Reconciliation and Resistance: Thoughts from PICA's When the Sky Fell
The 1967 Referendum is one of Australia’s most significant historical events, with 90.77% of the voting population voting in favour. It’s also one of the most misunderstood. The referendum did not declassify Indigenous people as fauna (they never were), nor did it give them the right to vote nor the right to Australian citizenship. Nonetheless, the Referendum was enormously important, as it allowed them to be counted on the census and granted the Commonwealth government the power to make legislation to specifically cover Indigenous people.
The referendum is also the subject of a new art exhibition on display at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA). WHEN THE SKY FELL: LEGACIES OF THE 1967 REFERENDUM is presented by PICA in partnership with the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub WA, and was curated by Clothilde Bullen. Arriving in time for NAIDOC week, the exhibition explores the consequences of the referendum on Australia’s Indigenous peoples, both positive and negative.
The pieces range from dot paintings to sand art to mobile phone video footage to sculptures, and they fill all the levels and rooms of the PICA galleries. Every piece was created by an Indigenous person, exploring what the referendum means to them, their family and their community. Some look backwards in history, some point to a hopeful or bitter future. All of them hit you hard in the chest. Without spoiling too much, I was particularly moved by the works of John Prince Siddon, Mervyn Street, Peggy Griffiths and Lindsay Malay, but every artist on display offered a unique and sincere perspective.
When the Sky Fell should not be missed. Take your time to explore each piece in detail, and absorb the bios when they’re provided. I'm not an art critic, so I can't really explain why these pieces hit me so hard, all I know is that they did, and I will be returning again as soon as possible.
When the Sky Fell runs until August 20, more details can be found HERE.