Go Anywhere - Residency in New York
Talk Black USA is the project developed on my three-month residency in the USA with the assistance of the Artsource Go Anywhere grant. It continues my journey of looking at race relations in Australia and moving this study to the USA where I lived previously for four years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
I have had a long history of delving into this subject in my art practice from the Bicentennial Series of drawings of colonial frontier massacres, to the Face of Australia grant funded project, looking at multicultural families in 2000 and The Quod Project, which questions our history of Rottnest Island in our refusal to acknowledge it as a site of trauma for Aboriginal Australians, particularly in regards to the Quod building as tourist accommodation.
This project lead to the development of the HUMANINSIDE exhibition in collaboration with James Kerr and Glen Stasiuk, hearing the stories of forty local Noongar families and where these personal histories intersect with the Western Australian criminal justice system. This is to be exhibited in October, 2012, at the Fremantle Prison gallery and is a platform for discussion on the crisis in Indigenous youth incarceration rates in Australia.
I travelled to New York for a holiday in 2011 while working on HUMANINSIDE and became aware of the same statistics of incarceration rates for African/Black American males in the USA as for Indigenous people in Australia. It was then that I pitched the idea to do a comparative study and interpret these findings using art as the medium for delivery.
The project idea evolved on arrival in the USA as I began to work with two young photographers – African American, Mirla Jackson, and Hispanic American, Yulissa Morales. Their personal histories of the experience of “the other” as minorities in the USA helped inform the direction of the project. My process of requesting to interview participants in video and photography remained the same as the HUMANINSIDE project but the angle of the questions changed.
Forty American participants were invited to be interviewed and photographed, from mostly African/Black American backgrounds but also Indigenous, Hispanic, Asian and White-American, to give context. They were asked to give their viewpoint of the experience of “the other” growing up in America and telling of the history they knew of for their grandparents and parents (meaning other than the dominant white population of the United States which is 72% in recent statistics ). These are powerful stories of endurance and aspiration. They were also asked about what gives them courage, who inspired them, did they ever wish to be other than themselves, how they think they are stereotyped in the media today, the idea of a post racial reality in America and what advice they have to give to those who think the colour of their skin holds them back from accomplishing their dreams.
There are forty hours of footage to be edited and the process of creating the design delivery of the installation of video/audio montage incorporating text and historical research material and the photographs of the participants in a mirror frame. The mirror frame has become a motif for me as it was also part of The Quod Project; there to be the hole in the wall of history, looking back to the past. In Talk Black USA it is a celebration of identity and an ‘Alice-through-the-looking-glass’ transportation of the participant, through the wall, to the audience in Australia. The mirror frame is also there to suggest that as we hear of the stories of genocide, slavery, segregation, disadvantage and of endurance and hope, that we may reflect upon our own history in Australia in the light of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA.
I hope to be able to invite Indigenous, minorities and youth audiences to see this exhibition and to gather responses to add to the touring exhibition of Talk Black USA, in the USA, where it has been invited in 2014. Ron Bradfield Jnr, Artsource Indigenous & Regional officer, has agreed to help facilitate this process and Ric Spencer, at Fremantle Art Centre, has confirmed that the video installation work of “Talk Black USA”, will be exhibited in 2013 in the new video projects gallery.
A fourteen minute quick edit of a few of the participants in the project can be seen on the URL link below. It’s a big editing job ahead but I relish it as the project has introduced me to amazing people and taken an atheist on a spiritual journey in the understanding of the nature of being human.
A big thank you to Artsource for making this type of grant available as I can honestly say it has been life changing and become the direction of my art practice for the years ahead.
2012 Go Anywhere Grant Recipient
Artsource supports the practice of professional artists with the Global City Residencies.