NIRIN for me is a representation of both home and heart. These are both symbolically and intrinsically linked, one does not exist without the other. It is from this unique individual centre of both home and heart that we understand the world around us, relationships and interconnectedness with both people and Country.
Tony Albert’s immersive installation Healing Land. Remembering Country, commissioned for the NIRIN: 22ndBiennale of Sydney, poses important questions such as: how do we remember, give justice to, and rewrite complex and traumatic histories?
Presented as a sustainable greenhouse at Cockatoo Island Healing Land, Remembering Country is a site for reflection, writing and giving. It is filled with hanging baskets crafted by Indigenous artists from remote Australian communities. Biennale visitors were invited to use the house as a space for reflection and conversation, and to create messages in the form of ‘gifted memories’ on handmade paper imbedded with native seeds to place in the baskets. Visitors were then able to plant their seed letters in pots placed on a tiered structure to show the growth of the plants. The plants will eventually be replanted locations selected in consultation with community to rejuvenate and heal the land through collective memories.
Tony Albert’s Brothers (The Prodigal Son), exhibited at the National Art School, responds to a stained glass window in the school’s historic 1873 chapel depicting the Prodigal Son. Albert’s impressive 180cm tall window draws on his 2013 series Brothers. The photographs were inspired by an incident where Albert saw young Indigenous men with red targets painted their chests protesting against police brutality in Sydney’s King’s Cross. Placed outdoors, this window memorialises another story of heroic figures, enshrining a beautiful act of defiance, and imbedding a local Indigenous story at this site.
“I wanted to recreate this image for the Biennale in leadlight. The Brothers images allude to The Holy Trinity - strong yet powerful, bathed in light, yet still innocent and vulnerable. I wanted to immortalise our people who are all too often written out of history.”