Oh Sadness

“When the cells at the old Mandurah police station were first built in 1960, they could only hold two people. One local resident was happy to be regularly arrested on Sundays as he got to enjoy the leftover roast dinner that the police sergeant’s wife always cooked.”

Nicholas Reynolds, Officer Mandurah Community Museum

Katrina and Julianne initially responded to Katrina’s emotional connection and thoughts arising from time spent in the jail cells at the Mandurah Community Museum.  The little recorded or lost history of the jail and its prisoner’s information coincided with the haphazard recordings of Barbers own life. The jail was also seen to symbolise Barbers personal prison of living in a world of unclear and frustrating communication, particularly the struggle to express herself regarding her brother’s sudden passing.

Drawings, a short film, poetry and newly composed music reflect lost memories and personal losses experienced by Barber and Ryan. By recording each artist’s sadness and loss, their thoughts and memories are acknowledged and archived, not lost in time.

To communicate, Barber uses an electronic device alongside Auslan.  The conversations are stilted for those not fluent with their uses. Using a telegraph which also has a history of use for people with disability, Julianne has translated her poem into Morse code, both in print and sound. In order to understand the poem, the audience is asked to take time to decipher the method of communication much like taking the time to comprehend Barber’s communication.

A Morse code generator and an online communication app provide the audience with an opportunity to experiment with types of alternative communication. They can then interact with the artwork by leaving their own messages on the wall.

The art of new media artist Katrina Barber illuminates for the viewer in a most direct and intimate way, the artist herself.  Barber’s practice is directly informed by her experience as a Deaf artist, her artwork opening pathways for communication.  Julianne Ryan is a mixed media artist and long-term art mentor for Katrina Barber.  Her recent work explores layered feelings and responses to her life journey. Working with and supporting each other for ten years, this is the duos first collaborative piece.

Photo credit: Lyn Nixon, Daniel Wilkins and Ross De Hoog