Jim Coad is a filmmaker and visual artist who lives in Castlemaine. He also runs Video Architecture, an artistic enterprise that uses film to transform structural facades. For Datimdatim (Boomerang) & Wai-kalk (Wattle) Time this year (May 11, 12 & 13), Coad, along with composer James Henry, and two artists of Dja Dja Wurrung heritage, visual artist Aunty Marilyne Nicholls and storyteller Rebecca Phillips, have been tasked with transforming the heritage-listed Anderson’s Mill in Smeaton into a vivid artwork of light, film and music.
Built in 1861, the five-storey bluestone structure will be a literal backdrop to the team’s technicolour performance, Now You See It…. The work will form part of the Regional Centre for Culture’s 2018 celebrations, which cover Bendigo, Daylesford, Castlemaine and Maryborough districts on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. “When we get a building like Anderson’s Mill,” says Coad, “which is a very clear demonstration of the industrial presence of Europeans, and then the Indigenous overlay within the story, it demands a bit of an exploration of our shared history. So it was very important to make sure the local context was present.”
Situated on the banks of Birch’s Creek, Anderson’s Mill stands much as it did when built in 1861. It fell out of use in 1959, when the wheat-growing industry moved further into central Victoria, and in 1974 it became one of the first buildings to be added to the Historic Buildings Register. Over the past 20-odd years it’s become a community hub, along with the Smeaton Bowls Club and the Cumberland Hotel.
Sound artist and composer James Henry says Now You See It… doesn’t follow a linear narrative. Instead, an abstract display of stop-motion, animated imagery and Indigenous motifs are used to “tell the story of the local Jaara mob, the history of the mill and how the area has changed over the years,” he says. Also included in the event are over 170 images created through a community workshop process run in local schools, markets and neighbourhood houses as part of a school holiday program. “It’s great to be working on a project that has sensitivities to Indigenous culture, [as well as] having so many creatives on board to create something worthy of local history and the grandiosity of the structure,” says Henry.
Now You See It… runs in tandem with the annual Anderson’s Mill Heritage Festival, a free event with many moving parts. During the day, expect a mix of performances including circus, mill tours, and dollhouse displays among other local fare. Now You See It… begins at 7:00pm each evening.
The motivation of the artistic showcase is to make noise around the history of these rural parts of the state. “I guess you don’t need much of an excuse to get up amongst those hills,” says Henry. “But the added incentive to see such new technology and two otherwise contrasting cultures in the one piece of art is a treat. I could imagine if [the project] was in my local neighbourhood, having more of an understanding of the history would give me a sense of ownership.”
It’s also another way to encourage people to engage with local culture and the arts. “Personally, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot through this project,” says Coad. “If I can pass on any of that knowledge, that would be a great outcome.”
Now You See It… will be on display after dark at Andersons Mill in Smeaton on May 11, 12, and 13. Entry is free. More information here.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Regional Centre of Culture 2018.