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What a delight it was to officially open an exhibition of a collection of significant works by Australian artist, Ms Tracey Moffatt AO, on loan from the collection of King’s old scholar, Mr Neil Balnaves AO (1962).

5 November 2020

The works: ‘Body Remembers’ and ‘Vigil’ were shown as part of Moffatt’s acclaimed exhibition My Horizon at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Exhibited in Pembroke’s R A Cook Chapel, they have been a source of inspiration and cause for reflection for students and staff alike during this challenging year. We are looking forward to welcoming groups from other schools to view the exhibition over the coming months.

Our grateful thanks to Mr Balnaves for his vision and generosity and to Ms Rhana Devenport ONZM, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, for opening the exhibition.

Exhibition Foreword

Drawn from the collection of King’s College Old Scholar, Neil Balnaves AO, the works: Body Remembers, ten large sepia-toned photographs, and Vigil, a two-minute video work, were shown as part of Moffatt’s critically acclaimed exhibition My Horizon, at the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Body Remembers evokes tantalising narratives, with fictional characters seen gazing out to the horizon, possibly dreaming of escape, or reflecting on their memories. This work continues Moffatt’s elegiac investigation of self and identity. The series’ protagonist is a maid – the artist herself, who appears alone on a remote colonial property, this work references the forced removal of Aboriginal women from their families and homes and their internment as domestic servants. Transported through time and space in this series, it is up to the imagination of the viewer to decide whether she is alive or a ghost haunting the ruins, still hanging out the washing and crying in the shadows. Possibly they are the memories of her domestic servitude, the narrative is endless.

Vigil juxtaposes imagery borrowed from Hollywood films with imagery drawn from the archives of the 2010 Christmas Island disaster, in which 90 asylum seekers sank off the North West coast of Australia. Moffatt has used montage to convey a sense of suspense, absurdity and chaos.

Moffatt’s clever use of ambiguity is a powerful educational tool. Instead of preaching about the many injustices of Australia’s post-colonial history, she prefers instead to allow her audience to arrive at this logical conclusion.

We are indeed fortunate at Pembroke to have such a significant work from which to learn. It has been used effectively by our English, History, Visual Arts and Drama students for creative writing and critical analysis tasks. Students have formed their own opinions about these works and have learned much from the strength of their open-ended narratives.

Speaking of the exhibition’s title, Moffatt said, “My fictional characters are seen to gaze out to the horizon line, possibly dreaming of escape, or reflecting upon their memories. The title My Horizon can be interpreted as wanting to see beyond where one is: to have vision, to project out, to exist in the realm of one’s imagination, or to want to go beyond one’s limitations. There are times in life when we can all see what is ‘coming over the horizon,’ and those are the moments when we either make a move or do nothing and wait for whatever it is to arrive.

Moffatt’s work pulls you into a world of drama and imagination. Upon close and sustained observation, one can see that her work does exactly what she stated it should do. It has inspired us not only to reconsider Australia’s past from a more balanced perspective, but to see beyond where we are now and to look towards where we can be.

Michael Ferrier
Head of Visual Art