Art - Adam Geczy

Adam Hill and Adam Geczy confront the tokenism and corporatisation of Aboriginal art and culture in a forthcoming exhibition in Utrecht. Sydney College of the Arts’ Geczy explains how he aims to address these issues, and tackle the concept of reconciliation.

By Tim Groenendyk

Adam Geczy

“The work is extremely angry, it’s extremely sarcastic, it’s despairing, and it’s very confrontational." Senior Lecturer Adam Geczy

“What we actually have is a problem which is to do with a mass packaging of Aboriginal culture which - while it benefits them in terms of giving them commerce - actually obfuscates the real plight,” said Adam Geczy, senior lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts.

“Aboriginal art has spiralled into its own entity - its own kind of corporate image.

“This industry of tea towels, didgeridoos and whatever has very, very little to do with Aboriginal art and culture and yet it has this kind of brand: this idea of the primitive, the truthful and the indigenous, and so therefore an air of authenticity.”

Geczy and Adam Hill aim to shed light on the state of Aboriginal culture and the corporatisation of their art in an exhibition at the Aboriginal Art Museum, Utrecht.

Although Hill is an Indigenous artist, Geczy will be the first ‘white fella’ to show at the museum, and their exhibition will coincide with the 300 year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht.

The didgeridoo, for example, is one example of modern Aboriginal culture Geczy and Hill target in their exhibition. The didgeridoo, actually a pigeon term, was only played in certain by Aboriginal peoples and is more commonly known by the Yolngu term ‘yiḏaki’.

In their exhibition didgeridoo wax mouthpieces will be repurposed to look like ‘glory holes’, demonstrating the vulgarisation of the instrument.

One of the larger works will be a throwback to a piece by Aboriginal artist Michael Nelson Tjakamarra. In the 1980s Tjakamarra was invited by BMW along with several other artists, including Andy Wharhol and Ken Done, to use one of their cars as a canvas, painting it in the Papunya – dot painting – style.

Geczy said Tjakamarra’s artwork exemplifies the disconnect between Aboriginal art and culture.

“What you’ve got are cars that are driven by largely the wealthy who have absolutely no interest in Aboriginal culture, other than maybe investing in it for their own gain.”

Geczy intends to use the same model of BMW that Tjakamarra painted on – a 1989 M3 race car – rendering it to resemble a discarded ‘bomb’ commonly found near Aboriginal communities.

The BMW will have its interior gutted, the wheels removed, the frame mounted on two blocks of wood and the inside painted a dark shade of black and mixed with pebbles to simulate the look of tar – referencing the racist epithet ‘tar baby’. The outside, at this stage, will be bedecked in Union Jacks.

“It’s going to be then battered. It’s going to be the real version, if you like. The expression of the truth rather than the artificial aspiration.”

Geczy explained that the works they’re producing are done in such a way that people can read into the works in different ways depending on their political disposition.

“There is a certain level of literalism in this work for the very reason that contemporary Aboriginal work, the stuff that isn’t dot work, is for more legible and literal for the simple reason that Aboriginal artwork has always been closer to a form of writing.”

“The work is extremely angry, it’s extremely sarcastic, it’s despairing, and it’s very confrontational.

“Australia is a country of huge missed opportunities. It uses its relative isolation from the rest of the world as way of insulating itself so that it doesn’t feel it needs to [address] strong ethical issues or cultural issues.”

Geczy and Hill were invited to exhibit at Utrecht because of their work’s strong thread of conflict, correlating with the 1713 treaty.

“Aborigines are ultimately and fundamentally hamstrung in this culture so long as our national day is the 26th of January, which is the day that they were colonised. It’s impossible to talk about any form reconciliation when the national day is what it is.

“Even the term reconciliation implies that there was an equal footing. It’s a misnomer.

“There was never any equal footing so there’ll never be any reconciliation."