MOMENTO MORI: REMEMBER THAT WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE (the photograph kills me/the artwork makes me immortal)
MOMENTO MORI: delayed affects—travelling two weeks after

These works are different elements of one performance, intervention and installation developed on residency in the UNESCO listed town outside of Évora, Portugal to explore site-specific performance and art tourism. An artist’s residency is a mediated experience and I explored local, culturally significant sites of the Alentejo (the area containing Évora): the Capella dos Ossos momento mori; the Alentejo as a site of Byron’s Childe Harolde and the area as a site of pilgrimage owing to the presence of the Baroque university and famous Public Library and as an historical site for marble.

The memento mori and the tourist gaze or objectification of the local environment during tourist activity is critically linked to Barthes’ concept of the death of the image (the end of the reification of the artwork in relation to art’s history of religious works as seen in the Capella dos Ossos—the reification of the image’s aura is diminished owing to the reproducibility of the photograph and cinema—the development of photography diminishes the concept of a reified or authentic tourist experience). A tour requires a return and this led to my sites of return in Australia, Sydney and Home Hill, North Queensland, which are linked to my biography—I was born in Home Hill and live and work in Sydney. The nationalistic site of return in Australia is Cook Park, Botany Bay, coincidently now in view of the runway for Sydney airport.

The performance began with chiselling two marble tablets: one with the artwork makes me immortal, the other—the photograph kills me. The second piece of marble was too brittle to chisel so I painted the text on it. I hid one tablet in the Capella (the artwork...) and the other beyond Evora's walls (the photograph…), near Monizano, a significant distance away. I walked back and forth between the two tablets while reading Childe Harolde and also Padre António da Ascenção's untitled poem from the Chapel reminding travellers to pause and consider the bones in front of them and their own immortality. I also sang Flame Trees by Don Walker—a nostalgic Australian anthem of return and loss.

On returning to Australia I filmed the slow movement of the planes on the runway at Cook Park. The unfailing connection between aeroplanes and a project called MOMENTO MORI was the vision of September Eleven. I had travelled to Bali and Europe two weeks after these events (the experience of which led to this research project on global tourism). Though this title also links to Kubrick’s film and the question of the future (here as a similitude of what’s present) and the delayed political affects of these events—political tensions that led to the Cronulla riots and the racial tensions that Cook Park, Botany Bay in San Souci, still represents as a nationalistic crucible.

The performance was transmitted to my own home town in the Burdekin (Home Hill, just south of Townsville), North Queensland through the participation of the Burdekin Library. The poems and songs accompanying the performance, along with documentary images, were made into an artist's edition and given to this library and the Évora public library (pilgrims and travellers have visited this library since the Seventeeth century). One copy is on display at OBRAS: International Centre for Art and Science (site of the residency) and as this is a Dutch foundation, one copy was deposited with the Dutch Royal library in the Hague.

 

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