Facing the Dark: The Longford Gaol (1828), on Parramatta Road, solo exhibition at Articulate Project Space, Sydney, 7 – 22 Nov, 2020.
This experimental new body of work is part of Elizabeth Day’s ongoing project The Prison on the Landscape. These works are a reflection on the line or the wall as the meeting of British and Aboriginal Law as manifested early in Australia’s history with the arrival of the prison here. The prison is an institution that continues in a variety of forms to perpetuate that cultural divide.
Facing the Dark uses a processes characteristic of Day’s practice, especially the unravelling texts, that perform a reflection of, in this case the violence embedded as it were in the molecular structure of the architecture of our early colonial structures. This work contemplates the prison in the context of Tasmanian history of imprisoning, which was its fundamental purpose when first built on Aboriginal land. Much of Day’s practice has considered power and bodies, institutions, post-colonial questions and migration. Many of her projects over the last decade have occurred in marginal spaces, such as a garden developed in a women’s prison, or and the ongoing Myco Logic project that supported people with mental health issues at Cumberland Hospital and that drew on the image of the networked mycelial root systems of fungi. There is an implicit involvement in the work’s intricate processes, and acknowledgement of historical determinants.
Day migrated in 1963 from Lancashire to Tasmania, one of the earliest penal settlements in Australia. Facing the Dark draws on understandings of that state’s early history. It intersects with Day’s ongoing collaboration The Longford Project with Anna Gibbs, Julie Gough and Noelene Lucas, which is based on the group’s research into the eponymous Tasmanian town, and Julie Gough and Anna Gibbs’ observation that Australia is a crime scene.
Nano texts are drawn from Graeme Calder, Levee, Line and Martial Law: A history of dispossession of Mairremmener people of Van Dieman’s Land. The recent film The Nightingale exposed something of the culture of alienation, abuse and violence which many feel as a palpable presence in Tasmania.