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Maria Tumarkin (2015, carried over to 2016)
Artistic Associate, The University of Melbourne
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The Unending Absence: Threading Emotions through the Immigration Museum’s Permanent Exhibitions

This creative project explores the realities of being an immigrant through the physical collection of the Immigraton Musuem and emotive language from writer Maria Tumarkin.

The Unending Absence: Threading Emotions through the Immigration Museum’s Permanent Exhibitions

Image: Leaving Home exhibition, Immigration Museum Melbourne. Source - Museum Victoria. Photographer - James Geer.

Dr Maria Tumarkin is collaborating with Dr Moya McFadzean, Senior Curator at Melbourne Immigration's Museum, on developing an interpretative thread through the Museum's permanent collection, which will explore in a direct and poetic language the emotional realities of being an immigrant. The aim here is to speak from inside the immigrant experience and to offer an insight into the migrants’ complex interior landscape; it is also to enrich, humanise and ‘thicken’ narratives of arrival and settlement on display throughout the permanent exhibitions.

While the permanent exhibitions employ the ‘cool’ language of exposition and explanation, the interpretative thread, in contrast, will use the ‘warm’ (occasionally ‘hot’) language, which will draw on strong images, metaphors, humour and poetics of defamiliarisation. The charged, intense language will seek to collapse the distance between visitor and the exhibition. The intermittent nature of the thread will create pockets of emotional intensity and resonance.

The broader aim is to push the Museum to address the harder, darker spaces regarding people’s emotions, silences, traumas and experiences of loss. For many immigrants, particularly those from outside the developed world, trauma and grief are profound, inescapable, formative and enduring aspects of their experience. Narratives of departure and re-settlement that neatly externalise the immigration experience do not fully capture the ‘thick’, lived experiences of being an immigrant. The direct, evocative and emotionally-charged take on the psychological realities and legacies of the immigration experience is also a way of speaking to the current moral crisis around refugees.

The thread will be produced as an app and made available to public on their personal and Museum-owned mobile devices.

Output

The Unending Absence, 2018.
A series of scripted audio pieces provides an alternative interpretative thread through the Melbourne Immigration Museum’s permanent exhibition. Our aim is to speak from inside the immigrant experience and to offer an insight into the migrants’ complex interior landscape. The Unending Absence is a pilot project experimenting with providing alternate layers of interpretation over the Melbourne Immigration Museum’s permanent exhibitions through a co-curated model.  Listen to the audio here.