Kaldor Public Art Projects
Jonathan Jones: Barrangal dyara (skin and bones)
This multi-layered project between Kaldor Public Art Projects and Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones – called Barrangal dyara (skin and bones) - 'recalled' the 19th century Garden Palace building where it originally stood in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney between 1879 and 1882, before burning to the ground.
The Garden Palace was built as a symbol of nation-building, displaying items which gave form to Australia's national character including wool, wheat and gold. Alongside these raw materials symbolising 'progress' and 'industry' to the western world, was an ethnographic collection featuring several thousand Aboriginal objects. These objects were forcibly collected from Aboriginal communities along the colonial frontier over the century preceding the exhibition, collected and traded as exotic souvenirs and scientific specimens. After an enormously successful 185 days of the International Exhibition, the ethnographic collection was stored in the building's basement. On September 22, 1882, the Garden Palace caught alight, the fire illuminating the Sydney skyline, destroying the entire wooden building and its contents. At the time, there were accusations of arson, and in fact the story is reminiscent of a detective novel. More significantly, the loss of the extensive cultural items that made up the ethnographic collection has left a significant vacuum in Indigenous Australian history, which is still felt today.
Barrangal dyara (skin and bones) was Jonathan Jones' response to the immense loss felt throughout Sydney and Australia due to the destruction of these culturally significant items, and an attempt to commence a healing process for Aboriginal communities of Sydney and the South East of Australia.
Barrangal dyara (skin and bones) increased the visibility of a moment of significant cultural loss for the region, the Nation, and expressly for Indigenous Australians. The project re-told a history forgotten by most Australians from an Aboriginal perspective, giving new light to a moment in our shared history, speaking to cultural tensions still present in contemporary Australia.
Jonathan created a significant sculptural installation on the building's original site which was activated by sound, performances, talks, special events and children's programs. It was free to the public and displayed 17 September – 3 October 2016. The presentation of this project also correlated with the Bicentenary Celebrations of the Botanic Garden.
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