The Point is… an exhibition celebrating the Millers Point community and the campaign to save residents from ‘Relocation’, reviewed by John Dunn and Margaret Bishop. Works link to larger images and artists’ biographies by Cara Martinez.
The letter handed to each resident on 19 March 2014 titled “Moving to a New Home” came without warning and was devastating for many residents, made worse by its caring tones and euphemisms. It is great the way Alison Alder has reinterpreted this letter in Get Out Quick!
One work which captured Margaret’s imagination was a street work by Nikki Easterbrook with the title For(ced) Sale. Nikki early one morning stencilled in chalk what to the unobservant looks like a pedestrian crossing on Trinity Avenue. Look again and it is apparent that it is a barcode, reminding people that the government considers Millers Point only as a commodity for sale. This work is represented in the exhibition by a photograph and a large wheel barrow containing the materials used in the process of making the work.
Housing the Seafaring Nation by Ruark Lewis and Jo Holder is one of a series of text-based works. (Others are outside the Abraham Mott Hall, once the Coal Lumpers Hall, in Millers Point.) Written about in this artwork and well known in Millers Point are Myra Demetriou and her family, and also the family of Russell Taylor, whose “father was Maltese, his mother was black”.
Eighteen Months is an installation recording the campaign to save the Millers Point community. At the centre is Margaret’s painting of our house which is adorned with a four-metre high copy of Reg Mombassa’s No Surrender poster, Margaret’s fabric banners, and John’s snapshot project of residents’ photos and stories that for a while was on another forty houses in the area, until NSW Housing officers began removing pieces. The snapshots survive on only three houses, but others re-emerged on the website created for them, MillersPointCommunity.com.au, and also on the Save Millers Point Facebook page. These account for the other two panels in this installation: one presents excerpts from the Facebook page and the other is a selection of John’s photos from the website. Each panel traces a chronology of events in Millers Point over the past eighteen months. See details of this installation via a link provided by the image above.
Three works by Jane Bennett witness signs of resistance to The Relocation. In Merriman Street yellow ribbons hang from the screen doors and Save Millers Point posters are in the windows; This is My Home captures a protest on a washing line; Sirius records our SOS lights inside Myra’s unit which have been flashing every night for a year, and in the other two small canvases are some of the posters and signs in Owen’s unit that were removed immediately after his Relocation. (See Myra’s and Owen’s stories.)
These artworks record traces of resistance around Millers Point, and now also on gallery walls. The works are seen and interpreted more easily by Millers Point residents, and that is part of the pleasure of them. They provide support to a community under extraordinary stress, reminding people that others stand with them. But the works also communicate the stories of the people, their community and their campaign for survival to a wider audience.
Curator Cara Martinez provides this overview:
“The Millers Point Community is the reason for this exhibition and the driving force behind it. The community has fought to keep Millers Point in the past and was therefore united before the infamous letter dubbed “The Prue Goward Decree” on March 19, 2014. Galvanised into action, Millers Point has continuously fortified in the 18 months since. The people are bound by a shared conviction in their fundamental right to retain their homes, heritage and community. The community contributed artistically to this exhibition through provision of funding, photographs and handmade banners, photos of marches, meetings, fundraising and awareness raising, celebrations and events, photos of their homes, baking, ribbons, flyers, anecdotes, social media, letters, petitions and their unfailing spirit. We hope to evidence the artistry of the community responses in defence of Millers Point.”
Paddi O’Leary, as well as co-ordinating this project, put together collages representing community resistance, spirit and solidarity.
Below are other works in the exhibition. Click on them to link to see larger images and Cara’s texts.