Jane of Cooran asked me for a copy of this speech I made to launch a recent exhibition by local artist Kim Guthrie (30 April 2010 Butter Factory Arts Centre. Extraordinary – Arts QLD touring exhibition)
I'll post a copy of the pic if I can find it.
Welcome everyone, and well done for coming along to witness this exhibition.
When Kim asked me to launch his show I wondered what was left to say that I hadn't already said in the introduction to his book Extraordinary, which includes many of the images you see around you.
You may indeed be asking yourself, “what has a writer to do with the visual arts?” However, apart from being a writer, as Trish said, I am also the director of the Reality Bites Literary Nonfiction festival which is to be held here in Cooroy at the end of July.
While putting together the program for this year I found that an overarching theme for the festival was becoming clear: the idea of bearing witness.
A witness is an observer, a spectator, a viewer, a watcher.
A witness sees, notices, is present and undergoes experience, ranging from enjoyment to suffering.
It is what we all do, every day – we witness the passage of our lives.
Some of us, like me, write it down, others try to paint it, some transpose their experience into music and others act it out. One of us has photographed it.
The writers and journalists in the festival have observed their world from their own point of view and, filtered through their consciousness, presented that vision as a stream of written language which we then read.
In reading, we bear witness to the author's version of reality.
To bear witness is to attest to, to confirm, prove, verify, corroborate, substantiate. This is why the arts is a two way street. Every act of witness requires another to bear witness. The writer requires a reader. A painting demands a viewer. The actor needs an audience, otherwise the artistic transaction is incomplete.
Our job (and pleasure) as an audience is to bear witness to the artist's thoughts and perceptions of worlds beyond our own experience.
And that is why we are all here tonight, to bear witness to what Kim Guthrie has seen, here, in this place, at this time, in this community.
This collection of images is fairly recent, but he's been out there, lurking amongst us, recording his take on this lifetime we are all in the midst of.
I own one of Kim's photos, of an old couple in Imbil, standing somewhat uncertainly in front of their museum, a shed full of the accumulated stuff of their life. I bought it because it bears witness to my own life. I see myself in them.
My museum of memory which, while perhaps not composed of the same stuff, is filled with books and paintings and sculptures and drawings, unpublished manuscripts and diaries – many diaries.
The image of that couple, with their pile of accumulated worldly goods at their back, resonates with me and tells me a truth about my own life, and points to the larger truth - you can't take it with you!
Each lifetime is a museum – a time capsule.
And that is what this exhibition is – a museum; of place and time, the personal and the public. It is a visual narrative of where I live and the people I share it with – you.
That old cliché, a picture paints 1000 words, isn't a cliché for nothing. It is true. For a writer to describe the subjects of this exhibition would take thousands of words. Guthrie, in the flutter of a shutter, can tell the whole story in a handful of images. But his work is only half done.
The rest of the work is up to you; to confirm, prove, verify, corroborate, substantiate – to find out what it means to you.