Monday, May 18, 2015

Ancient Imaginings

Ancient Imaginings 

an interview for Sovereign Apocalypse Zine with Jenny Fraser 2015

Sovereign Apocalypse: Can you provide some thoughts on your future imaginings of sovereignty?

Jenny Fraser: Even though Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are only a 3% minority in Australia, Indigenous people internationally make up 6% of the worlds population. While it may not seem like we've got the numbers, we are actually the largest of all the minority groups, and we manage to cover 20% of our planets land mass, and therefore 80% of the worlds remaining Biodiversity.
It's a good feeling to think that as times get tougher, we maybe able to rely on each other, and our cousins in the international community, for sharing knowledges and resources required toward survival and longevity.
With that in mind, maybe it can help to rise above oppression and relax more into committing ourselves to our own direct stream of consciousness, and be able to unfold a greater, inherent understanding of ourselves, as a culture, as living spirit. If we make efforts to decolonise, to go with our own flow, and are true to ourselves, then I'm sure that our ancestors will smooth the way for us.

Sovereign ApocalypseHow do Indigenous knowledge's of creation or cosmology influence your work and practice?

Jenny Fraser: Although Indigenous Knowledges and cosmology are sometimes difficult to search out, and there is a considered silencing of this in the Australian vernacular, I am always interested in redressing this by quoting and referencing other Aboriginal people in my own projects.

The namesake of our recent online art project titled Superhighway across the Sky is inspired by a song from the world famous Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi.
Leading Yothu Yindi songman, Dr M Yunupingu and his visual artist sister, Ms G Yunupingu, both of whom only just died during the culmination of this project in recent years, were solid cultural leaders from the bush, with international profiles.

Over the years, I have gained a lot of inspiration from Ms G Yunupingu both in her work as an artist and also importantly as a healer. Motivated by stories from her father, she developed her own design style which is known as Garak the Universe, which are 4 pointed stars, that also reference connection between all people who look up and see constellations. Her designs and explanations are very powerful, both visually and conceptually. So, along with the song title for the project, I also tried to reference this important and worldly perspective on the Superhighway project T-shirts, by using an X in repetition. The shirts were a cyberTribe 15th anniversary limited edition and offered exclusively as gifts to the project participants and our Native Canadian hosts.

superhighway across the sky project Tshirt design
The official launch of Superhighway across the Sky, at the 2014 imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto was meant as a fitting and touching tribute to these Yolngu leaders and their lifelong inspirational and innovating art practices. As much as we would have loved to launch the project in Australia first, it is a crying shame that there is now no longer any Indigenous Media Arts award categories or venues to do so.

Sovereign ApocalypseDo you believe in “Aliens”? Do you think the concept of extra terrestrial “Aliens” is misinterpreted?

Jenny FraserWhen we watch mainstream alien invasion films we witness a great fear of the “other” and the unknown, but my analysis of that is basically just the ideology that perpetuates an age old human fear of foreigners.
To me, the concept of aliens just literally means outsiders. However, I do often keep my eyes skyward. One night, when I was on Thursday Island, I spotted a UFO, which seemed to be following my direction along the beach... I had already started running, before I realised that it was on is own trajectory, and later found out that it was probably just a really low flying weather balloon, or small satellite. Thankfully I haven't had a real UFO sighting, as just the thought of it is really frightening, but I don't discount others stories of their own first hand experiences. I enjoy hearing about them, and my mind is blown by the level of detail, like spaceships taking core samples from the rock walls of the Barron Gorge of Kuranda, and the many reports of spaceships and coloured lights flashing across the Northern Territory, and across the Asia Pacific to places in Indonesia and New Zealand.

From what I have heard, the concept of an alien just seems like some kind of base level humans, who mainly only care about the land on this planet, as a resource for gain and technology. Yet, even more interesting to me is the governmental cover-ups and their disassociation with ex-government employees who have come out and made their sightings public. Why can't there be a public discussion or awareness of peoples first hand experiences with other beings?

Sovereign ApocalypseHave you ever heard about the “returning” Boomerangs found in Tutankhamens tomb and claims that it is from us mob?

Do you believe international songlines exist?

