Header Image: Christian Thompson, Berceuse (2017) digital colour video, sound, 5.47 minutes
Courtesy of the artist, Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne and Yavuz Gallery, Sydney and Singapore
In this video work, Thompson sings a berceuse – a cradle song or lullaby – as a gesture of re-imagining his traditional Bidjara language, which has been categorised as extinct or lost. The work is premised on the notion that if one word of Bidjara is spoken, or in this case sung, it remains a living language. Combining evocative chanting and electronic elements, Thompson invokes the cultural experiences and narratives of his Bidjara culture.
Thompson seeks to allow a sensory experience of language through the vocal textures he creates via the sole use of his voice, and simultaneously evokes the textures of the Australian landscape via gentle silhouette forms. Berceuse draws the audience into an intimate place, a hypnotic melody that transcends space and time whilst being powerfully connected to the contemporary present.
Drawing inspiration from artists such as Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson and Christian Marclay, the artist firmly places his sound/video work into a long lineage of artists who incorporate music into their practice.
Thompson also makes reference to his maternal Sephardic Jewish roots by ruminating on the traditional lullaby Nani Nani:
The boy wants a lullaby,
The mother's son,
Who although small will grow
Oh, oh my lady open,
Open the door,
I come home tired,
From ploughing the fields.
Oh, I won't open them,
You don't come home tired,
You've just come back,
From seeing your new lover.
Berceuse was commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne for Christian Thompson’s survey exhibition, Ritual Intimacy 2017. Ritual Intimacy was curated by Charlotte Day and Hetti Perkins and toured extensively throughout Australia in 2017-2018.
Berceuse will be presented on the Bunjil Place Outdoor Screen as part of Art After Dark
24 May – 24 June, 6pm – 7pm daily
Dr CHRISTIAN THOMPSON AO
Dr CHRISTIAN THOMPSON AO is an artist of the Bidjara people, whose work explores notions of identity, cultural hybridity & history. Formally trained as a sculptor, Thompson’s multidisciplinary practice engages mediums such as photography, video, sculpture, performance & sound. His work focuses on the exploration of identity, sexuality, gender, race and memory. In 2010 Thompson made history when he became the first Aboriginal Australian to be admitted into the University of Oxford in its 900-year history. His works are held in major international and national collections. In 2018 he was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the visual arts as a sculptor, photographer, video and performance artist, and as a role model for young Indigenous artists.
For more about Christian Thompson, check out Sarah Scout Presents.