From Our School House.
From Our School House is a sound and visual installation site specific to the Old Birrego School created by Mayu Kanamori in collaboration with Vic McEwan. For two weeks Mayu Kanamori and Vic McEwan lived and worked in the Old Birrego School house, creating a process driven memory-work.
The Old Birrego School in regional NSW was a one room, one teacher school which first opened as a provisional school in 1886 then kept closing and reopening, either as a provisional or public school, depending on the student enrollment numbers. It finally closed in 1966. Vic and Sarah McEwan purchased the disused school house with its original blackboard still in its place and have restored it as their home and as a place for CAD Factory Rural Residency Program. Mayu is the first artist to be invited to this artist residency program.
Being a photographer from a documentary background, Mayu explores the meanings of photographs the documentation process, the image and its archiving as part of our personal and collective memories. Having worked with Vic on historically inspired site specific project in the past, creating From Our School House was a natural progression in their on going collaboration.
The process began with historical research, gathering materials from libraries and state archives. Former students contributed archival photographs gave oral histories and were photographed. The images of the current students were part of digital story-telling workshops held at the nearby Boree Creek Public school, another remote small school. Soundscapes were created with interviews and sounds gathered from the grounds of the school house.
As a first generation migrant Mayu has a personal longing for those whose lives have allowed for staying and being part of their childhood community and place. The former students of the Old Birrego School who were interviewed and photographed for this project still live near their old school and have maintained close connections with their community, land and their heritage. Some had seven siblings and others had three generations in their family who attended the Old Birrego School.
This installation by Mayu and Vic is about memory. Those memories that are lost, those that are partially hidden and require some digging, and those new memories that we are creating together to be recalled some time in the future. This work honours the history of this place. From a school in 1886 to a home in 2011. It is about the memories that we hold as individuals and those we share as a community.