Site of Sorrow – 2007/2023

ArtSite of Sorrow – 2007/2023

Site of Sorrow – 2007/2023

Oil on canvas. H130 x W 180 cm

Site of Sorrow 2023

This is a reworking of “State of Play # 15” from the Verisimilitude series of 2006 .

In the light of the recent failed political referendum on Aboriginal Acknowledgement in our Constitution, I felt it incumbent on me to respond:

I have introduced a centrally placed dartboard in identifiable Aboriginal colours on the conventional outback landscape. First Nations People are perpetually targeted. The concentric device hovers centrally and transparently over the horizon line, fusing with the landscape around and beyond it. It has an almost-kinetic visual effect.

This painting is intended to encourage the viewer to interpret politically their own individual understanding of this, our much-treasured Australian landscape.

Landscape as metaphor related to personal and national identity is a common phenomenon in Australia and particularly in rural areas. In the collective consciousness ‘living on the land’ and ‘focusing on the horizon’ encapsulates not only the struggle to subsist against the odds, but additionally embodies the equally empowering mythic visual capacity to enthral and fire the imagination. This relationship to the land is very often quoted by individuals in defining our Australian national identity.

The simultaneous combination of naturalism and modernism allows for a potential multi-layered reading.

I had written the following on the subject at the time of the referendum:

“I came to Australia as a voluntary exile from Apartheid South Africa in 1987. Being acutely attuned to bigotry I have observed and experienced widespread deep-seated racist loathing towards Australia’s First Nations Peoples in the land of my adoption. This has ebbed and flowed in varying degrees with alternative patriarchal governments. While there is a palpable expression of fear-driven disdain and racial hatred expected during periods of Liberal rule, Labor has also persisted in qualifying existing racial segregation via ‘benign’ legal exemptions as a means of vocalising and expiating their own white guilt.

The [imminent] referendum does not, in essence, offer anything more meaningful than an acknowledgement in our constitution of the existence of Aboriginal peoples in Australia before colonial settlement in 1788. Our white patriarchal government has embarked on this to assuage a Labor social conscience. It is in no way abrogating its own power, or transferring, or giving away any entrenched rights to our Aboriginal co-citizens in creating an ‘advisory’ voice to Parliament.

I hold a strong personal view that one of the least democratic mechanisms in Australia is enforced compulsory voting. This referendum reveals the distinct inadequacy of this fundamentally flawed policy. Being legally obliged to vote, individuals who have not thought through the issues or those who couldn’t be bothered to care, will, out of the necessity to prevent any change, vote NO. And this pervasive non-committal will be at the heart of the failure of this referendum to succeed.

Reactionary advocates of the NO vote understand this, and in a well-designed public fear campaign, have listed 10 reasons to say NO. Here is a response to each of their spurious claims:

  1. The Voice will have no political teeth and will therefore not be legally risky.
  2. Why provide details about an advisory body that cannot determine anything.
  3. It will not further divide an already racially segregated nation.
  4. Inserting an acknowledgement of existence of Aboriginal peoples in our constitution is an exceptionally positive and progressive step away from our current Federation Constitution which is based on a long past-its-use-by-day spirit reflecting a racist White Australia.
  5. Why should there be any curtailment of discussion about anything pertaining to Aboriginals or Aboriginality. If any progress is ever to be achieved discussion will be a starting point.
  6. Delay and dysfunction are the present characteristics of Australian government and no new (undefined) risks will be created to the status quo when no actual powers will be conferred on the ‘Voice’ advisory body.
  7. Activism is not anathema to progressive change and should be embraced in Australia.
  8. Everything governments do in regard to Aboriginals is costly and bureaucratic. This is tacitly accepted as the expenditure of obligatory guilt money to assuage white consciences of historical atrocities perpetrated.
  9. It is irrelevant if an impotent Voice is permanent. It will be proudly promoted as a progressive gesture, even by future Liberal governments.
  10. What better way forward is there at present. There is no determination or appetite to create a sorely needed Bill of Rights in Australia.

Be different. Don’t reflect Australia’s innate temptation to a prejudiced racial meanspirited-ness.”

IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO – VOTE YES.   1st October 2023

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