I went to an exhibition opening the other day to support my fellow Honours compadre Steve at Trocadero Art Space in Footscray. He was exhibiting his Tea series, exploring his kinship relations through portraiture, which was set aside from the main group exhibition that was about appropriating found materials into a new art form.
One artist stood out in particular, Larissa MacFarlane, who explored placemaking through the signs we see every day scribbled and painted upon our roads and footpaths. It was a video-based art piece that follows a sped-up hand scribbling various signs on asphalt pavement to the sound of a Benny Hill’esque theme song.
I loved the intensity of it, and its simplicity. The idea definitely resonates with me. And I liked how Larissa (the hand scribbling) would incorporate the shapes of the environment in her scribbling (i.e. tracing the outlines of leaves, cracks in the pavement, etc.). This reminds me of what Mick Woiwod was telling me in our interview, how the geology of the land dictates how we use it (i.e. if it is hilly and rocky we’re not going to be able to play cricket on it).
I chatted with Larissa briefly about her work. It apparently came about from her ritualistic practice of doing handstands at different places in order to “make them safe.” The handstand, for her, was the ultimate vulnerable position to be in and therefore signifies that a place is safe to be in. She would sometimes trace here hands with a crown or piece of chalk to mark out this practice on the landscape. It all seemed to come about after she experienced some trauma in her life, and felt the necessity to practice a particular behaviour in order to validate her feelings about the place as well as transform those feelings into one’s of security.
Larissa’s practice reminds me of David Seamon’s place-ballet schema, whereby the rituals we act out on a day-to-day basis establishes and strengthens our bond with a place.