Born 1984, Gadigal Country, Sydney. Lives and works on Miriwoong Country, East Kimberley, Western Australia
Alana Hunt is an artist and writer who lives on Miriwoong Country in north-western Australia. Hunt examines the violence that results from the fragility of nations and the aspirations and failures of colonial dreams, both within the area she lives and in the context of her longstanding engagement with South Asia. Her distributed art practice moves between publishing, exhibition making and public intervention. She communicates with a broad network of collaborators and peers in the development of her interdisciplinary works and regularly contributes to social commentary through podcasts, panels and webinars
by Tai Spruyt
Violence exists in many forms. We are usually only made aware of the big things, the explosions, the riots, the spilling over of collective rage into conflict. But violence is also present in small things. It lingers beneath the surface of everyday life, obscured by the pretence of civility and progress. It is there in acts of aggression and oppression so familiar that they pass by unquestioned, and present again in our ignorance and indifference.
Artist and writer Alana Hunt reveals undercurrents of quotidian violence through artworks examining the brutality of colonisation. After graduating from the Sydney College of the Arts in 2007, Hunt undertook a residency with the Sarai Programme in New Delhi followed by further study at Jawaharlal Nehru University. During this time, she pursued an interest in interdisciplinary practice with a focus on media, the politics of nation-making, and the impacts of colonisation on daily life.
Her experiences in South Asia led Hunt to respond to forms of state violence in works like Paper txt msgs from Kashmir (2009–11), which playfully interrogates a government ban on pre-paid mobile phones, and Cups of nun chai (2010–ongoing) – a requiem for 118 people killed during pro-freedom protests in Kashmir in 2010. These works, circulating in person, online and through the media, confirmed Hunt’s consideration of the public sphere as a medium, and further opened the way art can be a vehicle for ideas that converse with the world.
Hunt now lives and works on Miriwoong Country in north-western Australia. Her life here and in South Asia, along with five years working at Warmun Art Centre on neighbouring Gija Country, has fuelled her examination of colonial culture in Australia. For The National 2021, Hunt exhibits three images each from her series All the violence within this (2019–ongoing), and In the national interest (2020–ongoing). The photographs, shot on 35-mm film and presented on three double-sided light boxes, are a critical examination of the violence, absurdity and fragility of colonial Australia’s everyday dreams of leisure and development.
The images from All the violence within this reveal a landscape of palm trees and rocky outcrops over which swimsuit-clad people clamber to reach the waters of a hot spring. The subjects are largely indifferent to the presence of the camera and the fact that they are trespassing on another person’s Country. Hunt’s photographs are not intended to prompt non-Indigenous people to acknowledge Country, but to reckon with their presence on Aboriginal land; destabilising the sense of certainty and entitlement with which stolen land is inhabited.
In contrast, the black-and-white images from In the national interest depict rocky areas of land that look as if an errant meteorite has struck the earth and carved a swathe through the vegetation. These wounds on the land, however, were not created by a cosmic event. This desolation is human made. The gravel pits are scars left behind by small-scale mining operations where material is dug out of the ground and used to build a network of roads that further the reach of colonisation across Country.
Hunt’s photographs, whether they depict seemingly innocent scenes of leisure or the common scars of industry, speak to the undercurrents of violence that exist when one culture imposes itself on another: the continuing story of colonisation in Australia.
As part of The National 2021: New Australian Art exhibiting artist Alana Hunt will be Carriageworks inaugural Writer in Residence. Working progressively over the course of the exhibition she will publish Conversations and Correspondence—six texts with various interlocutors that take as their starting point her photographic series All the violence within this and In the national interest.
The artist thanks formative and continuing conversations with Chris, Ross and Danie.
This project has been supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund (2019) and a Regional Artist Fellowship through the State Government’s Regional Arts and Cultural Investment Program and Regional Arts WA (2020-21).