Mr Raff said body corporate and property owners were footing bills of between $800-$1000 for the installation of cameras down drains in unit housing to determine who is responsible for clogging drains, should the problem arise.
Cameras to look at who is flushing wet wipes! We hope the cameras are in the drains, not in the bathrooms.
Netball: The sport America invented, then lost. Liz has a lot of complicated feelings about netball, mostly because it was compulsory for girls at her primary school, and the teachers just assumed everyone knew the rules. Plus, she was tall (yes, really!) and much better at basketball. However, netball as a cultural artifact is really interesting!
(MONA is not a great place to visit if you are asexual, have triggers relating to graphic depictions of rape, or have issues around cruelty to animals. I mention this because it didn’t come up in any of my pre-trip reading, and I personally would have liked some warning. Also, I can’t figure out why people were upset about the blunt knife in this piece, when the real issue is that the bowl is too shallow and the fish are hanging out in their own excrement.)
On the upside, I have yet to produce a museum review as terrible as this one.
Huw Parkinson of the ABC has found his calling: Australian politics and pop culture mash-ups. The only aspect of this Bronwyn-Bishop-as-Lucille-Bluth clip is that Tony Abbott isn’t Gob.
Bishop was educated at Roseville Public School, completing her primary education in 1954. Bishop undertook a five-year LL.B. program at the University of Sydney. However, she was deemed ineligible to continue after failing a number of subjects multiple times. Bishop failed a total of 11 subjects over six years. In her first year in 1960, she failed all four core subjects. In 1964, she failed four subjects again and repeated them in 1965, in which she failed three again. The policy of the University of Sydney at the time was that a student was required to show cause why they should be allowed to repeat a subject for a third time, and Bishop was deemed ineligible to continue.
…Bishop first worked as an articled clerk and played an acting role as a barrister in the 1960s Australian television program Divorce Court.
Finally, Liz had one ongoing problem in Tasmania: the underwire of her bra kept popping out and trying to stab her. But Google has provided a solution! (No, it’s not “don’t wear bras without underwires”. They don’t exist in my size, and aside from the occasional stabbing, I prefer the support that comes with a bit of metal in one’s undergarments.)
This link has “borrowed” content and gender essentialism, but it also has more useful illustrations than the original source: How To Repair An Underwire Bra, featuring cheap corn/bunion pads.
Yesterday Steph and Liz, in the grown up company of Noted Fatberg Zoe, visited the Qianlong exhibition at NGV:I. We also detoured into something something embroidery of England 1600-1900. Highly recommend a visit; “A Golden Age of China: Qianlong Emperor” ends 21 June and includes many small necked outfits, much to Noted Fatberg Zoe’s delight; drunk people in English embroidery runs until 12 July.
In No Surprises (sometimes I think we should have called this blog “No Surprise” except that’s a bit too Radiohead), How can a mini-series about British settlement show no Aboriginal people? The answers are a) Australia likes to believe there are none; b) Australia likes to believe there were none; c) Racism; d) This is a trick question, who do you think you are, the answer is all of the above.
(Also, that document is an amazing resource and starting point if you are a non-Indigenous person interested in writing about Indigenous issues or characters. It was published in 2007, so unless there’s been a new version and I need to update my bookmarks, it’s a bit out of date. But as I said, it’s a good starting point.)
Indigenous peoples are unlikely to ever use the written word in the same way as those to whom the English language belongs; we reinterpret and subvert to make someone else’s form communicate our substance. In the end, we are not writing. We are speaking, singing, laughing, crying. And we know it is desperately important to be heard.
At Crikey, why don’t many more train travellers bike and ride? Feel free to ask Steph this one in detail, because the answer is ‘VLine hates cyclists’ and passively does everything it can to discourage bikes on trains. (Liz adds, also, bikes on trains at peak hour are just really inconvenient and everyone stares at you with hate in their eyes.)
Look, I’m not saying that winters are only going to get worse in Our Climate Dystopia, but for a little while we’re going to have some more severe cold weather events, and it’s well noted by people from countries where it actually gets cold that Australian houses are shit in the weather, so it’s nice to have an article to point to about that. Australian houses are just glorified tents in winter.
