Our department member Stephen Gilchrist, Associate Lecturer of Indigenous Art, is the guest curator of a Harvard Art Museums exhibition on contemporary Australian Aboriginal art. Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia features more than seventy works, many of which have never been seen outside Australia. The exhibition presents an opportunity to introduce audiences to the central role that Indigenous art plays in the global narrative of contemporary art, whilst challenging notions of time.
The exhibition takes its title from the concept of ‘the Everywhen’, a term coined by Australian anthropologist William Stanner in the 1960s to describe his comprehension of Indigenous people’s modelling of time, where past, present and future are intertwined. As explained by Pitjantjatjara artist Tommy Watson, whose work Wipu rockhole (2004) is included in the exhibition, ‘Our paintings are our memories for the future relatives.’
‘Indigenous people have been defined and confined by Western colonial constructions of time,’ explains Gilchrist. ‘This exhibition offers a corrective: an opportunity to be immersed in an Indigenous sense of time. The themes of the exhibition—seasonality, transformation, performance, and remembrance—reflect an experience of time that is active, abiding, and expansive. The Everywhen can show us that Indigenous art and culture do not merely represent the time before time, but in fact awaken us to the fullness of it.’
In his recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herlad, Gilchrist noted that he wants viewers to abandon their preconceived ideas about contemporary Indigenous art versus the traditional. ‘Even our understanding of the Dreaming is that it is something of a vacuum of the past, but really it’s always gesturing to the present, gesturing to the future, that’s how Aboriginal people continue to live, with those ancestors from the Dreaming,’ said Gilchrist, who has been working on the show for the past four years.
The exhibition features works of varying scale and media, with the majority produced over the past forty years. Drawn from public and private collections in Australia and the United States, this is the first time that many of the works are being seen outside Australia.
Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia
5 February 2016 – 18 September 2016
Harvard Art Museums