When acts of genocide that have occurred in Australia since colonisation are routinely overlooked or disregarded, The Image is not Nothing (Concrete Archives) ultimately looks here and elsewhere in order to grapple with traumas that Australia as a nation has not processed.
Initially presented at ACE Open as part of the 2021 Adelaide Festival program, the exhibition will tour to Melbourne and be presented across two venues at Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West, Pipemakers Park, Maribrynong and Margaret Lawrence Gallery, University of Melbourne Southbank.
The Image is not Nothing (Concrete Archives) presents new and existing work in a range of material forms by 20 emerging and established artists from the lands that make up Australia and abroad.
The exhibition is the result of curators Lisa Radford and Yhonnie Scarce’s extensive field research.
Pre-pandemic, Radford and Scarce travelled across the world to visit sites imbued with significant histories of devastation, including Auschwitz, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Hiroshima, Maralinga, New York, Wounded Knee and former Yugoslavia. Scattered across the globe, these sites are an archive human history and loss in the form of architecture (brutalist buildings, monuments and memorials) and imagery (photographs, diarised accounts).
Scattered across the globe, these sites are an archive human history and loss.
The curators hoped that visiting these sites would help build an understanding and language for describing the experience of these sites and histories in the context of Australia’s own history of colonialism.
“The intention of our research was to discover what and how other countries and societies were dealing with trauma, genocide and nuclear colonisation, and how they represented it,” says Scarce.
“Australia has a long way to go in terms acknowledging the treatment of Aboriginal people when this country was colonised. That trauma is still present. Bringing people and artists together from different countries and backgrounds who are creating work about these topics has been an important part of the project,” Scarce says.
Through this exhibition, and in the accompanying archive and catalogue designed and published by Person Books, we can attempt to fathom the nuclear and colonial atrocities that have occurred on our own soil, particularly that of the nuclear weapons development testing that was carried out on Indigenous ancestral land from 1952 to 1963.
During this time, the British government exploded twelve full-scale atomic bombs across the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia, and Emu Field and Maralinga in the South Australian desert. One of the tests that occurred at Maralinga reached twice the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Listen to Yhonnie Scarce and Lisa Radford discuss the exhibition thanks to ACCA’s podcasts: