GALLOIS, Mathieu, 1969
Native born, 2001
approximate installed size 200.0 cm x 450.0 cm x 120.0 cm
Native born 20011 appropriates images of Aborigines and Australia's flora and fauna painted by the First Fleet artists, George Raper and the Port Jackson Painter, to create a sculptural installation.
On the Mornington Peninsula in southern Victoria, where I spend my holidays at my parents' hobby farm, the colonising settler farmers first deforested the landscape to fuel Melbourne's early settlement and subsequently set about remodelling the peninsula to resemble a homogeneous Western rural 'environment' loosely modelled on the Welsh countryside. Today, the 'new' Mornington Peninsula is a hybrid of rolling green fields, carefully articulated by pine and cypress trees, orchards, cattle and horse studs in the style of the old country, and reclaimed areas of native bushland. The local community is divided by opposing campaigns, one seeking to 'Save the pine trees' and the associated (perceived) Western heritage of the peninsula, the other determined to reintroduce native flora and fauna.
Archie Roach's acclaimed album Charcoal Lane (1990), a collection of stories tracing the singer's life as a displaced and alienated young Aboriginal through to his happier days as a family man, serves as a personal chronology of recent Aboriginal history and issues. 'Native Born', maybe the album's most thought-provoking song, explores the theme of lost cultural and spiritual identification with nature and the land amongst Aboriginal people, through references to Joseph Banks and Albert Namatjira.
I came to realise that 'Native Born' identifies a socio-environmental rupture, a lost cultural and spiritual sense of place, of no longer belonging to or identifying with 'country'; the systematic displacement of a people from their land, phenomena shared in some sense by indigenous and non-indigenous Australians alike.
The first images of Aborigines and of flora and fauna made by non-indigenous Australians encapsulates, in a way not since emulated, the odd, foreign and alien experience of this strange new antipodean world. In appropriating Raper and the Port Jackson Painter's images, Native born seeks to be expressive of this individual and cultural estrangement: both in terms of feeling like an alien and in terms of an increasingly Westernised environment that is indeed foreign and alien to Australia's original nature and inhabitants.
Mathieu Gallois, October 2001
This work is dedicated to my father, Jean-NoËl Gallois.
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