NOVOCASTRIANS have the opportunity to confront their own feelings about racism in powerful exhibit that opened Friday at The Lock-Up, a former gaol, on Hunter Street.
Created by respected Australian artists Blak Douglas and Adam Geczy, the show, The Most Gaoled Race on Earth, features several provocative works of cultural and political significance in regards to the Aboriginal population.
Among the works:
Trophy Room: An installation of 130 nooses in yellow, red and black rope. While the three colours are often displayed with pride in the Aboriginal flag, this work serves a reminder of the “continuing and unchanging bleakness of Aboriginal cultures around Australia,” Geczy said.
Correctional Disservices: A stark reminder in a pair of hand-painted concrete statues to the days of the Kingswood Country television show which featured politically incorrect humour about Aboriginal people.
The art space’s foyer features a huge poster depicting a cartoonish image of an Aboriginal hanging from a noose. “It’s designed to be a grown-up expo on what’s going on in this country,” Blak Douglas said.
Lock-Up director Jessi England said the show had been in the planning for two years. “With our new direction, we had the desire to present work that was interesting, experimental, challenging and raised potent ideas,” she said. “Given the history of the site [a former jail] I thought it was a perfect marriage.”
In conjunction with the exhibit the gallery has engaged the local Aboriginal community in advance. “We had conversations, and got advice on how to proceed in a way that is appropriate and acceptable,” she said. “The work is uncomfortable for everybody.”
This is the fourth major show the pair of artists have done together, always covering the same subject matter.
It comes from strongly held reactions to racism, ignorance or repression.- Artist Adam Geczy
“This work, it’s meaningful,” said Geczy, a noted academic and artist. “It comes from strongly held reactions to racism, ignorance or repression. It all comes pretty naturally to do something meaningful. It’s not fashionable.”
Douglas is a successful Aboriginal artist in modern pop art.
His take on the works in exhibit: “There are people who get it and people who don’t … There is always an avenue of attack. That is what we are addressing: wake up, accept the fundamental flaws this so-called country has perpetuated.
“We are thankful for having this kind of show. We won’t rest until the white institutions open up and embrace such commentary. That’s a slow change, a progressive change. I am optimistic we will advance in my lifetime.”
The Lock-Up, 90 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Exhibit opens 6pm Friday (March 18). Open Saturday 10am to 4pm; Sunday, 11am to 3pm.