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PHOTO 2022 and Anna Schwartz Gallery will present Meth Kelly by Warwick Thornton for this year’s festival.
Meth Kelly explores how Australia’s colonial frontier narrative has been shaped by the imaginary heroic actions of the cult figure Ned Kelly.
The work continues Thornton’s confrontation with Australia’s colonial history by questioning the legitimacy of Kelly’s hero status through a modern reinterpretation of his moral persona. Subverting the national narrative that is rooted in the romance of a Western, Thornton transforms Kelly into a “meth head robbing a 7 Eleven”. In placing his protagonist in a banal (sub)urban delinquent realm, far removed from cult status, Thornton undermines Australia’s tendency to define its history by valorising colonial conquests.
The artist states, “The problem with our frontier, and the history of Australia – it was written by the people who were actually doing the shooting. So the copper is the one to actually write down what happened at a massacre. But he was the one with his finger on the trigger. No one believes the Aboriginal people about what happened. Sometimes, thankfully, some priest or some missionary wrote the truth. That’s our history.”
“a life in question will unfold
tattoo parlour to the tote of this glass pipe
the nation shall rise up
in a hail of burn outs, black eyes and southern crosses”
Meth Kelly was created for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020).