan), Robin Hungerford, Pilar Mata Dupont, Daniel McKewen, Tom Polo, George Tillianakis
Abdul Abdullah & Abdul Rahman Abdullah
The practices of brothers Abdul Abdullah and Abdul-Rahman Abdullah speak of a strong sense of heritage and politicised identity. The Abdullah brothers spent time in March 2014 with boys of Pacific backgrounds from Eaglevale High School, and they shared with them their own experience of growing up in East Cannington, a south-eastern suburb of Perth. In many ways the artists felt their adolescence was similar to that of the boys and so they wanted to make work for the boys rather than about them. By responding directly to the concerns and interests of this group, their works also reflect the complex transition from boyhood to manhood.
Collaboration – Eaglevale High School and Mission Australia Claymore. The artists worked with 15 students, boys of Pacific Islander backgrounds over a series of workshops at the school.
Just as technology changes our perception, so does popular culture. For his work in The List, Daniel McKewen focuses on popular youth culture today, but does so from a distance, engaging with young people online. Dialogue is the result of an online survey circulated through Western Sydney schools. The survey asked the participants to list their favourite movie, including their favourite scene and favourite line. From this data McKewen selected six popular movies and drew scenes from them which he then manipulated to create a series of videos that appear to talk to each other. While we recognise the stories and the characters, the narrative in Dialogue remains indefinite; the narrative, events and actions may be lost, yet there is a residual familiarity to these nonsensical phrases and expressions.
Having spent her early years in regional Tasmania, Micahela Gleave knows what it is like to grow up outside of a metropolitan centre. Gleave’s performance installation responds to local histories, the current realities of social housing and the newly developed suburbs, while also commenting on the agonies of growing up, particularly the perceptual struggles of identifying the differences between opportunities and limitations, possibilities and inevitabilities. Closed Loop is performed in a closed white space in which one performer pours a continuous line of glitter and another follows, vacuuming up the glitter. Neither performer acknowledges the other. When there is no performance, projected words such as ‘stability’, ‘optimism’, ‘beauty’ and ‘autonomy’ illuminate the main wall. These words are the result of a survey Gleave conducted on Queen Street in Campbelltown, where she invited local residents to step into her ‘Future Dreaming Station’ and share their thoughts about the future.
Collaboration – the artists worked with Campbelltown Mainstreet Committee and members of The Young Social who assisted in the choreography and delivery of her performance work.
Marvin Gaye Chetwynd
An uncanny thread continues with British artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s The YOLO Wallpaper. Inspired by an important late nineteenth century work of American feminist literature, The Yellow Wallpaper, the title refers to the endless accommodations women make in their lives. Another important reference is Mary Renault’s 1958 Greek mythology history novel The King Must Die, and of course the title also reflects an acronym commonly used by youth, shorthand for ‘You Only Live Once’. Chetwynd collaborated with students from Campbelltown Performing Arts High School to create a video. While the result was an exuberant story of victory in which girls and boys are lifted up and paraded around, it nonetheless concludes with a disturbing sequence in which a woman is devoured by consuming wallpaper.
Collaboration – Campbelltown Performing Arts High School. The artist worked closely with 20 acrobatic and dance students of all ages. Some the students participated alongside amateur performers as part of the live art event at the launch of the exhibition.
Zanny Begg’s work confronts society’s negative perceptions of groups of teenage boys. Her work Doing Time is a collaborative video and photo series developed with boys currently residing in Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre in Airds. The project was the first of its kind to be undertaken in the facility, and as such it is a unique opportunity for the outside world to get a glimpse of life inside a juvenile detention centre. The project was made up of two parts: drawing and video. Throughout the first stage, Begg and the boys developed a series of drawings that were digitally enlarged and pasted onto their bedroom walls. The boys became the curators of their own bedrooms – the place they spend most of their time. By the second stage of the project, more boys wanted to get involved. Focusing on the reality of institutional life for these boys, the artist chose to create costumes to protect their identities, while simultaneously revealing things that were important to them. Set in the Centre’s courtyard, the film explores time through the eyes of four boys.
Collaboration – Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. The artist worked with 7 boys currently residing in the centre, as well as the principal, assistant principal and support staff of Dorchester School.
Caught somewhere between the trickery of technology and reality, Robin Hungerford’s video installation work The Adventure of Science places emphasis on our honed sense of perception. Hungerford has created his own children’s science education television show where he evokes a sense of wonder, intrigue, amusement and curiosity. He traverses through a series of general experiments, with ideas brought to the audience through a child’s way of understanding the world. Hungerford attempts to strip away the ages of his audience, taking every viewer to a place where they will associate the idealism of scientific exploration with their own exploration of everyday life. In doing so, one is left to consider how society perceives and understands the world objectively. And how imagination and fantasy are diffused in the transitions from child to teenager and teenager to adult.
