In Remote Avant-Garde Jennifer Loureide Biddle models new and emergent desert Aboriginal aesthetics as an art of survival. Since 2007, Australian government policy has targeted "remote" Australian Aboriginal communities as at crisis level of delinquency and dysfunction. Biddle asks how emergent art responds to national emergency, from the creation of locally hunted grass sculptures to biliterary acrylic witness paintings to stop-motion animation. Following directly from the unprecedented success of the Western Desert art movement, contemporary Aboriginal artists harness traditions of experimentation to revivify at-risk vernacular languages, maintain cultural heritage, and ensure place-based practice of community initiative. Biddle shows how these new art forms demand serious and sustained attention to the dense complexities of sentient perception and the radical inseparability of art from life. Taking shape on frontier boundaries and in zones of intercultural imperative, Remote Avant-Garde presents Aboriginal art "under occupation" in Australia today.
List of Illustrations vii
Introduction. The Imperative to Experiment 1
1. Humanitarian Imperialism 21
Part I. Biliteracies
2. Tangentyere Artists 41
3. June Walkutjukurr Richards 77
4. Rhonda Unurupa Dick 91
Part II. Hapticities
5. Tjanpi Desert Weavers 109
6. Warnayaka Art: Yurlpa 139
7. Yarrenyty Arltere Artists 159
Part III. Happenings
8. Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route 181
9. The Warburton Arts Project 197
Epilogue: (Not) a "Lifestyle Choice" 217
Further Resources 233
"The extraordinary variety of mixed-media arts in outback Australia has not found its scholarly champion. Until now. Drawing on years of immersion in these embattled communities, a complete grasp of relevant theory, and a sympathetic eye, Jennifer Loureide Biddle highlights the painted evocations of everyday life in the town camps around Alice Springs, the animated hybrids of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, and the Yarrenyty Arltere artists, as well as three exceptional curatorial interventions. In so doing, she demonstrates how Australian Indigenous artists are fighting back, through their ingenious aesthetic, against the degradations that continue to be visited upon them by uncomprehending governments."
Terry Smith, author of
Contemporary Art: World Currents
"Introducing an entire complex array of art, film, and digital forms, Jennifer Loureide Biddle destabilizes standard divisions between urban and remote Indigenous arts and politics, and between art as representation and art as performative social intervention. She does this all while simultaneously moving readers into the social complexity of Western Desert Indigenous art and outward into contemporary Australia's broader social politics of culture and arts. Remote Avant-Garde is a tour de force of aesthetic life under settler occupation that moves approaches to art, politics, and aesthetic theory in new and exciting directions."
Elizabeth A. Povinelli, author of
Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism
"[W]ith a breathtaking focus on the new, the emergent, the hybrid and the innovative (213), the book’s artworks, and the writing itself, bristle with energy.... This is a refreshingly sensitive and nuanced account that is a must-read not only for those interested in the specificities of emerging Indigenous artistic traditions in the Northern Territory and elsewhere, but also for those interested in the ongoing political, cultural and economic processes of so-called ‘settler’ societies across Australia and beyond."
LSE Review of Books
"Remote Avant-Garde: Aboriginal Art under Occupation, by Jennifer Loureide Biddle, is a welcome addition to the literature on Indigenous Australian art, and more broadly to anthropologies of art, Indigenous Australia, and global Indigenous arts and aesthetics. I heartily recommend it to anyone in those fields, and would happily teach with it in anthropology, art history, art/artworlds, and museum studies."
Sabra G. Thorner
"Jennifer Loureide Biddle has dared to deal with a daunting, dazzling array of 'remote' art in its multiple forms and complex contexts. The result is a profound, far from dispassionate book which does justice to an extraordinary canon of art."
Journal of Anthropological Research
"Remote Avant-Garde brilliantly revitalizes the literature on Aboriginal art by attending to fascinating experimental art practices and a fresh aesthetics emerging in remote Aboriginal communities. . . . [It] should be read not only by scholars interested in Aboriginal art but also anyone wanting to understand creative forms of political agency in colonial and postcolonial contexts."