Painting the Wreck

 Across last week in a shed in part of Warmun know as the ‘overflow’ some of Warmun’s renowned artists have been painting up a car wreck. But this is not just any car wreck. This object was transformed during Tura’s residency program in Warmun, East Kimberley in August 2017 where composer/performer/sound artist Jon Rose with composer Catherine Ashley and a small army of local community welders, carpenters, towing agents and handy folk created a massive instrument/installation titled Carpintj – The Wreck. Like some ancient giant percussion and stringed animal it journeyed to the Junba (Dance and Song) Grounds adjacent to the Warmun Art Centre for a special performance by the artists, community members and then dozens of overjoyed school students. Boxes of drum sticks and many cello bows used to hit metal or bow the wires were consumed in this most enthralling performance. Gija elder Rusty Peters commented: “That was fantastic! Its brought the whole community together to experience something new thats been made right here.”

Tura Artistic Director Tos Mahoney, along with Warmun Art Centre Manager Stephanie Raj, had planned to involve Warmun painters in the process at the time but getting the Wreck built and ‘rehearsed’ was challenge enough and took all the time of the residency. So it was planned to do some time in the future and the Wreck left to mature. The community got concerned over the wet and they moved the Wreck to the ‘overflow’ shed, ironically the area of town built for the workers during the rebuild after the flood in 2011 and now sheltering the Wreck. Post flood 2011 was also the time of Tura’s first residency in Warmun with field recording specialist Philip Samartzis spending four weeks recording the Warmun world with elders and artists.

Now with the wet well receded in 2018 and all the forces aligned, including the presence of Broome filmmaker Mark Jones accompanying Tos Mahoney back to Warmun, the artists have started painting ‘that moda car’. For some time they had decided it would be done by a group of elder and young artists. Some telling wreck, some telling stories of country. And so it is. Painting and stories documented for the future, this object which nine months ago was abandoned and covered in the shrub has evolved first into a cross-cultural sonic explosion of deep importance to community and now to a carrier of country and story.

Warmun artists painting the Wreck include Gabriel Nodea, Shirley Purdie, Gordon Barney, Nancy Nodea and Lindsay Malay.

Tura and Warmun Art Centre are planning for Carpintj to travel on its own journey to Perth in 2019 with Jon Rose and some community members for a series of performances and presentation and then a future after that as an installation along with all the many stories that have been recorded along the way.

Stephanie Raj comments: “The Wreck project has been a wonderful opportunity for the community to experience a very different world of music and sound that they have been used to but at the same time one that resonated well with them. Now the painting of the Wreck gives our artists the chance to express their work in a different way and in collaboration with the sound experience.”

Jon Rose returns to Warmun this June assisting his partner Hollis Taylor who will bring 25 violins to Warmun School to created the Warmun Philharmonic Orchestra! Rose will no doubt will absorb the work of the Warmun painters and check on the working of the Wreck in preparation for its journey south.

“This is actually our second wreck project in the Kimberley with the first in Lombadina in 2016. In both communities what started as a trickle of interest turned into a torrent with many folk coming out of the wood work to tell us their wreck stories or, just as likely, tell us someone else’s wreck story. Some full of pathos, many full of humour. The process of retrieving something that has been abandoned and considered useless, then using it in this way, though treated seriously and with respect, brings its own humour, energy and connection. In the various stages of being found, retrieval, the build, performance, storage and now painting Carpintj has garnered a lot of attention and uncovered many stories. I have no doubt that in its future locally and as it travels, it will continue to do likewise.” Tos Mahoney oversaw the Lombadina and Warmun residency projects and has worked with Wreck provocateur Jon Rose over the last 35 years.

Tura’s annual Regional Program is supported by Healthway, promoting the Act-Belong-Commit message, the Ian Potter Foundation and the Rowley Foundation.

Tura’s annual program is supported by the State Government of Western Australia though the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Australia Council, the Australian Governments arts funding and advisory body.

10 May 2018