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Hand me down

While some hand-me-downs might be viewed as repulsive,a thing of horror stories, others are embraced and cherished even though they are experienced in the vacancy of the abyss.

Take for example the practice of Lynette Fisher who engages with notions of her identity as an "unperson" or a "non-person". This might seem an extreme 'take', except to those perhaps like Fisher who is an adopted person that has literally, and with seeming indifference, had the experience of being handed down from one family to another. Her work consists of largely black fields upon which are painted enigmatic images of hands in ghostly white that express a kind of unknown sign-language, a story of human frailty where notions of DNA, blood ties, marriages and adoptions are discussed in a silent vocabulary whose syntax - including knots and ties is known through that secret language only the adopted can untangle.

Quipus too were knotted cords and were used originally to send secret messages from one to another used by the Inca civilization of South America. The system consisted of a main cord from which a variable number of pendant cords were attached. Each pendant cord contained clusters of knots. These knots and their clusters convey numerical information in the same way a rosary carries a sequence of prayers. Fisher's work as with the quipus, projects messages - a kind of tallying; a kind of silent prayer, a kind of scripture to the soul.

In Fisher we see strange bows and ties, knots wrapped around fingers making silent enigmatic hand gestures including the crossing and uncrossing of fingers. I cannot help but be reminded here, of - the 'love knot' or the knot that binds one to another as in marriage, but also the phrase 'get knotted'. There is a sense of intrigue in this work but also a stand-off. Meaning is held in abeyance.There is a continual threat of the unraveling of more than one unbridled emotion should this bow or that strand of that knot be pulled. The bow untied, the knot unknotted. The raw emotion be released. Is that what was intended?

Fisher's work hints at esoteric personal, private and fragile histories; layers of narratives of 'families', guardianship, fabricated identities, and the heartbreak of an endless separation that lurks in that endless emotionless blank black field of nothingness, the vacuum, the lacunae, that void that heralds utter obliviousness."

- excerpt from "Hand me down" essay for the  exhibition by Dr. Graeme Cornwall

Exhibited at the Gallagher Centre for Performing Arts, Waikato University, Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

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