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Migration, colonial Australia and the creative encounter
Author: Paul Carter

Translations is a personal history written at the intersection of colonial anthropology, creative practice and migrant ethnography. Renowned postcolonial scholar, public artist and radio maker, UK-born Paul Carter documents and discusses a prodigiously varied and original trajectory of writing, sound installation and public space dramaturgy produced in Australia to present the phenomenon of contemporary migration in an entirely new light. Rejecting linear conceptualisations of migrant space–time, Carter describes a distinctively migrant psychic topology, turbulent, vortical and opportunistic. He shows that the experience of self-becoming at that place mediated through a creative practice that places the enigma of communication at the heart of its praxis produces a coherent critique of colonial regimes still dominant in discourses of belonging. One expression of this is a radical reappraisal of the ‘mirror state’ relationship between England and Australia, whose structurally symmetrical histories of land theft and internal colonisation repress the appearance of new subjects and subject relations. Another is to embrace the precarity of the stranger–host relationship shaping migrant destiny, to break down art’s aesthetic conventions and elide creative practice with the poetics (and politics) of social production – what Carter calls ‘dirty art’. Carter tackles the argument that immigrants to Australia recapitulate the original invasion. Reflecting on collaborations with Aboriginal artists, he frames an argument for navigating incommensurable realities that profoundly reframes the discourse on sovereignty. Translations is a passionately eloquent argument for reframing borders as crossing-places: framing less murderous exchange rates, symbolic literacy, creative courage and, above all, the emergence of a resilient migrant poetics will be essential.

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Broken relations, migrant destiny
Paul Carter

national myth’? 2 Or, like the migrant, must they inhabit an ‘as if’ state, permanently suspended in the mid-stride of becoming? Translations reports a personal history of creative encounters, mostly post-dating 1988, that have (most willingly) linked a revisiting of Australia's colonial past to a revisioning of a future place. Bizarrely ambitious, or lucidly naive, their explorations of language, in radio, public art, and dramaturgically extended to street and stage performance, are not art in the Bicentennial genius

in Translations, an autoethnography
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Decolonising public space
Paul Carter

alignment with creative phenomena not held to be typical of Australian colonial history and not even, in a certain sense, appropriate to historical enquiry. The parti pris was obvious: documenting and interpreting the different forms of non-communication preserved in colonial place names, in cartographic conventions, in the OuLiPo-like word games of the amateur ethnolinguistic wordlists, I was establishing a bridgehead for myself, where ‘beginning again’ was presented as an overdue collective responsibility whose object was to emancipate creativity: evidence of a

in Translations, an autoethnography
Open Access (free)

Santiago Waria: Pueblo Grande de Wigka is a site-specific theatre play that was realised in the context of interdisciplinary research in which history, anthropology and urban cultural studies were articulated, eventually developing a montage about Mapuche life in the city of Santiago. The term ‘site-specific’ is used in the arts for works that are created in , for and through a specific place, most often the same in which they are then exhibited. During the creative process, both

in Performing the jumbled city
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Creative belonging
Paul Carter

Uffington White Horse. Christine Peacock, a Torres Strait Islander woman with affiliations through marriage to the Turrbal people, whose country includes Brighton and Margate (suburbs of Brisbane), invited me to be involved in a project called ‘Margate to Margate’. Under the rubric supplied by T.S. Eliot, that ‘We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time’, she was proposing a creative research project involving, among others, the London Print Studio, the visual artist

in Translations, an autoethnography
Open Access (free)
The right to imagine Mapuche Pop
Puelpan

not realise her dream. However, this did not limit her creative expression. Throughout her eighty-seven years of life, in countless notebooks, many of which are now lost, her ideas about the world surrounding her were recorded in the form of poems and song lyrics she composed with a guitar. Many years later, having raised four children, my grandparents, along with part of the family, moved to the Metropolitan Region, settling in the municipality of San Bernardo. I was born in the 1980s, in the middle

in Performing the jumbled city
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Migrant poetics
Paul Carter

Having written a creative history in terms of ethnographic encounters, I realised that the experience that linked them, migration, had a poetic power of its own. The repeated discovery that aspects of the migrant condition had been anticipated in earlier colonial exchanges between white colonists and Aboriginal people was more than a matter of chance: it was a recognition that something occluded in those early encounters was happening again in public discourse; again, the phenomenon of arrival from outside was nowhere to be found in white

in Translations, an autoethnography
Plaza de Armas – Colectivo MapsUrbe

the hands of those he sought to subdue. Nonetheless, it was probably for this precise reason that Dania’s performance was dramatisation and enactment, and at the same time embodiment, of the ties that the colonial history still holds, revealing that unresolved tension that has been called ‘decolonisation’; should we think of and act on a ‘decolonisation’ as a going back to the pre-colonial, or is it rather about finding new and creative ways of carrying the weight of 500-year-old open wounds

in Performing the jumbled city
Open Access (free)
The Quinta Normal Park – Colectivo MapsUrbe

origins. As later represented by the artwork El Jardín , the Quinta Normal, shaping collective memories, also represents a claim for place-making in displacement, a creative appropriation within processes of belonging and becoming. It is where the art exhibition was displayed, and later, during the development of Santiago Waria , the park was chosen by Roberto as the very place where the play began and the related journey through the city started. As we will see in what follows, 5 the site was the

in Performing the jumbled city
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Topologies of coexistence
Paul Carter

stone, failed to address this materiality, its power to generate a new set of creative associations. Equally, it perpetuated an aerialist fantasy of creative activity analogous to the idealised viewpoint of the surveyor (optimal for the orthodox superimposition of patterns undertaken to find mere coincidences compelling enough to suggest a regional algorithm). Considering the spiritual damage done when stone from Mount Jowlaenga in Gija country was cut into blocks and sent south for sawing and cobbling, I wanted to use a local stone for Rival Channels , Brisbane Tuff

in Translations, an autoethnography