Restricted Images – Made With The Warlpiri Of Central Australia
Restricted Images is a new art book by Patrick Waterhouse, bringing together an expansive collection of artworks made at the Warlukurlangu art centre, NT Australia, with local Warlpiri artists. This is Waterhouses first major work since his Deutsche Borse Photography Prize winning project Ponte City. In institutions across Australia and Europe, archives encompassing thousands of colonial-era anthropological artefacts are now largely inaccessible, and images are often restricted to avoid showing pictures that infringe on Aboriginal cultural beliefs. With rules in place that mean only the descendants of people pictured can decide who is allowed to access them, much of the material remains unseen. Attitudes towards these images have changed since they were celebrated as a feat of anthropological photography by colonialists in the late 1800s, and now lingers an institutional uncertainty in how to approach the question of representation. In response, Waterhouse developed a collaborative venture in symbolically returning to the communities the agency over their own images. Spending several years taking pictures of them, he made prints and then returned, inviting the Warlpiri to paint the surfaces of the images and enact their own restrictions upon them using the traditional technique of dot painting. In intricate, colourful acrylic clusters they transformed the black and white depictions of themselves and their sacred sites. Restricted Images is the first instalment in a long-term project that looks to renegotiate the politics of who gets to decide what is seen and what is kept hidden, and reveals artists and a community trying to understand one other.
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