Un­der­neath the Bi­tu­men the Artist and the His­to­rian

James Boyce on Mike Parr’s in­vis­i­ble per­for­mance

The Monthly (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

It is a se­ri­ous hand­i­cap for a his­to­rian, but I am in­creas­ingly con­scious of the lim­i­ta­tion of words. To grap­ple with the bro­ken beauty and unre­deemed suf­fer­ing of hu­man his­tory is to face the re­al­ity that even the most care­fully crafted prose con­fines truth as much as il­lu­mi­nates it. How is it pos­si­ble to doc­u­ment the com­plex­ity of the pain, in­jus­tice, com­pas­sion, self-in­ter­est and un­fath­omable mercy that shaped our an­ces­tors’ en­gage­ment with life? Those who try to con­vey the truth of the past are caught in the same dilemma as mys­tics try­ing to de­scribe the Truth they re­luc­tantly term “God”. All who do so, Au­gus­tine be­lieved, can­not es­cape the con­tra­dic­tion that to de­scribe the Di­vine is to ob­scure it, yet to stay silent makes truth in­ef­fa­ble. Meis­ter Eck­hart’s re­sponse that God is a “Word un­spo­ken” and a “Word that speaks it­self” res­onates but pro­vides lim­ited pro­fes­sional help! I now just ac­cept that it is im­pos­si­bly re­duc­tion­ist to forge a nar­ra­tive out of the in­fi­nite body of lived per­sonal, fam­ily and tribal ex­pe­ri­ence. But I also recog­nise that mem­ory is as in­te­gral to com­mu­nity life as it is to in­di­vid­ual iden­tity. Hav­ing a story of the past is a defin­ing fea­ture of what it means to be hu­man. The most cre­ative way to live with this co­nun­drum has been found in his­tory’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with art. For mil­len­nia, words have been in­car­nated through dance, mu­sic, and draw­ing on sand and skin. Per­for­mance has weaved con­nec­tion and mean­ing into the el­ders’ camp­fire sto­ries and the writ­ten texts that re­placed them. But since the Re­for­ma­tion (built on the sep­a­ra­tion of

