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Fire and Brimstone: Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty, Todd Williams & Djon Mundine

BY The Cross Art Projects | 24-Aug-2020
The exhibition Fire & Brimstone casts a watching eye over the corporations and individuals who continue to choose profit over people and climate catastrophe. Before there was a virus crisis, many expert reports warned of the need to “close the inequality gap”. The reports all pointed to our declining health, life expectancy and rising numbers of “preventable deaths”; especially in prisons, aged care and rural and remote communities which, in Australia, largely comprise First Nations peoples. The most shocking work in Fire & Brimstone is 'Kumanjayi', Chips Mackinolty's stark red and black text memorial to the 437 black deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (Report 1996). Very few of its 330 recommendations have been implemented. Every year, Aboriginal people continue to die in custody. Mackinolty’s work is subtitled, "and still counting".
Venue: The Cross Art Projects
Address: 8 Llankelly Place, Kings Cross 2011
Date: 29 August to 26 September 2020
Web: https://www.crossart.com.au/
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EMail: info@crossart.com.au
Call: (02) 93572058
Fire and Brimstone
Ritchie, Mining is sacred, 2020. Ilford Galerie Prestige Cotton Rag Smooth 300gsm, 50 x 80cm.
For some decades the four artists and thinkers Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty, Todd Williams and Djon Mundine, have asked us to open our eyes to our collective delusions and denial. They have all worked in remote communities on health and art projects. Their sophisticated fine art prints and video work audit the depths of the Covid-19 crisis; a darkness hiding fast-tracked approvals for the fracking and resource extraction that shakes the landscape and causes extreme weather havoc. The theme of “fire and brimstone” consigns us to a hell of fire, floods, faminine and pestilence, not heaven.

Therese Ritchie's work 'They all look the same to me, shows the coronavirus-riddled figure of Governor Phillip disembarking at Sydney Cove (after Arthur Phillip by Francis Wheatley, 1786
. National Portrait Gallery, London), his fleet carrying the cholera virus that may have killed up to 60% of Indigenous people in the first of many plagues. Chips Mackinolty's work 'Stay at Home' centres on Uluru the sacred red rock at the heart of the nation and says, "avoid carrying the sickness". The contagion is more than viral; Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urges us to put “the economy” before public health, restraint and coronavirus elimination. This apocalyptic chant of “trade” is mingled with opportunism: it is highly profitable for a few corporations and individuals to destroy or damage the world. Instead of reflection and reform of systems in crisis: of our infamously privatised aged care and health system and de-regulated environmental, heritage and Land Rights controls in order to override consultation, consent and regulation. Therese Ritchie’s work ‘King Coal’ cautions that when Australian fossil fuels — primarily coal — are burned overseas, the amount of carbon dioxide they produce is higher than the exported emissions of nearly all the world's biggest oil and gas-producing nations. We increase fossil fuel exports knowing they will cause mass extinction events.

In 2012, Therese Ritchie initiated a series of satirical exhibitions called ‘The LittlePrick Editions’, inviting artist colleagues to make works satirising sensationalist magazine covers focused on politicians' inappropriate or racist comments; corruption and hypocrisy. A huge wall of LittlePrick covers introduced Ritchie’s recent, extraordinarily popular, Burning Hearts retrospective at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. The fake news covers were published by "name and address withheld". One of the names withheld was that of musician and collage artist Todd Williams. Two years later a limited edition book The BIG book of LittlePricks. An artist’s safe guide to the Northern Territory was published. Posters, and prints, banners and demonstrations make colleagues and collaborators of us all.

In this spirit the collaborators on Fire & Brimstone invited long-term colleague Djon Mundine to exhibit a short moving image artwork, Wali (Possum-Marsupial), in Fire and Brimstone. Wali makes the point that animals can be totemic or ancestor beings and, as such, are the foundations of ceremonial culture. Like his Aboriginal Memorial (1988), Djon Mundiine's projects underwrite beauty and civility with profound loss and grief.