Azadeh Hamzeii: A Tool is a Tool

In A Tool is a Tool by Azadeh Hamzeii, the narrative oscillates between scenes captured by two parties: Azadeh’s mother in Tehran and the artist in Brisbane. The work hinges on finding a cotton fluffing tool (bow) in Iran and constructing it outside of its country of origin, in a Men’s Shed in Australia. The story morphed into zany ritualistic acts between the artist and the males in the shed referencing a Cinéma Verité performative style, where connections between her and male performers during creation of the tool become the purpose. The result is not a documentary about making a cotton fluffing bow; it is about a wordless dialogue between generations and craft histories.

The artist would like to express her gratitude to George Wolf for the dedication, expertise and care throughout this project and to the South Brisbane Men’s Shed community and Alan Elphinstone for their support. A special mention for Dr. Chris Bennie, the artist’s mentor for the encouragement and his insightful and constructive feedback during the concept planning and execution of the work.

 

Azadeh Hamzeii, by Reina Takeuchi

Azadeh Hamzeii’s nuanced and performative practice explores her personal and familial connections between two countries: Iran and Australia. A Tool is a Tool documents two intertwined narratives that revolve around a cotton fluffing tool constructed across continents. The first narrative is that of Hamzeii’s endeavours to construct a cotton fluffing tool at a workshop in the heart of Brisbane. The second narrative involves Hamzeii’s mother traversing regions of Tehran in search of cotton fluffing workers. The stories cross several borders, times and spaces, from quiet, dry Brisbane backyards and men’s sheds, to the arid and dusty streets of Tehran where Hamzeii’s mother filmed her cotton-fluffing research on shaky, lo-fi FaceTime phone recordings.

Originally used in Iran to fluff cotton, the tool Hamzeii constructed in A Tool is a Tool is one that has been outmoded in favour of the more efficient and increasingly dangerous process of machination: feeding cotton into a churning machine with one’s bare hands. Here, Hamzeii provides us with rare glimpses into the connections forged using this tool. Connections not only between Hamzeii and her mother, but also those between the men she has documented and the unassuming rituals they have with the complex tools with which they work.

The construction of the tool in Queensland becomes akin to magic, a process Hamzeii frames with performative specificity. The workshop is a place of play, male bonding, camaraderie and innovation in the Australian context. It represents an escape from the rigours of life, normalcy and responsibility, providing with it, a place for masculine dreaming and creativity. In Tehran, the craftsmanship of cotton fluffing speaks directly to a ruthless economy, the brutal realities of relentless labour and the undeniable death of magical thinking in the face of extreme adversities.

Yet cotton fluffing is as beautiful as it is laborious. The compressed cotton expands and becomes fluffy once again, ready to be used and stuffed into material. Hamzeii’s mother remarks on the graceful quality of the cotton as she documents Iranian men tearing the fluffed cotton from machines, “It looks like the cotton is dancing and flying with your music.” In many ways, Hamzeii has at once succeeded in creating both a relic from another time that is also entirely different, a uniquely crafted object reconstructed ad-hoc from memories and online images. A transformation, a Frankenstein of its original and something else – something in-between the past and present. She has created an object in homage of what was, in a place that could not be any further removed from its country of origin.

It’s not really about the tool, is it? It is about the process. It’s about a process involving FaceTime conversations, planning, recreating and constructing – a process of holding on to and maintaining the tenuous threads between family, homelands, ways of life, craft histories and dying traditions.

This project was commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in collaboration with Metro Arts (Brisbane), with an exhibition component to be realised in December 2021. 


With a focus on the dialogues between the individual and the universal, Azadeh Hamzeii mines her personal history and cultural background as an Iranian based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Drawing from a range of subjects and materials including votive offerings, beeswax, fishing hooks, her father’s old film negatives and Keffiyeh, Hamzeii investigates the localised significance of objects and the potential to elevate their meaning, creating a broader human narrative. She is alumni of Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, held a Bachelor of Fine Arts majored in Interdisciplinary Sculpture Making and a Diploma of Photography from Tehran University, Fine Arts Department.

Reina Takeuchi is an Australian-Japanese artist-researcher, dance maker and curator currently working at 4A as an Assistant Curator. Influenced by her experiences living peripatetically across Asia and South-East Asia, Takeuchi uses an auto-ethnographic approach with her artistic research and performance processes. Her practice spans across visual arts, choreography, curatorial projects, written publications and creative facilitation.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Cups of nun chai is an evolving body of work, brewed for over a decade by Alana Hunt as a requiem to the killing of over 118 people during pro-freedom protests in Indian controlled Kashmir in 2010. It unfolded over two years of tea and conversation, accumulated progressively online, appeared as a newspaper serial in the Kashmir Reader from June 2016 – April 2017, and has most recently been published by Yaarbal Books, New Delhi. For 4A Digital contributing writers read excerpts of their work, which photographer Sharafat Ali has responded to visually.

