Sera Waters  2016 Illusions of History

Illusions of History

These works are the result of reckoning Australian colonial histories, particularly those parts of pasts which are challenging, ambiguous, genealogically linked, and reveal documented histories to be a more complex tangle than is otherwise acknowledged. Together these artworks are the beginning of a series exploring the remnants left behind by my ancestors who settled (and invaded) the south east of South Australia beginning from the 1860s. Their legacies (buildings, drainage systems, pastoralism, social and class structures) have altered this region in ways which cannot be undone. Undoubtedly their making of homes unhomed others. At the same time my ancestors (females in particular) battled for survival against other threats; those which lived inside their homes, inside their bodies, and inside their imaginations – the latter fuelled by early twentieth century growing international unrest. Remnants from their lives convey that their survival tactics mostly relied upon imported traditions from their European heritage, but also by adapting to and adapting the environment around them. They went on wallaby hunts, they picked wild orchids, they sunk wells, they collected shells, they planted gardens, they fenced properties, they built with limestone, they comforted, and they settled.

Another of their integral survival tactics was silence, and there are numerous silent spots in this family history. Perhaps this silence cloaks histories which are too horrible to remember, unspeakable, or too confronting to realise, or just the mundane, taken-for-granted and forgotten … yet it is difficult to know.  I do know however that despite being unspoken, these silent spots can be felt. To dwell upon these silent spectres I use laborious and inherited processes – braiding, stitching, drilling, rolling, finger knitting, needle-working – and materials which are from within (or within the reach) of home. For home, despite having this troubling colonial history, is the place where women for generations have worked against silence and tried to form expressions out of the stuff around them.  Shells, stockings, towels, and furs are all materials my ancestors had access to and could pour their lives, their worries, their regrets, their pain, and their care into if they wished.  Generations on and I continue to do this … perhaps it is inherited.