2021 The Mark - PUNQ

2021 The Mark - PUNQ

The Mark was a site-specific installation created for Umbrella Studio Contemporary Art's PUNQ 21  (Pop up North Queensland Festival) and served as an ephemeral memorial to those who died whilst in quarantine on Magnetic Island between 1875 and 1915. It was installed in the grounds of the Magnetic Museum, Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island.

 

The markers within the installation each represent a person who died whilst in quarantine on the Island. Each strand of rope around the individual markers represents the age of the person who died. The symbols (see images) on the markers represent the cause of death;  measles, typhoid, malaria, cholera, scarlet fever and bubonic plague.

 

 In 1865 Cleveland Bay (Townsville) was declared a point of entry and clearance for ships arriving in Australia. As it was the first or second point of call for shipping on the Asia/Pacific route it was quickly identified as a place where shipboard disease such as cholera and the bubonic plague could be contained.

 

In 1875 Magnetic Island was set aside as a place of quarantine. Tents were set up at Picnic Bay with afflicted passengers being cared for by the Butler family who had recently established a pineapple farm in the area. These tents were later replaced by huts at either end of the Bay, one for men the other for women. Those who died whilst in quarantine were buried at the eastern end of the Bay.

 

In 1884 a proper Quarantine Station was established at West Point in response to the provisions of the Queensland Health Act and as a result of community concern about the standard of accommodation for people quarantined on the Island. A graveyard was established at West Point for those who died whilst in quarantine there.

 

Situated in a grove of trees only metres away from where the first quarantine tents were placed and the first graves dug, The Mark references pandemics that have impacted on civilisation throughout the ages and how we, as communities have responded to those unfortunate enough to become casualties.

 

Linking past pandemics with the Covid-19 pandemic the world is currently experiencing, The Mark encourages audiences to reflect about time, place and our moment in history whilst referencing a variety of 'marks' that have been used throughout history to identify those infected with disease, for example victims of bubonic plague had red or black crosses painted on their doors, the eight pointed green cross known as the St Lazarus cross identified Leprosy and more recently the Grim Reaper is used for aids and the microbe symbol for Covid-19.