Waves of History: sense of place

“Waves of History” is a nod to a sense of place and community gathering that is counted in thousands and thousands of years, not hundreds.

This post discusses another way of thinking about history, as waves, as timelessness, non-linear. As stories making place.

Waves of History

Historical records, images and narrative about the Lobethal Woollen Mill site are bountiful, at least since the 1850s. The site has been central to the community as a place of work, group gatherings, creativity and industry. It was once a brewery, tweed factory, woollen mill, new business enterprise district, art gallery, exhibition and community gathering place. Today it houses successful businesses (Emmalines, Udder Delights, Lobethal Bierhaus), an arts and heritage hub (Fabrik), and a community space.

This “history” occurred in Peramangk Country where The Dreaming has no temporal bounds. The Dreaming are stories of creation and life and place. Stories of identity and sense with place.

My artwork, “Waves of History”, is a nod to the sense of place. A sense clarified for me in a valley in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, where community gathering is counted in thousands and thousands of years, not hundreds.

Waves of History, Lobethal Woollen Mill study #19, mixed media on wood, 40cm², SALA 2021. A sepia tone soup of stories. Original artwork by Kendrea Rhodes.
Waves of History, Lobethal Woollen Mill study #19, mixed media on wood, 40cm², SALA 2021. A sepia tone soup of stories. Original painting by Kendrea Rhodes

Sense of Place

Stories enliven the sense of [a] place. Take, for example, the popularity of historical fiction, non-fiction, history, based-on-a-true-story movies and events like History Month in South Australia. At the time of viewing, reading, visiting, perceiving each example mentioned generates images, photographs, objects, articles, emotions, stories. They create memories for the perceiver. These memories are larger than a separate location or a single building. They become a sense of place with multiple non-chronological inputs ∞ your brain can handle this ∞ they merge, creating a sepia tone soup of stories from times past.

History

History lines up the stories of place chronologically, linearity is expected. Dates are facts (apparently). But what if stories exist outside of history and dates? What if all stories exist simultaneously? Like in The Dreaming. Like dreaming. Not chronologically as facts in a finite book, in a finite time, but as language, songs, and images in memory, generating psychological and physiological reactions within the perceiver? (stay with me, clarity coming … ♥)

The Mindful Mill. Mixed media ©2022 Kendrea Rhodes.
The Mindful Mill. Mixed media ©2022 Kendrea Rhodes.

The History Month visitor, upon hearing and seeing choreographed versions of history, catalogues all they’ve learnt together in their memory as stories about the place they just visited. That visitor has a sense of place unique to them. It is not chronological. Sure there are dates, but memories of stories are mixed with memories of the visitor’s personal experience of that place. The smells, their lunch, the people they went with, their emotions, the weather ☼ and whatever happened before, during and after.

Fluidity

The sense of place is fluid (like ideas and language); it constructs meaning in the human psyche. Sense of place is subject to both the individual and group gaze, politics, culture and geography. And once the story filing process begins, synergies of memory and awareness of multiple stories, complement each other – ♦ – places expand in the memory beyond being a space occupied or a function fulfilled.

“Waves of History” is like a sea of stories with no causal order for the ebb and flow of the tides (which came first? high tide? low tide?). Its colouring is deliberate. It represents the nostalgic sepia tones of photography combined with a painterly knowledge of colour mixing and the many ways to achieve brownish. “Waves of History” is a quantum wave of memories, swelling in my own mind, representing all the stories consumed as a regular visitor to the Lobethal Woollen Mill. Stories that make sense of place for me.

Stories in my mind (some)

  • There's a black and white photo of a woman working in the blanket room. She's smiling, surrounded by other women working at their examining tables.
  • The face of an elderly gent telling me stories of the lanolin soaked floors at the Mill. As a boy, he used to slide on them for fun (when no one was looking).
  • The front cover (and contents) of the book on the history of the Mill, painstakingly chronicled by a dedicated historian.
  • The multitude of art exhibitions and gatherings inside the blanket room space over the last 20 years.
  • How the landscape may have looked as a meeting place—covered in stringy bark gum trees up to the banks of the river, well before the 1830s.

Simulacra

“The Mindful Mill” artwork is a snapshot of my interpreted thoughts at a particular time last week and reminds me of the the Woollen Mill in its many incarnations in my memory. But, simultaneously, it also generates the sense of the place where it was created: my front veranda.

I can smell the breeze brushing over the pinks and whites of the summer roses, hear the birds flitting about their business, feel the art-induced meditation, see the story unfolding, and taste that ice cold spritzer.

Those memories of creation, catalogued within my internal archives, now sit with the images of “Waves of History” and “The Mindful Mill”. They add to all the stories I already know, and my sense of [this] place.

Seas of simulacra, waves of history. Sense of place ♣

  • “Waves of History” (ironically) is now “history” as a representation of a place that has already changed. Today, a galvanized shed fills that space where the waves flow into the buildings. The view has changed, but the buildings are still there with the memory of them.
  • “The Mindful Mill” was always simulacra; a moment of the mind.

2 Comments

  1. Eduardo de la Fuente says:

    Great stuff. The Adelaide Hills is ripe for the kind of spatial and cultural analysis you are basing your creative and reflective work on. And the Onkaparinga Mill is a fascinating case study in material, aesthetic and economic history If you are interested in nonlinear approaches to place, and the complex temporalities thereof, you might like Doreen Massey’s (2006) “Landscape as provocation” in the Journal of Material Culture.

    1. kendreart says:

      Thank you for your comment and the recommendation (I’ve downloaded Massey’s paper and look forward to reading it). It may be my own bias (surely not!), but I agree, the Adelaide Hills and the Woollen Mill offer fascinating interdisciplinary study opportunities.

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