Kith and Kin: 60th Annual Venice Biennale

Kith and Kin: 60th Annual Venice Biennale

Flying 12500 kms from one island home to another: the 60th Annual Venice Biennale

It feels like it was a dream now thinking back but attending the 60th Annual Venice Biennale was a truly remarkable experience. Flying 12500 kilometers from one island home to another, I set off from Hobart, Tasmania to the cobble stone pavements of Venice, Italy. This much-anticipated event brings together artists from all over the world to showcase their work in one of the most prestigious platforms for contemporary art on the planet.

Stepping foot in Venice, I immediately felt a sense of awe and wonder. The city was completely activated with exhibitions happening everywhere. The Biennale embraced a spirit of boldness and experimentation, blurring the lines between traditional art forms and contemporary expressions. Every corner you turned, there was a masterpiece waiting to be discovered.

If These Walls Could Talk

The standout exhibition at the Biennale was Archie Moore's installation Kith and Kin. This powerful work served as a stark reminder of the racist, inhumane, and ultimately deadly way Aboriginal people of Australia have and in some cases are still being treated today.

During my visit to Kith and Kin at the Australian Pavilion, I was struck by the white table that floated just out of reach, surrounded by a black void, a river of water that encased the table. There was a feeling that this table levitates from a deep dark hole of Australia's history. Upon closer inspection, you can see that this table holds a collection of coronial reports, detailing the Inquest into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Names were redacted, but their presence was palpable.

Whilst the names were not visible, their stories and histories were imprinted on the walls that surrounded the white table. The ancestors of Archie Moore's family, as well as countless other Aboriginal people, peered down at us from every wall and angle of the blackboard-painted walls. Their names, written in white chalk, told the story of the ongoing struggle for justice, pain and resilience.

The Weight of History Bearing Down

As I looked around the bustling room, I couldn't help but feel the weight of history bearing down on me. Have you ever heard the expression "If these walls could talk"? Well, these walls did talk, they bear witness to the systemic oppression and marginalisation that Aboriginal people have faced for far too long. They also whisper of the strength and resilience of their ancestors, who continue to fight for justice and recognition.

The coronial reports, overflowing with documents of death, were laid out across the table. It was impossible to ignore the tragic reality that had unfolded within the pages. The table served as a testament to the countless lives lost and the injustices perpetuated against Aboriginal people.

It was a somber sight, but amidst the tears and the anger that welled up within me, I also felt something else. It was the power of truth, unfiltered and unapologetic. The exhibit did not shy away from the harsh reality faced by Aboriginal people. It challenged us head-on, forcing us to confront the uncomfortable truths that have persisted for centuries.

This exhibition does not tiptoe around sensitive topics, nor does it sugarcoat the injustices that Aboriginal people have faced. It hits us fair and square, forcing us to confront the atrocities that have been committed against our communities. It is not for the faint of heart, but rather a call to action.

However, amidst the heaviness, there is a glimmer of hope or was it the twinkling of the diamonds sparkling off the canal from the carefully placed window just above the floor line. These walls not only bear witness but also reveal of the resilience and strength that Aboriginal people possess. They remind us that despite the hardships they have endured, they continue to fight for justice and recognition.

As I walked around, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and inspiration. The exhibit not only shed light on the atrocities of the past but also provided a platform for Aboriginal people to tell their own stories. It is a testament to our resilience and determination to be heard.

I left the bustling room with a heavy heart, but also with a renewed sense of purpose. The exhibit had opened my mind to the disproportionate treatment faced by Aboriginal people and inspired me to work towards a fairer and more equitable future. If these walls could talk, I hope they would inspire change and mobilise others to join the fight for justice and recognition. By shedding light on the issues faced by Aboriginal people and bringing our stories to the forefront, Archie Moore's installation has the power to raise awareness, spark conversations, and inspire a nation. It serves as a call to action for individuals and society as a whole to confront and dismantle systemic oppression, to demand justice, and to work towards a future where diversity and respect are the norm.

 Kith and Kin is a powerful installation that challenges us to confront the painful past and work towards a better future for Aboriginal people. It urges us to recognise the humanity and dignity that has always been at the core of our identities. It is a work that demands our attention, challenges our perceptions, and reminds us that we must never lose sight of the injustices that still haunt our country.

I visited exhibition several times over my time in Venice and each time I left feeling deeply moved and inspired. It reminded me of the importance of bearing witness, challenging injustice, and fostering a culture of healing and understanding. I hope that Kith and Kin serves as a catalyst for meaningful change and serves as a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of First Nations People everywhere.


Archie Moore won the Golden Lion for best national participation at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

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