The real thing

suicide cokeTo the aesthetically uninitiated, not to mention those who haven’t been keeping up with White Australia’s ongoing efforts to poison Aborigines with sweet drinks and sugary treats, the exhibition at Sydney’s Anna Schwartz Gallery by Indigenous artist and film-maker Warwick Thornton will come as something of an education. That’s one of his works above, by the way, a little snapshot of a primly dressed Aboriginal girl preparing to do herself in with a double-strength circlet of Coca-Cola cans.

Now it could be that, at a glance, the link between poor nutrition and fulminate of Islam’s favoured suicide belts will strike some as remarkably obtuse, but Professor Marcia Langton was fortunately available to write the exhibition’s accompanying notes. She explains:

… a young woman wears a suicide vest of Coca-Cola cans, and in the paired image, she holds a ‘number 7’ boomerang, the most efficient and deadly of all boomerangs. The same could be said of Coca-Cola, which medical professionals suspect contributes to the high levels of diabetes in the indigenous populations of Australia …

…. The power of Warwick Thornton’s imagery, whether in cinematic or photographic works, is in how he plays with ideas of time, space and identity; the power of the Aboriginal story; the burden of the historical injustices; and so clearly here, the power of the Aboriginal presence, with all its horror and beauty, in Australia …

… We do not need a class in semiotics to see the Thornton method: creating a sense of uneasiness, a sense of temporality, impending death, resistance and great insight.  They work at a number of levels, emotional and intellectual, as well as aesthetic.  I expected nothing less of this very important Australian artist.

And to think some ignorant souls might have mistaken a little girl strapped with soft drinks for a little girl strapped with soft drinks, rather than an indictment of “the viewer” and his or her abrogated “social responsibility to allow these young lives to flourish unimpeded”.

Professor Langton’s exploration of Thornton’s muse can be read in full via the link below

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