Artists reflect on Sovereignty and Memory in Terra inFirma series

Sights-Citing-Site-2020-(detail)Blacktown Arts presents Terra inFirma: Sovereignty and Memory – an exhibition that explores country, landscape, sovereignty, memory, trauma and identity at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre from Saturday 5 September 2020.

In the year marking the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in Australia, and with the Black Lives Matter movement bringing focus to the on-going impacts of colonisation around the world, Terra inFirma could not be more timely.

“This exciting project sees First Nations and culturally diverse artists share their stories of history, heritage and identity with a focus on the experiences of communities represented in Blacktown,” said Blacktown City Mayor Tony Bleasdale, OAM. “Blacktown City is proud to have the highest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander urban population in New South Wales.”

Terra inFirma: Sovereignty and Memory offers a wide range of experiences to engage with painting, drawing, installation, performances and workshops. Artists reflect upon the complexity and significance of Country, not limited to the physical grounds we stand on, but the histories and experiences absorbed by that land.

An effigy of James Cook’s Cottage in Melbourne destroyed; maps of Blacktown decolonised; and the histories of Australia and the Philippines are linked through the narrative of dispossession among work by artists including Alex Byrne, Gary Carsley, Dean Cross, Brian Fuata, Jasmine Guffond, Leanne Tobin, Julie Vulcan and Judy Watson.

• Alex Byrne
Blacktown artist Alex Byrne reflects on 250 years of colonisation as a non-First Nations Australian through a series of drawings about physical and psychological place.

• Gary Carsley, Leanne Tobin and students from Chifley College Bidwell Campus
In a large-scale installation, Gary Carsley looks at how the histories of Australia and the Philippines are linked through the narrative of dispossession. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students at Chifley College Bidwell Campus thread their histories, memories and aspirations into the work, which will be activated in a ceremony with Darug artist Leanne Tobin.

• Dean Cross
In FOLLY, Dean Cross looks at the inequalities in the politics of historical preservation and asks why one birthplace is more valuable than another, inviting a mob of First Nations artists, architects and builders to come together to construct a version of James Cook’s Cottage in Melbourne and burn it to the ground as effigy, offering and proclamation.

• Brian Fuata
A sheet as Sail continues Brian Fuata’s long standing practice of structured improvisation that exploits the image of the ghost. Fuata will be working in situ at the Arts Centre, haunting and/or being possessed by the practices and artworks of the other artists, absorbing and embodying fragments of their works to become part of a performance.

• Jasmine Guffond, Leanne Tobin and Julie Bukari Webb
Land in Blacktown was given to early colonisers in the form of land grants, while places were named after British rulers and aristocracy. Darug artists Leanne Tobin and Julie Bukari Webb work with Jasmine Guffond to decolonise maps of Blacktown, and to use Darug language to name and describe local waterways.

• Julie Vulcan
In DARKpassage, Julie Vulcan explores what it means for women to inhabit the streets after dark. Guided by conversations with women in Blacktown, Vulcan creates an installation that opens up the rich and complicated relationship we have as humans to the dark.

• Jumaadi
In a newly commissioned performance, Australian-Indonesian artist Jumaadi takes influence from ancient shadow theatre to tell stories of sea transportation throughout history. The shadows are brought to life by two puppet masters, accompanied by live music, full of satire and humour, but also depicting painful moments of loss and discovery. The free performance takes place on Saturday 31 October, with booking details to be announced.

• Judy Watson
Judy Watson’s leaking shield references cultural memory in the land, and subtly exposes hidden histories of the Indigenous experience on the colonial frontier.

Terra inFirma: Sovereignty and Memory
The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre, 78 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown
Exhibition: Saturday 5 September – Tuesday 3 November 2020
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Gary Carsley with Leanne Tobin and twelve Years 9, 11 and 12 students of Chifley College, Bidwell Campus, supported by their teachers, Sights Citing Site, 2020 (detail), 295 x 1050 x 20 cm (cropped), 1548 hand cut and trimmed laser photocopy prints on 80 gsm variously tinted yellow papers and 100 gms white paper applied directly to the wall and wrapped around multiple vertical dressed pine planks – courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery Sydney, Thatcher Projects New York and Torch Gallery Amsterdam