Featuring a series of blown-glass domes, Scarce reflects on the containment and classification of Indigenous peoples since colonisation. Enclosed in glass domes with a cracked and fractured finish, photographs of family members are displayed in a natural history museum-style fashion. Prior to the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal people were classified under the Commonwealth Government’s Flora and Fauna Act, and not thought of as human beings. Scarce’s work references this policy, with images of her ancestors displayed like specimens under a bell-jar. These photographs were retrieved from the South Australian Government Archives and are presented with their reference numbers fully intact — Australian Aboriginal people were photographed and tagged with identity numbers, just like common criminals and prison inmates.
The first bell jar contains blown glass Indigenous fruit. This outlines the comparison between flora and Indigenous peoples and how they once held a shared place in the white Australian conscience. The cracked finish of the various bell jars makes it difficult to see clearly. This references the recording of Aboriginal history since colonial settlement, the truth of which is fractured and not all disclosed.
Yhonnie Scarce was born in Woomera, South Australia, and belongs to the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples. Scarce holds a Master of Fine Arts from Monash University. She is one of the first contemporary Australian artists to explore the political and aesthetic power of glass, describing her work as ‘politically motivated and emotionally driven’. In 2015 Scarce exhibited internationally in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Berlin, Japan and Italy and was involved in several major projects around Australia including the Palimpsest Biennale, Mildura and a site-specific installation at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary and Torres Strait Islander Art.
Images © Yhonnie Scarce