circles to us

an exhibition curated by Dominic Guerrera

Commissioned by Nexus Arts

with thanks to our Presenting Partner, Flinders University Musem of Art

circles to us

an exhibition curated by Dominic Guerrera

Commissioned by Nexus Arts, with thanks to Presenting Partner, Flinders University Museum of Art

About the Exhibition

circles to us, curated by Dominic Guerrera, was presented by Nexus Arts in partnership with Flinders University Museum of Art (FUMA) from 11 June to 23 July 2020. As the country began to tentatively emerge from COVID-19 lock down and Black Lives Matter protests swept the globe, this exhibition launched as Nexus Arts’ first multimodal presentation, opening both in our physical gallery space and concurrently presented online. The result of extensive research in FUMA’s collection, Dominic’s exhibition was designed to speak primarily to Aboriginal people, allowing them to contemplate their own cultures on their own terms. It was, however, conceived as place in which everyone was welcome, and the unprecedented visitation it received–more than 1500 unique viewers online–speaks to circles to us’ extraordinary success in reaching a wide audience.

Through this body of work exploring gender roles and responsibilities in Aboriginal societies, Dominic offered non-Indigenous viewers a binary, yet non-hierarchical, conception of gender which is counterposed in Anglo-Australian culture. Further, in and through this equity he contended that space is created for queer and non-binary positions, and that it is precisely this equity that facilitates fluidity. circles to us was therefore a timely exhibition that advocated for different and enhanced understanding of gender for Australians from all backgrounds.

The decision to refrain from including any information about the selected works on the Gallery walls, and instead encouraging visitors to access additional material online, was a deliberate and considered move. From Dominic’s perspective, it allowed the artists to speak through their art without context or explanation while, in practical terms, it avoided any requirement for floor sheets during pandemic restrictions. While some visitors likely found this requirement to use their mobiles in the Gallery cumbersome or unwelcome (perhaps a revulsion against additional, pandemic-induced screen time), we delighted in the exhibition as a truly convergent experience, layering the digital with the physical, rather than attempting simply to replicate or to duplicate the experience in both formats. Indeed, one of the highlights of the exhibition was observing a number of Dominic’s invited guests viewing the works in the Gallery, while simultaneously listening to the spoken word recordings of the writings that he had commissioned to respond to the works. These powerful words added context, deepening the meanings accessible to our audience, and we are fortunate that these pieces and an additional recorded conversation will be archived in fine print magazine long after our exhibition has closed.

Though it is no longer possible to view the exhibition either in person or online, Dominic’s curator’s statement and a list of exhibited artworks continue to be available below. We invite you to explore this material and wander through the other exhibitions available on Nexus Arts Gallery’s online portal.

 

Curator's Statement

This exhibition was born out the generosity of Aboriginal women. Thank you Ali Baker for yours.

 

To Aboriginal people

I hope you get to visit this exhibition because it’s for you. I hope the stories that lay within each individual artwork sing out and connect with you. I chose these pieces because they evoke memories of our families and communities. I hope collectively the work will challenge us to think about the way gender is present in our lives and cultures. How we are informed by the past, women’s and men’s business, how we are reclaiming and/ or carving out space for non-binary and trans Aboriginal people. I hope the work speaks to how we are embracing new culture while keeping the stories of the past alive. I hope you feel the interconnection of stories between the artworks and how they represent the continuation of Aboriginality.

I remember once after a cultural competency training day where a white coworker commented, “I like Aboriginal culture, but it’s just so gendered.” As if white culture is not…

It’s not the work I have selected, but rather the stories within, how the Aboriginal experience is captured by the artist. I have heard these stories before, from my grandmother, elders, my cousin and fellow country-people I see myself in some of the work, like the young person in ‘The Box II’ by artist Kunyi June-Anne McInerney, blocking out the world and all its pain; I see my fellow Aboriginal men incarcerated; my Nanna having lollies thrown at her from orphanage workers. I also see the soft kind face of Uncle George Tongerie captured by Aunty Polly Sumner Dodd. She told me she took the photo while they attended the opening of Tandanya. She spoke about how she developed and printed the work herself, and I sensed it would be with the same care we take with our elders.

I wanted to represent gender through storytelling, rather than select work where gender is the main theme; this would have been too obvious and disingenuous to the artists and you as Aboriginal people. It is also not the exhibition’s purpose to explain or provide examples of Aboriginal gender roles, this would be impossible.

