‘Murun’, a Wiradjuri word meaning breath or life, and the English word ‘murmur’, meaning a low recurring sound or soft voices, are terms born far from each other — one long of this land, and one newly spoken here — but converge in untitled (giran) 2018. This major installation by artist Jonathan Jones is the most recent in a series of collaborations with esteemed Elder and Wiradjuri language expert Dr Uncle Stan Grant Snr AM and takes shape as a murmuration of winged sculptures evoking birds in collective flight.
Giran (wind) is a term that describes fear, or apprehension, and the work is accompanied by sounds of wind, bird calls and the breathing and whispering of Wiradjuri speakers. ‘Understanding wind is an important part of understanding Country’, says Jones. ‘Winds bring change, knowledge and new ideas to those prepared to listen.’1 In his work, language is woven together with air over the land; the breath in and out of the body; wings in flight; and the wind through the river oaks, reeds and cumbungi (bulrush).
Details of ‘untitled (giran)’
untitled (giran) includes approximately 2000 separate sculptures of six types of tool, each made from a different material: bagay (an emu eggshell spoon); galigal (a stone knife); bingal (an animal bone awl); bindu-gaany (a freshwater mussel scraper); dhala-ny (a hardwood spear point); and waybarra (a rush ‘start’, the beginning of a woven item, such as a basket). Such tools allowed our ancestors to hunt, prepare food, eat, sustain and protect themselves, living lightly and flexibly. Each tool embodies the knowledge passed down through generations and represents the potential for change. ‘Each idea, each tool, is limitless in its potential’, says Jones.
Watch: Jonathan Jones introduces ‘untitled (giran)’
A small bundle of feathers, gathered from birds from a wide range of locations, is bound to each tool with handmade string. People from all over Australia sent Jones packages of feathers to include in the work, many with handwritten notes.2 To guide their participation, Jones asked his feather-collecting collaborators to ‘Slow down, look around, listen to the birds’, and offered a quote from the late Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi artist Michael Riley: ‘I see the feather, myself, as sort of a messenger, sending messages onto people and community and places’.3
untitled (giran) shares traditional knowledge and seeks to foster change and the exchange of ideas and skills. Uncle Stan Grant Snr speaks of this work as continuing the development of Wiradjuri gulbanha (philosophy), working with language and Country via the artwork for the ongoing enrichment of the community.
Jonathan Jones ‘(untitled) giran’
1 Quotes from Jonathan Jones are from a conversation with the author, 28 May 2018.
2 Many sent feathers in response to a call out from Kaldor Public Art Projects, which hosted Jones’s previous major work, barrangal dyara (skin and bones) 2016, a vast sculptural installation stretching across 20 000 square metres of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden.
3 Michael Riley, <michaelriley.com.au/cloud-2000>, viewed July 2018
The artist acknowledges Aunty Betty Grant and Dr Uncle Stan Grant Snr AM; the Bathurst Wiradyuri and Aboriginal Community Elders Group, including Uncle Bill Allen Jnr Dinawan Dyirribang and Uncle Brian Grant Maliyan; the late Aunty June Barker and Uncle Roy Barker; the late Uncle Albert Mullett; Uncle Geoff Anderson; Uncle Charles ‘Chicka’ Madden; Aunty Yvonne Koolmatrie; Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin; Aunty Julie Freeman; Uncle Badger Bates; Aunty Lorraine Connelly-Northey; Uncle Allan Murray; and Aunty Maroochy Barambah.
Thank you to Lille Madden; Lachlan McDaniel; Luke Mynott, Wes Chew, Julian Wessels & Candace Wise of Sonar Sound; the Hands On Weavers from Wagga Wagga, in particular Aunty Lorraine Tye and Aunty Joyce Hampton; John Kaldor AO and the Kaldor Public Art Projects team, in particular Monique Watkins; and Genevieve O’Callaghan. Thank you to the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney, and Professor Larissa Behrendt, Matthew Walsh and Cassie Willis.
