Throughout January 2022 a large-scale artwork transformed Stargazer Lawn at Barangaroo. First Nation artist Jacob Nash, Head Designer at Bangarra Dance Theatre and Sydney Festival’s Creative Artist in Residence, says (in his artist statement reproduced here) that his work Future Dreaming calls for urgent social, political and cultural change.
HOPE and CHANGE. These two words stand in the landscape, sitting on stolen land, facing each other. The space in between them is a place to gather, a place of acknowledgement, truth telling and commitment to the future.
I made this work because I am unhappy with the world I live in. It doesn’t reflect the truth I know about our history, it doesn’t tell the truth about my history. But I also made this work with an open heart.
When the world stopped because of the global pandemic, there was more time, time to reflect on who I was, what I stood for and remind myself of the world I wanted to live in.
It reminded me that I exist because of 65,000 years of culture and 251 years of destruction. Both run in my blood. This realisation is a moment of strength and pain, which made me think of my ancestors, think of my grandchildren, and understand my own mortality. It reaffirmed to me, that now is the only moment I can hold in my hands and create the future that I believe in, that is about truth telling.
Future Dreaming is an artwork that talks to our history but looks the future squarely in the eye and asks the hard questions, of where we see ourselves in the next decade, in the next century. If we wait another generation for the change, that generation will ask the same questions, they will make the same statements, they will demand the same change.
The Future is now.
The world has given us this moment to make change. Let’s embrace this moment fearlessly with compassion in our hearts and have the discussions. The hard conversations already exist, it is up to all of us to join them, to do something with them and to take ownership of our past so we can all own our future.
I created this work in June 2021, in response to the world I was living in at that time, but the context in which this work now sits has changed. There are now some artists who feel unsafe participating in this year’s festival and at times I have as well and that’s not okay for any of us.
We all deserve better.
However, it has reminded me of the critically important role within our nation and our communities, we play as artists. We are the ones who make cultural change and our collective voices need to be heard and supported, so we can inform our future.
For these reasons I have chosen to present Future Dreaming in this year’s festival, because it is a work asking for change. The artwork may have begun on this land but now, I hope, its message extends out across continents and exists in the hearts of those who feel unsafe and those who want change. But first and foremost, it is conversation that starts here, on this land.
We need to have these robust conversations so that we are all conscious and engaged, so that we can create the world we need to live in.