Overview - Void & Landscape

James Tylor and Danièle Hromek’s works reflect the erasure of Aboriginal people, culture and knowledge through colonisation. Tylor’s works visually represent this removal and censorship as a void in the Australian landscape whereas Hromek investigates how Aboriginal people now occupy, sense, Dream and contest postcolonial spaces, particularly on Country that has now been built over and developed. Their artworks remind the viewer of the void that exists in Australian architectural and settler history and signal that although spaces may seem neutral, they are steeped with memory and a troubled history.


Artist’s Voice

What’s beneath our cities, what’s beneath our roads, what’s still there, can we feel it?... Putting your feet on that place and being there seems to give Aboriginal people a real re-energisation. And that is kept alive not only by being there and by being on that place, but by telling the stories of that place.
— Danièle Hromek
Today the absence of Aboriginal culture within the Australian landscape is censored by this process of colonisation and has left much of the Australian landscape with the appearance that it was ‘untouched’ before European arrival.
— James Tylor

Danièle Hromek, Untitled (Eisenmann by hand, speculative design), 2013, pencil on vellum, lightbox, 125x120x440cm, courtesy the artist.


James Tylor, (Deleted scenes) From an untouched landscape #7, 2013. East Coast of Tasmania, Palawa land. Inkjet print on hahnemuhle paper with hole removed to a black velvet void, 60 x 60cm (framed). Courtesy the artist and UTS Art Collection.

Talking Points

  • Erasure and censorship of Aboriginal people, culture and knowledge through colonisation

  • Resilience and resistance through landscape and the way we occupy space

  • Cultural perspectives of the natural and urban landscape


Getting Started

‘Void’ is a subjective word that can have multiple, and often opposite, meanings informed by personal and cultural perspectives. For example, in the artworks in this exhibition, void has connotations of presence or absence; infinite or enclosed; defined and undefined.

On a post-its or palm cards, write down all the words you can think of that you associate with the term ‘void’. Write one word per card. Lay them out on a surface.

Group together alike words that you see connections between. Consider:

  • What feeling does each of these groups of words create for ‘void’?

  • Do you feel that any of these groups don’t fit? Why?

Now, pair together any words that oppose each other.

  • Do both words still fit the term void? Why or why not?

Choose the 3 words that you feel best represent ‘void’. Compare these with a friend.

  • How does their interpretation of void differ?

  • What informs each of your interpretations?



James Tylor

Conversation Points

  • Look closely at Tylor’s photographs. What words from your ‘Getting Started’ do you feel best fit Tylor’s representation of the void in his photographs. Why do you think this?

  • In making these works, Tylor cuts a hole out of the photograph and places a black velvet void behind the image. How does this process reflect the meaning of void that is explored in ‘Erased Scenes from an Untouched Landscape’?

  • Describe the interaction, or relationship, between the ‘void’ and the rest of the image in Tylor’s photographs. Consider the shape, placement and material of the ‘void’.

  • Landscape is one of the key genres in Western art, and can be defined as art that mainly depicts a scenic view. How do you think Tylor’s photographic works challenge this definition of the landscape genre?


Danièle Hromek

Conversation Points

  • Look closely at Hromek’s drawings. What words from your ‘Getting Started’ do you feel best fit Hromek’s representation of the void in her drawings?

  • Hromek’s works are “speculative” drawings of what she imagines the inside of deconstructivist American architect Peter Eisenmann’s prototype houses to be like.
    - From her drawings what do you imagine this space to be like?
    - How might we behave in this space and why?

  • Hromek describes her work as exploring ‘urban emptiness’. How can you see this idea reflected in her work? Think about the shapes, lines, voids and presentation of her work.

  • In the essay for this exhibition, Hromek is described as “making room for her own Indigenous understandings of space within architectural history”. How is this concept reflected in the process of Hromek’s work?


