Cover image of the review

Sky Country: Our Connection to the Cosmos

27 May 2017
11 May - 28 May 2017

It's not often acknowledged just how much visual art comes to life through words, conversation, storytelling. Or, at least, it's not often explicitly acknowledged. It's implicitly acknowledged constantly: every time an art gallery stages an artist talk or public program, for example, or in the screeds of text published by art historians, critics and commentators. Artworks are part of a holistic culture that extends well beyond the gallery walls, and they work best when they're plugged in to that culture. If you are a member of a majority culture, this dialogue between different cultural forms is so commonplace and so easily achieved that it fades into invisibility. However, if you are part of a culture that is riddled with gaps and losses resulting from long-term and systematic attacks, it becomes much more difficult to achieve, and therefore much more apparent.

Dean Cross (Worimi), kurruwon koora (summer night – Ngunnawal country)

This is why it's hard to overstate the importance of galleries like Blak Dot, the contemporary Indigenous artist-run space founded in 2011. Sky Country: Our Connection to the Cosmos, Blak Dot's current exhibition, was co-curated by Kate ten Buuren (Taungurung) and Adam Ridgeway (Worimi). It's a quiet show, but curatorially astute, and it contains some strong works. The curators took the Taungurung dreaming story Winjara Wiganhanyin (Why We All Die) as a touchstone for the exhibition. Specifically, they used an animated version of this story created by the Monash Country Lines Archive (MCLA), another group doing excellent and important work. Winjara Wiganhanyin tells of Mirnjan (the moon), and the loss of his power to resurrect life. No longer able to bring humans back from the dead, Mirnjan took “onto himself the cycle of life and death”. Mirnjan's monthly renewal, which is both an acknowledgement of and a challenge to the fact of mortality, is a potent metaphor for the cultural work being done by Indigenous artists, and by organisations like Blak Dot and the MCLA.

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.