Millennium Tympanum is the artist’s personal view of local history. Fiona MacDonald turns to many sources to tell her story including artefacts, sketches, family photos and folk memory. Within the triangular tympanum shape reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture, the symbolic figures and their shadows summon a tradition of appropriations, misnaming, copies and cultural errors.
The silhouette shapes float above a panorama of the coastline from Port Jackson to Botany Bay, Sydney Airport’s site. The artist invites us to match Sydney language words to these objects. Williams Dawes, a naval officer, and Patyegarang, his friend and teacher compiled the vocabulary in the first days of the colony.
James Cook’s handwriting, lapping at the base of this new tympanum, gives a sence of his presence as a ‘plain man’ reporting what he saw. And working on the cusp of the millennium, Fiona MacDonald’s re-enactment of the meeting of ‘native’ and ‘stranger’ works against the tradition to imagine their reconciliation in the near future.
Artist: Fiona MacDonald
Production Design and Coordination: Kathy Grant, KFG Design
Curator: Jo Holder
Client: Art at Work, 2000 project 17, Sydney Airports Corporation Ltd
Thank you to those individuals who gave permission: Moira Cann, George Cann Jnr, John Cann, Marcia Ella-Duncan, Gary Ella, Mark Ella, Glen Ella, Laddie Timbery, Jeff Timbery, Eleanor Williams-Gilbert, Noreen Unicomb.
Acknowledgement is made of the Metropolitan and La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Councils who are the custodians of the lands. Metropolitan is keeper of the Sydney Language.
Valuable advice came from the followingcommunity members, curators and cultural and education officers: Nerrida Campbell, Judy Duke, Ken Foster, Barbara Keeley-Simsw, Jim Kohen, John Lennis, Allen Madden, Jenny Munroe, Jo Page, Hetti Perkins, Art Sideris, Herb Simms, Stephen Thompson, Ken Watson, Ellen Waugh and Joseph Waugh.
Research Assistance was from: Botany Council Local History Archive and George Hanna Memorial Museum; Randwich and District Historical Society; Rockdale City Library, Local History Collection; La Perouse Museum, National Parks and Wildlife Service; Cadigal Garden Project, Royal Botanical Gardens; Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW; National Library of Australia