‘Representing or referring to an Australia both past and present, urban and rural, there is a strong examination of how Australia’s past filters through into the present, especially through its objects. The density of these explorations is palpable, as is their entanglement with the socio-economic counterparts in daily Australian life. The materials and symbols of the work seem to refer to an Australia both clearly past and eerily present: the work of Megan Evans and Karla Dickens uses objects sourced from antique stores in their assemblages, while Nick Devlin incorporates a multitude of flattened Australian two cent pieces, a now redundant currency. Jordan Marani’s work centralises an iconic Australian horror film from the 70s, a reflection on normalised frontier violence. On some walls hang Gordon Bennett’s welt paintings, while across the entirety of the black painted gallery floor Bennett’s work A Black History (1993) repeats those three words in black charcoal. The past also features in director David Sequeira’s thinking for the show, as he remembers Bennett’s 1993 show at Sutton Gallery (‘A Black History’) as a wakeup call for curatorial practice in Australia.
The works of Gordon Bennett unite the show, mainly through the power of the floor text. ‘A black history’ is erased as contemporary art is consumed, remarks Sequeira, and Restless beautifully displays this. It is an aporia or bind that haunts so forcefully any time colonial Australia—and those who benefit from it—tries to naturalise its privilege. Bennett’s ‘welt’ paintings are so described because the artist fused a thick vinyl paint with a slash of red, producing the effect of a cut to the skin before it heals. Symbolic and literal, the welt seems to mark a passage of time from wounded to healed. A passage through memory, where to be healed is to be unable to forget the truth. For too long has this country been able to forget. Does this mean Australia needs to render Bennett’s text permanent, on all floors and stages, symbolically as well as literally, as Makarrata suggests? Restless is a reminder that until this is at the very least legislated, any sense of calm is an act of forgetting.