Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous Australian photography

28
Jul
11

Review: ‘Ricky Maynard: Portrait of a Distant Land’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 14th August 2011

 

Ricky Maynard. 'The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania' from 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
The Healing Garden, Wybalenna, Flinders Island, Tasmania
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

“For me, photographs have always been personal and I hope to convey the intimacy of a diary. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and how the photograph has power to frame a culture.”

.
Ricky Maynard

 

 

Having posted about this exhibition when it was presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney I was looking forward to seeing it ‘in the flesh’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art. I have seen the exhibition three times now and each time I have left feeling underwhelmed.

While it is encouraging to see the development of an Aboriginal photographic art practice and the documentary depiction from inside this culture as a form of visual oral history, there is something leaden about this story telling. Other than a few incisive images I had no feeling for these photographs; the photographs don’t really take me anywhere. The best of them give access to the spaces they depict (usually the landscapes of distant islands or mountains that evoke “a sense of absence that exist within these landscapes,” a sense of displacement and departure) but most of the work seems to be blocked at the surface of the image: there just seems to be no way in to the emotional and psychological aspects of the photographs. The viewer is hardly ever drawn into the pictures force field. Occasionally they come alive but even when photographing scenes of friends and happiness there is a deadness about the work – a portrait of an emotionally distant and constrained land that is understandable (due to the “existence of the struggle beneath the surface”) but does not make for very compelling art. Even in the printing the highlights are occluded and grey as though a miasma hovers over their production. Commenting in The Age newspaper, Dan Rule observes that series such as Maynard’s mid-80s The Moonbird People that describes the Aboriginal community of his native Flinders Island during the annual mutton bird season, “are at once formally sparse and richly layered in the textural and historical narrative of the land.” Poetic and bearing an incredible weight of history. Personally I didn’t buy into the poetry of the storytelling and I found the photographs heavy going as though that incredible weight of history was inexorably weighing them down. If you want to see real poetry in the art of photography look at the work of William Clift.

I am asked by the curator Keith Munro “Do not forget these faces” but there is nothing truly memorable about them unlike, for example, some of the photographs of Sue Ford or Carol Jerrems. A perfect example are the photographs of Wik elders from the series Returning to places That Name Us (2000, see three photographs below). The viewer is caught at the surface of these images, observing the minutiae of detail, the faces closely cropped at the forehead and neck against a contextless white background. These are confronting images of presence at the large size they are produced in the exhibition but what else are they? At a smaller scale one might have related to the scars, creases and furrows of the Elders like the bark of the tree weathering the storm, an intimacy with a fellow human being and their life journey – but not here. My favourite photograph was an untitled landscape from the series In the Footsteps of Others. In this beautiful image a mountain hovers in the distance while in the foreground dark grasses and trees are shot through with raked sunlight. A mysterious, haunting evocation of space and place that left me wanting more precisely because of its ambiguity and longing.

While the photographs capture individuals and their relationship to place it is a journey they do not take me on. This is the crux of the matter for a photographer – allowing the viewer to see things that are not immediately visible, to construct their own narrative and take that leap of faith invested in the equivalency of the image. For me this never happened with this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Katrina Raymond for her help and to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Mission’ from ‘Portrait of a distant land’ 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Mission
2005
From the series Portrait of a distant land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
70 x 100cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Custodians’ from ‘Portrait of a distant land’ 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Custodians
2005
From the series Portrait of a distant land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. 'Broken Heart', from 'Portrait of a Distant Land' 2005

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Broken Heart
2005
From the series Portrait of a Distant Land
Gelatin silver resin-coated print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

Portrait of a Distant Land is an exhibition of 60 works by leading indigenous photographer Ricky Maynard, spanning two decades of his practice. Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Drawing on six bodies of work, this remarkable exhibition was first shown as part of the inaugural Photoquai Biennale organised by Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

Maynard is based on Flinders Island in Bass Strait and has been recording the lives of his people since the mid 1980s. Several of Maynard’s renowned photographs trace songlines, massacre sites, key historical events, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The artist works closely with the communities he photographs and his approach to social documentary represents a major development in the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

In Urban Diary (1997) Maynard focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda, while his portraits of Wik elders in Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) are inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland. Also on view are images from the series The Moonbird People (1985-88) which depicts a Tasmanian Aboriginal community during the annual muttonbird season, and No More Than What You See (1993), a confrontational and emotionally-charged portrait of Indigenous people incarcerated in the South Australian prison system.