I remember the screams from my mother when she found out her sister had died. She has twelve siblings, five of which we have lost.

Gender is something that is taught to us from birth and heavily reinforced throughout our youth, therefore I deliberately chose artwork that depicts childhood. As Aboriginal people, our childhoods are often interrupted by colonisers; their governments and institutions. I also resisted with many of the stories in the work because despite most of the works being several decades old, the situation feels so relevant and real today.

I remember standing in my Nanna’s house, her empty tea-cup clicks as she returns it to its saucer. The family were speaking about the bridge proposal at Kumarangk (hindmarsh island) – with my ears below the table I could hear my Nanna cursing the white politicians and locals who wanted to destroy a site sacred to Ngarrindjeri Miminir. The bridge was built, it is ugly, just like the colonisers who built it.

I curated this exhibition for Aboriginal people to explore, and think, and talk about gender within our communities. I have been lucky to ask three Aboriginal writers to respond to the exhibition, to add to the dialogue and expand the conversations within. We need to do this more often, create space by us, for us and resist the ever intrusion of the colony.

I will remember that the story of the land circles to us.

A Note from Nexus Arts

We know more now
Through the beauty of you

These lines are taken from Tony Birch’s 2004 poem ‘A Songline to Minoru’. It is this poem that inspired the title for Dominic Guerrera’s exhibition, circles to us. In this exhibition, these words speak to his desire to explore his culture, pursue understanding through art and share this with other Aboriginal people. His project prioritises his audience, this work is by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.

Yet this exhibition was hung, with consideration, in the welcoming, intercultural space of Nexus Arts Gallery. Importantly too, as we tentatively move towards re-opening our museums and galleries in what we hope is the wake of the pandemic locally, Dominic has worked to prioritise digital delivery. Accessibility is at the heart of this exhibition. It is his desire that people living in remote communities, those living with disabilities and those living far from Kaurna country can see this work. While this exhibition identifies a clear audience, it is therefore also located within this wider context of intercultural accessibility. It speaks to us all, but on its own terms and without compromise.

For non-Aboriginal viewers, we may also find a point of access into this exhibition through its theme. circles to us explores the defined, but non-hierarchical gender roles within Aboriginal cultures, and in this Dominic finds space for queer, non-binary, and transgender Aboriginal identities. This concept is a through line which envelopes (or excludes) all humans. We must resist the urge to simply seek ourselves within this work, however. Instead, we can hope that, through the experience that Dominic has offered us, through this exhibition which Nexus Arts warmly invites you to explore, we may all know more.

Works included in the exhibition

Treadmill, Gordon Syron (Worimi/Gadang/Kattang, Birpai/Biripi), 1981, synthetic polymer paint on canvas board; © Gordon Syron/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Aboriginality, Byron Pickett (Noongar/Nyungar/Nyungah), 1986, photo screenprint; colour inks on paper; © estate of Byron Clem Pickett licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Another Story, Sally Jane Morgan (Palyku, Nyamal), undated, screenprint, colour inks on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

George Tongerie, Polly Sumner Dodd (Ngarrindjeri/Narrinjeri), 1988, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Ngarrindjeri fishermen, Kerry Giles (Ngarrindjeri/Narrinjeri), 1992, linocut print, ink on buff paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Fetish, Arone Raymond Meeks (Kuku Midigi), 1999, etching, maroon ink on paper, © Arone Raymond john Meeks/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

The Forgotten Wars II, James Tylor and Laura Wills, 2019, photographic print, coloured pencils, white ink and pen, on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Sovereign goddess Faye from the series Bow down to the sovereign goddess, Ali Gumillya Baker (Mirning), 2011, archival inkjet print, coloured inks on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Here we are playing cow boy’s, Ian W Abdulla (Ngarrindjeri/Narrinjeri), 2009, synthetic polymer paint on canvas; © Ian Abdulla/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift Program.

High Status, Darren Siwes (Ngalkbun), 2001, cibachrome photograph, mounted onto aluminium; © Darren Siwes/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

The lollies, Kunyi June-Anne McInerney (Yankunytjatjara), 1992, oil on canvas; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Old Giant Woman Dreaming, Mosquito Jungarrayi Morris, 1988, synthetic polymer paint on canvas; © Mosquito Jungarrayi Morris/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Deaths in Custody, Karen Casey, 1988, lithograph on textured paper; © the artist; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Stolen Children, Sandra Saunders (Ngarrindjeri/Narrinjeri), 2001, synthetic polymer paint on composition board; Flinders University Art Museum Collection, gift of Felicity Wright.

