Black Magic explores queer Aboriginality from a critical perspective with a playful approach. Part of Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival, a celebration of queer, intersex, transsexual, transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay culture, the exhibition addresses the colonial imposition of heteronormative sexuality on Indigenous people.
The works include riffs on religious imagery, satire, and a ‘sexy’ response to a historical narrative. Curated by writer and teacher Maddee Clark, the show features installation, film, painting, photography, collage and jewellery by artists Peter Waples-Crowe, Dianne Jones, Todd Fernando, Neika Lehman, Jeremy Anderson, and Canadian Swampy Cree man Kent Monkman.
“I’m interested in queer critiques of history that come from Aboriginal people which are complex and also funny,” she says. “I’m interested in humour in the work and cheekiness. We wanted to steer away from having a bunch of Aboriginal artists come and just talk about their identity and explain themselves and educate the audience. We wanted them to make work that was actually of interest to them, not just perform the role of educative Blackfella. We don’t want to dumb things down for anybody. We want to make critical works.”
“Normalised themes of Aboriginal art tend to focus on themes of Country, and culture and artistry,” say Todd Fernando. “The display of diversity in Aboriginal art over recent years, however, has allowed an archetype of feminism, activism, and a type of contemporary struggle to be showcased. Nevertheless, these forms of art contain a thread of the heteronormative. While this thread is certainly not done on purpose, the absence of themes of sexuality is apparent and at times worrying since it is increasingly clear that representation matters.”
Black Magic also seeks to carve out space for a queer Aboriginal voice in the broader gallery system and in their own communities. “I guess within the broader Midsumma Festival in general it’s not what audiences are used to seeing,” says Clark. “I wanted to claim the space and take the space with queer Aboriginal voices.”
Peter Waples-Crowe explains that the show makes space within the Aboriginal community for queerness, and space within the queer community for Aboriginality.“My series in Black Magic deals with the violence of colonisation by re-centring the Indigenous queer voice to a position of power.” These queer first nations voices, Waples-Crowe says, “speak of decolonization, the expelling of the past from our bodies, and detoxification within us away from ongoing constraints. They talk back to our own cultural constraints around gender roles, celebrate our resilience, and reclaim our rightful place under the rainbow.”