under the act (2007)
Judy Watson’s artist’s book under the act (2007) made its debut as a work in progress in Lessons in History Vol 1, an exhibition of artists’ books looking at history and the lessons of history, held at grahame galleries + editions in March/April 2007.
As with the artist’s first artist’s book, a preponderance of aboriginal blood (2005), which deals with Aboriginal people’s Right to Vote, Judy Watson has drawn on letters, papers and official documents found in the Queensland State Archives as well as personal family photographs as a base for under the act. The documents from the archives this time, however, pertain to her great-grandmother and grandmother who lived under the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of Sale of Opium Acts of 1897. They also reveal the categories, “full blood”, “half-cast”, “quadroon”, “octoroon”, ascribed to aboriginal people of the day.
Using etching and lithographic techniques this work makes a powerful statement about life Under the Act. Amongst documents from the archives used in the book is Watson’s great grandmother’s ‘exemption card’. These cards allowed holders to live and work outside the reservations, and were called ‘dog tags’ by their holders, as they were obliged to carry them on their person at all times. Also included are letters of objection from various parties to authorities at the time Watson’s aboriginal grandmother and white grandfather were seeking permission to marry.
In documenting her family’s life in under the act, Watson etches the history of all Aboriginal people who lived Under the Act.
Twenty etchings with chine collé, 42 x 30.5 cm in folio, 43 x 32 cm (closed), 71.3 x 99.2 cm (open).
Publishers: Judy Watson and numero uno publications / grahame galleries + editions, in an edition of 20 plus 5 a/p.