Too Many Cocks: On the (im)possibility of graffiti re-writing colonial narratives

Graffiti observed on signs and monuments associated with Captain James Cook are used here as a departure point for considering the ways in which different narratives about Cook (e.g. authorised, monumental, vernacular, imaginary) are assigned value. Our particular focus here concerns the role that graffiti has played in producing counter-narratives to the hegemony of a particular national discourse that celebrates Cook—with a focus on a theme in Australian popular culture that strips Cook of his pants and his dignity. This leads to a consideration of how graffiti might be approached in some instances as a legitimate mode of reparative writing against colonialism and its effects. In the Australian context the intensification of activist graffiti on monuments may signal a growing community awareness of historic injustices, the surfacing of rituals of recognition and reparation, and a growing desire of the broader community to play a role in the (re)construction of public memory. Interventions of this kind could be construed as an unconventional channel through which the dialogue of democracy can take place.

Stitching Art Practice: As action and metaphor for care and repair

This paper examines the sewing needle as a tool for reparation within art practice, and reflects on the capacity for art to heal aspects of self, culture and the environment. Through my multidisciplinary art practice – stitching, installation, writing, and walking – I consider how attentive care and repair can transform grief and trauma; specifically, in the wake of the 2019/2020 fire season on the east coast of Australia; and to a lesser extent, the global pandemic that quickly followed. The work at the centre of the paper is the creation of a blanket wrapped rock cairn, built in my studio during the months-long Greater Sydney 2021 lockdown. The action of stitching remnant pieces of blanket around rocks builds upon Louise Bourgeois’ concept of the needle as an object of psychological repair, bringing individual fragments of creative practice, grief and trauma into conversation. Walking as art practice is both the medium that underpins all the others, and the journey I begin in the fire’s wake. Unable to prepare for a long-planned durational walk while still in lockdown, I instead walk by stitching steps through wool, temporalities and across landscapes, real and imagined, demonstrating how I see walking and the needle as synonymous.