Exhibition: 27 Jul – 27 Aug 2016
36 Gosbell Street . Paddington
NSW 2021 Sydney
BRENDA L CROFT
27 July to 27 August 2016
With a diverse career as an artist, researcher and independent curator, Brenda L. Croft has been creating multi-disciplinary, multi-platform work for more than three decades. In 2015 she received a National Indigenous Arts Award Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts in recognition of her practice. She is a member of the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudpurra peoples from the Northern Territory of Australia, and of Anglo-Australian/German/Irish heritage. Her artworks draw on personal and public archives and explore issues faced by contemporary Indigenous peoples and the ongoing impact of colonisation in Australia since 1788. Through her work she aims to give “a voice to the voiceless, making the invisible visible” – listening, seeing, being and sharing.
For subalter/N/ative dreams, Croft has been working closely with her family and community at Wave Hill and Victoria River regions in the Northern Territory and dislocated Gurindji community members elsewhere. The timing of this exhibition has a many-layered significance for Croft; it is the 20th anniversary of the death of her father Joe, a member of the Stolen Generations, the 40th anniversary of the NT Land Rights Act and the 50th anniversary of the Gurindji Walk-Off from Wave Hill Station on 23 August, 1966. The Gurindji Walk-Off was a defining moment, not only for Indigenous peoples but in Australian history. A committed group of Traditional Custodians walked off one of the country’s largest pastoral stations in a profound act of resistance and self-determination. It marked a nine-year long strike and engendered the birth of the national land rights movement.
Croft’s work considers the ongoing legacies of colonisation; how many Indigenous peoples were dispossessed of their language, ceremony and cultural connections and how the imposed language and culture has been used to define, constrict and displace Indigenous people within their own lands. In a brutally honest, immersive body of work, a series of self-portraits on country features Croft on traditional homelands and in displaced communities, looking straight down the barrel of the lens, defiantly present and unapologetic. Another series features images of the artist drawn from original wet collodian plates where she appropriates descriptors used for her father and others in her immediate and extended family – full-blood, half-blood, half-caste, quarter-caste, quadroon, abo. Her image challenges such debasing classifications used to subjugate Indigenous people now, as in the past, whilst also highlighting there is no single Indigenous way of being.
In shut/mouth/scream, Croft’s face is dissected by the frame and starkly echoes an image of her paternal grandmother taken many years before during medical research. Trac(k)ed through the public archives, the latter image was located seven decades after it had been taken at Kahlin Aboriginal Compound in Darwin where Croft’s grandmother and father had been taken in the late 1920s. Its reclamation, through Croft’s visual call and response, is an angry howl at the abject treatment meted out not only to her grandmother and other family members, but to all Indigenous peoples impacted by authoritarian regimes, which continues to this day.
Brenda L. Croft has been involved in the contemporary Indigenous arts and cultural sectors since the 1980s. Major bodies of work include The Big Deal is Black (1993), Strange Fruit (1994), In My Father’s House, and In my mother’s garden (1998), west/ward/bound (1999), Man about town (2003) and Peripheral vision (2005). She has been an accomplished curator of Indigenous art at state, federal and international levels since 1999. Croft was awarded a Master of Art Administration from UNSW in 1995, a UNSW Alumni Award in 2001 and in 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Vis Arts) from the University of Sydney. From 2012 – 15 Croft was an Australian Research Council (Discovery Indigenous) Senior Research Fellow at UNSW Art & Design Australia, where she is undertaking doctoral research as an Adjunct Research Fellow.