Disco’s Child

Hannah Coleman

A photograph of mirrored artworks installed on a wall

Photograph: Thomas McCammon

About the exhibition

Here I am, attempting an introduction. Except, I’m so busy trying to find fragments of myself within my romanticised fantasy of coloured culture. I mesh it all together, misaligned and so pretty for you. A yummy, glamorous projection of gold and a rhythmic live drum heartbeat. It’s shiny and pretty and it exists in a world I never experienced but a world I yearn for. Bit by bit, I’ve tediously cultivated a vortex of reflections and refractions; desperately piecing together my self-portrait. This is how it feels to look for a truthful explanation and expression of myself outside of South Africa and long after studio 54. I suppose this is what I look like and this is who I am. I am lost. I am a culturally dysphoric dazzle camouflage. I am disco’s child.

Catalogue essay

Installation is used as an art form to offer up a particular gesture towards the onlooker – a request in reminder of ourselves as flesh contained, creative and autonomous bodies. How we move in the space, therefore matters. How we decide to react and respond to the work (and to the world), therefore matters also. Fragmented shards of mirrors sit nestled besides one another, and shuffle the complexion of your face, which is now visible only in pieces.

Hannah’s work reminds us that we have a sense of self, and reminds me of my own physical appearance which I too often attempt to ignore – as if showing apathy for the way that I look makes me any less of who I am. In this room, we don’t get to see ourselves as whole, we don’t get to move in fluidity with what makes sense (and we question what does make sense?). In the mirror, I see myself, in myself, in my family, in my space, in my concern, in my desire for more – more of a particular sort of certainty, a certainty that’s large, and quiet, often too quiet about the mess that we make and the mess that we feel inside. In this room, Disco’s long lost flame is interwoven with feelings of cultural dysphoria. Hannah’s enjoyment of the simplicity that Disco embodied is palpable to the longing she feels drawn towards, to a culture she did not grow up around. This is a survival strategy, one I am equally in the pulls of. In the ways that Hannah adores disco and I yearn for my Canto-pop, we wish in some way that we could be what our culture would have wanted us to be.

I am an atrocity, looming over the city scapes. I hunt for blood, and for someone to tell me I make sense. (in this place) You’re a foreigner, baby so am I. Maybe my existence is an evolutionary product. Maybe my being here in this country is an evolutionary byproduct also, I am adapting myself to graciously.

Home is a convoluted place. I mean, in Australia, where things, where cities, where countries are this jam packed, there isn’t a ‘home’ to go back to. My version of how I feel around the longing of my ancestral roots was a fantasy all along, however, that doesn’t mean I cannot build my own ancestral roots here. My own. Bigger. Better. Brighter then before where my family can actually see new light. Time, and placement, no matter how disjointed, means a chance to evolve. We are not static in this place.

It is so that we live within micro societies nestled within societies; air dry pockets of culture hidden within the mass. There may not be one nation, but I like it this way better. I am allowed to pick and choose who I say belongs, and pick and choose what I want in my own culture.

Diaspora, refuge, home plucked away from original roots is darn well familiar but we are living in the sign of the times now, and coloured people are not all who you think they are. This is what I mean: I can feel connection towards other coloured people, because they are like me, because we look similar, in a way that me, being uncertain of white people, is not exactly racist. There is a hole between us, of disparity that we are all attempting to fill up. It’s a messy pot. Let’s stir together please.

– Jazmine Deng

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Meet the artists & curators

Hannah Coleman is an emerging curator, contemporary artist and poet born in South Africa, who has lived in Australia since 1999. Hannah recently graduated with a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts from the University of South Australia. Her current work focuses on cultural identity and diaspora, retrospection, and catharsis. Hannah’s practice is centred around process and the works are often transmissions of memory and sensation voiced through layers of colour and texture.

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