The program allowed us to see firsthand the immense amount of work and effort that goes into pulling the show together behind the scenes. We were given a tour around the pavilion, just before the Vernissage. We were also able to see the last of the pieces being installed, and the final tweaks being made to the exhibitions.
The first few days were about getting to see the Australian pavilion, and hear from Tracey Moffatt and Natalie King (curator). We were able to spend a lot of time with the works, and had the opportunity to hear Tracey speak several times to different audiences.
During the first walkthrough, the exhibition guides were present, so Tracy was very thorough in explaining her thoughts on each piece – it was important that the exhibition attendants new exactly what she was saying and the technical processes behind the images, so that they could guide visitors and answer questions confidently.
In the brief Tracy was told to ’activate the space’ She was free to transform the space, as she required (without altering the main structure). Tracey and Natalie responded by choosing the work ‘Vigil’ to be played on a loop on the outside of the building, you watch as you walk up to the space.
A box like room was also constructed specially for the exhibition, sitting just inside the entrance. Tracy refers to it as the ‘Jewel Box’ the small room housed the body of work entitled ‘Passage’. As you walk through the door you are drawn directly to the enticing glow of the images, enhanced by the dark grey walls they were set against.
After exiting the Jewel Box, you notice ‘Spanish Window’ the first image in the ‘Body Remembers’ series. 10 large sepia toned images that are positioned high overhead.
As you walk around the room you come across ‘Vigil’ again. Still images of Hollywood stars (Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Donald Sutherland) are spliced together, to look as though the actors are watching something sinister unfold.
The film then cuts back to images of a crowded refugee boat. The sound track builds in intensity and the stills of the actors change from looks of curiosity to horror as an inevitable tragedy occurs…
The last piece you see is ‘The White Ghosts Sailed In’. A three minute, short film of grainy footage supposedly found in storage at an old aboriginal mission depicting the arrival of the first fleet, as seen by the aboriginal people looking out to sea… We learn from Tracey, the camera had originally belonged Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who originally accompanied Captain Cook on the Endeavour, and that Aboriginal people shot the footage on celluloid they had made “from melted down pig’s hooves” …
In Tracy’s work, stories and narratives are suggested, but ultimately the works are left to the viewer’s own interpretation.