The Case Of Bad Rock Art Essay

The Case Of Bad Rock Art Essay

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Aboriginal art is widely associated with the primitive and primordial nature of the Australian Indigenous culture. However, as it has become more popular globally, one must consider the authenticity of the Aboriginal art sold on the contemporary market. Eric Michaels essay, ‘Bad Aboriginal Art’ (Michaels, 1988) exposes his concerns with how we define certain art as being genuinely ‘Aboriginal’ and questions what external influences exploit and influence the validity and authenticity of Aboriginal art. The essay summons readers to question what they identify with Australian culture and whether or not White Australians have disordered the meaning of Indigenous art.
In his case study “The case of Bad rock art” (Michaels, 1988) Michaels refers to the “restoration” (Michaels, 1988, p. 201) of the Wandjinas rock painting in Western Australia. He explains the bureaucracy that was demonstrated by the local government who were called by Mr. Lorin Bishop, the owner of the cattle station where the Wandjina rock art was situated, who was concerned that the art was ‘deteriorating’. The Federal Minister for Aboriginal affairs hired a group of unemployed workers from Derby to “restore” (Michaels, 1988, p.201) the work.
The young workers first used video and still cameras to record the site and used “housepaint, aquadhere, wood glue and plastic”(Michaels, 1988, p. 201) to paint over it, followed by acrylic paint rather than traditional soluble ochre when mimicking the original designs. Their renewal of the 5000-year-old design was referred to as looking “tea towel kitsch”, (Michaels, 1988, p. 201) contrary to the authentic primordial aesthetic that Aboriginal art is associated with. Michaels questions whether the Government is to blame for the “...


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... concept of efficiency. First world countries idea of creating harmony with the land may not necessarily be a spiritual approach but rather a concept based around efficiency. It is thus up to the individual to decide what they identify with as having harmony with the land: do they choose to identify themselves with modern societies concept or do they believe that a more spiritual connection is necessary.


He explains that it is when we participate in acts like swearing allegiance to Queen Elizabeth and her heirs that we are “accepting a bogus symbol and a phoney identity” (Gutman, 1982, p. 73). Perhaps the real issue is not the lack of certainty of national identity but rather the “yawning absence of an Australian national purpose.” (Gutman, 1982, p. 73) He poses that if we “embark on a fresh program we will see a fresh identity taking shape”. (Gutman, 1982, p. 73)

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