Christmas Birrimbirr (Christmas Spirit): Curated exhibition, Darwin 2011

Gurrumuruwuy, Paul, Yangathu, Fiona, Deger, Jennifer, and Mackenzie, David (2011) Christmas Birrimbirr (Christmas Spirit): Curated exhibition, Darwin 2011. [Show/Exhibition]

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Abstract

In 2011 Arts NT awarded Miyarrka Media funds to curate an installation of their work Christmas Birrimbirr in the Chan Contemporary Art Space in Darwin in as part of a competitive submission round. As a form of research it was an investigation into the potential of displaying new forms of Yolngu art—to both Aboriginal and non-Aborginal audiences—and gauging its reception. Apart from the visual and aesthetic effects, the curation process initiated a new phase in Deger’s research regarding Yolngu understandings of the very category of 'art' and the role of mediated ritual in contemporary life. The curation process, involving the spatial and on-screen design of materials, selection and overseeing of the printing of photographs, installation of a Yolngu Christmas forest sculpture, preparation of label texts, fund raising, organizing the opening ceremony intended to activate the video and photography work, physically building and installing and launching the work, the writing and documentation for the catalogue, and the two week research period within the gallery acting as cultural translators while gauging audience response—all this was the culmination of Deger's ARC funded research project investigating the collaborative methodologies and the intercultural and intergenerational reach of Yolngu new media, from production through reception. The collective ownership and responsibility for the work was demonstrated in the shared process of installing and ritually opening the exhibition with relevant clan leaders from Gapuwiyak, making decisions about the placing of objects and activating underlying relationships between elements. Together they created a landmark in Indigenous art in Australia by presenting the first exhibition of new media art made in a remote Aboriginal community. The opening involved more than 40 family members from Gapuwiyak and attracted a large audience of Aboriginal and non-Aborginal Darwin residents.

Research Statement

Research Background This exhibition is an investigation into the potential of displaying new forms of Yolngu art—to both Aboriginal and non-Aborginal audiences—and gauging its reception. The research aimed to produce the affective effects of Yolngu ritual in an art gallery setting. This process of making and exhibiting this show involved collaborative decision over the spatial and on-screen design of materials, selection and overseeing of the printing of photographs, installation of a Yolngu Christmas forest sculpture,physically building and installing and launching the work, the writing and documentation for the catalogue, together with fieldwork in the gallery during the show.
Research Contribution This research represents a new approach to a shared,practice-led anthropology. In creating this exhibition, the research critically tested our ideas for a 'Yolngu museology that foregrounds affect and familial identifications as the basis for an intercultural aesthetics of encounter and a radical humanism affirming on the possibility of identification premised on simultaneous sameness and difference.
Research Significance This landmark exhibition was the first new media installation created and curated in a remote Aboriginal community. The exhibition attracted national coverage on ABC 7.30 and ABC Open. It led to Miyarrka Media being commissioned to substantially expand this project as an immersive installation for Danish audiences in Oct 2014 as part of the opening of the Moesgaard Museum a new and already influential site for visual anthropology and experimental museology in Europe.
Item ID: 36675
Show/Exhibition: Christmas Birrimbirr: Christmas Spirit
Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin, NT, Australia
7-18 December 2011
Keywords: collaborative methods, anthropology and art, Aboriginal art, ethnographic film, museum studies
Additional Information:

Curators: Miyarrka Media: Paul Gurrumuruwuy, Fiona Yangathu, Jennifer Deger and David Mackenzie.

See record in ResearchOnline@JCU for the exhibition catalogue: http://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/34070/

Media of Output: HD Video, photographs on paper, mixed media sculpture
Related URLs:
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Centre for Contemporary Arts and Politics (UNSW), Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Ian Potter Foundation, East Arnhem Shire, Arnhem Land Progress Association, Darwin Visual Arts Assoc, NT
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2014 00:43
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950201 Communication Across Languages and Culture @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 30%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing @ 20%
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