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NOTHING TO SEE HERE Amy Spiers Catherine Ryan Underbelly Arts Festival 2013


Nothing to See Here (Removal of Sydney Harbour Bridge) Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan

A scenic lookout is located on the eastern side of Cockatoo Island, from which the Sydney Harbour Bridge can usually be seen. The lookout is surrounded by signage and temporary fencing, which loudly declares that there is nothing to see here. Peering through the lookout’s viewfinder, visitors are presented with an image of the Sydney skyline from which the Harbour Bridge has disappeared. No landmark, no iconic structure, no familiar spectacle representing Australia. The work is an image of absence and denial, presented at the Underbelly Arts Festival, August 3–4, 2013 by Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan.


Acknowledgements We would like to thank our writers, Timothy Chandler and Ben Gook. The Underbelly Staff have provided invaluable support during the Underbelly Lab and Festival. Funding for this project came from the Keir Foundation as well as the supporters of our Pozible campaign: Marnie Badham, Stuart Buchanan, Alan Crabbe, Jacs Davis, Luke Exell, Tim Finney, Will Foster, Amy Frew, Sue Giles, Simona Gory, Stella Gray, Nathan Harrison, Rahima Hayes, Rosannah Healy, Richard Higgins, Clare Holland, Anusha Kenny, Anabelle Lacroix, Jessica Little, Jason Maling, Marc Martin, Joshua Mashman, Kate McDonald, Laura Jean McKay, Lucy McNamara, Georgina Molloy, Jessica Anne Murphy, Fiona Nitschke, James Oliver, Michelle Podbury, Matthew Porter, Stephanie Reuter, Rose Riches, Gemma Rose-Turnbull, Alison Ross, Peter Ryan, Margaret Ryan, Sarah Ryan, Catherine Sagin, Bek Saltmarsh, Eliza Sarlos, Pia Schauenburg, Katie Sfetkidis, Rani Skoklevski, Diane Somerville, Ron Spiers, Pip Stafford, Victoria Stead, Lachlan Tetlow-Stuart, Savannah Theis, Lara Thoms, Inez de Vega, Gabrielle de Vietri, Anna Welch and a number of anonymous donors.

Nothing to See Here

We are grateful to Horst Hoheisel for allowing his work to be reproduced in this publication. We would like acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which this artwork takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, as well as Elders from other communities. Headings and captions in this publication use the font ZXX, designed by San Mung. ZXX is a “disruptive font” that takes its name from the Library of Congress’ listing of three-letter codes denoting which language a book is written in. The code “ZXX” is used to designate “No linguistic content; Not applicable.” The font is designed to be uninterpretable by text scanning software. z-x-x.org We are very lucky to have been aided in this project by the technological wizardry of Two Bulls. two-bulls.com. We’re also grateful to Will Dayble of Squareweave for putting us in touch with Two Bulls.

Copyright for the essays in this publication remains with the author.


Contents Nothing to See Here Acknowledgements

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Timothy Chandler

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The Bridge’s Negative Image Lest we Forget; Let us Forget Ben Gook

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Images of the Invisible Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan

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List of Images and Textual Sources

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Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan


Nothing to See Here

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The Bridge’s Negative Image Timothy Chandler

In order to explain what I mean I will begin by recalling what is probably the most well-known artwork representing the Sydney Harbour Bridge: Grace Cossington Smith’s modernist painting The Bridge in-curve (1930).

Grace Cossington Smith, The Bridge in-curve.

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Can the Sydney Harbour Bridge really be made to disappear? Even if it were dismantled by the government that built it, destroyed by terrorists, or erased from view by artists using technological wizardry, could the bridge nevertheless remain exactly where it is, despite its absence from view? With Nothing to See Here (Removal of Sydney Harbour Bridge), Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan show us exactly this: the bridge’s persistence beyond erasure. Accordingly, the artwork is so much more than a “now you see it, now you don’t” spectacle induced by a technological gimmick, though this is certainly where it begins for the spectator. This artwork constitutes one of the most interesting images of the bridge yet to be made—the first truly negative image of the bridge. The bridge is erased from view, but not from our memory—hence the spectacle—and in fact remains within the work negatively. As we will see, this is not only true in art but also in reality.


