Unsettling Australia: The Role of Contemporary Urban Indigenous Visual Artists in a Re-Imagined Australia

By Corinne Brittain.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

What is the function of contemporary urban Indigenous visual art in post contact Australia? When anthropologist WEH Stanner coined his now iconic phrase, The Great Australian Silence in the 1960s, the implication was of a white historical amnesia about the getting of colonial settlerhood; but it could just as well have referred to the muted blacks as to silent whites. The subsequent and meteoric rise of 'traditional' Indigenous art has been integral to the general shift in perception of Indigenous cultural worth; but in this still fiercely contested space, the role of the new breed of academically trained, urban Indigenous artists remains somewhat ambiguous. By positioning themselves firmly within the bastions of dominant culture, does their often politicized output add potency to the necessary efforts of undermining conveniently forgotten white narratives, or has entrenchment in the lexicon of mainstream, non Indigenous Australian art potentially diluted the message?

Keywords: Australia, Indigenous, Urban, Contemporary, Artist, Contested, Hybrid

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.39-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 526.597KB).

Corinne Brittain

PhD Candidate, Sydney College Of the Arts, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

I am a visual artist and PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. My key area of interest is exploring avenues through art and research to more fully understand the clashes and confluences of post colonial Australian society, where an ongoing failure of the dominant non-Indigenous settler culture to fully recognize and negotiate with the Indigenous and incumbent 'other', has resulted in complex, fiercely contested and uneasy hybridized spaces of Australia.