The Evil Reign of the Red Delicious – Liz is perplexed by the way this article frames the scourge of the Red Delicious as a uniquely American problem, but nevertheless, she’s always up for hating on the world’s most terrible apple.
The first comment expresses something Liz has been thinking since it happened, that publicly reprimanding an employee is unprofessional and bullying.
(Note: the top picture on the linked post is from Eliza Bennett’s A Woman’s Work Is Never Done series, in which the artist embroiders her own hand. I find it deeply upsetting and horrible, and I don’t even have self-harm triggers. It also makes me angry, in that it’s meant to be a statement about the lives of women who perform menial and manual labour, yet it’s something that only someone who doesn’t perform that sort of work can do.
But honestly, I just find it so upsetting and grotesque that I suspect I bypass common sense and go straight to I Don’t Like It, Therefore It’s Problematic And Also Objectively Terrible. Which is ridiculous, because like I said, I bypass common sense. For example, I had to stop typing this three times so I could get up and take a walk around the office and flex my un-injured hands for a few minutes. Seriously, it makes my hands so tense, they get muscle spasms and a week of arthritic pain if I see it and don’t block it fast enough.
My point being, I guess: warning, trigger and otherwise.)
Ms Genevieve wrote a red carpet rundown about the 2015 Met Gala, and it’s great and you should read it (she has many excellent photos of excellent Chinese women there being fierce). Usually her rundowns are sufficient for me and I don’t need to talk further, but this year’s theme was “China Through the Looking Glass,” and I don’t think it will surprise you to know that I have opinions that need to be discussed in depth.
First of all, if you didn’t already know about Guo Pei, feast your eyes upon her beloved, amazing work. She is China’s premier haute couture designer. She is stunning and talented and I would probably kill a white man for the chance to wear some of her designs. Sometimes when I’m putting together outfits I’m picturing her 2010 One Thousand and Two Arabian Nights Collection in my head as I do it. We should all aspire to One Thousand and Two Arabian Nights.
Often fashion industry executives come to China or visit my studio and are shocked to see the level of fashion in China. One French fashion expert came to visit my studio and was completely surprised to see haute couture in China. He didn’t think it could exist outside Europe.
Given that atrocity, I’m super glad that Rihanna chose to wear her, and that now lots of people around the world are looking into her work. That’s great! That’s a great outcome from the Met Gala and the theme. What a shame an amazing Chinese couturier can’t get a leg up in the Western fashion world.
(Incidentally, in 2010 she was compared to Charles James, and the NYT suggested she had in fact surpassed Paris designers.)
Let’s talk poppies.
Opium is so fraught in China, particularly in regards to China’s history with Britain and various other Allies. The two Opium Wars occurred due to the colonialist need of Britain and other European countries to force their substandard manufacturing upon China in the 1800s. The history of opium in China is so fraught that an official delegation from the UK in 2010, that included PM David Cameron, was asked not to wear poppies for Remembrance Day because they were a “symbol of China’s humiliation at the hands of Europe.” And then they wore them anyway. (Of course they did)
I guess it shouldn’t surprise us then that, given fashion’s great history of cultural delicacy, a number of people wore dresses (or, in the case of Cara Delevingne, fake tattoos) covered in poppies. To be fair, it’s hardly their fault; an email from Vogue Social Editor Chloe Malle about the theme for China: Through the Looking Glass” mentioned that the official dress code was “China White Tie” and she wasn’t sure how people would interpret that. “China white” is at times a slang name for a type of opiate. So it’s subtle, obviously, and not at all a continuing demonstration of the cultural imperialism of the West. Not at all.
And beyond poppies. Here’s the thing about Chloe Sevigny’s dress: each individual component is fine, and can be linked to a specific period in Chinese fashion history, for the most part (that front slit is a choice, I guess). Each of these eras of history had some amazing fashion! Why, then, one would choose to combine eleven trillion dynasties into one outfit is astounding.
The top is clearly half a top. Please witness our Lady of Delight Fan Bing Bing in The Empress of China for an example.
