Since 24 July 2018, six men – Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat – have been sending daily ten minute audio recordings to The Ian Potter Museum of Art from Manus Island, where they have been detained by the Australian government for the last five years. The recordings are then played back in the gallery throughout the day. This will continue until 28 October 2018 at the end of which 14 hours of sound will have been produced. They are, in effect, developing an archive of what it sounds like to live in limbo.
At this event, we invite listeners to spend one hour with the recordings from this emerging archive – one recording from each man. Melbourne collaborators Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia will introduce and discuss.
HOW ARE YOU TODAY
Since 2013, nearly two thousand men have been indefinitely detained on Manus Island, PNG, by the Australian Government – after arriving in this country seeking asylum. When the Manus Regional Processing Centre was formally closed on 31 October 2017, after the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, the men still detained there were ordered to relocate to new, smaller detention centers in Lorengau, the major town on Manus. The authorities eliminated provisions and removed the diesel generators powering the facility, but the men refused to leave: the culmination of years of organised resistance against their involuntary and indefinite detention. Eventually, they were forcefully evicted.
The work commissioned for Eavesdropping is a collaboration between some of these men – Farhad Bandesh, Behrouz Boochani, Samad Abdul, Shamindan Kanapathi, Kazem Kazemi and Abdul Aziz Muhamat on Manus – and Michael Green, André Dao and Jon Tjhia in Melbourne. Every day for the duration of the exhibition, one of the men on Manus will make a sound recording – of anything they like or nothing much at all – and send it ‘onshore’ for swift upload to the gallery. No doubt the vagaries of weather, blackouts and technology, along with changing personal, political and legal contexts, will intervene along the way.
how are you today opens a channel for a form of speech at a moment when words seem to have been exhausted. It is at once an extremely intimate work – a rare opportunity to listen to these men listening, only very recently, some four thousand kilometres away – and a highly political one. It introduces the Manus soundscape to the gallery not just for the sake of the sounds-in-themselves, not just as a matter of curiosity (though the work will surely produce an archive of real historical value), but in a way that directly implicates the listener and demands that we attend to the politico-legal contexts that produce and frame them.
ABDUL AZIZ MUHAMAT is a 25-year-old man from Darfur, Sudan. He is from the Zaghawa ethnicity, and with his family, he fled his village to a refugee camp. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and was taken to Manus Island, where he remains. He has become one of the primary public voices among the men there, including through the multi-award winning podcast, The Messenger.
FARHAD BANDESH is a 36-year-old Kurdish musician, painter and poet who has been detained on Manus Island for over five years. Before seeking asylum, he worked as a guitar maker, and has no formal art training. Whilst in detention, he has produced solo and collaborative works of music, art and writing. He loves nature and is a keen gardener; his sisters now look after his plants.
BEHROUZ BOOCHANI is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He was writer for the Kurdish language magazine Werya. He writes regularly for The Guardian and several other publications. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and author of No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. He has been held on Manus Island since 2013.
KAZEM KAZEMI is a 36-year-old Kurdish musician, heavy metal and rock songwriter and poet. Before seeking asylum in Australia, he lived in Khorramshahr, Iran, and worked as an electrician.
SHAMINDAN KANAPATHI is a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee. In Sri Lanka he was a marketing executive and a student.
SAMAD ABDUL has been detained in an Australian run offshore detention centre on Manus for the last five years. He loves cricket and his only dream was to be a professional cricketer but politicians have taken his dream and used him as a political prisoner. Although his five years will not come back, he now wants to be a social worker to help those who are in pain.
MICHAEL GREEN is a writer, radio-maker and producer. He is the host of The Messenger podcast and his work has won many national and international awards, including the 2017 Walkley Award for Radio/Audio feature. He has travelled to Manus Island twice.
ANDRÉ DAO is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He is the co-founder of Behind the Wire, an oral history project documenting people’s experience of immigration detention, and the deputy editor of New Philosopher. He is also a qualified lawyer, and has worked with asylum seekers and refugees in a legal capacity.
JON TJHIA is a radio-maker, musician and writer. As the Wheeler Centre’s senior digital editor, he led the Wheeler Centre’s collaboration with Behind the Wire to produce The Messenger. He’s a co-founder of Paper Radio and the Australian Audio Guide.
Eavesdropping is a collaboration between Liquid Architecture, Melbourne Law School and the Ian Potter Museum of Art, comprising an exhibition, a public program, series of working groups and touring event which explores the politics of listening through work by leading artists, researchers, writers and activists from Australia and around the world.
Curators Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) Dr James Parker (Melbourne Law School)