 / 26 The Bridge’s Negative Image Timothy Chandler

This is not the bridge we know: the arch is incomplete and the pylons and deck have not yet been built. It is an image of the bridge under construction, and a typically modernist image, too, in that it represents the grandeur and excitement of modern technological achievement embodied in the enormous steel structure dwarfing the natural and older built elements around it. Yet, as an image of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the painting only has the meaning which it now has for us because we know the bridge as a complete, operational structure that has become central to the idea of Sydney as it is both lived and imagined. The bridge that we live with and create images of in 2013 informs our experience of this painting of its incomplete form. Unlike Cossington Smith and her contemporaries, we now read backwards from our current image of the bridge in order to recognise coherently this image of it under construction. The completed Sydney Harbour Bridge hovers negatively over the image of its incompleteness; we cannot un-know the bridge in its completed form. In the difference between these two images (complete and incomplete) we find a meaning for this artwork as a representation of the bridge. Spiers and Ryan are not the first to attempt an erasure of the bridge, or at least a part of it. In The Australian Ugliness (1960), the great polemic against Australian buildings and cities, Robin Boyd provides a drawing of the bridge without one of its rusticated pylons, which are purely ornamental and serve no structural purpose. For the modernist Boyd, such unnecessary additions to this elegant and powerful work of engineering are an example of the Australian tendency to tart things up by adding superfluous and often aesthetically questionable design features.

Drawing from Robin Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness, p. 23.

Boyd correctly points out that the removal of the pylons changes the way we see the bridge completely. Rather than being drawn to the ends of the bridge, our


What happens, though, when a large structure is removed from a city—actually rather than virtually? As Marshall Berman shows in his account of modernity, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, the experience of modernisation has been twofold: unprecedented freedom and self-determination for both societies and individuals coupled with a radical transformation of our social and natural surroundings, often resulting in the destruction of many of the things we hold dearest. The original instance of this transformation in an urban context is Baron Haussmann’s modernisation of Paris under Napoleon III in the 1860s, during which the mediaeval Paris of narrow, winding streets was replaced with the modern Paris of grand boulevards. In the first half of the twentieth century in Europe, many urban environments were destroyed beyond recognition by bombing during the two world wars. In the second half of the twentieth century, particularly in North America and Australia but throughout the world, cities were rebuilt along modernist lines, with large international-style towers replacing older and often smaller structures, shopping centres replacing high streets, and motorways ploughing through once lively neighbourhoods or once peaceful countryside. No doubt many people were displaced by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For those who lived in the Rocks at the time, it perhaps constituted an exciting but ultimately unwanted transformation of the neighbourhood. Since the start of the postmodern era, we have become very nostalgic and resist strongly the loss of “historic” elements from our cities. The bridge is certainly now one such historic element in Port Jackson. This history of urban change takes an unexpected turn, however, after the millennium ends and the World Trade Center in New York City is destroyed by terrorists. This loss from the urban landscape and the resulting trauma are of a much greater magnitude and of a different kind than those losses incurred by the wrecking ball in the name of progress. (But this instance of destruction is also categorically different to the immensely devastating and terrifying bombings of the Second World War, most particularly those undertaken in Germany and Japan.) For those of us who have never lived in New York City, the loss of

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eyes are now drawn to its heights and we get a better sense of how the bridge works structurally. But this experience of difference is only made possible by the actual existence of the pylons. Boyd’s sketch would have an entirely different function if it were not for the fact that the pylons were indeed built and remain in place today. The drawing would have no polemical content and no power to estrange us from the image of the bridge that we hold in our imagination. By removing one of the pylons from his drawing, Boyd alerts us to the fact of their existence; accordingly, he would never be able to remove them completely.


 / 26 The Bridge’s Negative Image Timothy Chandler

the Twin Towers from its skyline is only something experienced through the differences of representations, for example in the old postcard that includes the towers and the new one that does not. Their absence from the new image, as in the film Zoolander (from which the towers were erased prior to its release shortly after the attacks of 2001), is always noted, which is to say, the towers’ absence in our images of the city gives the buildings a ghostly presence. Accordingly, the September 11 Memorial on the site of the World Trade Center could not be more fitting: two square, one-acre footprints left in the ground where the towers once stood signify their absence.