Maynard’s personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania comes full circle with his images of important cultural sites, ochre trails and scarred trees represented in the series In the Footsteps of Others (2003).

Press release from The Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Untitled’ from ‘Urban diary’ 1997

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Untitled
1997
From  the series Urban diary
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Untitled’ from ‘Urban diary’ 1997

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Untitled
1997
From the series Urban diary
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

Portrait of a Distant Land

DO NOT FORGET THESE FACES – THEY HOLD SOMETHING YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE 1

Through his photographs Ricky Maynard offers a journey of alternative perspectives and cultural insights. His passion and meticulous attention to detail encapsulates an honest and deeply felt interpretation of his people and the land they inhabit.

Maynard, of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent, is a documentary photographer who lives on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the southeast Australian mainland. This exhibition presents his latest developing body of work Portrait of a Distant Land, which he began in 2005, as well as a selection of images from five earlier series including The Moonbird People (1985-88), No More Than What You See (1993), Urban Diary (1997), Returning to Places that Name Us (2000) and In The Footsteps of Others (2003), tracing key aspects of Maynard’s practice to the present day.

The ten works from the Portrait of a Distant Land series trace song lines, key historical events, massacre sites, petroglyphs and midden2, important meeting places, sacred cultural sites and practices of Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Presented alongside insightful and poignant quotations by community members who have maintained their local cultural heritage, these powerful images reaffirm a cultural dynamic forged by a strong belief in the importance of upholding cultural integrity both in and through picture making. Importantly, they provide the viewer with a greater understanding of both individual and  collective histories from outside a dominant gaze. Wybalenna on Flinders Island as depicted in Death in Exile and The Healing Garden for instance, is one of numerous historically-scarred sites; and for Maynard Vansittart Island encapsulates the crude and culturally insensitive research and documentation by dominant societies that continues to this day. Some photographs such as Mission, Broken Heart and A Free Country capture moments of reflection while others, like Traitor and The Spit are powerfully loaded references to either specific historical acts of oppression that contributed greatly to the devastation of Aboriginal people of Tasmania or recall childhood memories of people and place. Alongside these works, Coming Home is an example of cultural assertion: it depicts the ongoing significance of muttonbird hunting to Maynard’s people.

The annual muttonbirding season is the subject of Maynard’s powerful and innovative black and white series The Moonbird People, a deeply personal story relating the importance of this tradition to the people on the islands in Bass Strait3. The series was commissioned for the book After 200 Years: Photographic Essays on Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, produced as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations in 1988 4. These images record a cultural practice that significantly predates European colonisation and continues today.

Urban Diary focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal people in Melbourne’s beachside suburb, St Kilda. This body of work captures the interactions between members of the community whilst also depicting some of the challenges Aboriginal people face in urban environments. Through his ability to connect with his subjects, Maynard reveals and honours the humility of this group of individuals who have invited him into their lives.

In the early 1990s, Maynard was given special access by the South Australian Correctional Service to document the life of Aboriginal inmates held in South Australian prisons. No More Than What You See goes beyond mere documentation. The photographs not only reveal the regimented and sanitised environment that inmates are forced to inhabit, they emphasise the dehumanising aspects that have had an indelible impact upon their lives – suggesting personal experiences that may have led to imprisonment and demonstrating the effects of prison life upon them. The fact that the photographs were taken in 1993 during the International Year of the Indigenous People, makes the series more poignant.

Contributing to the provocative nature of this diverse range of images of male and female inmates are the piercing eyes that confront us and expressions of individuality: the family snapshots pinned to the walls of their cells that express the desire to make even the most hostile spaces appear homely. Maynard’s portrayal stands in stark contrast to the impersonal and statistical report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987-1990)5 and to the common presumption that young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees will become adult offenders.

