A collaboration between Lily Hibberd and Curtis Taylor, commissioned for 'We don't need a map', Fremantle Arts Centre, 16 November 2012 - 20 January 2013. 'The Phone Booth Project' features a desert pay phone, large-scale projections and multi-lingual dialogues. 'We Don't Need A Map' included the work of more than 30 artists celebrating the culture of the Martu people. Revealing the independence and adaptation of modern telecommunications by Martu people across the vast Western Desert, working collaboratively, the two artists have made a video installation that explores the use of phone booths in these remote desert communities.
This work offers a significant and unique encounter with Australian aboriginal political history and culture, presented from the perspective of Martu people. It tells a new story of colonial encounters and change in the lives of the last aboriginal people in Australia to make contact with Europeans in the 1960s. Almost all Martu left the desert by 1970, yet within 10 years they returned to rebuild five communities in the desert. UHF radio and telephones were used to organise action across the Pilbara and Kimberly, leading to strikes on cattle stations and collective resistance to mining. As people were dispersed across the country, the public phone was their family lifeline. To share these stories internationally is an opportunity to celebrate this radically different vision of indigenous culture, and shift some of the stereotypes of aboriginal agency.
At the centre of their own world, the perception of distance in the Western Desert is only in reference to the illusion of civilisation's centrality: mobile phone reception is eight hours drive away, and the mail is delivered once a week by airplane.