This page contains the following supporting material:
Research images/ screen descriptions/ sketch ups that are indicative only of proposed work for Bus Projects
Examples of Previous work
Bio and link to CV
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land to which this work makes reference, the Big River and North tribes and pay my respect to elders past, present and future.
Colonial history has edited out and silenced Aboriginal people and while their stories are not mine to tell, this work is dedicated to revealing the facade of a neat history.
The Jewel is a eulogy for history’s inability to record objectively and completely - through recording history, we erase stories. It explores the complex and ongoing colonial relationships to the Australian landscape and draws parallels between the constructed nature of influential historical narratives and film.
The four channel video work, which is currently in development, will be displayed on four TV screens in portrait orientation. On three of the screens, Robertson performs as the fictional and non-fictional Australian women; Elaine Fleetwood/ Dick, Marie Bjelke Petersen, and her own mother. The fourth screen is black, representing the stories that are not the artists to tell. Each short scene repeats on loop, with each repetition being an analogue copy of the previous. This results in a mechanical process of disintegration. Throughout the day the footage becomes unrecognisable, until all that can be seen is static and artifacting.
The Jewel makes reference to Robertson’s own history, growing up in remote mining towns including Zeehan, Tasmania, the setting for Marie Bjelke Petersen’s 1924 romance novel titled Jewelled Nights. In 1925, Jewelled Nights was made into a silent film by the same name, directed, performed and produced by Australian actor Louise Lovely. The film has been deemed lost and now only exists in the form of outtakes held in NFSA. However, from the film film fragments and notes on the filmmakers copy of the novel, we can decipher that it tells the story of a young woman, Eileen Fleetwood, who escapes from an unhappy marriage, disguises herself as a male prospector called Dick and finds refuge in an isolated mining town. Dick prospects for the rare alloy Osmiridium.
The film Jewelled Nights has been lost, however, through reconstructing it, a new self reflexive story can be told. The work seeks to point out that colonialism still prevails. It is not in the past, but each day we step into the set that our ancestors built and until change is made, we will continue to re-perform it.
RESEARCH IMAGES, SCREEN DESCRIPTIONS & SKETCH UPS
The following images are indicative only and do not represent the actual work.
Robertson performs as Marie Bjelke Petersen. The loop will depict a close up of a hand holding an osmiridium nibbed fountain pen. It writes lines from the novel ‘Jewelled Nights’ from the perspective of Elaine disguised as Dick:
“The boy closed his eyes for a moment. The beauty was overwhelming. It stupified. It stunned. It terrified.“
This scene presents this colonial view of the landscape as something to fear, one that is often depicted within Australian cinema. It points out a disconnect with the landscape. Marie Bjelke Petersen based Jewelled Nights around stories of the osmiridium prospectors in Zeehan and the bluff around Savage River. This is where osmiridium was first discovered. Osmiridium was mostly used to make artillery and pen nibs, both white, male authors in colonial history.
Robertson, dressed as ‘Eileen’ pretending to be ‘Dick’ from Louise Lovely’s silent film ‘Jewelled Nights.’ Robertson performs a repetitive ritual of pegging out and claiming land with pan and shovel in hand. This ritual of claiming land with disregard to the Big River and North tribes. She performs in front of a revealed set, blaring time and bringing the performance into the present.
Robertson reenacts a romanticised scene from her childhood where her mother would awake at dawn and run through the landscape, looking into the freedom of the horizon. Her mother was the wife of a mine manager and spent years in remote areas of Australia with little access to a car and ability to leave the mine camp. At one of the locations, during her daily run, she would pass the loan grave of a woman who had also attempted to join her mine manager husband in 1986, but died of heat exhaustion before she arrived. Having travelled directly from Europe she was dressed, as a lady did at the time, with petticoats to her ankles, a high neckline and gloves all in 40 degree heat.
The lone grave represents colonial fear of the landscape - seen as harsh for it’s difference to the European landscape. The artist runs on a treadmill with a backdrop of the landscape and grave. The poorly constructed set is slowly revealed as the camera zooms out. As the video loops, Robertson runs endlessly and fruitlessly, performing and re-performing the generations before her.
The fourth screen is intentionally black sits separately from the other three. It represents the stories untold.
Other reference material:
EXAMPLES OF PREVIOUS WORK
Click on images to view video and descriptions
Claire Robertson is a Melbourne-based artist working in a range of mediums; specialising in video and installation. Adapting cinematic devices, she responds to different sites using video to explore personal and broader social narratives. Her work questions the fine line between interior and exterior, ‘real’ and ‘imagined’ space—where the physical setting serves as an outward manifestation of the human psyche. Her past works have investigated themes of the prevailing colonial relationships to the Australian desert landscape through fly-in fly-out mining camps in the Pilbara; architecture as façade through the heterotopia of a hotel in Long Beach, New York.
Robertson holds a Masters of Fine Arts from Parsons New School of Design (New York)/ RMIT (Melbourne) 2012 and have exhibited extensively nationally and internationally including exhibitions in the US, Italy, Sweden, China, Hong Kong and Canada. Her work is held in the Documentation Center for Visual Arts, Milan.