Making amends: art on Cockatoo Island
A Fine Art PhD Candidate at the University of Newcastle aims to right the wrongs of history with an exhibition at the former gaol on Cockatoo Island.
Entitled Reparation: Biloela 1871 – 1887, the exhibition will provide the first visual record of the girls’ lives or events whilst incarcerated on Cockatoo Island during this period.
With no photographs archived from this period, artist Kathryn Jeanes has created a series of contemporary archives in the form of 16 handmade artist books that explore the girls’ lives on Biloela* in the Reformatory and Industrial School on Cockatoo Island.
“Visiting Cockatoo Island in 2008 for a photo shoot was my introduction to Biloela,” says Kathryn. “I revisited the island many times, most notably as a connection to my Honours topic “Atmospherics” in 2013.”
“In 2015 my commitment to researching the girls incarcerated at Biloela and exploring the child welfare system increased – and it has developed into my Fine Art PhD,” Kathryn explains.
Kathryn has built an accessible archive from a range of sourced materials, allowing a transmission of information from passive to public.
As part of this installation, quotes will be projected on the mess hall – a direct transcription of the Superintendent’s weekly reports.
These quotes provide an insight into the routine tasks undertaken and the nature of the girls’ domestic servitude.
These young girls were displaced from society and often suffered under gross mismanagement, harsh cruelty and appalling living conditions.
This exhibition emphasises a site-specific, subjective interpretation of this time and place: it serves to re-evaluate the experiences of girls from a colonial period of child welfare where they were ultimately perceived as tainted.
“By bringing these girls into the public eye, there is a chance of uncovering a visual record of this time that has not previously been accessed,” Kathryn says.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to collaborate with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and present my books in this unique Heritage building,” says Kathryn.
The exhibition opens at 2pm, Saturday April 8, 2017 and runs until April 28 in the Convict Precinct Building 3, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour.
* Biloela: the name given to the convict precinct/former gaol on Cockatoo Island in 1870. A word from the Aboriginal language meaning cockatoo.