Julie Gough’s investigations into history observe and expose the arbitrary distinctions made between art, anthropology and their institutions. Hers is a lifelong journey of restoration and return, to people, Country and knowledge. Methodically locating and divulging that which was expected to remain hidden is for Gough not merely a process, but an obligation.
Ten years ago, at the behest of curator and artist Brenda L. Croft, Julie Gough accessed the collections of the South Australian Museum. There she became transfixed by a single page from a notebook that had belonged to inveterate anthropologist and voracious collector Norman B. Tindale. The page carried text written beside a small square painted brown to mimic what was reported by colonisers to be the precise pigment of Tasmanian Aboriginal skin. The painted sample was made initially, not by Tindale himself, but by the Tasmanian citizen A. Stewart, at least two decades prior to Tindale’s first visit to Tasmania.
Ten years on in her installation for Divided Worlds, larngerner: the colour of Country, Gough relocates Tindale’s notebook from the South Australia Museum’s collection to the Art Gallery, where it is installed in the company of a monumental moving image projection. While made in response to Tindale’s page, Gough refuses to succumb in her work to the anger provoked by the brown square and its scientific abrogation of Aboriginal people denying, in her words, its contamination. Instead, she presents the skin of Country, focusing upon the beauty of her beloved island home, caressing its contours with a distal touch.