Art in the Time of Colony
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It is often assumed that the verbal and visual languages of Indigenous people had little influence upon the classification of scientific, legal, and artistic objects in the metropolises and museums of nineteenth-century colonial powers. However colonized locals did more than merely collect material for interested colonizers. In developing the concept of anachronism for the analysis of colonial material this book writes the complex biographies for five key objects that exemplify, embody, and refract the tensions of nineteenth-century history. Through an analysis of particular language notations and drawings hidden in colonial documents and a reexamination of cross-cultural communication, the book writes biographies for five objects that exemplify the tensions of nineteenth-century history. The author also draws on fieldwork done in communities today, such as the group of Koorie women whose re-enactments of tradition illustrate the first chapter’s potted history of indigenous mediums and debates. The second case study explores British colonial history through the biography of the proclamation boards produced under George Arthur (1784-1854), Governor of British Honduras, Tasmania, British Columbia, and India. The third case study looks at the maps of the German explorer of indigenous taxonomy Wilhelm von Blandowski (1822-1878), and the fourth looks at a multi-authored encyclopaedia in which Blandowski had taken into account indigenous knowledge such as that in the work of Kwat-Kwat artist Yakaduna, whose hundreds of drawings (1862-1901) are the material basis for the fifth and final case study. Through these three characters’ histories Art in the Time of Colony demonstrates the political importance of material culture by using objects to revisit the much-contested nineteenth-century colonial period, in which the colonial nations as a cultural and legal-political system were brought into being.
'This accomplished and inventive book puts the cultural practices of Aboriginal peoples in conversation with some of the most challenging forms of contemporary critical theory. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll initiates a rhetoric of reading that transforms traditional accounts of the relationship of the arts of perception to strategies of power. Her "anachronic method" creates a scholarly world in which temporal distances and differences collaborate in the making of contemporary art. Her achievement is both substantial and remarkably subtle.' - Homi K. Bhabha, Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, USA
'This is a stunning and ambitious study of cross cultural encounters which reveals their nuanced and unexpected poetics and violence. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll’s self proclaimed ‘museum in a book’ employs a creative and highly original way of thinking about the time of the colony through anachronism and how the arc of colonial time might be best thought of as being like the boomerang. Her stark juxtapositions and subtle weaving together of Aboriginal and colonial nineteenth-century art create emotive and acute alignments that are fascinating and timely. Rigorously researched, Art in the Time of the Colony is a seminal study that will change the way in which scholars approach visual culture and the postcolony. A tour de force.' - Natasha Eaton, University College London, In: Art History: Journal of the Association of Art Historians
’Carroll's superbly-written study of colonial art, history, science and cultural encounter in Australia is a compelling account of Indigenous responses to Western imposition...Carroll's volume offers rare insight for scholars into what Aboriginal Australia has always/already understood about Aboriginal art; that the art of perception has an immutable relationship with the strategies of colonial power. Carroll understands the patience with which Indigenous people endure post-colonialism. It is patience that underpins an unbroken process of creative resistance.’ Greg Lehman, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra. In: Aboriginal Studies Journal‘
Refreshingly antithetical… Khadija brings an artist’s attention to the many material details and facts she analyses throughout the book. Thus we have extensive analyses of the work of Julie Gough in response to E. Phillips Fox and Eugene von Guerard, Vicky Cousins and Lee Darrock in response to the Koorie possum skins; Ricky Maynard in response Frankland’s proclamation; Brook Andrew in response to an image of Blandowski in response to one by Charles Sturt; the contemporary African-American artist Kara Walker in response to Tommy McRae; and Vernon Ah Kee in response to a contemporary critic of McRae; and the Arnhem Land sand painter Richard Birrinbirrin in response to the very tradition of which he is a part. These contemporary anachronistic responses constitute the artistic afterlife, or survivance, of the original work, allowing it to pass into our present. But the truly powerful, almost uncanny thing about Khadijas argument – and this in a way is the very condition of possibility for work that is able to do this – is that the Aboriginal artworks and artefacts of the nineteenth century already foresee this destiny for themselves. In other words, if it is a question of Dreamings, these Dreamings are not so much of that commonly cited and by now thoroughly domesticated fact that Aboriginal culture here constitutes a continuous tradition of some 60,000 years. No, rather we would say that the Dreamings here are Dreamings of the future, of their own future.’ Rex Butler, Professor of Art History & Theory Monash University Melbourne.