A search for meaning in the face of something so brutal it appears absurd.
Alana Hunt

04d

Indifferent. Unaware. Elsewhere.
Alana Hunt

02b

Except ten million people do not go gentle into that good night.
Arif Ayaz Parrey

04_alana

I had seen stones fill the surface of an almost empty street.
Alana Hunt

05_arif

a platoon of samavars work tirelessly
Arif Ayaz Parrey

06_alana

“So when did Australia become free from the British?”
Alana Hunt

07_parvaiz

daring to look at the forest beyond the fog
Parvaiz Bukhari

08_alana

When you want to make a dream real, it suddenly gathers weight.
Alana Hunt

09_uzma

“Your generation saw nothing; just ruins and debris.”
Uzma Falak

 

To learn more about the work visit: www.cupsofnunchai.com


Sharafat Ali is an award-winning photographer whose work focuses on conflict, politics, faith and daily life in war-torn Kashmir.

Alana Hunt is an artist and writer living on Miriwoong country in the North-west of Australia. She has been working on evolving iterations of Cups of nun chai since 2010, most recently published by Yaarbal Books.

Arif Ayaz Parrey is a Kashmiri writer infused with nun chai.

Parvaiz Bukhari is a journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir. In 2016 when Cups of nun chai was serialised in the Kashmir Reader, he was an editor with the daily newspaper.

Uzma Falak is a poet, essayist and filmmaker from Kashmir. She is currently a DAAD Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Anthropology, University of Heidelberg.

 

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Biung Ismahasan, Indigenous Relational Space and Performance: Curating Together Towards Sovereignty in Taiwan and Beyond

Biung Ismahasan 

Biung Ismahasan presents for 4A Digital: recent research and curatorial practice, focusing on “Indigenous Relational Space and Performance: Curating Together Towards Sovereignty in Taiwan and Beyond.”

 


Biung Ismahasan is a Bunun (one of Taiwan’s sixteen Indigenous Nations) curator, artist and researcher. He is a PhD candidate in Curating from Centre for Curatorial Studies at the University of Essex in the UK. His thesis entitles “Indigenous Relational Space and Performance: Curating Together Towards Sovereignty in Taiwan and Beyond.”

His research relates to contemporary Indigenous curatorial practice and aesthetics, focusing on Taiwanese Indigenous contemporary art. Ismahasan emphasises issues of participation, performativity and the historiography of Indigenous curation and exhibition design. He has received a MA in Cultural Policy, Relations & Diplomacy from the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014. His most notable curatorial projects include Dispossessions: An Indigenous Performative Encounter 20142019, an international performance art exchange of Indigenous artists from Taiwan. He was a curatorial assistant of Let The River Flow: The Sovereign Will And The Making of A New Worldliness in April 2018 at Office for Contemporary Art Norway in Oslo; he has curated Dispossessions: Performative Encounter(s) of Taiwanese Indigenous Contemporary Art in May 2018 at Goldsmiths; he had curated yearly theme-based exhibition Ngahis Routes: When Depth Become Experiment which have collaborated with seven Taiwanese Indigenous artists at the Taoyuan City Indigenous Cultural Centre in 2019; he recently curated the Rukai Nation installation artist Eleng Luluans Between Dream in Àbadakone | Continuous Fire | Feu continuel at the second exhibition in the National Gallery of Canadas series of presentations of contemporary international Indigenous art between November 2019 and October 2020.

 

Access the interview transcript here.
Listen to this presentation as a podcast:


In 2020, 4A Digital is

 

This 4A Digital commission has been supported by the Cultural Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Sydney.

 

Libby Harward: Smoke Cloak

Smoke Cloak (performance stills) from Dabil-bung (Broken Water) Series.

(a project addressing water theft and water sovereignty in this continent now called Australia) 

During 2019, in severe drought conditions, I undertook a journey with my children that began at a freshwater lake on my homeland – a large sand island in saltwater country.  The purpose of the journey was to meet with and amplify the voices of the First Nations Peoples whose country is fed by the extensive river system known since colonisation as the Murray-Darling.  This project called for the return of the management and care of the now depleted river system to its Traditional Owners and Custodians.  Simultaneous with this project was another initiated by Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth, Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree whereby First Nations People gathered to camp, to dance, and to sing-up the rain all along the river system.  (Refer website) https://yaamangunnabaaka.com.au

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Smoke Cloak® is actually the registered trademark of a commercial security system, used by retail businesses that produces a dense vapour in the event of an intrusion. It is designed to force the thief to leave the building empty-handed.  The term smoke-screen is in common use to refer to the political strategy of covering up or hiding activities that may be unethical or illegal. 

 In this work from the Dabil-bung Series, I make a specific reference to the efforts of government and corporate investors to conceal the true extent of the over-allocation of water from the river system for commercial gain.  The environmental and social cost of the unsustainable production of cotton through a massive irrigation project, largely for the apparel industry, has been disregarded, cloaked by the drive for profit in the inequitable relations of power that prevail. 

My work also references the way in which smoke has been instrumental in the relations of power between Traditional Custodians of this country and its colonisers. Beginning with Cook’s ‘voyage of discovery’ 250 years ago, smoke from the fires of Australia’s First Peoples were observed and recorded in the ship’s journals, providing proof that the land was already occupied, and not the “Terra Nullius” (land belonging to no one) that was the basis for the British Crown’s claim of our country.  Furthermore, smoke from signal fires built by our people all along Australia’s east coast communicated our observations in advance of the ship navigated by Cook. 

With the arrival of the colonists, and their quest for farming and grazing land, smoke from our campfires was used as an indicator that water was nearby, and that this would be useful land for their purposes.  

Today, Australia’s First Peoples continue our Traditional ritual of “smoking” for spiritual healing.

