A performance essay with PowerPoint images and a display case of ‘memorabilia’ we presented The Hannah First Collection, 1919—1949 as part of the Zendai Museum of Modern Art's Intrude: Art & Life 366 project in Shanghai in November 2008.
The work charts my quest to discover and reconstruct the life and journeys of the early-to-mid 20th century anthropologist and traveller, Hannah First. Drawing on the traditions of the old-fashioned ‘family slide evening’ and the ‘illustrated lecture’ as well as the blog and social networking sites, I follow Hannah from Amsterdam to Oxford. Check out her trips to Ceylon and Singapore, and her fieldwork in Central Europe, Palestine and the palm-fringed Tikabar Islands of the Western Pacific. To do this, I use not only photographs, notebooks and artefacts, but also my own life experiences—finding considerable symmetry between myself and this intriguing and improbable anthropologist …
In the last part of the performance, following an important revelation about Hannah First, I move on to explore our preoccupation with nostalgia. Why has nostalgia become our preferred mode of reckoning not only with the present, but with a strangely depoliticised past?Conceived, written & performed by Noëlle Janaczewska
Directed by Sally Sussman
In Shanghai we presented a bilingual version of The Hannah First Collection, 1919—1949, in English and Chinese.
Chinese translation: Wu Chenyun
Chinese performer: Yao Mingde
This project was supported by the Australia-China Council.