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2023 Anthony Forge Memorial Lecture

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The Trouble with Art: The Difference Indigeneity Makes in the Visual Arts

This lecture represents some thoughts about the difference that Indigeneity makes – or the significance of Indigeneity – in one art field, namely that of the visual arts. It grew out of my own research and experience with the work coming from the remote community arts cooperative Papunya Tula Artists that has led me to following and collaborating with the circulation of this work within Australia and internationally. In this paper, I am particularly interested in the continuing connection of acrylic painting work to local concerns and forms of life: the capacity, to assert or sustain a valued autonomy both symbolically and materially – to provide possibilities to be visible in the national space, to maintain themselves as placed in their homelands and to intervene in the horrendous epidemic of kidney disease that has threatened the possibilities of cultural reproduction.

Fred Myers is the Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University. Myers has been involved in research with, and writing about, Western Desert Aboriginal people since 1973. His books include Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines (1986) and a book on the acrylic painting movement, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art (2002). He has edited or co-edited several volumes concerned with art and anthropology, art fields, the circulation of material culture, Indigenous identity, and the early projects of “self-determination” in the 1970s.

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