‘The book is punctuated by aesthetic performances which confront and disturb us from the styles of reading to which we are accustomed. The emblem of this for me are the photographs scattered through the book, which were taken by Khadija in her role as art historian through the curator’s microscope of elements of the famous Tasmanian proclamation boards. These are the boards, which were intended as a form of legal pedagogy, of a kind of emplacement of European law and presence on the Aboriginal landscape… But what Khadija does is to zoom in, through the perfect optical gaze of a curator’s microscope to represent elements of that particular thing and these are thrown into the book, in particular irregular ways almost as moments of logical punctuation. Now what is crucial about this is that these images are profoundly in optical focus, but so absolutely, disturbingly out of focus and context. They are disturbing images.’ Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History, King’s College London. In: Third Text
'Art in the Time of Colony is an absorbing, experimental interrogation of colonial art and encounter in Australia. The book is notable on many grounds, not least for its fresh research on the intriguing mid-nineteenth century scientific traveller Blandowski, almost forgotten until very recently, but above all for its perspective on art history, from the vantage point of contemporary art. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll's voice is distinctive and compelling.’ Nicholas Thomas, University of Cambridge, UK
'History would have it that there are people without history. Or as Hegel wrote, they were natural cultures that had to perish as soon as the spirit of the West approached. The spirit of Hegel is a temporal spectre for Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll in her Art in the Time of Colony, and its inevitable teleology is brought into question by what she leads us to see in Australia's fragments of visual historical reckoning. Thus the artistic engagement in the nineteenth century between Australian inhabitants and European colonists is not just the subject of this original, passionate and beautifully written book, but it is the means of inquiry about the nature of time and perception and the arts of Australia today, reinserting a claim to history and aesthetics that is too often still denied to too many.' - Thomas B.F. Cummins, Harvard University, USA
'In this captivating book, historian, artist and curator Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll draws on contemporary Australian Aboriginal art to challenge historical blind spots and re-think stuffy conventions of art criticism. In exploring encounters between colonial visual cultures, her surprising, fresh and delightful juxtapositions bring new ideas and objects into view, and allow us to see familiar things anew. This book tackles the important task of reclaiming Aboriginal practice from anthropology for art and in doing so, challenges outmoded notions of colonialism, media, art, and even time.'- Jane Lydon, University of Western Australia, author of Eye Contact and The Flash of Recognition
'In her stunning study, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll takes her readers beyond the armchair enchantments of conventional accounts of Indigenous art, dissolving boundaries among art history, anthropology, history of science and contemporary art. She shows that resistance to white norms can take many and subtle forms, both in the nineteenth century and in the present. Readers of this book will see how Indigenous cultural traditions - in this instance Australian, however artificial that concept may be - though mutable and adaptable, perdure and interact with settler values in unexpected ways. Carroll's distinctive art history thereby brings pasts to light - Aboriginal and white - that would otherwise have remained obscure.'- Ivan Gaskell, Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, New York, USA
'The fascinating premise behind Khadjia von Zinnenburg Carroll's Art in the Time of Colony is an examination of how contemporary art has been used to stand in for gaps in the historical record of Indigenous Australians'. Kelli Cole, University of Adelaide In: Artlink journal Indigenous Issue
Art in the Time of Colony is an experiment in writing history and generating new knowledge via the discipline of fine art practice, asking what happens if the relationship between art and history is reversed? Instead of history being written to understand art, art becomes the paradigm through which to navigate our understanding of history… One of the achievements of Art in the Time of Colony is its articulation and embodiment of art practice as generative of knowledge. The book is an instance of an artist writing about both art and history as art, reflecting cogently and intelligently on her own practice and that of others, as well contextualising this practice in wider historical narratives. In doing so, Art in the Time of Colony demonstrates that art can be understood as a knowledge-forming discipline. - Alana Jelinek, University of Cambridge; In: Journal of Museum Ethnography
‘Carroll’s research speaks into the archive and activates and awakens the voices of Indigenous people, reuniting them not just with their objects but with the practices embedded within these objects. The result is a welcome addition to the scholarship of Indigenous art and the expansionary movement that can be created through a rigorous interdisciplinary approach. Invoking and inviting Indigenous participation and values, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll’s research helps to reconﬁgure our relationship to the archive and transforms both the archive and future processes of archivisation. Art in the Time of Colony goes back and forth through history in order to grapple with objects suspended in time, and poses some of the most important questions of our age.’ - Stephen Gilchrist, curator of Everywhen and Lecturer at Sydney University. In: Art Monthly
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