'Just Not Australian' opens at Artspace as part of SYDFEST 19
Just Not Australian brings together 19 Australian artists across generations and mediums to deal broadly with the origins and implications of contemporary Australian nationhood. This timely thematic show will showcase the sensibilities of larrikinism, satire and resistance to interrogate presenting and representing Australian national identity. The exhibition engages with the moral and ethical undertones of the loaded rejoinder ‘unAustralian’ – an increasingly pejorative phrase in our national lexicon that is instrumentalised for various political agendas. Employed often during the so-called ‘culture wars’ of the 1990s by both Prime Minister John Howard and One Nation Party Founder Pauline Hanson to spark Nationalistic ideals and grow political support, over the years ‘un-Australian’ has been pitched against striking workers, communists, antiwar protestors, monarchists, migrants, asylum seekers and just about anyone seen to be violating Australian cultural norms. Predicated on an Us vs. Them dichotomy, at its core the term is intended to exclude; what's at stake is a sense of belonging. Yet far from a simple equation, a consideration of what's not Australian ultimately leads to questions of what is, and it’s here that many of the artists in Just Not Australian weigh in. The exhibition takes place the year before the official 250th anniversary celebrations of Cook’s arrival. This is an opportunity to engage critically with this moment in Australia’s colonial history and the meaning of ‘arrival’ as a continuum within this country that has seen ongoing immigration historically and contemporaneously. As its exhibition title suggests, Just Not Australian acknowledges that these issues do not just pertain to this country but are being addressed the world over.