the words of the Bi­ble from the rit­u­als of peas­ant and priest) and the En­light­en­ment (premised on the un­lim­ited po­ten­tial of dis­em­bod­ied thought), the ca­pac­ity of Western peo­ples to imag­i­na­tively in­te­grate the past into con­tem­po­rary cul­ture has steadily di­min­ished. Even those who took over the sa­cred man­tle of “sto­ry­teller”, the em­pir­i­cal his­to­ri­ans (whose in­sights and meth­ods are one of the great le­ga­cies of the En­light­en­ment), of­ten be­came cut off in a less than prover­bial ivory tower. As Western­ers strug­gle to over­come an in­creas­ingly per­ilous iso­la­tion from the earth and from each other, this his­to­rian sus­pects that only restor­ing the an­cient part­ner­ship of his­tory and art can re­con­nect us with the rich com­post of mem­ory upon which any sus­tain­able so­ci­ety re­lies. So it was that my ears pricked when I heard that Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous per­for­mance artist was re­turn­ing to Tas­ma­nia. It was re­ported that Mike Parr was to live in a con­tainer buried un­der one of the main streets of cen­tral Ho­bart for three days and nights as part of the Dark Mofo win­ter festival. The festival’s cre­ative direc­tor, Leigh Carmichael, an­nounced that, to his knowl­edge, Parr’s per­for­mance would be “Tas­ma­nia’s first mon­u­ment ref­er­enc­ing both the Black War and the con­vict sys­tem”. He added, “It is a story that is not well known, but is ever-present, just be­neath the sur­face of our con­tem­po­rary cul­ture.” Some peo­ple sub­se­quently as­sumed that Un­der­neath the Bi­tu­men the Artist would be about high­light­ing the si­lence around the con­vict stain and Abo­rig­i­nal geno­cide in Tas­ma­nia. As some­one who spent a decade of my life labour­ing in this field, I was huffed. This was the best-doc­u­mented colo­nial so­ci­ety in the Bri­tish Em­pire (only in a pe­nal colony did nearly ev­ery set­tler have a file!) and the best-recorded fron­tier con­flict on the Aus­tralian con­ti­nent, and the abun­dant ar­chive spawned a rich his­to­ri­og­ra­phy that stretches back over 180 years. The in­fa­mous con­vict colony of Van Diemen’s Land (as the is­land was called un­til 1856) and the killing of its Indige­nous peo­ple were prob­a­bly the most no­to­ri­ous and well-pro­moted as­pects of Aus­tralian colo­nial his­tory on the im­pe­rial stage. So I never be­lieved it was a lack of writ­ten words that was be­ing ref­er­enced in Parr’s work. (Any­one who thought that just doesn’t like read­ing.) Rather, I saw the artist’s pro­posed burial as a wit­ness to the sep­a­ra­tion of our his­tory from the life we live. So much has been writ­ten, but are we changed? The early Bri­tish coloni­sa­tion of Aus­tralia is a bizarre tale. The de­ter­mi­na­tion to nor­malise what went on in this con­ti­nent (ig­no­rance of his­tory be­ing no bar­rier to this na­tional project) means it re­mains sur­pris­ingly easy to for­get that a con­vict was a con­victed crim­i­nal and Van Diemen’s Land was a pris­oner so­ci­ety. New South Wales was the only other colony to re­ceive a com­pa­ra­ble num­ber of con­victs, but af­ter trans­porta­tion there ceased, in 1840, its con­vict founders were quickly swamped by mass mi­gra­tion. By con­trast, not only did Van Diemen’s Land con­tinue to re­ceive trans­ported pris­on­ers un­til 1853 but the num­ber of free set­tlers was so lim­ited that the con­vict founders and their chil­dren re­mained the large ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion through­out the 19th cen­tury. It sounds cal­lous, but in one way I am thank­ful for this brutal found­ing. How much harder it must be to live with the self-right­eous­ness of the Pil­grim Fa­thers. Even South Aus­tralia’s proud free men seem a bur­den I could do with­out. The es­sen­tial hu­mil­ity em­bod­ied in the con­vict cre­ation story car­ries with it the po­ten­tial to crack the im­pe­rial hubris just enough to al­low some light in (to para­phrase Leonard Co­hen). Con­vict set­tlers pro­vide a para­dox­i­cal source of hope. One of the great so­cial ex­per­i­ments of the 19th cen­tury turned out to work bet­ter than ex­pected. De­spite the eman­cip­ists’ ex­clu­sion from in­sti­tu­tional power, and the bar­bar­ity of the pe­nal sys­tem and the self-rule that re­placed it, Tas­ma­nia’s gen­er­ous en­vi­ron­ment pro­vided a com­par­a­tive de­gree of dig­nity and free­dom for most of its pop­u­la­tion. What this con­vict home-mak­ing hides is the depth of the wound that came with state-sanc­tioned ex­ile. As any vis­i­tor to a Tas­ma­nian con­vict heritage site knows, pun­ish­ment could be ex­tremely cruel. Less than one in six con­victs ever went to Port Arthur, but the dan­ger of be­ing sent there hung over ev­ery one. A sur­pris­ing num­ber of con­victs did ab­scond from pris­ons and as­signed work­places, but gen­er­ally they and their de­scen­dants in­ter­nalised the les­son that the most ef­fec­tive way to pre­serve free­dom was not to con­front au­thor­i­ties di­rectly but to es­tab­lish in­de­pen­dent lives away from the gaze of mag­is­trates and masters. I have great re­spect for this form of protest, but it did mean that much of the con­vict ex­pe­ri­ence was left un­spo­ken. And when com­bined with the rul­ing elite’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­brand the no­to­ri­ous pe­nal colony as the re­spectable “Tas­ma­nia”, there was an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cost. The pain of Van Diemen’s Land went un­der­ground, and while it can still be ac­cessed, it takes some dig­ging. Another form of para­dox­i­cally well-doc­u­mented si­lence en­veloped the in­fa­mous war of ex­ter­mi­na­tion with the is­land’s Indige­nous peo­ple. The fight for Van Diemen’s Land was not de­fined as a law-and-or­der is­sue for the po­lice to sort out (as later con­flicts on the main­land would mostly be) but from the 1820s was ex­plic­itly named as a “war” overseen by the lieu­tenant-gover­nor as “com­man­der in chief”, em­ploy­ing the Bri­tish Army

The pain of Van Diemen’s Land went un­der­ground, and while it can still be ac­cessed, it takes some dig­ging.

