Art is about connections

THE Northern Rivers has been home to a very strong activist culture for many years, initially stemming from the protests against the logging of Terania Creek in the 1970s, through to the more recent coal seam gas protests - particularly the blockade against proposed mining at Bentley.

Lismore Regional Gallery has long been interested in looking to these histories and incorporating relevant stories into our programming.

The most prominent project was the 2014 exhibition Protest Songs, which brought together a whole range of national artists, international posters and installations by local creative activists.

When we started developing this project, CSG mining at Bentley didn't seem to be on the horizon, but by the time the exhibition was opened to the public the Bentley blockade had been staged and won - and so the opening became a secondary celebration of that win.

Fast forward a few years and when someone alerted me to Angus Mordant's documentation of the Standing Rock protests in the United States, I was immediately interested for its connections to our local story.

I was particularly interested in the representation of the protest camp for its similarities to Bentley (which coincidentally is shown in the work of Natalia Grono, currently on display in our downstairs gallery), and for its stark differences (notably the blizzard that preceded the camps demise).

As a reminder, the Standing Rock protests eventuated to oppose construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1172-mile underground pipeline built to transport crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Patoka, Illinois.

It became a topic of protest in 2016 due to the environmental and cultural issues it brought with it, as approximately 30 miles of the pipeline cuts through contested Sioux territory and a leak could have severe environmental impacts.

Angus Mordant, an Australian photojournalist based in New York, became aware of this protest in its early days and in 2016 embarked on a series of trips to document not only the camp but related protests elsewhere in Dakota and Washington DC.

The exhibition concludes with a heartbreaking ending for the Sioux, as in 2017 their opposition was overturned and construction of the pipeline continued.

To hear more about Standing Rock - in particular First Nation peoples and their relationship to land - and mining, come along to our Thursday Night Live event which we co-host monthly with Southern Cross University.

The event on July 12 will have Dr Shawn Wilson, director of research at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Southern Cross University, and member of the Opaskwayak Cree nation, Canada, as a speaker. He opened Angus' show and spoke eloquently about First Nation's peoples understanding of the land.


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