Juukan Tears is up!

Juukan Tears has been launched for nearly a week now, so here’s a few images of the work for those far away and curious.

Juukan Tears, 2021
Recycled galvanised corrugated steel (from the artist’s back shed), chromed steel chain
2.6m x 4m x 5cm
Photographer: Melissa Cameron

Juukan Tears, 2021 (tears detail)
Recycled galvanised corrugated steel (from the artist’s back shed), chromed steel chain
2.6m x 4m x 5cm
Photographer: Melissa Cameron

Juukan Tears, 2021 (detail)
Recycled galvanised corrugated steel (from the artist’s back shed), chromed steel chain
2.6m x 4m x 5cm
Photographer: Melissa Cameron

Juukan Tears, 2021 (left panel detail)
Recycled galvanised corrugated steel (from the artist’s back shed), chromed steel chain
2.6m x 4m x 5cm
Photographer: Melissa Cameron

Juukan Tears

In May of 2020 mining company Rio Tinto destroyed a site which contained the Juukan Shelters, a place that had been in use by the First Nations traditional custodians of that land, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples, for over 46,000 years.

Located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA), the Shelters were on land leased by Rio Tinto for the Brockman 4 mine, one of their 16 in the area. Approval to mine was granted in 2013, under WA’s Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage act of 1972, which is currently under review. In 2014 an archaeological survey of the site found 4,000-year-old human hair, as well as proof of continuous use of the site dating back 46,000 years.

The site was considered in the “top five”[1] most significant sites in the Pilbara by archaeologist Dr Heather Builth. Archaeologist Dr Michael Slack, author of multiple reports on the shelters in 2008 and 2014, and the team leader of an excavation that removed over 7000 artefacts from the caves in 2014[2], told Rio Tinto that the shelter known as Juukan 2, was of “the highest archaeological significance in Australia.”[3]

The Rio Tinto offices occupy the tallest building in Perth. In a relatively small and topographically flat city, the building is visible for kilometres around its central city site, including from my studio space in North Perth. It became a constant reminder in the weeks after the blast that this huge icon remained unscathed, while 46,000 years of human history in a remote and sparsely human-occupied part of our country had been blasted into oblivion.

Noticing it afresh made me wonder about the stories that exist under my feet, that because of colonisation will never be told. What did we lose almost 200 years ago? And what would happen if the places were reversed? If we made protests about a sacred city building that ended up being futile, and then bore witness to its destruction, how would we feel? What would we do?

The work Juukan Tears is in two main parts, consisting of a portrait of the Rio Tinto building “drawn” in relief, using void space to express lines. The lines themselves are serrated, as they are made of removed amalgamations of teardrop shapes, that were linked to create the broken waterfall of tears hung to the right of the portrait. The tear chains each have one hundred tears and hang in two rows of twenty-three. That makes four-thousand six-hundred teardrops, equalling one tear for every ten years of time lost when the Juukan Shelters were destroyed.

The piece is made from recycled corrugated galvinised steel sheets that I removed from the shed in my own backyard. There are over 7000 chromed steel chain links used to stitch together the parts. When added up, the broken waterfall contains approximately 80m of teardrop chain.

The background of the drawing section is cut into 382 rectangular columns of four different lengths. It was reported that there were 382 holes already drilled into the Juukan Shelters before the “Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Traditional Owners were made aware of the planned blast on May 15, 2020.”[4] Ultimately Rio Tinto decided it would be too dangerous to remove the shot that was already placed into each of these holes, so the site was detonated. By careful placement of the four different column lengths, I steganographically hid a Morse code message into the piece. Once decoded, it reads “46,000 year old Juukan Shelters destroyed for… iron ore.”


[1] Keira Jenkins, “Rio Tinto Tells Senate Inquiry It Could Have Avoided Juukan Gorge Destruction.”

[2] Gregg Borschmann, “Rio Tinto Knew Six Years Ago about 46,000-Year-Old Cave Site It Blasted.”

[3] Keira Jenkins, “Rio Tinto Tells Senate Inquiry It Could Have Avoided Juukan Gorge Destruction.”

[4] Keira Jenkins.

Submission deadline extended!

Friends and Supporters of the Uluru Dialogue 
 
The government last week announced they have extended public submissions on a voice to parliament to Friday, 30 April. This gives you four more weeks to voice your support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by the Constitution. 
 
