remember the camel plague?

There’s not much you’re allowed to photograph in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands. But there’s no love lost for the feral camels that were culled last year  following the invasions of local communities. Remember the uproar last Christmas when there was a camel plague Docker River? See here. This is where the remains of the cull were cremated. And there are still millions out there. Seriously.

And the solution? Some say it’s the dinner table! There’s been some talk of a central Australian camel abbatoir. But harvesting will not address the ongoing ecological issues – the ongoing pollution/loss of waterholes will have a massive impact on core populations of wildlife…


#1 Nyuriwa on 09.04.10 at 9:10 pm

Hi Tjilpi, I’m in Blackstone and having dinner with Anthony and Rocky from Papulankutja Artists, sitting at the table eating cake and staring at an amazing painting Anthony created out of the interaction between a canvas and a camel foot. Check it out – you’ll love it.


#2 Nigel on 09.04.10 at 10:38 pm

Which way up does it go? And why?

#3 Anthony on 09.05.10 at 3:55 pm

I prefer a bottom heavy approach to painting hangings. Usually a work may have a textural or colour weight to it and then gravity can decide. it has to ‘sit well’… When a work is sold however I am more than happy for the work to be readapted to its surroundings…. The work stops at the frame and then the environment takes over – and no artist could hope to control the environmental or positional choices that effects its context -A work can be in a gallery or in a dustbin and the work changes its definition. A part of the art market is that we value add an intangible value that doesn’t actually exist as soon as we say one work is ‘worth more’ than another. It is intangible value that is imposed by the new owner of a work and is just as valid to the artworks definition and how and where it is placed. Art is a sharing experience and the artist must learn to let go for this interaction to exist.

#4 Nigel on 09.06.10 at 9:36 am

Hmmm. Are you speaking about your own work or the work of Indigenous artists? Can we generalise from your own aesthetic strategies to the circumstances of others? I’m still uncomfortable with the assumption that it’s OK for the final aesthetic decision (in cases where the artist is not asked), to be a final act of what Fred Myers has referenced as the “commoditization” of (Aboriginal) art. Of course, if the artist is asked, and doesn’t have an opinion, there may still be a whole lot of other factors at play. The question of how artists recognise their agency in such circumstances is worthy of further discussion (like this) among those agents who manage such circumstances, yes? See the previous thread (which triggered my “which way up” question) here.

#5 darren j on 09.06.10 at 1:21 pm

I saw the DRK paintings laid horizontal with an art historian friend of mine who said that he thought it trivialized the work. I had to think about what he might have meant, but I guess the problem I thought he was indicating was that a horizontal ‘hang’ only reinforced the association between Aboriginal art and the ground, distinguishing it from other contemporary art practices. If we are taking this horizontal DRK hang as symptomatic of both the problem and as a solution to Aboriginal art’s ‘verticality’ and ‘gravity’, I think the diagnosis might be that the shuffling of Aboriginal work around is indicative of a greater code by which it is seen–that is, as a part of country. So that the horizontal DRK painting looked like a bunch of rising ranges, breakaway country, while on the walls her work is more comparable to Op Art. We are used to making associations, reading codes of similitude, by the position of works of art, their context. But I also think the ability of desert paintings to hang in a multitude of ways is a sign of their quality–their laterality signals the talent of these artists.

#6 Nigel on 09.06.10 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the comment Darren, with your telling account of the reaction to DRK’s work. I hadn’t anticipated that a horizontal ‘hang’ would prompt that kind of critique! It’s by no means the first time a ‘desert’ painting has been shown horizontally, so it’s surprising that a knowledgeable art historian would react in that way… Maybe now we’ll never know whether it was DRK’s idea or that of the curator. Pity. Sure, we invent “codes of similitude” all the time – which is where this thread began – but that discourse is by and large external to the intentionality of the artists, soooo, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to attribute it to the artist’s “talent”? I mean, the fact that the beholder projects certain qualities and associations in the absence of any capacity to account for the artist’s meanings, values, ontology, is just that, a projection. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t talk about our pleasure in what we see, but rather, we can’t profess to ‘decode’ what we see through the repertoire of associations or evaluations we might bring to it. Including which which way it looks best hanging on the wall?

#7 darren j on 09.07.10 at 10:05 am

hi Nigel
That’s very interesting. I guess I would prefer to separate the work from the intentions of the artist, not because intentions aren’t important, but because ultimately I think these intentions are relative to the ‘truth’ of the art itself. If Aboriginal works, for example, are ‘about’ country, then this country is speaking through the artists, and the artists themselves cannot fully intend either the meaning or quality of their work. Today we tend to think of art after intention because we are in an era of post-conceptual art, that depends on an idea preceding the work itself. But if we call Aboriginal art a kind of modernism (which is becoming fashionable these days), then its expression should exceed its intention. There’s a romantic fallacy here, of the artist ‘channeling’ tjukurrpa and so forth, but I can’t think my way around it in this context. If we are going to remain true to the spiritual/material/livedness of remote Aboriginal art, it remains inevitable I think?

#8 Nigel on 09.07.10 at 10:23 am

Fred Myers comments that he is “thinking that this whole question imposes a particular notion of aesthetics on this work. My own preference would be to treat them as conceptual traps a la Gell.” You can read his longer comment over on the orientation conundrum post.

#9 darren j on 09.07.10 at 6:12 pm

Ahh what a lovely trap it is! Dans le mise en abyme lies the mystery of remote Aboriginal painting!

#10 Nigel on 09.08.10 at 7:49 am

The more esoteric the comment, the more problematic the interpretation. I’ll have that translated into the French (or Czech) so that everyone (including the painters) can understand…

#11 darren j on 09.08.10 at 11:14 am

mise en abyme = conceptual traps a la Gell

#12 Nigel on 09.08.10 at 12:33 pm

For those who wish to read on, they’re referring to Alfred Gell’s 1996 Vogel’s Net: Traps as Artworks and Artworks as Traps. Journal of Material Culture 1:15-38.

#13 anthony on 09.16.10 at 8:21 pm

Artists in my art centre when asked ‘which way’ usually do have an answer as to which way’ and can answer very confidently. Although painted with a birds-eye perspective, the men and women in the works depicted by U shapes or circles are intended to be facing in an intended direction according to the story however, when I hang works on a gallery wall I am never met with artists wanting to change the hang even when is placed differently to ‘their way’ . Infact most won’t even notice. This suggests that the artist although strong in their own understanding of the paintings orientation, they are detached to the work and its final placement. Artists in our art centre are just happy the work was sold and finds a good home ‘ the rest is a waste of time thinking about it’…. The point is, being an artist requires you to be detached from the final orientation decision as your intention was not how it would be hung, but that the work would be appreciated above all else. arguing The way in which a work should hang is like a koan ‘does a tree falling in the woods make a sound if there is no one to hear it fall?’ the answer would be ‘yes and no and i don’t care’ and leaves the question “did the tree enjoy itself on the way down?” …. Do you like the painting? When asked do you like the painting? I could answer “yes, but that frame really stinks”, However that answer is not relevant to wether or not you like the painting. Yes the frame stinks but I was not asked if I like the frame – As an artist I don’t ask do you like the way the painting hangs? – I may ask – Do you like my painting? Alas this ends the argument as the argument does not exist. A.

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