Instrumental: Performance and the Cumulative Potential of Distributed Sites
Exploring the relations between the site of research and the site of output, this paper is a critical comparison of the immediate experience of conducting research in a specific place/space and the sites at which practice-based research outputs are published and exhibited. Extending Miwon Kwon’s assertion that ‘site is not simply a geographical location but a network of social relations’ , this research is situated within the field of critical spatial practice and explores the ability of site specific performance to activate engagement in Australian spatial politics. Carried out as a series of iterative performances, the practice-based research methodology uses salvaged pianos as a device to renegotiate the politics of space through the re-appropriation of iconic and contested Australian sites.
This paper is focused on a performance titled Instrumental, which took place on an 8000-hectare property acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation as part of a land bank established for the Aboriginal people of the Barkanji nation . Produced in collaboration with the Culpra Milli Aboriginal Corporation (CMAC) in 2015, Instrumental came about through an invitation to participate in a critical cartographies workshop, and comprises a professional piano tuner attempting to tune a broken upright piano outdoors in the blazing midday sun. Drawing on the semiotic potential of the piano as a cultural artifact of western colonial origins , this research stages a juxtaposition of the piano and the Australian bush to examine cultural semantics unique to the sites political and spatial contexts.
 Miwon Kwon, One Place after Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002).
 In August 2016, the Bankanji people were awarded the largest native title claim in New South Wales history after an 18 year struggle https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jun/23/weve-got-to-tell-them-all-our-secrets-how-the-barkandji-won-a-landmark-battle-for-indigenous-australians.
 See Jane Champions film “The Piano” (1993).