COLLABORATION JOURNAL 23/24
Notes on meetings, ideas and links
Aunty Jacqui Jarrett, proud Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr First Nations Elder
Jacqui O'Reilly, artist and composer
Above Image: Nadeena Dixon
We met at South Eveleigh and spent close to two hours chatting about project ideas, our needs, our interests, and our perceptions of the current times in which we live. We discussed what it means to live in Australia after the 2023 Federal Referendum delivered a no vote for changing the Australian constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of Australia.
Some main points included:
Silence - as an outcome of the referendum, the Australian public ignoring the Voice. What it might mean when a settler says ‘it’s not my story to tell’. What does silence sound like? What is this deafening silence of the no vote?
Relational healing - from Auntie Jacqui’s Nura Yoga instagram: “continuous reflections on how to harmoniously co-exist as a nation respectfully, truthfully & with integrity!” This is what really encouraged me to reach out to Auntie Jacqui, and we discussed being creative in different ways as a healing modality in our lives. Auntie Jacqui included - you cannot heal in isolation, we need to be relating to heal.
Boundaries & limits - we both have a desire to care for ourselves, which means being realistic about available time and sometimes having to change plans a day or two before meeting if needed. Being paid for time, cultural and artistic work, not overworking, and to explore working together in a micro project way, without the need to specifically engage others from the community was our agreed approach. Working together with what we already have to offer as women and creative people.
Concepts for a project - We talked about a ‘site of intimacy’ where Auntie Jacqui could ‘perform’ presence and embodiment as a proud Dharawal woman to one visitor at a time. This performative act would be a sharing of close proximity as a healing encounter with the aim of shifting perceptions of fear, othering and ignoring First Nations people. We discussed this site having sand and Auntie Jacqui offering objects to the visitor, one shell, or many shells. Auntie Jacqui would perform for timeframes that are limited eg 30 minute sessions. We discussed sensory experiences to shape the transition from being in a public space, a professional space, to an intimate space. This could be part of the installation design using perhaps visual or auditory promps or physically enduring access into the site to act as an experiential metaphor for the transitions First Nations people have to accomodate in modern life everyday when offering cultural knowledge and practice when called upon, yet living in a country that is largely unable to acknowledge the truth of its colonial history and the relationship between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people that is situated in that history.
We talked about using the site as an installation for public display when Auntie Jacqui is not performing within. Jacqui talked about her sound practice and desire to create sound works from sampling relational healing activities as a way of extending the energy and cultural space this type of work could occupy beyond its activation through performance.
Image: Human Social Behavior
in Public Urban Spaces by Khalid AlHagla
Aunty Jacqui Jarrett & Jacqui O’Reilly
Our second meeting
We met at Church Street Studios in Camperdown where Jacqui O’Reilly currently has a studio space. Auntie Jacqui travelled to the studios on a hot December morning, registering 32 degrees by 10:30 am and 36 degrees by 1:00 pm. After this Aunty Jacqui was to travel by public transport to Watson’s Bay for a meeting about another project - a small glimpse of what is required of Auntie Jacqui, in effort, time and labour, to participate in projects and cultural practice in the land of her people.
Main points of our meeting roughly summarised are as follows:
Shared experience -
There are many ways in which our lived experiences cross over and we are sharing broadly with each other in a supportive and intelligent way, what we know, what we wish for and where we have been in our past.
There are also differences that need to be acknowledged and kept in focus. These differences directly relate to themes we wish to explore creatively, drawing on the Voice of Indigenous Australians as a decolonial representation and a conceptual force in our work in the time of post referendum Australia.
What is it to share this voice with non Aboriginal people in a nation unable to constitute a representational voice for Aboriginal people to our Parliament? Who will listen to the space we wish to present? Who to be concerned with? What is tokenism? What is compromise?