Junbar balganya – Smoke is rising (Guwar language – Mugumpin – Quandamooka) 

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the unceded Aboriginal country on which I work and live, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging. 

Libby Harward.  November 2020.


Libby Harward is a descendant of the Ngugi People of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) in the Quandamooka (Moreton Bay Area, South East Queensland, Australia). Known for her early work as an urban graffiti artist under the pseudonym of ‘Mz Murricod’, and her performance-based community activism, Harward’s recent series, ALREADY OCCUPIED, engages a continual process of re-calling – re-hearing – re-mapping – re-contextualising – de-colonising and re-instating on country that, which colonisation has denied Australia’s First Peoples.  This political practice engages Traditional Custodians in the evolution of ephemeral installations on mainland country which has become highly urbanised and calls for an artistic response that seeks to uncover and reinstate the cultural significance of place, which always was, and remains to be there. Her current place-based sound and video work engages directly with politically charged ideas of national and international significance.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

This digital work is best viewed on browser to experience integrated sound.

Gwan Tung Dorothy Lau: Intradependent

Intradependent is a digitally manipulated self-portrait that explores the tension between the natural compulsion for personal excellence, and a countervailing urge to self-sabotage. Contextualised with the Psychoanalysis theory of Moral Masochism, the work depicts two identical figures, one repressing the other yet depending on her support; and the other providing support while enduring the weight of the former. In this enclosed ecosystem, an individual is simultaneously the perpetrator and the victim; the consumer and provider. This dynamic alludes to the perplexity and interchangeability of one’s internal performed roles, coined by Lau as an ‘intradependent’ mentality.

The Freudian notion of a divided and duplicated self is a recurring theme in my practice. In my auto-ethnographical and performative works, I stage internal dialogues to convey the duality and fluidity of my social identities, an amalgamation of my Hong Kong upbringing and Australian education. Adopting a meta-referential approach, my interdisciplinary practice draws from the conventions of studio practice to provide an intimate interpretation towards the process of art making, and the phenomenon of self-representation and tacit social rules in the context of the art scene.

In Intradependent, while the duo can be read as dependent and supportive respectively, there is also an element of self- inflicted punishment. The kneeling figure is conditioned to prolonged endurance bearing the weight of the sitting figure. In the theory of Moral Masochism, Psychoanalyst Roy Schafer suggested in his article “Those Wrecked by Success” (1988) that self-destructive behaviours could be stimulated by a fear of achievement. While the yearning for personal achievement and social acceptance is a dominating theme in my works, I observe a self-sabotaging tendency. The paralysing fear of mediocrity has seemingly left me shrouded in an unconscious guilt. Similar to the kneeling figure, I am immobilised by weight of my own ambition.

Ultimately a self-portraiture about art making, the overlapping of the artist and the muse in Intradependent is an Ouroboros – a serpent biting at its own tail. As the artist consumes and exploits the muse for her work, the two figures seemingly become a reluctant cannibal and a willing victim. An extension to my work A Stagnant Stack, the violence and turbulence are however neatly concealed in the stillness of the monochromatic portrait, reflective of my profession as a commercial Art Director, and paying abidance to the tacit rule of always maintaining decency.


Gwan Tung Dorothy Lau is Hong Kong-based contemporary artist working with digitally manipulated performative self-portrait photography and video, installation and performance. She completed her MFA with distinction at RMIT and Hong Kong Art School after receiving her BFA (Visual Arts) from QUT. She represented the institution at the HATCHED: National Graduate Show. In addition to being featured in VOGUE Hong Kong, Vice Creator and RealTime, Lau has participated in the Tropical Lab international artist residency and the Creative Mornings lecture series. Lau has exhibited internationally, notably at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Hong Kong Arts Centre Pao Galleries and Metro Arts Brisbane. For her commercial works, Lau founded GTDL Creative, a studio that provides art direction and consultation for media productions.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Cups of nun chai: online book launch with Alana Hunt, artist and writer and Sanjay Kak of Yaarbal Books in conversation with Jasmin Stephens

Presented as part of 4A Digital: Cups of nun chai: online book launch with Alana Hunt, artist and writer and Sanjay Kak of Yaarbal Books in conversation with Jasmin Stephens

 

 

Watch an online panel between Alana Hunt (artist and writer) and Sanjay Kak (filmmaker and founder of Yaarbal Books), in conversation with Jasmin Stephens (curator) to celebrate the release of the book ‘Cups of nun chai’, as a part of 4A Digital.

Held on 8 December, the talk focused on ‘Cups of nun chai’, an evolving body of work brewed for over a decade by Alana Hunt as a requiem to the killing of over 118 people during pro-freedom protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2010.

It unfolded over two years of tea and conversation, accumulated progressively online, appeared as a newspaper serial in the Kashmir Reader from June 2016 – April 2017, and has most recently been published by Yaarbal Books, New Delhi.

 


ONLINE.

TUESDAY 8 DECEMBER 6:00PM-7:30PM AEDT

Join artist and writer Alana Hunt and filmmaker and founder of Yaarbal Books, Sanjay Kak, in conversation with curator Jasmin Stephens for an in-depth discussion as we release the decade long body of work Cups of nun chai into the world in book form with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art as a part of 4A Digital. 

