‘Imaginary Encounters’ showcases creative prose and poetry written in response to the sculptural exhibition Everything is True, by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah. The exhibition was curated by Chris Malcolm for the John Curtin Gallery and Perth Festival 2021.
In February of 2021, a small group of Curtin University staff and postgraduate students were invited to visit the exhibition and respond through creative writing. A small selection of the resulting works are published here in an online format. Others have been included as a special feature in the print issue of Westerly, to be published towards the end of June.
There is a long tradition of creative writing in response to artworks. Traditionally, this practice of ‘ekphrasis’ involves the transcription of a viewer’s experience into a written account. Abdullah’s sculptures are especially well-suited to this contemplation of experience because they evoke an empathic connection with the viewer. We invite you, Westerly readers, to enter into these imaginary worlds. We hope you find them as stimulating and thought-provoking as we did.
Pretty Beach, she reads, is about memory, childhood play and death. In this room the beauty and the grief confront her, summoning the one she has lost not once, and not twice. She thinks of him: small child, prancing through shallow water while droplets of spray cut through the air like glass. His fear of rain, pressing himself to her body against curtains of water. She thinks about losing him every day, every week; each time a repetition, like the rain drops falling on the stingrays, those mysterious but ordinary sea creatures, whose name—sting and ray—seems to spell out pain and pleasure, light and dark, their folded bodies always anguished, always calm. She thinks about the one she is losing while not losing him, and how each time this grief is fresh; how even though it is always the same, it is never the same. She knows now that there is no end to grief: that we are immersed and swim within it, circling through space and time, seeing spears of light, hearing the rain in the dark like an echo call from the deep.
Rachel Robertson is Associate Professor in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin University and author of Reaching One Thousand (Black Inc).