The bottom of Chloe’s dress is clearly attempting to be a cheongsam. Its variations don’t usually include a front slit. It’s not out of the realms of possibility, except that under layer clearly demonstrates it’s a side slit. The under layer is also overly long – traditionally the petticoat is only to above the knee. See one of my favourite ads from the 30s:
(Don’t do cigarettes, kids) This outfit is see-through and yet entirely still accurate. It’s fitted correctly. Its slit is to the thigh but on the side. It’s tight but moves. You can see the hit of petticoat under there.
And Chloe’s biggest issue is the fit. Cheongsams are exactly tailored, and to wear one that is so long it’s crinkling unattractively on the feet is not really on. And the wrinkles. Cheongsams are kind of hard to wear, why bother wearing one if you’re not going to wear it properly?
Speaking of Our Lady of Beauty and The Most Money of Anyone Else in Chinese Media (she is currently the highest paid actress in the world):
Christopher Bu often dresses Fan Bing Bing. Would that he dressed all of us, but we wouldn’t be able to do him justice. Specifically I want to note him because he does some of my favourite work with combining traditional elements of Chinese fashion and design with more modern (read: Western) elements, and I adore his embroidery work. You should also be checking out his stuff.
Pyjamas were endorsed by Deng Xiao Ping during Opening Up, and became a fashion statement adopted from the West. It was a nice way to imitate the West, which was a big part of Opening Up. Pyjamas were also a matter of convenience – in tiny state housing, why change to dash across the road? Wear your pyjamas. So in terms of attention to theme and weird imperialistic thievery that leads to inappropriate use, this is actually incredibly on point!
And now they’re being worn to the Met! So actually anyone can wear their pyjamas. I endorse it.
You may notice I’ve only mentioned two Chinese designers here! That’s because there weren’t really that many.
Names such as Guo Pei, Christopher Bu and Bao Bao Wan may not trip off the tongue just yet, but they are the vanguard of a new invasion of Chinese fashion designers who don’t resort to the detailing of Chinese traditional dress.
And even the Guardian, which has an article asking where all the Chinese designers were, managed to make it awkward and othering, which makes everyone want to find out more about Chinese designers! Because even as they’re awesome, they’re still exotic, I guess.
(The quote above, incidentally, fails to note that these designers still do amazing traditional detailing, and Bu is known for it.)
Here, let’s palate cleanse with my other favourite Guo Pei creation.
You certainly may not back out of an accepted invitation because a more attractive one has arrived. Illness, death in the family, or a sudden business trip are acceptable excuses. If you receive an invitation to the White House for the same date as that of a formal wedding invitation you have
already accepted the White House invitation takes precedence over a social one. A regret, following a previous acceptance, may take this form:
Mr. and Mrs. Morrow Truitt
regret that the sudden illness
of Mrs. Truitt
prevents their attending
the wedding on
Friday, the ninth of June
If the regret is occasioned by a summons to the White House, the second and third lines read:
regret that an invitation to
The White House
On veils (Moya says: This just makes me want to go around putting veils on everyone ever. YOU DON’T GET TO DENY VEILS TO PEOPLE, AMY VANDERBILT):
The bride who has been married before never wears a wedding veil nor does she wear white. Otherwise she dresses for the time of day and the degree of formality her wedding calls for and wears a corsage. Her head covering is either a small hat or a flower arrangement. It is only the bride’s
previous status that determines whether or not she may wear a wedding veil.
On the role of the best man (This makes Steph assume rape and forced marriage, so that’s nice):
The best man has always had an important role in all
weddings. In ancient times, when marriage was by seizure of some girl out-side the tribe, the best man was chosen for his brawn and bravery, as he was needed to fend off the bride’s male relatives and, later, to prevent the bride’s escape from the groom.
The best man takes the groom ‘firmly in hand’, aka, Shipping It:
The best man is adviser, messenger, valet, secretary, and general factotum to the groom. He takes him firmly in hand from the very start of preparations for the wedding, seeing to it that he is fitted for his wedding clothes, if new ones are to be made for him or if they are to be rented that he has
the ties and gloves for the ushers, that he confers with the bride on the needed flowers for ushers and for her bouquet and his boutonniere…
I don’t even know what this is (Moya says: I assume this is to make sure the guests don’t escape. TIE THOSE PEWS TOGETHER, BOYS, THE MOTHER-IN-LAW IS A FLIGHTY ONE):
After the bride’s mother is seated and the canvas, if there is one, is down two designated ushers, starting with their left feet first, walk together up the aisle to the last reserved pews where white satin ribbons have been carefully folded and laid alongside of the decorated aisle posts. They pick
up the entire bundle and, again in step, walk the length of the pews, as rehearsed, drawing the ribbons behind the aisle posts in a straight line, placing the loop at the end of each ribbon over the last aisle post.