In discussion, an emphasis was drawn on maintaining awareness that the voice we wish to express already exists and is beholden within Auntie Jacqui as the person she is at any given time. The job of the project is to give Auntie Jacqui an appropriate cultural and artistic stage, in which to simply be. This is our way to possibly activate the space between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people today in our busy urban lifestyles. This space contains an evident distance, Auntie Jacqui travels this distance, with effortful intention, honouring her identity at the same time as being seen in particular cultural contexts and being ignored in other mainstream contexts.
This project is a provocation for people in the community to travel to Aunty Jacqui rather than it being the other way around, to turn the table and do something different, to make a difference through interconnectivity, by receiving what already exists.
There is little need to devise how this iteration of voice will express itself nor concern of how it will be received. The project aim is to foster a stage, partners, supporters, and a budget to fund it and to take care of ourselves. Deep care, deep acknowledgement, deep respect for the collaborative journey this project will take and Aunty Jacqui’s position in it.
“The ethics of the project are more important than the project,”
Juan Francisco Salazar
If the Voice is tokenistic ...
“Then a token of what? Rememberance of past injustice, lives lost? Is it a token of recognition? Well that would make it a token in the way that the War Memorial is a token, or that ANZAC Day marches are token or Australia Day or all the other things that could be called virtue signalling days and memorials, and oaths and anthems and mission statements of mainstream Australia. It is not such a small and insignificant thing, a token, and there is an important symbolic element to the Voice”
Voice is generated by airflow from the lungs. When the air from the lungs blows through the vocal folds at a high speed, the vocal folds vibrate. The vibrations lead to sounds we call voice.
If voice is generated by airflow - this leads back to ideas of neurodecolonisation. Simply being with breathe in meditation, contemplation, peace, safety and sharing this space is staging the depths of voice, from where it is organically generated from.
Working with Council -
We spent time discussing the possibility of working with the City of Sydney and doing our project as a commission within their programming.
We acknowledge this opportunity in its early stages is a possible way to help us develop our microproject with support to experiment and learn. We also have integrity and both bring a lot of lived experience as women in our fifties. This project needs to be protected from slipping into a type of ‘commodity’ or spectacle, or delivering a cultural nod or tick for the Council.
The type of tokenism we are interested in is giving space to the visible presence, voice and lives of Aboriginal people, as people just as they are, and in recognition of their continuing sovereignty of lands in Australia, with intention to address disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through learning from the voice of Indigenous people.
We are doing something quite different than other types of pathways on offer by Council programs to experience aspects of Aboriginal culture. This is about integration of the here and now, in the wake of the unsuccessful Referendum, and is a sheltering and harbouring of the voice as a non material subtle energy of inner calm.
We do not want to diminish the ‘sacred’ dimensions of this offering, so although we are open to opportunities, our work continually reflects and aligns our way finding in the negotiation process of what may or may not work for us.
There are some particular aspects that remain non negotiable.
Possible sound of ocean
Shaping the time and the space of delivery to make it a restorative and worthwhile project for Aunty Jacqui
We decided we will meet with Council, but in person, not on Teams or on the phone, due to access needs this is the best way, and keeping in mind there are other possibilities for garnering interest too. Jacqui mentioned The Big Anxiety Festival and the Sydney Opera House, but added everyone (institutions, venues) has their own agenda.
P R O J E C T D EV I S I N G
R E S E A R C H & P R O P O S A L S
Auntie Jacqui & Jacqui O’Reilly
We met at Church Street Studios in Camperdown before going down to Wharf 2/3 Hickson Road for the Sydney Festival event SPIN. This event was an interactive dance event by Australian Deaf artist and performer Anna Seymour. Three Deaf hosts amongst the crowd led dance steps to bass heavy club music and atmos lighting. At the end of the session, we were led into a type of yogic child’s pose on the floor and a heart beat sounded throughout for some time.
In our meeting at Church Street, we covered a lot of topics related to submitting a proposal to PACT for an artist residency. Many thoughts and ideas flowed, including stories from our past and the ordering of time, looking back to look forward, who has gone before us, women, mothers, grandmothers, their roles, occupations and traits. All this in an unfolding of what voice we may be able to develop in a collaborative project and what that may be like at PACT as a ‘first development’ performance work. We were 30 minutes late for the SPIN event due to the flow of our conversation and the ideas we discussed.
