The Dark Forgetting - PhMuseum

The Dark Forgetting

Aletheia Casey

2018 - Ongoing

“The stories of The killing times are the ones we have heard in secret, or told in hushed tones. They are not the stories that appear in our history books yet they refuse to go away.” The Dark Forgetting uses distorted and disfigured landscapes to depict the violence of Australia’s early frontiers. Photographed in the sites of conflicts and massacres which occurred in the Bathurst War, this series reflects upon Australia’s untold history, and the immeasurable toll that this has had on Australia’s national identity, and Australia’s First Peoples.

The Bathurst War was fought after British settlers found a route through the rugged Blue Mountains to claim the fertile plains beyond. The indigenous Wiradjuri nation attempted to protect their lands and, in 1824, Governor Thomas Brisbane declared martial law.

I am Australian, of British and Irish descent. I know little about my family history on my mother's side. For many Australians, this lack of knowledge about our ancestors is typical. We have often tried to forget both our own histories and that of the violent formation of our country and build a new life that does not acknowledge the past. I’ve lived a large part of my adult life away from Australia, yet it is the only place I will ever consider home. I constantly long for the Australian light, the weather that changes in a moment, the scorching sun and the bitter wind. I miss the ferocious Pacific Ocean and the vast wilderness of the landscape, which is still largely uncultivated. Australia is the only place I have felt I belong. The land and the history it contains is embedded in my identity.

I grew up in a time when the narrative of Australian history told of the greatness and bravery of British explorers and first settlers, who were seen to have tamed the wild landscape of Australia into a land of wealth and opportunity. This story helped to unite the blended inhabitants and create a unified nation of new settlers but was fundamental in disempowering and disqualifying the achievements of First Nations Australians.

The anthropologist William Stanner wrote about a culture of "dis-remembering" which has occurred throughout the history of Australia. Stanner went on to say that, in Australia, we have continued to honoured what he called "The Great Australian Silence", which was not only a silence on the telling of an alternative history but also a silencing of indigenous voices.

The series considers how Australia's collective national identity has been informed by a manipulated version of history. My own manipulation and distortion of the imagery is a part of my personal attempt at honouring and uncovering a more truthful version of history than the one which had been widely taught. Through scratching and physically manipulating the films, the photographs become a reflection of our distorted understanding of history, and the immeasurable injustice of this one-sided historical narrative.

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