Friday, 29 July 2016

Anna Jaaniste

12 June - 16 July      HERE I AM   Lightning and Shield

Anna Jaaniste. The shield from Here I Am, Lightning and Shield.
This installation explores my connections to country and identity - layered, seemingly contradictory, and in constant change. Here and now

My parents were born in Estonia. They arrived in Australia as children, refugees. I was born and grew up in Sydney. My love for Sydney has always been bursting out of my seams - the lay of the land, the waters, the smells, sounds, temperatures of this place.

Last year I went to Estonia, to see what I might find in the country of my ancestors. I was drawn there. I did not know what might or might not happen. I spent much of my time alone in the forests, swamps and rivers of Southern Estonia; and also in the small cities, surrounded by a living language that I had only ever heard in snippets. Over time, quietly, the land seeped up through my feet, through my breath, my imagination, and into me.

On my return to Sydney, having connected to my roots on the other side of the world, my connection to this place took on new significance for me. How do I live and integrate all of myself here? I was driven into a desire to learn more about the Gadigal and Wangal people who have lived with this land for so long. Without their care for the land, it would not be here as it is, in all its beauty. And I am only here now because of the invasion of their country. Your country. Violence and injustice continue. How can I acknowledge everything that exists here and now - in the land and in me? What does this place say?

I am constantly changing this installation throughout the three-week exhibition period. All the elements come and go - layers are put on, peeled away, things are moved around, my story continues.The shield - tensioned with rope - is emblazoned with a very personal emblem of fire and smoke, unspoken language given form. A campfire brings me to this place here and now, warms the space, flushes the atmosphere with smoke, leaves a relic.

Holes are burnt through the facade that separates the vitrine space from the street. Like hands that plunge through.  The streetscape has blown in across the ground. Lightning bolts show themselves.

Anna Jaaniste. Here I Am, Lightning and Shield, 2016.  
Surfaces are formed, broken, reformed - they become conduits between changing perspectives.

Identity is not a “thing” - it is messy and changing. This exhibition doesn’t need a resolution. It doesn’t have to be ready to show itself.

Anna Jaaniste


Anna has used the vitrine as an enclosure of layered space where different barriers, visible or invisible, are used to compose the installed image.  The barriers are marked, first by incorporating the glass as the invisible membrane barrier. 

The second barrier takes the form of a shield. This layering operates as the transition of a journey in time and the barriers mark the sites of exchange.

The first barrier in the work is only made visible with what look like large burnt marks with holes.  The invisibility of the glass medium as the carrier for these marks works as a visual metaphor of memories in the subconscious.

The second barrier in the form of a shield is the central subject of this installation.  In her proposal, Anna has noted that the shield has been a recurring motif in her work.  That being a first outer barrier of protection, it is akin to the skin of the body.  It is also the support of veneer with which the body relates to the world, and so identity is closely associated with this barrier.  Because the shield has a strong association with battles and usually marked with the tribal identity,  it works as a mechanism for protection and cultural identity of the bearer.  This immediately conjures up an active barrier raised to protect against harmful intrusions.  Reading this with the title 'Here I Am', the image alludes to a cry of alert to stake a claim for its place and identity.  Against these 2 active barriers, hangs a backdrop of painted cool blue wallIt contains the layered installation, and for an unknown reason, it gives a quiet grounding effect to the whole installation, assigning it to the present tense.

While the implied barriers demarcate physical spatial boundaries, it also functions to register the passing of time and the journey the subject undertook.  The title 'Here I Am', was declared at each barrier of the installation.  Reading the title in the present tense, the exclamation has a sense of exuberance in its declaration of being alive here, now,  in her adopted city, in readiness to relate with everyday passers-by. 

Anie Nheu
Caretaker, Slot. July 2016