Cups of nun chai records the sharing of one hundred and eighteen cups of nun chai, and just as many conversations. Each cup was a part of a growing memorial for one hundred and eighteen civilians killed in the protests that shook the Kashmir valley during the summer of 2010.

In these exchanges the political unfolds through a profoundly personal experience, and events, places and sentiments that are often obscured from view are given breathing space. People, homes, memory—and flavour—combine to make tangible what so many outside Kashmir do not know.

This is an archive of small moments, marking each loss and moving against the normalisation of political violence and death. Spanning the spheres of contemporary art, literature, social-science and journalism, Cups of nun chai is a poignant act of memorialisation—a means of remembering, reading and reminding.

Adroit, and shot through with an extraordinary, even stubborn, compassion, it reflects on Kashmir, but also on nation-making and colonisation, and on power and violence. The histories, political forces and grief behind this work emerge gradually, but with great sensitivity. And eventually with an unexpected degree of ferocity.

Published by Yaarbal Books and designed by Itu Chaudhuri Design. With additional contributions from Parvaiz Bukhari and Uzma Falak. The book will be available in select book stores in Delhi and Srinagar and online via www.cupsofnunchai.com

Publication of this book is supported by The State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries.

 


ABOUT THE SPEAKERS: 

Alana Hunt is an artist and writer who lives on Miriwoong country in the north-west of Australia. This and her long-standing relationship with South Asia—and with Kashmir in particular—shapes her engagement with the violence that results from the fragility of nations and the aspirations and failures of colonial dreams.

Alana studied in Sydney, Halifax and New Delhi, and since 2009 she has led several award-winning art and publishing projects. These have circulated in the Hansard Report of the Australian Parliament, as a reading in the history department of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, as a newspaper serial in Srinagar, Kashmir, and as an unofficial street sign at the base of Australia’s most under-utilised dam wall. Alana will be exhibiting new work in The National: New Australian Art 2021 at Carriageworks.

Sanjay Kak is a documentary filmmaker and writer of Kashmiri-origin who lives in New Delhi. He has been producing award-winning films on environmental activism and resistance politics since the 1980s. The film Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom, 2007), the edited volume Until My Freedom Comes: The New Intifada in Kashmir (Penguin, 2011) and the photobook Witness (Yaarbal Books, 2017) have widely influenced the way Kashmir is seen in India. In 2008 he participated in Manifesta7, the European Biennale of Art, in Bolzano, Italy, with the installation A Shrine to the Future: The Memory of a Hill, about the mining of bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Odisha. Born in 1958, Sanjay read Economics and Sociology at Delhi University, and is a self-taught filmmaker. He is actively involved in the documentary film movement, and in the Campaign against Censorship and the Cinema of Resistance project.

Yaarbal Books is an independent publishing house based in New Delhi, India. It takes its name from a Kashmiri language word for the riverbank, and suggests a place of conviviality, where conversations can take place. The logo, a bold Y integrated with a slingshot, is a fair representation of its intentions: both resourceful and resolute, at once toy and weapon. It also stands in for a commitment to swim against the tides of power, commerce, and conformity. Its first title, the 2017 photobook ‘Witness – Kashmir / 1986-2016’ was listed in New York Times Magazine’s year-end list of Best Photo Books of 2017. Yaarbal is an imprint of New Delhi based Octave Communications, a production house with a three decade long track record in documentary film and television, and headed by film-maker and writer Sanjay Kak.

Jasmin Stephens is an independent curator and lecturer in curatorial studies and contemporary art in Asia. She has contributed to programming by institutions and led by artists across Australia and in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Currently curating with Contemporary Art Tasmania and teaching at UNSW Sydney, Jasmin also works with artists and curators as a researcher and strategist.


In 2020, 4A Digital is

 

Feature image courtesy Alana Hunt.

Kazkom: The LifeSpan

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KazKom is a Japanese Australian illustrator, 2D animator, and comic artist based in Sydney, Australia. With an education background in animation, Kaz has found her love in story telling with contributions seen in Meet Me In The Pitt and HAG MAG. Her works are usually playful and silly and made up of comedic short bits, however, Kaz has recently started exploring a more monologue type comic to illustrate her experiences and thoughts.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Mel Stringer: Sleepless in Seattle

mel2

Sleepless in Seattle


Mel Stringer is a Filipino-Australian Illustrator and Comic Artist currently based in Whidbey Island, a small island near Seattle, Washington.
Her artwork ranges from cute, digitally-created curvy girls full of attitude to her more rough comic work that is distributed in the form of photocopied zines.
A lot of her work is autobiographical in one way or another, whether it’s a direct diary entry or just inspired by her own experiences.
You can see more of Mel’s work by visiting her Patreon.com/melstringer site where she creates monthly art packages for supporters.

In 2020, 4A Digital is


PUBLIC PROGRAM

Watch a candid conversation between Filipina-Australian artist Mel Stringer and 4A Assistant Curator Reina Takeuchi, conducted between Stringer’s home studio at Seattle, USA and 4A’s Haymarket gallery in Sydney, Australia. In this episode, Stringer discusses the diaristic themes that drive her playful autobiographical practice, including notions of body positivity, cultural diaspora, and female-driven empowerment. The interview took place on 10 October 2020 as part of Sleepless in Seattle, commissioned for 4A Digital.

 

 

Access the interview transcript here.

Listen to the podcast version here.