The Box II, Kunyi June-Anne McInerney (Yankunytjatjara), oil pain on canvas; Flinders University Art Museum Collection, gift of Emeritus Professor JVS Megaw and Dr M Ruth Megaw

‘Abo’ from the Abo, nigger, coon triptych, Julie Dowling (Badimaya/Badimia, Widi, Noongar/Nyungar/Nyungah), 1997, synthetic polymer paint on canvas; © Julie Dowling/Copyright Agency, 2020; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Self-portrait in Paris studio, Ron Hurley (Mununjali, Gooreng Gooreng/Gureng Gureng/Gurang Gurang), undated, synthetic polymer paint and mixed media on canvas; © the estate of the artist; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Feelin Safe, H J Wedge (Wiradjuri), 1998, synthetic polymer paint on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

Trespassers keep out!, Avril Quaill (Nunukul/Noonuccal, Ngugi, Goinbal), 1982, screenprint colour inks on paper; Flinders University Art Museum Collection.

About the Artists


Exhibition curator

Dominic Guerrera

Dominic Guerrera is a Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Italian person and his primary work has been as an Aboriginal Health Worker and Educator for 16 years, with a focus on sexual health. Dominic’s art explores themes of Aboriginality, Queerness, decolonising and storytelling within the mediums of poetry, essays, podcasting and photography.

The ASH Podcast, hosted by Dominic and Sasha Smith, has performed live for Melbourne Writers’ Festival and Feast Festival, and featured in The Adelaide Review and Frankie Magazine.

Writings by Dominic include poetry, essays and fiction. He has been published in IndigenousX, Cordite Review and Non-Compliant Magazine and performed his poetry as a featured artist for Draw Your Swords and Kin's POC Pride.

Dominic was a lead researcher and writer of the Aboriginal Gender Study, a research project lead by Aboriginal Health Council of SA and Lowitja Institute.

Dedicated to community movements, Dominic has also been involved in numerous community initiatives and community events including Wish You Were Queer collective, SXC Times, Aboriginal Standpoint and The SA Aboriginal Writers’ Group.

Our writers

Latoya Rule

Latoya Aroha Rule is a person of Wiradjuri & Māori decent, who regularly resides on Kaurna land. Their work focuses on issues of social justice, prison abolition and decolonisation.

Corey Theatre

Corey Theatre synthesises the Arts with academia in a way that few others can; incorporating elements of linguistics and psychology into his music.

Sasha Smith

Sasha Smith is a Boandik/Meintangk writer and sex worker living on Kaurna Land.


@dominiceliseo

@fuma_museum


Acknowledgements


Nexus Arts acknowledges Kaurna people as the owners of the land where we live, learn, and work. We respect their culture and elders and acknowledge their sovereignty was never ceded. We recognise that visual arts, music and storytelling have been central to Aboriginal cultures for over 60,000 years. We work to support this lineage.

This exhibition would not have been possible without Dominic Guerrera’s unwavering curatorial vision, his dedication and his flexibility both of which were so vital to delivering this project during this challenging time. Our thanks go to Ali Baker for introducing him to us and for her support of all Dominic’s endeavours. We’d also like to acknowledge Tony Birch, whose writings inspired the title for this exhibition. Through Dominic, we also gained the opportunity to work with a number of incredible writers. Their work adds significantly to this exhibition, and is a powerful demonstration of their extraordinary talents. We are so grateful for your input, Latoya, Sasha and Corey.

To each and every artist that gave us permission to include your work in the exhibition, we extend our deepest gratitude. We are privileged to be able to experience your art.

The support provided by the team at Flinders University Museum of Art has been invaluable. In particular, we appreciate both the academic rigour and the generous, practical input of Fiona Salmon, Liam McGeagh and Maddie Reece. The collection of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art held by FUMA is an extraordinary resource that we were fortunate to be able to share.

Nexus Arts thanks our staff for their enthusiastic commitment to delivering this multimodal exhibition, especially Aaron Schuppan and Andre Lawrence. Thanks again to Luku at Kuku Digital for supporting us to pull together this second online exhibition. We also sincerely thank the Government of South Australian through the Department of Premier and Cabinet for their ongoing support of Nexus, and we are most grateful to everyone involved in the DPC-ATSI Arts Development program which enabled us to expand the exhibition to its current form.

Most importantly, we thank you for visiting this website and supporting intercultural arts in Australia.