reflecting, re-examining and relocating13 December 2018
Reconciliation Week Film and Video Art Program
Tuesday 29th of May & Thursday 31st of May
Presented by Next Wave in partnership with the New Student Precinct
From the 27th of May to the 3rd of June each year it is National Reconciliation Week. The entire week celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history, as well as invites all of Australia to learn more about our stories and knowledge. It is also important to note that while Reconciliation Week is an important symbolic gesture, reconciliation is an ongoing project of decolonisation of our social, educational, legal and cultural institutions.
This year Next Wave and the University of Melbourne Student Precinct produced the Reconciliation Week Film and Video Art Program. The program presented a variety of First Nations artists and filmmaker’s voices, exploring issues ranging from historical and present day exploitation, dispossession, violence and intergenerational trauma; the ongoing legacies of colonial fantasies and stereotypes; and the struggle for sovereignty. Across the expanse of the two days and viewing the three video programs – I felt proud. The way in which the personal narratives and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were expressed with an authentic quality by each individual artist was truly inspiring. This program is particularly important due to the way it enabled and created a platform for First Nations artists to showcase their practices and works that many First Nations people would approach as relatable.
For centuries, Aboriginal history and culture has been passed down through story-telling in the expressive form of dance, song and art. The feel of reeds between your fingers while you weave and the texture of emu feathers as gathered are some moments of storytelling that I have experienced. For Aboriginal people, our art is as much a part of our culture as is the land. Our art allows for expression, freedom and familiarity. My mum, aunties, uncles and cousins have taught me about Yorta Yorta culture and almost every day I learn something new about my clan. While watching each of the art works created by all the artists, I felt this. I saw their own personal narratives and the imagery and sound revealed their stories, their family and mob’s stories.
Three short film screenings were curated individually with particular ideas and objectives in mind. The first short film screening was titled ACT ONE: DECOLONISE which featured works from Amrita Hepi, Timothy Hillier & Denzel Baker and Hannah Bronte. ACT ONE : DECOLONISE focused on presenting and celebrating single channel video and the dynamism of contemporary First Nations art and culture. Each of the artists possess diverse practices that showcase variations of personal narrative with a focus on traditional and contemporary culture. Each artist presents a futuristic vision of strength and power with a focus on culture across the works. This program enabled a space for these artists and their works to be showcased and further recognised by viewers and extended community.
The second screening titled ACT TWO: DISMANTLE saw the use of humour, satire, role-reversal and mockumentary to examine and reimagine the unsettling aspects of Australian history and culture. The artists that were part of this program included Don Feathersone, Warwick Thorton and Megan Cope. This program provided an insight to audiences on how it feels to be othered as First Nations people as well as drew attention to the casual racism and ignorance that First Nations people live through. I personally related to this particular program the most, as I have began to reflect on my own lived experience as an Aboriginal and Italian woman. Through identifying with my two cultures I have experienced casual racism, blatant ignorance and had perceptions as well as stereotypes assumed of me. In the process of responding to my experiences within my own art practice, I have been able to examine the way in which satire can be used to further a message or add context to the conceptual basis.
The final screening was titled ACT THREE: UNSETTLE. It featured a series of films that investigated the ongoing legacies of colonial history, ranging from the stolen generation, to dispossession and genocide. The artists included Nick Waterman, Karrabing Film Collective and Julie Gough whose works encouraged audiences to recognise and mourn the pain and trauma of colonisation.
This is a strong video art program that I would like to see showed within external galleries or festivals. The content is important and voices many of the narratives and experiences of First Nations people, which is why I believe it needs to be shared.