Photography by Ilona Schneider
Responding to the tapestry of a fox by artist Mary Morton Allport (immigrant to Tasmania in 1831).
Installations are site-specific to the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts.
Fox Hunt correlates to the twists and turns of the recent fox hunts and hoaxes in Tasmania.
It begins with fox paw prints at the base of the tapestry and ends with the trap under the games table.
Little Women continues in the tradition of the Allport women; drawing, writing, research and collecting - the subject of study, the fox.
Photography by Ilona Schneider
It’s a chair for the lady who has left her writing for a moment - not for the audience - they can sit if they want - but to do so would come with a sense of transgressing.
... can I?... should I ?... enter her private study... read the letter she is writing - I know I shouldn't... even treading on the rug feels like I’m breaking bounds... and her chair is so delicate...
"One must observe the proper rites", says the wise fox to the little prince. And what are the proper rites when you enter another’s private space? I ask this because I need to know as I am entering their private realm ... even if they are all dead.
Still... I wonder... what does her kitchen look like?
And her laundry, and garden, and pantry - oh to hell with it - the whole house.
And I'd like to read her diary.
Last year I received a rather angry email from a friend who had been to the exhibition Drawn into the Unknown and had looked through some of my books that had been placed in a stack as a sculptural object. She was upset as there was no instruction as to whether she was allowed to do this and she stopped looking because it felt too intimate. Have I done something wrong? She asks.
She'd been drawn into the unknown and didn't like it much.
Did I upset her? - I don't like upsetting people - and it's the most sensitive who are most distressed when they transgress... when they transgress.
Well, whose problem is this?
Is this a problem?
I'm not clear.
What is the problem?
Oh yes - my problem - I don't like upsetting people.
And we do like things to be clear with proper boundaries - my Western roots are in the absolutes - it's a cultural condition.
The woman who is dying is told she is not dying, she is living - have hope. In this way, hope turns her from the here and now toward hoping for the future - hoping for more time - and when she doesn't see more time - despair.
And though she is dying - it is true she is also living.
Well, which one is it?
He advocates for ambiguity - Being in a state of unknowing if that is the state you are in. She advocates for this space also - fosters it - nurtures it as a space that harbours life and true enquiry.
I can smell the sickness of my cultural condition that perpetuates and propagates absolutes through every aspect of living and dying.
Once again I commit to not knowing.
Knowing Not Knowing
"She slapped my hand as I looked through the journal, I argued that it was not behind glass and others have been looking... I thought it would be alright... it's your work... I can tell by your tail... couldn't you do something to let us know we can touch?"
I could put a sign or gloves on the table - instruct the audience on how to approach the work - but then - it ceases to be her writing table and becomes a table for the audience, and that changes everything: A proper table suitable for any and all readers - a proper chair suitable for any and all readers - a properly bound journal suitable for any and all readers. The life removed - the unknowing gone - all laid out nice and accessible - and she - as she nearly always is, becomes once again... invisible.
Henry's gift of the Allport collection brought the Allport women’s stories to light.
Lily’s art was recovered from his shed - apparently Henry didn't think very much of it - neither did his father who helped finance Lily’s life’s pursuit even though there was not "the slightest probability... she would become sufficiently accomplished."
And Lily's grandmother Mary: migrant, artist, intellectual, wife and mother - her diary an invaluable record - painter, miniaturist, sketcher, etcher, lithographer, engraver and teacher. Gillian Winter says "Australia's first professional woman artist". What is it that makes a professional artist? And I'm impressed - a member of what is now the Royal Society of Tasmania - a woman in such a society - unheard of - except for here in the colonies.
Breaking boundaries - Mary Morton Allport - my deepest respect to you.
The poet Mary Oliver did it - made an Australian farm girl fall in love with the fox.
Mary Morton Allport planted the seed
For a night I was she - the vixen - in my velvet finery, with ears, paws, fur and tail.
The air in here is heavy and oppressive - a childhood feeling remembered. I want to breath - open the curtains - let the light and fresh air in - hear the echoes of daily life from the kitchen - see the woolen nighty thrown across the unmade bed, smell the stench from the chamber pot, touch the embossed wallpaper, drink from that crystal glass, sit in that chair...
A living thing in dead people's place
It's a chair for the lady who has left her writing for a moment - she's not here - you can look if you dare.