chicks face

The Ground(s) On Which We Speak, 2012

Cigdem Aydemir & John von Sturmer

Single Channel HD video with sound

3 min 51 sec

The Ground(s) on Which We Speak is a collaboration between John von Sturmer and Cigdem Aydemir that contributed to the Alchemy exhibition held at SCA Gallery in July 2012. Alchemy was an initiative that sought to "create a condition of possibility for philosophers, writers and artists to work collaboratively in Sydney" and as such positioned "at the intersection of thought and practice" (SCA, 2012). Both artists sought to critique and unpack our post-colonial present, particularly in the artworld.

The chick is a symbol or sign of innocence - which is not in fact innocence at all but a ruthless and somewhat insouciant pursuit of self. This could be a metaphor for 'white Australia' but equally of an art community that still seems unable to consider the full implications of native title.

chicks foot

'Chicken chicken on the wall, who is the fairest of us all'
John von Sturmer

'Sometimes the chicken sings...' Of course you will object to that. I can hear you now: 'Chickens don't sing, in any case it isn't a chicken'. Well, you can think what you like. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken.

A chick is a little bird, no matter what. But what happens when it is a chicken chick? What does that make it, a chicken or a chick?

The whole delight in running around freely. But now we'll put you in a cage and you can be secure. Ah yes, security is best. Better protect you from the big bad wolf, the monstrosity of life outside! Ah yes, health and safety. They come first. We don't want to see you with your little chicken wing in a sling!

My little chickadee, why don't you sing to me? Cheep cheep, chirr chirr. It seems you can change languages at will. Cheep cheep, chirr chirr, what sound do you hope to hear? 'It is my constancy', says the bird, 'that makes me translatable. I am all things to all people because I am constantly true to myself.'

And so say all the rest of the mob.

The censor is at the door. You are all sweet innocence, of course. (Sing to me, sing to me.) You make all claims because you make no claims. The land is yours, the talk is all yours, the ideas are yours, the highest priorities are yours: you too exist among the native born. You are the early bird that catches every worm. Will you stake out a patch of dirt somewhere and call it yours? Will you scratch and scratch or just stand there waiting for someone to take your picture? What name will we give you today? Can we raise you up out of your impervious anonymity? Tom, Dick, Harry; Jill, Dolores, Daphne, Diana? Are there moguls among your kind or are you all just run-of-the-mill nobodies with no special claim on anything, just a sort of self-assigned right? Now tell me, how can you operate in such blissful innocence or is it all a charade, a mask of sorts, a masque even with some allegorical whizz-bangery going on somewhere? (Bring out the shiny mirror, bring out the piece of silvery paper, let us see how covetous and self-absorbed you really are!)

You are not the first to go cheep cheep or piu piu or chirr chirr or pio pio but in this whole history of 'appeal' or demanding attention or just calling out for calling's sake, do you have some special right that somehow we only half-grasp, indifferent only because we can't grasp quite the gravity of your situation - or of our own? Out of all those cheep cheeps which is the cheep cheep we hear? Or do you become just some sort of background noise, a sort of muzak that disturbs us somehow but incites us to no action at all. You act and that is inexplicable; we refuse to act or simply refrain from acting and that too rests on the side of the inexplicable. Where is meaning if not in the space of a sort of unreflexive ignoring?

chicks hand

Videography and editing: Daz Chandler