This artwork is less about So, when we look through Spiers and Ryan’s viewfinder on Cockatoo Island, what we see than about what do we see? We do not say that we what we do not see. see Sydney Harbour; rather, we say that we do not see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This artwork is less about what we see than about what we do not see. But not seeing something in particular still requires the act of seeing in general. It would be more accurate to say, then, that this artwork, while it may not be about what we see, is still nevertheless and primarily about seeing. The object of seeing is images. If we say that we do not see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we are still nonetheless “seeing” it negatively. Nothing to See Here accordingly presents us with the bridge’s negative image, the image of its absence. Finally, the removal of the world’s most famous steel arch bridge, though only momentary, could direct us to recall other attempted erasures in Australian history, including, most especially, the doctrine of terra nullius and the genocidal acts carried out in its name.


Lest we Forget; Let us Forget. Ben Gook

If the Australian indigenous people died mutely—and I think we have cause to dismiss this as nothing more than an historically symptomatic fiction—it may well have been due to shock and trauma. Better yet, we could say that settlers were imposing European ideas on a foreign land and were unable to hear what they did not understand, just as they painted and organised the Australian scrub and bush into an idyllic pastoral scene, far from its actual state. Taming Australia’s “disorder”—its unfamiliar trees, bizarre fauna and “savage” inhabitants—entailed a ruthless, arrogant and unsympathetic approach to all that was encountered. The few celebrated cases where this did not happen—that is, where settler and colonial people got along—are the exception that prove the rule: what was visible vanished, what could be heard, silenced. Six years after Firth’s ominous assessment, in 1938, a group of indigenous activists gathered not far from Cockatoo Island to march—mutely—from the Town Hall to the Australian Hall. It was Australia Day, January 26—one hundred and fifty years since Captain Cook had landed, also not far from where Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan’s Nothing to See Here (Removal of Sydney Harbour Bridge) stands. The Aborigines Progressive Association—established by William Ferguson, Pearl Gibbs and Jack Patten the year before—gathered to hold a “Day of Mourning & Protest.” Its proclamation flyer says, in part, that they gather to “make protest against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years.” The invite was not extended to settlers, with

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In 1932, the respected anthropologist Raymond Firth wrote that the Aboriginal Australian showed a strange trait, one unlike that of their indigenous counterparts elsewhere in the colonised Pacific. The indigenous Australian, he said, “mutely dies.” The race would undergo a passive, silent, unremarkable and forgettable death. So began the twentieth-century slide into forgetting indigenous Australians. This would be one more entry in the ledger of what Stanner called the great Australian silence. It would take just a couple of hundred years of settler-indigenous contact—and within that span, just a few intense decades of frontier activity—to decimate a people who had been in Australia for some 40 000 years. In 2013, to look out from Cockatoo Island and see Sydney’s settler landmarks—apparent icons of progress—disappear prompts us to consider invisibility and visibility, forgetting and remembering, as well as the entanglements of settler and indigenous Australians in the present.


