Thursday, 19 October 2006

Objects For Meditations, William Yang, Melbourne Festival, Oct 19, 2006

Objects For Meditations by William Yang

Melbourne Festival of Arts
Arts House, North Melbourne, Oct 18 to 21, 2006

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

William Yang’s monologue is like a soothing, guided meditation. 

Accompanied by Paul Jarman’s evocative woodwinds, he stands almost still before a table laden with his own special objects, speaking slowly and deliberately about his life as a marginalised, homosexual, third-generation Australian-Chinese artist.

But although this sounds indulgent, there is no whining. He shares with us object after object, describes how he received them and then ambles on with his unadorned stories of friendship, art, sex, war, disenfranchisement and travel.

Yang is a photographer - a very good one. Behind him, on two enormous screens are projected his beautiful images, both still and moving, depicting the places, people and objects. We are shy voyeurs into the minutiae of his life.

We begin in his cluttered Sydney apartment. Through the photos, we witness the growth of his balcony plants and the saplings, see his birdbath and are warmed by his love of plants and visiting birds.

Throughout, Yang reveals snippets of Daoist philosophy and its relationship to his life. His list of Daosit guidelines reads as something like: be real, live simply, embrace others, desire little. It is a reminder of how heavily we walk upon the land and how complex our lives become.

We are introduced to his favoured objects: a little shrine from the Dalai Lama, a Canadian Indian Dream catcher, his mother’s plate, a weed pot from his friend, Jill or a steaming replica of a mountain in China.

Each object is connected to a friend or a place that appears larger than life on screen. We are intimates now, in Yang’s world. We see his lovers lounging on his sofa or naked on his bed. We meet his mother as a young and an old woman. We travel to a collective farm in Maleny, Queensland, where his friend, Jill, after forty years, still lives her warm and generous hippy lifestyle. We meet Gerhard, Yang’s German groupie and his family.

Yang is committed to seeking out indigenous peoples and investigating the disenfranchised. Merv Bishop, an aboriginal photographer, leads Yang through a shattered town in Northern Australia. On tour in New Zealand, Yang meets and photographs the powerful faces of Maoris. In Canada he compares the plight of the Native Canadians to the Stolen Generation in Australia. In Singapore he celebrates the Chinese heritage and recognises the fate of the native Malays.

Objects for Meditation is a charming and gentle reminder that there is more than one way to perform and more than one way to live.

By Kate Herbert

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