“Unsettling Suite“ is a body of work that address Australia’s intertwined Indigenous and colonial histories. Comprised of eight works, spanning performance, video, sound and sculpture, but all including live components or traces of my body, the works of “Unsettling Suite” connect my own personal history and familial narratives—and, in particular, my mixed Aboriginal and British heritage—with the larger histories of post-colonial Australia.
The installation brings together the complete body of works into the singular construct of a dream-like house. The work invokes the tropes of the Colonial Gothic, and specifically the house as a metaphor for the body/psyche: the “house” in the Gothic is percolated by uncanny disturbances, summoning the inevitable Return of the Repressed, and in this case the manifestations are issued by the unacknowledged history of bloodshed and genocide which reside uncomfortably beneath, and essentially destabilize, the frontier mythos of Australia’s “settlement” and establishment as a nation.
The house, modeled on the floor-plan of a typical Australian farmhouse, was built to-scale inside the large gallery space. In place of solid walls, the frame of the house was covered in translucent plastic, suggesting a structure still in a state of partial-construction, but also engendering a ghostliness to the work’s atmosphere: the play of the very low lighting through the walls had the effect of disturbing the audience’s vision and creating apparitions. Every room of the house was occupied by a different work of works, each “activated” nightly by performances, and each mirroring a distorted vision of a domestic interior—the “kitchen” for instance, houses “Take This, For It Is My Body,” a work in which I invite audiences to consume fresh bread which has been contaminated with a small quantity of my blood. The parlour contiains “Corpus Nullius,” in which I embroider the two halves of the Latin phrase “Terra Nullius” (“nobody’s land”) firstly on my own chest secondly onto uncured hide of a recently slaughtered sheep; the laundry contains “The River’s Children,” in which audiences are invited to bring an item of white laundry to be washed by hand in water taken from the river that runs through my own ancestral country, which is also the site of some of the earliest and bloodiest massacres of Indigenous people. These works sit alongside the sculptural works “The Great Plague” and “Hierloom,” documentation of which can be found on my website.