On 5th December, the National Gallery of Australia quietly announced its program for 2017 “ so quietly that I (and, I suspect, most other journalists) totally failed to notice the revival of their series of Indigenous Triennials. As these exhibitions have actually occurred every 5 years “ 2007, 2012 and 2017 “ I wonder why they don’t admit to their being Quinquennials! For this time gap allowed the first such event “ ‘Cultural Warriors’ “ to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which first counted Aboriginal people in the census; and, obviously, this year’s portentously named ‘Defying Empire‘ marks the 50th anniversary.
Whereas selection previously for a triennial has been based on the prominence of artists in preceding years, this time, subject-matter seems to be curator Tina Baum’s priority. Here’s the NGA’s press statement:
The exhibition surveys the contemporary practice of 30 established, mid-career and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, responding to the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum through a diverse group of works, all of which reference the fight for recognition. The contributing artists examine issues relating to identity, history, politics, and connections to country and community
Online, the NGA expands:
The exhibition looks at the ongoing resilience of Australia’s Indigenous people since first contact with the British Empire, through to the fight for recognition in the 1967 Referendum and ongoing activism to the present day. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this pivotal event, the exhibition is the largest survey show of Indigenous art yet presented by the NGA. Focusing on issues relating to identity, history, politics, connections to Country and community, the exhibition demonstrates the impressive and deeply interesting range of contemporary Indigenous art practice.
“Defying Empire will include works encompassing painting on canvas and bark, sculpture, weaving, new media, works on paper including prints and photography, metalwork, glasswork and installation work. The works selected not only create an exhibition of outstanding quality but also critically reference this significant milestone.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the artists selected are primarily those who might consider resistance to the Empire an integral part of their art practice; which will make it interesting to see how the minute representation from remote Australia in the persons of Ray Ken (APY), Nonggirnnga Marawili (Yirrkala), Rusty Peters (Warrmun), Ken Thaiday (Meriam Mer, TSI) and Pedro Wonaeamirri (Tiwi) interpret their brief.
The Western art-trained selectees “ 25 of them “ will surely find it easier:
Tony Albert, Brook Andrews, Sebastian Arrow, Daniel Boyd, Maree Clark, Megan Cope, Brenda L Croft (who curated the first Triennial), Karla Dickens, Blak Douglas, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Lola Greeno, Dale Harding, Sandra Hill, Jonathan Jones, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Archie Moore, Laurie Nona, Reko Rennie, Brian Robinson, Yhonnie Scarce, Judy Watson, Vicki West, Jason Wing and Raymond Zada.
The exhibition opens on 26th May and runs into September, is supported by Wesfarmers Arts and is free.
Ironically, in the year of the Trump, the Quinquennnial’s title seems to have only American associations, mysteriously relating to the 2009 book by Thomas M Truxes, ‘Defying empire : trading with the enemy in colonial New York’.
Artist: Ray Ken, Nonggirnnga Marawili, Rusty Peters, Ken Thaiday, Pedro Wonaeamirri, Tony Albert, Brook Andrews, Sebastian Arrow, Daniel Boyd, Maree Clark, Megan Cope, Brenda L Croft, Karla Dickens, Blak Douglas, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Lola Greeno, Dale Harding, Sandra Hill, Jonathan Jones, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Archie Moore, Laurie Nona, Reko Rennie, Brian Robinson, Yhonnie Scarce, Judy Watson, Vicki West, Jason Wing, Raymond Zada,
Gallery: National Gallery of Australia ,