Council for Museum Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Fran Edmonds (University of Melbourne)
Maree Clarke (Wyndham Art Gallery)
The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art (LAAA) is an ongoing project guided by Aboriginal Australian artist, curator, and knowledge-holder Maree Clarke. Art-making processes are integral to the lived reality of Aboriginal peoples in Australia’s southeast, the region of the continent where languages and cultural practices have been most devastated by colonial incursion. We consider a series of kangaroo-teeth necklace and possum-skin cloak making workshops conducted in Maree’s backyard (her art studio) alongside processes for digitally recording, registering, and interconnecting her work in ways that more accurately represent the relationality of Aboriginal knowledges.
Clarke has become a central figure in the revivification of southeastern Australian Aboriginal (Koorie) material culture. For 30+ years, she has drawn from her traditional connections to land and kin, and delved into museum collections (in Australia, Europe, and North America) to (re)animate Koorie expressions. The LAAA project simultaneously revises colonial histories and forges alternative relationships between collecting institutions and contemporary art practices. Clarke’s work across multiple media (contemporary reinterpretations of traditional adornment, photography, video, 3-D technologies, other digital forms) is simultaneously matriarchal/feminist, urban/cosmopolitan, collaborative/intercultural, expressive of ancestral knowledge and in dialogue with current political debate.
In Maree’s backyard, art-making includes the interconnection of everything: past/present/future; tradition and innovation; objects and the processes of their (re)making. This archive is always-expanding, foregrounding embodied experiences and facilitating healing from the enduring grief and trauma of colonizing processes. Art, archiving, and activism are inextricable; this paper will draw from ongoing research to suggest more expansive and interconnected understandings of all three.