Undoing the Colonial Gaze: Ambiguity in the Art of Brook Andrew
Source TitleAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Art
PublisherInforma UK Limited
University of Melbourne Author/sMacNeill, Catherine
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsMacNeill, K. (2006). Undoing the Colonial Gaze: Ambiguity in the Art of Brook Andrew. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, 7 (1), pp.179-194. https://doi.org/10.1080/14434318.2006.11432769.
Access StatusOpen Access
Reproduced with permission of the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand. Images appearing in the final version of the article have been removed. For further information about Brook Andrew’s work see http://www.brookandrew.com.
The colonial archive’s store of ethnographic images was a rich source for Australian Indigenous artists in the 1990s. The archive is dangerous territory as the images therein form an integral component of the project of colonialism itself. Indeed, it was an awareness of this power of the image and its role in the construction of “Aboriginality” that provided the motivation for artists such as Leah King-Smith, Fiona Foley and Gordon Bennett to return to the archive. One strategy they adopted in their appropriation of historical imagery was to recontextualise ethnographic photographs, and the circumstances of their production, within narratives of dispossession. King-Smith’s series, Patterns of Connection (1992), in which nineteenth-century images of Aboriginal people in the collection of the State Library of Victoria are incorporated in photo-compositions, was one of the early examples of this form of corrective process. At the same time as these artists were drawing on and re-presenting ethnographic images of Indigenous peoples, the museum and library sector was itself reviewing the manner in which the ethnographic photographs in their collections were displayed. Protocols were developed that acknowledged that the power of these photographs lay not only in the way they purported to document the past, but also in their contribution to the present. These protocols restricted the display of such photographs because of the distress the images may cause to some Indigenous viewers. The display of the photographs was also restricted because of the agency that these images retained in the continuing construction of “Aboriginality” through the re-enactment of the colonial gaze.
KeywordsArt Theory and Criticism; Visual Arts and Crafts
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