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ArtReview Talks with Australia Pavilion at 60th Venice Biennale

Archie Moore, Fredrick Noel Clevens in ‘kith and kin’, Australia Pavilion, 2024, digitally altered found photograph (graphic design: Žiga Testen and Stuart Geddes). © the artist. Courtesy the artist and The Commercial, Sydney

ArtReview is partnering with Creative Australia to present a talks programme during the 60th Venice Biennale. Reflecting on Archie Moore’s presentation kith and kin, curated by Ellie Buttrose for the Australia Pavilion, the talks programme will explore two of the exhibition’s central themes: First Nations languages revival initiatives and the injustices of carceral systems that disproportionately target First Nations people and people of colour. As an extension of Moore’s ongoing research into identity, heritage, language, racism and the universality of the human family, the talks programme will invite speakers from around the world to share in their experiences of language revival techniques and methods to counter carceral injustices, and to consider what role art can play in highlighting these issues.

More details to be announced soon.

Archie Moore, Valerie Jean Moore and William Clevin in kith and kin at Australia Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2024, found photograph (graphic design: Žiga Testen and Stuart Geddes). © the artist. Courtesy the artist and The Commercial, Sydney

Archie Moore: kith and kin at the Australia Pavilion

Moore’s exhibition in the Australia Pavilion will be a powerful and poignant exploration of his Kamilaroi, Bigambul, British, and Scottish heritage. Moore is only the second First Nations artist to have a solo presentation in the Australia Pavilion. His work will reflect on the nature and strength of Indigenous kinship, issues of surveillance and incarceration, the enduring impact of colonisation and First Nations language revival.

The guiding principle in kith and kin is that relationality is the root of identity. The exhibition draws upon Moore’s extensive research and unravels how his family history is entwined with the chronicles of the continent and more recently the nation of Australia. By tracing his Kamilaroi and Bigambul family back 65,000+ years, Moore asserts Indigenous sovereignty. Although First Nations peoples have been threatened by invasion, massacre, disease and dispossession, Moore celebrates their continuing vitality. While the stories in kith and kin are often specific to the artist’s family, they mirror the narratives of Indigenous and colonised people throughout the world.

Language is a recurring theme in the artist’s practice. Moore is attentive to the elimination of First Nations Australian languages, acknowledging the pernicious policies and social circumstances that have given rise to this loss. Due to colonial dispossession Moore’s mother knew little of her ancestral languages to pass on to her son. Moore has researched Gamilaraay (the language of the Kamilaroi nation) and Bigambul terms and incorporated them into his artwork. He does this to signpost First Nations language revival movements taking place throughout the world.

The phrase ‘kith and kin’ simply means friends and family but an earlier Old English definition for kith dates from the 1300s and originally meant ‘countrymen’ (kith also meant ‘one’s native land’) and kin: ‘family members’. These words gradually took on the present looser sense: friends and family. Many Indigenous Australians, especially those who grew up on Country, see the land and other living things as part of their kinship system – the land itself can be a mentor, teacher, parent to a child. The sense of belonging involves everyone and everything and First Nations peoples of Australia, which, like most Indigenous cultures, is deeply rooted in our sacred landscape from birth until death. I was interested in the phrase as it aptly describes the artwork in the pavilion, but I was also interested in the Old English meaning of the words as it feels more like a First Nations understanding of attachment to place, people and time.” – Archie Moore

Australia’s history is inextricably linked with the carceral system. British colonisation was established with penal colonies from 1788, and today First Nations peoples in Australia are statistically some of the most incarcerated people globally. kith and kin examines this history via specific examples from Moore’s genealogy: his British and Scottish great-great-grandfather arrived as a convict in 1820; while his Kamilaroi and Bigambul great-uncle was imprisoned in the notorious Boggo Road Gaol. With respect and solemnity, kith and kin will make visible the impact that the incarceration of Indigenous Australians has on familial connections.

“kith and kin physically immerses the audiences in the world of Archie Moore and lays bare how we are all entangled within his web of connections.” – Ellie Buttrose

About Creative Australia
Creative Australia is the Australian Government’s principal arts investment and advisory body. With artists at the heart of what it does, Creative Australia invests in creative talent and stimulates the market for Australian stories to be told on a national and international scale, sharing Australia’s rich culture with the world. Creative Australia’s ethos recognises that art and creativity define us, recording what we have been and what we might yet become. As a nation, creativity should connect and benefit all of its people. Creative Australia is proud of its 50-year history of investing in First Nations arts and culture and supporting First Nations self-determination. Creative Australia will build on this legacy in 2024 when the inaugural First Nations-led board will be appointed.

Creative Australia is for the artist.
Creative Australia is for us all.

About the Australia Pavilion
The award-winning Australia Pavilion, designed by Denton Corker Marshall, opened in 2015. Mathew Doyle of the Muruwari people led the smoking ceremony for the Pavilion’s opening. The Pavilion is the first (and currently only) permanent 21st-century structure built in the Giardini della Biennale. The Australia Pavilion’s form was designed to be as simple as possible. The architects describe it as a “white box within a black box, carefully positioned on the site to ensure minimal impact on the existing landscape”. Large slabs of black granite give the building its dark exterior. Some panels fold open to reveal the clean white interior and allow some natural light inside. these protruding panels aim to enable the building to take on a new appearance when an exhibition is taking place. The Australia Pavilion is one of only 29 national pavilions within the biennale gardens, all built at different periods by various countries. The development of the Pavilion was made possible through a public-private partnership led by what was the Australia Council for the Arts (now Creative Australia) with the then commissioner Simon Mordant AM. The original Pavilion, designed as a temporary structure by Philip Cox, opened in 1988 and hosted 22 artists during its lifetime.

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