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
Date Written: April 12, 2015
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: Suggested Citation