AMRI­TA HEPI: THE ANGUIL­LA PURSUIT


Agency Projects

Agency Projects and Com­pos­ite: Mov­ing Image Agency & Media Bank have part­nered to present an annu­al pro­gram of mov­ing image works, show­cas­ing the breadth and diver­si­ty of prac­tice of con­tem­po­rary First Nations visu­al artists. Amri­ta Hepi, along­side Jazz Mon­ey, Ish­mael Mari­ka and Pat­ri­na Munuŋgurr, has been invit­ed to con­tribute a work to the inau­gur­al iter­a­tion of this pro­gram, address­ing the lat­est con­cerns of her prac­tice. Despite the diver­si­ty of loca­tions and Coun­tries on which the artists live and work, when watch­ing the films along­side one anoth­er, a com­mon theme emerges: the impor­tance of preser­va­tion of cul­ture and the environment.

In this video, orig­i­nal­ly com­mis­sioned by the Syd­ney Opera House, Hepi uses the migra­to­ry route of the Anguil­la Rein­hardtii (the longfin eel), as an alle­go­ry for the per­for­mance of pur­suit and return. Hepi per­son­i­fies the Anguilla’s jour­ney home through the Syd­ney Opera House and into the waters that sur­round it in a dynam­ic chase scene, as the eels trav­els over two-thou­sand kilo­me­tres from New Cale­do­nia to the fresh­wa­ters of the Roy­al Botan­ic Gar­dens. Pre­sent­ed in two oppo­site screens are two inter­re­lat­ed images that speak and return to one anoth­er with edit­ed loops and glitch­es. For cen­turies eels have held peo­ples’ imag­i­na­tion. The way in which they mate and repro­duce has long been con­sid­ered a mys­tery. Many are the the­o­ries and myths on how they come into being. The ancient Egyp­tians, for instance, believed they were a gift of the Nile that released them when warmed up by the sun. Aris­to­tle instead claimed they emerged from a mix of rain­wa­ter and mud, while a Scot­tish tale from the 1860s report­ed they began their lives as bee­tles. Swedish jour­nal­ist Patrik Svens­son has dis­cussed these sto­ries in The Book of Eels (2020): eels were told to be born of sea-foam, cre­at­ed in spring when the sun rays touched the dew of lakeshores and river­banks, or made out of hairs that had fall­en into the water from hors­es’ tails. In her state­ment about the work the artist then explains: Return and tran­si­tion hold a mythos around it as we grap­ple with our own end­ings, changes and chas­es. See­ing ani­mals such as eels that show up in unex­pect­ed waters, yet still know­ing how and when to migrate back, allows for deal­ing with the sto­ries of my own migra­to­ry sen­sa­tions, mem­o­ries and loss. The inter­ro­ga­tion and pur­suit of the eel ques­tion is some­thing that as an artist fas­ci­nates me. It makes me think of it as the ulti­mate metaphor for the ocean­ic feel­ing” and the desire for a con­tin­ued spir­it of pursuit.

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