For Country, For Nation @ Australian War Memorial

Till Sept 13 2017

This exhibition has huge problems with context and content..It is an attempt to celebrate the contribution that Australia’s indigenous people have made to the white citizens’ foreign wars largely while they were disenfranchised and marginalised at home in Australia. The context is the Australian War Memorial which memorialises vast numbers of wars that the white migrant population have joined in lots of countries.over the last 150 years.

The exhibition portrays lots of courage, nationalism and engagement with the projects of the invaders. The discomfort I felt all through the exhibition was that the text and photos were in a narrative that was convoluted beyond belief to avoid the weirdness of a memorial that denies the existence of the primary war fought by Australians and on the landmass of Australia to tell a tale of foreign wars.

Below are some selected artworks that form part of the exhibition.

For Country For National @ Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is a great collector, commissioner and exhibitor of art. Recently they have opened an exhibition that celebrates the contributions made by indigenous soldiers to Australia’s foreign wars. (The AWM is yet to acknowledge the war they waged domestically against the spreading Europeans taking their land.)

The exhibition is awash with marvelous art. There are paintings and woven material. There are abstract works, portraits, and war scenes. The history side is rich and personal with experiences and recollections woven between the historical narrative.

It is a marvelous exhibition and below I have included a few samples of the art works and the link to the web page below.

https://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/country-nation-0/

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Alex Seton – As of today @ Australian War Memorial

In the entrance to the Australian War Memorial (AWM) over a year ago there was a sculpture of what looked like a white blanket folded and tied with a white tasseled cord. The surprising feature of the object was that it was white marble.Alex Seton has a display in a room in the temporary gallery at the AWM of 41 of those on white pedestals.
There is a tradition for those who die in war for their coffin to be draped in the flag. After the funeral the flag is folded and given to the family of the dead soldier. Seaton has created one of these objects to commemorate the life of every Australian soldier who died in the Afghanistan war. The current exhibition is in a small room and the presence of 41 of these objects is sobering.
The AWM page is below
http://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/seton/
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Ben Quilty @ Australian War Memorial

The Ben Quilty Afghanistan set have arrived and are on exhibition at the Australian War Memorial. Quilty’s paintings are almost violently put together with 3D paint smears everywhere and a rich blemished look to every human subject. There is a tortured look to the faces in these works and mny of the bodies are twisted in agony.

The AWM has sued Quilty in their war art program before and these pictures show a sign of war that is increasingly obvious but not as commonly represented. Quilty does anguish well. The AWM page is below and some snaps give you a sense of the portraits.

http://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/quilty/

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Afghanistan The Australian Story Gallery @ Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial AWM has an unenviable task of putting on displays that memorialise war. I have often thought it would be interesting to be in curatorial meetings. The tensions between respect for the fallen, realism about the politics and issues of stuff ups and bad behaviour must challenge them all. As I look at the exhibitions i am looking at things before I was born. or when I was very young. The newest exhibition is on the Australian part of the latest Afghanistan war and I have paid alot of attention to this and have absorbed lots about the history and context of it.
My first walk through was brief because I found myself reacting negatively to the first text panels. The overall display is bright in a dark fairly small space. The biggest feature is a massive two wall video screen with material playing on a loop which engaged visitors well. I did not stay for the whole thing. There are good research spots linked to the AWM data bases and a reasonable layout of text and pictures to cover the war.
I was not very engaged by the exhibition because I had too many clashing voices in my head about this war as I have never been comfortable with the whole project or Australia’s involvment in it. I was much more impressed by a conversation between Richard Miles and William Dalryple on Afghanistan flowing from his book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, The audio is on the ABC website:
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bestoffestivals/
The AWM page is
http://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/afghanistan-australian-story/