Artist in Residence
January - March 2019
Matthew McAlpine (b.1994 Australia) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Wadjuk Noongar country (Perth, Western Australia). His practice aims to explore the complexities and problems of celebrating colonial legacies. He graduated from Curtin University 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours). McAlpine has exhibited in a range of public and artist run space across Australia including the Fremantle Arts Centre, QUT Art Museum and c3 Contemporary Art Space. Recently he exhibited in a group show at Gray Contemporary in Houston, USA.
Image Credit: Mark Sherwood
My time at Heathcote
I came into this residency wanting to use it as opportunity to complete a new body of work, or at the very least start one and in some way, engage with the site. With no clear ideas in mind except with an interest in Kooyagoordup/Point Heathcote's clear link to colonialism and invasion, I spent most of the first month walking around the site, observing, contemplating and returning to the studio to research.
As my previous work has aimed to critique Governor James Stirling’s legacy, I was familiar with his initial idea to use Kooyagoordup (which Stirling named Heathcote after a member of his crew, ) as the site for the capital city.
In reflection of Kooyagoordup , I have found it to be a site of tension with its beautiful bush and rocky river banks starkly contrasted by the early 20th century colonial buildings and the surrounding excessive, wealthy mansions. The Duyfken replica docked out of the South of the River Yacht Club acted as another sad reminder of this states interest in preserving and celebrating colonialism. These opinions were only amplified by Scott Morrison’s announcement to sail the Endeavour replica around Australia in celebration of Captain James Cook. By extension, celebrating the invasion and colonisation of this continent that Cook helped initiate.
In recent projects, I have incorporated ideas about the language that is used when talking about colonialism, namely using politer words like settling rather than the more accurate process of invasion. Tied up in colonialism is also the process of naming places that for at least tens of thousands of years, already have names. This process was often an attempt to control the place and stake ownership. This is evident in Goolugatup with Stirling naming it after his crew member.
This has lead me to spending the last two months of the residency experimenting and preparing for new video works about the colonial act of naming places. My idea is to develop video works of paper with the colonial names of the places being dissolved by the Derbarl Yerrigan/Swan River. The text is applied to the paper on site using sand from that site. Once the paper is removed from the water, a faint stain from the text is left on the paper. The work also alludes to the whitewashing of history.
By Matthew McAlpine