Ryan Andrew Lee
Wonnarua - Winner FAC Open Exhibition 2021
Art After Dark on the Cube 37 Street Front
Wonnarua is a video-based installation work that aims to provoke discussion around themes of Indigenous ways of living in juxtaposition with Western Settler-state system's unsustainable, damaging ways of using stolen lands. In today's current global state of environmental (and cultural, communal and spiritual) emergency, the need to embrace traditional Indigenous knowledge is now more crucial than ever before.
The traditional custodians of these lands have sustainably looked after country for 90,000+ years, yet in the short 231 years since colonisation these lands have been abused and sold for profit while the Aboriginal people and culture along with their vast knowledge for country and sustainable land management methods have been suppressed and put to the side.
The video diptych juxtaposes living portraits of five Aboriginal men from the Wonnarua Nation with provoking drone shots of the vast Musswellbrook coal mines, which are situated in the heart of the Wonnarua Nation. The frame in which the video work sits, is an 1820s antique Victorian era influenced design, which correlates with the exact time period that European settlers first reached Muswellbrook (Wonnarua Country). The symbolic frame also metaphorically acknowledges the paradox of living in and between the two worlds and addresses subtle hypocrisy, the act of critiquing these Western systems although at the same time living and breathing by them.
This moving image installation advocates for profound inquiry into the events and resulting cultural, environmental and spiritual impacts that have taken place in this country in the short period since colonisation began in Australia. This work is a statement on a way of living; a plea for cultural embracement, reconciliation, and change; a push for government and corporate systems to stop oppressing Indigenous people and culture. It is a plea to listen, learn and implement the vast knowledge of First Nations people in the re-thinking of today's current systems that are clearly not working, in order for everyone to move forward inclusively, together as one.
Artist: Ryan Lee, Wonnarua, 2 channel video, 02:01 mins
Art After Dark on the street front
(37 Davey Street next door to main theatre)
Thursday 6 October to Saturday 5 November
View from the street at Cube 37 from dusk until 11pm
2 channel video looped, 2:01 sec