• Art of Memory, Fish and Crabs: Jacqueline Gribbin and Galuma Maymuru

    16 September to 21 October 2017

Obsolete? Artist, Object, Small Museum. Nicole Barakat, Aleshia Lonsdale and Fiona MacDonald — 12 August to 9 September 2017

12 August to 9 September 2017

 

Conversations

Working it out: new museum practices: Matt Poll, Assistant Curator, Indigenous Museum Collections and Repatriation Program, Macleay Museum, Sydney University, in conversation with the artists. Saturday 19 August at 2 to 3 pm.

Mapping Massacres: Professor Lyndall Ryan, University of Newcastle and the artists. This was an official History Week 2017 event. Saturday 9 September at 2 to 3 pm.

Co-organisers: The Cross Art Projects and Kandos Museum. Curated by the artists and Jo Holder.

Banner photo: Aleshia Lonsdale, Disambiguation, installation for Cementa16, Kandos.


Exhibition Outline    

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For the exhibition, Obsolete? Artist, Object, Small Museum, artists Nicole Barakat, Aleshia Lonsdale and Fiona MacDonald apply their creative and investigatory flair to considering a community museum in Kandos about 4 hours west from Sydney. The title asks a central question: how can ordinary lives, then and now, and randomly collected provincial objects, illuminate Big Picture issues?

The artists engage common objects and contemporary art’s collaborative processes to create a regional historiography. By these means they create a platform for critical national conversations: on the events, policy and propaganda that have subjugated Indigenous people and on environmental and land contests — topics of great significance to those who live on the land.
    
Nicole Barakat, Aleshia Lonsdale and Fiona MacDonald have each engaged with the museum and local ambiguity of place. Their starting point is Australia’s ongoing dispossession of First Nation peoples. The artists’ works veer from the anti-canonical and comic to the profound, etched with individual hopes, follies and tragedies. By using a theatrical mix of assemblage and performance, making and unmaking of ‘quotidian’ or everyday objects or sublime artefacts, their strategies shed light on how in-groups assign value and claim History. Here is a world turned upside down.

Kandos, once a participant in the national narrative as ‘the town whose cement helped build Sydney’, was made obsolete when the cement works closed in 2011. Two years later this small museum, its company town archive and idiosyncratic collection of relics was to be closed. Such a story mirrors the marginal status of regional community art and culture in the struggle for elbow-room alongside the state-funded metropolitan museum’s drive for identity and power and the art museum’s demands for difference and the ‘new’. However, in Kandos volunteers and stakeholders rallied and have worked together to create a new narrative to participate in public life. 


About the Artists’ Works

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Nicole Barakat remakes traced-linen doilies and souvenir tea-towels sourced from the Kandos op-shop into Meditation (decolonisation), a conceptual art installation that whispers about massacres. These reworked objects (on linen and paper) were an intuitive response to two significant things the artist found on her first visit to Kandos: a wealth of embroidered linen doilies in the op shop and a blunt description of the1824 brutal massacre of Wiradjuri people in the Capertee Valley. Her live work Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), is an ongoing, live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels. The performance recalls the contemporary artist’s nomadic life and her mother’s family’s emigrant experience from Lebanon to Broken Hill.

Aleshia Lonsdale’s installations Stone without Stories, an assemblage of stone tools and Inconvenient Truths a dramatically eloquent minimal composition of everyday straw broom and red carpet, engage the past to explain the present. The juxtaposing of everyday work objects alongside traditional cultural materials, reflects Lonsdale’s determination as a Wiradjiri woman to maintain cultural values and traditions, using them to spotlight today’s embedded race-based thinking. She invites us to understand how brutal laws of ‘native regulation’, judgements segregating ‘full or half- caste’ people and the system of non-consensual and unpaid ‘apprenticeships’ of Aboriginal youth to rural industries (under the Aboriginies Protection Act 1909), governed and traumatised Aboriginal life over some 150 years.

Fiona MacDonald’s series of images Obsolete? put the proposition that the museum itself is an engineered machine for achieving certain objectives. Her photomontages transform object registration photographs in the Kandos Museum taken by medical photographer Mike Oakley, propelling them from yesterday’s bearers of imagined capital accumulation into heroic action. We hear the wheels creaking as her tin apparatus of Otherness sets out on the rocky road from the inequality of a company town to equality. Other images dust off the rust and transform dross to gold, at least metaphorically, with an Olympian pillar of typewriters or a Herculean set of timepieces ticking together like worker bees in the hive. Fiona MacDonald is the hon. Curator of Kandos Museum.

 

Nicole Barakat, Mediation/De-colonisation, work made in-situ in Kandos Museum for Cementa15. Comprising re-worked items and drawings describing the Dabee Massacre (near Rylstone).

Nicole Barakat, Mediation/De-colonisation, work made in-situ in Kandos Museum for Cementa15. Comprising re-worked items and drawings describing the Dabee Massacre (near Rylstone).

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), 2012 – ongoing. Live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels.

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), 2012 – ongoing. Table: Live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels.

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), 2012 – ongoing. 
Live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels collected by artist from regional op-shops.

