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Above image: Gemma O’Rourke, Video Still

Friday 3 December – Sunday 9 January

This exhibition is part of the OPEN SKY / Kelly’s Garden program in collaboration with the University of Tasmania

OPENING FRIDAY 3 December 2021 7.45pm – 9pm 



How is that something so abstract can contain within it so all the wrongs, and all the rights of a place and people? How can something so devoid of figure or narrative speak so boldly to individuals and collective bodies, to small incidents of history and big ideas of invasion and settlement? Flags have an enormous capacity to represent territories, spaces – imagined and real – and can also represent peoples, communities, solidarities. And when we see a flag, let’s talk about the Southern Cross for now but the same is true of almost any flag, it is a marker of some sort of occupancy, of an identity or a place. It can bring with a certain discomfort when we think of the atrocities that may have been committed under its form, and at the same time provide hope, sanctuary, pride and protection wherever we might find it.

In short, flags are complicated. They set out improbable and often contradictory ideas. The Australian flag marks out a real set of territories, but also marks out embassies and consulates all over the world – invented places called ‘Australia’ that are neither a real territory nor imagined space. When worn as a cape or a passport too, it defines both an individual wherever they are, a little bit of Oz wherever we go.

Flags signal an occupancy of a place, of ideas, of people, and identity. Some flags – the United Nations or Red Cross – represent ideas. Others – such as the Rainbow Flag or the Aboriginal Flag – represent a collection of peoples that are not tied to a particular place, but to stories of liberation and oppression. Some start life as a signal of revolution – the Tricolour or Stars and Stripes – others as a signal of control.

The brief here is for the artist to mark out their occupancy, whether of place, people, individuals or collectives. Whether it be a big idea or a small space to call one’s own, each flag is an attempt to convey a set of contradictions that are contained within its stitches, collages, its colours, and its use. It can be performed – and all flags should be performed – or made tangible in any material and media. And whilst some might be radical re-inventions, others might tell a story no less important in its intimacy.

Find your flag and fly it.

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