Simon Palfrey’s Demons Land project is a multimedia collaboration exploring the encounter between colonisers and Indigenous peoples in Australia, focusing on understandings and ownership of land, country and home. Simon explains that, ‘we use Edmund Spenser’s imperialist epic poem The Faerie Queene as the organizing skeleton for our work, a model to work with and against. The aim is to develop a major international installation-cum-event, with accompanying literature and colloquia.’
Simon went with three of his collaborators, art historian and curator Andrea Bubenik, artist Tom de Freston and film-maker Mark Jones, on a four-week Australian trip in November 2019. They visited north Queensland, eastern Arnhem Land, Darwin and Katherine (Northern Territory), with a ten-day period for workshops and filming in Brisbane. This was primarily a scoping trip designed to meet Indigenous artists, practitioners and leaders, with a view to refining the project and identifying potential collaborators.
The trip was a great success, with almost unanimous enthusiasm for the project among Indigenous communities. A ten-day return trip had been planned for April 2020, starting in Broome and visiting numerous arts centres in the Kimberley region, with a third trip planned for July and August, focused on north Queensland.
The idea was then to be in a position to apply for substantial external funding in both Australia and the UK. The COVID-19 outbreak has unfortunately brought this aspect of the project to a halt. Simon explains that, ‘Aboriginal communities are particularly vulnerable to any such infections and they will undoubtedly be hesitant to open their doors to international visitors until the all-clear is well and truly sounded.’
Simon’s Knowledge Exchange Fellowship has been crucial in helping to get the project off the ground, kick-starting what is promising to be a successful and very original international research and artistic project.
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