Exhibition examines Aboriginal incarceration

October 12, 2012

Picture by James Kerr

A short film and a visual collage by Murdoch researcher and filmmaker Glen Stasiuk can be viewed at the Fremantle Prison Gallery from Saturday as part of a new exhibition on Aboriginal incarceration and institutionalisation.

Mr Stasiuk has collaborated with artist Tania Ferrier, photographer James Kerr and local Aboriginal families on the exhibition, entitled Humaninside, which runs until December 2.

The works reflect upon and detail the personal histories of those affected by the criminal justice system, including Fremantle Prison, providing a platform for their voices and offering the public a way of engaging with a history seen from their perspective.

Mr Stasiuk’s part in the exhibition follows on from his Australian Research Council-funded work on a documentary which examines the penal history of Rottnest Island. He expects to release Wadjemup: Black Prison – White Playground next year.

“This current exhibition is an extension of Tania’s multidisciplinary art exhibition The Quod Project, which was her exploration of Rottnest’s prison history,” explained Mr Stasiuk.

“She designed and built a replica of one of the tiny cells that up to seven Aboriginal inmates were locked away in and she kindly allowed me to use it for filming in the documentary on Rottnest.

“I also worked with James on the film. He shot a series of stunning stills while we filmed and many of these pictures are featured in the exhibition too. We all contribute to each other’s work in the exhibition so it’s a true collaboration and we’re looking forward to seeing what people take from it.”

Mr Stasiuk’s six-minute short film Razorwire appears in the exhibition. It features a series of interviews with his uncles who were incarcerated in Fremantle Prison in the late 70s and early 80s.

“They talk about why they were imprisoned and they describe their journey to incarceration as like a ‘rite of passage’. The ‘Stolen Generation’ is a well known term in recent Aboriginal history but I think my uncles were part of a lost generation of Indigenous people who were written off and forgotten about because they didn’t belong in the Aboriginal cultural world or in the Westernised urban world at that time.

“They give an insight into conditions at the prison at the time and explain how they grew up and learnt their lesson.

“I named the film after something one of my uncles said in one of the interviews: ‘Razorwire, it will cut you deep, just like prison’.”

Mr Stasiuk’s visual collage is itself called Humaninside. It uses a series of photographs, images and motifs about incarceration and also features the poetry of one of his late uncles, Graeme Dixon, who was also in Fremantle Prison in the late 70s and early 80s.

“I hope the exhibition will help people step into the shoes of prisoners,” he said. “There are no answers but I hope we will create some more understanding, awareness and respect among the people who see the work.”

The project has been sponsored by Fremantle Art Centre AIR program 2011.

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