Artwork: Angelique Joy
Year: 2016

Response to Destiny Deacon’s ‘Over the Fence’

The photographic medium and nostalgic themes are two of my favourite things; it is perhaps because of this that Over the Fence by Destiny Deacon was a work I felt instantly engaged with. I loved this work the first time I saw it; there is something so very familiar and indeed nostalgic about dollies and their little dresses, about wooden fences with peeling paint and being a child with stools looking over at things they are too small for. The first time I saw this work I felt it was a lovely work; a work with something I didn’t quite understand, a darkness that I could not identify with.

Ignorantly I thought this work represented those childhood things I identified with. In looking deeper I understood I had no idea what this work was about; there is a chasm of pain and history that underpins this work. I loved this work more and feel it is a brilliant work in its ability to connect to anyone with its nostalgia but in the same moment to severe that connection with its darkness and history.

I have felt anxious about responding to this work and hope only that I have honoured her truth.

In reading a critical response to this work by Darryl French there were a few things that really cut for me. This image is about segregation, it is about ‘us’ and ‘them’, this work is about children kept away from the others and not understanding why and of being told ‘it is just the way it is’.

‘So many of the kids I was raised with and myself can remember very strongly the times we stood on boxes, climbed trees, pressed our little faces against the wire fence at the town baths with our little fingers protruding through the wire watching white kids playing and laughing while swimming in the pool. I didn’t fully understand at the time why we were treated differently and didn’t have the same privileges and I suppose such images reflected so much curiosity and envy in most cases.’

Darryl French, Lecturer, Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University.
Critical Response: The personal, family and memory in Destiny Deacons work.

The intention with my response was to show the inherent racism on the other side of that fence. To validate her truth; we have been and in lots of cases continue to be, racist. Many factions within our society continue to perpetuate the racism Australia was founded on.

The words at the base of my piece are a really important part of the image; the dialogue between the child and caregiver, racism and ignorance passed down. It could have been any other common racist words I had sprinkled on me as a child and never questioned. ‘I’m not racist, but…’ ‘They get more Newstart than you will’ ‘They are all just drunk, don’t look at them’ ‘It’s nonsense we are expected to say sorry to them! Whatever for?!’ I could have chosen a thousand other phrases; phrases I commonly heard, phrases that echoed a common opinion. Phrases I am ashamed to say that only much later in life did I question.

‘…our children are the innocent victims of the negative behaviour of people who are supposed to nurture them and play an important role in fostering all aspects of positivism and fairness.’

Darryl French, Lecturer, Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University.
Critical Response: The personal, family and memory in Destiny Deacons work.

I wanted to find a fence that resonated with my childhood, not a wooden style fence that would mimic the one in Over the Fence. When I read the words from Darryl French ‘little fingers protruding through the wire fence’ I immediately thought of the wire fence at my primary school, 50s Australian style fencing. I wanted to find a fence that was referencing my childhood and the foundations of learning to express how racism continues.

I grew up in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide; a rough area full of ‘drunken abbos’ and ‘scrubba single mothers’. Of course none of that was true, none of those single stories were the truth for where I grew up or the people within these narratives.

In creating this work I decided to drive out to what is now Daveron Park, to the school I spent from reception to year 7, during the late 80s and 90s; Elizabeth Fields Primary School. It is now a decommissioned, boarded up, very sad looking collection of buildings. Aboriginal learning was a big part of my education at this school, we were often told dreaming stories, painting aboriginal flags and learning all about Nunga people during Naidoc week. All of this did not lessen the inherent racism that I was taught at home, or the racism that was not direct, or the racism that perpetuated an ‘us’ and ‘them’ value base.

White people using Aboriginal flags as badges for political correctness did not dilute their inherent racism; because look at us, being all inclusive with this flag, I am not racist. We are not racist, but… Flying flags doesn’t change opinions, problems can’t be fixed when privilege doesn’t see a need.

There were lots of perfect backdrops behind this wire fence that interestingly remains since the 90’s, but there was one wall in the school that had an Aboriginal Flag artwork, I choose to use this as the backdrop for my work in the hope it would illustrate the contradiction of privilege.

In her works Destiny often uses of process of degrading her prints by printing and re-copying the copy over and over. I used this process along with a Holga plastic lens to echo some of that degradation.

My response to Over the Fence by Destiny Deacon is titled:

Green Grass & White Faces

Aj

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