The customary greeting between male relations and family members in Thompson’s The Sixth Mile and Desert Slippers both created 2006 are profoundly moving in the intensely personal rituals revealed to an unaware public audience. Thompson inhabits many bodies – young, male, urban, Blak, androgynous, playful, mimic, and performative – always Bidjara.1
[The video work] presents the viewer with a very intimate, family ritual. We see the artist and his father involved in what could be interpreted as a greeting ceremony. Speaking in Bidjara, their bodies turned towards each other, the men are engrossed in acting out the same gestures repetitively. The non-Bidjara viewer, who can’t understand what is being said, is nonetheless invited into this private space of communication and learning between father and son. The artist explains that this work follows on from earlier videos that similarly focused on Bidjara rituals, made visible by means of a Western visual language. It forms a response to the increasingly conservative government policies and, in particular, to the recent media coverage of dysfunction in Indigenous communities, something described by the artist as ‘Aboriginal man-bashing.’ Choosing video because of its potential for direct and intense audience engagement, Thompson offers insight into Indigenous rituals and notions of masculinity and father-child relationships in personal and challenging ways.
Marianne Riphagen, ‘Intersections in the screen pit’, RealTime, no.76, Dec–Jan, 2006, p.54.
1 The term ‘Blak’ was ﬁrst used by Destiny Deacon in the exhibition Kudjeris at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, 1991, with one of her works titled Blak lik mi.