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July, 2008

Part of Annie Kennedy’s installation ‘Fugitive Pieces’

Linda Daniele

Decked out in a full frog-suit, with waterproof camera at the ready and about to leap into a lap-pool with a group of exercising horses, Annie Kennedy wondered if this was what fellow artists did in pursuit of their art.

It was three years ago and Annie was completing her studies at the National Art School, working on ideas that would ultimately become the installation Fugitive Pieces.

“I had read an article in the paper about the levels of suicide among Australian men,” the local emerging artist recalls of her inspiration for the work. “The figures were shocking and men’s sheds were developing to break down some of the isolation being felt by men.”

Annie says an idea will “seize” her, triggered perhaps by a newspaper article or radio report. “Then it germinates. I find I want to make it bigger,” she says. “I thought about horses, a strong and masculine animal with their muscles and sinew, yet with enormous vulnerability. There was the link between horses and our rural community too, where suicide levels were so high.”

Which brings us back to that horse lap-pool. Annie combined film, audio and photos of the horses she had visited to create Fugitive Pieces. Film footage of the horses had them suspended in water, the sounds of their breathing heavy as they swam. Large photos of the horses were exhibited, each slightly injured or hurt, staring the viewer in the eye.

The exhibition was completed by a huge pile of plaster-cast horse hooves. There were 1095 horse hooves in total, with Annie individually making each of them as a poignant representation of the number of men who had taken their lives.

“I’m quite figurative,” she explains. “I tend to use animals and people in my work and explore strong emotional territory. There’s strong emotional material there and it’s an invitation to contemplate.”

People were certaily the focus of Annie’s more recently completed project, the film Erskineville Stories. It tells the stories of ten residents who have lived in Erskineville since the 1920s and was screened as a free Moonlight Cinema event in March this year.

Annie says the screening was a great community event, an example of locals engaging strongly with and supporting a public art event. With her strong focus on public art projects, Annie says artists have a responsibility to create a space for people to “slow down consciousness” and think about things.

“You can’t beat people over the head with ideas,” she says. “Installations have a certain life and then they’re gone. They’re an experience that is given to the viewer that activates something in them. I like to present things in a way that is aesthetically intelligent and leave it up to the viewer to make sense of. People will take from it what they will, but you’ll find they’re pretty spot on.”

Reflecting on the meaning she sees behind her own work, Annie says: “I create monuments. They’re remembering something, taking notice somehow. They are saying  ‘Slow down for a moment. Pay attention to this, it’s important.’”  

Annie’s latest art projects include something new for the Erskineville community. Stay tuned for more information towards the end of the year.