Nothing has changed. We are pushing ahead with our message that a First Nations Voice to Parliament must be protected by the Constitution.

IT’S TIME! Voice submissions extended! – email from the Indigenous Law Centre

Further to my post of last week, there’s now a whole month for you to make your submissions. See the Uluru Statement Supporter Kit for more details. I used their Submission Generator which made the process super easy, and got mine done on a Sunday afternoon. Please add your voice to those asking for constitutional protection of a First Nations voice to parliament. It’s time.

Juukan Tears

wip, February 2021

In May of 2020 mining company Rio Tinto destroyed the Juukan Shelters, containing sacred caves that had been in use by the traditional custodians of that part of (what we now call) Western Australia, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples, for over 46,000 years. The Shelters were in the remote Pilbara region of WA, and were located within the Brockman 4 mine, one among Rio Tinto’s 16 iron ore mines in the region. The PKKP had registered their objections to the extension of the mine into the area of the Juukan Shelters for several years, but owing to an outdated WA Government permit system that allows for no objections once a mining permit is issued, and an unequal and paternalistic mining rights negotiation process that effectively gags First Nation recipients of mining money, their cries went unheeded.

Since then the blast has received significant public outcry and media attention in Australia and been subject to a government inquiry, not least because recent archaeological excavations had found ancient human hair, proving continual human use of the shelters for 46,000 years.

Western Australia is home to Rio Tinto Iron Ore, and its capital, Perth, the city where I live, boasts the Rio Tinto office tower (also known as Central Park) as its tallest building. In a relatively small and topographically flat city it is visible from many kilometers away, including from my house – and my studio space – in North Perth.

My response to the shameful destruction of sacred sites and continued silencing of our First Nations people, (not to mention the over representation of environmental abusers like Rio Tinto in the skyline of Perth), is this work, with the working title Juukan Tears. It is a piece in two sections, the largest a wall hanging approximately 4m (13′) tall by 1.3m (4.3′) wide, the second section being a group 46 chains that are each approximately 1.8m long. It is made out of recycled custom orb, a common fencing and building material made from galvinised steel, which was previously the siding and roofing material of my back shed. (Image at this post.)

The first and larger part of the work contains a rendering of the Rio Tinto headquarters in Perth, with line-work “drawn” in different amalgamations of teardrop shapes. The second piece makes use of the 4,600 teardrop shapes, representing 10% of the 46,000 years of history lost when the Juukan Shelters were destroyed last May, to make chains of tears. Groups of 100 teardrops are joined to make 46 chains that will be hung next to the drawing, which combined makes approximately 80m (260′) of chain.

The drawing, or wall hanging, is itself also cut into 382 rectangular forms, to represent all of the holes drilled into the Juukan Shelters on the Brockman 4 mine site before the “Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Traditional Owners were made aware of the planned blast on May 15.” Within the background, using length and order of these 382 pieces, is depicted a message in a modified version of Morse Code. When decoded it reads: “46,000 year old Juukan shelters destroyed for…iron ore”

As mentioned previously, this work will debut at the John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University for the Indian Ocean Triennial Australia – IOTA21 – in September 2021.

I am grateful to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries in Western Australia for their financial support of this project, and to the IOTA and John Curtin Gallery curatorial teams for their support of this work and my greater practice.

Garland Magazine

I wrote a piece Katie Miller – Seattle Lightscapes for Garland’s current issue Turtle Island – North America. Writing about there – Katie is in Seattle, my former home, from here, Perth, my past and now current home – meant I had to rely on memory more than current lived/living experience.

I’ve spent the last 15 months living between. I’m starting to get out of that now; one thought, one gesture, one project at a time. Luckily for me deconstructing and transposing across an ocean (or two) means eventual reconstruction. Travel delivers one complete, not showing the particle dis-articulation that happened nor the reassembly. I was restored in the image of what went before, once I reached the other side.

Like all strip-down and put-back-together exercises, there are leftover parts to think about once you’re done. What do you do – do you store the parts that don’t have a place here? Might they come in handy again, or do you just let them go? And where do you reattach the pieces that you haven’t needed in a while because you didn’t need them over there? Will they find their level and glom on where and when they’re required? Or are they being clumsily reassembled in wait of necessity, not quite in the right place, not really at the best angle. Do I even need them, really? Does this look right? Am I doing ok, do I look awkward?

