Ghost Stories

Jane Llewellyn examines ‘Ghostly Nature – Part I’ an exhibition at the Adelaide Town Hall celebrating Aboriginal voices. The exhibition coincides with NAIDOC Week.

The exhibition looks at our dark histories (our ghosts) with many of the artists exploring ideas around identity and place by investigating their own family histories. “It’s storytelling overall, that’s why it’s part 1 and part 2,” Curator Polly Dance says. “It’s almost like chapters of history.” Along with Built Constructs (which was on display at the Town Hall gallery in December last year) Ghostly Nature – Part 1 and Part 2 (set for later in the year) are part of a broader program developed by Dance. The exhibitions reflect where we are currently and how we navigate and fit into our surroundings, whether in the built environment as in Built Constructs or in our natural environment as in Ghostly Nature. Darren Siwes’ work is an obvious choice for the exhibition with his photographs featuring a ghostly, transparent figure (himself as the Aboriginal protagonist) in recognisable locations around Adelaide. The work explores a sense of place and as Siwes disappears into the colonial landscape his transparency evokes the invisibility of Aboriginal culture in a predominantly white Australian society. Some of the images use London as a backdrop, taken when he spent time there during his Samstag scholarship in 2004, and reflect Australia’s relationship to Britain. Emerging artist Tamara Baillie’s installation work White But Not Quite is a personal story about meeting her great grandmother when she was seven, who was brown, while she was white. This encounter led her to explore her own identity and history but raised more questions than answers. The work made of branches, paint, muslin, plaster and oxide reflects a somewhat messy, ugly, murky family tree. Dance says: “While there is no clarity in the colours you get these really beautiful shadows and reflections and relationships between the fruits and trees.” James Tylor’s series Deheading State (the new Holey Dollar) are daguerreotypes of coins with holes through them, exploring the idea of Australia becoming a republic and creating our own coins by removing the Queen’s head. The works are hung at “neck height” because daguerreotypes need to reflect off a black surface to experience their full effect, so it’s reflecting off the viewer, but also at the level of the Queen’s neck. Julie Gough’s work is influenced by the narratives which are a result of her Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage. In the video work, The Lost World (part 1) Gough records a journey with her brother into the Tasmanian bush to try and find a significant, unnamed location. They manage to get completely lost as drama builds with voicemail messages from concerned family members and finally the local police. Also featured in the exhibition are works by Nici Cumpston and Sue Kneebone plus works from the City of Adelaide Civic Collection. “I don’t want to give everything away because all these stories are quite personal but you can read into them,” Dance says. So while the artists draw on their own personal experiences, their stories have universal qualities with which the viewer can identify. Ghostly Nature – Part 1 Adelaide Town Hall Until Friday, July 31

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