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roberts hut

Following a month long residency at the Museum of Innocence Mildura, GAIP participants Michael McNab, Clinton Green, Juana Beltrán, Carmen Chan and I journeyed to the expansive wheat farm of Robert and Gwen Cooke near Walpeup in the Mallee. A chance meeting created this opportunity and after a ritual at nearby Lake Becking we went to meet up with Robert. The following text is an excerpt from notes I made at the time;

"As the sun set we headed off away from the lakes to meet up with Robert Cooke who would guide us to his farm. The drive was longer than expected and it was quite dark when we weaved our way into his property arriving at the little home of his great grandparents. It was a magical moment in the middle of nowhere, as it seemed to us.

Robert is a wheat farmer of few words but very generous and hospitable, we organized sleeping arrangements and got to work. We took torches, candles and sonic instruments and followed Robert to the hut, without much talk we got going, sounding whilst circumnavigating, preparing ourselves by feeling out the space around, establishing the parameters, setting up a perimeter until finally approaching the doorway, announcing ourselves and asking to be invited in.

Once inside, it was as if we had stepped into another time, each of the four rooms were set up as they would have been, the parents room, children’s room, kitchen and the formal room. Robert had recreated the feeling by fitting out the rooms with much of the original furniture and artifacts, by candlelight it was truly transporting. We each set about our activities in different rooms. Juana had entered the main bedroom and found it debilitating. I encouraged her to stay with me in the spots where she felt the disturbing energy. We spent quite some time, standing, meditating, sounding and dancing to Clinton’s gramophone (already set up in the formal room) improvisations until the energy of the space felt more restful. I had moved onto the other rooms and when I returned to the kitchen Juana was slumped with a sheet around her, head and arms on the kitchen table. She was periodically moaning and seemed in some kind of trance. I understood (as was confirmed later) that she had been drained by her experience in the bedroom. Robert had moved from his position, which he occupied for some time just outside the back door, peering in, in a kind of deferential way as one might when one is observing something unfamiliar. He entered the kitchen as Juana and I had begun to dance and we both felt that our dance formed a kind of conduit for him, a channeling of past energies into Robert’s immediate presence. He then sat at one end of the kitchen table and eventually was handed some bells and a way to more actively participate. His face during this time showed an expression of amazement but also a kind of acceptance and appreciation of the unusual happenings in this shrine to his family’s history. I thought that it was trusting of him to open up this place with which he had such an intimate relationship to a bunch of strangers doing all sorts of strange things. He later remarked that during the experience he suddenly recalled for the first time how as a child he would roam about the farm and its dwellings making sounds on whatever objects he came across, sounding out the space and its objects, a kind of sonic knowing.

We all had quite profound experiences that night. I remember feeling like Robert’s energy and that of the hut had transformed us into a kind of travelling shamanic group who where brought to this place and time to perform a very specific function – that of healing and balancing the energies of that space. Robert distinctly placed and exposed his and his family’s energy into our hands, as experts in this kind of ritual. This was the first time that we had undertaken anything as specific as this, yet because of the situation we did indeed feel like experts and we did take on the task in front of us very seriously."

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