I pass for the never-left. That’s okay, that’s the blessing and burden of this body. It was similar in Seattle and surrounds, until I opened my mouth and the wrong substance came out. No such jeopardy here. Even if I am wrong, (and we are all wrong, the sheer number of us allows us to pass for right) I get to get away with it.

Safely within the colony I’m just another slightly paler version of the usual number. Unless you ask the right thing, and the wrong brain comes out. But I guess the point of this piece is to say that that is subsiding.

I hope to be able to continue to conjure it. To upload the source data and regenerate, or remember, the feelings. Not to live in the past, but to reach back to continue to learn from it.

Why?

I find the outside perspective invaluable. Especially in making art.

Published
Categorized as writing

Climate fires

Sign in North Perth

As the only Australian in the room at a few international gatherings, especially while I lived in the USA, I’ve become the personal link for the catastrophic climate events happening in my country.

North Perth is fine. We have stayed clear of fire, and of smoke, aside from a brief patch last week when the Baldivis fire blew a little bit of smoke our way. Thanks to an incredibly responsive fire department, the little flares about the place have not become big incidents. Of course this lengthened and horrific season is far from over, but so far for most of us in Perth the extreme heat has been a nuisance, not a hazard, and certainly not a trauma.

I have friends coping with the complete opposite, with the wrench of having to decide if and when to leave, and with or without what. And then coming home and having to repeat it over, and over.

It’s something that I remember having conversations about with my Nan. She watched her husband head out from their property in Piesse Brook in long pants and a shirt with a wool blanket to throw against the flames. She removed her washing from the line to pack a bag while she saw the fire fall down the opposite wall of the valley in which they lived. She overlooked an orchard with a creek. These neighbours became all that lay between her house and the fire. Miraculously the flames ceased their crawl towards them all on their descent into the valley.

This kind of brush with bushfire is not something you forget – it forges an impression so deep that it lives on in your grandchildren.

I hope my friends – and their friends – in these affected places are ok, but I know it’s a vain hope. I want the forests, the animals, the land to all be ok. They are not. I want the planet fixed so this doesn’t happen again. So we can go back to fires that crawl and can be stopped.

Attention Enamellists!

Helen Aitken Kuhnen’s prize-winning work. Photo courtesy Gallery Bilk, Canberra.

Thus far I have collected scant new items for the The Enamelist Society (TES) newsletter, aside from the wonderful news that Helen Aitken-Kuhnen has received the President Award in the 52nd International Exhibition of Japan Enamelling Artist Association.

So, if you in an upcoming exhibition; have you seen a cool collection; are leading a workshop; doing a residency, or are in the know about some enamel event that needs more media coverage, then…

enamel (at) melissacameron.net

Include details, dates, images (with artist and photographer captions at the very least) and other relevant info and I put it into the prestigious TES newsletter. And I’ll email you back, though probably not until within a week of the next first-of-the-month deadline. Which is next week. Submissions due to me next Wednesday, please 😉

to put into your eyes

Screen capture of the Making Out Mark online tour

A couple of things to get close to your face and take in:

This is the last weekend for the Pratt Teaching Artists show Making Our Mark at the Bellevue Arts Museum. If you can’t get there in physical form, you can take this excellent online 3D tour. Now there’s some words I never thought I’d form into a sentence.. It’s a fun show, and the 3d-tour is a great way to experience it.

P 52-53 of SNAG Jams 2018.
Bethany Laranda Wood – Look-out, Look-in, 2017
Laurel Fulton – Collectors Notes, 2017
Melissa Cameron – My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box, 2016
Al photos by the artists

SNAG JaMS – the Society of North American Goldsmiths have put together a book of the best-of jewellery and metals for the ending September 2017. It’s really beautifully produced – kudos to the designers and Marissa Saneholtz, the editor, as well as the SNAG board who brought it into fruition. It’s an idea borrowed from the New Glass Review, made annually by the Corning Museum of Glass, that documents the most exceptional works in our field from the year just passed. Like that publication, it will hopefully grow into an indispensable record of the best and brightest in our field, and be read by generations to come. The production values certainly speak to that aspiration.

Check out this years edition via that first link above, and be sure to get prepared to make your submission later this year.

The Enamelist Society Newsletter

Yes, you read right, I am now in charge of Global Enamel News. [GEN]

Should I be in charge of GEN? No, no I shouldn’t be in charge of GEN, but this is the current world order, and so we’re all going to make do, as best we can. On that note – I NEED MORE NEWS!

