Medium Earth is an exhibition for the digital realm, exploring the vital ecologies that bind species together.
Inspired by a dream, Taloi Havini (Hakö) reworks archival footage of the last-known surviving thylacine at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart (nipaluna). Freed from captivity, the creature returns to stalk the Art Gallery of NSW.
For the Hakö people, vivid dreams are considered gifts and are the way that ancestors pass on messages, give warnings, offer guidance, and remind us to acknowledge our spiritual connection to one another. I have been fortunate to expand on and share this dream. I acknowledge the presence of the Kinon.
— Taloi Havini
Nakas clan, Hakö (Haku) people of north-eastern Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.
Born Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, 1981. Lives and works Sydney
A tulala Tara Kinon (Spirit journey of the Kinon) 2020
single-channel digital video
Courtesy the artist
An Art Gallery of New South Wales Together In Art New Work 2020 © Taloi Havini
A while ago, I had an intense dream featuring a four-legged animal that seemed to emerge from a time before. I recounted this dream to my Aunty Sana Balai, a Nakaripa cultural knowledge holder who asked me to describe the creature in my dream. When I said I thought it was a dog, her response was, ‘That’s not a dog, it’s a Kinon, your ancestral totem.’
My late father had always told me that our Nakas totem no longer existed – the species was killed by the domesticated dogs brought from Asia. I relate this story to the way that Australian settlers first encountered these lands with hostility, and how the thylacine has become an emblem of the moral dilemmas facing the Western scientific community as it grapples with mass extinction.
The opening drawing is inspired by Somuk, a Solos ancestor who originally drew the story of Guérian, founder of Gagan. After his death, Guérian goes to Sine (the afterlife) and is followed by the hovering souls of his treasured earthly possessions (animals, traditional currency, garamut drums, mortar and pestle, bow and arrows).
As the Sabsabala chant fades out, we shift from the ancestral mourning realm to Hyde Park, Sydney. A dog-like creature, reanimated from archival footage of the last-known surviving thylacine, emerges from the facade of the Australian Museum. A slideshow flashes through images of the Museum’s Pacific collections: ancestral belongings, ceremonial currency, animal bones, carved figures, canoes, paddles and garamut drums.
In the final sequence, Kinon comes face to face with Dark Valley, Van Diemen’s Land 2008 by Trawlwoolway artist Julie Gough, who gave permission for me to include her artwork and explore the resonances between Kinon and the thylacine. In Gough’s work, antlers and coal chunks form the shape of Tasmania (lutruwita). Projected into this outline, the original 1930s thylacine footage plays as a silent memorial to a shared history of loss.
— Taloi Havini