Thank you to Carol Cooper; Leanne & Darryl Cowie; Nici Cumpston; Judy & Tony Gyss; Sonya Holowell; Liam Keenan; Sara Khan; Chris Koolmatrie; Isaac Lindsay; Enoch Mailangi; Emily McDaniel; Neil Meyrick; Georgia Mokak; Kent Morris & Tiffany Kommedal; Bernice Mumbulla; Simon Penrose; Thea Perkins; Rachel Piercy; Gabriella Roy; Taree Sansbury; Elin Thomas; James Tylor; and Kassidy Waters.
For answering the callout for feathers, thank you to Jan Allen; Deborah Anderson; Kay Andonopoulos; K. Atkens; Lara Bamundo & Annie Dennis Children’s Centre; Timo Barabas; Jacqui Bennett; Vanessa Berry; Kathryn Bird & Ross Gibson; Madeleine Bromley; Heather Bullard; Barbara Campbell; Seth Carr; J Christian; Natalie Cleary; Vikki Clingan; Alison Clouston; Catherine Clover; Nicky Court & Middle Harbour Public School & Northern Nursery School; Alexandra Cowie; K & A Crawford; James Culkin; Leissa & Peter Dane; Heather Davidson; Dallin Day, Sienna Griffiths, Anne O’Neill, Jamiee Woodbridge & Belconnen High School; Fiorella & Phillip de Boos-Smith; Max Delany; Sandra Dodds; Adrienne Doig; Katie Edgerley & Terry Conway; S. Edwards; Linda Elliott; Aaron Ellis, Grace Ellis & Isaac Ellis; L Ellmoos; Mark England; Arlette Exton; Tobhiyah Feller; Megan Fizell; Ellen Forsyth; Toni Grant; Simon Grimes; Sarah Gurich; Haas; Terhi Hakola; Gill Hazleton; Jan & Wal Heinrich; Kate, Stella & Violet Hofman; Maree Hunt; Gordon Jamieson; Jarjum Preschool Group, Gumnut Gardens; Wendy Jones; Joan Kennedy; Roland King; Susie Lachal; Grace Lancken; Martin Awa Clarke Langdon; Anne Lazberger; Michelle Maartensz; Karen Maber; Fiona MacDonald; Vanessa Macris & Harmonie Henderson-Brown; Leigh MacRitchie; Myra Maloney; Bridie Marks; Gillian Marsden & Axel Meiss; Stella Maynard; Alice & Mike McAuley; Tim Melville; Helen Milgate; Romlie Mokak; Victoria Monk; Maryrose Morgan; Laura Murray Cree; Kylie Neagle; Sarina Noordhuis, Saskia Hirschausen & Nikolaas Hirschausen; Linda Notley; Louis O’Connor; Poppy O’Connor; Kerry Ann O’Reilly; Sharron Okines; Kate Isobel Partner; Amanda Peacock; April Phillips; Cara Pinchbeck, Amirah Sergas & Callyn Sergas; Sarah Pinferi, Peter Whatmough, Oscar Whatmough & Sofia Whatmough; Mary Preece; Hannah Presley; Raushan Reehal; Kate Riley; Cameron Robbins; J Robinson; Kelly Robson & Jane Maxfield; Elise Routledge; Stephanie Scroope & Sierra Jurd; Carmen Seaby, Maya Cashworth-Seaby & Athena Cashworth-Seaby; Wesley Shaw; Wilfred Shawcross & Tove Shawcross; Eileen Slarke; Paula, Adrienne & Nadia Slattery; Hannah Snow; Madeleine K. Snow; Carolyn Sullivan; Jennifer Sutton; Nicki Taws; Tim Throsby; K Tok; Emily Valentine; Ilaria Vanni; Robyn Walden; Shae Leslie Watkins; Eleanor Whitworth & Arlen Briggs; Dot Wilkin; Natasha Wills; Suzette Worden; and Susan Wyndham.
This project was assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the NSW Government through Create NSW; the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund; and by Carriageworks through the Solid Ground program.
There can be few, if any, museums of modern art that render feelings and admiration as does the Qagoma museum on the South Bank of Brisbane, Australia. I’ve been lucky to see a few of these, and am blown away each time. Now my visits to Brisbane are diminishing, causing much sadness in me in that I might never see Quagoma again. But thanks more than a million for your posts that bring up such memories and such wonderful art.
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