Curated by Dr Kath Fries
Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, NSW
Earlier in the development of this work, I had toyed with the idea of telling this story at the site of Rookwood Cemetery as my Father's side of the family is mostly buried there. As this idea had been shelved, an opportunity to submit the work for this year's 2019 Hidden exhibition arose and I submitted this work for consideration, in which it was accepted. The installation of the work at the site, creates another layer of meaning, as it is the resting place for the majority of my Father's family, except for my Grandmother. In taking the work to this site, the project recognises her absence further, by creating a place for her and my relationship with her. After installing the work, I blessed my artwork with incense. I believe I have never had the opportunity to pay my respects to her through the burning of incense. I chose to add three sticks of incense to this version of the work, as in Chinese (Cantonese) language the word for three 'sarm' sounds similar to the word for life 'sarng'. In this site-specific context, by giving life to and caring for her story, I am hoping my hungry ghost will finally rest.
The work is exhibited in 'The Elephant House', a heritage diggers rest building and is part of a sculpture walk around the cemetery. Rookwood Necropolis (City of the Dead) is considered the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere, it is a suburb in its own right, has its own postcode and tells an amazing history of the diversity of the Australian community. It is sad to hear that the artist I am exhibiting with Nerine Martini, recently passed away after her long battle with cancer, but I think it is amazing that even in the after life she has made a meaningful contribution to the exhibition. I also blessed her work after I had installed mine.
The experience of being part of this show, has taken some time to sink in emotionally, but it certainly has been an enriching and challenging experience to take such a personal insight and be able to engage with a significant public site in telling this story. The act of releasing this story into the public realm, has certainly helped me to process the pain I inherited from the story of my absent Grandmother, which I regularly heard about from my parents, as I grew up. It is only in hindsight, that I can understand that this circumstance is not dictated by the actions of individual people, but also a product of a social and cultural context and hierarchies of power within Australian society of that era.