About the Artwork
The work Bliss, by Brisbane-based Indigenous artist Fiona Foley, is a work concerned with the hidden history of settler and Indigenous relations in Queensland, and in particular, the 1897 Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. This Act, and the part it played in the subjugation of Indigenous people in Queensland, through creating a dependency on narcotics, as well as the role that it played in the troubled relations between White, Asian and Indigenous peoples, has resulted in a major body of work by the artist.
A sense of opium’s hypnotic effects is elaborated upon by the rustling sounds and movement of poppy heads revolving on their stems, interspersed with short quotes from Rosalind Kidd’s book The Way We Civilise. This forensic archival study examines the disastrous consequences of benevolently intentioned projects that sought to reform Indigenous Australians from 1897 to 19881. Bliss’s vivid and dynamic footage of poppies grown on a Tasmanian plantation for medical purposes provokes contemplation on the nature of the ‘fix’ that addictive substances offer to individual and social conflicts.
For me, what I like to do is work with this material and put it out in the public arena and say, “Look at this. How are you engaging with this aspect of our history?” For a lot of people it is a huge eye-opener. I see my role really as an educator. Every time I insert into the public realm a work that involves a historical context or underpinning, it really is about educating Queenslanders about their own history.
(1) Rosalind Kidd, The Way We Civilise: Aboriginal affairs – the untold story, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1997
Glenn Barkley (curator), Statement of significance, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008; Fiona Nicoll, ‘No Substitute: Political Art against the Opiate of the Colonising Euphemism’, catalogue essay, Fiona Foley: Forbidden, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009
Quotation, Fiona Foley, 2010
I see my role really as an educator. Every time I insert into the public realm a work that involves a historical context or underpinning, it really is about educating Queenslanders about their own history.
Fiona Foley, 2010
– About the artist
Fiona Foley is an artist, as well as an influential curator, writer and academic. A Badtjala woman from Fraser Island in Queensland, she is known for an incredibly diverse artistic practice spanning two decades and encompassing painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, mixed media work, found objects and installation. Foley traces the ongoing significance of Australia’s colonial histories and her works explore a broad range of themes that relate to politics, culture, ownership, language and identity.