#eye #eye

Lachlan Bell (he/him) is an artist/designer living in Wallumetta (Ryde) working across textiles, photography, installation and graphic design/branding. Growing up embedded within the Sydney-Estonian community has led him to find appreciation in all things ethnic and questioning what authentic art even looks like within a community facing an identity crisis. Inspired by oral history, musty archives, quiet pockets of the internet, scientific journals, 'folk' objects and folklore, Lachlan creates work that navigates speculative histories, communal memory loss and notions of belonging. Drawing upon an ever expanding archive collected over many talgud (working bees), site visits and dumpster diving, Lachlan hopes to salvage the history not for nostalgic purposes but to generate new discourses unique to our community here in Australia. Lachlan currently works for MAAS Ultimo as part of the Collection Relocation and Digitisation Project, which has provided invaluable insight into the functioning of archives and how we care for objects. He aims for future career path to be aligned with repair, mending, healing and progression, slipping between archiving methodologies and artmaking practices with sustainability at its core.

Pulp to pulp, 70 Estonian paper book covers printed in Sweden and Canada, resting atop fibreboard picture ledges with looped 20" video 'Leap', screen, 1925-2022, 110cm x 26cm x 10cm.

Salvaged over a period of two years this flat library reflects a fraction of a collection once housed in Sydney Estonian House, collected since 1925. Designated for rejection by the Archives, arduous community working bees (talgud) across 2020-22 resulted in the disposal of these books as seen in the accompanying looped video 'Leap'. Predominantly published by the Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv publishing house operating in Lund, Sweden from 1950 to 1994, this Cooperative operated as the largest Estonian refugee publishing house (alongside Eesti Kirjastus Orto) which operated as a joint venture of diasporic Estonian writers who fled to Sweden during the Great Escape of 1944. Arriving in Australia since the 1920s, these books helped popularise and maintain a connection to Estonian culture abroad through an evolving shared language, a sense of nationhood that escaped Soviet occupation and connected individuals across continents to a network of diasporic writers and readers.

These hollow cases and covers from the 1920s onwards now take the role as a pictoral library following their disembowelment. Stories left untranslated, truncated, history flattened, texts condensed, language proficiency faltering, the covers are all we can judge these books by now.