The John Curtin Gallery presents Post-hybrid: reimagining the Australian self, an exhibition of works that explore notions of identity and belonging in Australian contemporary culture.
The exhibition features work by established Australian artists Abdul Abdullah (NSW), Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (WA), Hans Arkeveld (WA), Dadang Christanto (NT), Lorraine Connelly-Northey (VIC), Brenda Croft (NSW), Galliano Fardin (WA), Elizabeth Gertsakis (VIC), Danie Mellor (NSW), Laurel Nannup (WA), Christopher Pease (WA), Ryan Presley (QLD), Darren Siwes (SA).
Through photographs, sculptural works, paintings and prints the exhibition explores ways in which colonisation, Aboriginal culture and migration have contributed to an ever- evolving sense of contemporary Australian identity.
The work of Indigenous artists represented in this exhibition has a strong post-colonial perspective, describing an experience of the world in which indigenous culture has been deeply impacted by white settlement. In other works, personal and public stories emerge as a result of the policy of forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, describing not only a loss of loved ones and displacement from traditional lands, but also loss of access to personal history and culture.
For a number of artists, events such as post-war migration, the end to the White Australia Policy, the
politicisation of asylum seekers and 9/11 emerge as important factors that have not only impacted
on the social fabric of Australia as a whole, but have contributed to a very personal sense of self.
Other artists in Post-Hybrid explore the conflation of their multi-faceted ethnic heritage and how
different cultures have come together to form something new.
Whether looking at self, landscape, society or culture, there is a sense of searching, mapping,
remembering, of delving in and laying down of evidence.
While this exhibition explores some of ways in which a number of artists living and working in
Australia, perceive this place, and their place or sense of self within it, it does not attempt to define
‘Australianism’; nor do the artists try to provide answers to the complex issues of personal, ethnic
and cultural identity. Rather, a commonality to their work is a speculative approach, as they
variously ponder: who am I; why did this happen; what does this mean and where are we going?
Post-hybrid: reimagining the Australian self runs in conjunction with Foreign Soil, a major solo
exhibition by multi-disciplinary artist Thea Costantino, which offers an alternative narrative for the
centenary of the First World War. Costantino reflects on the international tragedy of the war and the
legacy of migrant histories within Australia that exist alongside the ANZAC story.
More information on the exhibition.
We find ourselves in the moment of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion.
Homi K. Bhabha.
As residents of this country we are all Australians and to some extent, part of a collective national identity. This identity, having emerged from myths around bushrangers, ‘diggers’, sporting heroes and British colonialism, is something to which we relate in varying degrees – for some, not at all. Does this mean we are then, ‘Australian’ to varying degrees? In this year of commemoration when we consider the Centenary of the Gallipoli landing and the ANZAC legacy, conversations around who we are as Australians will, no doubt, abound. It seems timely to add to this discussion, views that have been marginalised or excluded from the frameworks within which Australian national identity has historically been constructed.
At the time of Australia’s Federation, multiculturalism and the celebration of ethnic diversity was far from the national agenda. The ‘White Australia Policy’ would soon come into effect, beginning with Australia’s first act of Legislation, the Immigration Restriction Act (1901) which effectively banned all Chinese migration. Further legislation was targeted at the Indigenous population: “Although the ‘Aboriginal problem’ was noted, the general consensus at Federation was that Aboriginal people were a ‘dying’ race – hence unlikely to affect the future of ‘white’ Australia. The eugenic policies of assimilation (introduced from 1910 onwards) sought to further facilitate this process”.ii Many would argue that while social and legislative reform has certainly progressed since Federation, this story continues to unfold and racism, inequality and xenophobia are far from distant problems of the past. Lawyer and Human Rights advocate Julian Burnside asserts, “Australia has constructed a myth about itself which cannot survive unless we forget a number of painful truths. We draw a veil of comforting amnesia over anything which contradicts our self-image.”
As the title suggests, Post-hybrid: reimagining the Australian self explores a sense of Australian identity that is informed by the hybrid nature of our cultural make-up. Political scientist Benedict Anderson argues that nations are “imagined, because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”.iv Is the nation not then, open to being re-imagined, allowing “the open poetic becoming of culture”?v Accepting that nations are not fixed or static, but function within a constant process of negotiation and change – within which there are often uneven distributions of power, representation and agency – this exhibition offers perspectives on place and self that reflect the complexity of our cultural fabric.
Post-hybrid presents thirteen artists living and working in Australia, who explore particular perceptions of this place, and/or their sense of self within it. It does not, however, attempt to locate a homogenised definition of ‘Australianism’. Nor do the artists represented in this exhibition provide a list of answers to the complex issues around personal, ethnic and cultural identity. Common to their work rather, is a speculative approach as they variously ponder: where are we going; why did this happen; what does this mean; and who am I? Whether looking at self, landscape, society or culture, there is a sense of searching, mapping, remembering, of delving in, and of laying down evidence. Collectively, the works in Post-hybrid point to a notion of Australian identity as fluid and in flux – a palimpsest, open to being written and re-written.
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Before the Dawn, 2014, carved jetulong, bronze and jarrah. Lyn Hughes Collection. Image courtesy of the artist and Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects.