Cul­tural his­tory etched in teeth

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Art - Tanya MacNaughton

IT is un­der­stand­able there are en­vi­ron­men­tal and eth­i­cal is­sues as­so­ci­ated with the art form of scrimshaw – scratch­ing im­agery into whale teeth then fill­ing the etch­ing with ink.

Rather than tak­ing a stance on Al­bany’s com­mer­cial whal­ing in­dus­try, artist Anna Naz­zari and cu­ra­tor Erin Coates have cho­sen to ex­plore a nar­ra­tive when cre­at­ing The Scrimshaw Project, fea­tur­ing scrimshaw by Naz­zari, sketches and a short film by both.

Tak­ing part in Spaced 2: Fu­ture Re­call at WA Mu­seum, Naz­zari and Coates are two of 14 Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional artists who have vis­ited re­mote and re­gional WA to cre­ate a new work ex­plor­ing the State’s nat­u­ral and cul­tural her­itage.

Naz­zari spent two month-long res­i­den­cies in Al­bany over the past two years for the project, while Coates is orig­i­nally from the coastal com­mu­nity.

“The sto­ries Anna un­cov­ered dur­ing her res­i­dency were a mix­ture of ob­ser­va­tions and anec­dotes or su­per­sti­tions,” Coates said. “We drew on those sto­ries for the im­agery on the teeth and also the sto­ry­line for the film, where we were in­ter­ested in the su­per­sti­tions and ideas of the phantom whale. It took us to even more fic­ti­tious ter­rain, partly out of re­spect for the com­mu­nity not want­ing it to be too bi­o­graph­i­cal, but also our own back­ground and love of science fic­tion and B-grade hor­ror.”

Naz­zari, who has ex­pe­ri­ence in py­rog­ra­phy and of­ten ex­plores the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an­i­mals and hu­mans in her prac­tice, said she had felt much trep­i­da­tion about be­com­ing a scrimshan­der (one who does scrimshaw) once see­ing the phe­nom­e­nal works shown to her in Al­bany.

THE ESSEN­TIALS WA Mu­seum, Perth Show­ing un­til March 29 Free en­try

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson d433501

Erin Coates and Anna Naz­zari are par­tic­i­pat­ing in Spaced 2.

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