Jason Wing Master of Philosophy candidate, Australian National University
Ask Us What We Want: Reclaiming political printmaking as an agent for social change in Aboriginal Australia.
Handmade protest placards play a fundamental role in presenting the voices of social justice movements often systematically excluded from mainstream media channels. In the context of Australian settler-colonialism, this image and text based media represents a vital form of self-publishing by First Peoples in resisting dominant settler narratives. Photographic documentation of protest placards over time have drawn self-authored narratives into the archive offering an unmediated and intergenerational window into the priorities and concerns of First Nations activists. Contemporaneously, photographed placards are often proliferated through social media as a form of digital activism that disseminates political messages to audiences beyond the protest locality, offering a dialogue with other justice movements, locally, globally and across time.
The impetus for this research emerged in 2014 when I saw a photograph of Aboriginal men in the Northern Territory protesting about non-transparent acquisitions of Aboriginal land in 1968. The men were holding a placard saying, “Ask us what we want”. This message, from over half a century earlier, echoed my own concerns as an Aboriginal man today. It reflected the priorities of protest movements I have participated in throughout the course of my life. Further archival research surfaced other photographs with an intergenerational message, namely from the Day of Mourning protest in 1938 and the erection of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972. It was the voices of these placards that guided me toward the practice-led research that followed.
From within various sites of Sovereign protest between 2016-2018, I utilised participatory process-oriented methods of placard-making to author Sovereign media interventions upon colonial narratives. In some cases, I coupled this method with artistic retrospection on the role of the state and the media in repressing protests. This resulted in five distinct bodies of work, which are the subject of this exegesis. The role of placard-making in each protest situation affirmed the distinctive and invaluable tool this image and text based medium offers in creating counter-narratives for Sovereign Peoples.
Jason's talk will be held in Room 1.29 at the SOA&D