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Agency, Country and Place: encounters with photography

1 December 2022 at 11:30:00 pm

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Session Convenors

Dr Peta Clancy, Monash University
Jahkarli Romanis, Monash University

Session Speakers

Dr Peta Clancy, Monash University
Jahkarli Romanis, Monash University
Dr Jessica Neath, Monash University
Dr Kirsten Lyttle, Monash University
Professor Melissa Miles, Monash University

“For Aboriginal people, Place is epistemologically and ontologically central to notions of action or intent. Not only history but meaning arises out of Place, whether Place is geographically located or an event in time.” Mary Graham 2009

There is a problematic history of photography in Australia, in framing landscape as an object to capture or obtain. This is an extractive logic that seeks to know a landscape, abstract its identity as place, ignorant to the knowledge of Country. Yet, there are other ways of knowing through photography, of a medium of light that speaks with Country to share, or protect, stories and knowledge.

We are a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and researchers who share an interest in photography, in the ontological dilemmas that photographs of Country/landscape/place can raise, and in the stories and knowledge that are revealed in these encounters.

How can we think through these terms of Country, place and landscape by looking at photography and letting photographs have agency and speak on their own terms?

A panel presentation will take the form of a roundtable discussion between five artists and researchers: Peta Clancy (Bangerang), Jahkarli Romanis (Pitta Pitta), Dr Kirsten Lyttle (Iwi/tribe: Waikato, Waka/Canoe: Tainui, Hapū/Subtribe: Ngāti Tahinga), Prof Melissa Miles and Dr Jessica Neath. Each speaker will present one photograph of Country/landscape/place outlining what interests them about the photograph they have chosen and why they selected it. Through this the speaker will elaborate on the different knowledge/s and research that they bring to the discussion. Prompting further discussion from another speaker who will respond to the photograph from their perspective. The idea is for the photographs to assume their own presence in a roundtable format.

Dr Jessica Neath, Monash University

Dr Kirsten Lyttle, Monash University

Jahkarli Romanis, Monash University

Dr Peta Clancy, Monash University

Prof Melissa Miles, Monash University

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Biographies

Dr Peta Clancy, Monash University 

(Bangerang) 

Peta Clancy is a descendent of the Bangerang nation from the Murray Goulburn area, South Eastern Australia. Her more recent photographic projects are premised on an in-depth depiction of place working in consultation and collaboration with Traditional Custodians to explore multiple time frames and perspectives. Bundjalung writer Melissa Lucashenko wrote of the experience of Aboriginal people looking at the land; “It is like having double vision. We see the world that white people see but we are also seeing a mythic landscape at the same time and an historic landscape.”[1]


Clancy was awarded the 2018 Fostering Koorie Art and Culture and the Koorie Heritage Trust Residency Grant to develop the body of work ‘Undercurrent’ in collaboration with Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Custodians. Clancy’s most recent solo exhibitions include at Bendigo Art Gallery, Dominik Mersch Gallery and Koorie Heritage Trust Gallery. Her artwork has been included in the following group exhibitions: ‘The National 2019 - New Australian Art’, Art Gallery NSW, 2019; ‘From all Points of the Southern Sky: Photography from Australia and Oceania’, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona State College, USA, 2020; ‘Under the Sun: Reimagining Max Dupain’s Sunbaker’, State Library of New South Wales and Monash Gallery of Art, 2017-2018; TEA Super Connect, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, 2013; Art and Science as the Conjectured Possible, National Centre for Contemporary Arts (Baltic Branch), Russia, 2013; ‘Controversy: The Power of Art’, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (2012) and ‘Imagining the Everyday’, Pingyao International Photography Festival, China (2010). Clancy is represented by Dominik Mersch Gallery in Australia.

[1] https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/theinterview-melissa-lucashenko-20130306-2flr6.html


Jahkarli Romanis, Monash University 

(Pitta Pitta)

Jahkarli Romanis is a proud Pitta Pitta woman and Naarm (Melbourne) based artist, researcher and curator. Raised on Wadawurrung Country in Torquay, Jahkarli moved to Naarm to continue her tertiary studies in 2018. After completing an Honours in Photography degree at RMIT in 2020, she has commenced a PhD at Monash in 2021 through the Wominjeka Djeembana Research Lab. Her work is inextricably intertwined with her identity as a Pitta Pitta woman and explores the complexities of her lived experience and the continuing negative impacts of colonisation in so-called Australia.


