Based on the heritage sites that form part of Australia’s convict legacy, focusing mainly within Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), this project explores ways in which the economic, social and cultural context of the transportation experience can be communicated to the 21st century visitors to the various sites. The importance of art in mediating site in the service of history will be demonstrated through the conception and curation of a major installation work inviting international participation. Behind the practice-led investigation lies research into possible interpretative and art installation strategies for specific sites: some of the strategies have been initiated in the course of this project, while others remain as suggestions for consideration in future contexts
All aspects of the project retain a focus on demonstrating the importance of art as a significant tool to bring attention to history. This is a project by an artist working within a worldwide community that retains links to a convict past, not the work of an historian. With the recent World Heritage nomination of eleven convict sites within Australia this research is pertinent to current concerns within the heritage and tourism industries regarding the communication of these sites to a non-expert, cross-cultural, international audience. Sites central to the research include Maria Island, Cascades Female Factory and Woolmers Estate. Attention to conventional history is used to inform the practice component of the project. Producing and presenting past experiences of each site through art in the form of exhibitions, installations and performance art is one possible interpretation strategy.
Reference has been made to artists who have worked in similar themes and media including Hossein Valamanesh and Angela Valamanesh, Anne Ferran, Fiona Hall and Julie Gough, and to Susan Best’s ideas of affect. Writers who have addressed the question of interpretive modes of history include Ann Curthoys and John Docker. Kate Grenville and Rohan Wilson provide recent examples through the contemporary historical novel of literary evocations of site. The tenets of tourism are derived from Dean McCannell.
The project demonstrates that art works can be used by historians and site custodians to evoke story, memory and a sense of place and time that enriches the visitor experience and can elicit poignant and sometime surprising responses from those who choose to participate in the collaborative aspects of the project, from simply attending a site or exhibition having direct input to installations and related site-specific activities.
Authorised by the Head of School, Tasmanian College of the Arts
29 October, 2012