There is a change of direction in Returning to Places that Name Us. This series of exclusive large-scale portraits was inspired by the landmark High Court of Australia’s Wik ruling which recognised the existence of the traditional lands of the Wik people located on Cape York in northern Queensland.6 Maynard’s visit to Aurukun to photograph Wik elders became complicated because the Federal Government responded to the High Court ruling on Native Title with the introduction of an amended Wik ‘Ten Point Plan’. In his portraits of Wik elders, Maynard’s aim was to:

IDENTIFY IN THESE PICTURES THE EXISTENCE OF STRUGGLE BELOW THE SURFACE, TO SEE THINGS THAT ARE NOT IMMEDIATELY VISIBLE AND TO RECOGNISE THAT WHAT THINGS MEAN HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE OBSERVER.7

As Maynard has stated: ‘… I seek a balance between craftsmanship and social relevance. Photography has the ability to tell stories about the world and… the photograph has the power to frame a culture.’8

Important cultural sites found in the artist’s ‘country’ are the focus of the series In The Footsteps of Others including ochre trails, petroglyphs, stonework sites and scarred trees. Points of travel, contact and interaction, departure and displacement are also referenced. What you begin to sense in these landscapes is a strange absence, an echo of which occurs in his current body of work Portrait of a Distant Land. There is also a strong sense of presence within this absence – of markings, events and cultural practice that have been in existence for thousands of years.

In all of his photographs, Ricky Maynard’s emphasis is on the broader social and cultural context: he is determined not to present Aboriginal people as victims. Rather, he challenges the assumptions of many non-Indigenous Australians and proposes social change by questioning popular notions of historical events and shared histories. He addresses elements of historical amnesia or highlights social issues that affect Aboriginal people.

While this form of documentary photography is not something new, what becomes an interesting development is the formation of an Aboriginal photographic practice, documenting a cultural framework that sees Maynard acknowledge the importance of co-authorship between image maker and subject. This is significant from a wider Aboriginal viewpoint and certainly from the local perspective he represents in his latest body of work.

Focusing on Aboriginal people who historically were ignored and continually denied their cultural heritage, Ricky Maynard considers landscape photography to be a process of rediscovery, a ‘revaluation of where we find ourselves’… ‘a continuing journey’, a way ‘to address issues of identity, site, place and nation’.9 His personal pilgrimage and spiritual journey as a member of the Ben Lomond and Big River people of Tasmania back to the country where he produced his very first body of work The Moonbird People becomes then, much more than just a portrait of a distant land.

Keith Munro
Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

 

Footnotes

1. Quote accompanying Custodians 2005, from the series Portrait of a Distant Land.

2. Petroglyphs, pictures carved into stone, are one of the oldest forms of human expression. A midden (or kitchen midden) is an archaeological term used worldwide to describe any kind of feature containing waste products such as animal bones, shells and other refuse that indicate a site of human settlement. Shell middens, some nearly 40,000 years old, have been found in Australian coastal regions.

3. Muttonbirding is the seasonal harvest of petrel chicks, especially the shearwater species, for food, oil and feathers. It usually refers to the more sustainable and regulated harvesting of chicks in the southern regions of Australia and New Zealand for five weeks every autumn. For the Bass Strait Islanders it is short-tailed shearwater, or ‘yolla’; and in Aotearoa/New Zealand it is the sooty shearwater or ‘titi’.

4. Penny Taylor (ed), After 200 Years: Photographic Essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1988.

5. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody led to fundamental changes to the way the criminal justice system deals with Indigenous people in Australia. The Commission (October 1987 and November 1990) investigated the deaths of 99 Aboriginal persons in police and prison custody between 1983-1987. The disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal people were arrested and imprisoned in Australia was identified as the principal and immediate explanation for deaths in custody. Although more than 300 of the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, little has changed and there is still widespread suspicion in the Aboriginal community about a spate of deaths in custody.

6. Following the 1992 Mabo Decision that established that native title is recognised under Australian law, The High Court of Australia’s 1996 Wik Decision further investigated land ownership of pastoral leases. The Wik Decision recognised native title rights for land that was owned on behalf of the Australian public by government; issuing co-existence to Indigenous peoples and pastoral owners. The Native Title Amendment Act (commonly referred to as the ‘Ten Point Plan’), passed by the government in 1998 in response to the Wik Decision, counteracted the coexistence and authorised the absolute governing of land rights issues to the newly established Native Title Tribunal.

7. Artist statement, Returning to Places that Name Us 2000.

8. Artist statement, In Response to Place, exhibition catalogue, City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, 2007.

