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disguise, conceal, keep hidden, mask, screen, veil, cover up, obscure, shroud
Bankstown Arts Centre presents Camouflage, an exhibition by three contemporary artists, Cigdem Aydemir, Deborah Kelly and My Le Thi. Each artist has creatively explored the concept of Camouflage as a metaphor for women's stories, both personal and universal – experiences, histories and voices that are hidden, concealed or obscured from the mainstream discourse.
Over a two month residency, these artists engaged with the local story of Ruby Payne Scott and the highly significant but largely unknown story of her work at Potts Hill Astronomy Hut in Bankstown as a point of reference.
Her experience resonates with multiple stories of women embedded in our local landscape, which are rarely heard, acknowledged or celebrated. Ruby is the first woman radio astronomer in the world and from Potts Hill made a number of highly significant scientific discoveries, including black holes and the first mapping of our Galaxy.
The collection of creative works represented in this exhibition, including sculpture, video and collage, uniquely showcase the resilience of women – as historians, scientists, philosophers, explorers and artists, voicing dissent and reclamation.
Ruby is a video piece recorded at Potts Hill, around the site that Ruby Payne-Scott performed her world-renowned research into Radio Physics and Radio Astronomy. Much like her figure in the canon of scientific research, she emerges only briefly, her ghostly presence enlivening a desolate, disused landscape. I have chosen to use my own body as reference to Ruby's, moving through the space as I imagine she would have. Ruby's figure is not only less known, but Ruby herself had to hide aspects of her identity, such as her marriage and pregnancy, to continue her work as a scientist.
So many ideas teeming around the complex themes of this residency! I had to stuff them all in my head and dream upon them. What emerged was the sense of women's secret lives, our disguises as dutiful daughters, doting mothers or mild-mannered astronomers; the mythologies of forbidden knowledge. Ruby Payne-Scott's Milky Way sparkles through these works, and its ancient associations with breast milk, with rivers of birds, with maiden pathfinders.
My Le Thi
My mother and Ruby Payne-Scott
I have found aspects of my mother's life in Vietnam that she shared with Ruby Payne-Scott in Australia - including the fact that they both had to overcome sexual discrimination to be able to continue to do their work.
I use chicken wire in my artwork to express some of my camouflage ideas and to commemorate my brave mother and to acknowledge her connection with Ruby, who used that same simple material, chicken wire, for one of the constructions for her research into the universe.
Ruby Payne-Scott was an Australian pioneer in radio physics and radio astronomy. She was one of the great female role models who targeted narrow-minded, sexist attitudes.
My mother My Anh Thi saved my life countless times during flood seasons and during the Vietnam War. She has always been my hero and my inspiration.
Cigdem Aydemir is a Sydney-based artist strongly influenced by her identity as an Australian Muslim woman with Turkish heritage. Her socially and politically engaged art practice investigates possibilities for intersubjective and transcultural communication with an interest in post-colonial and feminist issues. Through the mediums of installation, performance and video art, she produces engaging and provocative work that is driven equally by research, play, criticism and humour. Cigdem was the 2013 recipient of the Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize, in the Emerging Artist category. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally.
Deborah Kelly is a Sydney-based artist whose works have been shown around Australia, and in the Biennales of Singapore, Sydney, Thessaloniki, TarraWarra and Venice. Her projects across media are concerned with lineages of representation, politics and history in public exchange, and practices of collectivity on small and large scale. The collaborative portrait project No Human Being Is Illegal (in all our glory) she instigated for the 19th Biennale of Sydney toured eastern seaboard galleries 2014–2018. Her moving image works have been shown in city squares, galleries and cinemas in cities around the world.
My Le Thi was born in Buon Ma Thuot, Central Highland of South Vietnam. She has been a practicing artist since 1986 in multi-media installations, sound, set design, music, performance, animation and video. Her works concern human conditions and in many aspects focusing on racism and discrimination. Her work was selected as one of the HSC case studies since 2004 and have been included in numerous major exhibitions in Australian, USA and many Asian and European countries.
Bankstown Arts Centre would like to acknowledge the Daruk people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which we hold this exhibition
Camouflage was curated by Vandana Ram, Bankstown Arts Centre Director and supported by Bankstown Arts Centre staff – Romy Caen, Patrick Cremin and Chillet Medel. We would specifically like to thank Phil Bennett, Lead Heritage Adviser at Sydney Water for his support for this project particularly his extensive knowledge about Ruby Payne- Scott and the Astronomy Hutt at Potts Hill.