Against Forgetting: Australian Artists’ Engagements with Histories of Place

By Thea Costantino.

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 17, 2014 $US5.00

Artistic investigations of place are often entwined with the attempt to retrieve and make sense of local histories; this attempt is most urgent when considering places with contested memories. Artists working in the multicultural and postcolonial Australia of today do so in a context in which several conflicting views of land, home, and history exist simultaneously, and where the nation’s popular memory is riddled with absences. Artists’ efforts to reconnect with or reconstruct vanished experiences of place can be viewed as a corrective to the persistent absentmindedness of mainstream Australia, which struggles to acknowledge the violence and politics of exclusion intrinsic to the settler colonial project. This article considers settler culture’s imperative to forget the colonial past in relation to the work of four contemporary artists who call for remembrance as a path to national healing. Their work suggests that creative modes may help nations with the difficult task of coming to terms with histories of trauma.

Keywords: Australia, Settler Colonialism, Thirdspace, Second World, Contemporary Art, Forgetting, Trauma, Kate McMillan, Helen Smith, Jonathan Jones, Christian Thompson

The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 8, December 2014, pp.41-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 17, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 589.468KB)).

Dr. Thea Costantino

Lecturer, School of Design and Art, Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia

Thea Costantino is an artist and academic with a PhD from Curtin University, where she works in the School of Design and Art. Her doctoral research proposed the “historiographic grotesque,” an aesthetic and thematic mode for the representation and interpretation of history in both critical and creative contexts. More recent work has examined ways in which visual artists address issues of memory and history, particularly in postcolonial contexts.