Exhibited: the Ballarat Bienale. Part of installation
Teddy Bear Extinctions. Trades Hall Ballarat.
These works were large teddy bear forms that inflated and de-inflated at 15 minute intervals.There were light and sound works in the full piece.
I am telling you this story without a narrative but with great care. I have chosen the way to tell you because Socrates never wrote anything down. Because he believed that the written word would destroy our memory skills. He also believed as he lived in occupied ancient Greece that to write would endanger true Greek stories in the appropriation possible by occupiers, the Ottomans.
We only know this because his student Plato wrote it down.
Teddy Bears are a symbol of extinction. Extinction being a modern theory that some creatures, be they plant, animal or simple single cells get completely wiped out, usually by a catastrophe. Cuvier, a French scientist and Paleontologist developed theories in some elements of extinct including that it happened quickly and in cycles. He did no believe in evolutionary theory as set out by scientist Jean-Babtiste de Lamarck. Most current thought is that there have been 5 great catastrophes that caused the 5 great extinctions across the world. Darwin, an English biologist famous for writing the Origin of the Species, claimed that everything gradually adapted and became something else. He did not believe in extinction, as we know it.
There is a Teddy Bear Story in these seemingly unlinked times and theories. The belief in the slow process of extinction also links across to the ideas and theories about how we do remember. I have pondered memory and forgetting often within my projects and study. In Iceland the Althinie, or Parliament as we would call it appointed a speaker, whose task it was to remember all the decisions that had been made that year. Then the following year after the groups and clans had all gathered the decisions of last year would be repeated by the speaker and the collective understanding and reasoning could be remembered. I doubt anyone would be able to do this now. However at some point the Icelanders not only continued to have the longest running continuous parliament but developed runes, or as we would say…an alphabet. Then they wrote their stories on animal skin. The Sagas, which is what we call a long and important tale in contemporary speak.
What can we remember of our time and our place? Does remembering story, fact, impressions and information help us or is the kind of remembering that I was taught as a young librarian, which was you don’t have to know the answer, simply where and how to find it. This kind of thinking process is keenly linked to how we interpret data and process information in our everyday. We can Google it on whatever device is handy. Does this change the stories that are told around us and to us? Do facts get in the way of a good tale? By having all this available data that allows us to forget do we loose our ability to imagine a place, or an adventure? Does anecdotal hold us any longer?
The reason how we remember becomes important in that what we recall about our world is based on the flat plane of when and where we are born. I am a woman of a certain age. I can recall that after long drives as a child it was accepted that when we pulled into the petrol station the windscreen would be covered in the broken bodies of moths and insects. It was work to clean it off. But there are no mass migrations of insects across the Australian landscapes in the way there once was. My great nieces and nephews would not know of these migration patterns that happened and formed part of my childhood stories. They can’t remember them and so the notion of gradual extinction shifts one more notch along the measuring sticks of memory and time.
I am telling you a story of teddy bears because we cannot remember the wild.