8 essays
Compiled by Natalie King

Trust is the bedrock of all relationships and solidarities. Whether through models of collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous participants, trust is part of the process of reparation and reconciliation (Terry Smith, “Yirrkala, Northern Territory, 1962–63”). Moreover, during this pandemic, the most prescient metaphor of the present is how everything is interdependent and intertwined. So what is a collective life based on mutuality, generosity, reciprocity, and trust? (Raqs Media Collective, “Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time”). This is the trust dilemma for institutions, especially museums: trust in collaborative practices and alignments; trust in images and digital photography; trust in archives; trust and co-existence; relational trust. These are just some of the invocations of trust and loyalty, but also its converse: betrayal.

Natalie King OAM is a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Melbourne and Curator of Yuki Kihara, Aotearoa New Zealand at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022.

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Terry Smith
Marking Places, Cross-Hatching Worlds: The Yirrkala Panels
Originally published in September 2020

In the later months of 1962 and the early months of 1963, elders of Yolŋu clans from the area known by the balanda (“white people”) as the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land came together to paint what became known as the Yirrkala Church Panels. Today, the panels and the stories that they show are revered more than ever. As a collective statement, they continue to resonate on multiple levels, from the local community outwards through several registers to, I suggest, a worldly scale. The entirely collective process through which they were produced models a collaborative form of indigenous and non-indigenous participation in the processes of reparation and reconciliation so essential to Australia’s national polity. Historical accuracy, moral accountability, restorative justice, and social unity were at stake, as they remain.

Ahmet Öğüt
CCC: Currency of Collective Consciousness
Originally published in February 2015

I grew up in a place where civil war was part of daily life, where safety in public space was divided into day and night, into wide roads and back streets, mountains with cages or fields with burned trees. It was normal to have military tanks patrolling in the heart of town with heavily armed Special Forces. Working as a journalist in a newspaper was dangerous enough to have one assassinated in the middle of the street during daytime. Listening to music in your native language was considered a crime. Imagine a place where primary school kids were investigated for taking part in a painting competition about the International Day of Peace. Growing up in circumstances of radically militarized everyday life with very limited resources, I am not coming from a place where worldviews of “Western moralism”or ethics as “conventional wisdom” were taken for granted. I am coming from a place where I learned the importance of consciousness—more importantly, collective consciousness—when one is isolated both culturally and politically.

Erika Balsom
The Reality-Based Community
Originally published in June 2017

Imagined communities are called into being through media, and the reality-based community is no different. Documentary cinema is its privileged means of imagination. Why? With a frequency not found in other forms of nonfiction image-making, documentary reflects on its relationship to truth. And unlike the written word, it partakes of an indexical bond to the real, offering a mediated encounter with physical reality in which a heightened attunement to the actuality of our shared world becomes possible. But precisely for these same reasons, documentary is simultaneously a battleground, a terrain upon which commitments to reality are challenged and interrogated.

Irmgard Emmelhainz
Shattering and Healing
Originally published in January 2019

But what does vulnerability actually mean? Is it being able to acknowledge a state of pain or insecurity, embracing the feeling of coming undone? I feel that it’s something I’ve tried to hide from others and from myself. At the cost of headaches, a bloated stomach, the inability to articulate a sentence. A mental-physical feeling of paralysis. I now suspect that people spend a lot of time and effort hiding in this way. Could I overcome my terror of falling apart if I allowed myself to rely on others, on you? Or should I be a “cruel optimist” and create hopeful and positive attachments, in full awareness that they will not work out?

Lorraine O’Grady
Originally published in December 2019

The blinding in Simone’s figures seems to me a self-blinding in order to see the self more clearly. A blinding that forces the one blinded to look inside more deeply. It’s a miracle, a radical act of self preservation, this blinding. It shuts out the exterior to be able to pay more and better attention to the interior. And the question it asks is: How brave and how honest will we be when we begin to look inside?

Brian Kuan Wood
Is it Love?
Originally published in March 2014

And pairs that cannot absorb one another in meaning effects
Go backward and forward and there is no place

Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time
Originally published in September 2011

To ask a human being to account for time is not very different from asking a floating fragment of plankton to account for the ocean. How does the plankton bank the ocean?

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