This lavish hardcover, full-colour, 52-page publication documents the exhibition YOU ARE HERE—an artivism initiative that contributes to national conversations about truth-telling and re-writes white histories around the settlement of Australia and the burgeoning coal and fossil fuel industry that ensued.
Through her exhibition catalogue, Darwin-based artist Therese Ritchie factually examines Australia’s frontier wars, the massacre of Indigenous peoples and forcible land appropriation, through visual images and large-scale timelines and text.
Alongside this pernicious history of massacre, Ritchie presents the nation’s simultaneous history of coal extraction and infrastructure development by European settlers, mining companies and successive Australian governments—making apparent the connection between these two trajectories.
YOU ARE HERE was presented at CDU Art Gallery in 2021 and curated by Dr Joanna Barrkman. It unflinchingly examined how we got to where we are now. In the words of the artist, it urges us to consider the compelling question: ‘What do we do now?’
This publication, designed by Ritchie, is comprised of four large-scale timelines and 18 digital inkjet framed prints. The upper half of each timeline documents the growth of coal mining, while the lower halves document the parallel reality of massacres enacted upon First Nation Australians. The 18 prints were created by the artist during her research process as she constructed the timelines. They recount her emotional responses to the histories recorded in the timelines and operate as visual signifiers that invite the viewer to interpret personal responses to the factual data the timelines record.
YOU ARE HERE interprets Australia’s national history since 1770 and incorporates evocative imagery, much of which is appropriated from familiar historical paintings of Australian landscapes and events documenting the European colonisation of Australia.
These images are overlaid with text and timelines that record a litany of misdemeanours, atrocities, discoveries, manoeuvres, and ploys leading to a culminating moment in Australia’s history. YOU ARE HERE prompts dialogue, debate and reflection about truth-telling, care for Country, the implications of mining, and issues of First Nation’s sovereignty.
The catalogue of YOU ARE HERE is available for purchase at CDU Art Gallery via CDU Webpay; $99 (GST inclusive), plus postage. This publication has been proudly sponsored by the Northern Territory Government and supported by Charles Darwin University Art Gallery.
About Therese Ritchie
Art and activism exist in equal proportions in the artistic practice of Therese Ritchie. As an ‘artivist’, art is the tool of her social action. Her art prods, provokes, directs, and intervenes in the social, environmental, and political structures that surround her. For more than forty years, Ritchie has produced works that provoke reactions, thought and discussion through her careful and controlled use of imagery that is sublime and disturbing in equal measure.
Born in Newcastle in 1961, Ritchie arrived in Darwin in 1980 and commenced her study of photography at the Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University). Over the next decade she explored graphic arts and political poster art. Her creative collaborations with Chips Mackinolty and Peter Cook led to the trio forming Green Ant Research Arts and Publishing in 1990. Later she studied animation at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne during 2001 and then returned to Darwin to complete her Master of Fine Art at CDU in 2004.
The incorporation of European landscapes in Richie’s contemporary artworks destabilises and inverts the colonial gaze; it asks the viewer to consider how historical encounters and views continue to be perpetuated in modern day Australian life, values, and relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, as well as with the natural environment.
As a non-Indigenous woman with substantial ties to various Indigenous groups in the Top End, Ritchie stands at a crossroad between black and white Australia.... consequently her images convey truth of life in a ‘frontier’ society. (Source: Miranda Wallace, Therese Ritchie: Photography at the Crossroads, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, p. 117).