august 2019

Working with the Dead

Gabrielle Bates

Photo by Yiorgo Yiannopoulos

Photo by Yiorgo Yiannopoulos

In ‘Working with the Dead’, Gabrielle Bates explored her settler ancestry to highlight the complex problem of place occupation and ownership in Australia today. The installation is the result of a series of ritual walks in which Gabrielle visited locations occupied by her forebears, including lands formerly inhabited by the Gadigal, Cammeraigal, Burramatta, Dharawhal and Mouheneener people in Sydney, country NSW and Tasmania. 

From each walk, Gabrielle borrowed a stone, then cast its form using torn pieces of real estate advertising paper and flour glue. The stone was then returned to its place of origin. Simple faces were carved into the paper casts which were finally placed on sticks, each one representing an ancestor. This simple performative process created a gateway for the artist to connect with her ancestors to reflect, accept responsibility, and apologise for the state of occupation and colonisation that persists in contemporary Australia.