The Crimson Thread - PhMuseum

The Crimson Thread

Erin Lee

2020 - Ongoing

Australia

'The Crimson Thread' is a photographic investigation into the omnipresence of our colonial history that attempts to better understand the impacts of colonisation and white privilege on Australian society in a contemporary context. The title of this project is taken from a quote by Henry Parkes, a colonial Australian politician who described Australia’s connection to the British Motherland as, “the crimson thread of kinship, which defined Australia as a bastion of ‘whiteness’ in the Asian region.” The project will examine how can the contemporary settler society of Australia today be interrogated by highlighting the omnipresence of our colonial history?

My intention to undertake this work is because I believe the ubiquitous presence and honouring of colonial history in our society should be questioned. By retracing the Royal Tour of Australia made by Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1954, the work will question the continuing existence of the Commonwealth and the Queen as our head of state, the perpetuation of these institutions, and their role in the creation of systemic racism which exists universally today. As a descendant of white settlers, I believe that examining the colonial history and the Commonwealth is an ethically appropriate approach to make this work which speaks about broader issues of identity and white supremacy.

This project will use expanded documentary photography to combine images of landscapes, objects and portraits which exemplify the impacts of British colonisation in Australia. I am interested in presenting history in an amorphous way that allows viewers to decide for themselves where my work sits between fact and fiction and to reflect on the relevance, or irrelevance of imperial institutions which still exist.

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  • Australian landscape. Maryborough, Victoria.

  • Pillars of Melbourne University, for which the foundations were laid on 3 July 1854. Melbourne, Victoria.

  • Swans were introduced to Australia by colonialists. White swans have not survived in the wild and can now only be seen living in captivity.

  • Lake Wendouree. The site of an artificially created urban lake, the name comes from the Aboriginal word wendaree, meaning 'go away'. This was the answer an indigenous woman gave when asked by a Scottish settler what the place was called. It is still called Lake Wendouree to this day. Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Statue of Queen Victoria. Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Swans were introduced to Australia by colonialists. Black swans are nomadic and have erratic migration patterns depending on climatic conditions, however have survived in high numbers in the wild.

  • Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Colonialist church situated within a native eucalyptus forest. Steiglitz, Victoria.

  • In unpacking what it means to be a white person, naming of our ‘whiteness’ is necessary.

    Being accepted as the status quo or default norm from which everyone else deviates is part of whiteness’s normative hold on power.

    Yet this identification must be accompanied by an understanding that the category itself is fictitious, the idea of ‘whiteness’ as the superior category must be broken down and replaced if we are to erase this belief in superiority.

  • The idea that the European race was superior to any other played a crucial role in the 'progress' which drove imperialism.

  • Lake Wendouree. The site of an artificially created urban lake, the name comes from the Aboriginal word wendaree, meaning 'go away'. This was the answer an indigenous woman gave when asked by a Scottish settler what the place was called. It is still called Lake Wendouree to this day. Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Highway near Echuca, Victoria.

  • The introduction of religion played a crucial role in the 'progress' which drove imperialism.

  • Ballarat, Victoria.

  • Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Ballarat, Victoria.

  • The Queen's coronation portrait.

  • A replica of the anointing spoon used in the British Royal’s coronation ceremony, the Archbishop drips oil from the spoon onto the sovereign’s hands, chest and head. Supposedly, the oil is holy and therefore, from that moment, this person becomes the King or Queen of England and the head of The Commonwealth.

  • St Andrew's Presbyterian Church where the Queen and Duke attended a Sunday service during the 1954 Royal Tour. Warburton, Victoria.

  • Australian landscape, Red Hill, Victoria.


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