IT has been nine months since I last visited Manus Island, but for the last fortnight I have been listening in to the lives of some of the men still held there, as they go for a walk at dawn, or spar at boxing training, or talk with a friend. I’ve been working on a sound installation for the Eavesdropping exhibition at the Potter Museum of Art, called ‘how are you today’. We sent sound recorders to Manus, and now, each day for more than 13 weeks, one of the men makes a recording and we upload it to the gallery. Each recording is ten minutes long.
The Manus Recording Project Collective is a collaboration between Samad Abdul, Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat on Manus, and André Dao, Jon Tjhia and me in Melbourne.
Find out more about the work, including an updated list of the recordings made so far, at the Eavesdropping website. Visit the exhibition! You have until October 28, 2018.
Since 2013, nearly two thousand men have been indefinitely detained on Manus Island, PNG, by the Australian Government – after arriving in this country seeking asylum. When the Manus Regional Processing Centre was formally closed on 31 October 2017, after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, the men still detained there were ordered to relocate to new, smaller detention centres in Lorengau, the major town on Manus. The authorities eliminated provisions and removed the diesel generators powering the facility, but the men refused to leave: the culmination of years of organised resistance against their involuntary and indefinite detention. Eventually, they were forcefully evicted.
The work commissioned for Eavesdropping is a collaboration between some of these men – Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat on Manus – and Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia in Melbourne. Every day for the duration of the exhibition, one of the men on Manus will make a sound recording – of anything they like or nothing much at all – and send it ‘onshore’ for swift upload to the gallery. No doubt the vagaries of weather, blackouts and technology, along with changing personal, political and legal contexts, will intervene along the way.
how are you today opens a channel for a form of speech at a moment when words seem to have been exhausted. It is at once an extremely intimate work – a rare opportunity to listen to these men listening, only very recently, some four thousand kilometres away – and a highly political one. It introduces the Manus soundscape to the gallery not just for the sake of the sounds-in-themselves, not just as a matter of curiosity (though the work will surely produce an archive of real historical value), but in a way that directly implicates the listener and demands that we attend to the politico-legal contexts that produce and frame them.”
Tuesday, 24 July to Sunday, 28 October, 2018
Eavesdropping is a unique collaboration between Liquid Architecture, Melbourne Law School and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, comprising an exhibition, a public program, series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world.