and the au­to­cratic pow­ers that came with the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law. Care­ful records were main­tained to jus­tify the state-sanc­tioned vi­o­lence. Some of the ex­ten­sive dis­patches be­tween Lon­don and Ho­bart that out­line the progress of the war were pub­lished (by or­der of the House of Com­mons) in the early 1830s. Henry Melville’s 1835 book The His­tory of the Is­land of Van Diemen’s Land, 1824–1835 openly talked of “in­va­sion” and “guer­rilla war”. A num­ber of other texts in the 19th cen­tury made use of the rich ar­chive, their au­thors’ labour en­cour­aged by the fact that the fate of the Tas­ma­ni­ans res­onated deeply in Eng­land be­cause of the evan­gel­i­cal re­vival and later So­cial Dar­win­ist ideas. Even­tu­ally, the coloni­sa­tion of Tas­ma­nia was con­sid­ered an ex­em­plar of the wip­ing out of an en­tire race. Aware­ness of Abo­rig­i­nal is­sues in Tas­ma­nia de­clined in the first half of the 20th cen­tury (as in the rest of Aus­tralia) but so en­trenched had the Tas­ma­nian story be­come in Western con­scious­ness that the Pol­ish ju­rist Raphael Lemkin used it as a case study in fram­ing the new crime of “geno­cide”. At least at the no­to­ri­ety level, then, “The Great Aus­tralian Si­lence” de­scribed by W.H. Stan­ner in the late 1960s was less preva­lent in Tas­ma­nia. The work of Lyn­dall Ryan and Henry Reynolds in the 1980s and 1990s took fron­tier his­to­ri­og­ra­phy to a new level, but the past decade has pro­duced per­haps the rich­est collection of schol­arly and ac­ces­si­ble texts, with another sig­nif­i­cant tome on the con­flict with the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple added al­most ev­ery year. How­ever, af­ter be­ing so long sub­merged in th­ese doc­u­ments and books, I find that an anx­ious ques­tion has come to keep my own re­search a safe dis­tance from home. What if all th­ese words (mine in­cluded) were ac­tu­ally ob­scur­ing hid­den truths of Van Diemen’s Land? Un­til the late 1970s, the killing of Tas­ma­nian Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple was ac­knowl­edged largely be­cause there were no con­tem­po­rary im­pli­ca­tions in do­ing so, as the “race” was as­sumed to be “ex­tinct” (de­spite some aware­ness that the de­scen­dants of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple lived on the Bass Strait is­lands). But even in the more en­light­ened decades since then, al­most all the writ­ten words have fo­cused on the best-doc­u­mented as­pect of the con­flict: the of­fi­cial war be­tween 1827 and 1832. What can be said about the un­of­fi­cial killing that oc­curred be­fore mar­tial law was de­clared, of which only doc­u­men­tary whis­pers re­main? There are also few records and thus lit­tle re­search on the tragedy of the re­moval of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple that con­tin­ued af­ter the fight­ing had con­cluded. The bias to state-sanc­tioned war, char­ac­ter­is­tic of so much Western his­tory, can hide vi­o­lence as much as re­veal it.

No Aus­tralian artist has done more to dis­pel the en­dur­ing myth that we can safely sep­a­rate who we are from what we know.

