“That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, the boys stand resolute, they’re very proud of who they are, their culture and where they’re from, the work is very layered.”
Albert said we saw the targets through a Westernised lens.
“A target has an almost symbolic role, but it could be interpreted as Aboriginal art, it could be a speaker with the vibrations of sound waves, it could be a rock thrown into a pond and the ripple effect that comes out of it.
“The symbol behind it can have a lot of other connotations as well.”
The projection references Albert’s Brothers series, which includes two works of art in the NGA’s collection, Brothers (New York Dreaming) (2015) and Brothers (Unalienable) (2015). The commission connects issues of racial profiling and miscarriages of justice. By making visible the strengths and vulnerabilities of young men in our community, Albert seeks to destabilise stereotypes and offer new images for now and our collective future.
Gallery director Nick Mitzevich said the NGA had long recognised the importance of Albert’s contribution to Australia’s cultural debate.
“This commission provides the artist with a new visual platform – a 50 metre illumination on the facade of the NGA building,” Mitzevich said.
“Tony has relished this challenge and created an exceptional and original work of art. He is using art to bridge divides in our diverse community.”
Albert, a Girramay, Yidinji and Kuku-Yalanji man, was born in Townsville and raised in Brisbane, where he graduated from Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art.
“Art was a way for me to tell my story,” he said.
“My career went on a new trajectory when I realised art didn’t have to just be a pretty picture.
“It can be a vehicle for change, it can discuss pressing and hard issues, it can create a conversation and that is a considerable part of my understanding what art can actually be.
“Art is a really powerful tool and a political tool that can tell stories.”
Albert said it was important that contemporary Indigenous artists kept doing that.
“The greatest thing we have in Australia now is being able to keep the culture and the stories alive but doing it through a number of different mediums,” he said.
“That communities are embracing new technologies to maintain culture is an incredible thing.
“As Aboriginal people we have to tell our stories from here and now, what it means to be living and working, not on country, but in a big city.
“The stories that come out of that are as equally as important and valid as any traditional story.
“They’re the dreamtime stories of the future.”
I Am Visible is showing as part of Enlighten until March 17.
Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.