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In Conversation with Artist Mary Peacock

Mary Peacock literally ties together the past in her latest work, ‘Remnants of Space and Time. Archaeology of the Site’ – a site-specific work included in the Melbourne Fringe Festival. We speak to Mary about the Convent and its role as an ongoing source of inspiration in her recent artistic practice.

Your work is best described as a series of shapes created with string which act as a ‘map’ to examine the history of the space. What part of the Convent history is your work on the Mercator lawn exploring?

I use pegs and string to wrap the remnants of a coal bunker that stands on the site, piles of bluestone that were quarried from the Convent precinct and large boiler pipes from the era of the Magdalen Laundries. The wrapping and mapping of the remnants draws attention to these traces of Convent history and an accompanying legend shows the connections the remnants have to the Convent as a whole. I will conduct public tours of this work showing its relevance to the Convent precinct.

Pegs and string are used by archaeologists to map the site of their dig and the title ‘Remnants in Space and time. Archaeology of the Site’ suggests the layers of human history that have occupied this piece of land over many millennia.

Does the work also take into consideration the Indigenous history of the site?

The thin layer of post-colonial presence on this tiny peninsular of land is implicit in the tours I’ll conduct as I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners who have lived on this land for tens of thousands of years.

How much time do you spend researching a space you’re mapping?

I have had a studio at the Convent for four years and have been a social history tour guide for three years. The previous two installations I have done here were connected to walking and mapping the site, and this accumulation of research is inherent in the current work.

Once you have an understanding of the site and the story you want to tell, how do you weigh up the importance of the installation’s overall aesthetics and how that relates to its history?

The idea of wrapping the site and its contents is to call attention to their particulars. And the accompanying legend and tours link those contents / remnants to their history / stories within the Convent and to their site of origin. The aesthetic that results from the wrapping holds the ideas that underlie the work. And the work adds another layer of mapping onto the site itself.

As a social history tour guide at the Convent, your knowledge of the site must be quite comprehensive. Is that partly what inspired you to do this work?

Yes, the Convent has so much potential for work.

You employed a similar mapping technique for another work earlier this year in Launceston as part of the group exhibition ‘Strata: Tracing the Past’. Do you plan to use your mapping technique to uncover the history and examine the space of other sites?

I imagine I will continue mapping one way or the other but I’m not sure if I’ll use the pegs and string in order to do so.

What other plans do you have for 2018?

I will be exhibiting ‘The Tidal Project’ in Launceston, which maps the river system that surrounds Launceston.

Mary Peacock’s ‘Remnants of Space and Time. Archaeology of the Site’ can be viewed between 9am – 9pm until Sunday 1 October. For a free guided tour of the work and the artist’s studio, join Mary on the Providence lawn from 8.30pm, Thursday 28 September.