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (home), 2017. (Tasmania) Linen thread on found Australian souvenir linen tea towel.

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (home), 2017. (detail)

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 1, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey.

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no  2, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 3, 2017 (work-in-progress). Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 4, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 5, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 6, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey.

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 7, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 8, 2017 (work-in-progress). Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 9, 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey.

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 10 2017. Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

Fiona MacDonald, Obsolete no 11, 2017 (work-in-progress). Inkjet print from digital image on archival paper, 59.4 x 42cm. Edition of 3. Source images Kandos Museum collection object photographs by Mike Oakey. 

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Aleshia Lonsdale, Stone without Stories, 2017. Stone tool assemblage.

Aleshia Lonsdale, Statement: Stones without Stories: Devoid of explanation, meaning and relevance to the wider collection these cultural objects are seen as more of a curiosity collected during colonial days to be relegated to boxes in back rooms or the rocks and fossils displays in country town museums.

Aleshia Lonsdale, Stones without Stories, 2017. Stone tool assemblage. (detail)

Aleshia Lonsdale, Stones without Stories, 2017. Stone tool assemblage.

Aleshia Lonsdale, Inconvenient Truths, 2017. Installation, straw broom, red carpet.
Aleshia Lonsdale, Statement: Inconvenient Truths: In a region where tourism is the major industry our local museums invite the tourist to come and ’experience our unique history’. We live in the land of wine and honey where the mining history, colonial life and Henry Lawson are proudly celebrated. However there is still a failure to recognise that this has grown from grounds which have been manured with the carcasses of Aboriginal people.  We also need to talk about the 26 Wiradjuri people who were driven into the swamp on that same land, killed and their heads cut off, boiled and sent to England for ‘scientific study’. If you are going to present the history of our country present all of it – not just that which is sanitary and convenient.

Installation: Fiona MacDonald Obsolete?  nos. 1 to 5, 2017. 

Installation: Fiona MacDonald Obsolete?  nos. 8 to 11, 2017. 

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), 2012 – ongoing. 
Live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels collected by artist from regional op-shops.

Nicole Barakat, Meditation (souvenir/sovereign), 2012 – ongoing. (detail). 
Live work de-threading found Australian souvenir tea towels.

Professor Ryan with the map, 'Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872', 2017 at https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres  

 

Obsolete? Artist, Object, Small Museum and historical redress

Indigenous material objects in Kandos Museum are tellingly scant: there are none. Therefore, contemporary contexts and issues are presented under the matter-of-fact theme ‘Kandos Indigenous communities’. The ‘theme’ began with Djon Mundine’s Gibir – Yinaa (A Man – A Woman), a mural on the external wall of the Kandos Museum created in 2015 with descendants of the last full-blood members of the local Dabee tribe of the Wiradjuri People: Jimmy Lambert (c1820–1900) and Peggy Lambert (c1820–1884). More recently, the Wiradjuri Mudgee-Dabee Stories Project and Dabee-Mudgee Stories Traveling Exhibition (Kandos Museum, July 2017) contributed to the theme.

As Aleshia Lonsdale states: "Aboriginal memory and the intangible are ignored, there is no representation of history through time to represent first contact, frontier wars, the stolen generation or other significant issues which are a part of our history through time. There is a need for Aboriginal people to gain control of the narrative and recontextualise their own histories within these collections, to reclaim connection to these objects and back to country for the benefit of all Australians to know the true history of this country. It is not the museum objects, their technology or their histories which I consider to be obsolete but rather the way in which it is presented to the public."

To assist the creative research by artists and local historians as is organically happening in some small museums and regional art galleries, eminent historian Lyndall Ryan recently launched the Map of frontier massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 as a significant step and focus on the recognition of the periods of violence in Australia’s history. (See link below.) The map over turns any assumptions that were made for generations that this land wasn’t fought for by the first peoples.

Volunteers in small museums are quietly giving voice to the power of images and objects to tell significant truths of a brutal past. They believe that it is time to correct the errors, call out the murderers and take the final proud steps through reconciliation. The twenty-first century’s most popular museum exhibition is Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects at the British Museum, billed as ‘an exploration of past civilizations as a kaleidoscope of shifting yet interconnected objects’. Obsolete? Artist, Object, Small Museum offers a small contemporary companion exhibition that in brokering and renegotiating relationships heralds an avant-garde of small museums.