9. Ibid.,

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Bruce, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Bruce, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Arthur, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Arthur, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

Ricky Maynard. ‘Gladys, Wik elder’ 2000

 

Ricky Maynard (Australian, b. 1953)
Gladys, Wik elder
2000
From the series Returning to places that name us
Gelatin silver fibre print
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
© Courtesy the artist

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
Swanston Street between Faraday and Elgin streets in Parkville
The University of Melbourne
Victoria 3010 Australia

Opening hours:
Closed until 2023

Ian Potter Museum of Art website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

24
Jul
10

Review: ‘Sistagirls’ by Bindi Cole at Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 8th July – 31st July 2010

 

Bindi Cole. 'Bimbo' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Bimbo
2009

 

Bindi Cole. 'Buffy' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Buffy
2009

 

 

The exhibition Sistagirls by Bind Cole at Nellie Castan Gallery contains some beautiful photographs and others that are less successful. The successful portraits the ones that depict the Sistagirls in a more natural, less stylised way – they are the more interesting photographs. The subjects seem to speak for themselves without restriction, to be not so beholden to the pose that photographer wishes them to assume and/or the pose they wish to impose on themselves.

For example, the photograph of Jemima (see below) is just stunning in it’s naturalness and beauty. The two photographs of Crystal and Patricia, where the transgendered person asked to be photographed in traditional body paint with traditional objects, are highly successful in their form, composition and in the ability of the photographs to challenge stereotypical notions of Aboriginal culture.

Other portraits are anachronistic and a little try hard, with the misplacing of persons and objects in regard to each other. The portrait of Bimbo (very top photograph) did not need the two objects placed on the beach next to the person to make it a successful photograph; the portrait of Frederina (below) had enough going on in the photograph without the seemingly gratuitous placement of traditional objects in the background. We get the point and there was really no need to labour it.

One of the problems, of course, of a ‘stylised’ portrait (Bind Cole’s word in her artist statement) is that the portrait can become a double forgery, that of the pose of the person and that of the photographer imposing the style …

” … in a sense, the posed photograph is a kind of forgery, an imposition of an artificial composition before the recording instrument. On the other hand, the photo of a posing subject captures the authenticity of the practice of posing. A version of a person’s image is still an image of that person …

We are confronted with the pose, the conscious composition of the image to be photographed, the inherent constructedness of the posed photograph. Our heretofore implicit faith in the photograph as an evidentiary document is shaken. This is not to imply an outright rejection of photography … the effect is more properly an inducement to engage the document directly, personally, and on its own terms.”1

.
As noted at the end of the quotation, we, the viewer, must cut through this com-pose-ition to address the document directly. We must cut away the appendages of style and view the person and the photograph on its own terms. This is why the simpler portraits in the exhibition have so much more power than the overly constructed ones – they reach for an intangible essence that Cole is seeking by dropping away style and surrendering to the ineffable, a recognition of the lightness and joy in just being.

Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Feiereisen, Florence and Pope, Daniel. “True Fiction and Fictional Truths: The Enigmatic in Sebald’s Use of Images in The Emigrants,” in Patt, Lise (ed.,). Searching for Sebald: Photography after W.G. Sebald. Los Angeles: The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, 2007, p. 175.

.
Many thankx to Olivia Poloni and Nellie Castan Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. The permission is most appreciated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Bind Cole, courtesy of the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery.

 

Bindi Cole. 'Crystal' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Crystal
2009

 

Bindi Cole. 'Frederina' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Frederina
2009

 

 

The term ‘Sistagirl’ is used to describe a transgender person in Tiwi Island culture. Traditionally, the term was ‘Yimpininni’. The very existence of the word provides some indication of the inclusive attitudes historically extended towards Aboriginal sexual minorities. Colonisation not only wiped out many indigenous people, it also had an impact on Aboriginal culture and understanding of sexual and gender expression. As Catholicism took hold and many traditions were lost, this term became a thing of the past. Yimpininni were once held in high regard as the nurturers within the family unit and tribe much like the Faafafine from Samoa. As the usage of the term vanished, tribes’ attitudes toward queer indigenous people began to resemble that of the western world and religious right. Even today many Sistergirls are excluded from their own tribes and suffer at the hands of others.

Within a population of around 2500, there are approximately 50 ‘Sistagirls’ living on the Tiwi Islands. This community contains a complex range of dynamics including a hierarchy (a queen Sistergirl), politics, and a significant history of pride and shame. The Sistagirls are isolated yet thriving, unexplored territory with a beauty, strength and diversity to inspire and challenge.

