PERSPECTIVES ON PLACE
In the lead up to the Fair’s official programming in February 2022, Melbourne Art Fair is introducing a new series of written works, Perspectives On Place. Released periodically, this series will invite a diverse cohort of writers, academics and artists to respond to the Fair’s thematic, offering unique and nuanced thinking on the meaning of place to them.
Haley Millar Baker
Hayley Millar Baker (Gunditjmara) is a research-based artist who uses modes of photography to interrogate the way memories are made through acts of remembering and misremembering. She reflects upon the potential for personal recollections and historical accounts to become improvised and embellished. Millar Baker explores human experiences through a lens that is non-exclusive and non-linear. Her perspective is connected within memory and contemporary storytelling
A tiger was shot
A tiger paced the entry of the home and dad’s father’s uncle shot at it. My dad told me this when I was a child. He said that the windows and doors in their home seldom closed due to the heat, and that the tiger had found its way into the village looking for a snack, unfortunately landing on their doorstep.
Much like a game of ‘telephone’, this event has been passed down from generation to generation, with varying factual disparities from person to person. Nonetheless that day, a tiger was shot at the family home and nobody was harmed.
In my dreams I witness tiger attacks. I see their massively muscular and stealthy physiques mockingly playing cat and mouse with their victims until they become uninterested and consume their prey.
Two weeks after dad’s mother passed away, Rio de Janeiro’s oldest and most important historical and scientific museum was consumed by an uncontrollable fire. A year later, record-breaking fires devastated the ecosystem of the Amazon, and happened to greatly intensify on the one-year anniversary of my dad’s mother’s death.
Logically, there is no connection between the death of my dad’s mother and the devastating events that occurred in her motherland of Brazil, I know that much to be true. But it’s rather comforting to consider the significant synchronicity, a tangible and everlasting connection to her spirit and a place.
When I was a child, my mum told me that she had the ability to astral travel. She said that she was able to leave her body, asleep in bed, while she transported herself outside of the house to any place she desired.
In another plane of existence, I met my mum’s mother’s grandfather in the place of the moment of his untimely death in 1890. Pinned to the road with substantial injuries, he gazed into my eyes and asked me who I was. Explaining to him that I was his descendant, he beamed with fulfilment, knowing that it was certain he would not be forgotten. When our meeting came to an end, his eyes faded, and he was gone. I am grateful to have met him, even if so briefly, and I look forward to the day that he brings himself forward to me once again.
I was not a witness on the day that my mum’s mother’s grandfather died over a hundred years ago, but the non-linear frequencies of time and space that I am able to exist within allowed me permission to be with him.
I was not a witness on the day that the tiger was shot, nor was I convinced that the burning of Brazil did not echo the burn in my heart following the loss of my father’s mother. The events that have occurred within my family carry on into my being, and so I dream of tiger attacks in a place I have not been.
Image: Hayley Millar Baker, I Will Survive 1 (detail), 2020. Courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Naarm/Melbourne.
Nevo Zisin (they/them) is a queer, non-binary Jewish writer, performer, activist, and public speaker based in Naarm/ Birraranga / Melbourne. They run workshops in schools and professional development trainings in workplaces around transgender identities. They authored award-winning Finding Nevo (2017), a memoir on gender transition, and The Pronoun Lowdown (2021), a useful guidebook on all things related to pronouns.
A Sense of Place
I introduce myself
to the mosses as I walk through
I do not know their names but I seek to meet them
the way that they meet me
beyond my name
Names are changeable
assimilated and obscured
I grew up without a connection
to my body or to a place –
a settler on stolen land
My people have been wandering so long
I’m not sure where our homeland lies
I find home in the lands
that nourish me
My home is attached to my mother
just as I once was
I am attached to the land
as my mother and it mothers
I do not belong to this land
And yet –
When I look to the moon I see through the eyes
Of my ancestors
I think of my ancestors as much as I
Think of my descendants
I do it all for them
I am finding connection
To my body
To a place
I do not know where my home is. But my home knows me.
I cannot be misgendered
I am made up of fungi
My gender becomes relative to the rocks
To the strong songs of the winds
To the loud gossip of the cockatoos
I cannot be misgendered
I have built home into my skin
in raised garden beds
Every night I come back to myself
tending to the little parts of me like
a garden in need of my care
The painful prunings give way to the most important of new beginnings
Tender parts need the greatest time to grow
they are the ones I wait for and slowly watch
with the changing of the seasons
I wait for bearing fruits
sometimes they never come
I learn the ecological make-up of my body
What I know is that there will be a lustrous garden
What I know is that it won’t last forever
Just like my healing, my growth
is not linear
There will be times of dormancy
where it feels like nothing is changing
And yet, the growth is happening
in the mycelial networks beneath me
It is not clear from the surface, and then
a bursting fruit grows from the ground up.
Our growth is not incidental
it is not temporal movement
but the tending by all we have encountered in our lives –
by our mother(s) of blood, spirit, ancestry, and soil.