Transcript of r e a – Finding the form

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

[MUSIC PLAYING]

REA: What I do as an artist is I take ideas, and I allow the idea to unfold and find the medium. As an artist who's working in technology, it finds the form itself.

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So I'm not an artist now who would say I'm actually a photographer, or I'm a video artist, or I'm a sound artist. I am an artist who works in an interdisciplinary cross-art form practice, who allows an idea to unfold and find the form that it needs to find to create a space so you can have an experience in it.

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My name is r e a. And I'm from the Gamilaraay, Wailwan, and Biripi people from the Central Western New South Wales, from the Warrumbungles area. And I live here on Dharruk country.

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When I was a kid growing up in Coonabarabran, my mom for some reason picked up that I was interested in art because I was drawing all the time. And then later on in years, I continued my art practice I guess as a hobby in some sense. I did have a strong relationship. It felt like it was an extension of who I was.

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I dropped out of school before I finished year 10. And I applied to go to the National Art School, and I didn't get accepted. So I threw all my art out, all my archival history and proceeded to just be in the world without art.

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I later returned to it really just by accident when I was about 25. And I went to the Aboriginal performing and visual art school, the Eora Center, in Redfern. And I was really lucky that Professor Michael McDaniel, who now kind of heads up the Jumbunna Center at UTS, was my history teacher. And it was through his encouragement that I thought about going beyond that because he asked me a question that nobody had ever asked me.

He said, what are you going to do when you leave here, r-e-a. And I said, I'm going to go to Tranby, or I'm going to go and do another TAFE course. And he said to me, but you don't need to do that. You can go to university. You've got all the skills you need.

And I said, no, I'm not smart enough to go to university. And so it was through his nurturing and support. And he opened that door for me to have an interview there. And the rest is history really.

Later on, after I'd finished art school and been thinking about my work in a broader context, I made the work Poles Apart, which was paying homage to my grandmother. But it was also about looking at the broader relationship to the Stolen Generation and how Indigenous women never got to find their way back to country and how lucky I was that my grandmother had that knowledge and knew where she come from.

And I guess the work Poles Apart of which I'm the body in that is representing that loss plays this part in the work as the body trying to escape from somewhere from another part of the country, a country that's not my country, to find my way back to where I come from. But I'm lost. And in that loss, there's a whole lot of experiences that are happening for me. But there's also this kind of constant anxiety that I'm going to be found by the people that I'm working for or the place that I am staying, and that I'll never get back to country.

So there's this kind of juxtaposition between this relationship between the excitement about escaping this place but the anxiety about being found and having to go back to it. And I thought that a lot of these women who were in those positions, who when they were finally allowed to leave at the age of 18, they never found their way back to country because they ended up on the fringes of cities and towns because they didn't know where they came from.

There's not always sound in my work. Like when I created Poles Apart, that work had sound. And by the time I finished the work, the silence of that work was much more powerful than me putting any sound. So the silence of that work was the important part of it.

Technology is really-- if you approach it in a way that it is about making mistakes, and you learn from the mistake, and you correct it. And once I got used to that idea of technology, I played more.

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It gave me kind of permission then to make lots of mistakes. And I think the thing that's really important about being an artist is artists make a lot of mistakes to make great work. You do not my great work from your first go because it's about a process of thinking about your ideas and thinking about how you want the outcome of the idea to be in its physical form.

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If I'm making a photograph and I want the photograph to have much more impact than somebody standing in front of it looking at it on the wall, and I want to have a sound element or I want to create some other ideas that will go in the space, then I have to also be willing to shift the visual idea. So my visual idea moved from photography to video work because video work allowed me to change the images, the motion, and the movement and gave it much more of a kind of physical experience.

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And through that journey, then I learnt that I wasn't an artist who made works about stories in a linear sense. I made work that was more about a conceptual idea, so moments, those little moments that make up a big idea.

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For me, being an artist is the voice that I needed to be able to creatively express the history that I come from and my family history and to continue on in a way that I can share that history in an academic space with Indigenous, and non-Indigenous kids, and anyone who's willing to kind of be open-minded and learn that experience, about those experiences, about our history because our histories have always been taught in parallel to each other and not as a connection. And they are so connected.

And until we understand how connected they are, then the gap that we kind of have between us will continue to be there. So if we want to change that gap, we have to make those connections. And we can only make it through understanding the collective history.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

END OF TRANSCRIPT

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