TIN SHEDS GALLERY, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY
August 27- September 19, 1999
Jan Fieldsend, Director and Curator
MANLY ART GALLERY & MUSEUM
September 21- October 10, 1999
Therese Kenyon, Director and Curator
BROKEN HILL ART GALLERY
September 30- October 17, 1999
Broken Hill, Australia
Diana Robson, Director and Curator
Therese Kenyon, Australia – Director, Manly Art Gallery
Jan Fieldsend, Australia – Director, Tin Sheds Gallery
STUDENTS BEYOND BORDERS
Nazanin Marashian from the University of Sydney invited 12 university women to participate in the WBB exhibition and assist in the preparations of the WBB exhibition at the Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney in 1999. Below is an essay by Nazanin.
On my 7th birthday my mother gave me a box. A magical, mystical box. The kind that captures a child’s imagination. Inside, was a ballerina wearing a red tutu. She danced to an indiscriminate song and as she twirled, dreams, blanketing consciousness, soothed the child to sleep.
I filled the box over the years with my most precious possessions. A blue and white beaded necklace, sent from Iran by my Grandmother. A pebble, which, once held in my hand made me invincible. My first watch. A gold ring. A rose. It became for me a private house– a secret site of childhood fantasy and pleasure. Since then I’ve collected numerous other “boxes”: a tool box, a letter box, an artist’s box….all carrying something of the past and the present. Containers of memories which fuse together to define who I am, or who I attempt to be.
Twelve years later, on my sister’s 7th birthday I gave her my magic box, enchanted with secret dreams of yesteryear, to share with her not only my object fetish but also, to inspire her own imagination. The box became a sacred rite, a passage of symbolic connection between two sisters– two women.
We all create or are given “boxes”, real or metaphorical. These boxes are endowed with an alluring mystery– a whispered game of desires, ambitions, fears. Yet, they are at the same time, an ambivalent object which define boundaries. A closed space, a private space, a space which can expand your mind, or suffocate your soul.
Investigating the “boundary” is at the heart of Women Beyond Borders.
The box can be understood in all languages and points of reference. It is a thing which stands as a representative of a common link– that we as women, as living beings need to speak of the whole of our experience: the hostility, the sadness as well as the joys and triumphs.
The WBB exhibition brings that reality to fruition both in its boxes and through its travels.
The opportunities this exhibition has offered throughout its five year existence, whilst acting as an agent for the ideas and feelings of women, has encouraged and inspired creativity and above all communication. Communication both cross-culturally and trans-globally. In Russia the boxes traveled on a train from Graz to St. Petersburg, a moving sculpture, which literally crossed eight borders. The event was filmed and aired live via the Internet at the Austrian and American WBB exhibition venues. In Kenya, WBB acted as catalyst for further women’s art exhibitions. In Nepal a doctor carried the boxes into remote villages where they were shown to local women, as a means of raising awareness of health issues. There have been numerous workshops, and supplementary web sites, designed to showcase artists who utilize digital media and to promote education in digital arts for women.
Change develops out of knowledge. Making visible the spectrum of experiences, both on a personal and global scale is the power and appeal of WBB. Whatever the individual boxes speak of, whether it be personal stories, political issues, or formal concepts, it is in the space of the exhibition that the communication and debate comes alive; and via this spark moves beyond the walls and into the world. Private spaces made public.
Like my magical, mystical box, the Women Beyond Borders project gestures a place for the imagination. As a meeting of strangers and friends across seas, cultures, and languages, the exhibition becomes a universal sign of community; the passing on of ourselves through the gift of a box.
Student Project in Manly, Australia.
IN THE OUTBACK
In a town as isolated as Broken Hill, the idea of ‘community’ takes on added meaning. With the isolation comes a feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ there are those who are from here, everyone else is ‘from away.’
Is it possible to feel a sense of community with a group of women, most of whom I will never speak to, nor even meet?
It is four years since about two hundred other women and myself were each given a small wooden box and instructions to transform the box in any way we so desired. I have never been to Finland, Cuba or Japan. I do not know what these people look like, I know nothing of their history, however in the creation of their boxes something personal has been revealed, something intimate has been shared.
To others this may seem a very tenuous connection on which to base a sense of community, however to me it is powerfully real.
Diana Robson, Curator
Ironically, rather than dealing with ‘the individual’, Western society tends to place us in particular categories (little boxes) and more specifically opposing polarities in order to deal with us more easily, more quickly, less personally. This easy stereotyping is even more prevalent in regard to the position of women: Madonna/Whore, Mother/Worker, Young/Old, Beautiful/Ugly, Nature/Culture. This box contains references to the stereotyping that we as women experience and the title, We are This and That and Everything in Between, refers to the true individual nature of the female sex. – Diana Robson