But the most dis­turb­ing di­men­sion of Tas­ma­nian and wider Aus­tralian his­tory re­mains the fail­ure of the re­search on the post-set­tle­ment tragedy to lead to change. The mil­lions of words locked away in li­brary and ar­chive seem largely ir­rel­e­vant to our iden­tity as a com­mu­nity, state and na­tion. Could they even be pro­vid­ing false ab­so­lu­tion, as fac­ing the truth of our his­tory is con­flated with read­ing a book? So when I ven­tured out on the evening of June 14, 2018 to wit­ness a 73-year-old per­for­mance artist take a few short steps from the one-time cen­tre of sto­ry­telling in Ho­bart, the old Mer­cury build­ing, into one of the mid­dle lanes of Mac­quarie Street, it was this si­lence, rooted in cul­tural de­tach­ment and doc­u­men­tary priv­i­lege, that I saw Mike Parr to be con­fronting. I knew that no Aus­tralian artist has done more to dis­pel the en­dur­ing myth that we can safely sep­a­rate who we are from what we know. On so many oc­ca­sions, Parr has of­fered his own body to be pierced and plucked – what­ever it takes to bring us back to earth. Was it pos­si­ble that he could per­form the same mir­a­cle here? About 3000 peo­ple waited for the artist to ap­pear that rainy Thurs­day night, an enor­mous num­ber given that there was so lit­tle to see. With on­look­ers kept to the outer lanes by perime­ter fenc­ing, even the con­tainer res­i­dence was largely hid­den from view. Men in flu­oro shirts pro­vided the main en­ter­tain­ment. Un­der spot­lights, en­cir­cled by peo­ple with nothing to look at ex­cept them, the work­ers dili­gently dug out the bi­tu­men. Another brightly coloured group near the cen­tre of the gath­er­ing was dis­play­ing the Tas­ma­nian Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre (TAC) flag. The size­able me­dia pack shared my as­sump­tion that this was a dig­ni­fied protest. Heather Sculthorpe, CEO of the TAC, had said that she “wouldn’t have known [the per­for­mance] had any­thing to do with the Black War … we should have Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in­volved … not just Dark Mofo de­cid­ing … We have a lot of great sto­ry­tellers, and some old fella un­der the road is not the way to do it.” Festival or­gan­is­ers had sub­se­quently clar­i­fied that “this work is NOT a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Tas­ma­nia’s his­tory of colo­nial vi­o­lence in par­tic­u­lar, but the global ex­pe­ri­ence … This work is about the NULL of the im­age – there is no artist, there is no per­for­mance, there is no art­work.” But it turned out that although the Abo­rig­i­nal gath­er­ing still be­lieved Parr to be di­rectly ref­er­enc­ing the Black War, they had come along in sup­port of him do­ing so. Michael Mansell (the man whose pre­sen­ta­tion of a land rights pe­ti­tion to the Queen in 1977 sym­bol­ises the pub­lic emer­gence of mod­ern Tas­ma­nian Abo­rig­i­nal ac­tivism) ex­plained that this was be­cause “Tas­ma­nia has a blood­stained his­tory, and one it prefers to for­get”. Af­ter Parr had taken his few steps into con­fine­ment, the hole-cov­er­ing pro­ceeded even more ef­fi­ciently than the dig­ging, and by about 10.30pm traf­fic was al­lowed back on the main artery of Ho­bart. The in­ter­reg­num now be­gan.

The fact that Parr was to fol­low Je­sus in be­ing buried for “three days and three nights”, com­bined with the in­verted crosses lin­ing the wa­ter­front, the billing of Dark Mofo’s Win­ter Feast event as the Last Sup­per, and the “Night Mass” events at sur­round­ing venues, gave an Easter Satur­day feel to the in­ter­ment. The burial had oc­curred but what were we meant to do now? Was it just a mat­ter of wait­ing for the res­ur­rec­tion? As one ob­server would later say, it was pre­cisely this ab­sence that gave her an un­hin­dered ca­pac­ity to make the art her own. The artist had sur­ren­dered the im­age, but there was a re­spon­si­bil­ity, even a bur­den, that came with this gift. My own quiet med­i­ta­tion on the per­for­mance was dis­rupted af­ter I found out that Parr was liv­ing with more than the sketch pad, med­i­ta­tion stool, bed­ding and wa­ter that the ini­tial me­dia re­ports had de­scribed. Parr also had with him a his­tory book. I envy the late Robert Hughes’s abil­ity to write and sell books, and am grate­ful for how The Fa­tal Shore made so many peo­ple aware of Aus­tralian colo­nial his­tory for the first time. Hughes’s com­pas­sion for the con­victs and skill in com­mu­ni­cat­ing the hor­ror many en­dured has en­sured that the book de­servedly con­tin­ues to sell well 30 years af­ter it was first pub­lished. But this is a com­pli­cated book for me be­cause of how it treats my is­land home. In its ap­proach to Van Diemen’s Land, The Fa­tal Shore stands in the tra­di­tion of Mar­cus Clarke’s For the Term of His Nat­u­ral Life – by far the most in­flu­en­tial work on Tas­ma­nia ever writ­ten. The words penned by the Mel­bourne jour­nal­ist in the 1870s (de­spite or per­haps be­cause they are fic­tion) have be­come em­bed­ded in cul­ture through a cen­tury and a half of read­ing, the­atre, song and, no­tably, film. What was be­ing sold was not the com­plex hu­man story of con­vict coloni­sa­tion but the hor­ror of pe­nal sta­tion life. In this story, Van Diemen’s Land is al­ways a prison and never a home. While the lo­cal Royal So­ci­ety, the Bishop of Tas­ma­nia and an out­raged se­na­tor fussed about rep­u­ta­tional dam­age caused by the 1927 movie block­buster (by far the most ex­pen­sive film ever made in Aus­tralia to that time), I sus­pect that is not why lo­cal peo­ple never fully em­braced the tale. I like to think that the chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of con­victs knew there was more to their an­ces­tors’ lives than just be­ing bru­talised vic­tims of the im­pe­rial state. Robert Hughes tells a far more schol­arly and com­pre­hen­sive story than Clarke does. But when it comes to Van Diemen’s Land, the focus of The Fa­tal Shore re­mains the most grue­some as­pects of the pe­nal sys­tem. Head­line hor­ror has the same lim­its as head­line war. Just as the early de­scrip­tions of fron­tier vi­o­lence pre­sented the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple as be­ing with­out agency, Hughes’s Van Diemo­ni­ans are largely re­duced to be­ing vic­tims. The mul­ti­fac­eted forms of re­sis­tance, ac­com­mo­da­tion, en­counter and adap­ta­tion of or­di­nary work­ing men and women of the colony (for that is what the con­victs also

