An award-winning national touring exhibition of artworks by over 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, commemorating the British atomic tests in Australia in the 1950s, is on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra until 18 November, before being displayed at Burrinja Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre from 1 December 2018.
Black Mist Burnt Country features artworks from the past seven decades, selected from public and private collections, including works by Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Pam Debenham, Toni Robertson, Rosemary Laing, Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown, Judy Watson, Hilda Moodoo and Yvonne Edwards.
Developed by the Burrinja Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre, the exhibition revisits the history of the British atomic test program at Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello Islands and examines the impact on people and land, as well as its on-going legacies.
“It is surprising how few people are aware that atomic bombs were exploded in Australia, and how little they know about the dislocation of Aboriginal people, the exposure of Australian servicemen and the contamination of the land,” said Burrinja exhibition curator JD Mittmann.
“This exhibition offers some remarkable insights into a chapter of our history that has long-lasting consequences, while it poses some important questions in relation to contemporary nuclear issues.”
Black Mist Burnt Country presents works across the mediums of painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, new media and music, while exploring the varied perspectives and creative approaches of artists from post-Second World War modernists to contemporary artists.
A variety of interactive elements enable visitors to gain insights into the social, political and environmental dimensions, while placing the Australian atomic tests in the context of the nuclear arms race and its present-day realities.
“This potent exhibition by a cast of great artists broaches a number of thresholds in the telling of Australian history through art, and the role of museums in bringing these relatively little-known stories to life,” said Margo Neale, Head of the National Museum’s Indigenous Knowledge Centre and Advisor to the Director.
“These visual stories penetrate the heart while revealing little-known truths of human consequence about a tragic event in our shared history.”
Black Mist Burnt Country received the 2017 Museums Australia Victoria Archival Survival Award (Small Museums) and a Highly Commended at the Museums Australia National Conference (Touring and Temporary Exhibitions). The exhibition has been on tour nationally since September 2016 – when it marked the 60th anniversary of the first British test at Maralinga.
Black Mist Burnt Country
National Museum Australia, Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula (Canberra)
Exhibition continues to 18 November 2018
Burrinja Dandenong Ranges Cultural Centre, 351 Glenfern Road, Upwey
Exhibition: 1 December 2018 – 10 February 2019
For more information, visit: www.blackmistburntcountry.com.au for details.
Image: Blak Douglas, Tjarutja Tragedy, 2016, synthetic polymer on canvas, 100 x 200 cm, copyright the artist