But before I really start to beg, lets have a quick debrief of what have we learned since last time;

1/ the deadline that I have to deliver my email listicle to The Enamelist Society [T.E.S.] news desk (what they choose to then call my listicle is their business, you hear… much in the same way that I, just then, made up that they have a news desk – see, two can play at this game, T.E.S…) is about 2 months before the new issue of the T.E.S. newsletter will hit inboxes. Ya dig? I’m going to need as much warning as you can give me.

2/ some links make it intact through the vagaries of publication, some don’t. Next time I will endeavour to make the links small enough that they remain click-able despite the PDF-ing process. If you can give me a shorter link, I’ll gladly take it.

3/ T.E.S is not afraid to publish material that is post-current. I’ll still pass it on, if you give it to me, so I guess it’s up to you if you want to read old news. Do with that intelligence what you will.

4/ I am clearly not afraid to fill my allotted space with self promotion. (I’d have said shameless, if I could say felt no shame, but hey, raised in organised religion, what choice do I got?) PUH-LEASE give me something else to work with. Please! I’m pleading, and that’s awfully close to begging, yeah?

OK, I WILL BEG. *if you don’t mind, picture me on my knees, right next to you, right now, pouting and wailing in a cracking voice*

“MORE

INPUT

PLEASE!”

It’s quite simple. JUST SEND ME YOUR ENAMEL EXHIBITIONS. NEWS. JUICY TIDBITS. OBSERVATIONS. ANYTHING! and you can stop this pitiful sight.

We’re collaborating here, people! So please let me know, and I will, in turn, pass it on to the rest of the globe, as is my (new) remit.

enamel (at) melissacameron (dot) net          😉

xx m

PS – next deadline, April 29, the one after that, July 30.

Explaining Monday – Gun Day

**HERE LIVES THE MOTHER OF ALL TRIGGER WARNINGS**

There’s been a lot of news about guns in the last week. Last Tuesday I filed this article away for inclusion in today’s regular post; the Guardian reported that Remington was filing for bankruptcy, due at least in part to what they had termed “‘The Trump slump.'” A friendly administration for the gun lobby, and gun owners, has spelled radically decreased sales for gun manufacturers. But then on Wednesday, in a turn-around that would give you whiplash were you researching anything other than gun violence in the US, there was a mass shooting at a school in Florida on Valentine’s day. The cycle begins again.

My Monday – Gun Day series began on the 9th of October, 2017, a week and a day after the largest mass shooting involving a single perpetrator in US history had taken place in Las Vegas (all the modifiers are to remind us that there have been larger massacres in US history, usually racially motivated like that at Wounded Knee, or the Colfax Massacre, which was perpetrated by white Southern Democrats against about 150 black men.)

Since then, across 16 posts (including this one) made on Mondays (US Pacific time), I’ve been sharing my research about guns, and more specifically, the guns used in the 63 incidents in which people were killed on January 1st, 2017. But why? Well, firstly, some backstory that might help to explain.

I began the Monday – Gun Day series with an introduction to my work Gun from 2013/14. To design the work I replicated the AR-15 knock-off (made by Remington) used in the Sandy Hook mass shooting of 2012, into which I incorporated facts and figures I had researched about that days killings, which was, at that time, the second most deadly mass shooting perpetrated by a single person ever in the United States. I was making a series of pieces that used the tools of war to make a statement about humanity’s continuing poor relationship with itself, which I entitled The Escalation Series. My use of this gun, with all of its associations, pointed out an additional fact; the other tools of war I made pieces about were designed for, and were chiefly only accessible to, organised armies. This weapon, designed for and known as as the M-16 in the US armed forces, was and still is far too easily accessible to regular citizens of this country.

I thought after The Escalation series, in which I made jewellery pieces that depicted the following weapons of war:

tank
cannon
arrow
fire arrow
sword
gun
rpg
drone
cartridges with Minié ball bullets
Lapua Magnum shells (sniper rifle shells) from Combat Paper
multiple caltrops

as well as 3 versions of HEAT, a work (pictured below) that shows the molten metal spatter and penetration of a HEAT missile through armoured tank steel, that my association with weapons was done for a while. My focus had made a gentle pivot which saw me making mosaics out of enamelled laser cut steel, with which I could write by turns gentle, piercing and witty messages in binary.

From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Strike
9 wall-mounted panels (565mm x 565mm – 22 3/16″ x 22 3/16″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel. Image Melissa Cameron.

