Nicolas Rothwell from Nicolas Rothwell examines the changing face of Australian Indigenous art scholarship and criticism.

Quoted from the article:

Much about Aboriginal art is complex, and lends itself to specialisation, formal probes and technical examination, and the result of such involved readings is evident in these books, with their consensual tone and careful language. But there is one article here that blazes with its own light: it is a piece on Aurukun by anthropologist John von Sturmer, a man who cannot turn away from the beauty and the spendthrift grace of old Aboriginal culture, the force that lies behind the art. His criticism fuses elements in all four standard approaches — the political, the historical, the ethnographic and the biographical — and makes something strange and new, because he looks with keen, unveiled eyes. Here he is, opening up his salvo on the much-collected Aurukun carvings, which he views as pale survivors of the dance ceremonies that filled Cape York in the ’70s:

And how shall we dance in the theatre of absence? What can be said and what can’t be said? These questions surround any object. They have a particular salience, even poignancy, when the objects participate in the sacred. These sculptures are partial revelations and if they appear to be both present and absent, that captures something of their nature and status. As if somehow they are witnesses to something, as if the gaze is being turned back on the viewer.



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