From Carrie Miller…
Sarah-Jane Norman really puts herself into her work. The latest series contains the artist’s own body, from china painted with her blood to a performance where she pierces a word into her chest.
Unsettling Suite combines elements of sculpture, installation and performance works that confront Australia’s dual colonial and indigenous histories. Norman’s own personal history is also bound up with these broader historical narratives. As a woman with mixed Aboriginal and British heritage, she uses her body as the material context for exploring both familial and cultural narratives.
The exhibition is set up like an imaginary farmhouse with each room suggestive of a particular domestic interior. Norman’s performances provide extra emotional charge to the works in this space. In Take this, for it is my body, the artist infuses her own blood with a scone mixture – suggesting the religious rituals imposed on Aboriginal communities and referencing the poisoned flour which was purposefully distributed to those communities.
And in The River’s Children the artist encourage viewers to contribute articles of white clothing which she will wash in the Hawkesbury River. This act will function like a reverse baptism where the clothing will be cleansed but in order to act as a backdrop to the projection of a series of texts articulating the indigenous massacres in that area.
At the conclusion of the exhibition the clothing will be returned, containing the trace of Norman’s reimaging of this history in the same way that her work contains traces of herself.
Until March 10
Performance Space, Carriage Works, Eveleigh
Pic: Sarah-Jane Norman, Corpus Nullius/Blood Country , 2011, part of the Unsettling Suite. Photo by Penelope Benton.