Personal Effects, installation documentation, 2019, video, cattle ear tags, Woolworths bags, Site 8 Gallery, RMIT

Personal Effects was a participatory artwork presented at the RMIT Site 8 group exhibition, Aesthetics of Human Relations. The work revolved around a previously unopened bag of cattle ear tags reclaimed by activists from a leather tannery in Victoria. I placed the bag on a table next to a pair of gloves and an embroidered white cloth laid out beside the bag. Audiences were invited to watch a short video of me telling the story of how I came to have the bag, in which I describe my inability to open, confront and sort through the objects inside. Throughout the storytelling process, I ask audience members to assist me in removing an ear tag from the bag and placing it on the fabric.

The intention behind Personal Effects was to explore the burden of grief through storytelling and participation. The bag of cattle ear tags was given to me by a fellow activist at the beginning of the year, but it has been sitting in my cupboard unopened until now. The work’s title plays on the idea of sorting through a loved one’s personal effects, while also referencing the personal effects of a prisoner. Through the action of retrieving the objects from the bag, the audience became momentarily implicated while they inspect and bear witness to the last remaining memories of these animals. I hoped that the result of laying the tags on the fabric would create a type of unexpected memorial to the animals connected to these objects.