Uji Handoko Eko Saputro (aka Hahan)
When reality is disturbed, and particularly when such occurances are said to have a local origin, myths and fictions can quickly become part of the social fabric. The story of Fred Fisher is an example of one such myth that has become central to Campbelltown’s social history. Each November the city celebrates the story of Frederick George James Fisher, a local farmer who mysteriously disappeared in 1826. Four months after Fisher’s disappearance, respected farmer John Farley burst into the local hotel and claimed he had seen the ghost of Fred Fisher sitting on a bridge over a creek. The ghost had pointed to a paddock before fading away. Consequently the body of Fred Fisher was discovered in that paddock. Javanese artist Uji Handoko Eko Saputro, a.k.a Hahan, grew up hearing stories of ghosts and supernatural occurrences. These myths were shared from generation to generation, with the fear they invoked consciously roused in order to control behaviour. While researching the social history of Campbelltown, Hahan was flooded with images of ghosts and the story of Fred Fisher. Intrigued by the way the community uses the ghost story to occasion a recurring celebratory event, Hahan decided to work with local young people to create a graphic wall painting of a ghost.
Collaboration – As research, the artist presented workshops at Ingleburn High School, Airds High School and Eaglevale High School to create their own ghost in reference to the Fishers Ghost story. These drawings were compiled into a zine magazine, designed by Young Social member Martin Reyes. Hahan worked with a number of students from Campbelltown TAFE to complete his mural, and throughout this process he worked closely with artists assistant, Quyen Chung who also part of the Young Social.
Public transport is a routine means of travel for many people in Campbelltown; it brings strangers together in a shared space of potential interaction and engagement. Over three weeks Tom Polo spent many hours on the train, travelling on the South Line to Campbelltown and overhearing conversations, giving particular attention to those that took place between young people. Having recorded over a hundred phrases, Polo found trends. Doubt, desire, disappointment and optimism were common sentiments shared by young people, and so Polo was inspired to share his insight with the commuters, who would also be his captive audience. Only visible when travelling by train between Ingleburn and Minto, a series of six billboards fill the landscape behind Bow Bowing, each bearing a part of Polo’s selected phrase: ALL I KNOW IS THAT WE KEEP DOUBTING OURSELVES
George Tillianakis, Video:D presents the experience of outsiders with dramatic effect. Tillianakis worked collaboratively with clients from Macarthur Disability Services to create Video:D, a video installation which drew from that group’s shared interest in horror and special effects. The group came together four times to devise their own version of a horror film, one that allowed the participants to reveal their horrifying alter egos. Shot inside a local community hall and on Moore Oxley Bypass, the group filmed a series of scenes that portrayed their fictional selves coming to life. Video:D is a clashing combination of narrative expressions of these personas and unsympathetically edited scenes that the artist has made intentionally disjointed in order to present a fragmented, disturbing distortion of reality.
Collaboration – The artist worked with clients from Macarthur Disability Services over a series of workshops where they indulged in conversations about shared interest in horror and special effects. Collectively they developed their own alter-ego that became their character in VIDEO:D.
Place and perceptions of place are crucial to our sense of identity, as Kate Blackmore discovered in Claymore. Blackmore wanted to engage with teenage girls who had experienced violence and had been involved in gang activities. Having discussed her ideas with youth workers throughout Campbelltown, Blackmore was introduced to the case managers at Mission Australia, Claymore. Blackmore met some girls who frequented the Centre and after a series of conversations she proposed her video project, focusing on what it is like to live in the suburb. Girls allowed participants to speak their mind. By presenting their unfiltered thoughts and daily rituals, Blackmore exposes the attitudes and behaviours the young women have developed as a result of living in their community. In Girls, Claymore is the setting for a series of lyrical insights into the universal journey from female adolescence to adulthood.
Collaboration – Mission Australia Claymore. The artist worked with 4 girls residing in Claymore facilitated through Mission Australia Claymore, the collaboration introduced the artist to other young people from the area.
Pilar Mata Dupont
Taking a more macro look at the impact of place, Pilar Mata Dupont’s work for The List investigates ideas of national identity, mythology and the triggers for nostalgia. Dupont explored these themes by conducting interviews which were set up by Macarthur Diversity Services. She met with local asylum seekers and refugees, advocates, support agencies and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection before creating Purgatorio, a video installation presenting a musical about immigration. Purgatorio comprises a 90s-style living room set with beige carpet, salmon walls and a cathode-ray-tube (CRT) television playing her Brechtian musical. Verses from Dante’s Purgatorio become the basis for texts addressing asylum seeking and immigration processes. The never ending musical provokes anxiety and frustration, heightening awareness of and empathy for the experience of the immigration applicant.
Campbelltown is a familiar place to Shaun Gladwell, who as a teenager often travelled with his brother from Parramatta to the local skate park. For The List Gladwell created two video installations, reigniting his connection with Campbelltown. In Through a Study of Stillness and Balance Gladwell uses distinctive locations in Campbelltown to be the urban backdrop for his silent performance of a track stand – a standstill position which he holds on his mountain bike for as long as possible. Mentoring and Reconstructing Task Force sees the restaging of a reconnaissance tactic Gladwell witnessed in Afghanistan where soldiers entered a community, provided a social service, and then left without a trace. This methodology was translated to Campbelltown Skate Park where Gladwell deployed dancers dressed in camouflage fashions to approach local skaters, then swap their old skateboard wheels for new ones. These collected wheels are presented opposite the video documentation as part of the resulting installation, a tangible residue of the exchange.
Collaboration – the artist works closely with a dance trio from Sydney to create a video performance at Campbelltown Skate Park to engage young skaters who frequent the park.