Johanna Ng: Bay Vista

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Johanna Ng is a multidisciplinary artist based in Carlingford. She is currently studying a BFA at the National Art School. She enrolled at the peak of her Saturn return.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Lee Lai: Mother Ideal

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Lee Lai is from Naarm (Melbourne), Australia, and currently makes comics and illustrations in Tio’tia:ke (known as Montreal, Quebec). She has been featured in The New Yorker, The Lifted Brow, Room Magazine, and Meanjin Journal. Her first graphic novel Stone Fruit is due to be released by Fantagraphics in 2021, and has been translated into four languages.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Strict Face: 4A Mix

“Mixed a few handfuls of home-listening favourites over the last few months and recorded them straight to tape after three practice takes during one overcast afternoon in mid-September 2020. No specific emotions/themes were cast to mind when approaching the mix, but one could say it’s sluggish, sensual and sombre (all at the same time) upon listening back.”
– Strict Face


Strict Face is a Filipino producer/DJ hailing from Adelaide, South Australia. Whilst a member of the NLV Records roster since its inception, he has also released music on Local Action and Gobstopper Records over the years. He has frequently worked internationally, having toured throughout the UK & Europe and hosted radio shows in Paris, Hong Kong and London, while establishing a ongoing relationship with the underground club music scene in both his hometown and throughout Australia.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Andrew Yee: Flick

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Andrew Yee is multidisciplinary artist working across illustration, video, installation and podcasting. Yee’s formative years spent in Sydney’s East Ryde district created a disconnect with his surroundings, searching for his identity through a consumption of 2000s manga, pro-wrestling, the spectacle of K-pop and the emotional draw of music. His visual practice offers a meditative glimpse into concepts of personal identity and emotions often crafted through imaginative narrative forms presented in an idiosyncratic, surreal and comic-inspired style.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Nadia Refaei: Make Kabsah With Me

Make kabsah with me weaves together personal and broader narratives – touching on the history of migration through West Asia, the complexities of the Arab cultural landscape and the immigrant experience in Australia.

These narratives are told through conversations with my father; a first-generation Saudi, who grew up in Riyadh to a Syrian family, and migrated to Hobart around 30 years ago.

Memory and significance is explored through a dish that is widely loved within the Arab world but relatively unknown in Australia. This work reflects on cooking as a format for communication and exchange online, as well as a means of surface-level cultural consumption – and considers whether these existing roles can be used to provoke a curiosity for deeper cross-cultural engagement.

  


Nadia Refaei is an artist based in nipaluna (Hobart). She received a Bachelor of Arts in 2014 and Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in 2015 from the University of Tasmania. Her arts and curatorial practice draws on both personal and broader histories to explore the power dynamics and politics of intersectional identity as an Arab-Australian. Nadia uses photography, installation and video to interrogate Western imperialist narratives, examining issues such as displacement, cultural dislocation and the body. Her practice combines both process-based and research-driven methods.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Meg O’Shea

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Meg O’Shea a Korean adoptee maker of comics, drawings and sometimes pictures that move, from Sydney, Australia. She has contributed to The Nib, The Lifted Brow, The Suburban Review, Minicomic of the Month Club, Meet Me In The Pit, Treepaper Comics and ABC Radio National’s Radio with Pictures.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Elyas Alavi: Whispers at the bed of an obstinate prophet

Translation from the Persian/Farsi to English by Zuzanna Olsweska & Fatemeh Shams

حشرات را شکنجه نکنید

کتابها

کتابهای مفلوج رازهایشان را برای همه فاش می‌کنند

پله‌ها

پله‌های روسپی به هر پوتینی پا می‌دهند.

تصّور اینکه

باد پنجره را باز خواهد کرد

و بوی بهار در اتاق خواهد پیچید

تصوّر اینکه

کسی که دوستش داری، عاشق خواهد شد

درست درلحظه‌ای

كه مورچه‌های سرباز، چشمهایت را برای ملکه می‌برند

تصوّر اینکه

ساعت دوباره زنگ خواهد زد

زندگی ادامه خواهد داشت

نگرانم می‌کند

نگران چون دزدی که پایش به میز می‌خورد

نگران چون آخرین وسوسه های ابلیسی غمگین،

بر بستر پیامبری لجوج

قرار نبود مرده‌ها حرف بزنند

امّا از من به شما نصیحت

“هرگز حشرات را شکنجه نکنید”.

 

Don’t Torture Insects

Books

The paralysed books reveal their secrets to one and all.

Steps

The prostitute steps give themselves gladly to every boot.

 

The thought that

The wind will blow open the window

and the scent of

spring will creep into the room.

The thought that

Your beloved will fall in love

exactly at the moment that

the soldier ants

carry your eyes away to the queen.

The thought that

the clock will strike two

and life will go on

makes me anxious

Anxious as a burglar whose foot bumps into a table, clumsily

Anxious as the last temptations a sorrowful satan

whispers at the bed of an obstinate prophet.

 

The dead aren’t supposed to speak

But a piece of advice from me to you:

Never torture insects.

 

دلتنگي

ای شعر من

تو نیز آواره ای

روزی در ” کابل ” دود می شوی

روزی در ” پاریس” به زندان می افتی

روز دیگر در ” ناروو”

بند بندت

پاره پاره می شود

ای شعر من

تو نیز گرسنه ای

چون ” بكوا “

که لبان خشکش را به مسافران نشان می دهد

چون شهناز که گیس هاش را می فروشد

به نانی سرد

چون رئیس جمهور که ما را می فروشد

به نانی گرم

ای شعر من

تو نیز دلتنگی

و سرما همه را خواهد کُشت.