On poor silly mens:
Ushers, as members of the wedding party, always give gifts to the bride, individually, before the wedding or together give the couple some major gift from them all, with contributions to the fund tactfully geared to the circumstances of the least affluent usher. A silver tea tray, a chair, or coffee table things the new household needs are appropriate and better than separate gifts from each usher, as men are usually greatly befuddled as to what constitutes a suitable wedding gift. They are often visibly relieved if the bride, when asked, has a concrete suggestion along these lines.
On the modern bridal gift:
On or just before her wedding day the bride receives some personal gift from the groom usually something to wear. Loveliest is a string of pearls, but the modern bride if her husband can afford it may think in terms of a mink coat or her own roadster.
Moya’s official stance on wedding etiquette:
Modern brides have the obligation to do precisely zero of these things, although I am all in favour of hitting up anyone available to give you a roadster as a wedding present. But not a mink coat, unless it’s artificial. (Seriously, go for the roadster).
(And do what makes you happy, especially if that involves wearing forty-seven veils at your third wedding. Veils are great and the judgemental ghost of Amy Vanderbilt will be a feature attraction for your guests.)
No Award end note: Moya is available for calligraphy for weddings and parties, and her nib collection is excellent.
lovingly inspired by the beautiful delights at the toast, and cos the fame went to our heads following OZTEN, stephanie and hayley are proud to bring you a series: ratbags and figjams of australia. in this first instalment, we bring you the epic battle between literary giants banjo paterson and henry lawson.
australia: hey banjo we need a new poem to reflect burgeoning Australian values
bpattz: here i wrote a thing about horse thieves
that’s not really what we meant
what’s more Australian than horse thieves
bpattz: I KNOW
henry lawson: fuck you, banjo
fuck you and your romanticised pastoral poetry landscapes
i’m gonna write about union strikes you unaustralian sheepsballs
bpattz: hey lawson
who’s published by his mother and is poor as shit
bpattz: oh that’s right you’re deaf, bugger i’m going to have to telegram this
henry lawson: what kind of a nickname is ‘banjo’ anyway
if he was a real literary giant he would have gone with an instrument of class and grace
bpattz: hey hey what’s the postie left for me today
who the fuck is ‘euphonium lawson’?
bpattz: what why is lawson australia’s greatest short story writer what the fuck have you guys never even read clancy?
the bulletin: congratulations on the critical success of the drover’s wife, henry
lawson: thank you. i’m glad the public has embraced a realistic vision of rural australia even if it is super depressing
bpattz: hey hey who just made a squillion pre-federation dollars writing a bunch of jaunty songs about how ace bush australia is?
lawson: oh god
bpattz: have you city boys even ever seen a billabong?
bpattz: okay okay i’ve got it i know what i can write about next
bpattz: wait now that i’m a war correspondent and a captain i’m gonna write about war and HORSES
HORSES ON BOATS
lawson: so turns out having bad publishing deals means you end up an alcoholic and serving gaol terms for being unable to pay child maintenance
bpattz: hey hey lawson you know what you should do?
sing one of your songs
you mean there’s none?
shame *whistles waltzing matilda*
lawson: dies, 1922, aged 55
bpattz: who’s a jolly fucking jumbuck now
australia: to honour henry lawson, one of our finest writers, let us put him on the $10 note
australia: …actually now that we have plastic money let’s put banjo on the $10
ghost bpattz: ahaha, go hang on a hoist
As Natalie — along with others — is saying, fandom needs to take a long look at its history and start addressing these issues. But it’s not just us: the fashion industry is still dealing/failing to deal with Terry Richardson; the Australian military has a long history of bastardisation, sexual assault and ongoing abuse in a variety of contexts; the Catholic and Anglican churches, the Orthodox Jewish community of Melbourne, the Salvation Army — secular or religious, celibate or promiscuous, straight or gay, all the identities that don’t fit neat binaries, there’s potential for abuse. Humans arrange themselves into hierarchies, and then we defend our new status quo, and in doing so, create a space where crimes can be concealed.