During August and September of 2009, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend a month living with the ‘Sistagirls’ on the Tiwi Islands creating a series of highly stylised portraits of them. I loaded a barge with a four wheel drive, lights, a generator, cameras and enough film to fill a suitcase. Each day brought an emotional roller coaster from moments of elation around what was being achieved with the images to complete anxiety from the many dramas that occurred. This time has affected me in a profound way. The ‘Sistagirls’ have touched my heart. I only hope that in some way I have captured the essence of who they are and the spirit of their community. I know that they will always be a part of me and that I will be a regular visitor to Tiwi to visit the ‘Sistagirl’ community for the rest of my life.

Artist statement from the Nellie Castan website [Online] Cited 22/07/2010 no longer available online

 

Bindi Cole. 'Jemima' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Jemima
2009

 

Bindi Cole. 'Patricia' 2009

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian, b. 1975)
Patricia
2009

 

 

Nellie Castan Gallery

This gallery is no longer open.

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top

26
May
09

Exhibition: ‘Inheritance’ at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 1st May – 6th June 2009

Artists: Bindi Cole, Tamara Dean, Lee Grant, June Indrefjord, Bronek Kozka, Ka-Yin Kwok, Tracey Moffatt, Fiona Morris, Aaron Seeto, Martin Smith and Toni Wilkinson

Installation photographs of the exhibition can be found on the Lee Grant – Photography blog website

.
Many thankx to the ACP for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on some of the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

June Indrefjord. 'Piano' from the series Landaas 2005

 

June Indrefjord
Piano
2005
From the series Landaas

 

Aaron Seeto. 'Oblivion' 2006

 

Aaron Seeto
Oblivion
2006
From the series Oblivion
Daguerreotype

 

 

Aaron Seeto makes alternate historical positions and experiences visible through an exploration of archives, family photo albums and photographic records. In recent bodies of work Fortress and Oblivion, Seeto has utilised the daguerreotype, one of the earliest and most primitive photographic techniques, to highlight the malleability of narratives within archive records. Not only is the chemical process itself highly toxic and temperamental but the daguerreotype’s mirrored surface means the image appears as both positive and negative, depending on the angle of view. For Seeto, this mutability captures the essence of our experience of history and memory, reflecting how images degrade, how stories are formed and privileged, how knowledge and history are written. …

For his ongoing series Oblivion Seeto sourced details from images of the Cronulla riots – beachside riots around race and territory – of 2005 found on the internet. In reproducing these as daguerrotypes he seeks less to represent the incident than to look at how it was reported, understood and remembered. The instability of the virtual information found online is echoed in the photographic process.

Text from the Stills Gallery website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'Useless 1974' 1994

 

Tracey Moffatt (Australian, b. 1960)
Useless 1974
1994
From the series Scarred for Life

 

 

Useless, 1974 is a photo-lithograph by the Australian artist Tracey Moffatt. The work shows a girl stooping down to wash a car, with one hand wiping a headlight with a sponge and the other resting on the bonnet. She looks towards the camera rather than at the car, her face bearing a serious and potentially hurt or angry expression. The caption accompanying the photograph explains that ‘Her father’s nickname for her was “useless”‘. Despite this, it seems that in this picture she is being put to use, and perhaps the car she washes is her father’s. The caption, her expression and the direction of her gaze may suggest that the viewer occupies the position of the girl’s father looking down on and supervising his daughter while she carries out her chore. …

The work’s title is a reference to the cruel nickname given to the girl in the photograph, and the date in the title, 1974, suggests the year according to which the photograph has been styled by Moffatt, who employs actors and constructed scenes to create her photographs. Curator Filippo Maggia has compared Moffatt’s photographic method to that of a film director, stating that she ‘often does not take the photographs herself but directs a sort of bona fide movie set that she organises and controls after having pictured it in her mind again and again, meticulously decomposing and recomposing it’ (Maggia 2006, p.12). As the artist has stated, ‘I often use technicians when I make my pictures. I more or less direct them. I stand back and call the shots.’ (Quoted in Maggia 2006, p.12.)

Moffatt’s photographic series often deal with themes such as race, gender and the politics of identity. Drawing on memories from the artist’s childhood, the Scarred for Life series mimics photo spreads from the American magazine Life, with their explanatory captions and focus on the family environment. The captions’ terse descriptions hint at the traumatic stories behind the images. Moffatt has commented: ‘a person can make a passing comment to you when you are young and this can change you forever. You can be “scarred for life” but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The photographs can be read as both tragic and comic – there is a thin line between both.’ (Quoted in display caption, Tracey Moffatt, Birth Certificate 1994, Tate P78101, accessed 28 August 2015.) Furthermore, Maggia has argued that the Scarred for Life series ‘gives us life as it is, the harshness and aridity of human relations, adolescence with its fears of not being accepted’ (Maggia 2006, p.13).

