The Aboriginal Memorial

is about to suffer what is arguably a sacrilegious (grossly irreverent toward what is or is held to be sacred) design effect. Iconophilia here provides a preview – of a kind. This is a photograph of what I believe is a sample of the sparkly black “road metal” on which the 200 log coffins of The Aboriginal Memorial are now being arranged.  In the course of its history this famous work has experienced multiple variations on how its inspirational burial poles should be based, related, or sited in their various arrangements – from their best effect in the red dirt of the funky galleria of the 1988 Biennale of Sydney wharf to the troubling palatial setting of St Petersburg. Now, finally sited in a stand-alone pavilion in the about-to-be-opened newly redesigned National Gallery of Australia, The Aboriginal Memorial apparently suffers the indignity of an alien base material, which is as far removed from the bauxitic red of Arnhem Land as could be imagined. This is a design idea that has been around for some time – and yet one wonders how much consultation with its Yolngu originators has been undertaken. How to install the Memorial is not a new issue. How each hollow log relates to the whole, and to each other, especially in relation to the design of the base, has been exhaustively debated on the occasion of each of its numerous arrangements. If, as it has often been claimed, The Aboriginal Memorial is the National Gallery’s most significant contemporary work of art, will this permanent installation prove to be its least successful? One awaits with interest the reaction of its “conceptual producer”, Djon Mundine, to this latest turn. The thread continues here.


#1 vanessa on 09.17.10 at 11:22 am

How about yellowcake, at least it would look spectacular

#2 Nigel on 09.22.10 at 11:52 am

A Friend of Iconophilia (you’ve heard of the FoI?) tells me it’s an unweathered basalt, most likely from that big mine on the Monaro high plains. Nothing like it in Arnhem Land. So what does that say about the significance of the relation of people to country? Bring back the red sand!

#3 vanessa on 09.22.10 at 3:39 pm

of course, how could the NGA make such an obvious blunder?

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