Too much chicken on your hands

Christmas is nothing if a time for traditions. Every family has their own, and every year everyone knows what to expect. The Wills family tradition revolves around a year-long hoarding of instant lottery tickets, which my mother divvies up and dishes out to us all on Christmas morning. For the next few hours, we sit around the dining table scratching our stash of tickets competing with each other to win the most money. The stakes are high as we’ll talk about this all day long sharing anecdotes from previous years.

Natural Characters with Peter McLean

Installation view. Found furniture, trophies, and a television screening the video on a loop. Among the scratched tickets on the table were unscratched tickets, which, if gallery visitors were observant, could find and scratch to win a small fortune.

Too Much Chicken On Your Hands is an hour-long fly-on-the-wall look at my family’s typical Christmas. Typically, we sit around the table enjoying our traditional Christmas breakfast tucking into barbecued chicken wings marinated in soy, garlic and ginger, and washed down with Miranda Spumante topped-up with (reconstituted) orange juice. Delicious!

This year’s breakfast begins with my father answering a telephone call, one that turned out to be a wrong number. He wished the woman on the other end a merry Christmas, hung-up and everyone laughed turning back to the task at hand. A Reader’s Digest compilation played in the background, and somehow the first track was perfect, Racey’s Lay your love on me, and many of us know how that one goes.

Not long after the final belches of Christmas lunch have been released, my mother begins her year-long ritual of buying the next batch of lottery tickets in the hope that one of us will win big. It hasn’t happened yet, and after 30+ years of scratching, we all still remain hopeful that the coming year will be the year one, one of us takes out a big prize. It would make Mum really happy!

What's in a name?

At some point through the video my father was complaining about his coin being slippery. The combination of eating greasy chicken while trying to scratch-off your tickets isn’t a working strategy, as my mother sagely acknowledged: “You’ve got too much chicken on your hands.”

Christmas crackers

Come December, scented and collected empty toilet paper rolls are transformed into Christmas Crackers. The winner will find an instant lottery ticket, a small chocolate, requisite bad joke, a paper crown and a small trinket inside. One year, metal nail clippers and other metal objects went flying through the air causing mayhem.

A woman taking photos in Fiskars
A woman at a market in Fiskars
A woman taking photos in Fiskars


Throughout the day Mum updates the tally taking into account the tickets included in the Christmas crackers and any free tickets that were won. My tinny middle brother usually tops the list, and I often appear towards the bottom. It’s all great fun, and brings so much joy to my parents.

Too much chicken on your hands, 2007
Video, found furniture, trophies, tickets
Dimensions variable


He Said She Said, Kudos Gallery Sydney, 2008