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r e a, gins_leap / dubb_speak r e a, gins_leap / dubb_speak
photo Patrick Neu
At her floor talk, new media artist, r e a, stands before a map on the wall, pointing to the area she hails from, the country of the Gamilaraay/Wailwan people. At the entrance to her exhibition at Sydney Opera House is a small black and white photograph of the class of 1970 at Coonabarabran Primary. She’s the kid at the end of the second row and somewhere in the same iconic image are Sharmaine, Maria and Susan—Aboriginal girls from the gang she hung out with. Though she’s a local, and well regarded in her own community, r e a’s still a puzzle—a woman who left to pursue a career in an artform few in her community understand. “Everyone thinks if you’re an artist, you have to be a painter or if you’re carrying a camera, you must be a filmmaker.” Then there’s the name. Having discarded surnames r e a has chosen a single moniker with gaps between the letters and no capital. It suits her, expresses her identity, in a modest kind of way. But in Aboriginal culture, she says, the individual is an unfamiliar concept. Everyone is connected to family, community and to country.

r e a’s creative life has taken her a long way from Coonabarabran. Recipient of a New Media Arts Fellowship this year, she spends a lot of time in the US and has recently been studying at San Francisco Institute of Art as part of an American/Australian Fulbright Scholarship for research and development in creative technologies. She returns home regularly. On one such visit in 2001, she sought out her old schoolmates, this time with the idea of recording interviews with them about their connections to the place that none save her has left. This material forms the basis of gins_leap / dubb_speak

I enter the multi-channel DVD installation through an ante-room, past the map, past a wall of words expressing female connection to country: gamilaraay wirringgaa dhayaamba-li wadhagii (gamilaraay women whisper secrets). Once inside I take my place in a circle of illuminated stones, enveloped by the 4 large screens, turning as I’m called to take in each, sometimes one at a time, at other times, all four at once. Sometimes I simply listen as Lea Collins’ recordings of birdsong, wind or water fill the space. No faces appear.

It’s a gentle, reflective work that slows you down, invites you to listen to the land speaking through the voices of women who love this place, though they’ve thought of leaving. They speak of shared memories, of the joy of returning after absence as well as thwarted ambition and sad family memories. There’s pride in the regeneration of languages thought lost. As the camera gathers and layers images—feet on stones, fingers sifting earth, scooping pebbles from water, cradling blossoms and seed pods—the 4 women weave together again the strands of a complex and enduring relationship.

In June-September, dLux media arts will tour gins_leap / dubb_speak to regional centres in NSW. Sadly there’s no venue in Coonabarabran to show this work but it’ll be touring to Newcastle, Moree and Broken Hill and r e a will attend the opening nights at all venues.

gins_leap / dubb_speak, creative director, artist r e a, technical designer, programmer Stephen Jones, dramaturg/project coordinator Gail Kelly, sound design Lea Collins, co-editor Peter Oldham. In collaboration with dLux media arts and the Sydney Opera House gins_leap / dubb_speak was included in the 2006 Message Stick Program, May 12-28

RealTime issue #73 June-July 2006 pg. 10

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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