Skirting The Issue: The 235th Anniversary Of Cook’s Landing At Botany Bay

Cross Conversation with Gary Carsley, Keith Vincent Smith and Ace Bourke — 15 May 2005 at 2pm

Exhibition 22 April to 14 May 2005

Botany Bay is the Birthplace of Modern Australia — the site of the first profound meeting of European and Aboriginal cultures. Captain Cook’s landing is re-encountered at a now traditional annual ceremony in Botany Bay National Park in late April. This conversation between an artist, curator and historian, looks at the tenor of these enactments — from tragic to drag — as a mirror to Old and New Worlds

Skirting the Issue comprises grand images of parkscapes in Europe and Sydney. Carsley’s perfected nature takes on narrative qualities to portray significant cultural and historical strategies. Images are oddly inverted. A picturesque view of Botany Bay National Park sits beside an image of a stand of gum trees planted in London’s Kew Gardens by Sir Joseph Banks from seeds collected in 1770.
Carsley names his works Draguerreotypes after the first photographic technique, Daguerreotypes. Just as drag takes on a different gender that is presented and performed, upon closer inspection these works dissolve into complex wooden veneer inlay (intarsia). Today Eden, like Botany Bay and old growth native forests, is besieged by commercial and political opportunism.

Gary Carsley founded the Society4Beautification with Rafael von Uslar over a decade ago to promote visions of a more equitable and alluring future through project-based exhibitions. Carsley investigates drag’s contribution to performance, visual culture and politics through curated exhibitions like The Art and (larger than) Life of Leigh Bowery (Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003–04) and his own artwork.

Keith Vincent Smith's pioneering research into first contact is published as Bennelong: The coming in of the Eora: Sydney Cove 1788-1792 (2001) and King Bungaree: A Sydney Aborigine meets the great South Pacific explorers, 1799-1830 (1992). His exhibition Eora: Mapping Indigenous Sydney 1770-1850, co-curated with Ace Bourke, opens in June 2006 at the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

Ace Bourke
was one of the curators who pioneered the contextualising of Aboriginal art in a contemporary urban context. His exhibition Flesh & Blood: A Story of Sydney 1788-1998, presented at the Museum of Sydney, was acclaimed as one of the first personal colonial exhibitions and the first combining colonial and Aboriginal narratives. Eora was conceived as a ‘reply’ exhibition.