Overview Introduction Foreword Preface Essays

Charlotte Day
Director, MUMA

Collective Movements is a wide-ranging project focusing on First Nations creative practitioners and community groups from across Victoria, recognising collectivity as integral to Indigenous knowledges and ways of being. An exhibition, publication and series of conversations and workshops, it began with the desire to make more visible a language and terminology beyond Western concepts of ‘collaboration’, ‘collectivism’ and ‘art’ itself— one that better describes and acknowledges the way Indigenous creatives work within a broader community and its inheritances.

This ambitious project has been conceived by a cross-generational curatorium—Taungurung curator, artist and writer Kate ten Buuren; Lardil and Yangkaal artist and curator Maya Hodge; and Boonwurrung Elder N’Arweet Professor Carolyn Briggs AM PhD—with advice from Professor Brian Martin, a descendant of Bundjalung, Muruwari and Kamilaroi peoples and Director, Wominjeka Djeembana Indigenous Research Lab, Monash Art, Design and Architecture. I am very grateful to and appreciative of the curatorium’s unwavering commitment to this project and recognise the strong ethos of respect, care, thoughtfulness and intellectual rigour that they have brought to its research and development.

Collective Movements looks to important historical precedents of collective action and mobilisation, and through representation in the exhibition of these prior projects and events, acknowledges their enduring significance and influence. These include the landmark We Iri, We Homeborn festivals (1996–99), the cultural reclamation and regeneration of the Possum Skin Cloak Story (1999–), the coming together of community in Latje Latje Dance Group Mildura (1978–2005) and the powerful storytelling behind the thirty years of ILBIJERRI Theatre Company’s work.

It also spotlights projects from across regional Victoria including Shepparton-based Kaiela Arts and Pitcha Makin Fellas from Ballarat. These groups promote inclusive processes of making while keeping knowledge strong and promoting important occasions of activism and resistance. Collective Movements also reflects on the immediate place of its commission, with a new outdoor mural by Ray Thomas and artists from The Torch realised for Monash University’s Caulfield campus—providing connection to Country and culture that the campus sorely lacked.

The generative nature of collaboration is evident throughout Collective Movements. Australia’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chamber group established by Short Black Opera’s Deborah Cheetham AO—Ensemble Dutala—brings together musicians from across Australia to create works and perform together. It is an honour to premiere the Ensemble’s new work Our Place, 2022, composed by the group’s Director Aaron Wyatt. Similarly, this mob makes space for Indigenous artists to connect and to form alliances grounded in self- determination, providing vital mutual support as well as new creative outlets, as exemplified in their reconfiguring of the gallery as a site for meeting and yarning in the work Gunyah Manu (Home Camp), 2022.

One of the most compelling aspects of this project is the breadth of practices celebrated—from weaving, painting, printmaking, possum skin cloak making, installation and construction to theatre, dance and music. The creative practitioners involved embrace innovation at every turn, as exemplified in Koorroyar’s Kelsey and Tarryn Love’s contribution to the Possum Skin Cloak Story through their new work yoonggama— to give and receive, 2022. Collective Movements is distinguished by such intergenerational dialogue and also celebrates the trailblazing practitioners who continue to lead the way and inspire so many.

This publication, which has been beautifully designed by Larrakia, Wardaman and Karrajarri woman Jenna Lee and is co-published with Monash University Publishing, extends the conversations in the exhibition. I would like to acknowledge all those who have worked on it including co-curators Kate ten Buuren and Maya Hodge as editors, MUMA’s Senior Curator Hannah Mathews and Curator Research Melissa Ratliff who have both been closely involved, copyeditor Bridget Caldwell-Bright and most especially the writers Bryan Andy, Paola Balla, Belinda Briggs, Yaraan Bundle, Maddee Clark, Tiriki Onus and Steven Rhall who have each contributed compelling texts, as well as those who gave permission for us to reprint key works.

A project of this scale and across its various platforms could not be achieved without a great amount of effort, goodwill and resourcing and I would like to thank the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria; the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; NETS Victoria’s Exhibition Development Fund supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria; the Gordon Darling Foundation; and our MUMA Contemporaries donors. We are also very grateful to the host of public and private lenders to the exhibition.