PolesApart by r e a: Re-Negotiating the Past through Visual Art

By Christine Judith Nicholls.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

r e a, of the Gamilaraay Australian Aboriginal people of northern New South Wales, is a new media artist working in video, photography, digital media and moving images, who also explores creative environments through installation. Many of us would prefer to avert our eyes - and ears - from the themes and difficult issues with which r e a deals in her artworks. Included among these is racial discourse within the specifically Australian context; the continuing repercussions felt by Indigenous Australians following colonization and a violent and often traumatic past; land loss and the accompanying loss of relationship of people with ‘country’ in the wake of dispossession; Indigenous Australian language loss and renewal; identity construction and how the self, especially the female self, has been historically and relationally shaped; Indigenous collective memory, as distinct from highly individualized concepts of memory and ‘official’ memory promulgated by the nation state; the ways in which such collective representations of memory might be utilized in the creation of a new, re-formed, more integrated sense of ‘self’, at both individual and collective levels; the ways in which place is suffused with history; the role of images of the past in the political legitimation of the dominant culture and of Indigenous cultures; and the part played by the body in all of this. A number of r e a’s immediate forebears were members of the ‘Stolen Generation’, in other words, removed from their families for no reason other than being Aboriginal, then brought up in children’s homes and subsequently placed in service as maidservants for wealthy white people. In her recent video, photographic and installation work entitled PolesApart, r e a revisits, evokes and re-animates this tragic family history, a history with much wider present-day implications and ramifications. In the first half of this workshop Poles/Apart will be screened (10 minutes), and a formal paper presented (20 minutes). This will be followed in the second part of the workshop, by a group discussion led by the presenter. This will focus on the Stolen Generations as a phenomenon in Australian history and also on the aesthetic values of r e a ’s artistic-conceptual representations in the three strands of work that constitute PolesApart. NOTE: By choice, ‘r e a’ spells her name lower case throughout, and with a space between the individual letters of her name. Further explanation will be given in the presentation.

Keywords: Visual Art, Australian Aboriginal Art, R E A, Australian History, Australian History, Stolen Generations, Children, Politics Of Representation, Race, Gender

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.247-264. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.105MB).

Dr. Christine Judith Nicholls

Senior Lecturer, Australian Studies, Australian Studies , Humanities, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Christine Nicholls is a writer, curator and academic working in Australian Studies at Flinders University. From 1982-1992 she lived and worked at Lajamanu, a remote Aboriginal settlement in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory. Christine has published many books and articles on Indigenous Australian art and languages, a number of which have been translated into languages other than English. She also writes quite regularly about other areas of visual art, including Asian art, sculpture, jewellery and ceramics, and has curated art exhibitions in Australia, Europe and Asia. Christine is the Australian Editor of two high circulation, Hong Kong-based visual arts magazines - Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. She is currently working on a series of books for Thames and Hudson publishers.

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