Cultural history etched in teeth
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
Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari are participating in Spaced 2.