Monumentalisation: conveying cultural narratives with installation and public art
11 September 2021
How do First Nations artists approach representation in public spaces?
Taking artist Yhonnie Scarce‘s new commission Missile Park as a starting point, join Blaklash co-founder Troy Casey, with architect Kevin O’Brien, and artists Judy Watson, and Tony Albert as they explore the intersection of architecture, memorial culture, and the representation of First Nations histories in their own projects and practices.
Yhonnie Scarce is an artist known for her sculptural installations which range from architecturally scaled public art projects to intimate assemblages, each replete with personal and cultural histories. Yhonnie’s latest commission, Missile Park, sees three large sheds serve as a solemn memorial for the many people displaced by the impacts of nuclear testing on Aboriginal Lands. It builds on an earlier work, Blood on the Wattle (Elliston, South Australia, 1849) (2013); a powerful memorial both to those who lost their lives in the Elliston Massacre, as well as the thousands of people murdered during the frontier wars.
Yhonnie’s work demonstrates that art can play a meaningful role in interrogating our shared histories and to draw attention to pasts that have been overlooked. She has travelled the world researching memorials to genocide, which inform her own practice of marking sites of trauma. What is the impact of reclaiming these sites as First Nations spaces, how does this influence public discourse around land ownership, history and representation, and how do First Nations artists navigate this process?
Note: this event will take place at the gallery and online via Facebook livestream.
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Tony Albert’s practice explores contemporary legacies of colonialism in ways which prompt audiences to contemplate elements of the human condition. Mining imagery and source material from across the globe, Albert draws on both personal and collective histories to explore the ways in which optimism might be utilised to overcome adversity. His practice is concerned with identity and the ascribing of social labels; unpacking what it means to judge and be judged in the absence of recognition or understanding.
Troy Casey is passionate about harnessing economic opportunities to create positive social change for First Nations Australians. He combines his extensive community engagement experience spanning the government, not-for-profit and higher education sectors, with his curatorial practice, working collaboratively with communities to ensure First Nations voices are embedded across projects within public art, placemaking, and urban design.
Kevin O’Brien is an architect, and Adjunct Professor at the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, the University of Sydney. O’Brien directed the Finding Country exhibition, an independent and official Collateral Event of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. This project was initiated in 2005 and explored the tension between concepts of Country and the colonial city against an imagined 50% reduction in population. The after-effects continue to this day as a guide for practice, teaching and thinking about architecture and its conflicted relationship with place-making in the Australian context. O’Brien has recently co-edited and contributed to Our Voices – Indigeneity and Architecture, the first publication of its kind to explore first nation perspectives about architecture from Australia, New Zealand and North America. Our Voices II – The De-colonial Project is due for release by Oro Editions in late 2020.
Judy Watson was born in Mundubbera, Queensland and lives and works in Brisbane. Watson’s Aboriginal matrilineal family are from Waanyi country in north-west Queensland. Her work reveals hidden stories within Country, working from site, archives and memory, revealing Indigenous histories, following lines of emotional and physical topography that centre on particular places and moments in time. Recent major solo exhibitions include Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK (2020) and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2018–19). Watson’s work is held in significant private and public collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; all Australian State Art Galleries; Tate Modern, London; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan; St Louis Art Museum, USA; British Museum, London; Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK; Library of Congress, Washington, USA; and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, USA.