Time does not beget wisdom. During the Crimean War the Kerch Museum housed one of the world’s best collections of ancient artefacts. The soldiers of the Russian, Turkish, English and French armies did not wait until the battle was over to loot and destroy the contents of the museum. The battlefield became littered with stolen and abandoned priceless ancient vases, statue rubble, marble arms and legs, historic maps, public records and fragile shields and delicate spears.
The average age of a general in the Crimean war was 77. It was the last war in which inexperienced old Englishmen without military talent or intelligence could buy control of an army of young men. Generals directed a battle from a safe distance and insisted on living a civilised lifestyle despite being on a battlefield. They drank and washed from the top of every stream whereas the young soldiers got Cholera and Typhoid from drinking water from the bottom of the stream. The young men were forever soiling their pants and coughing up phlegm. They became deaf from the close range of the canons, and crippled by the activity of battle, appalling sleeping conditions and worst medical services than the older generals.
The old men were relaxed and invigorated by battle, comforted with the knowledge that in war how old you are is measured not by how far you are from birth but by how close you are to death. So in this environment all the young soldiers were in fact much older than they.
During the looting of the Kerch Museum babies traded with ancient coins, and many of the local children have loaded themselves with looted Hellenistic Period coins. They are finding that despite their wealth they are being ignored at the antique auctions, turned away from the all-you-can-eats and the slot machines merely fire back their coins quite hard and at shin level height. Most tragically their money will not buy them the medical attention, which is reserved only for the old generals.
Some old generals have tied strings of babies around the vegetable gardens to protect them from bombs and erected baby scarecrows. Other generals have tied babies to the front of their horses like fluffy dice. A bomb has landed and exploded in the local fortune teller’s shop, sending thousands of fortunes flying into the air. They are chased by giddy old men through the battlefield and across minefields, while a palm reader has set up shop to service distraught wives who collect blown-off hands and arms in search of information about their husbands.
This is about a taxi ride in Mexico. The driver speeds and swerves in the chaotic streets, a contrast to the careful and calm way he has cut the outlines of the porno images he has pasted on his steering wheel and dashboard. Le Merced, the world’s largest market, has the world’s largest porn section. Porn is so abundant that the merchants use it to wrap their sales. Porn litters the entire area. When you look down, you realize you are walking in a sea of erections and shiny vaginas.
Behind the porn section is a “park” where old prostitutes lean against trees, which have been fenced off to stop people from leaning against them. From behind the trees emerge pimps with vicious dogs on a chain.
On the right is Garibaldi Plaza where all the Mariachis wait to be picked for a party on Friday or Saturday evening. Couples drive up to be serenaded, and frantic hosts go to audition Mariachi bands. Most Mariachis go to Garibaldi Plaza to pretend to have a gig or to try to get in on someone else’s gig. They pose, prance, show off their outfits and generally do nothing to make it look like something.
On his birthday Endora gave Darrin a magic mirror which the owner can use to swap lives with anyone he captures in it. When Aunt Clara delivers the mirror she crashes the van and the mirror shatters into thousands of pieces and so everyone in the neighbourhood can swap lives with somebody else with unsatisfying consequences.
Darrin is sick of his life in the suburbs and thinks to himself he is possibly sick of his wife Sam as well. He wishes he could have been a football star instead of being stuck in this life. However, he can not identify any other life which he is certain is a better life than his own; and equally difficult to face is the prospect of abandoning his own unique potentials and “special-ness”. He is doubly thwarted by his own doing, as the successful advertising slogans thought up by himself for the company he works for, McMahon and Tate, have made it more difficult for him to identify a suitable life swap by making everybody feel fat, inadequate, and boring with bad skin.
After many attempts Darrin decides the best way to use his magic mirror is to lean it against his house and run circles around it thus producing thousands of Darrins younger than he is in the present and having the opportunities to improve his own past rather than take another life he is unfamiliar with. In this way Darrin can explore all the possible life choices he didn’t take.
However, this plan is discarded as he becomes obsessed with finding the adult women which were once the young girls he had crushes on before he reached puberty, and uses most of his younger self Darrins for this purpose. He is also desperate to have his younger Darrins re-enact episodes of his childhood where he was personally cruel or allowed cruelty to go unchallenged and victims to go unhelped. Using McMahon and Tate billboards Darrin paints the scenes from his childhood he wants corrected. One important victim of his childhood was a girl with a bowel disorder called Carty Farty, who used to get her clothes from the lost property box and as a child Darrin gave her a grubby old tennis ball for a birthday present as a joke.
After the war in Argentina the infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele is fast asleep in his caravan. He wanted to develop his research about identical twins in his lounge room, kitchen, and bathroom of the caravan that he shared with his maid/lover and her daughter. His patients’ eyes all come from the same gene pool; therefore, they see the world and themselves in a common way. Dog shows – big in Germany at the time – now take off in Argentina, as a way for people to differentiate themselves from one another. Most people try to develop their only remaining physical differences. People try to grow the world’s longest fingernails or nose hair, the world’s strongest beard or stretchiest ear. Ironically in Mengele’s eugenic paradise people walk the streets proudly displaying their intentional deformities cultivated to achieve a sense of individuality and self esteem. People look for skills that would set them apart from the Mengeleian Argentineans, like growing the world’s largest vegetables, taking the world’s longest bath, building the world’s smallest ladder, or the world’s longest backwards walk. The Guinness Book of World Records becomes the most important institution in Argentina. Scoreboards are more common than traffic lights, and unofficial world record attempts (like the longest tooth brushing) are on every street corner – until the Guinness police (wearing uniforms and armbands) move them on.