Louise Hughes
August 2015

Filippo Maggia, Tracey Moffatt: Between Dreams and Reality, exhibition catalogue, Spazio Oberdan, Milan 2006, p. 13, reproduced p. 117.

Extract from Louise Hughes. “Useless, 1974,” on the Tate website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Lee Grant. 'The Day Meg Wore a Dress '2007

 

Lee Grant (Korean-Australian, b. 1973)
The Day Meg Wore a Dress from the series Brothers and Sisters
2007

 

 

“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.”

From the tight nuclear unit to the multi-generational extended family, from refuges for the homeless to middle class suburbia, Inheritance examines the way our families shape the person we become; for better or for worse.

Taking Tracey Moffatt’s acclaimed series Scarred for Life as a starting point, the exhibition includes the work of eleven Australian artists who explore the modern family through a range of photographic disciplines, including documentary, portraiture and video. Sometimes serious and sometimes satirical, Inheritance is a family album that celebrates the skeletons and the psychodramas alongside the newborns and the nuptials.

Text from the Australian Centre for Photography website [Online] Cited 20/05/2009 no longer available online

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian / Wathaurung, b. 1975) 'Wathaurung Mob' 2008

 

Bindi Cole Chocka (Australian / Wathaurung, b. 1975)
Wathaurung Mob
2008
From the series Not really Aboriginal
Pigment print on rag paper
1035 x 1235cm

 

 

Our Past Is Our Strength – Culture and Identity

I’ve always been told that l was Aboriginal. I never questioned it because of the colour of my skin or where I lived. My Nan, one of the Stolen Generation, was staunchly proud and strong. She made me feel the same way. My traditional land takes in Ballarat, Geelong and Werribee and extends west past Cressy to Derrinallum. I’m from Victoria and I’ve always known this. All the descendants of traditional Victorian Aboriginal people are now of mixed heritage. I’m not black. I’m not from a remote community. Does that mean I’m not really Aboriginal? Or do Aboriginal people come in all shapes, sizes and colours and live in all areas of Australia, remote and urban?

Bindi Cole Chocka, Wathaurung text from the Culture Victoria website [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Wathaurung Mob is a group portrait depicting members of Cole’s family sitting in their lounge room, their faces blackened with minstrel paint, and wearing red headbands traditionally worn by indigenous elders. The controversial practice of “blackfacing” refers to the populist minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries in which a white actor put on blackface, then performed a racist caricature.

As we stand before the work, Alessi says he finds it confronting and uncomfortable. “Wathaurung Mob is quite powerful because what stands out are the eyes of each sitter; they look directly at the viewer, so you can’t help but feel challenged by that,” he says.

“There is also something quite uncomfortable about the work because, in some ways, you are being implicated in Andrew Bolt’s view, as white Australians having to own up to the broader history of the relationship between white and indigenous Australia.

“And more broadly it is about coming to grips with what is still a major issue in Australia around reconciliation and the way that we treat indigenous people. In one single frame this photograph captures 200 years of history, and I think it is an area that people like Bindi Cole are really courageous to navigate through because they have been open to criticism by people like Andrew Bolt, which is completely unfounded.”

Extract from Bronwyn Watson. “Facing up to the stereotypes,” on The Australian website November 16, 2013 [Online] Cited 14/02/2019

 

Fiona Morris. 'Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission' 2006

 

Fiona Morris
Sean and Jade, Wesley Mission
2006

 

Tamara Dean. 'Alex and Maeve' 2006

 

Tamara Dean (Australian, b.1976)
Alex and Maeve
2006

 

 

Australian Centre for Photography

This gallery has now closed.

Australian Centre for Photography website

Lee Grant website

Tracey Moffatt on the Rosyln Oxley9 Gallery website

LIKE ART BLART ON FACEBOOK

Back to top




Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,858 other followers

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 12,187,707 hits

Recent Posts

Lastest tweets

August 2022
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Archives

Categories

If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at bunyanth@netspace.net.au and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,858 other followers