 / 26 Lest we Forget; Let us Forget Ben Gook

only “Aborigines and Persons of Aboriginal Blood” asked to attend. The day’s proceedings were delayed by the official sesquicentenary parade through Sydney’s streets, which was a “symbolic procession depicting 150 years of progress,” as one contemporary newspaper report put it. Mary Talence wrote in her diary: “For white people it seems like celebratin’ progress, but for Aborigines it was about mournin’ everythin’ they’ve had to give up for white people’s progress.” The dialectics between silence and noise, mourning and celebration, remembrance and forgetting, presence and absence have been at play in Australia since its colonial founding. From the colonial Frontier Wars, as Henry Reynolds calls them, to the History Wars, the interactions between settler and indigenous Australians have been marked by an anxiety about remembrance and forgetting, belonging and dispossession. As one book—Uncanny Australia—argues, something unsettling is at the heart of this settler nation. Periodic flare ups remind us of the subterranean, unconscious tension here: these may take the form of historiographic disputes, such as those over the precise number of indigenous Australians killed by settlers and recorded in the archives; or they may take the form of a sentimentalised political plea to make reparations (little children are sacred, as we are told by the report that licensed the “intervention”—coercive reconciliation—in Northern Territory indigenous communities). But these patterns of awareness are marked by their own visibility and invisibility. These issues periodically come to the front pages of newspapers along the eastern seaboard, before disappearing again, remembered and then forgotten in a tidal rhythm. The foundational blind-spot of the nation is simultaneously fixated upon and unseen as an absence. So, we might ask, how long does it take to forget what was once present? When does presence become an absence? And can remembrance make absence a presence once more? Memory is not a thing, but a Common imperatives to process. Nations have diverse remember—lest we forget—are strategies—processes—of dealing bound up in a redemptive myth with the past, with collective memory: forgetting; moralising; of memory. forgiveness; reconciliation; commemoration. These are not mutually exclusive paths. Forgetting is a necessary—if paradoxical—stage in remembrance. There can be no remembering without forgetting. Although many speak out against forgetting, this counterpart of remembrance need not be negative. Common imperatives to remember—lest we forget—are bound up in a redemptive myth of memory.


And yet, uncanny, unconscious repetitions are at work, even if we are conscious of history: how else to explain the proximity of recent measures in remote indigenous communities—such as welfare rationing, heavy law enforcement, land tenure changes and accusations of moral degeneracy—and those of earlier generations, those shaming, dark days of stolen children, religious missions, indentured labour and other enforced “correctives” likewise licensed by moral degeneracy and modish, craven Darwinian anthropology and science. How else to explain, too, the acute Australian fear of “invasion.” A myth of terra nullius and fantasies of an Asian or Muslim “invasion” are constitutive parts of Australian nationhood. The fetishisation of “orderly migration”—we will decide who comes to this country, and the manner in which they come, and so on—trades on a half-remembered, half-forgotten history of dispossession and occupation, not least of arrival by boat. Nikos Papastergiadis draws these ideas together to argue a peculiarly Australian matrix “combines the primal trauma of colonialism, the ongoing ambivalence over the sense of place, and the doubts

Replica of HMS Endeavour, the vessel commanded by Captain James Cook in 1771.

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Holding the traumatic or terrible memory in mind will mitigate its recurrence. This myth says that only ignorant and ahistoric actors will do wrong; its implication is that those who remember will redeem themselves and do good. Yet British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips points out “to say that those who forget the past are likely to repeat it is not to say that those who remember it will not.” The horrors of the Nazi camps are the moral index of why we need to remember; gripped by an anxiety about repetition, we cycle through endless histories of those years (Hitler’s Women, Buchenwald in Colour, Nazi Henchmen and so on, until the SBS schedule is full), fascinated and traumatised by it still, by the passivity and power, by the horror and ignorance.


10 / 26 Lest we Forget; Let us Forget Ben Gook

over regional security in the national imaginary.” So the decolonisation suggested by a) Mabo and land rights claims and b) the “hordes” arriving by boat from our north congeal into a fear that Australians would lose their backyards—on one side to legal judgements in favour of indigenous possession and on the other to a bulging immigrant population. The reality proved otherwise on both fronts, but these are fertile ideas, still sustaining political discourse. Australian historian and cultural The fetishisation of “orderly studies academic Chris Healy has criticised the theatre of “forgetting migration” trades on a halfand remembering” that accompanies remembered, half-forgotten settler accounts of Indigenous history: history of dispossession specifically, Healy has in mind the guilty “liberal” consciousness of and occupation, not least of public figures such as Germaine arrival by boat. Greer and Mungo Maccallum who, at different points, have made remonstrations about “not being told” and “never knowing” about Indigenous history. In this drama, the (white) individual has a moment of revelation as they suddenly become aware of something they claim to have never known. Something is speaking through these repeated acts, even if the actors do not know it: indigenous people are remembered as an absence in Australian culture, forgotten as a presence.

The Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, refused entry to Australian waters in 2001 while carrying 438 rescued refugees.


These examples suggest that history and memory are not either remembered or forgotten but often both, sometimes present in veiled form. As if in premonition of what was to become their nation’s legacy, German philosophers offer us some of the most fruitful insights into memory, history and how we live with ghosts. Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger and Gadamer—all have stressed the importance of forgetting for the living of life; for the individual, forgetting is necessary to avoid the overwhelming onrush of memory and the past. So the equations cannot be “remembering = benign” and “forgetting = malign.” The details are more complex, less given to purified moral judgements. There are, of course, varieties of forgetting, derived from conscious and unconscious motives for historical exclusion—repression, oversight, misremembering, false constructions. Andreas Huyssen, for example, argues that both Germany and Argentina might be case studies: considering firstly, how Germany has forgotten/remembered the Holocaust and, secondly, how Argentina has forgotten/remembered its death squads and military dictatorship. To simplify, Huyssen argues that an early moment of forgetting was necessary in both countries to prepare the ground for a later engagement with these discomforting histories. Adam Phillips argues similarly: “Enforced memory, like all indoctrination, is fear of memory, of what

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This is not to say that Maccallum’s and Greer’s claims are without subjective and objective truth. As historians have argued, indigenous histories were marginalised in the century following Federation. Nineteenth-century histories contain many mentions and invocations of indigenous history, even if we would contest their characterisations today: they at least had Aboriginal presence at their heart. Henry Reynolds argues that Australia’s twentieth century has been the century of forgetting. He claims it is more contentious now to argue that there was a frontier war. This forgotten and contested frontier war has been displaced by the Anzac myth hoisted around World War I experiences as the “testing ground” of the relatively young nation, and around World War II as the good war. Against this, Healy wants to point to a cultural mode of remembering that contrasts with the fact that, for many settler Australians, it is all too easy to forget indigenous Australians—and then to forget their forgetting. Indigenous people therein disappear, banished either to the past or to some nebulous “outback,” from which they sometimes appear to play AFL football or to have a painting hung in the National Gallery. So a paradox: “Aborigines are remembered as absent in the face of a continuing and actual indigenous historical presence,” Healy argues. This tension between invisibility and visibility maps in complex ways onto a tension between threat and peace: the Aborigine with a land claim on your suburban house versus the faraway kids and dogs and flies of the outback delivered to us by news reports.


12 / 26 Lest we Forget; Let us Forget Ben Gook

it might come up with, so to speak, when left to itself. To leave memory to itself, forgetting is required; the time-lag, the metabolism, the deferrals of forgetting. Forgetting has to be allowed for if memory—non-compliant, unmanufactured memory—is to have a chance.” Forgetting, then, is not necessarily the worse option. Indeed, the instrumental approach to memory and history forces silences and gaps of its own—and these may be more dangerous or troubling. Phillips: “What we are urged to remember is bound up with how we are being urged to live.” As with all historical and psychic bargains, forgetting too may orient us to the future. Voluntary and involuntary, encouraged and discouraged—memories always have a future in mind.

We ought to remember the If we forget that all national foundings were violent, then we founding of the Australian ought to remember the founding colonies came on the back of a of the Australian colonies came faith that the nation was vacant, on the back of a faith that the nation was vacant, silent, empty. Its silent, empty. inhabitants too—who, being without recognisable “culture,” were a form of nature themselves—were silent, mute. To forget this, to stuff those phantasms back into the unconscious, takes quite a lot of cultural energy. Primary school kids know the first colonial encounters took place not far from Harbour Bridge, by well-meaning racists in habits and dog collars, puffed-up colonial sadists in red coats. What happened between then and now, however, is a foggy history for most Australians. This breeds another forgetting, a blindspot: the majority of indigenous Australians now live in urban centres. Today, some of the biggest indigenous communities in Australia are a short train ride away from Sydney in Redfern and La Perouse—but of course, these urban “indigenous” are not real “Abo-rig-i-nes,” because the real ones live in the desert, rape their children and live under military and bureaucratic watch, apparently protected against themselves. In the cities, meanwhile, settler communities use the past to enact their own profound revelations; at some interval divined by publishers and newspaper editors, an opinion piece or memoir will argue (again) “we were never told,” and so on and so forth. Between these exclamations, settler Australians carry on, challenged periodically by artworks such as Nothing to See Here. Scanning Sydney from this island, let us see how we feel when one of settler Australia’s chief icons of progress disappears from the landscape. What strangeness will come from this? Individual transformations are admirable but insufficient—what needs to be consolidated is a sense, not of indigenous Australians as other, alien,


