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December 1, 2011 / mummaVegas

Disarming…RedLight DarkRoom @Brisbane Powerhouse

Currently at 40weeks pregnant, there aren’t many remaining occasions where I’m thankful my child is staying put.  But…I suppose it is a crux of motherhood to want to shield your child from “discomforts” in the world. Yesterday was such an occasion. I dragged my big 39wk/6day belly over to New Farm eager to view the latest installation of works at the Powerhouse – Gemma-Rose Turnbull’s offering as artist in residence with the St Kilda Gatehouse entitled Red Light Dark Room – Sex, Lies and Stereotypes, a collection of work that should be applauded at the same time as one might recoil in discomfort at what is presented before them.

I am grateful for Turnbull’s work. Being from the safe-class set, complete with sound up-bringing, rock solid husband and steady income, I have from time to time poked at the ideals that are contained within the matter of the Red Light Dark Room subject but I never really understand what such women – street workers – actually put themselves through for the sake of survival. Walking through the collection, which Turnbull put together by supplying each street-walker with a camera and asking them to capture imagery that spoke of their life, I registered a broad spectrum of emotional response to what was presented.

Yep, for the most part, it was ugly. Track marks, decay, exploitation and neglect.

But as I rounded the corner to complete my viewing, I paid attention to the resounding sense of hope that Turnbull’s work evoked in me at the end. Her subjects succeeded in providing we “mainstreamers” with a deeper sense of the real heartache, disappointment and tragedy that they face in their day to day existence. A world I could never have imagined had it not been for the exhibition. When faced with, day in – day out, so much ugliness, some of these women still presented humour in their photographic choices – a portrait photo of a worker taken by a client inside his truck cabin on the way to the job; a holidaying prostitute standing alone, but just as much of a tourist as everyone else, delighted on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House; a hand-decorated birthday cake. Real things. Happy things. A bright side.


And daughters. Photos of little girls, born into the chaos and destruction of life as a prostitute, but so visibly loved and palpably happy – I felt a sense of pride that no matter what the circumstances, a mother’s love is resplendent among a multitude of life situations and trials. A gross understatement in the case of these women who raise these children as best they can. I know my child is the luckier of the two children. And not yet born. But it is clear that, regardless, these children are loved and cherished. Am I being naive?

As uncomfortable a fact as it is that people are forced by circumstance to live through hells such as those depicted within Turnbull’s collection, I cannot ignore my resolve to congratulate her for presenting this world most unknown and allowing me the opportunity to really acknowledge the existence of human hope.

I had no intention of making my first real BrisVegas post so – well – full on. But, I encourage you to visit the Powerhouse before 18 December to view this courageous collection. Brisbane Powerhouse is again to be thanked for curating such an exhibition – free to “good home”.

…Next post will cover something lighter. I’ll have a child in tow.

mummaVegas x



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