Colonial Afterlives considers a range of contemporary responses to British colonisation from indigenous and diasporic artists living in Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Britain and Canada. It incorporates a diversity of views ranging from melancholic eulogies to passionate and sometimes scathing commentaries on the complex legacies of British occupation.
Several of the artists explore multiple identities through performance and photography, including Fiona Foley (Australia), Christian Thompson (Australia), Charles Campbell (Jamaica), Kent Monkman (Canada), and Ewan Atkinson (Barbados). Others are keenly attuned to the nuances and contemporary resonance of the colonial archive—Julie Gough (Australia), Daniel Boyd (Australia) and Lisa Reihana (New Zealand)—while Yvonne Rees—Pagh (Tasmania) examines some of the deep wounds of ‘empire’, as manifested in racist stereotyping and modern forms of frontier violence. While the artists are all finely attuned to the histories and politics of their own region, the exhibition will reveal profound and sometimes surprising confluences. Ultimately, it will raise larger questions around the nature of post—colonial identity in an increasingly globalised and globalising world.
Curted by Dr Sarah Thomas
A Salamanca Arts Centre Touring Exhibition
Image: Joan Ross, The claiming of things, 2012 (detail), digital animation, 7 min 20 sec.
Erewhon is the return of Neverwhere, an exhibition that travelled to Istanbul last year, commissioned by Asialink as part of the Australia Year in Turkey. Neverwhere presented the work of eight contemporary Australian artists that disturbed distinctions between our real and imagined selves, and between the authentic and the fantastical. Narratives were informed by external – and often mysterious – forces, both seen and unseen. The exhibition shifted registers between sincerity and satire although its propensity was to shadowy psychological turns. And it is farther in this direction – towards the darker, more charged imaginings – that the work in Erewhon leads us.
More correctly, of course, Erewhon is the (not quite syntactically correct) return of ‘Nowhere’ and title of a novel by Samuel Butler, first published anonymously in 1872. Erewhon was set in a fictional eponymous country – though one that strongly resembled the south of New Zealand in which Butler lived as a young man. The story provided a satire (and philosophical exploration) of various aspects of Victorian society, most notably crime and punishment, religion and science. For example, according to Erewhonian law, offenders were treated as if they were ill, whereas ill people were looked upon as criminals. Another feature of Erewhon was the absence of machines due to the widely shared belief by the Erewhonians that they were potentially dangerous. These ideas – among others (technological progress, the impossibility of utopias, the effects of colonization, discipline and control) – form both the thesis and the point of departure for the exhibition Erewhon.
Artists: Brook Andrew, Claire Lambe, Clare Milledge, Mikala Dwyer and Tony Garifalakis
Curated by Vikki McInnes
A NETS Victoria Touring Exhibition
Image: Installation view, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, VCA, 2016.