Tarp Stories (detail of performance), 2019, Jill Sampson

Tarp Stories, 2019

Tarp Stories

2019 – present.
20 min performance.
Materials: End of life agricultural tarps and vintage hay string.
Installation dimensions variable

These tarps were re-purposed in the 1970’s by upholsterer/farmer Stan Lewis (a near neighbour), from army surplus tents that had likely been destined for the war in Vietnam. Stan re-made and sold them as agricultural tarps to my Father. They were in continual use until quite recently.

The tarps have been used to cover grain, hay bales and make shelter for animals. They’ve been used to cover machinery for makeshift shade and to keep the sun off workplaces. I’ve played under them and helped sweep them clean, fold them and put into storage drums, away from rats and mice. My Father is particular about how tarps are cleaned, folded and stored. Tarps and ropes together with knot tie-ing were ever present during my childhood. In this installation I use vintage hay string, a remnant of the years my Father produced lucerne hay bales.

These tarps are now useless objects. They have been cut, are threadbare, tear easily, have holes and they are no longer completely waterproof. However they are beautiful objects, full of story. In an outdoor environment they respond to the breezes with both movement and sound.

The Tarp Stories performance has a parallel with unseen, physical labour. It is hard work unfolding, moving, tie-ing, installing, dismantling and folding tarps. However the rhythm of work and its sound is a crucial part of Tarp Stories. This rhythm of work parallels my farm life experience. The repetitious movement, sound, physical work and storytelling links the audience to my Father, Stan the upholsterer, the Vietnam war and to a farm life that has become unrecognisable in contemporary Australia