The Blaktism

Registration Number
Type of Object
3 of 5
Single Channel HD Video
When Made
Public Description: 

The Blaktism is a satirical video work about the artist's experience obtaining her 'Certificate of Aboriginality' and the overwhelming sense of doubt experienced at the thought of being legitimately certified at 30 years of age. The video presents a baptism-like sacred ceremony whereby a young Quandamooka woman receives the rite to her authentic Aboriginality permitted by everyday Australians. This work translates issues of citizenship, power, prejudice and interrogates the issue of cultural authority in 21st century Australian political and cultural landscape.

Megan Cope is known for her paintings, video work, sculptural installations and site-specific commissions. A Quandamooka woman from North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, her work explores the intricate relationship between environment, geography and identity. Cope’s work has been exhibited in Australia and internationally including at Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art; Cairns Regional Art Gallery; Koori Heritage Trust, Melbourne; City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand; Careof Art Space, Milan; and the Australian Embassy, Washington. Cope most recently exhibited in ‘Unfinished Business: Perspectives on Art and Feminism’ at ACCA. Cope is a member of Aboriginal art collective proppaNOW.

Makers Statement: 
THE BLAKTISM : AN INTERVIEW WITH MEGAN COPE Right Now: Can you tell us a little bit about The Blaktism, your new media work currently showing at Screen Space? Megan Cope: The Blaktism is a video performance of a baptism-like ceremony wherein a young Quandamooka woman (myself) gets blaktised in order to be seen as a true authentic Aboriginal by true Australians. What motivated you to seek out a (satirical) “Certificate of Aboriginality”? Do you think that there’s a certain social pressure to validate our cultural and racial identities? The work was motivated more so by the overwhelming sense of doubt and insecurity I felt at the thought of obtaining this document. I think that there is pressure to explain how much Aboriginal you are and why you identify as Aboriginal to the white community, it’s like a passive aggressive suspicious interrogation. How does The Blaktism intersect with the current discussion around racial discrimination – in particular, Andrew Bolt’s columns about fair-skinned Aboriginal people? I guess The Blaktism highlights the absurdity of Australia’s obsession with authenticity yet simultaneously insisting assimilation of all people whom call Australia home. If we as a nation were more honest about the historical foundations of this nation we would understand why Aboriginal people have arrived at their disposition. There’s a rather dark humour running through The Blaktism – from the title of the work through to the image of you enveloped in a Union Jack flag. How do you see the role of humour in politically engaged artwork? I think it’s very important to highlight and exploit our relationship with the types of symbolism that is visually apparent in this work. I think that humour is a way Aboriginal people deal with our adversity and is a means to challenge and make sense of social and political issues. The symbolism in The Blaktism is what connects us to the conceptual framework, narrative and overall dialog in the artwork. The Blaktism feels like an intensely personal work, as well as being a political one. Your own identity – and your own body – are very much at the heart of the work. Did you find that difficult, or was there a sense of liberation as well? Yes it was challenging, my general practice as a painter provides a sense of anonymity or a subtle shield between my ideas and the object. So The Blaktism was extremely revealing, technically challenging and deeply personal, the work itself has inadvertently become a catharsis to my personal insecurities of being a fair-skinned Aboriginal woman, the process personally resolved these issues and reiterated that Aboriginality is more than skin deep.