Explorations of Indigenous archive-making: the Living Archive of Aboriginal Art

Fran Edmonds (University of Melbourne)
Sabra Thorner (Mount Holyoke College)
Archives and Museums

Short abstract:

Indigenous artists and archivists and non-Indigenous academics, will discuss two interconnected Indigenous archive-making projects. The panel will explore ideas for supporting art/cultural practices and Indigenous knowledge as relational & ongoing via the production of a Living Archive.

Long abstract:

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Art project, based in Melbourne, Australia, reveals dynamic and interactive relationships existing among Aboriginal people, their culture- and art-making. The project records and preserves stories about objects and artworks in ways embodying Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing things. This process draws on two separate, interconnected living archives. The first embodies the work of Mutti Mutti/Wemba Wemba/Boonwurrung artist Maree Clarke, in conducting art-making workshops in her backyard, reflecting her engagement with Ancestral material in museum collections and supporting intergenerational knowledge exchange and intercultural collaborations. The workshops exemplify the relationality of Indigenous knowledge systems, revealing contemporary art/culture-making as a living ongoing archive. Intersecting with this work is a project conducted with the Ngukurr community (southeastern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory) that explores viable options for them to digitally access and interact with their archival collections in museums and institutions elsewhere. Both projects coalesce around the possibilities of intercultural knowledge exchange between Indigenous communities and collecting institutions/archives, focusing attention on decolonising collaborations for supporting Indigenous knowledge through archive-making. We propose a roundtable panel presentation as a multimodal forum in which we screen footage from backyard workshops, show photographs from a resulting exhibition, discuss access to Indigenous collections, and facilitate interactive dialogue about Indigenous art/culture-making as intergenerational knowledge transmission and intercultural exchange and collaboration.. With audience permission, we hope to record the interactive conversation for inclusion in the Living Archive as part of the integrated art- and archive-making processes we're imagining and building.