Jahkarli’s practice aims to subvert and disrupt colonial ways of thinking and image making. She utilises her research and artwork as tools for investigating biases encoded within imaging technologies. Through practice-led research, her PhD research examines how large corporations like Google Earth image place and how Indigenous Knowledges of place are not incorporated into such mapping technologies.


Dr Jessica Neath, Monash University 

Dr Jessica Neath is a non-Indigenous Australian of settler descent who began supporting research development at Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab, Monash Art Design and Architecture, in 2019. In February 2021 she commenced as a Research Fellow on the Australian Research Council project “More than a guulany (tree): Aboriginal Knowledge Systems” led by Professors Brian Martin and Brook Garru Andrew.


In 2016, Jessica began working with Professor Brook Garru Andrew as a research assistant on the Australian Research Council project “Representation, Remembrance and the Memorial”, supporting research collaborations with artists, scholars and communities across Australia and internationally, coordinating the RR.Memorial forum, and assisting with publications and exhibition outcomes. She continues to work with Brook across various research projects and initiatives.


She was awarded her PhD in art history at Monash University in 2015 and has published writing in The Journal of Australian Studies, Arena Magazine, eyeline, The History of Photography, Landscape Architecture Australia, Fashion Theory and for PHOTO 2022.


Dr Kirsten Lyttle, Monash University 

(Iwi/tribe: Waikato, Waka/Canoe: Tainui, Hapū/Subtribe: Ngāti Tahinga) 

Dr Kirsten Lyttle is the Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Wominjeka Djeembana Research Lab. Kirsten is a Māori wāhine academic, artist and creative practice-led researcher (Iwi/tribe: Waikato, Waka/Canoe: Tainui, Hapū/Subtribe: Ngāti Tahinga). Her primary research interests are; Indigenous-centred methodologies and knowledge systems, Indigenous customary art practices and their application to technologies such as photography and video.


She has over 10 years of teaching experience and has lectured and taught photography, art history and visual art, at a range of universities including; Master of Photography - RMIT University, Critical Art and Theory - Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at The University of Melbourne, Deakin University and Photography Studies College.


Kirsten has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally. Recent highlights include Immigration Museum/Museums Victoria (2022 & 2018/2019), Gertrude Street Projection Festival (2021), Ballarat International Foto Biennale (2019), Counihan Gallery in Brunswick (2019), Horsham Regional Art Gallery (2019), Monash Gallery of Art (2018 & 2016), Gertrude Contemporary, Preston (2018), Centre for Contemporary Photography (2018).


Her writing has appeared in publications including Art Collector and Garland Magazine. Her artwork has been published and discussed in The Age, Memo Review and Artlink.


Professor Melissa Miles, Monash University 

Professor Melissa Miles is based in the Art History and Theory program at MADA Monash University. Her research explores the interdisciplinary qualities of photography and its movement across the domains of art, law, politics and history. The role of photographs in cross-cultural photographic relations is another key area of research interest. In partnership with Robin Gerster, she has completed a major study supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant on photography in the Australia-Japan relationship from the 1890s to the present. Melissa’s Future Fellowship project examined the important role of photographs in the public sphere, and their special significance in contexts of transitional justice.


Melissa’s research is published in a wide range of journals, including Journal of Visual Culture, Law Culture and the Humanities, Japanese Studies and History of Photography amongst many others, and she is a regular contributor to the arts press. Her books include Photography, Truth and Reconciliation (Bloomsbury), Pacific Exposures: Photography and the Australia-Japan Relationship (with Robin Gerster, ANU Press), The Language of Light and Dark: Light and Place in Australian Photography (McGill Queen’s UP and Power Publications), The Culture of Photography in Public Space (co-edited with Daniel Palmer and Anne Marsh, Intellect and the University of Chicago Press), and The Burning Mirror: Photography in an Ambivalent Light (ASP).

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