Support from Sidney Myer Fund has enabled ACMI to commission a new work by Gunditjmara artist Vicki Couzens as part a major renewal project. Visitors to ACMI’s new permanent exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, which opened in February 2021, are welcomed and farewelled by the site-specific multi-part artwork Yanmeeyarr.

This significant work references how ochre markings on the body capture and reflect light during ceremony, creating a centuries-spanning connection between traditional First Peoples storytelling and the contemporary moving image. Couzens and members of her family used acrylic paint to paint the figures directly on the ceiling of the gallery and her co-creators Jeph Neale and Hilary Jackman assisted with the creation of a carved and hand-polished acrylic lens that sits underneath the figures.

“Dancers painted and adorned, in corroboree, in ceremony, telling story through the dance. The viewer in movement and reflection becomes part of the dance, as the figures become animated. Yanmeeyarr, flickering in the firelight, is reflected in the present; the viewer and the new technologies of today, become part of the work and the ongoing past-present-future of our storytelling continuum,” says Couzens

ACMI’s Indigenous Advisory Group (IAG) played a critical role in the development of the new permanent exhibition and in the commissioning of Couzens. The IAG is led by ACMI First Nations Curator Eugenia Flynn and includes ACMI Board Director Rachael Maza AM, ACMI First Nations Curator Louana Sainsbury, Aunty Carolyn Briggs, Penny Smallacombe and John Harvey.

About Vicki Couzens

Dr Vicki Couzens is a Gunditjmara woman from the Western Districts of Victoria. Vicki acknowledges her Ancestors and Elders who guide her work. She has worked in Aboriginal community affairs for 40 years and Vicki’s contributions in the reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of cultural knowledge and practice extend across the ‘arts and creative cultural expression’ spectrum including language revitalisation, ceremony, community arts, public art, visual and performing arts, and writing.

She is Senior Knowledge Custodian for Possum Skin Cloak Story and Language Reclamation and Revival in her Keerray Woorroong Mother Tongue. Vicki is employed at RMIT as a Vice Chancellors Indigenous Research Fellow developing her Project ‘watnanda koong meerreeng , tyama-ngan malayeetoo (together body and country, we know long time)’ (The key objective of this Project is to produce model/s, pathways and resources for continuing the reinvigoration of Aboriginal Ways of Knowing Being and Doing with a special focus on language revitalisation. The Project investigates and examines how revitalisation of cultural knowledges and practices affect healing in Aboriginal individuals, families and communities and builds resilience and capability towards sovereign nation building aspirations, opportunities and a realised living legacy.)

Vicki is rebuilding the Gunditjmara Grammar to facilitate a new phase of language learning through immersive experiences and home based, self-directed family clan learning. She is currently writing plain language resources for this community learning.

Find out more

Photo credit: Shannon McGrath