For another couple of weeks the Gold Coast City Gallery offers visitors a unique chance to encounter the east coast from a historical, social and artistic point of view. East Coast Encounter is an exhibition that brings together some of Australia’s most original and respected Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, writers, film-makers and songwriters. The exhibition encourages cultural dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and engages with the topic through a wonderful combination of sound, words, two and three dimensional imagery and political, social and historical approaches.
This project started five years ago when a group of artists, songwriters, historians and film-makers started to explore Cook’s voyage and the chain of events in 1770 through both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives.
Journalist and film-maker Jeff McMullen said the exhibition invites us to re-examine history with an eye for fresh detail and a keen ear for the voices on the shore.
“Through art we create an opportunity to close the space between us,” he said.
What did the crew see from Endeavour when they sailed along the coastline? What was the experience like for the Badtjala people who followed the ship all the way from the southern end of K’gari, or Fraser Island, to its northern tip? What was their impression of the ship and its crew and their occasional engagements with them? This exhibition aims to give you glimpses into what these encounters and impressions might have been like.
For yours truly, a non-Indigenous, not even Australian Gold Coaster, this exhibition made for an interesting visit. It was not only an exhibition of enjoyable art but almost a documentation style reminder of an important and painful, very well-known yet complex and unsettled part of the story of this continent. From the delicate prints by Michael Cook and the portrait and text panels of Peter Hudson to Neil Murray’s lyrics and the numerous images of Possession Island by various artists, the art here leaves you thinking of the life, culture and nation-changing events of 1770. But not just the ones who arrived here 60,000 years or 200 years ago but also for the ones who arrived eight years ago, and how successfully, unsuccessfully, arrogantly, delicately, harmoniously and violently we live together and co-exist.
This dialogue is nowhere near its end and this exhibition is just a small part of it, but for us new and old Gold Coasters, it is a cultural and social reminder of historical events, the different cultures that have and do occupy this land and how sometimes the smallest incidents can have the biggest effects.
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East Coast Encounter is on display at Gold Coast City Gallery until 7 June. (And if you happen to miss it, you can always get the book East Coast Encounter as the next best option.)
Feature image: Michael Cook, Undiscovered #4 2010, Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle paper. Courtesy of Andrew Baker Art Dealer & Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects