Monumental in a small-town way:
If art reflects attitude then how perceptive are we?
Curated by Judith Lovell & Kathlene Wallace
Monumental in a small-town way is a collection of visual responses that are generated as a participatory public engagement initiative. The participatory element emphasises and encourages collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists and creative commentators who are local to Alice Springs, or from elsewhere. Exhibited together, the collection provides a wider perspective on how this public audience has perceived the public art monument installed in a park in Alice Springs to honour the imperial achievements of Scottish explorer John McDouell Stuart as the first white man to explore central Australia in the middle of the 19th century.
As an instigator/facilitator of this group of works Judith set out to explore the concept that underlying narratives shape every public expression of art or of law, but that these forces are most often obscured from the vantage of one group’s perspective of another. Public participatory art and social commentary provide opportunities for many points of view to be presented without one subsuming another.
In Lovell’s response as a participating artist she used a cartoon-like approach to overlay maps with accessible botanical species and speech bubbles from Stuarts diary – which depict the man half blinded and suffering as he walks through an Arrernte botanical pharmacy, unknowing and unseeing. After years collaborating with Arrernte people in the landscape, I’m astonished at how little other people see of the landscape and its societies; how unlikely they are to read the light, the seasons or the times.
As an oral story-teller Wallace uses her skills to provide a version of a story fit for her audience. As a story teller she draws on such details as appropriate and she will narrate to suit either Arrernte or English-speaking audiences. In doing so, she brings to others a sense of her Arrernte life world. For her painting Kathleen is internationally regarded and has work in several major collections both in Australia and overseas.
Wallace’s response comes from having a cultural identity tied to the land and to generations of its custodians – “well he is standing on me, on my grandfathers’ land – Standing on my hands, the stories of my homelands – and he walks there without knowing those stories. He’s like a puppet – someone else’s hand is pulling his strings, from far away, telling him what to do here’.
6pm, Friday 14th June
10:30am, Saturday 15th June
12th - 29th June 2019