North Head Project 2017
“North Head Project” Continues on “Of Global Appearance” exhibited at Manly Art Gallery and Museum in 2001. During that earlier project, when interviewing people about their experiences of being interned at the Quarantine Station,, there was often a stigma attached: migration with a disease plus a classification of migrants in two groups A and B (similar to the “other” and “us”), A for Alien and B for British, but they all had to go through a disinfecting shower and that room is one of the key buildings I chose to work with.
We are now still dealing with the old viruses and new viruses are emerging: Ebola, new form of the flu and the revival of epidemics in war zones. This is something foreign to most of us living in Australia and it could partly explain the negative stigma attached to migrants with contagious diseases. Because of the geographical position of Australia those viruses are perceived, in our mind through the media, as too far and yet so close. They become pretty pictures, micro representations looking beautifully abstract and disconnected.
To tell my story of the Quarantine Station, I have chosen to work with hand made paper: it is not only a surface on which to write and draw, but it adds the layer of memory of my hand casting the paper, reading like Braille on different surfaces. It allows me to record the shapes and details of the place, evocative of words; casted corrugated metal from the shower recess, bolts and nuts are punctuations of migrants’ stories.
From the carbolic acid showers to the dining room, where the first class passengers were served on a decorated Wedgewood dinnerware, I created a set of plates telling stories of viruses. Their images as well as the drawings of the animals responsible for carrying those different viruses, look intriguing served on a plate.
I wanted the overall experience of looking at them not to be perceived as a threat but similar to the first mouthful one eats; it is only when you get close that you realise it is too late.
Photographies: John Lee