INVISIBLE WORDS INVISIBLE WORLDS (PARRAMATTA JUSTICE PRECINCT)
Invisible Words Invisible Worlds, solo exhibition in the closed section of the Heritage Courtyard Pavilion alongside the exhibition Everything is Connected with Everything Else: Myco Logic, in the main open section. 14 – 21 Oct and 25 Nov – 3 Dec 2017. Curated by Claire Taylor. Heritage Courtyard Pavilion, Parramatta Justice Precinct, Parramatta.
Elizabeth Day has had a long-standing interest in historic and contemporary institutions and contexts of incarceration and care. The main thematic of her thesis was the Colonial imposition of the prison, which drew her to want to work with the aggregation of institutions in Parramatta North. Her work there since 2013 has engaged with the historic shifts taking place with the redevelopment. The works in the ongoing series Invisible Words Invisible Worlds are responses to the Parramatta North sites and can be read as an ethical commentary on the transgenerational trauma that has been manifested there. The series incorporates texts based on Day’s experience as a prison educator over the last 25 years. Displayed in a closed section of the pavilion these works can only be encountered from a distance, the viewer is kept on the outside looking in.
In one half of the series the texts emerge from (and are at times lost within) rafts of unravelled wool, glued and stitched onto muslin and felt, extending the Unravelling of Form series that Day has been working on since the mid-1990s. The title “offcuts of reason”, from a catalogue of Day’s from that era, asserts itself through these works and connects the different bodies of work shown in the pavilion. In materials these textile works reference some of the earliest manufactures of the women held in the Female Factory but Day’s works counter any notion of productive labour: it is instead a process of unravelling as undoing order, structure, and form; as unlearning conformity; as reconciliation.
The wool-based Invisible Words Invisible Worlds works are laid out across the floor of the platform overhanging the open archaeological pit in the pavilion. This is the area where the heritage displays are housed. The artworks are arranged to suggest footings of walls, marking wards of the former Colonial Hospital, whose actual footings are preserved in the pit below and whose architecture is referenced in the contemporary pavilion structure. On the glass walls dividing these spaces, Day is exhibiting the other half of the Invisible Words Invisible Worlds series: a series of transparencies of altered electron microscopy images of carbon nano-tubes that have been artificially “grown”. The squiggly nano tubes closely resemble offcuts of unravelled wool, and similarly have texts embedded in them. In the highly pixelated images, the grid re-emerges. For Day, these works make a connection between quantum invisibility and the invisibility of the voices of those who have been traumatised while incarcerated or in institutional care. Installing these works on the glass echoes the texts selected by heritage specialists to mark the pavilion’s outer glass walls, noting the cruelty with which the Colonial Hospital was synonymous, but the works speak most powerfully to the justice contexts that surround this site. Day was interested in constructing a wall of the transparencies to reference the sandstone block walls of many of the Colonial institutions that connect to this site and Parramatta North, but here they are dispersed around the platform and pavilion partition, as if fragments of former structures that have come to light.
This project was presented as part of The Big Anxiety Festival, supported by Property NSW and assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. The electron microscopy imaging was made with the assistance of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics.
Works in exhibition:
Elizabeth Day, works from Unravelling of Form: Invisible Words Invisible Worlds series, 2017, unravelled wool, muslin, felt. Dimensions variable. Clockwise from the left of the door:
– Shame can be very debilitating – Abuse tends to repeat itself – They couldn’t imagine what had happened to her during those years –I can’t begin to explain how abuse changed my life –She was forced into the company of her abuser – They fought the British Army bravely for 100 years –It was passed on from generation to generation –Whatever you do don’t talk about it –She was denied a right of reply –It is not necessarily useful to have someone speak on your behalf –The law is not always just –He knew that abuse was going on but wasn’t that interested –The horror sticks to you –Whistleblowers on sex crimes can themselves be victimised –The just are not always just –Did anyone ask why she was angry –Having a family member in prison is worse than leprosy
Elizabeth Day, works from Invisible Words Invisible Worlds series, 2016-2017, adhesive vinyl transparencies (altered electron microscopy of carbon nano-tubes), 45 x 60 cm each. This project was made with the assistance of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Organic Electronics. Clockwise from the left of the door:
–Invisible words invisible worlds – She was denied a right of reply –The just are not always just –The truth is better sugar coated –They fought the British Army bravely for 100 years –It is not necessarily useful to have someone speak on your behalf –The horror sticks to you –Justice entails acknowledgement, recognition and loving attention to detail –There is a reason beyond the reason beyond the reason beyond that reason