New Wilderness No. 5 Reflective Statement

New Wilderness poster(1)web sizeNew Wilderness No. 5 poster designed by Ella Forbes.

Key Concepts Explored

The Tent Projection

The tent, a portable shelter, has become a symbol for the Occupy Movement, which led to the first New Wilderness installation in 2013.

My installation is explores how tents have been used and are still used thoughout history and in various cultures.  New Wilderness focuses on the more subversive uses of the tent, pointing up the growing disparity in our super-capitalistic society between rich and poor, haves and have nots.  The concept of erecting tents in public places, including inside buildings arose with the Occupy movement.  It led to a feeling of threat by those in power in our society, who demanded that they be removed, despite those protesting being in public spaces.  When people refused to move peacefully, they were forcibly moved, and their tents destroyed.*  Occupy was preceded by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, on the lawns in front of Parliament House, Canberra.  This movement finally succeeded in getting limited land rights for Australia’s indigenous people.  The Tent Embassy still exists, and has had offshoot movements in places like Redfern, Sydney.

However, my slide show does not merely explore the subversive element.  It also shows other uses of tents, some positive but many showing human anguish.   For many Australians the tent is a symbol of freedom, and fun, evoking holidays and visits to circuses and feativals.  Tents are also home to people who come from nomadic cultures.  However, the negative uses of tents are legion.  Armies have used tents for millennia.  [While we call our armed services a ‘defence force’, when they set out to invade other countries (like the current intervention in civil wars in Syria and Iraq) they are offensive, with little justification other than propping up one favoured corrupt regime ahead of another corrupt regime).]

War and natural disaster lead to people losing life and home – leading to tent shelters and refugee camps.

Not all countries are receptive to refugees.  This leads to vast refugee camps, and even internment of asylum seekers.

Poverty itself can lead people to lose homes.  Some become refugees within their own countries, others live in make-shift shelters, cars and emergency accommodation.

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Dorothea Lange, photograph of evicted share farmers from mid-western USA during the Depression years.
Dorothea Lange, photograph of evicted share farmers from mid-western USA during the Depression years.

The concept of a slide show allowed me to research and show a large number of tents in a relatively short time.

A space for people to add their reflections and experiences of tents allowed the viewers of the projection to add their ideas.

tent comments

* This feeling of threat to those in power and the over-reaction to it is very similar to the vitriol and heavy-handedness of right wing politics and the business sector to the unification of the labor, through the union movement.  Currently, a Royal Commission into Union Corruption has the narrow focus of rooting out corruption in trade unions, with the added focus on discrediting the former prime minister, Julia Gillard, and other high-profile Labor Party politicians.  There is no power in this commission to pursue any company or employer who may also be shown to be corrupt or breaking the law.

Geelongopolis

Originally, it was hoped for the whole group to have input into clues and ideas for this game.  We ran out of time and the clues were devised by myself and Merinda.

The aim was for clues to allow exhibition attendees to walk the exhibition, while throwing dice and following the instructions of the game.  These reflected places and issues of the city, though, with more time, some more insightful clues could have been devised.

The aim was to reflect on Geelong as it is now, with some glimmer of the future.

Who’s Who in Geelong

This ties the Geelong’s past and present together through people who have been important, personalities, sport and entertainment figures and politicians.  Hopefully, it also provided a bit of fun.

Methods, Approaches and Responses

Tents

The internet was searched for tents, using various terms – tent, refugees, Aboriginal Embassy, Occupy movement etc.  The tents chosen for the projection were resized and rendered to monochrome.  Windows Movie Maker was used to assemble the projection, with images projected for five seconds.

The original intention was to project onto the inside of the tent.  This, however, did not allow enough distance for a large sized image, without moving the projector outside the tent.  I therefore projected from the tent onto a white wall.

Unfortunately, with the response sheet hidden beside the projection, there were fewer responses given than I hoped.  All were about personal camping experiences.

