Teleportation Cell

Teleportation Cell

Exhibition: Revelation: Port Arthur Project (Ten Days on the island Festival), Port Arthur, Hobart, 2007
Curators: Noel Frankham and Julia Clark

Artist Statement: Teleportation Cell

March 27th 2007

Upon visiting Port Arthur for the first time I was overwhelmed by the uncanny nature of the place. The sky, infused with the light greys of mist, offered an oppressive lid on the landscape and as I wandered over the luscious greens it seemed that every blade of grass carried some remnant of pain.

There was irony in the fact that the uncanny, being something unravelled unexpectantly from the past portending a mischievous deed, seemed to match the premise of the show “revelation” in that any interpretation of the site I felt needed to be uncanny as a thing in itself.

Initially the feelings of repression .violence, entrapment and loss of identity of the convicts seemed to override any positive, joyous context in an artwork. I researched the shoe factory, the cells and sleeping hammocks. I decided to focus predominantly on the period of convict incarceration. The Penitentiary appeared to be my main source of attraction.

After further visits and an obligatory period of artistic angst my thinking started moving laterally to a form of revelation which represented a shedding of the negative aspects of the past. I asked myself the question: what if I could let the convicts out to reclaim their true selves? To do this I entertained the thought of a fantasy scenario of convict escape via teleportation.
Teleportation was coined by Charles Fort in the 1900s from the Greek prefix tele meaning “distant” and the end of the word “transportation”. This was an interesting discovery as there was an uncanny crossover between being transported from “home” to another place and then strangely re-transporting them out of that place, the Penitentiary prison, to freedom.

I set about researching the Penitentiary cells that were in ruins and no longer visible in their entirety.
The other significant element was the pheons or arrows that marked the prisoners on their regulation clothing as being the property of the government.
I engaged with the process of making marquettes and drawings to decide upon a form that could represent a teleportation cell.

The main objective was to consider the relationship between the object and the site and the viewer and the object. I wished to make a cell that was difficult to visually apprehend within the landscape and one which moved in and out of view from a distance. I have a history of creating three-dimensional line drawings in space and this once again seemed like an obvious solution yet I did not have the arrows floating off in space. A Penitentiary “sleeping” cell was recreated as a true-to-scale three-dimensional line drawing in space using marine grade stainless steel (for its reflective qualities) with black pheons scattered, within the cell, on the ground. The cell is 2130mm long 1370mm wide and 2180 mm high.

This work speaks of a mystical act of liberation from both incarceration and ownership by the Government. In this scenario redemption and reclamation of self-identity are the key concepts. It poses as a joyous metaphor for Port Arthur to be released from its history of confinement, violence and repression. The pheons or arrows that mark the convicts as government property have essentially been shed from their clothing.