Gapuwiyak Calling: phone-made Media from Arnhem Land

Deger, Jennifer, Gurrumuruwuy, Paul, Gurruwiwi, Warren Balpatji, Ganambarr, James Bangaliwuy, Wunungmurra, Enid Gurungulmiwuy, Wanambi, Kayleen Djingadjingawuy, Wunungmurra, Meredith Balanydjarrk, and Wyatt, Evan (2014) Gapuwiyak Calling: phone-made Media from Arnhem Land. [Show/Exhibition]

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Gapuwiyak Calling celebrates the cellphone as a technology of creativity and connection. Curated by Miyarrka Media, a media-arts collective based in the remote community of Gapuwiyak in the Arnhem Land Region of Australia and recipient of the 2012 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award Special Mention, the installation features phone-made content from flashing GIF files of cut-and-pasted family photographs uniting the living and the dead to biyarrmak (funny) videos clips of mainstream television and movies re-voiced with Yolngu jokes, and a two-channel video about the stories and emotions that determine people's choice of ringtone. Structured according to Yolngu poetics of call-and-response, the exhibition takes motif and meaning from the actions of an ancestral mokuy (trickster spirit). In ancestral times this mokuy signaled other clans with his dhadalal (a special didgeridoo), establishing enduring relationships between people across the region. In this exhibition, the lively art - made possible by cell phones - calls out to people and places far beyond Arnhem Land.

Research Statement

Research Background This collaboratively curated exhibition explores the ways mobile phones generate new vectors if creativity and connection within a once-remote Aboriginal community. Deger designed the installation with her Yolgnu colleagues and the UQ museum team. The show ran from 15 March – 15 August 2014. Eight Yolngu curators together with Deger collected the material, selected works for inclusion in the show, wrote texts, cleared permissions, designed the conceptual framework, overseeing the installation and the opening.
Research Contribution This exhibition breaks new ground in anthropology study of mobile phones by moving past the predominantly linguistic models used to this point, to position the mobile phone as a performative technology of creativity and connection. It simultaneously advances the development of what we are calling Yolngu Museologies: a shared curation strategy developed by Deger with her Yolngu colleagues in an attempt to activate the museum as a site of cultural performance rather than archival display. With the sound of an ancestral mokuy (trickster figure) on his special yidaki (didgeridoo) calling gallery visitors into the space, the show works to performatively enact connections between technologies ‘old’ and ‘new’, Yolngu and Balanda.
Research Significance As a work of public anthropology, the exhibition generated national media attention and was used as for teaching purposes in anthropology, Indigenous Studies and Development Studies at UQ. The project has resulted in Deger and her collaborators being invited to participate in discussions in the field of digital art/ethnography/new museology in a number of international and national forums.
Item ID: 41550
Show/Exhibition: Gapuwiyak Calling: phone-made media from Arnhem Land
UQ Anthropology Museum, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
15 March - 15 August 2014
Additional Information:

In 2014 the Gapuwiyak Calling was exhibited in New York in the American Museum of Natural History as a key element of the Margaret Mead Film Festival:

Gapuwiyak Calling: phone-made media from Aboriginal Australia: New York, NY, USA,23-26 October 2014.

There was also a showing of this exhibition at the Cairns Institute, James Cook University from 17 September - 16 October 2015.

Media of Output: HD video, MP4 video, 3GP video, ply and paper, timber, assorted mobile phones
Related URLs:
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: ARC FT110100587
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2016 04:43
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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