Because everyone sees things the same way, it is impossible to lie, so there is no art, no movies, and no books. Thus, the Guinness Book of World Records is able to store their records in abandoned art galleries, theaters, libraries, courtrooms, and hospitals. The lack of diversity means that there are no longer schoolyard bullies to take children’s lunch money, chase them, and fight them, so children become fat and lazy. Men can only apply for the one job, so most are unemployed, sitting on park benches, and feeding pigeons – which become fat and aggressive.
The misery of his lover’s daughter is inescapable even in her own home; scientific equipment share power points with the household items. Her discarded netball gear lies on the floor while her school friends are selecting their teams through the window. Her step-father’s world of judgement and evaluation exists inside and out.
When people share the same personality type, individual idiosyncrasies are elevated to the status of pop culture and are celebrated with mass rallies, like spoon collecting, bucket types, and playing with the Rubik cube. On this day a crowd has gathered for a bucket signing by the world famous bucket maker, Gabriel Battistuta.
If you see rubbish on the ground, why pick it up when you can set it on fire? If there’s a chair in the way of the TV, why move it when you can burn it to the ground? Just about every problem in Milikapiti can be solved by covering it in petrol and reducing it to ashes.
During burning season, you are woken up on Sunday mornings by kids in nappies walking around your backyard with a 1.25 litre plastic coke bottle full of petrol and a box of matches hoping to find some tiny shrub or blade of grass that hasn’t already been burnt to a crisp. Every house in Milikpiti has an iron drum constantly billowing smoke out the front, and the community dogs have to get up on hind legs and look into the fire for the less burning things to eat. Most Milikapiti dogs have burnt noses and tongues.
“History is subjective, people can pick out events and stories that they think are important.” And that is what Hayes is referring to by making up past dates to accompany the images in this body of work. This painting (above) was painted in Milikapiti. The artist’s local neighbours would visit him at work, an easel set up under the house. This painting was quite popular. Someone suggested it should be on display in the community club; another neighbour found it funny , stating it reminded her of how it used to be when she was a child. The community now has strict regulations regarding alcohol consumption, no alcohol was permitted at football matches while the artist was there. Hayes says of this work: “The main part of the story is how white Australian culture tries to order Tiwi life. In the background rubbish is burnt (Tiwi) rather than collected – rubbish pile burn offs, and this helps to explain why they are all over the field. One as an aesthetic device and two to reinforce the theme of the picture. Two ways of handling a problem in concert. Football is another analogy for white culture trying to order Tiwi life according to their rules, in this case footy rules. Here the whole team is standing on the mark, opposing team members are hugging. The rules work to a degree, but are adapted by the local culture, not fully accepted.
The beer cans I’ve used as an aesthetic device too. They are quite easily understood as they were everywhere, and on the footy field, the sun fades them and they become aqua in colour, they actually look quite beautiful. And when I was there it wasn’t a judgement that there were beer cans or that it was an embarrassment.”
This work was also included in the local art competition The Footy Art exhibition in 2005, where Kevin Sheedy (Essendon FC Coach at the time) awarded it First Prize. – M. Soni, June 2012.
“The humour found in the incongruous meeting of cultures has also been used in the soft sculpture installation The Hunters, 2012. Three elderly women are going hunting. They are wearing inappropriate t-shirts. Those who have ever lived in remote communities would recognise such a scene. Often there is only one shop with limited stock, usually the clothing range is t-shirts featuring popular rap bands, song titles and slogans, or multi-national brands. Here Hayes has used the lyrics from a song called “Horny” (yes, really) by Mousse T, a ludicrously banal pop song that was very popular on Australian radio. The figure is also carrying a ‘Hello Kitty’ bag, one of the world’s largest brands it has permeated nearly every remote corner on earth! The incongruity of the cuteness, the inappropriate slogans, the blood, and carcases – it displays the unique way of life, the idiosyncrasies of the Tiwi people. Hayes also uses this simple, funny scene as a metaphor for what he describes as an ‘ill-fitting culture’. The European choices, the white Australian lifestyle just doesn’t quite meet the women’s needs.” – Marielle Soni, June 2012
Hardly anyone believes in promised wives and just about no one would use it as an excuse to hurt a child. Hundreds of nappies are brought in on the barge every fortnight. It’s hard to dispose of them, so some people throw their dirty nappies on each others roofs. Once I was sitting under the tree, waiting for the shop to open with some children, when the one still in nappies wanted money. She kept trying to sit on my lap and put her arm around my neck. It felt like when you’re unexpectedly falling and tasted like a mouthful of your own blood. Hardly anyone believes in promised wives, and just about no one would use it as an excuse to hurt a child.
When a fight breaks out everyone is so related and allied that you can’t predict who will take which side even in football games. Whenever you’re talking to a Tiwi about other Tiwis you’re always thinking, am I talking about his brother, uncle, nephew, son…
The anthropologist Baldwin Spencer in the 1920s said that when there was a Tiwi battle, people kept changing sides so everyone just went home.
In Milikapiti the dogs hang out in packs. When two packs meet each other, the two lead dogs, instead of fighting each other, lie on their backs in acts of total submission, while their three or four bitches stand behind them chewing nappies.
The white men in Milikapiti are all called Les, and their way of being friendly is to convince you that they are not threat to you in any way. One of the white men in charge of water said – when I asked him a question – “What would I know? I’m just a fucking dumb cunt.”, while his wife stands behind him nodding approvingly. When two white Milikapiti men meet, it is a race to see who can degrade themselves as quickly and as completely as possible.
It took the nuns a couple of months to realise that more girls would attend PE class if it involved less netballs and more shotguns.
When a really old Tiwi woman took all her clothes off and danced naked on the stage at the club, another really old Tiwi woman yelled at her, “Put your clothes on Joan, Your possum’s dead”.
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