Invasion Paintings (2013) by Vernon Ah Kee


Ack! Ack! Ack!

You walk into the gallery space and your mind stumbles.

Am I in the wrong gallery?

Where are the portraits of Aboriginal men and women staunchly gazing from the wall? Where are the text works of clean minimal text?

What is this MESS?Vernon Ah Kee

“We come in peace! We come in peace!”

Vernon Ah Kee’s new series Invasion Paintings (2013), is a complete visual departure from the last ten years of his practice. In this body of work, Ah Kee mixes his well established political position with popular cultural icons. He draws on familiar and mythological science fiction invaders, their images and words, to remind the viewer, that they too are part of a colonising project.

Vernon Ah Kee Invasion Paintings

“They seem to murder everything that moves”

As you sort through the layers of the works, you’re left wondering who are the heroes and who are the villains in the narrative. In creating these works, Ah Kee brings chaos in colour and composition. It’s hard to read, difficult to extract. What is it about? Is it meant to be funny? Should I laugh? The works, like invasion, aren’t clean or rational. Invasion is brutal, inhuman, violent, persistent and unrelenting. Unlike Ah Kee’s previous works, these paintings aren’t clean with minimalist colours. They aren’t neat and definitely not straightforward. Like a kind of historical document, our artist is a war correspondent, documenting the battle while in the thick of it. You can see the blood stained earth, feel the violence and stench of death. Invasion seems to be Always Was, Always Will Be. We know nothing else.

“Watch your futures end”

Aboriginal scholar, Associate Professor Irene Watson, calls the foundation and the continued existing of the the Australian State as the “originary violence”. She states

The Australian state, founder of a violent (dis) order is called upon they the international community to conform and uphold ‘human rights’, but what does this call to conformity require, particularly when the call comes from states which are also founded upon colonial violence? It is my argument that very little is required beyond the masquerade that ‘equality’ for Aboriginal peoples is an on-going project of the state. So for what purpose does the masquerade continue? The masquerade of equality is essential to the notion of foundation and state legitimacy even though inside the colonial state ‘equality’ is never a possibility.

In this decade, we hear the call to Constitutional Reform. It will unify us they say. The campaign has begun. The Invaders’ leaders and our leaders are unified. We must heal our nation. We must accept changes to words of the state’s foundation document. Do changes in words give us changes in sovereignty? Do clauses bring peace? Do they stop our men and women being killed by the justice system? Do they halt the ongoing epistemological violence that our children experience when we send them to school? Do they bring back our language and our land? Or are we watching our futures end? Is this all another part of the project that is the ongoing masquerade that we are at peace? Is it all more Ack! Ack! Ack!?

References:

  • Watson, I (2009) What is saved or rescued and at what cost? Cultural Studies Review. Volume 15, Number 2, September 2009
  • Mars Attacks (1996)
  • War of the Worlds (1938)
  • Star Trek: First Contact (2009)

Exhibition details

When: December 2103

Where: Milani Gallery, Woollongabba