Karrabing seems like a model grassroots political art project until one pays any attention to its content. Thirty indigenous Australians run around with cameras and retell the myths of their ancestors in a fantasy freestyle havoc. Most of the films hinge on the ‘white man’ who comes and steals or otherwise disrupts the sacred equilibrium between nature and the Emmi people. In many, the moral is that this white man should be punished, perhaps violently, and ideally by the Emmi. Reactionary calls for a race war are as near as explicit.
But one has to study the film credits to understand that all this is not a spontaneous uprising. Except for the stories – and mind that every culture has myths of external aggressors – the whole enterprise is produced and underwritten by a bunch of Australian academics. The entire project’s life in the art world thus hinges on the Emmi’s continued misery and the even more pernicious myth that they are forever the model victims of the Australian nation-state. Little separates this display from a human zoo complete with curators who occasionally kettle-prod the once noble savage into a spectacular rage.