the witness tree

By Judy Watson

Judy Watson,
the witness tree, 2018,
single channel video, four channel sound, 5:40
minutes. video editor: Maria Barbagallo, sound design: Greg Hooper,
cinematography: Judy Watson, Greg Hooper, Robert Andrew. Still. 
Courtesy the artist, Milani Gallery and Tolarno Galleries.
Video is currently showing part of Judy Watson online exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 2020.
https://www.ikon-gallery.org/event/judy-watson/

 

 

We were taken to Myall Creek on the 10th june 2017 to attend the anniversary of the Myall Creek massacre, which occurred in 1838.

We listened to speakers who were descendants from both sides of the massacre,as well as speeches from the Friends of Myall Creek community organisation. As we walked up the hill to the memorial site Kelvin Brown spoke of the history of the Myall Creek massacre and of the vision for the future of the Myall Creek group.

At the entrance to the memorial site we were led through a smoking ceremony, had ochre painted on our skin and then began the walk along the path to the memorial stone. As we followed the path, children read out the story of the massacre from the plaques illustrated by Colin Isaacs.

witness tree_2018_still.png


Judy Watson,
the witness tree, 2018,
Still image from single channel video, four channel sound, 5:40 minutes.
video editor: Maria Barbagallo, sound design: Greg Hooper,
cinematography: Judy Watson, Greg Hooper, Robert Andrew.
Courtesy the artist, Milani Gallery and Tolarno Galleries.

People gathered at the memorial stone to listen to speeches from Aunty Sue Blacklock and Mark Tedeschi.

Along the way Greg Hooper collected sounds of the environment and people talking and Robert Andrew, Bianca Beetson, Greg Hooper and Judy Watson videod and photographed the ceremony, talks, surrounding countryside and the memorial site

On the second day we were taken back to the site by Kelvin, who took us slowly through the events of the massacre on the way up to the memorial stone.

I had an overwhelming sense of horror and deep sadness. I felt the atrocities within the land and was pulled to certain trees where I wanted to recognise what their root systems deep within the earth had witnessed.

 

The trauma of this event is echoed in my own family’s history where my great great grandmother Rosie escaped a massacre at Lawn Hill station in north west Queensland. Because she survived I am here bearing witness as one of many descendants of inter-generational trauma.

On the next visit I made rubbings of some of the trees and ground on the memorial site using charcoal and earth from the site. There is an indelible memory within this place which I wanted to convey within the works on canvas and back in my studio in Brisbane.

I overlaid these ground pieces with the maps of the perpetrators journey to Myall Creek and the journey of Sgt Denny Day to bring them to justice.

I took lengths of muslin and wound them around several of the trees. It felt like covering a deep wound within the psyche of the trees, a reparative gesture on my part.

Judy Watson_The Big Bushwalk&Sgt Denny Day's Route 001.jpg


Judy Watson

The big bushwhack, myall creek 1838 & sergeant denny day’s route myall creek 1838, 2018,

earth, charcoal, acrylic, chinagraph (lumocolour) pencil on canvas.

Dimensions variable. Photo: Simon Scott Photography.

Courtesy the artist, Milani Gallery and Tolarno Galleries.

Then Greg attached microphones to the trees, listening to the sounds deep within them.

It felt like covering a deep wound within the psyche of the trees, a reparative gesture on my part.

Then Greg attached microphones to the trees, listening to the sounds deep within them.

Greg : Judy came over to where I was recording some movement through the grass and said she had heard a sound up in the trees, a sound that for some reason or other had called to her. We found the tree and I attached mics that pick up vibrations rather than sound through the air. And then we listened to the inside of the tree – the rush and flow of water pulled from the ground by transpiration at the leaves, the occasional pop made when one of the microscopic water columns breaks apart, the sound of the leaves brushing together in the wind, of hanging branches knocking together. All transmitted through the body of the tree – the sound of the world acting upon the tree and the tree acting upon the world. I like the thought of the tree reaching deep in to the country and drawing out ancient water to release into the atmosphere to then in its turn become rain that might later fall onto another country or flow down to the oceans or become part of an aquifer to reappear in the headwaters of a river hundreds of kilometers away. All things connected, here and there, past and present, time and space.

 

The text above is republished from 'the witness tree' website. http://thewitnesstree.com.au

 

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