After the show we walked along the wharves and talked about hearing, hearing loss, sound, music and adaptation. Whether adapting to a cochlea implant, adapting to an environment, adapting to words, labels, situations, culture, colonisation - the material that is drawing us together includes this loose draft of the following:
What is decolonisation?
Where do we position ourselves when we look for a voice of change, healing and renewal but also one that sustains us as individuals in our lives. Auntie Jacqui acknowledged a shifting perception of where best to be situated in an approach to having a voice as a proud Dharawal woman and is aware of others who do cultural work that resonates and holds influence yet also adds complexity and cultural load. Is this voice one of revival of traditional culture, is it confrontational, is it commodified to fit into the systems of modern life, is it beyond modern life back on land and sea?
Jacqui O’Reilly also expressed ambivilence about language itself, even the word decolonisation itself, how it is, or isn’t received at all, what it means, how to show it, not to say it and what will best be received when using intercultural relations to break from existing limitations?
The relational as material
Jacqui O’Reilly talked about the ‘decolonisation praxis’ she adopts in her practice that came from Ingrid Huygens, and outlined in the paper Developing a Decolonisation Practice for Settler Colonisers: A Case Study from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Specific features of a Pakeha (white person) decolonisation practice, as I have experienced it, include (i) revisiting history, (ii) responding emotionally, (iii) undertaking collective cultural work,
and (iv) working toward mutually agreed relationships with Maori. Framing each of these as types of decolonisation ‘work’ – ideological, emotional, cultural and constitutional work – I suggest how a decolonisation practice for settler colonisers could appear.
The collaborative project that Jacqui is suggesting for PACT would be showing Huygen’s principles as a performance work in the space between Auntie Jacqui & Jacqui O’Reilly, the relational space, as mutually agreed. The residency would be an opportunity to explore this.
Jacqui O’Reilly put forward a few concepts and ideas about how this might be done. eg:
- using signifiers to mark identity eg shells, sand
- using spatial awareness and interoception in relationship to these signifiers
and in relationship to each other as a movement practice
- improvisation of embodied movement in response to any or all of these things
- using the concept of journey from one place to another to create a time based scene of getting
from here to there
- using sound to hold this journey, engage listening, mark hearing differences, and create affect - using the aesthetic of meditation as performance
Who/what is an artist?
We discussed performance and working in a ‘first development’ context, where if at PACT, we would receive feedback or critique on what we work on and possibly an industry showing. Jacqui spent 10 years doing her bachelor degree in Media Arts (with many accommodations) and 5 years watching performances of so called ‘excellence’ at the Sydney Opera House as an usher. But this background offers more of a conduit into the contexts that frame art and culture. She spoke about having confidence in the ‘creativity and making’ that is Auntie Jacqui’s practice and the strong potential for collaborative work that may be possible between them. Experimental arts was discussed as another framework. It’s not setting out with an end insight, but doing one thing, and that leading to another thing, and another thing - again a relational development of here and now to articulate the collaborative voice.
“You don’t know what your going to do, fingers and hands move, it’s just natural,”
Aunty Esme Timbey
The Aboriginal shellworkers of La Perouse, Sydney: Esme Timbery and Marylin Russell
A residency at PACT
If successful this could be a good income stream to experiment and develop. It needn’t be onsite everyday for two weeks. Collecting shells, driving from Watson’s Bay, having lunch, walking, watching trees on leaves, and working creatively and restoratively in the theatre space could all be part of the experimentation. Expectation about time onsite could be further explored with PACT if an offer is made.
Auntie Jacqui also put forward ideas that could be explored. Eg whale song, developing ways to indicate to each other in performance, as well as strong imagery from her stories that included diving for coins in the ocean, standing as a bouncer in Kings Cross, types of movement and embodiment that could be explored in a theatre space.
We agreed on putting in an application for the residency at PACT. Much more was discussed. Links to some of the topics covered.
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