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"Performing Aboriginality": Chris Barry and Steve Gumerungi [Gum-a-rung-e] Hodder Watt (Bunbajee) AKA MC Dibirdi [Dib-bird-e]






Opening Saturday, June 20, 2009, 3 pm


Exhibition Dates: June 21 - August 2, 2009


The project is kindly supported by Hessische Kulturstiftung.






Chris Barry, a Melbourne-based artist, began her photographic project in 1999 and continues to produce work out of the urban environment of Alice Springs, Central Australia, amongst a specific group of Aboriginal families living there. “Performing Aboriginality” highlights those families and her working relationship to hip hop/spoken word artist, Steve Gumerungi Hodder Watt (Bunbajee) AKA MC Dibirdi.


Alice Springs is a bi-cultural township. Aboriginal families have been permanent residents since time immemorial, in spite of successive epochs of destructive governmental policies. For cultural theorist, Gayatri Spivak, culture alive is its own irreducible counter-culture. She also states that culture is a space of collision.


Barry uses her camera as a provocation to performance—a politics of the performative (Butler, 1997) whereby a re-enactment and re-presentation of subject identities is dramatised for the camera. Her project presents both the mundane nature and theatricality of the everyday. The “intrusive” nature of the camera reminds everyone of the conditions surrounding the event and the dynamics of production. Culture, then, is not a reality objectively recorded by the camera, but one “provoked” by its active presence. A social and political chasm between a European imagination and an Aboriginal sociality is wilfully played out.


Steve Gumerungi [Gum-a-rung-e] Hodder Watt (Bunbajee) AKA MC Dibirdi [Dib-bird-e] belongs to the Lardil peoples of Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, although he has lived in Mpartwe (Alice Springs) for more than 20 years. His hip hop/spoken word rhymes provoke and challenge in the same way. Hodder, a “clever tactician”, proceeds to dismantle predisposed histories, stereotypes, and social binaries. He replays history as both an indicator of oppression and a strategy for resistance.


The staging of the exhibition in Karben is a fortuitous occasion. It is the home of cultural anthropologist, Moritz von Leonhardi (1856-1910), the intellectual collaborator and publisher of Lutheran missionary, Carl Strehlow (1871-1922), and his seminal anthropological work amongst the Arrernte of Central Australia. The Arrernte are the traditional owners of Mpartwe/Alice Springs.


Within our series of “Vulnerable Societies”, “Performing Aboriginality” takes a special position—one of resistance and resilience—making apparent the social effects (and affects) of contemporary art on our societies.