BLAKATTAK, Sydney College of the Arts 2015

Following our groundbreaking exhibition at the Aboriginal Art Museum of Utrecht (Netherlands) the preceding year, Adam Geczy and I were seeking a domestic location who’d dare exhibit similar content. Sadly, to date, most still don’t have the balls.

When offered the exhibition space at Sydney College during their summer break, we set to task venting our sentiments toward the ever complacent colonial society and its continued denial of its notorious past. Blakattak typically received minor reviews in mainstream media but definitely struck a chord with students at the college and that’s, of course, the main target audience we’d hoped to inspire.

Given we’d not long evolved from the insidious ten-year reign of Australia’s equivalent an artistic holocaust, John Howard’s tenure as Prime Minister, it was only natural that we’d vent our frustrations.

The piece ‘Look right, look left & look right again’ is a stylised pedestrian (or Zebra) crossing. Black on white/white on black. The simple metaphor is the notion of having a ‘white’ group of lines designating where one should cross the road or risk an imposed fine from the local enforcement agency. White lines on black surface. Be reminded of that whence next crossing those lines.

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CIAO Interview by Phoebe

What is the significance of January 26th to you?

AG: It is an opportunity for Australia to flout its apathy. The land of the long weekend and where the culture is preferably spelt kulcha struts its stuff with harbour pageants and barbecues and where one more layer of soil is placed over the burial of really hard and unwelcome truths. And when you want to speak the ‘truth’ you get branded as a leftie, or a Nancy or a commie. Name-calling is the order of the day…but maybe under people’s breaths, especially in the afternoon when half the country is drunk.

Blak Douglas (BD): Thankfully, I became AWARE whilst studying at university. Also, I’ve spent times in a multitude of Countries and sat in the dirt with a variety of respected elders, both tribal and modern. The wisdom and logic they’ve disclosed sadly… infinitely surpass ANYONE I’ve encountered whom proudly waves ‘the’ flag on that day AND announces themselves as ‘Australian’.

Should it be a public holiday?

AG: Why not but call it what it is: colony day, intrusion day, etc

BD: No, it should be a STATE FUNERAL. Flags flown at half mast and EVERY ‘Australian’ citizen should offer the voluntary service of scrubbing the floors of an Aboriginal person’s bathroom.

How do you usually spend the day? Has this changed over your lifetime? If so, why?

AG: Thinking about how the Indigenous people feel and their mourning. I feel embarrassed and hope that it is not to hot so I can do some work at home.

BD: Whilst most are binge drinking or turning fat sausages on their barbies, I’ll be either a) sitting in a cave in a remote location reconnecting or b) stencilling and tagging anti patriotic slogans upon the most public facades I can find.

Your upcoming exhibition, Blakattack, engages with contrasting meanings of Australia Day. What do you hope your works, particularly Another way of thinking about Australia Day 2015 brings to its viewers?

Precisely that: there are different ways of viewing the day that is not constrained by media brouhaha. That Australia Day is, in fact, a mass cover-up and a celebration to mask mass amnesia.

BD: As per our 2013/14 exhibition ‘BOMB’ at the AAMU in the Netherlands, this exhibit is not for the faint-hearted. We can only hope that these works provide a visual link to an understanding. An understanding of just how obnoxiously offensive it is, to celebrate a day of settlement (invasion) whilst standing on the back of Aboriginal culture for a better view of the fireworks.

While working on Blakattack were you made aware of any artistic or political insights that you weren’t aware of previously or were surprised by?

AG: Not really but when you work together you always learn things; your eyes are always opened up to new approaches and we start thinking about the potential of the work to go further: the next show and so on.

BD: Not particularly. We both resonate absolutely. We always have been on the ‘same page’. Same line in fact. There’s nothing newly discovered here, it’s simply excess puss from a festering boil that IS… our angst.

What role do you think humour can/ should play in confronting ignorance?…

AG: Well humour can be used as a distancing measure, that is, not bringing yourself down to the level. At the same time it can be sued to bring people in and they find themselves laughing at themselves or something even more severe. Laughter can also be a reflex of embarrassment: that one is so gobsmacked and lost for words all you can do is gaffaw which is what we tend to do on a daily basis in this country.

BD: Humour in political art simply enables those of whom are equally embroiled in this unfortunate circumstance; that being a registered participant in the SLOW & DISMAL DECAYING OF THE FIRST NATIONS PEOPLES OF THIS CONTINENT… a brief relief.

How important do you think “Australia Day” is to society today? Why do you think people still celebrate it?

AG: Every country has a national holiday or national commemoration day. But while that day is our national day there will NEVER by unity or harmony between black and white. In fact, the day as is a commemoration of ongoing disunity.

BD: The trough is a habitual feeding place for the sheep. Sheep need to be fed.

Do you think a national day acknowledging the violence of British Invasion and colonisation, like Invasion Day, would be more appropriate?

AG: That’s not realistic. There are a lot of inflammatory words for it which may be true but would never be instated. But call it for what it is: colony day.

BD: No it should be acknowledged DAILY. When I was at (public) primary school, we would receive the ‘Lords Prayer’ over a speaker in the classroom before we commenced the day. A dedication to the slain, the incarcerated and the abused should be publicly announced on speakers not only in schools but town squares and shopping malls.

Please feel free to add anything else that you think is important regarding your exhibition, or that you would like to share with our readers.

BD: Many readers who’ve not been exposed to such commentary may ask themselves – ‘so what can I do about the situation?’ If I may… here are a few simple suggestions…

1) Know the CORRECT name for the Country upon which you reside.

(i.e: Leichhardt = Cadigal, Ashfield = Wangal etcetera)

2) Become informed on the quest for First Nations people’s pursuit of SOVEREIGNTY and follow it with a passion as though watching an elite white Australian male cloned sporting code like- cricket.

*Sovereign Union of First Nations and Peoples in Australia* *Asserting Australia’s First Nations Sovereignty into Governance * *www.sovereignunion.mobi*

3) Ensure both you and your children have seen these five films –

– Women of the Sun (J. Saunders)

– One Night the Moon (Paul Kelly)

– The Tracker (David Gulpillil)

– Beneath the Clouds (Ivan Sen

– Barbakiueria [BBQ Area] (Don Featherstone)

All the best with Blakattak and we very much appreciate your answers.

Please call me (Phoebe) on 0405162396 if you have any questions regarding the interview.

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