In my day job, I’m a court transcriber. All too often, I deal with child sexual assault. The other week, I had to listen and type as a defence barrister argued that the sexual penetration of a child under 12 was not rape, because the child might have been “promiscuous”. (I tend to type this stuff with some nice animal pictures on my second screen, or while doing some mindless internet shopping.) Sickening stuff.
I can’t do anything about the legal system except produce accurate transcript and hope that it comes to the attention of someone who’s in a position to do more. And try to vote for candidates who are interested in reform. What I can do, as a fan and a con runner (people who are chairing Continuum 11: me), is try to make fandom and convention spaces safer. This isn’t always easy, especially as I’m a relatively young con runner who isn’t part of the whisper network. I have pretty good instincts about people, and access to fans with longer memories, but I worry that isn’t sufficient.
Continuum has a code of conduct which includes a harassment policy. It’s revised annually, along with internal procedures for dealing with complaints, and the committee is made aware of it. This year, we had copies of the code of conduct posted in the foyer and published in the con book. We also make it clear that children’s programming is not childcare, and children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. (And, in the kids room, adults must be accompanied by children.) We welcome having children in our community, and we want them to be safe.
I think it’s good that the convention community is doing some soul searching and working to improve the safety of children. But cons aren’t the whole of fandom, and the con-going community is by far outnumbered by fandom online.
Is the internet safe for kids? AHAHAHAHA NO. And I’m not here to tell people with real, actual children how to supervise them online. I just have a cat, and I can assure you that he’s not allowed on the internet without an adult human present.
But here’s the thing: fans create fan work, and some of these artefacts are problematic in terms of their sexualised portrayal of children.
Now, drawing [insert underaged characters here] porn is not the same as recording the abuse of an actual flesh and blood child. But in Australia, and some other jurisdictions, the law doesn’t draw a distinction. This has been the source of much amusement on the internet, not to mention inconvenience to, say, academics doing studies of manga. But there’s a reason: it is not uncommon for abusers to groom their victims by exposing them to illustrations depicting characters from children’s media in sexual situations. Back in the day, these were pretty crude sketches. These days, abusers just hit Tumblr.
In 2007, LiveJournal suspended a whole mass of accounts based on keywords in profiles and interests. This was a heavy-handed and largely pointless exercise — among the deleted were survivor communities and Nabokov reading groups — and it turned out that LJ had been moved to act by a sketchy and homophobic group that claimed to be targeting paedophiles. LJ failed to communicate with its userbase, and this was basically the beginning of the end of its use as a fandom base of operations.
Aside from LJ’s singularly poor handling of the matter, Strikethrough — so called because suspended accounts had strikes through their names — triggered debate in fandom about the place of fanworks that portrayed underage sex. A lot of it has been lost to time and friends lock, but among the voices were survivors who found catharsis in fictionalising their experiences. But there were also red flags, like people saying, “Well, my writing attracts real paedophiles, and I’m nothing like that!” and arguing that it’s a myth that children cannot consent to sex.
The general consensus, in the end, was that the portrayal of underage sexuality was a legitimate fannish expression, and anyone who felt otherwise was a kink-shaming, sex negative prude. And this has been on my mind in the past few weeks, because I read the Breendoggle documents, and that attitude, couched in the language of the 1960s, is exactly how Walter Breen got away with child abuse.
And no, most people writing or drawing underage sex in fandom aren’t paedophiles. But if their work is being posted in public, it’s out there to facilitate child abuse. And it’s easy to find, whether you want to or not. (There’s a reason I don’t search Avatar character tags on Tumblr.) It’s a myth that you can wander around the internet and just stumble across photographic child porn by accident, but fan art? It’s everywhere.
