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Biljana Popovic

presented by May Fair

Feminist artist and author of the cyborg manifesto Donna Harraway reminds us to sit with the things that feel too particular, too rough, or too sticky to deal with. She encourages us to feel through the muck, and stay with the trouble. I developed this work during the start of lockdown, and fittingly so, the piece starts off on a never-ending flight. I use anecdotes and poetic musings on philosophy and car commercials to unpack my own embodied experience of navigating culture-shock within diverse kin networks. The title of the work “A Uterus with Turbojets” references the need for new definitions of personal strength based on tolerance and emotional resilience. It is also a nod to the German academic/philosopher Peter Sloterdijk who playfully referred to a car as a “Uterus on Wheels”. This work romantically posits the idea that if it’s in our human nature to be great explorers, then it must also be within our nature to be great mediators; between the people in our communities, and the chorus of identity positions within ourselves. I wanted to paint a portrait of a millennial nomad who’s public self is created and performed in response to the cues taken from their immediate environment.

It's only natural to feel embarrassed

Evangeline Riddiford Graham

The therapist said, “It’s time you started using your Brain.”

“It’s only natural to feel embarrassed,” she explained. “I have patients who would be acutely humiliated to be in your shoes.” She gave me a fond look, shaking her head. “Your Brain appears to have completely deserted you.”

I looked down at my shoes and saw she was right. My Brain was sitting on the carpet, halfway between me and the wall. I had a feeling the Brain was waiting until I blinked, and then it would lunge under an armchair and disappear completely.

I knelt beside my Brain and picked it up.

“Lighter than you expected?” smiled the therapist. It was disappointing to find out I could still blush. I dusted off the bottom of the Brain. The therapist’s carpet was filthy. I tipped my handbag upside down and shook out the deodorant, wallet, drink bottle, and loose sticks of chewing gum, and placed my Brain inside.

I asked the therapist if I could borrow a towel just in case things got messy. “You are going to have to seduce her back,” coached the therapist, miming a small thrusting motion as I rummaged in her cupboards.

“Her?” I couldn’t help myself.

“Of course her. I would have thought you’d at least know that.”

It was raining outside. I tucked the towel around Brain. It’s amazing what you can achieve in just 45 minutes of therapy. I’d gone in gormless and come out with a big juicy Brain to seduce. Big juicy rain slapped me in the face. I liked feeling empty-headed and rained on. Everyone else was running for cover with their personal documents held over their heads except me and a few dopey-looking folk who I could only assume were also brainless. It’s once you are carrying your own escaped Brain in your handbag that you realize how many other people might be doing the same.

I walked Brain downhill until the main road ended. We turned off into a gully. I carried the towel around my neck. It had stopped raining and the air was so humid I worried Brain would be smothered.

I followed an open drain to the coast. Brain rustled in my handbag. I thought of dry leaves in a plastic bag. Brown paper leaves from the big plane trees outside school, the bag bumping my legs, for what? Don’t give me the memory and not tell me what to do with it, Brain. She was probably apprehensive about the sand.

The tide was low. We walked on the mudflats until we came to a boat ramp and then we walked on that. To a pink Tip Top dairy. A shuttered tourism office. An opportunity shop “for animals” and a hardware store selling CDs and plants. A hundred people stood in front of the RSA, smiling and crying. Two hundred more stood ten feet back. Someone gave me a placard to hold.

The sun was out. I could hear saliva popping in a new retainer. It was Brain. I took out my water bottle and spritzed her.

I walked until I found a hairdresser. “Can I get you tea or coffee or a glass of white wine?”

“Do you have red?” asked Brain.

“No,” said the hairdresser. “We don’t.”

“Just as well,” I told Brain. “Did you see the prices?”

“I had to get you out of there somehow,” said Brain.

I hoisted my handbag onto my other shoulder. “What a big Brain you are,” I said. The motorway was long and the spritz bottle was almost empty. “What shall we talk about now?”

Brain said, “Let’s just be quiet for a while and think.”

There were cows on either side of the road. I couldn’t picture what came before the cows. I wondered if that was what Brain was thinking about.

We got on a bus. Although we were nearly at the end of the line, the driver said it would cost the full fare. It took me a while to find my wallet because it was under Brain. Everyone sat waiting until I had paid.

The bus was hot and furry. I ate a punnet of rotten blueberries, determined to find the single one that was still good.

I woke up in a blush. Brain was still there on the seat beside me. I poured my last water on the towel and laid it across Brain; I was glad no one had stolen her. I thought about giving Brain a kiss but that would have been narcissistic.

The airport was the final stop. I hoped Brain wasn’t expecting us to fly. Everyone was packing to get out early or had already left. Brain and I walked to the smallest domestic gate, where there was no security and plenty of chairs. The light coming through the glass doors smelled of petrol and sweet peas. I had to put a hand up to cover my eyes.

We could hear everyone walking above us and the planes taking off below. Brain remembered the gummy planes on Origin Pacific. Orange or clear were best. Sometimes they had Minties on Ansett. I didn’t know Brain still cared about things like that. Flight attendants wearing teal court shoes. The slick taste of ultra-pasteurized milk.

I put my hands to my ears to dim the roar of the hand-dryer, the toilet flush, the airbus taking flight, the intercom. Everyone waiting to go to the place where their real life would start. The departure board was turned off. I put a hand to my mouth to stop the questions coming out.

A local plane distended its staircase and as each person stepped from the cabin and reached for the shining aluminium rail, I saw their face meet the yellow tussock evening and in the air, reform. I waved.

Dear Brain. I sat her in my lap. It was the closest I’d felt to her yet.

EVANGELINE RIDDIFORD GRAHAM is a writer and artist from Whakatū. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Ginesthoi (hard press, 2017) and La belle dame avec les mains vertes (Compound Press, 2019). Other publishers of her writing include Poets & Writers, the Rumpus, Aotearotica, the Spinoff, Min-​A-Rets, and Sport. Her recent exhibitions include hubris ~ humility (Earlid sound archive, forthcoming), Wax Tablet (Te Tuhi, 2019), and La belle dame avec les mains vertes (Rm, 2018).

Biljana Popovic

  • rendering 0
    1:10 scale physical maquettes of aeroplane quiltBiljana Popovic
    Textiles (synthetic blends, synthetic mes, rubber, lining, ribbing, thread), wire, glue, paint
    Marquette size: approx 200 x 130mm, Frame size: 400 x 300mm
    $450 unframed, $650 framedEnquire to purchase
  • rendering 1
    No overhead luggageBiljana Popovic
    Print on silk
    260 x 400mm
    $650 unframed, $850 framedEnquire to purchase