Constellations of us: Backstories to a bark TV

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2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is concerned with the intercultural production and reception of images, new methodologies, new forms of research, and new forms of visual culture. It takes up these issues by telling stories about the production of an art installation made possible by a long-term collaboration between a Yolngu family and an anthropologist and deeply informed by the ways that Yolngu use images to enliven relationships and amplify the field of vision beyond the strictly see-foryourself veracities and the surface allure of the visible. This article attempts to point towards, and re-enact even, these dynamics as they operated within the exhibition. Against an established artworld discourse that privileges the ancestral as the source of meaning and motivation in Yolngu art, these images and stories provide a sense of how a particular constellation of lives, ambitions and disappointments not only gave rise to this project, but shaped the way we understood its potential. For those of us involved, the work of this collaboration was to activate certain intersecting intercultural and biographic vectors, rather than to produce an image object embodying "tradition" or even invention, "independent" of context and moment, complete and stable in itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-234
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work would not be possible without generous and ongoing creative engagements of Susan Marrawakamirr, Yawulwuy Wunungmurra and David Gurrumuruwuy Bukulatjpi. I am indebted to Jane Sloan, John von Sturmer and Jennifer Biddle, also to Rhonda Davis, Chris Barry, Greg Downey and the Macquarie University Department of Anthropology, for their commitments to the interventions exhibition. This research was made possible by an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics, UNSW and the NYU Center for Religion and Media. Thanks also to Effy Alexakis, PHOTOWRITE, for exhibition images, and to Peter Toner for the photograph of Bangana and Yawulwuy.

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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