It’s part of the nature of the internet that we can’t control what happens to something after it’s posted — especially with groups that are determined to be as antisocial as possible, and yes, I’m thinking of last week’s Legend of Korra “livestream” that had rape porn in the ad breaks. But I think it’s worth coming back to this issue again and reconsidering it in light of recent revelations and current knowledge about the way child abusers operate. We need to consider our current status quo and the opportunities it creates for abuse. Otherwise, in another twenty years, we’re just going to have more of these terrible revelations.
You know what we don’t talk enough about here on No Award? ART. Actual art, hanging in galleries! Here is Hayley to fix that problem, with a three part review of Hannah Gadsby’s OZ, which recently aired on Our ABC. Hayley has a degree in art history, and we occasionally play ‘who knows more about art’ at NGV (she usually wins). What with the art, and with the birds, Hayley is gonna have to have her own tag on No Award!
Recently comedian Hannah Gadsby made a three part series on the history of Australian art for Our ABC. Hannah has a degree in art history (like me!) and has for years been taking jokes to art in the form of her guided tours of the National Gallery of Victoria during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
I greatly enjoyed the series, to the point that I started to get fretful about the fact that it didn’t seem as if many got around to watching it. That concerned me, because Gadsby’s series was not just about art. You can take it from the title alone: this a series about the Australia she sees reflected back to us through our popular conception of art history, and the things about Australia that aren’t the dominant narratives within Australian cultural identity. It is an unapologetic exploration of the art of women, indigenous artists, and those who portray ignored Australian perspectives. It’s WELL POLITICAL, and even just in the context of art history it covers a lot of really clever, important stuff that isn’t even touched on in university art history courses (believe me, I know).
This episode looks to white Australia’s first artistic expressions in the form of colonial art, what these artists were saying about the new colony, what they weren’t saying, and how various contemporary artists are dealing with reinterpreting these colonial images in their own works.
Australian cultural identity is for the most part very one-note, and doesn’t allow for multiple viewpoints. As Hannah says “If you’re not a white man in a hat, you may struggle to see yourself in the Australian art story.” And if you’re not any of those things, you tend to struggle with feelings of belonging and displacement within Australian society. This is a dichotomy that has been present since colonial settlement, and the art of this period can shed light on how the first settlers viewed Australia, how they wanted the colony portrayed, and how we ended up with these stringent ideas of what constitutes Australia.
The biggest thing to address is how white settler artists viewed the indigenous people who had been living in the country for thousands of years. The “subjective baggage” of first contact art such as that produced by the Port Jackson Painter – one of the first western painters in the first years of the colony of New South Wales, now thought to be the work of several unidentified artists – shows that throughout these visual narratives only one (white) perspective is given, and in elevating these works in the narrative of Australian art, indigenous perspectives are knowingly blotted out.
Hannah talks to Daniel Boyd, an indigenous artist who has been the artist in residence at the Natural History Museum in London, where many of the Port Jackson Painter’s works are kept as part of their First Fleet collection. Boyd’s work challenges Western viewpoints in terms of the first contact with indigenous Australians, and the way museums have historically been complicit in the theft of indigenous culture and the dehumanisation of indigenous peoples. His art is also a means of challenging the accuracy of these first colonial works – whose story are they telling?
The work that Boyd has put together at the Natural History Museum, called Tracing the Past, incorporates old boxes that the museum used to store human remains – it’s interesting that it seems that Boyd got a hold of these boxes as the museum was upgrading its curatorial practices, not that the remains were being repatriated back to their communities and descendants. Indeed the Museum still holds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remains in their collection, so there’s a disturbing thing for you to ruminate on. This work is a refusal to allow the Museum and similar institutions forget their complicity in harming indigenous peoples, and opens the conversation in terms of reassessing how museums view their collections, ensuring that there is a dialogue rather than the imposition of a one-sided interpretation.
Boyd also remixes paintings from the white tradition of Australian art. Emmanuel Phillip Fox’s 1902 painting The Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770 becomes We Call Them Pirates Out Here (2006) (at the top of this post), with Cook reimagined as a pirate complete with eyepatch and a skull and crossbones Union flag. I would hope, dear reader, that the subtext is obvious to you. The piece is also a reminder that much of the art produced during the colonial period was a deliberate ploy towards “flogging Australia as a prime piece of real estate.”
