BAC in time at Brighton

18 March 2017 Blogger in Chief

I reckon I’ve driven past the Brighton Army Camp (BAC) a hundred times or more but today was the first time I’ve stopped there.

And while I’ve often thought about the people that have passed through, today was the closest I’ve come to taking a glimpse into their lives.

It’s likely a lot of my thinking about this place has been of young men leaving small Tasmanian towns to go to BAC and then to war, never to return. And of people who came from war to BAC, Kosovar refugee families like the Spojanis, who arrived at the then Tasmanian Peace Haven at the end of the last century and who, in many instances, were not allowed to stay.

I think of it very much through the prism of Arch and Martin Flanagan’s tremendous memoir, The Line.

Artist Brigita Ozolins likens BAC to a stepping stone – “a between place” – and she has, through the simplest means possible, got me wondering why I didn’t wonder more about the comings and goings there across the decades. Ozolins says she was drawn to the project because her parents, who were post-WWII refugees from Latvia, lived a similar existence to so many of the people whose lives she depicts here.

There are 40 snapshots of those lives, printed on fabric and hung like washing (the most mundane, everyday thing common in all of who’ve passed through) above and around a replica BAC hut. It’s clever: you see them side-by-side and juxtaposed, accompanied by a simple voice- and sound-track, and you wonder more.

It’s all set up inside the old hospital, one of the last remaining buildings on the largely derelict site.

Many of those who left BAC had names you don’t often hear today; names like Bunny and Bluey and Athol – and Arch. And those who’ve arrived bore equally unlikely names: Grazyna, Kadek and Ieva – and Mindaugas, who became Merv.

BAC is one of the festival’s nine Sites of LOVE and NEGLECT, open until March 26.