Past Residencies

Berndt Hoppner
April 1999

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Three years ago, when I was invited to make an exhibition at IASKA, I came to Kellerberrin without any ideas, without any materials, without any perspective on how to create an exhibition within three weeks. At the beginning, during a workshop with five fine art postgraduate students from Curtin University (a part of the contract with IASKA), I got the idea of making "souvenirs".

I was looking for an equal starting-point for them and myself, and I thought it would be very inviting and provocative to do something nobody would aniticipate... What would souvenirs for Kellerberrin look like, since you can`t rely on tourist stuff, like significant buildings or natural wonders; when you have to invent an object that can say something important about this "unimportant", vacant place? You have to interrogate the entirety of place; the earth, the clima, the civilization, the plants, the waste bins, the animals. What are they telling you about the roots, the history, the beauty of this place, about what it means to stay here... I Asked Some Kellerberrin Ants and they told me: it`s the right place - you should do it.

The original word, souvenir, in Latin, means something coming to mind. It doesn`t mean plastic koalas, kangaroo print tea towels, cathedral ashtrays, big waterfall plates etc. Souvenirs for an unknown, small village. In German we say "Un-Ort" for such a place, meaning a kind of nowhere-place and implicating a certain state of being, like being "OUT OF SITE". So I could say: Kellerberrin, the place of the ants, was waiting for me to settle down with this idea of souvenirs; to do something for this place, to record a small idea, to materialize certain flashes of scenery, to look for the essence of living here.

I remember very well, after the day's work was over and having eaten a small supper, when something would come to my mind to fill up the time, place and situation. After being "charged up" during the day working in the front gallery, I was looking for something to "discharge" me - by putting energy in small things as well as the big ones; to celebrate the evenings by transforming "shire-ideas" into metaphoric objects (not for the art-world, just for me). So I tried to simplify (materialize?) daily impressions by using ordinary, everyday stuff like straw, plastics, grains, corrugated cardboard etc to create something specific for this site; like a gift pack filled with waste or a corrugated brick of a burned down hotel.

Since (and because of) my IASKA stay in 1999 I know that this kind of working "in situ" has become more and more important for me. So now I can say you can best reach for the "new" when you are missing a site, when you are out of site.