In the last decade, I have moved house nine times, and in the middle of 2022, once more, to what I would consider to be a permanent dwelling — or at least as permanent as any one of us as visitors can claim to a segment of the Earth. My intimate relationship with collecting physical items (or rather, lack thereof) is a manifestation of this constant displacement. Printed photographs, letters from loved ones, and other sentimental ‘thingies’ quickly became unnecessary baggage when it came to boxing and unboxing my possessions time and time again, until eventually, holding on to them in the first instance accrued in precious life admin time later down the track.
Though my transience between share house to share house has been an experience specific to my adulthood, it is not new in my context of being a migrant. My father and I left our home country of Lebanon when I was a toddler, and eventually found home in Australia some ten years later. I have inherited in what I have always considered to be a practicality common to other people with migrant experiences, an ability to quantify my life into a singular suitcase. That is, assuming all the evidence that one has to show of their story can be measured in things.
Of course, this is not the case. A street view tour of Google Maps with my partner recently showed me that I can with incredible accuracy, recall the exact route and its surroundings in Athens that I used to ride my bicycle to reach the local periptero and buy lollies from with my squirreled away chore money. And at certain times of the day, I can predict who will be on my regular bus route, and in which seats they will be sitting — and find myself wondering what else those people were doing that day should the occasion be it that they are not on board.
Without realising it, people imbue a place with meaning. And with that power, comes the potential for us as a culture to rethink how and for whom we design our public spaces.
Now in its third iteration, the Know Thy Neighbour program investigates exactly this: it is a provocation to the familiarity of place. Through rigorous creative engagement, the project asks communities to step outside of familiar engagements and locations, and rethink how they can relate to the places they are building a life in.
In its exhibition format, Know Thy Neighbour #3 presents as four distinctive and self-contained installations as evidence of art as social practice with Perth metro communities. Though just a snippet of what has been over a year in the making, each bay functions as a portal into a pocket of Perth’s sprawling suburbia, and the nuanced human experiences that take place every day.
These shared experiences — though individually felt and negotiated — as a collective begin to shape the fabric of our society and linger as cultural memory. My Lebanese background has taught me to think of this as being a good ancestor. It begs the question of how you want to show up in this world, and of what kind of legacy you intend to leave for the next generation.
This exhibition invites you to reflect on your own relationships to place, to think about the Country we tread, and its many rich histories before us and still to come.