were) dis­ap­pear as pro­foundly as they do in the cel­e­bra­tory his­to­ries pro­moted by the es­tab­lish­ment. There is also the dan­ger that the sort of his­tory told by Clarke and Hughes ob­scures the deep­est wound. Brutal pun­ish­ments and flog­gings left an ob­vi­ous scar, but, as in the case of re­moved chil­dren in the aw­ful in­sti­tu­tions of yes­ter­year, fo­cus­ing on vis­i­ble abuse can ob­scure the less ac­ces­si­ble an­guish as­so­ci­ated with forced re­moval from home, fam­ily, iden­tity, re­la­tion­ships and coun­try that was the con­se­quence of ex­ile to a far­away land. My trou­bled re­la­tion­ship with the book meant I re­sented The Fa­tal Shore in­vad­ing my ide­alised im­age of Parr’s empty tomb. I wanted the space to con­tain nothing more than a prover­bial can­dle and a med­i­tat­ing artist. I longed for the con­tainer to be a refuge from words, but in re­al­ity it was full of them. I knew that the per­for­mance was a re­sponse to uni­ver­sal suf­fer­ing (and, to be fair, Mar­cus Clarke also wanted his work to be about the wider hu­man strug­gle). As Abo­rig­i­nal scholar Greg Lehman has ob­served, Un­der­neath the Bi­tu­men the Artist is so pow­er­ful be­cause it could be per­formed any­where. There is no deny­ing that ev­ery re­gion and coun­try has its his­tory of hid­den in­jus­tice, but, as Parr’s life’s work re­veals, uni­ver­sal ex­pe­ri­ence only deep­ens the grounded truth of the land we are buried in.

