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Type: Thesis
Title: Investigating the aesthetic character of Australian urban Indigenous art: a socio-political fusion
Author: Dunt, Nerina Joy
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : Art History
Abstract: Two distinct geographies inform the practice and production of contemporary Australian Indigenous art: one is desert-based and remote; the other is urban-based (including regional centres). Art historically, urban Indigenous art has been overshadowed by the attention given to desert and remote Indigenous art. From the mid to late 1980s, however, urban Indigenous art built in momentum and proliferated, as its artists channelled in their work, to varying degrees, a connection with matters concerning Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations that were socio-political in nature. Artists interrogated Australia’s colonial paradigm. This thesis investigates the development of the urban Indigenous art movement, for a duration of more than thirty years, establishing how the socio-political connection has significantly motivated its aesthetic character. The research questions bring focus to the definition of a socio-political aesthetic, how artists portray it, and why it is central to the movement of urban Indigenous art. Decolonial theory provides a useful methodological framework for understanding Indigenous perspectives and Indigenous voices that are shown to ideologically underpin this socio-political aesthetic in urban Indigenous art. In employing this theory for analysis, four key objectives guiding artists are evident within the period surveyed: empowerment; defying colonial representation; recovering the Indigenous subject through the analysis of colonialism; and self-determination. Expressions of the socio-political aesthetic within urban Indigenous art are found to be numerous. For some artists, expression is equivalent to participation within the socio-political field. For others, expression operates on sensate and affective levels. Subversion and resistance to previous colonial modes of representing Indigeneity feature highly, as do the processes of destabilisation and undermining of colonial knowledge and power systems. Some artists harness key socio-political events and respond to these using autobiography or collective and cultural memory; others recover Indigenous perspectives in order to achieve historical transparency. Critique, criticality and collectivity are also strategies used to execute a socio-political aesthetic, with Indigenisation of the curated space occupying a key role in dissemination. The thesis contends that not only is a socio-political aesthetic intrinsic to urban Indigenous art, but that such an aesthetic manifests as socio-political agency. Urban Indigenous artists present contemporary art that is authoritative, delivering the message that contemporary Australian Indigenous culture, identity and representation should be managed from a self-determined position that is distinctly Indigenous.
Advisor: Speck, Catherine
Jenkins, Susan
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2018
Keywords: Art
twenty-first century
twentieth century
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