Tied, mayday 2006

Documentation of funerary performance with members of the Pacific Island Mount Druitt Action Network incorporating interviews with them about the tide risings, which were shown on multiple computer screens inside the Tribal Warrior boat, intercut with animation sequences of the melting ice forms used in the performance Tied, Mayday 2006 Farm Cove, Sydney. This documentation was presented as a two-screen projection at Loose Projects Sydney in 2006 as shown here, and exhibited in other venues in Sydney, Canberra, Chile, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.

Tied, Mayday 2006 was made in response to the issue of the rising tides on the low-lying Pacific Islands. It was an event held on the Indigenous owned fishing vessel the Tribal Warrior, which culminated in a funerary performance at Farm Cove where frozen saltwater sculptures were melted into the ocean. Varying in opacity, spiral ring and circular shapes bobbed up and down in the waves, relating quite literally to our unstable frozen water reserves, and their gentle melting and washing away triggered notions of temporality, erasure, loss and memory. A banner was made for the work that was the Sydney contribution to the opening event for the London Biennale. Five grey pixilated pyramids overlaid with wave patterns represent the five most vulnerable Pacific Islands identified by Pernetta (1989): Tokelau, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Line Islands and Kiribati.

The video monitors housed in the boat included personal responses to a proposed future of cultural disconnection through large-scale displacement, by members of the Pacific Island Mount Druitt Action Network and Islander workers at the Sydney Fish Markets who watched the four month parade of buckets to the freezer rooms. Tied was begun around nine months before Al Gore popularised global warming and so for some participants including myself, the project brought personal awakenings about the widespread devastation to human populations and ecosystems. Tied’s participants spoke about the neglect by the international community in their time of need, which is rooted in the lack of value of the Islands in western economic terms. They are non-viable, being heavily dependent on remittances, aid and development monies for present survival. Connell and Roy outline that this dependence on outside sources of financial assistance is a consequence of the western-style economic structures that developed pre-independence that have continued into the post-independence era due to a lack of available alternative modes of development, rather than through active choice and decision on the part of the Governments concerned.[1]

Concerns were expressed about neighbourly relations given Australia’s record of refusing refugee status, as well as the treatment towards those who had become refugees. Some participants saw the video project as a means to not only articulate a voice, but also potentially find a larger audience involving individuals who may be in a position to assist.

In cultural terms the Pacific Islands contain a disproportionate section of the world’s cultural and linguistic diversity. Pernetta states that over a third of the world’s languages are spoken in four countries in Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, The Solomons, Vanuatu and New Caledonia) and each island group is home to distinctive human cultures, having their own social and cultural mores, dance, dress, traditional knowledge and technologies. He believes that to preserve such ethnic diversity following migration to a larger developed and more culturally uniform society would be difficult, if not impossible.[2]

Tied’s audio installation heard on all areas of the boat included the slow gush of crashing ice sheets and the occasional sound of the boat’s engine to draw attention to the lack of internal anchors regarding the conundrum of general daily fossil fuel consumption, as well as attempts by artists to not contribute to issues being reported on. As a gesture of respect to those whose islands are represented on the banner, at the end of the performance the Deerubbun circled five islands on Sydney Harbour.

1. Connell, J and Roy, P, P. (1989), ‘The greenhouse effect, impact of sea level rise on low coral islands in the South Pacific.’ In Pernetta, J.C. and Hughes, P.J. (eds) Studies and Reviews of greenhouse related climatic change impacts on the Pacific Islands. Association of South Pacific Environmental Institutions.

2. Pernetta, John, J.C. (1989), Cities on Oceanic Islands: A Case Study of the Republic of Maldives. In Frassetto, R (ed) Impact of Sea Level Rise on Cities and Regions. Proceedings of the First International Meeting ‘Cities on Water’ Venice, December 11-13 1989.

Documentation artworks exhibited: Galleria Metropolitana, Santiago, Chile 2007, Liverpool Biennial & London Biennale, Arcadia Stables Gallery UK 2006, The End of Dollar Hegemony Loose Sydney 2006, Greenpeace Art 4 Action Changing Nature 2006 Darling Park Gallery Sydney 2006, Phoenix Spiritual Prize for Art Highly commended award, ANU School of Fine Art Gallery Canberra 2006 & Is It Getting Hotter in Here? At the Vanishing Point Sydney 2007

Funding was received from the City of Sydney and in-kind partners included the Sydney Fish Market, Tribal Warrior and the Pacific Islands Mt Druitt Action Network.