The Image is Not Nothing

Dear Yhonnie

We’re in the middle of something—history shared and speculative—a Kokatha and Nukunu woman mentions her home to a whitey. We find ourselves trying to speak with some of the 5000 images taken over six weeks, from late December 2018 to February 2019. These images are an index of an experience we shared. There are repetitions in this short loop: warning in a salt lake, two abandoned cities, bus stops. The Andamooka cemetery sign beckons that of Birkenau. I like thinking I knew what I was being asked to do when you invited me to walk with you. You don’t want to visit sites of genocide and nuclear destruction alone this time.

New York, you said. We feed on Orion Diner burgers, souvlaki and pancakes for 10 days while Trump decides on how to fund his wall. The 9/11 Memorial, as a structure, attempts to hold a scale that is in proportion to an act. Beneath it we consider a museum turning grief into propaganda. Twin Towers built on Little Syria, Mohammod tells us over beer. Towards a Concrete Utopia. Tito’s post-nation-state proposition united ethnic diversities, proposing hybrid social monuments. Can a memorial of shared histories fail? As we walk through this relatively small exhibition, in the seemingly immense Museum of Modern Art, we ask: is the representation of large-scale and unacknowledged violence too large to depict, or so large that any depiction renders the act void? Drive through Badlands to Wounded Knee in South Dakota; remember John Fusco, Val Kilmer, Thunderheart. A frontier sci-fi genre. The Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation and ghosts of history. A bombing range also, just like Woomera, where we visited an officially ex but definitely present military base. In ‘Manahatta’, where ‘one gathers bows’, we are taught a dance set to beating drums in a room with 100 First Nations people from around the world. Lakota elder Kelly Looking Horse walks us through the calculated ambush and massacre of his people in December 1890. It is zero degrees.



New York. Towards a Concrete Utopia. MoMA. National Library of Kosovo. 29 December 2018
9/11 Memorial. 03 January 2019
Westfield World Trade Center. Interior. 03 January 2019


This is a preview of 'The Image is Not Nothing'. The full article can be found in Art + Australia Issue Five.


Air Force 1

Lisa Radford is an artist who writes and teaches. In late 2016 she presented Dear Masato, all at once (get a life, the only thing that cuts across the species is death) across the entire gallery at West Space as part of their annual commission series, which invests in a local artist to create a new body of work. In conjunction with the exhibition, West Space and Surpllus also launched Aesthetic nonsense makes commonsense, thanks X, a book presenting a collection of her writings. Other recent exhibitions have included Painting. More Painting at ACCA, 2016; Approx. Geez Louise, Sutton Projects, Melbourne, 2015, and The 3rd Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Russia, as part of Footnotes – a collaborative project with Liang Luscombe and 3-Ply publishing (Fayen d’Evie). Between 1999 and 2010 she was a participant in the collaborative art group DAMP.

Asics Onitsuka Tiger

Yhonnie Scarce is a Lecturer in Art at the VCA, visual artist and a descendant of the Kokatha and Nukunu people from Woomera, South Australia. Her hand-blown glass objects often reference the on-going effects of colonisation on Aboriginal people and comment on the social and political motives of historical and contemporary Australia in regards to this colonisation. In 2013, Yhonnie’s work Blood on the Wattle, was featured in an official satellite exhibition at the Venice Biennale. 2016 saw Yhonnie exhibit at Harvard Art Museum, Massachusetts, Galway Art Centre, Ireland and hold a major solo show at THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery, Melbourne. In 2015 Yhonnie exhibited internationally in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Berlin, Japan and Italy and was involved in several major projects around Australia including the Palimpsest Bienniale, Mildura and a site specific installation at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary and Torres Strait Islander Art.