Pyramid Hill 2018


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Reading Mother Country

Circling, spiralling and crossing forms express connections.

Every second molecule of oxygen I breathe

This is the first painting I did as a student of Aboriginal Cultural Arts at Eora College, Sydney, in 2018.

Chico Monks was our teacher. He encouraged us all to find our own ways to identify our selves. The circle represents both a microscopic and a global view of myself as part of nature, with words and images describing the reality that every second molecule of oxygen we breathe is produced by phytoplankton (microscopic plants) that live in the world's waterways. The circle also expresses connection between land and ocean that makes me who I am. Thanks Chico, for being a great artist and teacher. Thanks for getting us to talk and write about what we do, and to respect and listen to each other.

"What is your relationship to Aboriginal Australia?"

Professor Megan Williamsasked this question at the Roundtable that began the Lens on Healthevent for the 2018 Sydney Science Festival during National Science Week.

My guess is that more people than me struggled that day with words to respond. We had come together for the first time, from different disciplines and cultures, both within and beyond the university system. I knew some people around the table were, like me, dispossessed of much knowledge of their Aboriginal land and country, with recent ancestors who had chosen to pass as white.

Megan suggested our responses would change over time. Sure enough, some time later I found myself preparing to tell my story for the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Eighth Gatheringhosted by the University of Sydney at International Conference Centre, Darling Harbour. I knew words alone were not enough.

So I made this animated film. The film begins with a childhood memory and expands to reflect ongoing relationships with people and places that identify my relationship to Aboriginal Australia.

My ancestor Hannah Brown was Indigenous Australian and another ancestor was the celebrated Australian artist Tom Roberts. As a child I imagined pictures on the pages of my school Readers moving, like the picture of Tom's painting, 'Shearing the Rams'.

Through September 2018 I trace the footsteps of Hannah Brown in Western Victoria. I follow a map sent by a cousin who found me online, whose stories of our Aboriginal ancestry connect. The map shows where and when Hannah lived and died. I climb Pyramid Hill where Major Mitchell proclaimed the lie, "...a land so inviting and still without inhabitants." The country that surrounds Pyramid Hill is now the farmland he envisaged for colonisation. I tell a story to the rhythm of a lunar cycle to reflect something of my experience of the journey. The solar system refers to the Milankovitch cycles that govern natural patterns of climate change and evolution, patterns known and respected by Indigenous Elders and now disrupted by our massive burning of fossil fuels. Antarctic animations relate Australia to the global system from which we are born and are part of shaping.


CREDITS in order of appearance

Ocean gesture: Vikki Quill (tracing ancient Chinese calligraphic form)
Motion-captured by Jason Benedek (UTS)
Quote reference: Josephine Flood (2004. p.15)
Excerpt from music, 'Song to my Ancestors': Alison O'Carroll
Photo: Roberts family collection
Map: Anthony Higgins
Data projections with frogs: Lisa Roberts with Anne Russell
Phytoplankton animation: Lisa Roberts with Sue Fenech (UTS)
Growing and Sharing Knowledge animation: Lisa Roberts
with Shawn Wilson (Univerity of Sydney)
Music, Pedestrian Journey: Jason Benedek (UTS)
Polar Time animation art & data guidance: Dana Bergstrom (AAD)
Natural Cycles animation: Brad Freese
Krill animation: Lisa Roberts with So Kawaguchi, Robbie Kilpatrick, Rob King, and Steve Nicol (AAD)
Animal motion reference: James Gray, 1953
Seagrass swimmers:
Bliss Boaden
Isobel Cummings
Shona Wilson
Gumbaygnirr Story/Art/Video:
Chels Marshall. Australian National University (ANU)
Special effects: Lisa Roberts with Jason Benedek (UTS)
Gumbaygnirr Voice:
Michael Jarrett
Possum skin drumming:
Laura McBride
Underwater video/sound:
William Gladstone (UTS)
Antarctic sea ice 'breath' data: AAD
Infinity sign trace source: Singapore zoo Great Ape. John Matthews. (2008)
Antarctic Elephant seal sound recording: Lisa Roberts (2003)
Southern Ocean Currents trace source: AAD
Alveoli opening animation: Lisa Roberts with Nicholas Kiraly
Underwater sunlight video: William Gladstone (UTS)
Yamarr Waaruubiin - Gumbaygnirr fish designs: Chels Marshall (ANU)
Errand into the Maze gesture:
Barbara Cuckson (Rozelle School of Visual Arts)
Motion-captured by Jason Benedek (UTS)
Seagrass video: William Gladstone (UTS)
Gumbaygnirr country video: Chels Marshall (ANU)
Gumbaygnirr Swimmer: Lacey Froglet Butterfly Edwards
Antarctic krill sex data:
So Kawaguchi
Steve Nichol
Andrew Constable
Rob King
Graham Ewing