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You Are Here

This provocative exhibition has truth-telling at its core as artivist, Therese Ritchie, factually examines Australia’s frontier wars and the massacre of Indigenous peoples, alongside the nation’s history of coal extraction and its development by European settlers, mining companies and Australian governments.

YOU ARE HERE is an unflinching examination of how we got to where we are now.

“How did we get here? Why do we vote governments in who say one thing and do another? We are not in control of what happens in governance and we appear conflicted. The Crown owning minerals on Aboriginal land is divisive, as is mining companies outbidding farmers for groundwater licenses and not paying income tax in Australia,” Ritchie says.

“They’re such old ideas. It’s also understanding that we were locked into a resource development issue right from the word go, as soon as we started exporting coal and sheep. We got ourselves into a loop. How do all those people in Queensland make their money if they can’t dig up coal? Why has the government put all our eggs in the gas basket? I think we need new, sustainable ideas, not just ‘back to business-as-usual’.”

Created in 2020, Ritchie’s most recent tour de force unrelentingly makes apparent her intense discomfort with the processes of land appropriation that resulted in the formation of the Australian nation.

Enter the space at CDU Art Gallery and become engulfed by this historical account, the four walls wrapped with digital imagery, overlaid with text and timelines that note a litany of events, misdemeanours, atrocities, discoveries, manoeuvres and ploys that lead us to this culminating moment in Australia’s history.

“I have pulled all of this information together with a whole lot of pictures that are pretty bleak, and I’m hoping that people will engage with the text. People might walk in and see the text and say, ‘oh eff that, I just want some pictures’,” Ritchie says.

“But if they can engage with the text … and take it away, I think it’ll help. But I don’t really want to help people because it’s not my business what people do with it.”

Ritchie wanted to give the sense of being in a coalmine, wrapped by dark walls all around. Accompanying the timeline is a series of sketches, depicting thoughts and ideas Ritchie experienced throughout the process.

“When I read, I get ideas and they’re just sketches, and so I just want to draw them. When I read about our attachment to coal and masculinity, I sketch high vis stripes on a naked body – it’s to show the kind of love affair we have with coal.”

YOU ARE HERE prompts the need for wider conversations about truth-telling, care for country, the future of mining and issues of sovereignty in 2021. It is a sobering, must-see.


Thumbnail and header: Therese Ritchie, 'Mutant', 2020, Digital inkjet print on paper, on loan from the artist

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