On Sun­day, June 17, 2018, I watched Mike Parr rise from the earth. Over a thou­sand peo­ple qui­etly shiv­ered un­til 9.36pm – when the artist’s full 72-hour in­ter­ment was done. Such had been the in­tense in­ter­est in the in­vis­i­ble per­for­mance that the me­dia were now present in even greater num­bers. There was some frus­tra­tion among those des­per­ate for Sun­day night copy when Parr quickly ex­ited the site. The fol­low­ing morn­ing The Mer­cury car­ried the large (and un­in­ten­tion­ally apt) front-page head­line of “NOTHING TO SEE HERE”, ac­com­pa­nied by a photograph of the artist emerg­ing “from his un­der-street cham­ber be­fore scur­ry­ing word­lessly away”. Mike Parr had al­ways planned to talk to the com­mu­nity, and he did so at a packed-out pub­lic fo­rum two days later. He spoke of how the work was orig­i­nally con­ceived in 2011 for the forth­com­ing Doc­u­menta in Kas­sel. In Parr’s orig­i­nal pro­posal, there would be no au­di­ence (ex­cept on­line). I still felt nos­tal­gia for the per­for­mance that the risk-ob­sessed Ger­mans had ve­toed. The free­dom from con­ver­sa­tion in­her­ent in Parr’s orig­i­nal dream was a frayed his­to­rian’s fan­tasy. Surely an undis­closed hole would have pro­vided the safe space where the truth con­tained in si­lence might be re­vealed? In­stead, the ac­tual per­for­mance had proved to be a crowded space. It was not just the num­ber of ob­servers, the me­dia in­ter­est, the level of pub­lic de­bate and Hughes’s vo­lu­mi­nous tome that made it seem un­com­fort­ably full. Even the phys­i­cal con­tainer had proved to pro­vide no re­treat. Parr de­scribed how he was soon able to see ac­tual cars speed­ing over­head as the bi­tu­men sub­sided, was dis­turbed by “fer­als” jump­ing on top of him for latenight thrills, and was reg­u­larly shaken up by trucks. My imag­ined med­i­ta­tion hall sounded like hell! I learnt in the post-per­for­mance talk that the art was not what had been in­tended or planned but that no per­for­mance art work ever should be. Such work al­ways de­vel­ops its own demo­cratic di­rec­tion be­cause some­thing that does not ma­te­ri­ally ex­ist can never be pri­vately owned. Not even the artist (let alone the rich col­lec­tor or “ex­pert” his­to­rian!) has a greater claim. Since there is no im­age or ob­ject cre­ated, the ab­sent art and the mean­ing at­trib­uted to it be­long equally to all. Parr said he was re­lieved by this truth: “If the work is a kind of pro­found ab­sence, then I am in­cluded, and it is a re­lief to know that.” I was clingier than the artist, but I came to share in the lib­er­a­tion and learn­ing that came with let­ting go.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing The Mer­cury car­ried the large (and un­in­ten­tion­ally apt) front-page head­line of “NOTHING TO SEE HERE”.

I won­der now if the crowded clam­our I strug­gle with ac­tu­ally rep­re­sents a more hon­est en­gage­ment with the past than my longed-for si­lence. While it is nec­es­sary and good to sit qui­etly in the bush re­mem­ber­ing those who have cel­e­brated and suf­fered in this land over count­less gen­er­a­tions, what Parr be­queathed was more than this. He went un­der­neath the bi­tu­men and so cre­ated a me­mo­rial space where an en­counter oc­curred in the very midst of our frag­mented and fast-jour­ney­ing lives. How likely is it that the place where the con­gested past meets the chaotic present will prove to be one of quiet res­o­lu­tion? As ev­ery em­pir­i­cal his­to­rian knows, our an­ces­tors’ lives need to be looked at as they were, not what we think they should be. And if the same re­spect is given to the liv­ing as the dead, some shout­ing should be ex­pected when the two truly meet up. I now drive reg­u­larly over the still-buried con­tainer. (Ev­ery­thing in it has been left be­hind as a time cap­sule.) Marked out by new bi­tu­men, Mike Parr’s hid­den home has be­come a per­ma­nent marker for me. The power of what Greg Lehman termed an “anti-mon­u­ment” was that in the end it was a place where his­tory be­came art but with­out ei­ther an artist or a his­to­rian to me­di­ate the en­counter. Parr cre­ated a space that be­longs to ev­ery­one, and the enor­mous in­ter­est in his project sug­gests that in do­ing so he spoke to an ache in us all. I haven’t writ­ten any pub­lic words on Tas­ma­nian colo­nial his­tory since my book Van Diemen’s Land was pub­lished a decade ago. Even in­for­mal chat on the sub­ject since then has usu­ally left me with a vague sense of un­ease and a long­ing to re­turn to a trou­bled but con­tained quiet. Mike Parr’s Un­der­neath the Bi­tu­men the Artist be­came my ve­hi­cle of re-en­try. As th­ese words wit­ness, my own Easter Satur­day in­ter­reg­num has now come to an end. Parr didn’t re­veal the truth con­tained within si­lence, but his per­for­mance was the Liv­ing Word, or at least the Em­bod­ied Shout, that has lib­er­ated me to speak.

© Dark Mofo / Rémi Chau­vin. Im­age cour­tesy Dark Mofo, Ho­bart, Tas­ma­nia and Anna Schwartz Gallery

Mike Parr, Un­der­neath the Bi­tu­men the Artist.

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