DATES & VENUES
LIST OF WORKS
Actions On Film... So Much More Than Words
For Hands In Each Other's Pockets
Portraits from The Movement 1978 2003
Andrew Sayers, Director, National Portrait Gallery
In the twentieth century many modes of photographic representation emerged the dispassionate and the passionate, the detached and the committed, the formal and the accidental. While each of these contrary modes has its logic and its brilliant practitioners, it remains true, I think, that important photographic portraiture is characterised by engagement and feeling.
Apmira Artists for Land Rights, Exhibition
Banduk Marika, Juno Gemes, Wandjuk Marika.
Paddington Town Hall, Sydney 1982.
(Photo: Jennifer Isaacs)
This book attests to Juno Gemess engagement with the people
who make up the Movement. This term the Movement is non-specific;
its very ambiguity expresses the multi-faceted nature of the political and cultural
struggles of Aboriginal people in Australia. The Movement is primarily about land
rights, but land rights have never been an end in themselves. In Aboriginal communities,
land is central to cultural survival in all its forms. Yet the Movement is expressed
in many different ways in poetry, plays and films; in political activism
and in legal advocacy; in marches and demonstrations; through art and dance; through
language, through ceremony and through the passing on of knowledge.
Over the past thirty years the Movement has achieved significant
public expression such as at the Uluru Handback in 1985 or during the Bicentenary
in 1988. On many of these occasions Juno Gemes has been there, with her camera
and her passion. She has also captured the more day-to-day aspects of life for
Indigenous Australians for whom the ideals of the Movement create a background,
an aspiration and an alternative to spiritual and material poverty.
Trust is the most important ingredient in the work of any artist
who sets out to represent society in portraiture. Trust is self-evident in Juno
Gemess photographic portraits. In fact that element attracted me to her
work when I first experienced it and led me to vigorously support its exhibition
at the National Portrait Gallery in partnership with the Macquarie University
Gallery. This is true and valuable portraiture. It is strong, inflected and meaningful.
Juno Gemess archive is a vast reservoir of images and the
portraits illustrated here are a sub-set of this wider project. Yet when brought
together and distilled as they are in this book the portraits highlight
the essentially human nature of the Movement. Politics are activities expressed
by people, they are never ideas in the abstract; whether they are the public politics
of statements made to enquiries and political forums, or the personal politics
of writing or painting ones own story, political messages are delivered
by committed people. It is the carriers of these messages that Juno Gemes has
connected with people in many different circumstances and settings, people
of all ages, with individual life stories delivering their important messages.