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Indigenous approaches to the past: ‘Creative histories’ at the Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney

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This article discusses a recent art project created by the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist Jonathon Jones, which was commissioned to commemorate the opening of the revitalized Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney in early 2020. Jones’ work involves a dramatic installation of red and white crushed stones laid throughout the grounds of the barracks, merging the image of the emu footprint with that of the English broad convict arrow to ‘consider Australia’s layered history and contemporary cultural relations’. This work was accompanied by a ‘specially-curated programme’ of performances, workshops, storytelling and Artist Talks. Together, these elements were designed to unpack how certain ‘stories determine the ways we came together as a nation’. As one of the speakers of the Artist Talk’s programme, I had a unique opportunity to experiment with what colleagues and I have been calling ‘Creative histories’ in reference to the way some artists and historians are choosing to communicate their research about the past in ways that experiment with form and function and push disciplinary or generic boundaries. This article reflects upon how these two distinct creative history projects – one visual art, the other performative – renegotiate the complex and contested pasts of the Hyde Park Barracks. I suggest that both examples speak to the role of memory and creativity in shaping cultural responses to Australia’s colonial past, while Jones' programme illustrates how Indigenous artists and academics are making a profound intervention into contemporary understandings of how history is ‘done’ in Australia.
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Keywords: Hyde Park Barracks; Indigenous histories; Jonathon Jones; colonial histories; creative histories; popular history

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Technology Sydney

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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