Whilst meeting up for Xmas drinks in Darwin 2019, artists Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty and Todd Williams decided to explore The Rapture as a theme for an upcoming group exhibition. From the moment of deciding to make work about The Rapture, Australian and global events moved very, very swiftly — from the destruction and heart-wrenching carnage of the Australian bush fires to the ongoing global pandemic which (to date, November 2020) has infected over 50 million, killed 1.3 million, locked down countries, closed borders, collapsed economies, businesses and systems throughout the world.
On the upside the first half of 2020 saw an unprecedented decline in carbon dioxide emissions — 8.8 percent less carbon dioxide was emitted than in the same period in 2019 a total decrease of 1551 million tonnes — larger than during the financial crisis of 2008, the oil crisis of the 1979, or even World War II. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201014082806.htm)
COVID made gallery exhibiting pretty tricky but The Rapture theme did evolve into Fire and Brimstone, an exhibition held at The Cross Arts Project, Sydney, in August 2020.
Some of the images included in 2020 are from Fire and Brimstone and In the hold Decolonising Cook in contemporary Australian art A Flinders University Museum of Art exhibition co-curated by Dr Ali Gumillya Baker and Fiona Salmon 2 June–6 October 2020 and online exhibition from 27 May 2020 https://www.flinders.edu.au/museum-of-art/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/2020/in-the-hold.html. Others are impressions of the rapidly moving (and sometimes colliding) local, national and world events — The Rapture, Australian bush fires; COVID; Australia’s track record on climate change; Australia's relationship with fossil fuel extractors; Black lives matter; the extinction of Australian wildlife; and, posters created for the Northern Territory election in August 2020, where fracking was, and still is, a contentious issue.
Scott Morrison’s Pentecostal faith teaches that the end of days is signaled by mega fires, floods, wars and famines. This is known as The Great Tribulation. This is also accompanied by The Rapture, which refers to that moment when believers in Jesus will be literally taken up into the sky and supernaturally preserved (along with the dead) to a glorious meeting with the Lord in His triumphal descent (apparently there will be trumpets blaring). Rapturous desire and the rapture story is welcomed by believers because it is a rescue story—and yes people can believe what they like—but it’s worth noting that the escapist nature of the ‘rapture story’ makes it easy for a believer to deny any idea or policy that would contradict their end-of-days belief system—there is no need to slow climate change, protect the vulnerable, pursue world peace, because everything is part of god’s plan and as believers, they will be spared. So, are you calm and rapture ready?
Coal Rapture in John Glover’s Country
In 2019, Australia exported 37.8% of the worlds coal. It is part of the Australian landscape and questioning it is met with great resistance.
The mining boom, with coal and ore at its heart has irrevocably shaped the Australian economy. No longer a useful addition to other sectors of Australia’s economy, mining competes with them, as taxpayers’ money for roads, ports and bridges is being used to service the coal industry rather than supporting other sectors.
Given the all-but unqualified support of federal and state governments for new mining ventures coal production in Australia has tripled since the 1980s with The Hunter Region in NSW holding most of the 60 coalmines in the state and producing 70 percent of the state’s coal.
QLD is the scene for the most hysterical rush with 54 existing mines and over 30 new mines planned since 2010. It is worth noting that the QLD government is in a race to increase coal production to more than 400million tonnes by 2025.
Rapture in Adani’s Country
The Galilee Basin—the site for QLD’s massive new coalmines—is the best solar country in eastern Australia.
Australia’s king coal
With over 400 operating coal mines, Australia is the biggest coal exporter in the world. When Australian coal is burnt overseas the amount of carbon dioxide produced is higher than the exported emissions of nearly all the world’s biggest oil and gas producing nations.
Fire and Brimstone: Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty, Todd Williams & Djon Mundine — 29 August to 26 September 2020
The following text is from https://www.crossart.com.au/current-show/363-fire-and-brimstone
"The exhibition Fire & Brimstone casts a watching eye over the corporations and individuals who continue to choose profit over people and climate catastrophe. Before there was a virus crisis, many expert reports warned of the need to “close the inequality gap”. The reports all pointed to our declining health, life expectancy and rising numbers of “preventable deaths”; especially in prisons, aged care and rural and remote communities which, in Australia, largely comprise First Nations peoples. The most shocking work in Fire & Brimstone is 'Kumanjayi', Chips Mackinolty's stark red and black text memorial to the 437 black deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (Report 1996). Very few of its 330 recommendations have been implemented. Every year, Aboriginal people continue to die in custody. Mackinolty’s work is subtitled, "and still counting".
For some decades the four artists and thinkers Therese Ritchie, Chips Mackinolty, Todd Williams and Djon Mundine, have asked us to open our eyes to our collective delusions and denial. They have all worked in remote communities on health and art projects. Their sophisticated fine art prints and video work audit the depths of the Covid-19 crisis; a darkness hiding fast-tracked approvals for the fracking and resource extraction that shakes the landscape and causes extreme weather havoc. The theme of “fire and brimstone” consigns us to a hell of fire, floods, famine and pestilence, not heaven.
Therese Ritchie's work 'They all look the same to me, shows the coronavirus-riddled figure of Governor Phillip disembarking at Sydney Cove (after Arthur Phillip by Francis Wheatley, 1786
. National Portrait Gallery, London), his fleet carrying the cholera virus that may have killed up to 60% of Indigenous people in the first of many plagues. Chips Mackinolty's work 'Stay at Home' centres on Uluru the sacred red rock at the heart of the nation and says, "avoid carrying the sickness". The contagion is more than viral; Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urges us to put “the economy” before public health, restraint and coronavirus elimination. This apocalyptic chant of “trade” is mingled with opportunism: it is highly profitable for a few corporations and individuals to destroy or damage the world. Instead of reflection and reform of systems in crisis: of our infamously privatised aged care and health system and de-regulated environmental, heritage and Land Rights controls in order to override consultation, consent and regulation. Therese Ritchie’s work ‘King Coal’ cautions that when Australian fossil fuels — primarily coal — are burned overseas, the amount of carbon dioxide they produce is higher than the exported emissions of nearly all the world's biggest oil and gas-producing nations. We increase fossil fuel exports knowing they will cause mass extinction events.
In 2012, Therese Ritchie initiated a series of satirical exhibitions called ‘The LittlePrick Editions’, inviting artist colleagues to make works satirising sensationalist magazine covers focused on politicians' inappropriate or racist comments; corruption and hypocrisy. A huge wall of LittlePrick covers introduced Ritchie’s recent, extraordinarily popular, Burning Hearts retrospective at Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. The fake news covers were published by "name and address withheld". One of the names withheld was that of musician and collage artist Todd Williams. Two years later a limited edition book The BIG book of LittlePricks. An artist’s safe guide to the Northern Territory was published. Posters, and prints, banners and demonstrations make colleagues and collaborators of us all.
In this spirit the collaborators on Fire & Brimstone invited long-term colleague Djon Mundine to exhibit a short moving image artwork, Wali (Possum-Marsupial), in Fire and Brimstone. Wali makes the point that animals can be totemic or ancestor beings and, as such, are the foundations of ceremonial culture. Like his Aboriginal Memorial (1988), Djon Mundiine's projects underwrite beauty and civility with profound loss and grief."
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