Welcome to Travelling Stories, an online exhibition of artist commissions responding to some particular museum collections. Did you have chance to see part one?
In 2018, the Derbyshire Schools Library Service closed. The collections had been assembled since the 1930s and needed new homes. With the help of the Esmee Fairburn Collections Fund and the Museums Association, staff at Buxton Museum have been finding their custodians.
More than 2,000 items have been allocated to nearly 100 museums, libraries and publicly accessible collections from across Britain and some items have been restituted to communities in North America. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery were pleased to add to their world cultures collections, including material from Australia, New Zealand the Pacific islands and South America.
Lockdown meant that we were unable to engage with new communities in these museums quite as we planned. Instead we offered Bristol Museum a modest commissioning fund to work with artists curated by Border Crossings’ ORIGINS Festival to respond to the work.
Despite being synonymous with Australia, the origin of the boomerang can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Europe and the Americas – the oldest known boomerang is made from mammoth tusk and as found at a site in the Carpathian Mountains in Poland and dates to 30,000 BCE. Paintings from tombs in Egypt show nobles in the marshes of the Nile hunting wild fowl with boomerangs, and Tutankhamun had a collection of them buried in his tomb.
In Australia, the boomerang is still used by indigenous people. Boomerangs have a range of uses, such as hunting weapons, percussive musical instruments, battle clubs, fire-starters, decoys for hunting waterfowl, and as recreational play toys.
There are two types of boomerang, returning and non-returning, and it is the non-returning that are generally used by the Australian Aborigines. They are used to hunt a variety of prey, the largest being the kangaroo, but have also been used as war weapons. Sometimes they are carved with decorative geometric patterns and these are used as musical instruments and relate to the Dreamtime. The images helped the performer in relating stories on the origins of the world and ancestral knowledge.
Ryan Presley Aero-dynamism (past the point of no return) graphite pencil and watercolour on Arches paper 64.5 x 101cm 2021
Aero-dynamism (past the point of no return) is a response to the multitude of Aboriginal objects and artefacts that are held in museum collections across the world, particularly in Britain. Often our tools are held and exhibited with no credit or didactic information. Over time, this has been done by collectors in haste and ignorance; seeing Aboriginal people as one homogenous group. In reality, Aboriginal Australia is as culturally diverse as continental Europe. This work symbolically references the thrown returning boomerang that has become famous worldwide and a pop cultural icon. It is a tool, that since its inception, is proof of Aboriginal strength, intelligence and ingenuity. It indicates a working understanding and application of the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Aero-dynamism (past the point of no return) is a play on the irony of a returning multi-use tool becoming a static object of display, where its origin is unknown.
Dr. Ryan Presley was born in 1987 in Alice Springs, and currently lives and works in Brisbane. His father’s family is Marri Ngarr and originate from the Moyle River region in the Northern Territory. His mother’s family were Scandinavian immigrants to Australia.
Ryan has work in various public collections including the Art Gallery of South Australia, University of Queensland Art Museum, Murdoch University, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. Ryan completed a PhD at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, in 2016.
BORDER CROSSINGS ORIGINS FESTIVAL
Border Crossings is a leader in intercultural dialogue between artists, audiences and communities, working through theatre and the arts to facilitate mutual understanding, creative collaboration and positive development, creating spaces in which peoples come together as equals for creativity and dialogue.
Border Crossings’ ORIGINS Festival celebrates the world’s First Nations in an explosion of art, performance and debate. ORIGINS creates a unique opportunity to engage with Indigenous artists and activists at the cutting edge of cultural resistance, environmentalism and spiritual tradition.
Bristol Culture and Creative Industries is part of Bristol City Council. BC&CI deliver a wide range of cultural services across the city and operates seven visitor sites including: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, M Shed, The Georgian House Museum, The Red Lodge Museum, Blaise Museum, Kings Weston Roman Villa and Bristol Archives. BC&CI’s museum service is the largest in the South West and holds National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status with Arts Council England. The multi-disciplinary collections contain 2 million objects, which are continuously developed through research, documentation, digitisation, conservation and new acquisitions. In 2018-19 over 1.3 million people visited BC&CI’s museum sites, collectively making them the most visited free attraction in the region.