Living in Their Times

2017 marks thirty years since the historic 1967 referendum that signaled a radical transformation in the relationship between Indigenous communities and colonial Australians. In celebration, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and curator Djon Mundine OAM, reflect on the history of Indigenous culture and its self-determination and activism through an exhibition titled ‘Living in Their Times’, acknowledging the critical role the vote has played in shaping contemporary Australia.

Travelling Bungaree, 2015. Performed by (BLAK) Douglas, Karla Dickens, Amala Groom, Warwick Keen, Peter McKenzie, Djon Mundine, Caroline Oakley, Bjorn Stewart, Leanne Tobin and Jason Wing. Developed with the assistance of Andrea James. Video: 5:46 mins. (detail)

Featured artists like Daniel Boyd, Jason Wing, Peter McKenzie, Leanne Tobin, Amala Groom, BLAK Douglas (Adam Hill), Leah Flanagan, Sandy Woods, Chantelle Woods, Caroline Oakley, Bjorn Stewart, Karla Dickens and Warwick Keen, acknowledge all aspects of Aboriginal culture and it’s history so that it’s position in modern day society can be better understood. Whilst Australia now celebrates a racially and culturally diverse population, it is vital for artists to collaborate in order to ensure that a cohesive understanding of this history is maintained in the public’s consciousness.

Mundine pays homage to this turbulent past by resurfacing the legendary history of Bungaree, who was a central figure in colonial history and the first Australian to be referred to as an OE. After showcasing at the Mosman Art Gallery in 2015, Mundine brings the performance piece of Bungaree’s Farm back to into the spotlight by restaging it through an immersive three channel video installation that revisits the story of the first land given to the Aboriginal people in Australia. Accompanying this production is an eclectic film program that includes shorts, documentaries and features curated by filmmaker and programmer Pauline Clague.

Robert Campbell Jnr., The Fighting Sands Brothers, 1989, acrylic on canvas, 54.5 x 92 cm. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

In order to create an immersive artistic environment across the UTS campus, Mundine has curated a selection of artworks by the late Robert Campbell Jnr. Campbell Jnr built a strong legacy for himself with his brightly colored acrylic paintings that offered a unique and personal representation of Aboriginal culture in Australia, particularly relating to his childhood living in the mid-north coast region of New South Wales. Campbell’s works are perfectly interpreted by Mundine who has incorporated his pieces into the exhibit as a means to detail the Aboriginal peoples experiences on the mission settlements, where Campbell Jnr hauntingly recalled: “the old people were not allowed to speak the lingo, not allowed to teach us, they were too afraid they would be sent away”.

Together with an installation inspired by the late artist’s uniquely stylised human figures, the central foyer of the UTS tower building will be transformed into a beacon of the history of Aboriginal identity in Australia. In collaboration with the Jumbunna institute, the exhibition allows a younger audience to contemplate the dark history of Australia, reflecting on the events that led up to the referendum only a few decades ago. These works will be showcased until August 2017.

Visit UTS on Saturday the 27 May from 1-9pm for a complimentary screening of Living in Their Times.