Jenny Fraser:  I haven't heard about the boomerangs in Egypt, but I have heard stories the other way - examples of an Egyptian presence here in Australia. When I was younger, I remember there was a local story of a scarab beetles being found at Bundadjarruga / Walshs Pyramid, a mountain at Gordonvale here in Far North Queensland. Just this year, I was also made aware of a similar story in Aotearoa through a Maori screenmaker who explained that an anthropologist examined mummified remains found in a New Zealand cave in the 1930s and believed the skull was ancient Egyptian, at least 2000 years old. A gold scarab was found in the same area...
Flying by Walshs Pyramid : photo by Jenny Fraser
This kind of storytelling really sparks the imagination, but I think there is some truth to them, as I'm sure ancient contact happened in many ways. I also think that in ancient times gone by, the world was definitely a more magical place, with sacred sites like mountains, temples and bora rings being used for more direct and far reaching communications with the presence of significant planetary alignments, magnetic and other elemental forces. I am sure that the reasons why we don't communicate the same way as it was done historically, is not only because a lot of this kind of information and relating has been lost through cultural dominance and the restriction of free passage, but also because of the continental shift that happened, where we now see evidence of the old world underwater.

It appears that communicating and honouring those international connections or songlines, in that way are now broken, but maybe they can be repaired, or we can be satisfied with the new developments, in our societies or in outer space? As now we are aware of interstellar songlines – in 2014 a singing comet was recorded by instruments of the Rosetta mission that is run by the European Space Agency.

Sovereign Apocalypse:  Do you think our contact with “ancient civilisations” has been denied in the colonial narrative?

Can you tell us about the Australienation project?
What do you hope to provoke from the audience when it is revealed in 30 years time?

Jenny Fraser:  A gold record featuring video and audio artworks will soon be launched into outer space.  Inspired by and partly in response to the Voyager Golden Records, sent into space in 1977 by NASA as a record of culture and science at that time, the new international art/music group project titled Forever Now seeks to investigate our current historical moment. It re-imagines this curatorial act as experimental, politically charged and for the first time, places artists at the democratic centre of speaking on humanity’s behalf.

It was quite a challenging brief, to create a work that represents humanity now - and which will be immortalised forever - in just one minute. The video that I contributed, titled Australienation was shot on the Great Barrier Reef, which is currently under threat. In 30 years time, when the Forever Now record may be accessed, we will probably have seen the death of our World Wonder Reef, and, as scientists predict, our society will bear witness to the death of sea life in general, all over the world.

still image from Australienation by Jenny Fraser
Forever Now was launched on Sunday January 18 at the Odeon Theatre and broadcast into outer space via Cape Canaveral, as part of the Mona FOMA Faux Mo Festival in Hobart, and the artworks can also be viewed online at the website:
What I can hope for is that these new audiences will contemplate notions of some binary oppositions: Alien/Native, Security/Insecurity, Isolation/Belonging, Sympathy/Antipathy.
So I also offered this quote by Gilbert Keith Chesterton “We only know the last sad squires ride slowly towards the sea, And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.

Sovereign Apocalypse:  Superhighway across the sky is awesome and we love that it is about connections i.e. methods of communication are in some ways akin to the ancient notion of Songlines.” How did the collective conceive of this space and what is its purpose?

Jenny Fraser:  We could say the sky is the limit. I had been trying to get up a web-based art project and tour for a long time, and nine years later, I had finally managed to get some funding for it. However, lead up time to enter it into festivals was only short, and thankfully the artists were prepared to work fast on realising their ideas in tune with the themes resonant with Superhighway across the Sky. Christine Peacock brought the Brisbane Commonwealth Games Protest photos and speeches to light from her archives, Jason Davidson presented his documentation of chem trails around Australia and Michelle Blakeney matched archival photographs from Bombaderry Childrens Home near Nowra, with an audio track featuring testimonial speeches from the now aging previous residents at the Homes 100th anniversary.

In realising the project I was reminded of the film Koyaanisqatsi, named after the Hopi Native American term meaning 'crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living'. In the finale of the film, Hopi prophecies are chanted, including this…. "Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky." This could be referencing the world wide web, chem trails, or satellite and plane passage, or all of the skyward traffic. Whatever it is, I'm sure we are already living in these times, in the Fifth World, and we need to be documenting and actively responding to our current experiences and expectations. With social networking sites, like facebook and instagram now more popular than ever, maybe we can consider the new and instant methods of communication akin to the ancient notion of Songlines, just the latest version.

Blackout Artists Jason Davidson, Jenny Fraser and Michelle Blakeney from Australia on tour, pictured with Native Canadian Dancer at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival Welcome in Toronto 2013 


Sovereign Apocalypse:

Superhighway across the Sky:

Blackout Collective: