Written by Lisa Chandler
Blak Douglas’s series of black and white photographs entitled Pulling the Wool Over One’s Eyes was created as a response to visits to Kamay or Kurnell/Botany Bay. Blak interrogates the impact of Cook’s landing here in 1770 by focusing on the present, in a collection of works that are revealing through absence – as each image ‘shows absolutely no indication that there ever were Aboriginal people there’. Thus, like Syron’s paintings they also deal with historical erasure – hence the series title. As in Mombassa’s Close Encounters of the First Kind, Blak’s images contain signs of industrial civilisation with container ships, refineries, rubbish bins, bridges and barriers. Additionally there are markers and monuments to Cook’s arrival as in One Eyed Viewpoint, and the overall sense is of those who have come to this place rather than those who have long been here. The series highlights the concept of ‘the foreign’ and ‘questions identity of place’. Blak unsettles notions of what it means to be foreign and comments on collisions of cultures in works such as We’ve boundless pains to share which features a Muslim man fishing beneath sun-drenched skies at the site of the ‘first landing’. Blak Douglas remarks:
When viewed through eyes that we’ve become accustomed to, we note a foreign scenario. Ordinarily we associate fishing as a revered ‘Aussie’ past-time, a recreational sport or a leisurely social activity. The archetypal individual typically witnessed would be a Caucasian male, middle-aged and wearing shorts, thongs and floppy hat (most likely with an esky close at hand).