Hobart Current (2020) Hobart, AU
Liberty: from Here to Here
A Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and the City of Hobart Biennial Exhibition.
Curator: Rosie Dennis. Commissioned Artists: Jagath Dheerasekara, Suryo Herlambang, Jacob Leary, Uncle Wes Marne, Sinsa Mansell, James Newitt, Brigita Ozolins, Sarah Jane Pell, Nadege Philippe-Janon, & Dexter Rosengrave.
Liberty is the quality individuals have to control their own actions. And with these actions, sounding continual change. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and the City of Hobart have commissioned artist Sarah Jane Pell to produce 'Ringing Change’: creating instruments and rituals to support actions for change across the City of Hobart for Hobart Current 2020. Her site-specific installation seeks to reactivate the semaphore signal lines connecting the ocean to the river system between Hobart and Port Arthur for the purpose of initiating a dialogue within the city of Hobart through interactions and a public performance which triggers bell ringing at dusk and dawn.
Inspiration and research into campanology, bellfry, ringing and chiming performances informing the creative development of Ringing Change, 2020 for Hobart Current, 2020.
Creative Development and Research Notes:
The bell is an ancient tool for sounding liberty or the threat or loss of liberty. Archeologists have found evidence of bells as early as ~2000 BC in China. Bells are either struck with an internal “clapper” or external “hammer” to cause a resounding vibration. The study of bells is called Campanology. Bells ring for spiritual liberty (call to prayer, to celebrate marriage, support the soul in funeral rites…). Bells ring for political liberty (chimes to herald victory, independence, remembrance…). Bells ring for social civil liberty (to mark time of day, warn of danger, incoming messenger alerts…). Bells ring for operational navigation (rail signal bells, bell line emergency signals, bicycle bells…). Bells ring for social communication (telecommunications incoming message alerts, game design, doorbells). Bells ring for local attendance (cattle bells, dinner service bells, servant bells, stop bells, and even panic bells…). The first bells introduced to Australia were ships bells: a lifeline for sailors and treasure for pirates.
Holy Trinity Hobart Tower, Tasmania holds the oldest ring of bells outside England. They were silent for a long time but have been recently refurbished. Bell ringing is a complex, strenuous and demanding art. Bell Ringers are not permitted visual aides, instead they commit the entire method (or score) to memory. A full peal on eight bells demands at least 5040 different changes, rung continuously by each same person and without fault. Only then can it qualify as a “performance”. Port Arthur holds the oldest Chime of Bells in Australia. These nine bells have not rung for decades. They sit in a glass box unheard. I hear that a Launceston Foundry is casting a replica of the missing bell for 2020. What connects these bells? An Optical Telegraph connects Hobart and Port Arthur. The Southern Tasmanian Semaphore Signal system, is the second of its kind in the world, and the first global state of the art upgrade in long-distant communications since the smoke signal and bullroarer. At first the signals announced vessels entering the Derwent River. Upon receiving the message down to Battery Point in Hobart, the Harbour Master would ring the Bell and alert the harbour settlement.
Historical references and discovery to create a site-specific work responding to the theme "liberty" for the exhibition Hobart Current, 2020 including references to the original optical telegraph: a semaphore station network between Hobart town and Port Arthur.
The Signal Hill station was the first in a 'line of sight' chain of semaphore relay stations linking Port Arthur to Hobart. Station operators were on call from dawn until dusk (6am – 9pm) using telescopes to read the signals given at the previous link in the chain and then passed the message on to the next station. Ropes and pulleys moved tiered wooden 'arms' aloft a mast into various positions, to send these coded messages. The combinations of arm positions represented specific letters, numbers or phrases. The system expanded under Captain Charles Booth who ran the Port Arthur penal settlement. Only reliable convicts were trusted with semaphore work, however much of the codex remained a secret. The Tasman Peninsula Semaphore Code dictionary (CON133) 01 Jan 1868 – 31 Dec 1868 lists about 3,000 phrases. The last signal sent from the Mount Nelson station to Hobart signal station was 343 (Forget, s, ing / ot, otten) meaning “forgotten”. According to Booth’s dictionary, under a section marked “Sentences and Additionals”, the code 2616 (liberal, ly, ily/ liberty, ies) means “Liberty”. However, cross-referencing the Telegraph Dictionary, and Seamen's Signal Book: Adapted to Signals by Flags or Other Semaphores and arranged for SECRET CORRESPONDANCE, records “Liberty” as 4929, followed by 4930 …”men are ashore on liberty”, and 4931, …”give the men liberty”, while the configuration 2616 is shown as code for “Crush, ed, ing”. Can we interpret Booth’s “Liberty” as coded instruction to “crush the liberated man”? How can we turn this "forgotten" codex into a musical composition or method for ringing change today? Stay tuned for more references and updates!
Hobart Current is presented in partnership between the City of Hobart and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. For more information, please visit: www.hobartcurrent.com⇐ Return to Performances ⇐ Return to Exhibitions