A short history of some other things is an installation by Tracey Williams which draws visually on the stereotypical teenage bedroom, with its hybrid collages of stickers, cut-outs, comics, naïve drawings, posters and watercolours. Williams places paper cut-out compositions alongside wall-based comic-strips, friezes and wall-drawn settings that mimic the different genres—romantic gothic landscape, sci-fi, Victorian interiors and gardens—which, she declares “form the backdrop to our cultural psyche.” Symbols of Americana (the Bald Eagle, Wonder Woman and Barbie) sits cheek by jowl beside quintessential New Zealand iconography (the Pukeko, Silver Ferns, sheep); the local and the global collapsing into each other.
A short history of some other things can be seen as Tracey Williams’ response to Don Brash’s now infamous ‘Orewa speech’, at the Orewa Rotary Club on 27 January 2004. Following Brash’s speech, Williams observed what she describes as the subsequent media polarisation of cultural identity. As Williams explains:
“I observed how people began to speak of themselves in terms of two very distinct identities: Māori and Pākehā. In both cases the descriptions of what these identities meant were locked into boxes and fixed down. I turned my attention to my personal experience of growing up in New Zealand... Nowhere did my experience tally with those reported daily in mass media following that speech.”
Williams’ cacophony of images aims to re-present a range of generic ideals, images, signs and genres familiar to us and manipulating them via texture and content to make them unfamiliar. The effect is a fusion of subcultures, larger-than-life fantasy, stereotypes, caricatures, and iconography from popular culture. The sheer amount of colliding pictures in A short history of some other things collapses any notion of singularity, acting, as she says: “as an antidote to the grand narratives people define themselves by”.
Tracey Williams wishes to acknowledge the support of Debbie Johnson, Amanda A’Hara, Alex Lau and Hoani Smith.