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What Happened at the Pier
December 8, 2014 @ 10:00 am - February 13, 2015 @ 5:00 pm
The exhibition features significant personal artefacts, artworks and text works, marking the first phase and preview for What Happened at the Pier, a feature curated by Lella Cariddi for Piers Festival 2015; reflecting many previously untold migration stories from Melbourne’s diverse cultural population who came to Australia by ship through Princes Pier.
“In early April 2014, in preparation for What Happened at The Pier, I set on the road, and like a gleaner, started raking over the stereotypic, and at times frayed social fabric woven about post World War II immigrants and/or refugees in search of threads leading to the uniqueness of each previously untold story.
As someone once said ‘journeys are never one dimension’.
And neither are the as yet untold, unique 1000 words narratives based on “Heart Facts”, submitted by those who responded to our call.
We received a cornucopia of responses by people from more than one dozen countries of origin including: Holland; Germany; Italy; Greece; Turkey; Serbia; Ireland; Malta, Egypt and others.”
“In this instance, the Personal is the Political; left unpublished, such a collection of previously untold stories, would leave a huge gap in the records in the annals of Australian social history.”
– Lella Cariddi, curator, What Happened at the Pier.
What Happened at the Pier celebrates and reflects on the collective migration stories at Princes Pier, the significant entry point where almost half of the 180,000 post World War II refugees to Australia arrived. It celebrates the pivotal role the Port Melbourne piers precinct played from 1915 to 1969 in Victoria’s growth and as a gateway to the diversity of cultures that enrich our community.
Artists responded to questions posed including: “What were the social, political and economic circumstances that made you and your family decide to leave home and all that was known to you, to migrate to Australia and confront the unknown?”; “What and who did you leave behind?”; “What happened during your journey to Australia?”; “What objects could you not leave behind and brought with you?”.
Stories came directly from immigrants themselves, or through the agency of a younger generation who would be representing their ancestors. Each of the contributions carried a significant sense of personal history. Some like Domenico de Clario vividly recall:
“The little boy who embarked on the ship in Italy (in 1956 at the age of nine), was not the same child who walked down the plank in Australia 42 days later.
I guess in many ways, my parents and sister and I reconfigured as one body. My work has always been about trying to decipher that strange kind of body and what that experience is about.
An extensive collection of objects held by members of the Greek Australian Cultural League (GACL), which include Christian icons side by side with pagan icons, speak volumes.
What Happened at The Pier represents a synthesis of memory, archival evidence, gaps, and the evolution of culture.
Jade Ouk, Marketing & Communications Officer, Multicultural Arts Victoria
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Meg Larkin, Creative Producer, Multicultural Arts Victoria
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