Projects

Roget's Circular 1999-2002

INDEX

Illuminating the Macquarie thesaurus

Roget's Circular. An animated digital Thesaurus (Pub. Macquarie Library) and other art works by Lisa Roberts and Melissa Smith, installed at Gallery 101, 101 Collins St, Melbourne, for the Bicentenary of Australian Federation program.

 

Matter (Still life). Digital images, wood, shellac

Roget's Thesaurus is an animated work that I made with artist Melissa Smith. We use languages of the arts to reveal our relationships with people and with places that give meaning to our lives. In this way we reveal our identities.

The doll (top centre) was made by my mother. It signifies our Aboriginal heritage through my great grandmother Hannah Brown (Grampians district, mob unknown). The doll (lower centre) belonged to my other great grandmother, Lillie Williamson. The doll was accepted as a gift by the Launceston Museum and Art Gallery as part of the story of her early connection to Tasmania. The coin (lower left) is the lesser part of a guinea, a shilling engraved with the letter 'T' by my great grandfather Tom Roberts (Lillie's husband). The coin may have been part payment for the first portrait painted in his 'Big Picture' of the opening of Australia's first parliament (1901). Guided by the Personal Assistant of the Director of the Australian National Gallery, I entrusted the coin to Bruce Parncutt for delivery as a gift to Malcolm Turnbull on the occasion of the opening of the Tom Roberts exhibition in 2015. The other part of my gift was a small engraving I had made, of Euphausia Superba (Antarctic krill). I prepared the gift with the message, "Dear Malcolm, I give you these items of family memorabilia as a gesture of hope for the arts and the sciences, and for my trust in your leadership towards a more creative, intelligent and productive Australia" (followed by an explanation of the items). The gift was "lost". News of the loss was suppressed by the NGA on the grounds that it would "embarrass the PM". I believe my gift to the PM was lost, just as treasures of Aboriginal Australia are lost, because of our present government's fear of us knowing and telling our own stories.

 

Lisa Roberts and Melissa Smith have adopted their own definitions of Roget's categories under the headings of child, portrait, still life, letter, landscape and garden. Art is language and they each use imagery in their own way. Melissa's prints are counterpointed by Lisa's pastels, digital prints and oil paintings. The works reference many interwoven subjects and themes: imagination and memory, landscape, personal identity, family history, time, cycles and seasons.

Rachael Hogge
Community Programs Officer
University of Tasmania
North-West Centre. 2002

 

 

The project evolved from a year long correspondence between Melissa Smith (MS) and myself (LR). Between 1999 and 2000 we travelled through landscapes of our forebears, sometimes together, but mostly independently. We collected letters, photos, recipes, drawings, songs, anecdotes, locks of hair, etc. We wrote Emails to each other and we made art.

 

The stuff we collected and created fell naturally into categories. Inspired by the six categories of Roget's original Thesaurus, we named ours thus:

 

Existence
Portrait

Space
Landscape

Matter
Still life

Intellect
Garden

Volition
Child

Affections
Letter

 

We chronicled our journeys through email messages reconstructed from actual events. Composing with words, pictures, sounds and animations, we each encapsulated responses to our experiences. A key word was chosen to identify each message. Sometimes our key words might be the same, but our meanings, reflected through choice and positioning of the material, were different.

 

In January 1999 I was in Adelaide visiting my daughter, and in Melbourne visiting my son. Many things happened during that time which seemed significant. I composed six messages - one for each category.

I wanted to say something about my identity, and about Repton who I had just read about about in Adelaide's Barr Library. English landowners in Australia would employ Repton to transform the indigenous landscapes into romantic images of their homelands. I imagined the struggle my English forbears had in seeing the Australian landscape through Indigenous eyes, as its own place. This idea fell naturally into 'landscape'. Over the top of the image of Repton's scene I animated the signature (or mark) of my maternal great grandmother, Hannah Brown. Since completing this project, family stories, documents, and feelings of connection to Tasmania and the Grampians in Victoria, confirm to me that Hannah Brown was, as we suspected, an Aboriginal woman. She was born in Fryerstown, Victoria and her mother may have been taken from Tasmania to the nearby Aboriginal reserve at Lalgambook (Mount Franklin).

 

 

Meanwhile, Melissa was visiting her father-in-law in Ararat.
She captured something of his mood through her drawing of the surrounding land, and a word picture. The play on 'long' through image and word, suggests the panorama of his life.

 

THE INTERACTIVE FRAMEWORK

A circle of shards can be seen amongst this selection of objects. These are buttons leading to the six categories. They number from the top and continue in a clockwise direction:

 

The other items are buttons to other places. For example the coiled leaf leads you to directly to the entrance to space/landscape. I found this leaf while walking through some virgin bush in Nabowla, northern Tasmania.

 

 

A calendar interconnects with six categories of memorabilia. The first letter of each month provides a button into that time.

 

The maze drawn in 1993 and used in the interactive works Terra Incognita and Lillie's Time Piece, was used to build hyperlinks between the email messages, the calendar and the six categories.

 

 

PORTRAIT (extracts)

 

 

 

LANDSCAPE (complete dialogue)

 

 

January

 

 

 

 

Feburary

 

 

 

 

March

 

 

 

 

April

 

 

 

 

May

 

 

 

 

 

June

 

 

 

July

 

 

 

August

 

 

 

 

September

 

 

October

 

 

 

November

 

 

 

December

 

 

 

More artwork associated with this project can be seen at

2D1999 2D2000 2D2001 3D2001