From the series HEAT, (1 of 3) 2015
Spatter
neckpiece (480mm x 480mcm – 19″ x 19″)
Stainless steel, vitreous enamel, titanium. Image Melissa Cameron.

 

Then two things happened. I had been recently juried into the Elizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize, for which I am to make a work out of found materials, and on the 1st of October I decided to do a stock-take of all the found objects I have lying about in my study, the same day that the current most deadly mass shooting perpetrated in modern times (this seems to be accepted as anything since 1950,) by a single shooter, happened.

Having memorialised a single-person shooting before, I did not want to go down that route again. I’ve read a lot of stories about Sandy Hook, and will continue to do so the rest of my days (it’s reportage on unjustified killings of defenseless white children in a 1st world nation, and thanks to our social/political/class climate, we will find it in the media for the foreseeable future,) and it’s a lot. And I don’t want to have to repeat myself.

I have other things that horrify me just as much as 59 deaths by one person in a day. 59 deaths on any day is a pretty shit day by most of the world’s standards, and I wanted a way to make that point. So I picked a day, New Year’s Day 2017, and got to work.

We know the weapons of the mass shootings because they get so much publicity. (The Guardian already has 3 pages of articles about last week’s shooting.)  [I’m getting cynical, which I usually try to banish from my writings, but it’s almost as if the amount of publicity is inverse to the amount of action that will be taken against the problem, despite the fact that I learned in another Guardian article linked to the Trump Slump article that, “Only 22 to 31% of Americans adults say they personally own a gun.” And what they call “gun super-ownership” is actually concentrated to 3% of the population.] Anyway, digressions aside. We know so little about the other gun deaths that happen in this country because everyone is so inured by the frequency of the killings that everyday gun violence doesn’t make it to the national news. But the weapons used by the mass murderer are studied ad nauseam, so of course we learn about the guns, the shells, the alternate weapons, the victims, the scene, the police department response, the slow and painful moving on.

But what about all the the other shootings? Which guns are responsible there?

Hopefully in just a few years time the gun lobby will face a shakedown that will be compared to that experienced by the tobacco lobby, and their unconscionable actions will be pored over in as much details as the lives of those involved in the Sandy Hook massacre. For right now, I’ve learned that there are great resources for finding out who was killed, when, and where, and more loosely, how. What’s becoming clear is that there is no focus put on the gun responsible, nor its manufacturer. In any other arena, should over 30,000 people get killed by any single type of object in a year, we, the public, would cry out for all the statistics on the make, model, age and condition of the thing responsible.

Thus my research project; for each person listed as killed on the Gun Violence Archive on the 1st of January, 2017, I am finding out what make and model of gun killed them, (or my best estimation thereof,) to draw a picture of what that gun looked like.

And when I have a picture of those weapons, I’m going to make a wearable piece of jewellery that incorporates every f*cking one of them.

Monday – Gun day

Wow, a whole week has rolled around without an intervening post – sorry team, that wasn’t mean to happen, but the Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium took over my focus late last week (from making works for Bilk Gallery in Canberra – more on that soon…) and the whole weekend, and what can I say, it was a CORKER! The best yet. If you’re ever in the area for the third weekend in October, you HAVE to head to it. And I can say this with unbiased hand to unbiased heart, as I’ve been off the organising committee a full two symposia now 😉

So, it’s Monday – gun day, part II.

I have a bunch of gun research that stretches back to 2012, which I’ve decided to start sharing, and lucky for y’all, this seems to be the obvious place. I’m not trying to trigger anyone, so if you’re not keen on following this line of thought, know that on Monday (Tuesday in some time-zones,) there will be posts generated as a result of my past and ongoing gun research.

The above images comes from a really interesting post that I first saw a couple of years ago, in 2015. I see it semi-regularly, as the post has been open in my web-browser since the day I came across it. I found it really arresting, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s so affecting, however, that I now count it amongst my always-open tabs (there are a random assortment of site alongside this, not just my mail client.) When I occasionally run across it, I’ll again scroll through to see what 33,636 guns looks like.

The author of this really unusual ‘article’, Matt Haughey writes; “According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013 all deaths due to firearms in the US amounted to 33,636 people.” He found a unique and very compelling way to visualise this, which proves really ‘sticky’ (you know what I mean?), at least to my brain.

I hope you take a look.