My poem

 

My poem

You, too, are an exile

One day you go up in smoke in Kabul

One day you’re thrown into prison in Paris

Another day in Nauru

your verses

are torn, torn apart.

 

My poem

You, too, are hungry

Like the Bakwa plain which offers its dry lips to the travellers

Like Shahnaz who hawks her tresses for a cold piece of bread

Like the president who sells us

for a hot piece of bread

 

Oh, my poem

You, too, are homesick

And the cold is going to kill us all.

 

Note: The Bakwa is a vast, hot plain between Kandahar and Kabul, where many travellers have been killed or wandered astray

 

دیگرگونه

آن شب

آن شب که دراز کشیده بودی

نگاه کردم بر تو

و سرم را میان دستانم گرفتم

که چگونه خوابیده ای در اتاقم؟

که بیست و یک ماه از هم دوریم.

یک تکه ماه هم باریده بود از کلکین

و می توانستم تنت را ببینم

که گس بود و غزل بود.

آن طرف تر نشسته بود “موتزارت” بر چوکی پلاستیکی

پیانو می زد

و دیگران بسیاری نگاه می کردند از میان چوب های سقف

تمام شب نگاه کردیم تو را

و زیبایی تو را

صبح

صبح رفتن بود

پرسیدی: “برمی گردی”؟

نگاهت نکردم

“نمی دانم”

و نشستم در تاکسی

تاکسی دور شد

نگاه نکردم به پشت سر

که عشق ما دیگرگونه بود

و غمگین و پنهان بود.

Another kind

 

That night

As you lay down

I looked at you

And took my head in my hands.

I thought: how can you be sleeping in my room?

We had been apart twenty-one months.

 

A piece of moon drizzled in from the window

and I could see your body, tender as a ghazal.

Mozart, sitting a little further away on a plastic chair, played piano,

many others watched from cracks in the ceiling’s woods.

Watched you for the entire night

in all your beauty.

 

Morning was morning of departure.

You asked: will I come back?

I did not look at you.

“I do not know”- I said.

And sat in the taxi.

The taxi left,

I did not look back.

Our love was of another kind,

Gloomy, concealed.

 


Elyas Alavi’s practice is interdisciplinary bridging elements from poetry to visual arts, from archive to everyday events with the intention to address issues around trauma, memory, identity, displacement, social and political crises.

He reflects upon his background as a displaced Hazara (a marginalized ethnic group originally from Afghanistan), and uses his particular experiences and contemplations as an epistemological model for the dislocation of people and collective memories.

Alavi graduated from a Master of Visual Arts at the University of South Australia in 2016 and a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) in 2013, and has exhibited at IFA (Kabul), Mohsen Gallery (Tehran), Robert Kananaj (Toronto), Firstdraft (Sydney) and Chapter House Lane (Melbourne) as well as AceOpen, Felt Space, Nexus Arts, CACSA Project Space (all Adelaide). He is the recipient of a 2019 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship. Alavi has published three poetry books in Iran and Afghanistan. He regularly runs art and poetry workshops in schools and community centres in Adelaide.

In 2020, 4A Digital is

Lots of Problems can be Solved with a long walk

Garry Trinh, by Con Gerakaris

For Garry Trinh, lockdown evoked a mental paralysis he has felt only twice before. The first instance is almost universal: the stasis of waiting in an airport with your flight repeatedly delayed only to be cancelled and your retreat into a hotel room. The disconnection between mental readiness (“the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is…”) and the physical inability to progress in your journey or even go out for fresh air. Just simply waiting.

The second experience is specific and personal: Garry’s two weeks in Luxor, Egypt. Opting out of the typical three-day tourist whirlwind he sought to explore the city by foot and camera in hand. Garry’s photographic practice began as a method of documenting graffiti before a piece was bombed or tagged and soon found a meditative comfort in having a camera on him and possessing the ability to capture a moment on a whim. Through a combination of his chameleonic persona, attentive eye, sense of humour and innate ability to seemingly always be in the right place at the right time has resulted in idiosyncratic photographic works highlighting the inert mundanities of suburban life with playfulness and wonder.

Unfortunately in Luxor his fly-on-the-wall practice was not so covert and faced a barrage of undesired attention from opportunistic locals, causing Garry to grow weary of the mental strain of exploring the city and once again retreating to a hotel room.

Created during lockdown Lots of Problems can be Solved with a long walk demonstrates Garry wrestling against an instinct of retreat. He took solace in photography during the forced upheaval of daily routine. Selected from a plethora of images the photographs that form the basis of his new work are directly and indirectly reflective of the experience of life during a pandemic. Some subject matter is overt–we all have those ubiquitous footpaths encountered daily during our 5:30pm walk we never wish to see again–while other pieces saw Garry challenge his practice from a personal and technical position to photograph abstracts such are resilience, change, comfort and permanence.

His breakthrough came in the editing room. “I’ve been thinking a lot about templates,” Garry told me. Since establishing a painting practice, he has been relearning his relationship to the creation and reproduction of images. Lessons have been learned the hard way: there is no undo function for a brush stroke on canvas and you must go where the painting will take you. His template concept stems from a desire to mitigate error while having a modular-like setup providing the ability to experiment with colour and material yet retain a recognisable result. Garry cited Jason Revok’s spray can device paintings on this: “I wish I invented that.”

