An Unsettling Presence: Indigenous Art and Settler Law

H Douglas, J Besley, 'An Unsettling Presence: Indigenous Art and Settler Law' in Fiona Foley, Louise Martin-Chew and Fiona Nicoll (eds), Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University (University of Queensland Press, Brisbane 2015) 124-133

Posted: 13 Apr 2016

See all articles by Heather Douglas

Heather Douglas

The University of Queensland - TC Beirne School of Law

John Christopher Besley

University of South Carolina

Date Written: April 12, 2015

Abstract

In 2004 a new Magistrates Courts complex opened in Brisbane, and a new Supreme and District Courts complex followed in 2012. Indigenous art was commissioned for both of these projects. In this paper we focus on these commissioned pieces to consider the role of art in white courts of law. In our analysis, we consider the placement of the art in the courts. On one level we suggest the artworks have a symbolic value; perhaps pointing towards sorry or shame or perhaps representing an aspiration for reconciliation. We consider whether their role may also be more practical; to promote the shared ownership of all Australians of the (white) legal system and its institutions. However, especially given the negative encounter that so many Indigenous people have with the white legal system, we also argue these artworks might play a more challenging role. Their presence might be seen as a constant challenge to the sovereignty of the white legal system, reminding us of the limits of white law and that another law endlessly continues.

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Douglas, Heather and Besley, John Christopher, An Unsettling Presence: Indigenous Art and Settler Law (April 12, 2015). H Douglas, J Besley, 'An Unsettling Presence: Indigenous Art and Settler Law' in Fiona Foley, Louise Martin-Chew and Fiona Nicoll (eds), Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University (University of Queensland Press, Brisbane 2015) 124-133. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763410

Heather Douglas (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - TC Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

John Christopher Besley

University of South Carolina ( email )

701 Main Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

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