Geelongopolis Who’s Who in Geelong

Once individual installations were given positions, a game pathway was chalked on the floor.  This was taped into a walkway which passed each installation.  Dannii (student) and Dylan helped mark this path and lay down the clues.  Exhibitors were invited to name their installations to be added as clues to the game.  dylan sets up geelongopolis

On entering the exhibition, visitors were given dice.  The initial throw (odd or even number) denoted which room to visit first.  Participants could then choose whether to follow the game rigorously, or just wander, reading the clues, and acting accordingly.

Throughout the exhibition set-up and afterwards, students collaborated – helping when an extra pair of hands were needed, making positive suggestions and giving feedback.  Jessie, a Deakin media technician supported the exhibition on the first set-up day providing equipment and technical  support.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to incorporate Kerrie’s suggested musician into Who’s Who?

Build a new suburb resulted in this, despite the short time-frame of the exhibition.

150927New Wilderness pre bumpout_0003

Advertising the event/time frame etc.

Despite support from Soraya Mobayad, there were no images posted on Instagram before the event.

The event poster was designed by Ella Forbes (a previous student in the unit), using her image of a desolate Geelong industrial building.  This poster was only available four days before the exhibition, so there was little chance to distribute hard copies.  I displayed some in local art shops.  I also resized the poster for web, and distributed it, along with an invitation to a large number of friends and artist acquaintances.

A mass paste up of the poster also advertised the event to passers by.  However, this was only put up the day before the exhibition, so there was little time for it to be effective.

Soraya set up an event on Face Book, which some of us shared.

As far as I know, the event was not advertised by email to other students of Visual Art at Deakin University, though we distributed small copies of the flyer to the studio spaces – rather too late for many students to see them.

The event was only open to the public for 1.5 hours – not long enough, in my opinion to justify the work students had put in.

New Wilderness No. 5 – public attendance and participation

I estimate that well over 100 people attended the exhibition – some coming in after participants had started dismantling their exhibits which was disappointing.  While the pop-up nature of the show gave a real sense of excitement, there was little time for any real reflection or enough time for visitors to really immerse themselves in the activities.

The other drawback with a pop-up show is that people attending exhibition openings tend to socialise with friends, and have only limited interaction with the art works.  The time frame for the previous iteration of New Wilderness No. 4, at Geelong After Dark 2015 was longer.  I would recommend an extension to the opening time of the show if the pop-up concept is used again.

Comments from people attending the show were positive.  One elderly gentleman spent at least 15 minutes matching people with their portraits and occupations in Who’s Who in Geelong?.  Most people did not persevere with throwing the dice in Geelongopolis, though a number of them followed the path and the instructions to view the exhibition.

Only one person I know of took a ‘selfie’ with the James Harrison bollard, possibly because of the poster’s poor position and bad lighting.

Poor poster position (poster on left of photograph)
Poor poster position (poster on left of photograph)

What if…

If conditions were ideal, I would have used back projection within the tent – possibly from an inverted tent hung from the ceiling projecting from above through a hole in the tent floor – so the image covered the four walls of the tent.  Alternatively, an entire tent room would be constructed, with participants entering.  Projections from outside would cover all four walls, and possibly the roof also (in the style of Barbara Kruger’s text room installations).

With more planning, Geelongopolis could become its own installation, with embedded activities, more in the style of Monopoly.  

As previously mentioned, I think New Wilderness No. 5  needed a longer exhibition time – perhaps a whole day, with the ‘opening’ towards the end.  This would give participants more browsing and reflecting time.

Such a show has real appeal to children.  If it ran during school holidays, it could become a family attraction.

For future iterations I suggest:

  • a longer time frame for publicity
  • Set up a list of VIPs within Deakin and the Geelong community for individual emailed invitations.
  • Set up a list of current students at the Waterfront and Waurn Ponds campuses doing Visual Arts for emailing details of the exhibition.
  • Set up a list of alumni of the Visual Arts degree with current email contacts so past students are invited to all exhibitions.

Overall, it was a most successful event, with good attendance and excellent feedback.  Merinda’s extra work in helping with setup, food, equipment and adding the captions to the exhibition stepped far outside the normal responsibilities of a lecturer – amazing.

Balloons, bricks, tables, string, pegs. glow sticks, torches, captions, food, tape, tools, cushions, posters… the list goes on and on…

Photographs from NEW WILDERNESS NO. 5

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