Activity

Photographic Geo-biographies

Everybody’s life has an accompanying geography, which is mapped onto the landscape. Bruce Pascoe says in his introduction to this exhibition, “we share this country now.” By focusing on individual life stories, or our autobiographical memories, we are able to build shared understanding of place and what it means to different people in our community. In a group, follow the steps below to create a communal geo-biography of place.

  • Choose a place that everyone in your group has an experience of: perhaps your school, the suburb your school is located in or even a region of the city where you live.

  • Take a photo of a specific site within this place that you associate a strong memory with. For example, where you sit at lunch at school, or, the beach you always visit with your family.

  • Write a geo-biographical statement to accompany your photograph. Your statement should:
    - introduce yourself
    - describe the specific site where your memory occurred
    - share at least one fact about the history, geography or community of this site. This should include Aboriginal history and knowledge.
    - explain your memory of this site.

  • As a group, plot each of your geo-biographical sites onto a map or aerial photograph of the area.

  • Exhibit the map together with each of your group’s photographic geo-biographies. Consider: how do our experiences of place differ? How do they combine to represent a fuller understanding of place?

Note: You could also complete this activity by using different mediums such short film, audio-recordings or illustrations instead of photography. Be creative with the presentation of your geo-biographies! You could layer your text over the photographs or design them as posters.


Cross-Curriculum Connections

Geography

In his essay for this exhibition Bruce Pascoe says,
“We wanted to tell you the story of the land... we wanted you to know her lores and learn how to respect her, look after her welfare, ensure that there is a beach and grass and clean water for your grandchildren as we ensured that for one hundred and twenty thousand years.”

Watch Bruce Pascoe’s Ted talk, A real history of Aboriginal Australians, the first agriculturalists. Use the AITSIS Map of Indigenous Australia to find out the language or nation group of the land where you live. Research the environmental practices that they would have used to manage the land before colonisation. What can we learn and apply from these approaches today?

Design & Technology

Research Danièle Hromek’s work as well as contemporary Aboriginal artists, architects and designers who work to ‘decolonise’ public space, including architect Kevin O’Brien and artist Daniel Boyd.

  • What do these spaces, or projects have in common?

  • What do you think it means to decolonise place or space? Why do you think is this important?

  • How can we all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, contribute to decolonised spaces in our community?

EXTENSION: Read Danièle Hromek’s piece on yarning circles and research ‘democratic classroom discussions’. What are the differences in these ways of communicating and sharing ideas? What are the similarities? Hold a Yarning Circle as a group using Daniele Hromek’s description (see ‘creating culturally safe spaces’ in further research). Consider how you will set up your space and ways of starting and ending the discussion.


Curriculum Links

History

  • describes and assesses the motives and actions of past individuals and groups in the context of past societies (HT4-3)

  • describes and explains the causes and effects of events and developments of past societies over time (HT4-4)

  • identifies and describes different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past (HT4-7)

  • explains and assesses the historical forces and factors that shaped the modern world and Australia (HT5-1)

  • explains and analyses the causes and effects of events and developments in the modern world and Australia (HT5-4)

  • explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the modern world and Australia (HT5-7)

Visual Arts

  • explores aspects of practice in critical and historical interpretations of art (4.7)

  • begins to acknowledge that art can be interpreted from different points of view (4.9)

  • recognises that art criticism and art history construct meanings (4.10)

  • applies their understanding of aspects of practice to critical and historical interpretations of art (5.7)

  • demonstrates how the frames provide different interpretations of art (5.9)

  • demonstrates how art criticism and art history construct meanings (5.10)

Geography

  • explains how interactions and connections between people, places and environments result in change (GE4-3)

  • examines perspectives of people and organisations on a range of geographical issues (GE4-4)

  • explains processes and influences that form and transform places and environments (GE5-2)

  • analyses the effect of interactions and connections between people, places and environments (GE5-3)

  • assesses management strategies for places and environments for their sustainability (GE5-5)

Design & Technology

  • designs, communicates and evaluates innovative ideas and creative solutions to authentic problems or opportunities (TE4-1DP)



Further Research