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Research Process Journal

Far Flung - The Launch

Bringing it All Together - The ritual of going public

Wednesday 13 November, 2019

One of the key things our 'social-artists-in-residence' team considered in presenting the exhibition was to make sure our participants were core to the exhibition through the way they were credited. We also wanted to make sure they felt central to the launch of the exhibition and they were honoured in this way. We began the evening with a private preview for our families, which was documented by our photographer Tim Herbert. The families were excited and surprised by how their works were presented, as all the material came together in the final stages and finally they understood how all various elements of engagement worked together to curate their narrative of being between social and cultural spaces and having a local and global sense of home. To compliment this idea, we also included a map in the exhibition space, which allowed our audience members to also contribute to the conversation by 'mapping their places of belonging' in the world. This was important in recognising the layers of immigration which have occurred in the local area and a devise to create an inclusive environment for our audiences, through recognising that their are varied generations of immigration. During the launch, speeches were made by the Mayor Cr Paul McLeish, myself as the lead artist and Kavitha Doraimanickam, one of our participants. Kavitha eloquently reflected on how through our process we have become one big Far Flung family, rather than eleven disparate families, which was amazing to hear. 

Preparing for the launch made me consider the model of curation we had developed was more akin to the development of a piece of theatre, where we each had specific roles, with our community participants and their experience at the centre of the curatorial narrative. As the traditional 'group exhibition' model with professional artists tend to be centred around a theme and artists works are produced independently of each other, but are generally in conversation with each other according to the curators framework. The relationships between artists, participants and the arts and cultural team, in this exhibition we were much more interconnected and co-ordinated to build one narrative, more in line with a piece of theatre or a film. Leading me to consider our exhibition to be a model that is between an art and social history exhibition, where the participants were both the co-creators and their journey the subject of the exhibition, with their positioning at the core of curatorial narrative formation. The curation of this exhibition, a process of interrelated strategies of community partnerships, engagement and art practice rather than a role imbued in a single person, as traditionally defined. 

The preparation of the speech also gave me an opportunity to reflect on the process and to present back to our families and the audience what we aimed to achieve, what we did achieve and what we hoped audiences will take away from the experience (notes are below). In particular, I focused on finding a quote from a prominent art world figure of Asian background, to highlight there are key figures out there, who can provide voices beyond Euro-centric perspectives. In particular, I focused on the voice of Hou Hanru, a key curator of contemporary art, originally from China, who himself was also an immigrant and is able to offer his insight into the renewed conditions of home under our globalising conditions, in particular as Australia is experiencing the Asian century, with China's dominance in economics, the driver of these renewed conditions. How do these shifts in power enact themselves in our local conditions? What is presented in the exhibition attempts to present an insight into how the Australian suburbs are transforming as a result of these larger forces and have a conversation with these ideas through the exhibition. 

Images: 1) Installation view of the dining table 2) Portraits of our Far Flung families 3) Participant Dora Ke, with her family photograph 4) Panoramic view of the lounge room space 5) View of the interviews occurring concurrently with the studio processes and 6) Opening speeches for Far Flung, launched by the Mayor of Manningham Paul McLeish

Far Flung Opening Speech - Reflection as Lead Artist in Residence

'Our Home is your Home'

Wednesday 13 November, 2019

Good evening, I’m Dr Tammy Wong Hulbert, the lead artist for this project. I'm also a curator and academic from RMIT University, School of Art, of the Contemporary Art and Social Transformation Research Group and personally, an Australian that identifies as having a Cantonese, Chinese background. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work with our local Far Flung families: Alice & Julia, Camila & Karen, Candy & Brian, Charlene & Rita, Andrea & Han, Dora & Lyn, Alfred & Nancy, Matthew & Lily, Milano & Cecilia, Neena & Kavitha, Eason & Vicky and an amazing ‘social-artists-in-residence’ team who supported the families - Sofi, Ai & Katy (video, sound and photography), Yuso, Amy & Jenny (ceramics studio), Rongping (family and language support), Roz (tutor of the art studio and new ‘Art Smart’ program) and the fantastic Manningham arts and cultural team - Jessica (who trusted our process, her great enthusiasm, we really appreciated all her efforts), Davy, Hollie, Michelle and Chelsea.

We’ve all approached this project as co-learners, learning from each other. It has been an amazing experience to gain an understanding of the diversity of locals, to hear their stories and spend time considering who we are, in relation to place. I was invited to develop this project with Manningham because of my research work on ‘Curating Inclusive Cities’ which seeks to build and strengthen urban communities through engagement and participation in creative arts activities, with the aim of developing projects which curate, meaning to care for, their stories and encourage collective knowledge creation. 

Melbourne as a globalising city has recently experienced huge population growth, with Doncaster rapidly transforming to accommodate these changes. As our population increases and evolves, it is important to build strong connections with our new communities to build a sense of inclusion and belonging. Through our partnership with Birralee primary school, students who have shown an interest in art, with one of their guardians, were invited to collaborate with us on our art project. Over 10 weeks, we focused on strengthening social relationships within the Doncaster community, by bringing these new immigrant families together through social activities, the sharing of lots of delicious food and the creative process.

Our families are from diverse places and represent our locals with global outlooks, ranging from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Colombia, the parents were all born overseas and some of the children were born in Australia. Through our many discussions, we gained an understanding of our participants shared experience of having both a local and global sense of home in Doncaster. This core idea informed our re-imagining of the gallery as a shared metaphoric home, with a focus on the living and dining room space. A place where we, as families connect, share and build meaningful relationships. In the dining room, we feel the comfort of the foods we love, associated with particular times and places, giving us a sense of home.

Each of our participants created their own places at the table, symbolic of each individual creating their own place in a new society. They also created their own hands, representing empowered hands, which have the capability to create their own places. The grouping of hands in the centre, are symbolic of our shared humanity, empathy and connection. Sofi and her team, elegantly captured their voices and experiences through video and sound and created these warm family portraits, drawing from our indigenous flora. I'm really proud of what we've achieved as a collaborative team, with our participants as both the co-creators and their journey, the subject of this exhibition. On conclusion of our sessions, our families expressed how meaningful it was, to share their experiences as immigrants and bond with other local families with this perspective. The impact of Far Flung has also resulted in Manningham’s ongoing strategic and policy approaches with new communities and programs such as the birth of ‘Art Smart’ an art based child and parent program, linking the library, gallery and art studios.

I’d like to end with the sentiments of a well-known Chinese curator of Contemporary art, Hou Hanru, who himself is an immigrant, and reflects on new definitions of 'home' through the lens of the diaspora. 

“(Home) is the most essential space for considering the question of identity, the established notion of home, both physically and intellectually, is being deconstructed and becoming more and more open towards new possibilities, of interpretation…every family or individual has to be involved in such negotiations, new social and cultural spaces, which are systematically transnational, multicultural and multi-disciplinary, are being created to become the most promising forms of social interaction across the planet…My home is your home, your home is mine” (Hou & Sans, 2001). 

On that note, we would like to invite all of you to experience our imagined 'local yet global' home through this exhibition, as 'our shared home is also your home'. 
Thank you for listening.

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