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unapproachable, as living on the other side of some unfathomable divide, but present, similar, living with us. Memory and history, remembrance and forgetting are drawn upon by settler/indigenous identities. So part of the move to reorganise relationships between Australians is a settler recognition that we must refuse to disown those uncomfortable parts of ourselves (including our historical inheritance of privilege and violence) and refuse those tendencies to dehumanise and construe indigenous Australians as passive, helpless or violent subjects. We also need to challenge the purified racial categories here: indigenous genetic heritage—as well as cultural inheritances—can be traced through a large part of the “white” Australian population. This needs to be remembered without forgetting—without devolving and dismissing—the remarkable historical, anthropological and linguistic work to date on indigenous Australia and its past and present: the indigenous “part” of Australia cannot be homogenised into some mass of indistinct history, as if it had “died out” of natural causes, a cultural repetition of the Darwinian selection ideas that caused so much damage in past decades. We must remember not to forget the indigenous Australians that are part of our present.


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There is no bridge. There were no Aborigines. Want to claim asylum? No Australian mainland. No drownings in our seas. In Imperial England, no criminals. No Brandenburg Gate after Auschwitz. No Russian politics, only Russian ballet. Nothing worth talking about in Tiananmen. Nothing to broadcast from Taksim. There is nothing to see here. Move on. Nothing is happening.

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Images of the Invisible


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The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), Berlin.


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The Brandenburger Tor is going to be ground to dust. The dust will be spread on the area of the memorial. The area will be covered with granite plates. As the memorial two blank voids are created, its double voids—and this is the actual memorial—are hard to stand. But it almost shows the impossibility of expressing the Holocaust by means of art. German artist Horst Hoheisel’s proposal for the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, 1995.


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At dawn on Aug. 19, Muscovites woke to the announcement on radio and TV that an Emergency Committee had been formed to govern the country. Then, for several hours, the state-controlled airwaves went dead — except for a continuous loop of “Swan Lake” that played for hours.

Images of the Invisible

No coverage of the 1991 Soviet coup d’etat attempt.

24 years after the Chinese government’s bloody crackdown on prodemocracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, “today” is part of a long list of search terms that have been censored on Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog. Other banned words include “tomorrow,” “that year,” “special day.” By Tuesday afternoon, the term “big yellow duck” had also been blocked. No coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

When violent clashes broke out between protesters and police in Istanbul last week, national TV channels ran with other stories. Broadcasts included a cooking show, a full-length documentary on Adolf Hitler and, on CNNTurk, a nature show about penguins. No coverage of the 2013 riots in Istanbul.


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Swan Lake.

Penguin documentary shown during riots in Istanbul, June-July 2013.

Twitter image mocking Chinese censorship of Tiananmen Square.


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Pamela Curr, of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, described the report as “a comprehensive package of harm”. “People will still drown. What this [report] is making sure is that people drown elsewhere and don’t drown right in front Cockatoo Island was largely of us,” she said. undisturbed until 1839 when Response to the Australian Government’s reopening of offshore processing camps for Governer Gipps chose it for asylum seekers, 2012. the site of a new penal establishment to alleviate overcrowding on Norfolk Island. Escape from Cockatoo Island was rare, not least because few prisoners could swim. Description of Cockatoo Island’s use as a penal establishment, 1839-1869.


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Manus Island.

Cockatoo Island.


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Director of the International Refugee Law Research Programme at Melbourne University, Dr Michelle Foster says the decision by Australia to excise the mainland from the migration zone is unprecedented. “The only example I know of in recent times is [when] several decades ago France deemed part of one of its airports to not be France for the purposes of asylum,” she says.

