Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chemically Coded Paintings

A few years ago I was invited to attend a launch at the Australia Council of the then new Indigenous Protocols booklets for media arts, music, performing arts, visual arts and writing. These publications were devised "to help Australians better understand the use of Indigenous cultural material".  Australia had a shocking record of misappropriating Aboriginal artwork and commercially corrupting it without any payment or indeed acknowledgement to the original creator. These booklets, which were written by Anita Heiss and Terry Janke, went part of the way to offering a solution by providing nine principles that dictate how we need to approach Indigenous artists across all art forms with full transparency, with professionalism, and with courtesy and respect (and I would add – humility!!!) for Indigenous culture and traditions. These nine principles include "secrecy and confidentiality, communication, consultation and consent, and attribution and copyright." One of the things I specifically remember about the launch was an absolutely heart wrenching story told by Terri Janke about an Aboriginal painter from North Queensland, whose sacred artwork was photographed by some unscrupulous white people who then posted it over a bunch of souvenirs and the like. The consequences for the Aboriginal painter were tragic – he was ostracised from his community and he suffered spiritually, emotionally and physically as a result. I can't remember the exact details but I do remember being one of many who wept openly upon hearing the story. Another Australian agency that is championing the rights of Indigenous artists is Viscopy, the Visual Arts Copyright Collecting Agency. I strongly recommend all Australian artists to become members. 

Which brings me to my major point – the University of Western Australia has created a secret chemical code which "has been painted into an Aboriginal art work in a world-first step to outwit forgers who prey on Indigenous artists". Five unique chemical were actually encoded into five colours on a painting by WA Aboriginal artist Mr Timm, whose other work has been targeted by forgers. According to an article on the Perth Now website, "... the coding is an extension of elemental fingerprinting technology developed by Professor John Watling 15 years ago, which used high-powered lasers to trace stolen gold and diamonds back to their place of origin ..." 

Apparently, this process has enormous applications even beyond the art world. I think this is a great day for Indigenous artists and indeed all artists. Thanks to Anita Heiss for drawing our attention to this article.

1 comment:

Dawn Wells said...

Hello dear, here you shared about the development of Modern Art, so that I was wondering if the Aboriginal Art has the same history or it is different to other. Please share something on this topic too.