From Stella Rosa McDonald…
Nothing ever happens without being imagined first; too see is to believe. This is the premise behind Richard Bell’s trilogy of films regarding the position and perception of Aboriginal Australians. Imagining Victory, first developed by Artspace in 2013,presents Bell’s suite of films Scratch an Aussie (2008), Broken English (2009) and his most recent film The Dinner Party (2013). It’s not too much of a jump to describe Bell’s work as a type of Dreaming, where multiple notions of time—and truth—exist simultaneously.
The power of Bell’s work lies in its contemporaneity. His is not a futuristic, exotic imagining but a visualisation of political, social and economic change as if it were to happen now. There’s nothing tentative in Bell’s work; he gets straight to the point and the point is usually located in the jugular. In Scratch an Aussie a bevy of tanned, blonde Australians frankly discuss their perceptions of Aboriginal people with Bell playing the role of a psychologist. Racism appears as a splinter deeply lodged. The Dinner Party is set on the eve of Australia’s transition to being an Aboriginal Republic. Art, politics and sex are, as it were, on the menu. On reflection, this suite of powerful films feel strangely dated, as if these are conversations and provocations that should have been resolved long ago. Bell is too easily dismissed as a provocateur, but his work is tempered by deep contemplation and a refined aesthetic that scratches just below the surface to confront barely hidden, but oft disputed, truths.
Until November 23
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Casula
Pic: Richard Bell, Scratch an Aussie, 2008, still from HD video. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane