For whom the Bell tolls …

  • Scratch an Aussie still with Richard Bell

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    Richard Bell: Imagining Victory

    Richard Bell, Scratch an Aussie, 2008. Still from HD video, 10 mins.
    Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

  • Richard Bell, _Broken English_, 2009. HD video, production stills. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

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    Richard Bell: Imagining Victory

    Richard Bell, Broken English, 2009. HD video, production stills. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

  • Broken English still

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    Richard Bell: Imagining Victory

    Richard Bell, Broken English, 2009, HD video, 13 minutes, production still. Courtesy of the artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane.

If you like your art confronting, challenging and satirical, then Richard Bell's show at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre is definitely for you. Imagining Victory shows a trilogy of videos which draw upon related themes - racism, greed, elitism and the commodification of Aboriginal art.

Originally exhibited at Artspace in 2013, Imagining Victory hits hard― it’s both blunt instrument and well-aimed dart delivering comment on the continued social and economic disempowerment of Aboriginal people today.

Bell describes himself as ‘an activist masquerading as artist’, and this allows him to step outside the arena and reorganise the stage; flipping roles, turning the big themes inside-out and exposing middle-class complacency and liberalism for all to see.

In Scratch an Aussie (2008) Bell confronts the psychology of racism ‘head-on’. By exposing the confessions of a number of blonde and youthful Australians through a series of Aboriginal centred jokes played out in a therapy session, the viewer is brought face-to-face with Australia’s inherent racism. We know these schoolyard jokes; we've heard them in pubs and at parties. Bell unflinchingly urges the young people to share these jokes, and in doing so shines a light on the viewer, unsettling us and making us squirm.

Bell describes himself as ‘an activist masquerading as artist’, and this allows him to step outside the arena and reorganise the stage; flipping roles, turning the big themes inside-out and exposing middle-class complacency and liberalism for all to see.

The trilogy culminating work, The Dinner Party (2013) takes place in a luxurious mansion but instead of an evening made up of polite conversation and sipped chardonnay, the privileged, white guests berate Bell with their views on the interrelationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Mid-way through this tortuous evening, the white world is turned on its head when a live broadcast announces to guests, that an Aboriginal leader has assumed control of the country and a revolutionary new political manifesto is enacted to devastate white privilege–a strategy that makes us ‘walk a mile in another man’s shoes’, and highlights the continued suffering of Australia’s Indigenous peoples today.

So if you are one who takes offense easily, best stay at home with your glass of red and your feet up. You’ll avoid the intellectual stimulation, the chance of self-reflection and the opportunity to see our culture from a different viewpoint. But you’ll also miss out on the challenging, and often poignant Richard Bell.

Catch it at a regional galleries near you:

 

Western Plains Cultural Centre (NSW) - 7 February 2015 – 12 April 2015

Bendigo Art Gallery (VIC) - 9 May 2015 - 12 July 2015

Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (NSW) - 7 August 2015 – 20 September 2015

Wollongong Art Gallery (NSW) - 3 October 2015 – 29 November 2015

Albury Regional Art Gallery (NSW) - 19 December 2015 - 17 January 2016

 

A touring exhibition developed by Artspace Visual Arts Centre, toured by Museums & Galleries of NSW.

 

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