The National 2019: New Australian Art is a celebration of contemporary Australian art. The second of three biennial survey exhibitions, it showcases work being made across the country by artists of different generations and cultural backgrounds.
The installation, RE FORMATION part 3 (Dubbagullee) was commissioned for The National, a new biennial survey presenting the latest ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art across three of Sydney’s premiere cultural institutions – the Art Gallery of NSW, Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The work was seen at the Art Gallery of NSW from 29 Match to 21 July 2019.
RE FORMATION part 3 (Dubbagullee) takes the form of a midden, mimicking the mounds of discarded organic matter that accumulated in Aboriginal communities. During Australia’s early colonial period, Europeans used these middens as a source of lime, which they burnt to create mortar for buildings. I think of middens as a form of ‘Aboriginal architecture’. They are man-made structures that trace a record of occupation and culture over many centuries, debunking the colonial claim that Australia was terra nullius, or unoccupied territory.
In RE FORMATION part 3, thousands of hand-cast shells are arranged in a bed of copper slag, a by-product of copper extraction. Together, they connect the historical and continuing decimation of sacred sits by mining and other commercial activities. This midden was the largest I had made to date. Its title and use of a local food source invoke the grand shell mounds that were once found on nearby Dubbagullee, the peninsula now known as Bennelong Point, present-day site of the Sydney Opera House.