About the artists

Nicole Barakat: is a contemporary artist whose practice has been influenced by workshops in communities such as the Pioneer Women's Hut and Quilt Museum, with Minto public housing tenants, and the collaborative Shadow Places with the Narrandera Textiles Group (for the Sydney Design Festival at MAAS in 2016). Of her work ‘Mediation (Decolonisation)’ made in situ in Kandos Museum for Cementa15, the artist says these reworked embroideries are, "a metaphor for unlearning her colonial education and the need for active listening and relearning." She proposes an in situ live work, de-threading a collection of Australian souvenir tea-towels. See: Nicole Barakat, Shadow Places with the Narrandera Textiles Group (for the Sydney Design Festival at MAAS in 2016 at https://www.dhub.org/regional-design-alive-and-kicking/

Aleshia Lonsdale (Tirikee): is a Wiradjuri woman from central west NSW with connections to the Wonnarua and Worimi people. Aleshia Lonsdale began as primarily a painter and weaver and has since expanded her practice to incorporate sculptural and installation work. She fuses traditional and contemporary styles to tell stories about the not- too-distant past, especially the legacy of stolen identity as these Stolen Generations traumas continue to play out for her extended family. In 2015 Aleshia Lonsdale won the UNSW prize at the Parliament House Art Awards and has been prominent in groundbreaking exhibitions Left Field (Dubbo and Alaska Projects Sydney, curated by Jason Wing). See Aleshia Lonsdale http://www.aleshialonsdale.com/about

Fiona MacDonald: is an artist who is the honorary curator of Kandos Museum. Fiona MacDonald has form with taking aesthetic liberties with archives and collections. Her Cyclopaedia, a series of collages of the extensive collection assembled by Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay at Elizabeth Bay House, was the first contemporary exhibition in this historic house. MacDonald has continued on her archive-specific pathway interweaving stories about power relations: communities, dispersals, strikes and struggles. Fiona MacDonald http://www.fiona-macdonald.net/

Kandos Museum: was resurrected after the local council moved to shut down the museum in 2013, two years after the cement works closed. Today volunteers work on collection documentation, archives, digitisation and conservation — material things that may increase in value or need to be discarded. They hope to build a new traffic in information and images and a new narrative for a small town as a ‘post-industrial’ interdisciplinary site. At Kandos Museum http://www.kandosmuseum.org.au/

Cementa: The museum’s companion art endeavor is the biennial Cementa exhibition, an event that plays with the fact that the curators of big biennales often overlook the art world’s inequalities and rarely select customary or grassroots/local art forms. At http://cementa.com.au/

About the speakers

Matt Poll is Assistant Curator, Indigenous Museum Collections and Repatriation Program, Macleay Museum, Sydney University where he presented No Stone Unturned — Aboriginal Scientific Knowledge in 2015.

Lyndall Ryan is Conjoint Professor of History in the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle. Her current  research focuses on frontier violence across  the British Empire. Her books include Tasmanian Aborigines A History since 1803 (first published in 1981 and reprinted in 1996 and swept into a national election campaign and the politically charged History Wars) and Theatres of Violence edited with Philip G. Dwyer (2012).  On 5 July 2017 she published the first stage of the online Map of colonial frontier massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872.

Lyndall Ryan became an academic in 1977 after working with the first Sydney Women's Liberation Group. As an academic she and has held positions in Australian Studies and Women's Studies at Griffith and Flinders Universities and in Australian Studies and Head of School of Humanities at the University of Newcastle. As a feminist she was a founding collective member of feminist publications 'Mejane' 1971, 'Refractory Girl', 1972 and Leichhardt Women’s Heath Centre.

References

Neil MacGregor, The History of the World in 100 Objects, 2012, London.
Museums Change Lives, The Museum Association’s Vision of the Impact of Museums, 2013, London. Accessed: http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-change-lives
Djon Mundine, ‘On 21 years of Aboriginal art’, Radio National, AWAYE!, 13 August 2013 accessed at www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/awaye/djon-mundine-21-years-of- aboriginal-art/4881588

Raymond Evans and Robert Orsted: (2014). 'I Cannot Say the Numbers that Were Killed': Assessing Violent Mortality on the Queensland Frontier. This work shows how high were the figures for Qld. After 1860 Qld apparently outstripped other locations in deaths because changes in repeater rifles, changed frontier ideology towards 'natives' and reduced military oversight so free-for-all for colonists.

Ruth B Phillips, Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums, 2011, Montreal: McGill-Queens’s University Press.
Matt Poll, ‘Arts and Aboriginal Australia: De-colonisation or Reconciliation?’ Sydney Ideas, Sydney University, June 2017 http://sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas/lectures/2017/reconciliation_week_arts_aboriginal_australia_forum.shtml

Matt Poll, No Stone Unturned — Aboriginal Scientific Knowledge, Macleay Museum, Sydney University, 2015, At https://medium.com/@mattpoll2/no-stone-unturned-182b99cbfc05 and https://sydneyscience.com.au/2015/event/no-stone-unturned-aboriginal-scientific-knowledge-in-an-aboriginal-landscape/ and > Download as pdf

Lyndall Ryan, Massacre Map, 2017. New online map shows massacres of Aboriginal people during the Frontier Wars. The tool records the massacre site locations, details of the massacres and sources corroborating evidence of more than 150 of the massacres. Developed by Newcastle University historian Conjoint Professor Lyndall Ryan. The map is available at https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres

Matt Poll, Written in Stone, 2016, exhibition catalogue, Macleay Museum, Sydney University. > Download as pdf

Ben Quilty, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 2017, http://www.smh.com.au/comment/its-time-we-acknowledged-our-colonial-terrorism-20170827-gy53b1.html

History Week

This is an official event of History Week 2017, supported by the History Council of NSW: www.historyweek.com.au

Massacres Map at https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres