A quintessential Australian story uncovering three generations of family history
Carriageworks will present Sleeplessness, a new performance work by Australian artist Kaz Therese (they/them). Presented from 4 – 13 August 2022, the performance fuses drama and documentary to take audiences on a journey of discovery through the artist’s family history, throwing light on the intergenerational impacts of institutionalisation and migration. Part-mystery, part-documentary, part forensic investigation, this quintessentially Australian story has been developed with support from Carriageworks and will be supplemented by roundtable discussions and workshops.
Developed over the past two decades by Kaz Therese, Sleeplessness is a radically honest and empathetic look at three generations of women in the artist’s family, in an effort to recover a history that had been erased. Starting with the discovery of a death certificate for their Hungarian grandmother that mysteriously labels her dying as a German man, Therese brings audiences along for a fascinating and emotional journey as they work backwards in time to uncover the mysteries of their family. The performance follows a fractured narrative, travelling through Budapest, the history of the Forgotten Australians in the 1950s, the artist’s upbringing in Western Sydney and arriving in the present day.
Artist Kaz Therese said: “I grew up not knowing my family history. My mother had her whole childhood memory erased. Apart from a photo of my grandmother sitting on my mother’s mantel, there were no other details about what happened to this woman, and why we didn’t know more. I couldn’t sleep from not knowing and became obsessed with trying to recreate an archive for my family that didn’t exist. I thought I could stitch back the body of my family through art, and in doing so I found a story that I feel most Australians can relate to.
This story has so many different elements but is ultimately about conversations around class in Australia and a fight against erasure. It’s shining a light on the Forgotten Australians and highlighting the impact of institutionalisation on Australian children which is still a major issue. These are the stories that we don’t often hear about.”
Carriageworks CEO Blair French said: “It’s truly a privilege for us to offer a platform for Kaz Therese to tell their incredible story, which is both deeply personal and universally resonant. Carriageworks is dedicated to supporting artists in the creation of new work, and it will be a special moment for audiences to experience this performance that has been developed over many years.”
Sleeplessness has been commissioned by Carriageworks. The creative team includes Director and Co-Writer Anthea Williams, Cultural Leadership Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, Sound Designer Anna Liebzeit, Video Artist Zanny Begg, Lighting Designer Karen Norris, Choreographer Martin del Amo, Stage Manager Anastasia Mowen, Video Consultant Samuel James, Cinematography – Budapest Margie Medlin, Cinematography – Sydney Tania Lambert, Producer Erin Milne & Bureau of Works, and Curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham.
The production will also be supported by a public program that includes a post-show conversation on Saturday 6 August with Kaz Therese and Dr Adele Chynoweth moderated by Sarah Miller AM. As well as a conversation on Thursday 11 August with participants from Class Action, facilitated by Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor, composer James Hazel and Kaz Therese. This participatory workshop event will explore themes of class and poverty in the Australian arts and cultural landscape. Bringing together members of the Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations and Refugee community, speakers include CEO of the Care Leavers Australia Network Leonie Sheedy, Gadigal artist Nadeena Dixon and artist Mahdi Mohammadi.
Kaz Therese is also Carriageworks’ Writer in Residence where they will finalise the development of Sleeplessness. This will also lead to articles being published in the Carriageworks Journal.