Next week the gallery is opening a retrospective of John Howard’s public comments made during his time as Prime Minister of Australia.
Curator William Daniels explains: ‘This is a first for art exhibitions in Australia. By juxtaposing these statements alongside original news footage, images and written media reports, we are able to view the development not just of his politics, but of the art of spin as well.’
‘We will decide who comes to our country and on what terms.’
‘This was genius,’ says Mr Daniels ‘here we see the emergence of Howard’s doctrine of xenophobic populism. Mandatory Detention wasn’t his idea, nor even his party’s, but like a true artist he sensed the zeitgeist of the late 1990s and really stuffed that puppy.’
‘We won’t just click our heels and follow the Americans.’
‘This comment sits in between several photographs of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The shots show Australian soldiers marching directly behind US Marines into densely-populated concrete death traps, to be scarred by eventual sectarian violence. Were he alive and instilled with a sense of macabre irony, I think even Banjo Patterson would have been envious of this poetry.’
‘We live in unusual circumstances. In other circumstances I would never have sought these additional powers. But we do live in very dangerous and different and threatening circumstances.’
‘I would argue this was Howard’s masterpiece. The terrorist threat was his inspiration, as the Spanish Civil War was to Picasso. Here he manages to convince the nation to allow an extended period of detention of suspects that even General Pinochet would have been proud of.’
The exhibition opens next Friday night and will continue for 4 weeks.