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What the birds knew

Sep 13, 2012  ·  2 min read

By Carrie Miller


In Ken and Julia Yonetani’s latest exhibition What the Birds Knew you’ll find a pretty weird looking creature: a six metre long radioactive uranium glass ant glowing with a luminous and ominous energy. While the works in this exhibition which are all made from the potentially catastrophic material signal the artists’ concerns over the recent nuclear accident in Fukushima, the story behind this particular strange and beautiful sculpture connects their work specifically to a fascinating and disturbing aspect of local history.

The indigenous story of the Green Ant Dreaming derives from the area near the Narbarlek uranium site in Arnhem Land where the green ant is said to rest. If the boulders surrounding this site (which are considered the ants’ eggs) are disturbed then, the story goes, the ants will be reawakened, causing misfortune for all creatures. This story was publicly recounted by the traditional owners of the land before it was mined, yet despite fierce opposition, uranium mining went ahead in the late 1970s. One of the places the uranium was exported to was Japan.

The fashion for dealing with environmental issues has produced some pretty mediocre art in recent times, but in this exhibition predictable environmental anxieties take on a special glow.

Until September 22

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Haymarket

Pic: Courtesy the artists & Artereal Gallery, Sydney and GV Art, London.

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