Previous experiments with painting on or disassembling photographs often felt almost sacrilegious, but the digital manipulation found in this new body of work was natural. The added gestures are emblematic of a new approach to expanded photography for the artist. Garry’s new work is layered with shapes and symbols removed from their compositional context and transmuted into fragments of light and colour. The shards are reminiscent of accidental print misalignment, another long-time fascination for the artist, yet demonstrate a nuanced recognition for patterns stemming from a deep understanding of the medium.

Lots of Problems can be Solved with a long walk are available for individual purchase as A2 Lambda c-type prints at cost price with delivery.

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Garry Trinh is an artist working in photography, video, painting and works on paper. He makes art about the uncanny, unexpected and spontaneous moments in daily life. He is perplexed by the perception of artists as coffee-drinking loafers who work whenever they feel like it. He doesn’t even drink coffee. His works are about a way of looking at the world, to reveal magic in the mundane. He is never bored and never late.

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Con Gerakaris is a curator, arts administrator and writer based in Sydney. He is interested in facilitating artistic investigations into the relationships between people and places, both physical and digital, and how to navigate the changing landscapes we inhabit. Con’s curatorial practice often wrestles with personal and cultural identity, the symbiosis of humans and architecture and questioning the methods of exhibiting digital art in a gallery.


4A Digital is a platform for creative and academic exploration, giving artists, writers, academics and professionals the opportunity to experiment and investigate concepts and ideas outside of the exhibition and published journal formats.

Humyara Mahbub: Intricate Golden Dome

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© Humyara Mahbub 2020


Humyara Mahbub is an illustrator in Sydney. She has been drawing comics for more than ten years. She’s in therapy, so don’t worry about it.

You can visit Humyara’s website here and Instagram here.


4A Digital is a platform for creative and academic exploration, giving artists, writers, academics and professionals the opportunity to experiment and investigate concepts and ideas outside of the exhibition and published journal formats. This is the first volume in an ongoing monthly series of webcomics by Australian authors and artists.

Eunmi, Korean Shaman

Hyun Lee

These photos are of Eunmi Pang, a Korean shaman based in Goyang which is a city just outside of Seoul. I shot these photos during a research trip last year. 

I first found out about Eunmi when I was researching Korean shamanism for a project. She was one of two English-speaking shamans that came up on Google. She stood out to me because she used to be a fashion model before she was a shaman. I emailed her and got a response right away. Although her English was great, there was a digital communication barrier that my terrible Korean couldn’t overcome. The back and forth of emails fizzled out quickly and I completely forgot about her soon after. I guess that’s the magic of the internet: it can throw something into arms reach and then straight back into the void.

Korean shamanism involves ghosts, spirits, fate and magic. There are 300,000 practicing shamans in Korea today. It’s been around since forever and is still a huge part of Korean society and culture, it’s not a dead historical thing. It’s hard to believe shamanism can exist in a modern country known for its K-pop and plastic surgery but I think that’s because Koreans actively hide it from the outside world. There’s a weird stigma around shamans and people are generally quite secretive about their relationships with them. I once asked my mum if she’d ever met one and she denied it with a suspicious defensiveness only to admit later that she’d visited one when she was younger “but it was only one time!”. It’s kept well hidden but it’s one of those things: if you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to find. Or in my experience some kind of magic leads you straight to it.

After that failed email exchange with Eunmi I realised I needed to physically go to Korea to get any real research done. I committed myself to learning Korean properly and after a year I went to Seoul. I had no idea what I was going to do, my Korean was still pretty bad at that point (and still is now). Thinking about how I would manage anything with such poor language skills made me nervous so I procrastinated from preparing for the trip entirely. When I arrived I only had a vague plan to stay in a temple on a mountain because it seemed like an appropriate place to get rid of my anxiety.

Korea has a government-funded ‘temple stay’ program where a big bunch of temples are open to the public. You can stay at a temple for a few days, hang out in nature and do various Buddhist things. Most temples were closed or filled up by the time I was sitting in my Airbnb trying to book one on my laptop. With the power of internet magic I eventually found one that wasn’t too far away and two days later I was there. The temple was huge and empty. It probably housed many more monks in the past than it does now. Buddhism used to be the big thing in Korea but Christianity has taken over. There are churches absolutely everywhere in Seoul. There are also heaps of Buddhist temples but they’re hidden in the mountains and far fewer people go to them these days. Religions come and go but shamanism has always been there in the background.

When I arrived at the temple there was only one other person doing temple stay. She was a Korean-American woman and her Korean just as bad as mine. Talking to her filled me with more dread and anxiety because we were speaking in English and I felt like I should’ve been practicing Korean, let alone “researching”. I put my phone on airplane mode and spent the first day wandering aimlessly on the mountain by myself. On the second day I had lunch with the American lady. The temple dining hall had chairs and tables for a hundred people but we were the only ones there. It was eerily dark, quiet and empty.