Take the work of Joseph Lycett, a convict painter who created deliberately false images of Australian landscapes in order to increase its appeal as a thriving colony to British settlers. His pictures include white settlers and indigenous people co-existing, although the indigenous people are invariably shown leaving the picture, while the white folk gesture expansively over the vistas, indicating ownership and expansion. The images could then act as evidence to potential settlers that, not to worry! We have this native population in hand, and isn’t it a nice coincidence how European Australia looks?
Gadsby then shifts focus to Tasmania, where she grew up and, as the most concentrated arena for the eradication of indigenous Australians in colonial times, a place that holds particular significance in terms of white settler and indigenous dialogues.
Bea Maddock’s panoramic work that depicts a topographical circumnavigation of Tasmania’s coast, Terra Spiritus… with a darker shade of pale (1993-1998), is an exploration of both English and indigenous geographical names. Particularly haunting is the presence of Aboriginal place names that directly confront the wholesale genocide of Tasmania’s original inhabitants and the theft of their land. “For a Tasmanian, that is a fact that is too easily forgotten.”
John Glover was one of the first free settler artists, and settled in Tasmania. The intriguing thing about his work is that he insisted on painting pastoral scenes of “Aboriginal arcadias of a people untouched by Western civilisation,” some 20 years after the genocide of Tasmania’s indigenous population began. Yet despite his apparent fascination with indigenous people, like Lycett’s work his paintings edit out some very sobering truths that problematises his art. He could not have witnessed the scenes he depicted, and what is shown is idealised imaginings of what indigenous life was like prior to white settlement.
Julie Gough, a Tasmanian Aboriginal artist, offers indigenous insight into how Glover’s paintings can be viewed – they are important for the fact that a white artist depicted Aboriginal life at all, but troubling as he was nostalgic for a period that he did not bear witness to, and also concurrently produced works that depicted farming and the land forging enacted by white settlers. Glover was interested in an indigenous past, but the present depicted in his works is resolutely white.
It’s interesting that when talking of Gough’s own artwork, which directly tackles the uneasy colonial relationship between indigenous peoples and white settlement, Gadsby makes note of the fact that while Glover’s work at the National Gallery of Australia is housed in the mainstream Australian art section, Gough’s work is displayed on a separate level with the specifically designated indigenous art. Is this is a deliberate curatorial decision to avoid these sort of dialogues from occurring among gallery patrons?
Ben Quilty – as Hannah says possibly Australia’s best known contemporary artist – is obsessed by identity, and how the past shapes an individual’s self-expression. Fairy Bower Rorschach (2012) depicts a beauty spot near Quilty’s home that was also the site of a massacre of indigenous people during colonial times. The wholesale murder of indigenous people is a shameful secret among non-indigenous Australians – we acknowledge on a basic level that killings occurred, but the full extent remains shrouded and unacknowledged. Gadsby makes the pertinent point that when the Port Arthur massacre occurred in 1996, it gained immediate recognition and memorialisation, whereas the hundreds of sites across the nation of indigenous genocide for the most part remain unmarked.
When asked how he reconciles living a privileged life adjacent to a place that was a scene of horror for indigenous people, Quilty baldly replies that he cannot. The spectre of white guilt, the fact that in mainstream Australian education we are still taught that ‘real’ Australian history began when Cook stepped off the Endeavour, is highly troubling to him. Quilty’s piece becomes about being born Australian, loving Australia, yet constantly questioning one’s belonging and the white-washed construction of our history in “a haunted landscape.”
The colonial view of Australia as painted by the likes of Lycett, Glover and their ilk are “devoid of scar tissue.” When we look at colonial art, we need to be consciously thinking of the voices they omit, what values they are espousing, and how we ourselves may have benefitted from a nationhood construction that leaves so many without representation. The past is not only behind us; it is constantly impacting on our present, something that contemporary Australian artists, both indigenous and white, are keenly aware of. Like Gadsby, I’m pleasantly gratified that so many contemporary Australian artists are willing to grapple with these issues and actively interrogate our colonial past.
Next time! Hannah looks at the history of women artists in Australia, and how they offer an alternate vision of the extremely masculine Australia that our art history narrative has popularly pushed forward. Watch out, blokes in hats, we’re coming for you.