Blowing the whistle on Footscray’s colonial past
This textile and performance installation explores a conundrum at Footscray’s heart: two public art installations representing diametrically-opposed interpretations of history.
WELCOME BOWL by Vicki Couzens, Maree Clarke and Jeph Neale is a coolamon built from four boulders at a pedestrian and traffic intersection. Overlooking it stands the Australian Natives’ Association (ANA) clock, donated by their women’s committee to the former City of Footscray in the 1980s.
WELCOME BOWL is a First Nations statement; the clock is a link to the worst of Australia’s colonial and racist past. By masking the ANA clock in hessian and twine, Heather blinds its faces and degrades its status. Hessian carries references to hair shirts, flour bags, army camouflage and gunny sacks (plus Henry Lawson stories, the diggers of Gallipoli, old-time grocery stores and outback farms) while the jute twine provides a visual link to the four huge, ancient and dusty elements of the coolamon.
Heather will sit by her installation and blow an umpire’s whistle every hour to signal a five-minute recitation of the ANA’s history and practices, including its racist beginnings but also the pioneering benefits it offered members in a time when no government pensions or subsidies existed.