I don’t remember how it came up in conversation but we started talking about Korean shamanism. I told her about my project and she said “Oh you should meet this shaman I know, she’s very interesting, she used to be a fashion model”. Naturally, the first person I met in Korea knew a shaman and would openly talk about this taboo topic with me. All of a sudden I remembered I’d emailed a shaman a year prior, ex-fashion model Eunmi, and that was exactly who the American lady was talking about. After lunch I turned airplane mode off, emailed Eunmi again and met with her two days later. It was like the magic of the internet, everything you need is right there if you just search for it.

It seemed so simple and obvious at the time but thinking about it now, it was actually an incredibly lucky chain of coincidences. Of all the places I could’ve been, of all the people I could’ve met, of the 30,000 shamans I could’ve encountered, I was led straight back to Eunmi. I later found out that the Korean-American woman had travelled to Korea to become a shaman herself under Eunmi’s teaching. It was as if I’d met her not by chance but by some force of fate. I was always at the right place at the right time and Eunmi later told me it wasn’t a coincidence. She said I had a sort of guardian angel: it was the spirit of my great grandmother who was a shaman herself and she was helping me with my research.

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All images © Hyun Lee 2019.


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Hyun Lee is a writer, director and photographer based in Sydney.


4A Digital is a platform for creative and academic exploration, giving artists, writers, academics and professionals the opportunity to experiment and investigate concepts and ideas outside of the exhibition and published journal formats.

Poetics of Light

Dr. Dacchi Dang

 

Since 2008, my artistic practice has been an exploration and investigation of cultural identity, experience and memories through a practical experimentation utilising the pinhole camera. My personal experience as a post-war Australian Chinese-Vietnamese refugee generates difference, with the question of otherness, diaspora, dislocation, displacement and liminality continually circulating around the tension of belonging, yearning and memory. This sense of difference informs how I use the pinhole camera and inspires multiple perspectives associated with the geographic, political and social landscapes of Australia and Vietnam.

The pinhole has played a prominent role in the history of Western culture. Artists, philosophers and scientists including Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Dürer, Raphael, Kepler, Newton, and Déscartes employed the pinhole as the starting point for some of their theories: crucially, the theory of fixed-eye point or single-point perspective described as a structured reality that holds our entire visual world together[1]. While many Western artists since the Renaissance have represented the world with a central or single-point perspective and focus on salient objects in a scene, their Eastern counterparts have concentrated on context information with multiple perspectives reading from Heaven to Earth in their paintings.

Increasingly, pioneering artists – da Vinci, Monet, Cezanne and Picasso – sought to challenge single-point perspective in 2D works, particularly from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Contemporary artists have attempted to abandon the theory of single point perspective offered by the camera lens, “to reinvestigate the altering, destruction, or natural evolvement of one-point perspective, thereby creating another visual structure,”[2] as articulated by David Hockney in his endeavour to redefine space.

As pinhole photography is more about the experimentation involved in the process it permits certain freedoms in comparison with other image-making photographic approaches. Because its process embodies chance, pinhole photography is similar to the way many of us live our lives. As a result, this method of experimental photography presents the most interesting and creative modifications for low-cost film cameras, manual printing techniques and unconventional use of the medium. Photographers who successfully operate and create resolved images virtually master a knowledge of optics: the understanding of the interplay of light is a fundamental element for photographers in their visual creativity. Apart from placing the pinhole camera in a certain space or location and dictating the nature of the hole filtering the light, the user has little control over how light and emulsion interact with each other. Even if the camera is placed in the exact same position, at the exact time of day and using the exact same material, each resultant single image will be different. This difference runs the full spectrum, from subtle to substantial, to a point where what has been captured does not seem to bear any meaningful resemblance to other images.

A great deal of understanding about other cultures derives from our comprehension of visual language and capacity to recognise and interpret our relationship to space and time. The extent to which aspects of our inhabited space can be apprehended also depends on time: like an f-stop in the camera aperture, the wider your vision is open to the outside world the more you are able to take in. Like the flattened depth of field of the pinhole camera, there may be some confusion or incomprehension between new and old. By taking these observations in slowly and by not opening completely, you are better able to analyse the information in order not only to more clearly ascertain the difference between the old and new, but also to keep your vision open in the search for new information as you explore these temporal spaces. While other types of cameras are both equally important and valuable to my practice and conceptual concerns, the use of the ‘dot’ or pinprick of light in my pinhole camera is more capable of revealing these complex realities of the liminal space that Vietnamese refugees face in relation to their negotiation of diaspora identity and of home. My dot is not only a mark, it is also reference a point: a point in time, a point of departure or arrival, a point of dislocation and relocation, and a point of view or a fixed point of single perspective.

 

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Dacchi Dang, Fish of the Day from Full Circle series, 2009.                                                             Dacchi Dang, Morning Light on Biota Street from Full Circle series, 2009

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Dacchi Dang, Old Rock, 2009.                                                                                                                  Dacchi Dang, Landscape, 2009

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Dacchi Dang, Woman Hut, 2009 
Feature image: Dacchi Dang, Faith from the Full Circle series, 2009

[1] Eric Renner,1995, Pinhole Photography, ibid., p. ix
[2] Eric Renner, 1995, ibid., pp.157-158 dacchi-dang


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Dr. Dacchi Dang
is a Sydney-based photographic artist and independent researcher, specialising in alternative photographic processes.


4A Digital is a platform for creative and academic exploration, giving artists, writers, academics and professionals the opportunity to experiment and investigate concepts and ideas outside of the exhibition and published journal formats.