I will fall silent was a work created for a collaborative exhibition, Phosphene at Wollongong City Art Gallery in 2016. The artwork came out of discussions with Artist Jackie Cavallaro, Poet Tamryn Bennett and Musician Guillermo Batiz. The central theme being physical and spiritual connections with nature.
I will fall silent is a three channel video work that uses walking in nature as a metaphor for internal and psychological development. The protagonist is a product of her environment, she is both burdened by infinite time and the weight of being trapped in a human body. The three different video channels represent different states of being. The first is the progression of a body through time and space. The second is a split screen of rock and sea that is on an infinite loop that signifies both the moveable and immovable nature of time. The third and final video is a bodily expression of an internal struggle and transformation.
The following is the catalogue essay by Kathleen Linn.
There is something elemental and magical about salt. This comes in part from the intricacy of its crystalline formation, its slightly metallic yet un/pleasant taste and its role in superstition and magic - being thrown over someone’s shoulder to ward off evil spirits. Salt can be seen as an essential substance, not one of the classical elements exactly, but intrinsic to human existence and a substance which the three main Abrahamic religious texts all mention on a number of occasions - as do Buddhist, Shinto and Hindu texts. Salt is used as an offering, to purify and as an essential ingredient in holy water.
Tamara Elkins travelled through the Valle de Luna in Northern Chile in 2013 where she encountered the fascinating salt flats and sand dunes of this region. Formed where ancient lakes once carved the landscape, some parts of this valley have not received any rain for hundreds of years. The salt forms a white crust on the landscape, transforming it into an otherworldly, mystical and strange place.
The organic patterns formed upon the earth by natural processes such as wind on sand dunes or the salt flats created in the Valle de Luna can be profoundly beautiful. To walk through this landscape for Elkins must have been a deeply moving experience, both visually and physically, with the natural power of the earth and the dry, scratchiness of the salt on her skin in the heat.
We interact with our landscape and surrounds in a variety of ways. We travel through it and experience it, we attempt to claim it through taking photographs, composing stories about its formation and historically we have also tried to claim it as a possession. We animate and personify the landscape in multifaceted and culturally specific ways. One of these is to conceptualise the landscape as a woman, as Mother Earth, with a woman’s body and fertility used to draw analogies with the natural world.
Moving through space though, occupying the landscape is something else entirely. The landscape here, historically, is claimed and conquered by, no surprises, a manly, male figure. These ideas also appear in various ways in contemporary life from claiming space, to feeling like you have no space and the associated politics of space which feminism has been exploring for a number of years now.
This well established dichotomy of man as an agent in the landscape affecting it and woman as landscape and the earth itself, static and all body, has been examined by historian Bronwyn Hanna in her work about gendered landscapes. She talks about the landscape being inscribed with representations of gender, including “fertility and reproduction, sexualised beauty and sensuousness…, (masculine) sublime and (feminine) picturesque… genital metaphors (such as projections and caves)…gendered spatial boundaries.”
It is important to bear in mind that in addition to these cultural and societal concepts of space and landscape there are also our own personal projections onto different landscapes, and experiences with the land, which may or may not echo the ideas of Hanna and others. Landscape can be inscribed with very personal narratives. Landscape, both within artistic expression and more broadly within society, in essence, can be conceptualised as a spatial representation of human relationships with nature and this can possibly be intertwined with gender.
Elkins has incorporated performance into her practice for a number of years. When I spoke with her about her work she mentioned her interest in Butoh. Butoh is a form of dance and movement from Japan which emerged in the 1960s. The dancers often cover their bodies in white body paint and make movements in ways that distort the body. They depart from the traditional idea of the beautiful body in movement by stripping away socially acceptable movements and gestures of contemporary dance and presenting a dance that reflects upon the more natural movements of the body, an honesty in movement. A strange and slightly disturbing form of beauty, or a beauty within imperfection or even disfigurement, pallor and distortion is created in these movements of the body.
For Luna Garden in Archive Space’s Darkspace Elkins has created a lunar landscape and will be presenting a performance each day that the exhibition is open. She will be present in the space, active and affective in the landscape, her performance habitat. Installed on the gallery floor are island like, wooden landforms created by Elkins. They evoke stepping stones with their bleached, white colour and craggy sides like the topography of an island. Organic, felted plants or stems grow out of them, as do hands with white powder covering the gallery floor.The space of the moon is often seen as feminine with its links to fertility. As children we are introduced to Old Man Moon or The Man in the Moon in nursery rhymes. The landscape of the Valle de Luna gives way to otherworldliness and disjuncture as we project the space of the moon onto the space of the desert. The salt is transformative, the white body paint of the Butoh dancers is also transformative, mysterious and otherworldly. There is beauty created within this otherworldliness. The changing shape of the moon can represent the cyclical nature of the universe with the lunar space conjuring ideas of boundlessness, a limitlessness of the universe and a place out of our concept of time, at once ancient but here and now in the present.
By Kathleen Linn
Hanna, B., 2003, Re-gendering the landscape in New South Wales, commissioned for Gendered Landscapes Project in the Cultural Heritage Division of the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. p: 6
Un Cancion Por Cinco Pesos
Developed from a memory of a blind woman singing in a subway station in Buenos Aires advertising “a song for five pesos”. The memory of this woman becomes romanticised and elevated to higher cultural standing, she is now a blind opera singer amidst a rain of autumnal leaves, wearing a ball gown made from plush white doonas, her face a powdery white facade. Through gesture, language and costuming; I explore the ways in which we re-imagine our own worlds as fantasies and how islands of fragility can exist within a steel edged environment.
The work has been performed at Janet Clayton Gallery and Beams Festival, Chippendale 2014 and runs for approximately 10minutes.
Un Cancion por Cinco Pesos
Performed by Tamara and Edward Elkins at Beams Festival, Sydney, Australia, 2014
Wake was a collaboration between myself, Artist Jacqueline Cavallaro and Musician Jamie Basic. Referencing Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ to examine the female body, sensuality and nature. The work is designed to be played on loop and uses devices such as playing images and music both forward and backwards to create a sense of the cyclical nature of time.
The push and pull between nature and the intellectualised plays out when ideas of modesty compel the figure to dress only to have vines grow up her arms, to have nature re-assert itself and ultimately to have the figure retreat back into nature.
Western ideas of female beauty and the female body as intrinsically sensual are played out using the Venus archetype and questioned in regards to the figures own independent ideas of sensuality, nudeness and relationship to nature.
And I loved you more than ever
And I loved you more than ever was a performance I originally created in Buenos Aires for Teatro Lependu. It was created out of my experiences in Buenos Aires and influenced by Argentine Tango culture. It is a piece that looks at the romanticism of isolation and longing, the fragility and beauty of a body in distress. This piece was more recently performed at Made From Scratch, a cabaret and variety show at Wollongong City Town Hall. You can find a video of the original here https://vimeo.com/65485968
Walking without sound
Walking without sound was an exploration of weaving poems into performance by embodying them. Linking vocal communication with bodily communication to see where the two meet and how they change each other.
Performed at Beams festival 2015, this was an experimental piece initially intended for the 2016 exhibition Phosphene at Wollongong City Gallery.