Images of the Invisible

A response to the excision of Australia’s mainland from the Australian migration zone, 2013.

Police interventions in public spaces consist primarily in breaking up demonstrations. The police consists, before all else, in recalling the obviousness of what there is, or rather of what there is not, and its slogan is: “Move along! There’s nothing to see here!” Excerpt from Jacques Ranciere, Dissensus, p. 37.


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A European image of New Holland (Australia), c. 1681.

Anti-Iraq War graffiti is removed from the Sydney Opera House, 2003.


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In 1787, the twenty-eighth year of the reign of King George III, the British Government sent a fleet to colonize Australia. Never had a colony been founded so far from its parent state, or in such ignorance of the land it occupied. Now this coast was to witness a new colonial experiment, never tried before, not repeated since. An unexplored continent would become a jail. The space around it, the very air and sea, the whole transparent labyrinth of the South Pacific, would become a wall 14,000 miles thick. In their most sanguine moments, the authorities hoped that it would eventually swallow a whole class—the “criminal class.” English lawmakers wished not only to get rid of the “criminal class” but if possible to forget about it. In the whole period of convict transportation, the Crown shipped more than 160,000 men, women and children in bondage to Australia. This was the largest forced exile of citizens at the behest of a European government in pre-modern history. Excerpts from Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, pp. 1-2.


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Australian Government advertisement, July 2013.


List of Images Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan, Nothing to See Here (2013). Original photo: Rodney Haywood.

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Grace Cossington Smith, The Bridge in-curve (1930), Sydney Moderns: Art Between the Wars (Sydney: Art Gallery of NSW, 2013), p. 157. Drawing from Robin Boyd, The Australian Ugliness (Melbourne: F.W. Cheshire, 1960), p. 23. HM Bark Endeavour replica in Cooktown (2011). Photo: John Hill. The MV Tampa (2009). Photo: Rémi Jouan (source: Wikimedia). The Brandenburg Gate (2005). Photo: Norbert Aepli. Horst Hoheisel, Proposal for the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe (1995). Photo: Horst Hoheisel. A performance of Swan Lake. Photo: Paata Vardanashvili. A penguin documentary on CNNTurk (2013). Photo: Twitter. Twitter image mocking Chinese censorship of Tiananmen Square. Photo: Twitter/weibo.com/ weibolg. Original photo: Associated Press. Satellite images of Manus Island and Cockatoo Island from Google Maps. Detail of New Holland on a Coronelli Globe, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Photo: TCY. Workers begin to clean up a “No War” slogan painted on the Concert Hall sail of the Sydney Opera House (2003). Photo: Rick Stevens.

Nothing to See Here

Australian Government advertisement (2013) (source: http://www.immi.gov.au/visas/ humanitarian/novisa/img/byboatnovisa.jpg).

Textual Sources Victor Sebestyn, “The K.G.B.’s Bathhouse Plot”, The New York Times August 21, 2011 (http:// www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/opinion/sunday/the-soviet-coup-that-failed.html). “In Turkey, Penguins Become Symbol Of How Media Missed The Story”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, June 5, 2013 (http://www.rferl.org/content/turkey-protests-penguinssymbol/25008120.html). “Tiananmen Square online searches censored by Chinese authorities”, The Guardian, 4 June, 2013 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/04/tiananmen-square-online-search-censored) Alison Rourke, “Australia to deport boat asylum seekers to Pacific islands”, The Guardian, 13 August, 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/13/australia-asylum-seekerspacific-islands). Cockatoo Island Website, “Convicts” (http://cockatooisland.gov.au/about/history-convicts.html). “Legal expert criticises migration zone decision”, SBS World News Australia, 17 May 2013. Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics” in Dissensus: on politics and aesthetics (London: Continuum, 2010), p. 37. Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore: the epic of Australia’s Founding (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), pp. 1–2.


thefuturesofthepast.wordpress.com

Nothing to See Here  

The accompanying publication to Nothing to See Here (Removal of Sydney Harbour Bridge), a work presented by Amy Spiers and Catherine Ryan at...